23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
To those who grieve on Christmas, who have experienced the loss of a loved one, or found themselves in a harsh circumstance, perhaps disappointed, living with heartache of some kind, I want to say, “Hello!” just to you today. This greeting is for and about you.
It can be easy to feel like you are crawling along on the outskirts of Christmas, pressed outside the worldwide joy parade by a sorrowful circumstance. You are watching the holiday happen, trying hard not to be sad while the world sings, "Glory!" The festivities feel more like arrows to your heart than gifts, the sounds and visuals of the holiday a blaring reminder of what you are living without. In particular, if it is your first Christmas without a loved one, it is likely no less than a hike up Mount Everest to make it through this season emotionally. Even now, for me, years later, I still miss those who beat me Home. Christmas holds amplified emptiness when those we love are not with us in it.
I have a word for you. Hear me, beloved! You are not on the outskirts of Christmas. Do you know what everyone is gathered around? They are celebrating the coming of King Jesus, who is a man who was familiar with sorrow and well-acquainted with grief. I believe that every single twinkling light is a sign that there is hope for those who are brokenhearted. Jesus came, and courageously pursued those who were most hurting. He is still doing this very thing today, on Christmas. His eyes and heart are towards you. You are not alone. You are not outside of what "Christmas" is about. You are actually the reason for this season.
YOU are the reason He came.
You grumpy, grieving, sorrowful, and beautiful person.
Perhaps feeling very much alone.
"He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Christmas is a holiday about Jesus, and Jesus sees you in your grief and loves you more deeply than anyone ever could. He is near to you, nearer than your breath. It is possible to be comforted on Christmas day and benefit deeply from the good news that sits at the core of this holiday. Jesus came, and is still coming, to save, rescue, and redeem those who are hurting. I declare to you – beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and praise for despair. Isaiah 61:1-3 belongs to you! Unwrap it. It’s all yours. You are at the center of what this day is about.
My love to the grieving this season!
Love, Katie Luse.
Repost @ www.iconnectup.net/blog
Design by @Natalie.Zigarovich
“Sometimes survival is a noble goal.”
The man looked me square in the eyes with an intensity of courage that only emerges through the bedrock of one’s own suffering. He lost his wife years ago to a disease. My husband and I sat before him as bereaved parents looking for help. Our daughter was nearly three years old when she burst through the confines of this world and beat us Home. We were left alone. This man was a pastor, he as alone too. Maybe he could help us find our way out of this dark maze of what life had become.
To many the statement he made to us would seem bleak at best. To me, however, it was the first encouraging thing I heard in a long time. Why? It honored me. His statement hosted an understanding that what I needed most was to celebrate the triumph of each step. Maybe I was still having a hard time getting out of bed. Maybe I was still crying a lot. Maybe I was not fun to be with, and my sense of purpose was a lost puppy at best. But maybe, arising each day took courage, and living itself was a noble goal.
Sometimes all people need to heal is honor. People need to know that they have strength before they will exert the strength to heal. You and I get to tell others about their strength through authentic and heart-felt honor. Honor excavates courage in people, and in so doing it liberates their capacity to hold their own redemption from Jesus.
Today, I honor you. I honor you for not giving up inside of the intensity of your story. I thank you for choosing not to let your heart grow cold or numb in the face of such pain. Thank you for continuing to love God and serve others despite all the opposition. Thank you for not giving up, friends. Thank you for embracing the noble goal of continuing, one day at a time.
Your Father sees.
He honors you today.
And, so do I.
You deserve it.
Oh, strong one!
Celebrate each step.
Repost @ www.iconnectup.net/blog
Design by @NatalieZigarovich
My father is a musician. I grew up surrounded by music, both within and outside of the home. Music was the language of my life; as familiar as the English language, as present as human emotion. The ultimate outing in my family was a concert. We went to hear brass bands, choirs, orchestras, quartets, and soloists on a regular basis. One of my favorite childhood memories is attending the Philadelphia Orchestra with my Dad at eight years old. I can still taste the experience.
One of my favorite things about music is pauses. The larger the ensemble, the more powerful the pause. I love when the whole orchestra stops together, pulling back time like an arrow waiting to be shot out. When all the players pause together, no one dares to cough, talk, or even breath. Suddenly, the whole room is breathing together, waiting to breathe again. In that moment, everyone is a musician in the grand ensemble of life. The silence works hard and fast, it is a lively and eager gatherer. It gathers all the energy in the room into itself. There, in its brief stillness, it transforms the whole room's focus into feed for the next bloom of sound. When that sound comes, it pierces that silent air with beauty. One may cry. The power of a pause!
