Wednesday, January 4, 2017

All My Hope

It must have been strange, housing a man of God.  They're known to do unsettling things from time to time.  Like wearing yokes and chasing down kings.  Or marrying prostitutes.  Or eating paper.

But in Shunem, Elisha, the man of God, had a place to lay his head, because a woman there had asked her husband to set aside a room for him.

She asked nothing in return.  Even when prompted, she had no requests.

But the Lord loved her, and so He revealed the unspoken desire of her heart to the man He had placed in her house -- and she was promised a son.

The protest starts immediately: "No, my lord," she objected.  "Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!" (2 Kings 4:16)

He did not, of course, mislead her; but how long had she dared to hope for a child, and been met only with disappointment?  So long, it seems, that she would not only refuse to ask, she would beg Elisha to not even offer her hope anymore.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick..." (Proverbs 13:12)


I heard the word yesterday, followed by a brief discussion about those who do not hope, those who expect little so that they will not face disappointment.

How well I know the Shunammite woman -- because I am that woman.

Stop hoping, stop expecting, and thereby eliminate all risk of hurting?  Seems logical, doesn't it?

But without risk, where is the value?

She got her son -- got him, and lost him.

He died.  Too young, and in her arms.

She immediately sought out Elisha.  It is unclear from the story the purpose of her visit, but whether she went in faith or in anger, we hear it again: "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?  Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?" (2 Kings 4:28)

Why would you give him to me only to take him away?  Why would you tease me like this?  It's cruel -- and it's exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

Had she spent the past years with her son rejoicing in the gift she'd been given -- or had she been awaiting this moment the entire time, convinced it was too good and beautiful to last?

I've no idea -- but I know what my tendencies are.

What if we loved the gifts we had, instead of anxiously waiting for them to be snatched out of our hands?

Of course, the story doesn't end there.  You see, one of those unsettling things men of God do from time to time is raise the dead.

With Yahweh, the end of the story is never death and taking and loss, but it is always life.

"Lazarus's sickness will not end in death," but it did include it (John 11:4).

It is not always in the way we think, and not always quite so literal -- but He is always a Giver.  Even when His hand seems to take, it gives back even more.

"And I will hope in Your Name, for Your Name is good" (Psalm 52:9).

Hope only disappoints when it is in the wrong things.

When our hope is in Him...we need never fear being let down.

Our Savior raises the dead.  He heals the lame.  He calls things that are not as though they were (Romans 4:17).  And He loves us.

We can dare to hope in such a One.  We can place all our trust in One so good and loving and true and never fear disappointment, because He Himself is our greatest reward.

"Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us" (Romans 5:5).

Whatever else happens, we always have His love.

We always have Him.

And that alone is reason to boldly and recklessly hope.

So let us ask for the impossible.  Let us ask Him what He would have us do, and then expect Him to come through for us.  Let us place our hope in Jesus Christ, the One who never disappoints.

Father, teach me to hope.

Monday, October 17, 2016


I’m quick to think of worst-case scenarios.

Seriously, if you need to find out what could go wrong while walking into the grocery store, or how a simple vacation could turn into a tragedy, or how tying your shoes could kill you, I can help.

I really need to work on this, especially in my line of work.  I was explaining a medication to a patient the other day and was telling him he would not be going home on this particular medication, “unless something happens and you have a stroke or something.”

No, Kendall.  No.  That patient wasn’t worried about having a stroke.  He is now.

I don’t think I’m alone in this (at least, I hope I’m not).  As humans, we’re trained to expect the worst – the worst out of people, out of governments, out of the media, out of the weather, out of life – and it’s the rare and beautiful human who rises above and unfailingly expects good things to happen.  (Please tell me I’m not wrong.  If I am, I might need professional help.)

But, child of God (speaking to myself, of course)…  Don’t you realize that nothing will ever ever ever ever ever happen to you outside the endless love of Jesus?

Don’t you remember that He has made plans “not to harm” you (Jer. 29:11)?

Don’t you know that the whole world can spin out of your control, but it won’t ever spin out of His?

And no, His thoughts aren’t your thoughts, dear one, His ways aren’t your ways (Is. 55:9).  He may act in a way that does not feel like love.  He may work in a way that seems like harm.

But it is love.  His way is always love.  He works all things for your good (Rom. 8:28), though it does not say that He works all things for your good right away.

God is good.  God is in control.  God loves me.

I was told once that fear leaks in when our belief in one of those things fails.

But when all three are engrained into our hearts…what peace.

