The Gospel according to Graham <3

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Yesterday we gathered with an overflowing crowd of love and support to remember and grieve and celebrate the gift that was Zach Berry and the gift of eternal life he received.

We packed the church and then the lobby with way too many bodies and we consoled and were consoled. 

For some it was too close to their own recent losses and for others it was probably odd and strange to see how we, who follow Christ, grieve with Hope. 

The waiting in line got to be too much for some wiggly boys so I took them up to my class room where I teach adults every Sunday morning and in a complete and humbling reversal of roles, I became the student. 

The lesson was “The Good Nuse”…apparently in second grade we spell by sound…and thankfully I am fluent in phonetics so I was able to read the message…but I could have figured it out by the pictures…

Because as Graham explained it….

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Our hearts are broken.

But Jesus came and died on the cross.

And fixed us. 

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And even though he thought he wrote that God is the savior of all…

I particularly love that He is the …

Saver…

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of…

All <3 

Because life is messy and sometimes just stinks…but we will forever and always choose to love well <3

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Today’s post is raw and messy and poured out of a heart that is both deeply saddened by loss this week and yet rejoices in the testimony of the faithfulness of our God who holds our dear friends tight in His grip.

God has blessed our family to journey through some of the biggest laughs and the hardest cries with this family. For those who are not local, that precious young brother in the black T-shirt on the right went home to be with Jesus this week.

He did not fear death and did not love his own life. The trust he had put in Jesus as a boy carried him through and he cheated death. I boast in the LORD when I say…that while his family and friends grieve, we do not grieve without hope.

There is a peace that passes understanding and I hope and pray every eye that reads these words knows this or will know it soon.

I wrote this yesterday and I am apologizing up front for typos and literary quality.

My heart wrote it…

As a high schooler back in the early 70’s, my youth group leader was a man named Steele Harmon. 

He was every bit as cool as his name. The football coach at the private, picturesque college nestled near the heart of our small town; he was outgoing and crazy for Jesus in a charming way that was pretty much irresistible and impacting on us kids. 

He took us out to Lay Witness Mission events and let us lead worship around his living room, he would haul us out in the woods every fall in the wee hours of the morning to collect leaves, pine cones and sticks and then we would decorate the church and have what was called Youth Sunday. 

His wife Lynn and two daughters were as shy as he was gregarious, but they trooped along with us to every thing. We loved them dearly. 

He challenged us to learn about this Jesus we had given our lives to and he did it with humility and a heart that showed he loved us at a level that ranked right up there with his family and his Savior. 

He modeled what it was to be a minister for Christ in whatever field God called you to. 

And I will never forget the time he shared how you can guarantee never getting hurt in this world. 

Remember we were teenagers and having our feelings hurt was a rite of passage we were quite familiar with. 

Being one who runs about 100 on a scale of 1-10 for emotions, I was very interested in how I could avoid having my heart broken so I leaned forward and determined to listen and apply the knowledge he was about to dispense. 

The secret he said, is to never let yourself really love people.

Just harden your heart and keep it closed off. 

Don’t give anyone enough of a place that losing them or having them betray you or having to watch them suffer hurts you. 

Oh. 

We sat there as we soaked in the tears that brimmed in those eyes we had come to trust and realized what he was saying. 

We had a choice to make then and a choice to make every day. 

To choose to love well knowing that would come always at a cost. 

I have to say, in the 40 plus years since he spoke those words into me, I would never have imagined the pain of that cost or the struggle it has been at times to get up again and pick up what was left of my heart and ask God to piece it back together so I could continue to follow through on the commitment made. 

I didn’t understand how many times I would have to battle against the temptation to just shut her down…to say…no more, thank you…I have loved enough…I’m going to sit this one out. 

But I can still him shaking his head and saying…

You don’t want to get hurt? Just don’t love. 

And I can still feel the cold icy grip of realizing what that kind of life would have robbed me of. 

At many times when I have grieved or watched others grieve, the impact of this man’s words wash over me and I often whisper…to myself or anyone who needs to hear it…

This sorrow is the cost of loving well…the more we loved…the more we hurt…the more He heals. 

May God comfort us all in our sorrows so that we will have the strength to continue to love as He loves. May He give us the courage we need to risk loving well, every time no matter the cost.

 <3

To remember this when you weep <3

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It’s a grey and rainy morning here on the prairie and all I can share with you is this assurance on my heart today for those who need to hear it. 

When Jesus stood outside the grave of Lazarus, knowing in about two seconds He was going to turn this whole mourning scene into a day of celebration…we are told…He wept. 

Why?

Commentaries and people far more educated than me have ideas that make sense, but today I can just say I think it was to let us know.

He knows when our hearts are breaking beyond the point that we can bear it. 

And it matters greatly to Him. 

Even though He knows He has overcome death and sin and the grave and the fall of man and our worst mistakes and our missing the mark and our ignorance….He cares. 