This summer I feel called to pause. In particular, I feel that my writing needs to exit the public space for a time and crawl back into a space of solitude. I wonder if there is a larger writing project for me to pursue. I need to stop and listen for its' direction. Writing is like catching a train at times, one must pay attention and jump off the platform when the door opens. Off the platform. In general, I have an unusual sense these days that I need to surrender my whole life again to Christ, no strings attached, to be a friend to Him that is found clenching nothing but His Majesty.
Grab a pen: Are you considering stopping something in your life? What is keeping you from doing it?
Today is Ruby Joy’s birthday. She would’ve been twelve years old. If you don’t know her story, Ruby is my daughter who passed away from a genetic disease at nearly three years of age. I wrote her story in my book, Ruby Joy: Finding Gems in Darkness.
Grief days take over my emotional state long by the date puts two feet on the ground. I trigger while the date is still approaching, not realizing where the sadness, weariness, irritability and the drained sense of purpose is stemming from. When the date comes, it strikes. It hits like lightning determined to burn through the same spot a thousand times. Time holds memories, even subconsciously. Grief days are mysterious and yet real, terrible and yet beautiful. The gift of deconstruction always extends the offer of leaving us with a deeper authentic self where love can live and not hide.
This birthday I find myself wondering when she will come home. I am waiting, aching, hoping that this loss will repent. No dose of reality, which I generally submit to, can convince the amputated part of my heart that the answer is never. There must be a way.
From one friend to another, I am not the only person with grief days. You have them too. Perhaps different topics, but quite as real. I suggest that when they come, you let grief have its way with you. Submit to its work. It is present to take the very real love in your heart and give it a voice so that it does not crystalize into a painful form forever. We grieve because we love.
Mining for gems.
One day at a time.
Grab a pen: Is there a loss you are experiencing? I invite you to make space for grief today, inviting Jesus to meet you there. He makes all things beautiful. That’s a promise.
The pressure to stand.
The willpower to prove yourself.
The expectations to overcome.
The assumptions that you know what to do.
The defenses you hide behind.
The fear you silently live with.
Can be rendered powerless, in the powerless position –
Of bowing down.
Take that strained forehead, and lay it on the floor.
Take those clenched fists, and open them up again.
Take that weary soul, and bend it in half on purpose.
Let yourself break.
In holy surrender.
What are you afraid will happen if you humble yourself? Admit your weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and blind spots? The King of Kings is happy to rule and reign in your life again, the moment you give up control.
Now, take that internal gaze that has been so self-transfixed, the eyes of your heart that are in a hamster wheel of self-concern, and peel them away from yourself. Aha! There He is! Your Maker. Standing tall. He is much bigger than you, entirely unconcerned, and happy that you at last had the wisdom to see past yourself.
Welcome to freedom.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy. Psalm 123:2
p.s. Grab a pen: Where and when can you physically bow down this week? Prayer from that posture will yield entirely different results, as your posture speaks louder than words.
It is the end of May. I am sitting by an open window wondering where the month went. The sky is a pregnant gray. The wind is cold. It is raining. The splash of late spring is decorating my window pane with droplet streamers. Everything is wet; as it should be, as it needs to be for growth to continue. I am sitting down to write for the first time in a month.
This month held a parade of events for me. It is the first month in over a year that I did not have anything cancelled. At last, we gather. Are we ready? It started with a speaking gig in NYC, followed by weighted, holy, and treasured gatherings of our leadership team, a weekend retreat for our prayer ministers, and then …. my baby’s first birthday. I preached at a local church, engaged local meetings, helped host a recording project in-house, and then headed back to New York to direct a week-long Jesus Theater workshop (child evangelism program with The Salvation Army). This past weekend I officiated a wedding for a friend. They had an ice cream truck at their reception.
My top three highlights in May were:
Life is picking up speed. I am grateful to be on the field again, and notably in a steep learning curve on how to do this as a family with a baby girl in the back seat of the car. Somebody thank God for Mitch Luse, Super Dad. Meanwhile, I am watching the awkwardness of all of our return to life together, another topic for another time.
