But Jesus said, “Stop complaining about what I said”

John 6:26-71 [After he fed the five thousand] Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you … Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” … But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. … Yes, I am the bread of life! … The very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

A pastor’s wife in Curitiba, Brazil said to my husband Dave, “Stop talking about emotional healing unless you’re going to do something about it!” So Dave sent out an invitation across Brazil: “Anyone interested in a conversation about emotional healing, come to São Paulo for a weekend in mid-January. Let us know in the next week.”

By the time we left on vacation a week later, six or seven people had responded, including the woman from Curitiba. No problem! We could house and feed them in our own home.

But by the time we dragged home from two weeks of camping with friends at the beach seventeen hours’ drive from São Paulo and checked email, the number of people coming three days later was close to forty! Such was their hunger, some were coming from as far as forty-five bus hours away!

Now, I know that doesn’t hold a candle to Jesus asking the disciples to feed five thousand men, plus women and children, in a remote place. But it felt overwhelming to me, trying to deal with two weeks of stinky laundry for a family of six, clean, dry, and put away three tents, etc. etc. How could I find housing and prepare food for forty people in three days’ time? How could Jesus say to me, “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food?”

Yet, he provided. And the words he spoke to us that weekend were spirit and life. I doubt anyone (including me!) remembers what they ate, but none of us can forget the spiritual food God used to nourish and heal our souls.

That first weekend became a monthly event for the rest of that year, birthing the REVER movement which by God’s grace has brought spiritual and emotional healing to thousands of people across Brazil and in other countries, since 2002 under the direction internationally of Luciene Schalm. The acronym REVER in Portuguese and Spanish means “to take another look”; it stands for “restoring lives, equipping restorers.” Our four kids grew up surrounded by this ministry as it frequently occupied our home and took Dave and me around Brazil. REVER ministry in our home church in São Paulo continues to bring many nonbelievers to the healing arms of Jesus, as well as healing to families, marriages, and individuals within the church.

Of the forty times John uses the word “life” in his Gospel, eleven are in this chapter. Seven other times the words are “live” or “living.” In every case he refers to himself, the Father, or the Spirit as the source of life, eternal life: Jesus himself the bread from heaven.  The sustaining, energizing, fecund dance of the Trinity that fuels our flourishing. This Lent, God invites us to give less attention to physical food so we can devote time to nourishing our souls in him.

Outside my front door today: new life!

But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

But Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

John 6:17-20 As darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, his disciples got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” Mark 6:51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped.

Sieder Köder, Storm at Sea. Thanks, Elaine!

With a passenger, a man rode his motorcycle on a highway near a town about an hour from Bogotá, Colombia last week. His passenger had a seizure, which threw the motorcycle off course, hitting two cyclists. Three people stopped to help the four victims of the accident, lying on the road in varying states of injury.

A drunk driver came along and hit all of them. As I write this, three are dead, three are critically injured, and one has more minor injuries. The drunk man, it turns out, is not a customary drinker. He had been drinking because he lost his father and his uncle to Covid the same week. Further, he is related to two of his victims.

Where, you may be asking, is the “But God” in this story?

A close friend of my sister Jan’s, a Colombian who now lives in Mexico, is also a relative of the drunk driver and two family members involved in the accident. She offered to pray with anyone from the extended family, their friends, and their neighbors, all of them reeling from this accident. The first call extended to another, so that now Jan’s friend is praying with them at 6:00 p.m. daily, via Zoom from Mexico, communicating Jesus’ words every day: “Don’t be afraid. I am here!”

Horrible things happen, as unexpected and unmanageable as a storm at sea. “I am here. We can face this together.” This message bookends the Gospels, from the angel telling Joseph to name his son Immanuel, “God with us,” to Jesus’s last words, “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 1:23, 28:20). I don’t say any of this lightly–you know I don’t. In my own life, healing has come when I’ve been able to “see” Jesus with me, even in the valley of death. Not a bandaid; a profound release, one traumatic memory at a time.