Everything can go wrong.  An earthquake can shatter the entire country.  An election can turn life upside down.  An unexpected diagnosis or a shocking betrayal or a fatal accident or a failed friendship can rock your heart, but it will not rock His love.  Though the mountains be shaken, His love will not be (Is. 54:10).

After all, the goal of life is not to never experience pain or loss.  It is to experience the love and presence of One who has prepared a place for us, one where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, and He Himself will be our light (Rev. 21:4, Is. 60:19).

"'As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you;' and a higher degree of love we cannot imagine. The Father loves His Son infinitely, and even so today, Believer, doth the Son of God love thee." -Charles Spurgeon

Jesus loves you as much as the Father loves Jesus.

What a thought to simply be in for a moment.  And what a thought to be in when worst-case scenarios become more than silly exercises in creative thinking, when they become real fears or even real events.

This post isn’t terribly deep.  There are no new thoughts here, nothing others haven’t said before, nothing I haven’t said before.

But my heart so often needs a reminder of His love, come what may.

And perhaps yours does too.

"I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize that He is able to carry out His will for me. It does not matter where He places me, or how. That is for Him to consider, not me, for in the easiest positions He will give me grace, and in the most difficult ones His grace is sufficient." - Hudson Taylor

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dear new nurse, new grad, and anyone else who feels like they don't quite measure up

I called my first RRT last week.

An RRT, or Rapid Response Team, is the set of people paged to your patient's room when they start to crash but haven't yet coded (for the few readers who may not know, I'm a nurse).  This particular night, they were paged to the room of a man who had been completely fine during my assessment less than two hours ago who was now gasping for air, the crackling of fluid in his lungs audible from across the room, sweating, shaking, terrified, because flash pulmonary edema, I imagine, feels a lot like drowning.

He and I, we were in that room drowning together.

I could rattle you off the textbook answer of what needed to be done, and the textbook came to life as we first intervened and then transferred him safely to the ICU (albeit with an incident, now humorous, that involved me sprinting down the hall from the elevator, throwing off my stethoscope as I ran to keep it from repeatedly smacking me in the face, and yelling for a bag to manually ventilate the patient, all while my pants fought valiantly to stay up).

But the textbook can't tell you -- and even tells you it can't tell you -- what it feels like the first time you realize that the person in front of you who is actively dying, who will die unless you do something, is just that: a person

You know it intellectually of course. You spouted it in your interviews and pontificated on it in your nursing school "reflection" essays. It's not a diagnosis. It's not a room number. It's not even really a patient. It's a person. 

But knowing that and actually experiencing that are two very, very different things. 

And that is where the drowning comes in. 

The drowning of every newly-moved-away-from-home young adult realizing they don't know what to do in a fender bender or how to get a credit card, and where on earth do you find peanut butter in the grocery store? (It's frequently with the chocolate syrup, by the way.) 

The drowning of every fresh young professional who has to dress like an adult and act like an adult and carry the responsibilities of an adult, but who still feels deeply unqualified, terrified that someday, somebody is going to look at them and see the truth: that inside, they still feel like a child playing dress-up. 

The drowning of every new grad nurse who knows what to do but is momentarily crippled by the overwhelming humanity and reality of life and death hanging in the palm of their hands. 

The drowning of every new mom, newly married, newly moved, newly anything and do you get it yet that you are not at all alone?

Will there always be those few admirable peers who we kind of want to be like -- who are unfazed by the newness, who handle their first patient crash with grace and aplomb and not a single tear, who actually look like adults in their suits and ties, who have a dozen friends within a month of moving to a new place, and who laugh everything off with a joke? Of course, but if you are not that person, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with you.

It doesn't mean you're not admirable, too. 

Maybe you have to be a little more brave, because you're a little more afraid. 

Maybe you have to be a little more resilient, because you feel a little more deeply.  

Maybe you have to fight a little harder because you're not as strong yet, and maybe that fight is carrying you closer to who you'll be -- and closer to Christ at the same time.

"For in the day of trouble, He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock" (Psalm 27:14).

"Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.  Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation'" (Psalm 35:3).

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge" (Psalm 62:5-8).

That's only a cursory flip through a few pages of the Psalms, but it's woven all through Scripture: When trouble is close, Jesus is closer.

When the world fights and claws at you, fight and claw back and tell it, "But my God has overcome the world."

"If I go to the east, He is not there," laments Job; "if I go to the west, I do not find Him.  When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him.

"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:8-10).

I cannot find Him, Job says, as so many might at this moment in time; but He finds me.

It might feel like drowning, brave heart, but you will not go down.  Your God dives in the river with you and ensures it does not sweep over you.  Your God walks through fire with you so that you come out whole and unharmed.

