Joy Comes With The Morning

This is Day 23 of 31 in my Write 31 Days series: 31 Stories of God’s Grace. I also am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Joy.” Write for five minutes; unedited.


“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!” –Psalm 30:5

This has become a  favorite verse in my life. It really began to appear in my life after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. My friend Renee, her husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon were in Haiti when the earthquake struck. I was in Gettysburg PA as a small group leader for the Diaconal Ministry formation event. Eventually we received the news of Ben’s death. My small group was to lead  worship that night we found out Ben had lost his life in the earthquake. As people entered into worship, we had Ben’s version of  Psalm 30 playing through the loudspeakers.

Ever since this song has become one of my favorites. It also is such a beautiful joy filled promise! Even in our darkest times, God finds a way to eventually show us light; to show us God’s grace at all times and in all places. God’s grace shines the light even in the most gut wrenching places. We just can’t always see it or find it.

Our lives are full of brokenness, sadness, celebrations, and joy. It is during those times when it feels like it is going to be night forever when God especially offers God’s grace. God knows when the morning and that joy will return.

For me, the joy has come in seeing my mom live a joy- filled faith-filled life. The joy has come in seeing a new relationship form where it once was broken. That joy has come in seeing friends finally get pregnant again after trying for so very long. I have seen that joy come in God’s grace being offered again and again and again!

If you are feeling like it is a long dark dank night, please know and trust in the promises of Psalm 30. That night soon will come to a close and you will be awakened to God’s grace as the sun begins to rise and a beautiful sunrise is spread out for your eyes to see.

“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!”–Psalm 30:5

Mourning into Dancing–Ben Larson

He Still Sings!

Good Morning Friends! This is a longer post than I usually write, but I promise you will be blessed by it. And I will warn you that today’s post much like yesterday’s post might make you cry too!

I sat in a classroom with several young ladies at Gettysburg Seminary on a cold Pennsylvania January day in 2010. As music flowed out of the speakers from my friend Shera’s computer, we strained to listen to the words coming forth. The song we were listening to was a song by Benjamin Splichal Larson and his cousin Jon. The words were words penned by a seminary classmate and friend. We listened closely as we heard them sing “hands parted after prayer like cups raised to receive!”

The song ended and we talked about the image of our hands parted after prayer. Class ended and we all went our separate ways. I sat in my hotel room later that afternoon scrolling through Facebook when I received an instant message from a seminary classmate. This classmate told me that there had been an earthquake in Haiti and three Wartburg Seminary classmates where there including my friend Renee who I had worked at Bible camp with for several summers.

For awhile, as you can imagine, the news was very vague. First, Renee was found but the boys were missing. Second, they were all missing. And then finally, Renee and Jon were together but Ben was still missing. As we waited for news, we found ourselves reading news articles and stories on the Internet and watching the news. I felt bad for our morning speaker the next day because most of us were not listening to her words but rather were trying to glean any news we could about the earthquake and Ben.

After the morning presentation, one of the young ladies in my small group came to me and shared an article with me and several of the other ladies. The article included an interview with Ben’s dad where he shared “If you want to know Ben, listen to his music.” We looked at each other and exclaimed “That is what we did yesterday!”

From there, we went to our classroom. In the classroom, we finalized our service which we would be leading the next day (Thursday) The young ladies had decided to honor Martin Luther King Jr. as it was MLK day the following Monday. They also choose to sing the song “Freedom is Coming” from the This Far by Faith hymnal.

Thursday morning, I awoke to my alarm clock ringing. I crawled out of bed, jumped into the shower and got ready for the day. As I was blow drying my hair, my cell phone rang. I went to answer it. Shera was on the other end of the line. She asked “Did you get an email from the seminary this morning? I replied no. She then asked “Can I come to you?” I said “Of course” and hung up the phone. The minute I hung up the phone I knew that the news was not good.

I waited for the knock at my hotel door. Finally I heard the knock. I opened the door to Shera and her roommate standing there. Shera looked at me and shared “Ben is gone!” We embraced each other and slowly let the tears begin to flow. After a few minutes, the three of us walked to the refectory for breakfast. When we walked in the door, several of our friends asked if we had heard anything. Shera couldn’t get a word out and “Ben is gone” was all I could say. Those words were on autopilot that morning.

Before we knew it, Shera and I both were being embraced by our friends. And as they embraced us, the tears began to flow even more. I didn’t realize it then, but now I see them as God’s grace in the midst of this tragedy.

After breakfast, we continued on to the chapel for morning worship. We sat down in our pews; Shera and I next to each other. It came time for communion and the tears begin to flow even more freely as we gathered at the holy table. The words from the song from Tuesday were echoing in each of our ears “Hands parted after prayer like cups raised to receive.”