Our grief does not go unnoticed nor unaccompanied by His matchless love. 

He didn’t just dress up in our skin. 

He allowed Himself to feel exactly what we feel and when we hurt, He cries real tears with us. 

May the God of all comfort bring comfort to each of you this day. 

He is faithful. 

He is good. 

He is kind.

And He has robbed the grave and one day we will all rejoice together, but until that day…He walks the journey with us. 

Step by step. 

Tear by tear.

Grace by grace <3

Trick or Treat <3

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Good morning!

How do you feel about Halloween? 

As a kid it was just a day where my mom helped me put together some kind of dress up costume that we pieced together from play clothes and our closets. 

In high school I won a prize at a Halloween party for my rendition of Carol Burnett’s cleaning lady.

The fact that I am able to adopt an altar ego when donning a costume and actually overcame my crippling shyness allowing me to do one of her dances with a mop and bucket complete with my dad’s military boots just put me right up there as a shoe in for the prize. 

Pun intended.

As an adult, I had a blast dressing as a crazy science teacher complete with goofy glasses and circa 1950’s hair and makeup. No offense to science or science teachers…I was shooting for a Miss Frizzle look.

 I was basically unrecognizable to the other teachers as they tried to figure out who the kooky lady running the cake walk was. 

Little kids coming to the door and asking for candy remains a highlight in our home. Russ and I have a bowl ready and waiting and will spend an intense evening as we know there will be no rest for the weary until our porch light goes off around 8 PM. 

But there is a dark side to this holiday and as darkness appears to be more appealing to far too many these days, it can be upsetting. 

Our little Joel has been troubled by a larger-than-the-house inflatable ghost that waves eerily in the wind just a few houses down from his own home. 

A young mom posted a picture of a horrible scene depicted out on a front lawn of a house on her family’s route each day. I could guess where this was because for years, I was appalled by the displays of blood and gore sprawled out in plain view along one of our town’s busy roads. 

And I confess, I don’t understand this side of humanity. 

I don’t understand scaring people and violence for entertainment. 

Gosh…I don’t understand a lot of what other people consider to be fine, acceptable and even praise-worthy. 

But I have to live amongst it. 

I have to drive past the macabre and I have to be kind and polite in situations that make me uncomfortable. 

I have to function in a world that I feel increasingly unwelcome in. 

And I have to remember that Jesus warned me I would find this world to be that way if I followed Him. 

So I choose different routes and I offer comfort to those who are frightened.

I remind myself and others of the Light that darkness could not overcome. 

And I wait. 

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I wait for the One who will make all things new…and right…the One who went before us and knows what we walk through and how hard we try to follow Him. 

The One who is with us even when we feel so all alone. 

The One who loves us and loves the ones who scare us and the ones who laugh at us. 

The One who will never leave us or forsake us. 

Such a treat…no tricks <3

To press pause…pray…regroup…before we move into the rush of all things holiday <3

Good morning!

As a young mom with five and eight hour drives separating us from family, God raised up a network of friends and surrogate family for Russ and I before we even knew how much we would need each one. 

This was back in the day when connections were made amongst the low bookcases of the children’s department at the library and sitting in the waiting room at the Y while your daughters were in dance class. 

I was clueless about raising young’uns since my babysitting years were less than stellar experiences and we had no siblings with children. 

Every mistake I could possibly make would lead to sudden death, of this I was certain. Thus I parented out of ignorance and fear; yet God graciously sent into my life older and wiser moms who helped me get a grip.

One of them was named Carol and I remember finding a haven in her den while our daughters played with My Little Ponies and we ate her amazing tuna salad sandwiches and drank coffee.

Under the calming and wise influence of this lady, I found out that there just is no perfect parent path … that we are all works in progress and every child is unique and baffling and wonderful and frustrating and in need of us to teach them how to not be in need of us…all in rapid succession…on a continuous loop to adulthood.

One of my favorite expressions she would use was … “currently my schedule is leading me by the nose and it is time to stop and regroup and reprioritize.”

Sound advice as we wind down October and look toward what will be the Grand Finale of 2018. 

On Wednesday evening, Russ and I will hand out candy to approximately 150 children…if last year is any indication of the volume of trick or treaters in our new digs. 

And then Thursday will hit me with the roller coaster that we call the “holidays.”

This knowledge makes me cringe because lately my schedule has been in charge of me and I need to get my horse back in front of the cart before I take on all the many extras that November and December will add to the mix. 

So today I am praying for me and for you that we could take a deep breath. 

And then another….and another….and another. 

That we could take a hard look at what has been driving us and purpose in our hearts to let God set the pace as we finish out 2018.

I am spending some time in prayer and seeking His direction to finish out our Journey together. 

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My hope and desire is to close out 2018 with ears tuned and heart turned to what He would have as the focus of our time together. 

Be blessed today in all you do and try to stay out of the candy…ok…maybe just a couple to make sure they are suitable to hand out to the kiddos…<3