One day, what is new now will be as comfortable as tying your shoes.  Something else new will come along to stir up your life.

But whatever is new in your life, every morning, so is the Lord's mercy; and great is His faithfulness.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Do It Afraid.

Bravery and fearlessness are not the same thing.

Didn't we learn that from The Princess Diaries?  You know, that inspiring scene where Mia's dad does a voiceover and tells her that courage is not the absence of fear, but the determination that something else is more important?

I know that.  Shoot, I've watched that movie more times than Frozen, and I can't even tell you how many times I've seen Frozen.

Then why did I spend more than two years of my life trying to make bravery and fearlessness synonymous?

Can I tell you something hard and real?

A year ago at this time, I was afraid to walk across a parking lot.  Just getting to class required an internal pep talk and deep breathing.  Going to the store was even worse.  Going to clinicals was nigh-crippling.  Fortunately, I was more afraid of failing nursing school than I was of the walk across the parking lot or a day of clinicals.  I tried to stay away from stores; if I had to go, I tried to keep a friend in sight at all times.

And so I convinced myself that if I was afraid just to walk across a parking lot, then I was not brave.  I was a coward.  I was pathetic.

Those are the lies that anxiety whispers to you when you're wondering why you're nervous to do normal things like shower or check your mail.

But here's the real truth.

If you're afraid to walk across the parking lot, and you do it anyway, you did a brave thing.

If you're terrified to shower and you shower anyway, you did a brave thing.

It doesn't matter how small the thing is that you're afraid of; if you do it anyway, that was brave.  And so if you're afraid of absolutely everything, and you keep on living anyway, you're one of the bravest people out there -- because people are sitting in their comfortable lives never doing anything scary, and you're doing scary brave things every time you take a breath.

Don't ever think that being afraid makes you pathetic or weak.  And don't ever think that you haven't won victory if your heart is pounding and your head is spinning.  The victory lies in doing it afraid.  

Don't wait until you're not afraid; only then would the fear win.  Do it afraid, and you win.  Every time.  I don't care if you had a panic attack in the middle; you did it, and you won.  Don't give up.  Don't hate yourself for your fear.  Just do it afraid.

And one day…not right away, perhaps eons down the road, then maybe… just maybe ...doing it afraid will turn into just doing it.  I'm not afraid to walk across parking lots anymore.  I go to the store without a hint of trepidation.  I have very normal anxiety levels on clinical days.

But before all that happened, I faced hundreds of days where I had to do "it" -- getting up, doing normal people things, living -- afraid.  And even if I were still doing it afraid, that would be okay.  The more fear shouting and pulling and crippling, the taller your Brave stands, fighting through the lies and daring to live anyway.

So next time you're doing something with shaking hands and a disproportionate amount of adrenaline, don't tell yourself you're a coward.  Tell yourself the truth: you're doing big and brave things (you're doing it!!), and no one has ever been less of a coward.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My hands grip things tight.

They aren't fluid, my fingers.  They grasp, and they hold -- fierce and unrelenting, until contractures start forming and they couldn't be pried open, even if I wanted them to be.

A person.  A thing.  A place.  A season.

Those leave and they end, but the hand still holds tight, gripping as though I have the power to make seasons last and people stay -- but no matter the strength of the grip, they still leave and they still end, and my weary, contracted hand finds that it's violently clinging to dust and air and a whole lot of nothing.

We are made to hold, to cling, to refuse to let go.

But we hold and cling and never let go of the wrong things.

This generation has an obsession with throwing yourself into life, feeling everything to the nth degree, and that kind of emotional roller coaster will drive you right insane.

Unless you have a Rock.

Unless the thing we hold onto the fiercest, the sanctuary of our souls, our "happy place," our source of identity and joy will never, ever leave or end, happen what may to the rest of our world, we will constantly be rewriting ourselves after the latest thing we've been holding onto is gone.

Everything ends.  Seasons change -- cliché, but true, and none the less painful for being such a routine part of being human.

Everything ends.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13).

Well then…perhaps not everything.

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him" (Ps. 103:17).

The only rest, the only peace, the only pure joy can ever come from holding onto the only One who can hold us right back.

Bring the scraps and the broken with you -- when He's holding you tighter than you could ever hold anything, all is redeemed, and nothing is wasted.  When He is your constant, the endings cannot crush you and the beginnings cannot faze you, because no matter where you are in life, you are always right in the middle of Him.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Starting Over

4:10 am.

The clock blinks it bright and the alarm blares it loud, and it's entirely too early for normal human beings to leave their tangled blankets and face the not-yet-lit world.

Fifty questions.