After worship, we went to our classrooms. As we gathered, we found ourselves wondering what we were to do as we were still to lead worship that evening. We made the decision to still honor MLK Jr but also to honor Renee, Jon, Ben, and Haiti. We also choose to still sing “Freedom is Coming!” We also decided to play Ben’s version of Psalm 30 as worshipers were entering into the chapel that evening.

Ben sang the words “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning” as it played and streamed through the speakers in the chapel. As worshipers entered into the chapel, we shared that it was Ben who was singing. After the prelude using Ben’s song, we moved into the smaller chapel which was more intimate. Throughout the service, we shared about why Ben, Renee, and Jon were in Haiti and also about MLK and his actions. The time came for the song “Freedom is Coming” and we joyfully sang out the words to that song.

After worship, we all went off to our hotel rooms. I remember laying my head down and reflecting on how that service and the whole week had felt like being wrapped in God’s grace. Little did I know that the next day, this would be immediately confirmed for me. I closed my eyes and drifted off to dreamland for the night.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes and loaded up into limos that would drive us to Baltimore for our flights. As I was standing in line with two of my new friends, I pulled up Facebook and came across a blog post that someone shared. The post included Ben’s sermon from his senior year at college. In the sermon, Ben shared how international music was important and special to him especially the song “Freedom is Coming.” Chills began to cover my entire body.

Little did we know, the week before that when we choose that song, it was one of the most influential song’s in Ben’s life! BUT, GOD!!! God knew. God, through the Holy Spirit, graced us with the gift of those words.

Today Renee and Jon are married and have a little boy. Yet another gift of God’s grace in the midst of this tragedy.

His last words on this Earth were sung. He sang the words “God’s peace to us we pray” And, my friends, Ben Still Sings! He sings through his new liturgy. He sings when we listen to his music. His music is another gift of God’s grace in this world.

This experience of God’s grace indeed changed me. It, for sure, did not leave me where it found me! And it will always be a way to share about the incredible goodness of God’s grace even in the midst of tragedy. I am so very thankful for that gift.

Mourning Into Dancing (Psalm 30) by Ben Larson

I am linking up with my favorite gals today: Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart.


 
 

Easter Joy Comes in the Morning!

“Easter says you can put truth in the grave, but it won’t stay there”–Clarence W. Hall

Today is the day that continually reminds us that death does not have the last word but that God does. In the midst of our own struggles, there are days that we cannot even comprehend that death does not have the last word but that God does especially when we sit with those we love and say goodbye to them. We find ourselves overcome by darkness looking for even just that little bit of light. We find ourselves looking for the hope that we have lost. But today Easter reminds us to hang on and to trust in this one who overcomes death in the grave. “Resurrection announces that whatever way death, despair, and destruction have got you in their grip, they do not have the last word (Rob Bell).”

There are days that I am mightly aware of how death, despair and destruction have me in their grip. And I am sure there are days you are mightly aware too. There are days I desperately yearn to be a wife and mom. There are days I desperately wonder if God hears my prayers. Yet, even in that despair, I want to cling to the promise that we proclaim today; “Jesus Christ is risen today! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

One of the things I love about Easter is continually being reminded of the joy that comes on Easter morning. I watched as the group I am taking to the national youth gathering this summer served breakfast this morning. I watched as the kids excitedly found Easter eggs as part of our egg hunt. I listened as the fanfare of my favorite Easter hymns were sung. I found myself realizing how this day reminds me again and again of what Christ did for me.

But again we cannot experience the joy of Easter without first experiencing Jesus’ seven last words. We cannot experience it without standing at the foot of the cross as his hands and nails are nailed to the cross. There are times, in my life, that I find myself guilty of holding that very hammer. We cannot experience it without hearing Jesus’ utter his last words, “It is finished.” And we cannot experience it without seeing him laid into the tomb.

Then today we come to the tomb like Mary and the others finding the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body gone. I cannot imagine what it was like to come that day and not see Jesus laying there because the dead are not supposed to leave. Dead is dead! But that is the thing, my friends, when death, and despair, and destruction think they have the tightest, most unbearable grip on us, God shows up and shows us that death in no way has the last word but that God does.

Last night as I read one of my favorite Psalms (Psalm 30: verse 5) “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning” it took on a whole new meaning for me. For it is in Christ’s death, that we weep; weep with Mary and all those who loved him but then we come on Easter morning and see with our own eyes that joy especially Easter joy does come in the morning.