G. K. Chesterton said, “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally.” Jesus wants us to know he is with us even in the darkest times. Often he does that through the presence of a friend, through physical touch. But it can happen even through Zoom.

From wherever you are, you can pray for this family and their neighbors. And for my sister’s friend in Mexico, who is turning her own grief into an extension of care across cyberspace.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (Psalm 23:4).

But God is always working

John 5:16-26 [On the Sabbath, Jesus healed a man ill for 38 years.] So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” … For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. … The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son.

Everything seemed so bleak. The man ill for 38 years had given up hoping to get his life back. But Jesus…

Those first three months of her life when she screamed with colic, we couldn’t have imagined the happy child my granddaughter Talita has become. She doesn’t know she’s a Covid baby. But I believe she knows she is loved. Yesterday we celebrated one year of life. And today she took her first steps!

When I read ever more disheartening news about the devastation of Venezuela, it’s hard to imagine health and freedom can ever be restored there. Yet my friend Idagly asks me to pray for her faith, for gratitude, for contentment with God’s life-giving work, even in horrible circumstances. The Father has life in himself and grants us life through his Son.

As I look out my window at ice and snow, everything seems dead. But I have enough experience living in this climate to know it’s not so. Under the ground where I can’t see, roots are alive and growing. When conditions are right, courageous crocuses will poke their little heads through the snow, the heralds and hope-bearers of spring. Incredibly quickly, at least where I live, our city will transform from shades of black, white, and grey into living color, all the colors of the rainbow.

From Shutterstock by irina02

I’m thinking about all this as today we head into Lent, the forty days before Easter, weeks in which we’re tasked with considering death and all that is deadly in our lives. The point is not to be morbid, but to clear space for the bursting of new life. If I never clear out what is dead in my garden, the potent loveliness underneath won’t be able to express its full glory.

Even while I do the work of Lent, I will know—my soul cherishes this mystery—the roots of LIFE are there, strengthening, expanding, preparing to nurture new growth. The more courageous I can be in allowing God to root out what is not life-giving in my heart-garden, the more he can nurture the beauty that pleases him.

So—let it snow. The Father is always working, always life-giving. Even in winter. Even in Lent.

And spring is coming!

But Jesus asked, “Will you never believe in me?”

John 4:43-54 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he [a government official] went to Cana and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die. Jesus asked, “Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?” The official pleaded, “Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.” Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live!” And the man believed what Jesus said and started home. While the man was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that his son was alive and well.

Luke 9:28-36 As Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white…Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.”

In the first chapter of Karis, All I See Is Grace, I tell the story of meeting God in a park, at a time the doctors told us there was no hope six-week-old Karis could live. God asked me to trust him, to believe he would never leave or forsake me. He gave me the ability to believe what he told me. That weekend, while I was away from the hospital, God worked a miracle. Karis’s intestine functioned for the first time. The nurses and doctors started calling her “Miracle Baby.”

From Shutterstock by Yellowj

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thanked God this morning for a talk he recently had with my husband, showing him something he had never understood before about his relationship with me. After 43 ½ years of marriage, that felt, and still feels, miraculous. It untangled some knots between us we didn’t know how to unravel, though we tried many times. It showed us God cares about us even in small things. And it helps me trust God to show me what to believe and what path to take in other challenges of my life right now.

In his Gospel, John doesn’t include the Transfiguration, the event in Jesus’ life Anglicans remember today, the last Sunday of Epiphany. An interesting omission, given John’s theme of revelation! But one of the main “lessons” of the Transfiguration is right here in John 4: Listen to what Jesus says. The official listened and believed him. Later, his entire household believed, and John calls that miraculous too.

Perhaps, like the official in this story, and like Thomas, I need “signs and wonders” to believe when times are tough, and God graciously provides what I need. Maybe you don’t. Jesus told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29-30). Either way, what is Jesus saying to you? Ask God to let you hear the word of love he is speaking to you today.