Grab a pen: Picture yourself in sackcloth. What do you notice about it? Invite Jesus to remove your sackcloth, and cloth you with joy (Ps. 30:11). What do you see, sense, or hear about this exchange? (Excerpt from Preaching, Joy)
Have a great week!
p.s. Aimee Star at her 1st Birthday Party, my first birthday with a child in 10 years! Grateful and giddy.
The heat is on.
The fire is raging.
The ground is charred.
The smoke is dense.
The moisture is gone.
Then, and only then, certain plants awaken. These plants sit for decades inside of the earth. They wait until fire activates their seed. Crisis is their trumpet call to explode open, emerge, and populate destroyed ground with new life. In the context of gloom, doom, smoke, and destruction - some things bloom. The charred land is a nest to gorgeous stalks of new life that dare to press through the dead-end soil to create new terrain. Life must go on. Someone must carry it forward. Someone will. Someone does. Who?
Pyrophytic plants; plants activated by fire.
Life is designed to generate more life.
Deep in the ground, the soil of our own souls, there is new seed sprouting that will see the light of the day for the first time, thanks to the intensity of what you and I are surviving now. If we will dare to be the seeds that allow fire to activate us, we will be the first to populate our land with fresh beauty.
Have eyes to see, beloved. It is all opportunity.
Look to the pyrophytic plants! Look and learn.
"Perhaps the most amazing fire adaptation is that some species actually require fire for their seeds to sprout. Some plants, such as the lodgepole pine, Eucalyptus, and Banksia, have serotinous cones or fruits that are completely sealed with resin. These cones/fruits can only open to release their seeds after the heat of a fire has physically melted the resin. Other species, including a number of shrubs and annual plants, require the chemical signals from smoke and charred plant matter to break seed dormancy. Some of these plants will only sprout in the presence of such chemicals and can remain buried in the soil seed bank for decades until a wildfire awakens them." Reference: https://www.britannica.com/list/5-amazing-adaptations-of-pyrophytic-plants
Recently we celebrated the home-going date of my daughter, Ruby Joy. Aimee came with me to Ruby’s grave for the first time. It was a striking experience. The countless hours of history I have there with empty arms collapsed into the redemption of arms now full. Meanwhile, the remains of one life beneath the ground groaned for justice into the breath of our lives above ground. We grieve because we love. We all still love each other. Our family is separated between two worlds.
Life is not fair.
It involves pain.
Grief is a part of it.
My daughter, Aimee, was born into a family that has loss. I often wonder what this will be like for her. She has a sister whom she never met. Aimee’s family has traditions around graves, cemeteries, grief days, and remembrances. I wonder how this will shape her, if it should shape her, if she would be better shaped without it. My sisters have long been my closest friends. I would be sad to know that I had a sister I never met. This is the world that Aimee inherits. I wish I could shield her from the painful side of life, and spare her the inheritance of what we all would rather live without – grief and sadness.
And yet, this is reality.
I live with a loss.
To hide it is to hide my own soul.
We all have sorrowful spots in our stories.
To hide one’s sorrow is to deny one's own soul.
I cannot shield Aimee from reality, but I can introduce her to the One who is steady in it. Denial, secrecy, avoidance, numbness, and separation of heart are a gift to no one. Honesty, transparency, vulnerability, and truth are a gift to everyone. The inheritance that we have to give to those we love that matters is faith in Christ Jesus.“Come along, baby girl. I want to introduce you to the One who sat with me at this grave for years, never once giving up on the hope that you would someday come.”
Grab a pen: Is there a sorrowful spot in your story? Is it something that you hide or share? What are you afraid will happen if you share it?
There is great healing on the other side of being known.
My Grandma turned ninety-five this week. My baby girl is a few weeks shy of one. Ninety-five and one. We visited one another. As the two sat together, I was struck by the sight of a near century touching. They were six inches in proximity, then two, then one, then none. Kisses. Ninety-five and one.
Both wanted to hold.
Both wanted to touch.
Both wanted to giggle.
Both wanted to play.
Both wanted the time to extend –
And not waste away.
If time could crunch, it did.
When it did, I saw –
That from the beginning to the end of our lives –
What really matters is not what we build, achieve, or even dream.
It’s who we hold –
For how long –
And with what love.
Ninety-five and one.
Grab a pen: Where is your emotional energy going these days? Are the people you love prime recipients or parched companions? What is one thing you can do this week for someone you care about? Father God, I call back my emotional energy, help me to invest it well this week.
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.