“Oh Holy Night, the weary soul rejoices…”

I’ve spent the morning curled up on the Yarrow House sofa here in Denver. Six different versions of “Oh Holy Night” have looped on my Spotify as I’ve sat, staring vacantly at our Christmas tree and the Bible in my lap. No matter how long I look at either, I’m unable to reconcile myself to the joy that either thing should bring me in this season of Advent.

It was on this day two years ago that one of my Street School students was killed in gang warfare. And even though it seems like two years have passed, it was just last night that we received what I still can’t bring myself to believe is the final word that four of my loved ones in Alaska likely won’t return home after their plane went missing on a flight from our village to Anchorage Wednesday.

On December 10th, a day that has already been agonizing these last two years, I admittedly have been struggling with feeling more helpless and hopeless than ever. I long to be able to fix something. Anything. I long to be 3,500 miles away from this sofa, embracing my dear friends in Port Alsworth whose lives have been forever changed by a routine commute that turned into all of our worst nightmare.

My heart breaks more and more for those I love with every text, phone call, and update I receive because I know there is not a single one of us from that beautiful little bush village unscathed by this tragedy. Within that heartbreak I have heard the screams and cries of my friends who have lost members of their family and there simply aren’t words for, or to say in response to, that kind of suffering or pain.

Even though I am in the city where Johnny died, physically close to those affected by that tragedy two years ago, I am incapable of doing anything to change the situation here either. We will never be able to bring him back, answer the still-outstanding questions, or heal the residual pain his family, my students, and our Street School staff still feel.

As my mind has swung between these tragedies, desperately trying to make sense of something, the only conclusion I’ve reached is this: Never in my life have I felt such a deep ache for Someone to save me or the people I love from the pain and brokenness of this world. Never in my life have I longed so deeply for a Savior. 

While my heart can’t seem to consider celebrating anything right about now, I know the truth: we will soon celebrate the fact that our Savior has already come.

The Bible in my lap, my brothers and sisters (near and far) who have prayed and cried with me this week, the song that keeps repeating itself over my computer speakers, and even the silly cultural tradition of sticking a dying tree in our living room and wrapping it in lights point me back to that truth–

Our Savior has come. Christ came, incarnate as a helpless baby, and died as the Most Powerful King to save us from both our sin and our sorrow. Past, present, and future.

Two thousand years ago He became Emmanuel and Emmanuel He is still.
God with us.
God with all who mourn.
God with all who weep.
God wrapping His arms around every person who knows and loves Port Alsworth, the Longerbeams, the Bloms, and Johnny’s family.
God indwelling in those of us who call Him Abba, Father.
God who came to rescue.
God who will make all things new.

And thus I proclaim over my own trembling heart and that of those around me, that even as the news we receive today and this week will likely worsen by earthly standards, the good news that Christ has come for us and can wrap us in His arms now and for eternity is. indeed. Good. News.

Even if everything else falls apart, His sovereign plan, loving promise, Good News, and ultimate sacrifice remains the same– it is the only Good News we could ever truly need.

“Oh holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Fall on your knees, Oh heart the angel voices
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine, Oh night, Oh night divine

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name!

Christ is the Lord, Oh praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Fall on your knees, hear the angel voices,
Oh night, Oh night, Oh night divine.”