Mourning into Dancing (Ben Larson)
(Click on the link above to hear this version of Psalm 30)

Linking up with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday

Hope Stands Up To Its Knees

I don’t know about you but on days like today especially, I find my emotions on an emotional roller coaster. The truth is feeling emotions is only human. It is only natural to feel these emotions. ..to feel brokeness, sadness, and probably even a little anger. Today a tornado hit in Oklahoma City and it appears many children have lost their life. I don’t understand why these things happen and I know that I am not alone in questioning why things happen. But what I do know is that God is with us in the midst of it all. God is with those who are laying in that rubble tonight in Moore OK.  I think of my friend Renee’s husband Ben as Ben lay in the Haitian rubble. What comes to mind are the words that Ben was singing that night, “God’s peace to us we pray…”

Even in the last moments of his life, Ben prayed…prayed for God’s peace. And tonight in the midst of our hurting broken world, we too pray and ask God’s peace to reign. However it is hard to find that peace when there is so much sadness is in our world. This past year there has been so much brokeness—a tornado, West Texas, the Boston Marathon bombings, Sandy Hook, Auroro Colorado….and the list goes on. So much sadness….so much brokeness….so much pain….so much fear….so much doubt. Yet God promises that God will always be with us. God walks with us in the midst of our pain, our sorrow, and our sadness. God is ALWAYS there.

A friend shared the following quote from Frederick Buechner (I love Buechner!) on his Facebook page tonight. Buechner’s quote offers the peace and hope that I think many of us are searching for tonight. My prayer is that it brings you a little peace, hope and comfort tonight as well.

“Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn’t with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts–whether we believe in God or not–that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.” (Frederick Buechner)

Psalm 30

There is something so incredibly holy about this day for me! Three years ago on Jan 12 the earthquake hit in Haiti. I remember wondering if my friends were ok and so much more!

I remember getting a phone call two mornings later (this date three years ago) from a friend! I remember her telling me that Ben was confirmed dead. I remember standing outside and crying together! I remember walking into the refectory and not being able to get the words out as our new friends asked if we had any news!

But what I remember most was the worship that my small group planned and led that evening. It was such a holy worship filled experience. I remember walking into the chapel as Ben’s version of Psalm 30 piped through the speakers. I remember goosebumps as we sang the song “Freedom is Coming!” Little did we know that it was one of the most influential songs in Ben’s life! I remember feeling a sense of peace as I was surrounded by old and new friends!

To this day, Psalm 30 holds a special place in my heart. Psalm 30 reminds that life does come out of death. Psalm 30 reminds me to continue to pray for our Haitian brothers and sisters. Psalm 30 reminds me that God does eventually take our mourning and turn it into dancing!

Mourning into Dancing

Three years ago on this day,I remember sitting at the Diaconal Ministry Formation Event with my small group that day. We began our day listening to music from Ben and Jon Larson. Sitting in that room, we strained to listen to the words “hands parted after prayer like cups raised to receive!”

Later that afternoon, the news broke about the earthquake! Little did we know that ours and so many lives would be changed that day! I am thankful that I was with friends on this day as we mourned and grieved together!

Three years later there is still so much to do in Haiti! May we always remember and never forget! For I truly believe that God will one day turn our “mourning into dancing!”

The Resurrection; Here and Now!!

My cup is absolutely overflowing today!!!! I think so often it is simply so easy for life to get in the way! We get so caught up in the busyness of life that we can so easily see the darkness in our midst but we have a hard time seeing the light. This weekend has been absolutely full of light for me! Yesterday with about 500 other people, I witnessed new love…and new joy at the wedding of my friend Renee. Now some of you, my blog readers, know her story but others of you may not so I’ll give a quick snippet. Renee, Renee’s husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon were all in Haiti in January of 2010 when the earthquake hit! They were all seperated and Ben lost his life in the rubble. Ben spent his last moments of life singing! Over the course of the past two years, Renee and Jon have found their way to each other and formed a new love! This to me is light! This is the Resurrection in our midst; here and now!

Then yesterday morning I met up with a good camp friend over Breakfast. As we were visiting, she was telling me about her foster child. She does “parent support” fostering. As many of you know, it is something I have been praying about and thinking about for a little while now! I couldnt help but smile and think about how smart the Holy Spirit is; showing me another opportunity. More light…more Resurrection in my midst here in now! Then later that afternoon, I Skyped my mom for the first time! So much fun to see the light in her as she saw me and got to talk to me at the same time! Perhaps the Resurrection in my midst yet again?!?!