But Jesus said, “Wake up and look around”

John 4:1-42 Jesus said [to the Samaritan woman], “Please give me a drink.” The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water… a fresh, bubbling spring, giving you eternal life.” [Later he said to his disciples] “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.”… [The people of the village said to the woman] “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard Jesus ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.

Enmity between people in the same land—people who claim to worship the same God—is at least as old as Israel and Samaria. Jesus didn’t let that deter him. He both used and broke through accepted social conventions because he saw this woman’s heart. He understood her story. He saw her need. And he used her cultural setting (the well) and custom (drawing water from the well) to offer what he had to give, living water.

Hmm, sound like a description of missions? In the Anglican tradition, today is World Mission Sunday. Having grown up in Guatemala as an MK (“missionary kid”), I’ve never known life apart from missions; it frames the way I think and understand everything—maybe that can help you make sense of things I say. For me, borders between countries are in a sense artificial constructs imposed on this world God loves. His family—our brothers and sisters—live in every nation. It’s as impossible for me to embrace one country as being “first” as it is to imagine God having favorites among his children.

I thought it would be fun to share a couple of worship songs from countries I have lived in. Don’t worry about understanding the words; just try to enter into their spirit, their heart.

From Guatemala: Julio Melgar died in 2019 at age 46. Here’s an example of the worship legacy he left, Tus Cuerdas de Amor (Your Cords of Love), recorded in 2018 in the middle of a two-year fight with cancer (Lord, you never lost control...Your cords of love have fallen on me… this is my security, my peace… your love sustains me…).

His son Lowsan later sang this song like this.

From Brazil: When she was a little girl, Dave took board games as gifts when he stayed with Ana Paula Valadão’s family on visits to her city of Belo Horizonte. Ana Paula and her group, Diante do Trono (Before the Throne) has had an incalculable influence on worship in Brazil. Here’s one of my favorites, a song first recorded in 2002, Águas Purificadoras.

Oh! I just found this video of Ana Paula singing Águas Purificadoras last year in English!

Living water… a fresh bubbling spring.

But Jesus came down from heaven

John 3:1-21 [Jesus said to Nicodemus] I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony…No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven…For God loved the world so much…God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

This morning early, I lit a candle and listened to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue as we did seven years ago when three angels and Michael escorted Karis to Heaven.

Heaven. When Jesus talks about heaven, we should pay attention. Because he lived there.

This week a friend in Chicago asked me whether I had heard of capoeira and the berimbau. Her son in Seattle is learning them.

Her words immediately conjured happy days at Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo pressing into the crowd to watch in fascination the blend of martial arts, play fighting and choreographed dance/gymnastics of a capoeira group showing off their skills, to the thrum of the berimbau and the shake shake shaking of the caxixi.

Yes, I’m familiar with capoeira and the berimbau. It takes a lot of practice and highly developed skills to do it well. I know, because I lived in Brazil for years and saw capoeira many times.

Suppose someone tried to tell me capoeira is a type of hmm, a type of Brazilian chocolate. I would just look at them and shake my head, maybe laugh a little.

I had an experience like that once. I was at a conference in Arkansas and struck up a conversation with a woman sitting across from me at lunch. When she found out I lived in Brazil, she immediately started telling me what I needed to understand about Brazil and how to do effective work there. Had she ever been to Brazil? No. But once she had talked to someone who had heard a speaker who said… My new acquaintance was not interested in my experience from having lived there, at that point, more than ten years. She “knew” what my husband and I ought to be doing, and how, and why. She took the rest of the meal to explain this to me. All I could do was shake my head and laugh a little.

Jesus knew about heaven. He had lived there since before our world was even made. Nicodemus thought he knew. As a Pharisee, he thought God was all about rules and control, of himself and of other people. No, no, no, Jesus said. It’s about freedom, the Holy Spirit dancing like the wind, birthing life, life that is unending, into people’s spirits. It’s about love, God loving people so much, so much that he gave them what was most precious to him. It’s about light, dispelling the darkness of judgment and fear of condemnation, of not measuring up to all the rules. “Come into the light—true light from heaven,” Jesus invited Nicodemus. “Then you’ll see what God is like, what he actually wants.”