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Oh, Jesus. Make our hearts believe. Make our hearts believe while we are here on our knees…

~~~

If you, like me, wish you could do something but don’t know what to do, you can donate to any of the Go Fund Me accounts below. The first two are to help cover memorial service/funeral costs for the Blom and Longerbeam families. The last is to help some of the Bloms’ dear friends make it to Alaska for Scott, Zach, and Kaitlyn’s celebration of life.

Blom family memorial service / out of state family travel expenses

Kyle’s memorial service / family travel expenses

Help send the Brent/ Boe families to Alaska

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Losing Jesus

“When the Passover Feast had ended, as their family was returning to Nazareth, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group, they went a day’s journey, but then they began searching for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions…”

(Luke 2:43-46)

“They lost Jesus? Wouldn’t that make Jesus’ parents… bad… parents…?” Trevor looked around at all of us as he spoke, clearly choosing his words carefully.

Andrew, our TLC Bible teacher, and I locked eyes across the giant classroom table and smirked, clearly thinking the same thing—How do we navigate this? Andrew laughed and forced out an, “Uhm, yupp…” Before I stuck my foot in my mouth, adding, “I guess losing your kid for a few days probably wouldn’t qualify you for parent of the year…” (I’m nothing if not terribly awkward as a teacher.)

“What?!”
“How the heck would you not notice your kid wasn’t with you for a whole day?!”
“How do you leave your kid in a totally different city on accident?”

Questions and comments poured out before Andrew redirected the conversation back to the day’s study of Luke. But hours and weeks later, Trevor’s question stuck with me.

How often do I lose Jesus and go a whole day (or multiple days) before realizing that I’m not with Him?

It’s a murky question if you want to get all “theologically technical” about it. I know that, as a believer, His Spirit is always with me, but I can guarantee you that I’m not always with Him. Sometimes Jesus goes left while I wander right, completely lost in my own plans and short-sightedness. Sometimes, like Mary and Joseph, I keep walking long after He has stopped somewhere, and I don’t notice until I’m an embarrassing distance away.

My wandering is rarely intentional. (Although my heart occasionally reminds me that my sinful ability to run from God and hide in the darkness of my humanity is still well in tact.) No, usually I lose Jesus doing “good things”.

I’ve lost sight of Jesus in serving people, in religiosity, in the church, in my job, in relationships, in transition, in busy seasons, and all too often, in my own selfish ambition. It kills me to admit, but my heart is no where near stayed on Him the way I wish it was. You would think I would have this whole “following Jesus” thing down, since I’ve jokingly been called a “professional Christian”, or more commonly, a missionary. But the hymn “Come Thou Fount” is still the one written in and on my heart: I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

And unfortunately, I typically don’t realize I’ve wandered away until I try to quiet myself before Him and feel distant, confused, or alone. In this place my prayers are stilted and repetitive. I feel stuck, frustrated that I can’t find Him or figure out how my heart got so far away from Him in such a short time. It’s in those moments that I’m reminded that finding Jesus isn’t something I can do in my own power. It’s not that God has not hidden Himself, but I can’t find my way back to Him on my own anymore than I could’ve originally reunited myself to God while I was yet a sinner. That is why Christ had to come– to reunite our flighty, sinful hearts with His complete, steady One.

I sat the tiny attic space above my bedroom that I’ve affectionately deemed as my “Jesus Loft” last week. After a whirlwind few days, I felt frustratingly far from God. I journaled. I read. I tried to sing to my favorite worship songs downloaded on my phone. Yet nothing seemed to draw me back into intimacy with His heart.

Exasperated, I chucked my pen across the loft and said out loud, “I give up. I don’t know where You went or how I walked off for the trillionth time. But I need you. I’m sorry I suck at following You, but I need You to come back for me. I lost You somewhere and I need You to find me yet again.”

I wish I could say that the heavens opened up that night or that my house shook with the audible voice of God, but the truth is that sometimes you just need to pray and go to sleep, trusting that Jesus will come for you in Love and His perfect timing.

After a few days of trying to be obedient in faith and praying my weird, stilted prayers (still feeling rather blah), Jesus met me in the lyrics of Steffany Gretzinger’s “Pieces” while I stood at my kitchen sink and washed perfectly ordinary dinner dishes.

Daughter, I don’t give My heart in pieces.
I don’t hide Myself to tease you.

My love’s not fractured
It’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious, it’s not the restless kind
My love’s not passive
It’s never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word I say
Love keeps its promises, it keeps its word
It honors what’s sacred, cause its vows are good
My love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
My love’s not selfish, My love is pure.

As the song goes, His Love is always present, never disengaged. Even when we feel lost or He feels far off, He is nearer than we can see or believe. I don’t understand the phenomenon of His Love, but the cry of my heart stems from exactly that place of confusion. It’s a cry of frustration at my lack of faith and understanding— one that imitates the father of the demon possessed boy Jesus encountered in Mark 9. It’s a prayer that seems so repetitive and so over prayed as someone who feels like she should have it all together, but simply doesn’t…

Lord, make my heart believe.

Would You help me to see and know that Your love is always present, always pursuing me, never broken or disengaged?

Jesus, we long to believe that while we may lose You, You have never lost us. You are always pursuing us with Your perfect love, Your sweet Hesed.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
(Luke 19:10)