This morning I went with a good friend out to the church Renee serves at. We met up with another camp friend and her family who recently moved to town. The church is on the campus of the youth correctional center. We gathered with the boys and girls who are currently staying at YCC! I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were! While at Heart River, I got to hear a dear Diaconal sister preach (She preached a rockin’ sermon that inspired this blog today!)More signs of light….more joy….more of the Resurrection in our midst here in now!

The weekend isn’t even over yet. I will get to see college friends later this afternoon who I havent seen in forever! We are gathering for an adoption benefit for a college friend and her family who are adopting from Bulgaria! I am sure I will see more light…more joy today!

Hard not to see the Resurrection in this Easter season as I look around this weekend yet it also is so easy like the gospel story we heard from Mark last week to be afraid, to let fear creep in, to doubt, and to see the darkness. May we spend more time always looking for the Resurrection in our midst! And in the midst of seeing the Resurrection, may your cups begin to overflow with love, joy, and countless blessings!!

Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Remembering Two Years Later….

It seems hard to believe that it’s only been two years since the Haiti earthquake happened. I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when the events of that day and week unfolded. I was a small group leader at the Diaconal Ministry Formation Event in Gettysburg PA. We began that morning talking about prayer (if I’m remembering correctly) and one of the girls in my small group shared one of Ben and Jon Larson’s songs. Little did we know that hours later the earthquake would hit in Haiti. And then only two days later would we learn that Ben was gone! And as I think back to that week, I am fully aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the midst of this tragedy.

Today Ben’s wife/my friend Renee and Ben’s cousin Jon are in Haiti; walking with the people of Haiti, that still two years later is trying to rebuild. I began my morning this morning listening to Ben’s version of Psalm 30. Even after his death, Ben still sings! Ben’s words are still heard! Today has been a busy day; conference meeting, conference call, etc, I find myself  FINALLY just taking a moment to reflect and remember Ben and the other 300,000 people that lost their lives that day. I cant help but think of Ben’s words, “God’s peace to us we pray.”

May God’s peace be granted to all of us! May God’s light shine during this season of Epiphany!

We Are The Lords

Romans 14:8; “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords.”

I’ve been thinking about this verse a lot lately. I think of Christina Taylor Green the young girl who was killed in Arizona. I think of Ben Larson and the people who died last January in the Haiti earthquake. I think of my cousins two little babies. I also think of those that are battling cancer and other illness. It seems every day I hear another story that reminds me how blessed I am to have good health, good insurance. But yet these individuals remind me of why this verse is so AMAZING! You see,things happen in life that we can’t explain or understand. We still ask that age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But the beauty is that God loves us so much and in this verse, God reminds us that we are God’s beloved children and that we will always be God’s children. God will never leave us or forsake us (despite how hard we may try to escape him when we cant understand why this or that is happening to us or our loved ones!)

My newsletter article focuses on this Bible verse. Check it out at the link below!Romans 14:8 Post This verse is an amazing reminder for us all!

Remembering…..

It is 11:30 pm on Thursday evening January 13th. Tomorrow is January 14th; two days after the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. Now you are probably wondering why that is such a significant day but the morning of the 14th was the morning I along with many others received the news that Ben Larson had been killed so this day is also a sad anniversary. However I am reminded of the beauty of the worship service my small group put together for that evening. Little did we know that the songs we chose, the service, etc would honor Ben’s life. You see at the beginning of the two weeks we were given which night we would lead worship. It just happened that my small group got Thursday evening Jan 14th. As we prepared for this day, we decided to do a service based around MLK Jr Day since it was on Monday etc. One of the girls decided we should sing the song “Freedom is Coming” because she liked it. We picked the MLK Jr Service out of the “This Far by Faith” hymnal etc. My group was ready to lead worship but then Thursday morning came and we received the news about Ben. Many tears were shed that day. I remember one of the girls letting me cry on her shoulder. That afternoon as we were preparing for the worship, we decided to play some of Ben’s music as a prelude as people were entering into the chapel. We also would tie Ben, MLK Jr, and the Diaconal Community all into one as we explained why we chose that service. The song we played was Ben’s version of Psalm 30. Then we entered into worship, we sang, we danced, we worshipped. Then later the next day, we found out that one of Ben’s most influential songs in his life was the song “Freedom is Coming.” Talk about a Holy Spirit moment! I am forever grateful for all the people gathered on that night in the small chapel at LTSG. I was blessed to know Ben and am glad that he made my friend Renee so happy. So tomorrow I will remember with fondness that worship service. I will remember listening to Ben’s version of Psalm 30 and will probably play it a few times tomorrow. I will always hold that service in my mind as a special worship I experienced in my life and I am thankful to all those that experienced it with me. It still gives me chills even just thinking about it!