I heard on NPR an interview with Steve Bannon in which he was chuckling over how vulnerable people are, how easy it is to exploit their fears and make them believe anything. I couldn’t believe it. I looked up the interview later to see whether I had heard him correctly. He said these things with no shame, no attempt to cover them up. This was no underground operation. He reveled in his power to take advantage of people for his own ends. He could make people believe anything, he said, if he played on their fears and repeated it often enough.

No, no, no. No. Evoking and exploiting fear is NOT the language of heaven. There is nothing remotely like God in that. So what makes us vulnerable to it? Paul offers an antidote: Let your roots grow down deep into the soil of God’s wonderful love to keep you strong (Ephesians 3:17). I’ve chosen that as my 2021 year verse. Then you’ll have the ability to know, to understand and experience, the dimensions of God’s love, Paul continues. You’ll be able to speak the language of heaven.

More than anyone I’ve known, Karis learned the language and culture and values of heaven while she still lived on earth, the language of love and joy, freedom, and grace. I have no doubt she’s very much at home there.

And God’s given me a “vision” of her this week: welcoming into heaven those who have died from Covid, helping heal their trauma, helping them transition into wellness. She can do this because she knows what it’s like to die from a horrible virus. In her case it was H1N1, but from what I observed of her last illness and what I’ve heard about Covid deaths, it’s not much different. As I grieve our friends who have died from Covid, it comforts me to think of Karis meeting them and caring for them in their new home, her sparkling blue eyes and that irresistible smile even more radiant because she’s free from pain, as they will be. Are.

I have to share what appeared at our door this week, accompanied by a note from Karis. Photos don’t do them justice—the roses are glorious. My husband outdid himself. Every time I’ve felt a wash of sadness this week, missing Karis, I’ve looked at my roses and soaked in the love they represent. A tangible, visible sign of God’s love. Sacrament. And I echo Karis’s poem, “Lord, make my life sacrament.”

But Jesus didn’t trust them

John 2:23-24 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

John 6:26-27 [After the feeding of more than five thousand people, Jesus said] I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.

I doubt the concept of mind mapping was a thing when John wrote his Gospel. But making a mind map for John helps me see the connections he saw when he organized his material—not chronological links, but conceptual. These two verses at the end of chapter 2 refer back to Passover in Jerusalem while pivoting to the topic Nicodemus chooses to open his conversation with Jesus in chapter 3: Jesus’ miracles. And they introduce the topic of trust.

Have you tried mind mapping? Google mind map and you’ll find an endless list of resources and models, like this one. Doing a simple mind map helps me sometimes to get thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head into an external form I can look at. Connections and insights follow; usually “aha!” moments (we are still in the season of Epiphany, the season of revelations!) that give me clarity and direction. Pick a topic that’s troubling you and try it! I’d love to know your experience.

from Shutterstock by studioworkstock

You could try, for example, the topic of trust. Who/what do you trust, and why? Who/what don’t you trust, and why? Put the topic “trust” in the center of your mind map and see where it takes you.

Trust is a tricky topic because we can’t live without it, but we fear setting ourselves up for disappointment or betrayal. What we fear is integrally linked into what or who we trust. So our fears have a place on our “trust” mind maps. It might help to do a “fear” mind map first, to clarify our needs before we look at what we do to try to meet those needs.

Hit a nerve? Don’t keep all your thoughts and feelings stuffed inside you. Talk to someone you (ahem) trust!  

I had this post mostly written before I heard our pastor open his sermon last Sunday with the question, “How can we know we can trust someone?” You can listen to the sermon here (the one at the top of the listing, by Jonathan Millard 1/31). Well worth your while!

But God will see us face to face, by Virginia Webster

1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Seeing more clearly is a central theme of the season of Epiphany.