The top of the test says it, and life will ask many more questions -- many harder questions -- than these fifty, but somehow those fifty small questions claim hours upon hours of life in preparation for their asking.

Seven days.

The turning of the planner pages taunts that it's been a week -- one hundred and sixty-eight hours, ten thousand and eighty minutes, six hundred and four thousand, eight hundred seconds -- and it's Sunday again and the Bible is still in the same bag it was put in for church last Sunday.

But you can't just jump back into it, can you?

After you've let the busyness spin your sanity further out of reach than it normally is, after morning devotionals are missed more often than they're not, after prayer stagnates -- can you just start back up?

Don't you need some sort of powerful revelation?  A "come-to-Jesus" moment, as it were, a really good worship song, a rock-bottom breakdown?

As though somehow I'd "lost" Jesus, misplaced Him, stuck Him in a dusty corner where He needs to be coddled to come out.

But where do I start?

When you've read the entire Bible cover-to-cover more than once, how do you remind yourself that this isn't a normal book, that the words are alive and are life, that the thousandth time you read it is the thousandth time that piece of truth is pressed into your soul -- and that no matter how well you think you know it, you desperately need it pressed in just one more time?

How do you convince yourself that this is one Book in the world you can open anywhere, no matter where you left off, no matter how many times you've read that part or not read it?  How do you teach yourself to not feel guilty for loving some parts a little harder, clinging to some portions a little more strongly than the others?

But does He still remember me?

Have I become less of a Christian?  Is there such a thing?  Do I need to start over, re-pray "the prayer," "rededicate," walk down the proverbial aisle once more?

Can He whose love is fiercer than death have His love shaken by my closed Bible?


Perhaps I remember it a little less, but if neither death nor life, angels nor demons, present nor future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation can separate us, somehow I don't think my faltering devotionals breaks that bond.

4:00 am.

If that's what it takes.

One question.

Where do your priorities lie?

Seven days.

Each one a chance to start over, without having to go back to square one.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Servant King

"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal…wrapped a towel around His waist…and began to wash His disciples feet."

The feet are dusty.  They have trekked many miles in pursuit of the Master.  They are calloused and wrinkled, tanned and roughened.  They smell.  Maybe John or Andrew had especially ticklish feet, and they couldn't help but break the intensity of the moment with a suppressed giggle.

But their faces soon melt.  Tears track down their leathery cheeks and gather in their beards as they see their Master, a mere thirty-three years old, kneeling and taking in His hands the feet that have left all to be covered in the same dirt that cakes His own.

I wonder if He thought about the nails that would pierce His feet mere hours later.  Did He whisper a prayer of thanks to the Father for this beautiful, ridiculous, messy plan of redemption that would save His disciples from the searing pain of the nails as they tore through flesh and bone?

Simon Peter draws his feet away, leaving that peculiar loving ache in the heart of the Savior; He is especially fond of Peter, just as He is uniquely and especially fond of each of the others.  "Lord," Peter stammers, "are You going to wash my feet?"

Did the tears spill over?  "You don't understand now," He tells him, "but one day you will."

"No," Peter shakes his head, hanging it, acutely aware that he is unworthy.  "You shall never wash my feet."  Yet when told that unless he is washed -- unless he allows his Master, Teacher, his Lord, his dearest Friend to bend and serve him -- he has no part with Jesus, he stretches out his arms, begging to be washed head to toe.

The Master smiles.  Dear Peter, he does not understand.  "You are clean," He assures him, then turns to His betrayer, "though not all of you."

He has known all along.  From the moment Judas left everything to become His follower, He knew the man's heart.  But that did not make it any easier, now that the time had come.

And the Messiah, having been given all power, having all things placed under His feet, knowing full well what the next twenty-four hours would bring -- even with all this, Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, knelt that night to wash the feet of His betrayer.

The words He speaks are cryptic to the others, but they are not spoken maliciously.  There is a deep anguish in His tone for the one who is lost, the one who is not chosen, for he did not choose aright.  Yet Jesus rests, confident that the Father knows best, assured that He is in the best of hands.  And so He kneels.

He knelt that night, and He kneels still, to wash the feet of the wayward daughter, the unworthy son.  Everywhere His people bow their knees to follow in His steps and wash the feet of brothers and enemies alike.  "Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me," He says, bending to serve you, taking your dirty and bleeding feet gently in His hands.  He heals them, cleanses them, commissions them; the feet washed by the Almighty are perfectly prepared for service.  In that service they will be torn, and bruised, and scarred; but He waits, a towel around His waist, garbed as a servant, to show once more the full extent of His love; to love you, who are His own, until the last.

(read the whole story in John 13)