Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grief and Love

I was standing on the banks of Lake James in Angola, IN while my friend lay dying many miles away. As the water rippled up to the shore, the waves of grief washed over me. The November wind blew strongly in my face and through my pants, harsh and cold like the disease that ripped through Lori's body - a reminder that life is harsh and cold.

I leaned against a tree and sobbed. The words to a chorus came to mind, "As your love in wave after wave, crashes over me, crashes over me. For you are for us, you are not against us. Champion of Heaven, You've made a way for all to enter in".* I stood there and let his love wash over me as I believe it did over my Lori. And the stillness of the moment quieted my tears.

Harsh wind and gentle waves - grief and love together at the same time. The wind comes and goes but the waves are constant. In the midst of the biting winds of life, God's gentle waves of love will remain long after the wind dies down.

*You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Perfect Foursome

Not often does one find a couple friendship where all four enjoy and challenge each other. Mark and I were knee deep in reentry after twelve years of ministry overseas. We were settled in Mark's home town and didn't have many friends. On top of that, we were on church staff which unfortunately put a barrier between us and potential new friends. 

But Ben and Lori were not intimidated or put off. They reached out to us and asked us to be their friends. So we started hanging out, eating together and sharing our stories. Watching football (only with them!) and HGTV. Drinks on the deck. Lots of coffee. Vacations at the beach. Prayers, laughter, tears and so much more. Ben and Lori were just what we needed. Such a comfortable friendship.

But following Jesus doesn't allow us to sit still in our comfort. God called Mark and I to join Christar. No longer would we be able to go hang out at Ben and Lori's or have them to our place. When we told them we were praying about a new position, Lori encouraged us, "You should go. You have gifts that need to be used beyond the borders of this county." They graciously let us go, committed to pray for us and to give to our ministry. They even helped us get to our new location by driving the truck with all our belongings.

Following Jesus for us meant going. For Ben and Lori, it has meant a journey of illness. An aggressive form of breast cancer to be specific. But this isn't about cancer, but about friendship and the evolution of relationships. About following Jesus even if it means loss and grief and pain. This isn't about what we may have given to them (though I hope we have given something). It is about my life being richer for knowing Ben and Lori and walking together in our respective journeys. 

I am so grateful for having experienced the perfect foursome. And I am especially grateful for Lori, for having a friend that is so non-demanding, so low-maintenance. Not pressuring contact but grateful and happy for all she gets. She loves so easily. She is such a pleasant soul, happy by nature, positive, caring for others. A lover of Jesus who shares Him in such a natural way by simply loving people. Her influence is evidenced by just how many people call her their friend. 

Because of Lori, I have been encouraged to simply be more pleasant, more friendly, easy going, non-demanding. Just love others and greet them happily. Lori teaches me what a friend should be like because she is that to me.

But life changes. People move. People die. It is part of life. It sucks! You see, we always want to get to that comfortable place and stay there forever. We find the perfect church and then the worship leader resigns. We join a small group and the leader moves away. We get the ideal job and the company gets bought out. We work hard to make the basket ball team and then during the first practice, we break our wrist. We finally arrive on the mission field and half the team announces they are leaving. We find the perfect foursome and one couple moves to Texas and another prepares to join Jesus in heaven. Things change.

And yet despite the change and the accompanying pain, I know love and friendship. And that is enough.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17