In January of last year people were jokingly saying that it was the year for clear vision. 2020. I only paid attention to it because my ophthalmologist informed me that cataract surgery was needed. All of a sudden, I was very aware of seeing. Seeing colors, movement, people, faces, emotions. Seeing is really important, especially if you think you won’t be able to see in the future. Then COVID hit and 2020 didn’t seem very clear. Everything became blurry. It was unsettling.

The word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah: ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“I see the branch of an almond tree,” and then the Lord replies, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled” (Jer. 1:11-12).

God’s Word is full of seeing. Eve sees a piece of fruit and in the taking she sins. Abraham sees three visitors and in their company he receives the promise —  his son will be a blessing to the nations. Noah sees a flood and is delivered in the ark of redemption; Joseph sees the bottom of a pit because of his brothers. The Israelites see bondage and plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, Mount Sinai on fire, and manna raining down in the wilderness. Joshua literally sees the sun stop until the battle is won. Naomi sees famine, death and depression. David sees Absalom’s rebellion. Job sees an ash heap, before he hears God speak out of creation. Job replies, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).

Mary sees her newborn lying in a feeding trough. His name is Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin. Anna waited her entire widowed life to see this little baby, to see the redemption of Jerusalem. Even the blind see because of Jesus. The disciples see Jesus too on the Mount and in the Temple. They see Jesus breaking bread and pouring the cup. They see Jesus on the cross. They see an empty tomb and his resurrected body. They see his nail scared hands and his wounded side.

In Revelation, John’s praying imagination sees what is to come. He sees the son of Man in all his glory, he sees the throne of Heaven, he sees the seven angels with the last seven plagues, he sees the worship surrounding the throne of the Lamb. John sees a new heaven and a new earth.

Jeremiah sees an almond branch. What do you see in the year of our Lord 2021? We see the Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. We may be zoom weary and vaccine anxious, but we see the Lord high and lifted up. Christopher Wright in Here are your gods” writes, “Idolatry is the attempt to limit, reduce, and control God by refusing his authority, constraining or manipulating his power to act, having him available to serve our interests.” I’ve been forced to reexamine my expectations of what God should be doing for me. Instead, I see Him faithfully giving to me what I hardly know I need. The Lord is watching over me. Face to face relationships in community are a real blessing, never to be taken for granted. Truth is important. The world is not careening out of control. God is still sovereign.

I’ve already been back to the ophthalmologist for a check-up. She did mention that I was an exceedingly particular patient when it comes to seeing well. Sitting in the UAB Callahan waiting room I did a lot of looking. Patients shuffling in trying to navigate vision, masks and social distancing. God sees our human condition. He knows us. I am encouraged by Paul’s Corinthian Love chapter that we see but only a reflection, as in a mirror, but one day will see God face to face and then we will know fully even as we are fully known. Until then, like Jeremiah, I want to be faithful even when life seems harder than expected. I do want to see God’s Word fulfilled. And that kind of seeing is worth watching for.

But Jesus meant his own body

John 2:13-22 [Jesus chased merchants and traders out of the Temple.] He told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” … But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” “All right,” Jesus replied. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Tempe, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

John is not writing a chronological account of Jesus’ life. Likely this “cleansing of the Temple” occurred at the end of his ministry, as recorded in the other Gospels, rather than at the beginning. So the two vignettes in chapter 2 bookend Jesus’ years of ministry. Why would John put them together?

A clue is the first phrase, “On the third day.” The “third day” references in Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, are more than chronological notations. They signal important information about Jesus’ resurrection, his unparalleled, universe-transforming victory over death and sin.  

Suddenly, Jesus’ lavish miracle is not just about providing wine for a friend’s wedding. It’s a vivid commentary on his resurrection, about a transformation as radical and extravagant as water into wine; as shocking as the concept of rebuilding the Temple in three days. John spells it out for us: He meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered…

A lot will happen in Jesus’ life between these two chapter 2 vignettes. But John tells us right off the bat, though we may feel we’re trapped in the suffering of Friday or the seemingly endless waiting of Saturday, Sunday IS coming. Hold on to the hope and wonder of the third day. Jesus cites it as the source of his authority for restoring the Temple to its true function, forecasting the day he will set everything right.

