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Collective Joy

Thailand soccer boysThey’re out. All twelve boys and their soccer coach are free. What is it about that news sends me to the verge of tears?

  • I’m a soccer coach. I have taken my teams on excursions as team building opportunities. None of these have gone badly wrong, but they could have.
  • I’m a parent. I cannot possibly imagine the angst of these parents and the roller coaster of emotions as they were lost, then found. Located and rescued.
  • I’m a human and I find human interest stories riveting, especially when the stakes are high and there is a happy ending. I am desperate for good news.

Yes, this captures all of me. And to have this play out, the rescue literally occurring between games in the Men’s World Cup competition, is just astonishing. At the one time when our collective sporting world has all eyes turned in one direction, the final week of matches, we all — and I mean all — expire the collective breath we’ve been holding.

They’re free! The boys are free. Hallelujah!

There is just something that happens to us when, in a time when all seems lost, a thing we desperately desire is found. Not by magic, but by effort, by toil, by ingenuity, by reasoning, by sacrifice, by teamwork, by capability, by prayer and by waiting. When the odds are stacked against us and we overcome them, it’s miraculous. This moment has captured us because we know it, even though we don’t know them.

We know that lives matter, that life matters. Though yes, we might pause to consider how to prevent these circumstances from repeating themselves in the future, today we hear the good news of their rescue and we cry out, unbidden, unprompted, and unrehearsed.  Pure JOY! It sounds the same in every language.

Oh, how I hope these boys are able to attend the World Cup championship game, to which, I understand, they have been invited. Just imagine the moment of their introduction. The moment when the love of sport and the love of children collide in a terrific outpouring of love.  When we join together in a collective roar from supporters of all teams, all children, all parents, all coaches, and all of humanity everywhere.

What joy there is in heaven, we’re told, when the one who has been lost is found. The news today is good news: the ones who had been lost are found and now free. What is that feeling I’m feeling and so are you? It’s joy. Pure joy.

I wonder what these boys will now do with the lives that have been given back to them, don’t you? One thing’s for sure: the Wild Boars will be tough to beat in their next game. In fact, one wonders whether any of them will make their own appearance on the pitch in a future World Cup match.

Starting today, don’t count out Thailand.

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Lord, I believe but…

IMG_1955Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Perhaps the most honest words ever uttered.

I want to believe completely. I want to be certain. But certain would mean that I have absolutely no doubt. None at all. Nada. But the truth is, I do have doubt — at least a little doubt — daily.

I mean, what can we really know for sure these days? Even when there’s overwhelming evidence — eye witnesses, testimonials, on-the scene reporting, and confirmation by multiple sources — someone will inject a tidbit of information (is it dis-information?) which calls it all into question. Suddenly, I’m beating back the doubt that creeps in under the door I slammed shut and thought I had securely sealed.

How do I know who to trust or what to believe? I ask myself because, after all, this is really a personal matter. That’s when a voice from long ago rings in my ears. Mom prepared me for moments like these. When I found something hard to believe or when words directed at me felt hurtful, rude or unkind, she’d say, “Consider the source.”

Consider the source. From whom do the words come? What do their actions tell you about what they say? Mom didn’t tell me who to doubt or who to believe. She offered me a gift of much more value: she taught me to how to perform the trust test. Got doubts? Consider, not just what they say, but what they do, which shows you who they really are. Don’t just take them at face value.

Now God I could take at face value, but as I have not seen God face to face, and since God told Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live,” (Exodus 33:20) I’m thinking life is going to have some doubtables. I am expecting there will be plenty of opportunities for my very human self to consider the source and still be left with uncertainty. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Can I hold on to belief AND doubt and still live?! I mean, holding two apparently contradictory things together without resolution is exhausting! The more you bring them together, the more they repel one another. Here, take Matter and Anti-Matter and see if you can get them to talk things out.

Some days, belief and doubt feel very much like matter and anti-matter. I can’t even bring them into shouting distance without risking blowing myself up. How can I possibly hold onto two completely competing realities and live?

Yet, sometimes the hardest questions have the simplest answers.

Wayne, a man of deep and abiding faith in God, showed me this as he shared the story of his last moments with Jane, his beloved wife of fifty-one years. * She had nearly reached the end of her brave battle with cancer, and, knowing that time was short, Wayne sat by her bedside reading silently from  Acts Chapter 2 . “Just as I looked up, Jane passed from this life.” he said. “In that moment, I felt both the deepest sadness and the greatest joy.”

The  deepest sadness and the greatest joy, I thought. What could be more opposite; yet, what could be more true?  Two competing emotions in the same place, at the same time. No overlap. No dilution. Full force. Mighty power.

 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ~ Acts 2:17-21 

What a mighty wind of hope even in the deepest despair. Sadness and Joy, Heaven and Earth… Somehow, belief builds a bridge.

So, as I dive deep into my days where conflicting opinions, different understandings, and sometimes even belief and doubt both compete for my allegiance, I am buoyed by the story of this couple, the faith they shared, and the moment that will linger between them until they meet again.

If…

they meet again. God knows that this tiny little “if “occasionally arises in my very human mind because I don’t understand how two people can be reunited in heaven after both have become the dust of the ground. So, I’m left to consider the source.

Who could have scripted a moment like this? Who could have invoked such words? such thoughts? such emotions? Where has humanity witnessed such a moment? a moment where Great Joy met Deep Sadness and turned tears of despair into shouts of joy?

Could it be that such a source is doing it still?

Every time I admit my doubt to God, He injects a tiny glimmer of consider this that I could never have imagined and thus invites belief to take its proper place again. God doesn’t expect us to be doubtless, just faithful.

*Wayne has kindly and generously offered his permission to share his story here.

Pure Joy! It’s Your Party!

Leicester City Championship TrophyIt’s complete pandemonium, folks!
The crowd roars as the team is announced.
They break into song as the players stride to the podium.
The roar is deafening as they hoist the championship trophy.

It is ours.
After decades of waiting
and a lifetime of work,
we have won it!
Pure joy!

This is the scene as the Leicester City Foxes are declared the English premier League Champions. A “5,000 to 1” shot. Improbable. Impossible. Impeccable. Perfection.

This is the scene as our name is announced: ________________, our winner and champion. The crowd roars its approval!

The Communion of Saints? No, it’s the hills: they have burst forth in song, and the mountains have joined in perfect harmony.IMG_6790

My goodness,
The birds are a-flutter,
their nests all a-teeter,
as their perches give way in applause.

Good grief,
the branches themselves are a-titter,
clinking and clapping,
tipping and tapping.
Nature itself has joined the celebration.

What of the foxes?
What of the birds?

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” But Jesus said, “… follow me.” ~ Matthew 8: 20, 22

He who commands the seas,
and the skies
and the stars of night,
Has orchestrated this celebration.

And you, Dear Child, are its reason.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst forth in song, and all the trees of the field shall
clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12

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