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.
The story behind the story in every season of our lives is our relationship with the Father. The circumstances present one thing, but the core narrative is unfolding within.
Father, if you are willing, take this cup … (Lk 22:42)
Father, forgive them … (Lk 23:34)
Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit … (Lk 23:46)
In the midst of false accusations, a threat to His life, belittlement from religious leaders, cruel words, betrayal from His friends, abandonment from the company of people He was doing life with, beatings, slashes, torment …
Jesus kept talking to the Father.
He was obedient to the Father's voice.
Even when no one else understood.
In my own life, I return this weekend to the Father. In the midst of my own waves of feeling misunderstood, accused, abandoned, disrespected, alone – I stop.
His wild and persistent belief that I am enough.
His validation of me -
of you -
Our bright opportunity to entangle ourselves on purpose in the Father's loving and supportive care. He is the champion in our lives who never for a moment transitions into disbelief and belittlement. He is always for us, inviting us to be with Him.
Come along, Friend.
Let's return to the Father.
The story behind the story.
Jesus and the Father.
With love on Easter,
Good news! My audiobook officially released! You can buy it direct, or from your favorite audiobook distributor: Audible, Amazon, Google Play, Apple, Scribd, Kobo, Walmart, Chirp, hibooks, NOOK Audiobooks. For those who are interested, here is also a short video that I released to share some context for this project.
Grab a pen: If you could give voice to one thing, what would that be?
Your voice matters.
My voice matters.
Ruby's voice matters.
Thanks for listening! I pray that this story continues to bring great healing to people, and great glory to God.
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.