For God has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man [Jesus] he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

But Jesus first revealed his glory by making a party more memorable

John 2:1-12 … [Turning water into wine for the wedding in the village of Cana] was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him. After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

120-180 gallons of wine! Toward the end of the wedding celebration!

Raised in a teetotaler family (with an edge, because our grandfather was alcoholic), within a faith tradition that held drinking alcohol of any kind to be unacceptable, I always kind of skipped over this story once I understood Jesus actually made wine and not just grape juice. “The point of the story,” I was told, “is that Jesus approves of marriage.”

Well, yes. But he could have made that point another way.

I find it interesting that in crafting his Gospel, John put this story right after his triple identification of Jesus as son of Joseph, Son of God, Son of Man. Dad Joseph wasn’t at the wedding, nor does he appear in any of the Gospels after Jesus grew up. Probably he was no longer alive. But the story is framed by Jesus’ interactions with his earthly family, his mother and brothers. Attending the celebration is a thoroughly “Son of Man” thing to do. Jesus was attuned to his culture. He knew how to go about solving the wine crisis—working through the servants and the master of ceremonies. And the miracle revealed him as the Son of God.

But what touches my heart in this first revelation of the glory of God in Jesus is his generosity, his extravagant gifting of the best wine anyone in that humble village had ever tasted. Not just enough to save the wedding couple’s honor, but an enormous abundance that initially “only” the servants were aware of (John notes this fact). I’m reminded of the host of angels singing to the shepherds. The heaping baskets left over when Jesus later fed the crowds. Not just a word of comfort to the widow of Nain but her dead son returned to her alive! When the Lord saw her, his heart OVERFLOWED with compassion (Luke 7:13).

The sun could just rise and set, but twice a day the Creator paints our sky with magnificent colors. The heavens declare the glory of God. They, like this miracle in the village of Cana, show us what God is like. Not skimpy. Not mesquinho (mean, miserly, stingy). So generous we catch our breath, though if we paid attention, we could see this display almost every day.

In my despair during the last days of Karis’s life, God touched my breaking heart with a unique word of comfort, miraculously communicated so I would know it was from him. At her funeral, he gave back to us our son Michael. I feel goosebumps just remembering. These stories are told in chapter 20 of Karis, All I See Is Grace. And so much more. One of Karis’s surgeons—and so many other amazing friends and family—took time out of their hectic lives to honor her; in blizzard conditions filling the church and our hearts with the warmth of their compassion and generosity.

Not just “enough.” Abundance.

But what does this mean to us today, stretched thin from a year of pandemic and all the rest of it?

Lord, I’m looking to see how you reveal to us, now, two thousand years later, in January of 2021, this dimension of your glory.

I wrote that much yesterday morning, before spending a couple of the last hours with my sister and brother-in-law before they drove away from Pittsburgh, moving to Georgia. And then I went home and cried, for missing them, for the circumstances that took them away; for missing my São Paulo friend Cristina who died this week, for my friend Patty who lost her husband (my high school “big brother”) last week, for all the families missing loved ones because of Covid or a myriad of other reasons. For January 20 seven years ago when my daughter could not breathe. For the heavy burdens on too many shoulders.

Lord, where? Where is your abundance in all this? Please open my eyes so I can see it.

And then I heard Amanda Gorman’s poetry.And prayed with two friends. And something began to shift inside of me. A stirring of hope.

“…to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.” Thank you, Amanda.

And I think, as I begin this new day, God has gifted our weary, fractured, grieving country with a leader who is a healer and peacemaker; the gifts we need at the time we need them. I think we’re being offered a chance—a window—an opportunity—to put our energy into restoration. With the compassion that overflows to us and through us from Jesus’ extravagantly generous heart. His abundance that never runs out. Even on the cross, when he said not “Look how much I am suffering,” but “Father, forgive them.”

From his abundance we all have received one gracious blessing after another (John 1:16).

Including the gift of a new day, a new beginning. His mercies renewed for today.