March 23, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 113: God of Dancing

God of Dancing

"You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy." 
(Psalm 30:11 CEB) 
"The motions of the universe are to be conceived not as those of a machine, or even an army, but rather as a dance, a festival, a symphony, a ritual, a carnival, or all these in one. They are the most perfect impulse toward the most perfect object." (C.S. Lewis)
Four months after my younger daughter started taking her first dance class, our family lost her paternal grandfather. My husband's father, confidante, business mentor, woodcutting partner, fellow college sports fan, and best buddy was young and healthy, and his death was utterly unexpected and shocking.

As we wound our way through the early days of a time to mourn, I quickly realized that my daughter's dance recital would fall on the night before Father's husband's first Father's Day without his dad on earth.

I began to envision a day we would merely get through, would merely survive. But I wanted more for our family, so I began to ask God to redeem the day. 
I asked Him to make something of it beyond what it would be without His intervention. I asked Him to make it more than just a day we would grit our way through.

On Father’s Day Eve, our family took over a row in the auditorium. We watched my daughter's class come on stage. In their electric-blue tutus, they had the audience before they'd even started dancing.

We beamed proudly as our little ballerina steadily performed each movement. At the end of the night, she was awarded a scholarship we had no idea was coming, and we all gasped in surprised delight. It was glorious.

The day after the recital, as we celebrated Father’s Day without my father-in-law physically present among us, I knew God had said yes to my prayer: He had redeemed the day. He had bought it back from mourning and purchased it for dancing. Abba had given a gift to my husband, who had lost his earthly daddy but still found joy in the careful steps of a little girl in a blue tutu.

Sweet friends, do you have something you need God to redeem? If you do, there is a Redeemer for it—the Lord of the dance, God of every season. Ask Him to buy whatever it is back from mourning, to take off its funeral clothes and dress it up in joy.

And when He does, I pray you feel like dancing.

March 22, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 112: God of Mourning

God of Mourning

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4 NIV)

I read an article the other day that made this rather arresting assertion: everyone is grieving. 

Everyone is in a time to mourn.

I agree. 

Oh, friends: I am not in any way saying all or even most of life is grief. I am not saying we are all trudging about in a constant state of sorrow. After all, "this is the day the LORD has made. We will [I love the intentionality and determination of that word!] rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24 NLT). But if mourning is a way of honoring what we have loved and lost, and if losing is part of loving in this broken world, then it does seem we must all be mourning something or someone.

Here is the thing, and this is so, so important: our God of compassion does not ask us to rate our loss or heartbreak or sorrow and decide if it merits mourning. His tenderness and love are wide, deep, long, and high enough to have room for anything that causes us to grieve.

I also don't believe mourning happens in some nice tidy compartment of time. I think our mourning mostly has to happen right in the middle of normal life, even when normal life no longer exists. 

So we mourn, and we laugh. We mourn, and we plant. We mourn, and we build. We mourn, and we heal.

I've had the costly privilege of learning about mourning from people who have done it well…which is just to say, they've done it at all. There is no right way to mourn, but God is clear that there is a time for it, and so it must be given its due.

From my hurting friends, I've learned that grief is not some sort of race to see who can cross the finish line first. As near as I can tell from watching them, "done" is not a point you get to when you're mourning the loss of someone or something you love.

From them, I have learned that grief is not a straight line but rather a squiggly knot with twists and turns and snarls and loose ends that you're trying to make sense of while you're in the middle of the middle of the middle.

From them, I have learned grief is a bumpy, uneven road that you hope eventually takes you to places where you can see you have made progress from where you began.

From them, I have learned that grief must just be done. It cannot be skipped over or avoided. It cannot be gone around but must be tunneled through.

From them, I have learned that joy and sadness, hope and despair, pleasure and pain, delight and misery can coexist and be real and true all at the same time.

To my grieving friends: thank you for being my teachers in a class you never wanted to take. Those you grieve so bravely, you honor so beautifully.

And to all of us: when grief grips our minds and hearts, we can know that God is both there with us in that dark night and on up ahead of us, preparing a new day—for He is both the God of mourning and God of the morning.

There is a strength that rises up in me,
To know that You've been here before me.
A strength beyond what I can see,
Jesus, Your love,
Jesus, Your love.

So let my heart tell You again,
When seasons change and stories end,
Your steady love,
It will sustain me through it all,
Jesus, Your love."

(From "Jesus, Your Love;" Kristene DiMarco;


March 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 111: God of Laughter

God of Laughter

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy." (Job 8:21 NIV)

At the end of her eighth-grade year, my younger daughter looked as though she'd lost her best friend. 

And in a way, she had. Actually, she'd lost her two best friends. 

Both girls were, thank goodness, still very much alive, and both still, thank goodness, wanted to be my daughter's friend. But her best school friend was changing schools, and her best church friend was changing churches. Both of these losses came at the same time, and I'll never forget the look of grief on my daughter's face the day she got confirmation that her school friend would no longer be part of her daily life. 

I couldn't tell her everything would be okay, because I wasn't sure it would be, and I didn't want to disrespect my daughter's feelings for her friends. I knew I needed to let her have her time of weeping. But when we got home from school that day, my older daughter called her sister to come into our living room. She went slowly, weighed down by sorrow, but a few minutes later, from an adjoining room where I was working, I heard howls of laughter from both my girls. The laughing continued rather raucously for several minutes. 

My older daughter, anticipating what her sister needed, had dug up an old camera, and the two of them were looking at pictures and videos from their younger years, making fun of themselves and each other and their outfits and their hair. I listened to their laughter and thought to myself that I was hearing the truth of Proverbs 17:22 in action: "a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength."

Later, I thanked my older daughter, and she said, "I knew that would make her laugh." Her sister's sadness was not over, of course, but in the intermingled seasons of our lives, weeping and laughing often pile on top of each other. Sometimes, if we wait to laugh until there is nothing to cry about, we never do laugh at all.

In case you need a little laughter therapy yourself, I thought I'd leave you today with a few prescriptions for it. And if you don't feel much like laughing at the moment, that's okay, too: just note that small third word in today's key verse. Hold on for the "yet," and wait for the laughter that will be yours when you get there.

*Christian comedian Tim Hawkins:

*Christian comedian Anita Renfroe "William Tell Momisms" song:

*John McPherson comics:

*Family-friendly comedy movies: