Psalm 84:5-6

Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
as they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

No red or blue

I'm flying to Phoenix today. My older daughter moved there about eleven months ago. I visited last June when the temperatures reached 118 degrees one day. I thought it was an absurd place for anyone to live. But I kept talking to people who wouldn't live anywhere else, who never imagined living anywhere else. "At least it's a dry heat," I heard over and over. This didn't make sense to me. Dry heat, wet heat, 118 degrees is dang hot. Give me 75-80 with marine air, thank you very much.

That's not my point, however.
I'm flying. E keeps telling me that she lives in a red state. My state, I have come to understand, is divided, by the Cascade Mountains into red (on the east) and blue (on the west). But when a person flies, those aren't the colors she sees. I have never seen republican or democrat states from the air. Sure, because I'm educated, I can make guesses about where the divisions lie. There's a big city--blue. There's a whole lot of farm land--red. But I can't see those colors from 30,000 feet. As a matter of fact, there aren't even state borders. It's all one solid land mass. Mountains, trees, deserts, lakes, rivers, farm lands, small town, big cities, houses out by themselves. Every type of terrain imaginable practically. We're a big ol' diverse country from the air. And we all blur from one thing to the next to the next with no discernible lines.

I'm NOT a true historian. I admit that straight out. But I like to read, and I read a whole lot. And this is what I glean about what we were intended to be. UNITED. Divided into states, yes, with power given to states. But this ridiculous division of parties where the sole purpose of one is to defeat and combat every single thing the other does? This is not what the founders imagined. They thought we'd work together for the good of each other. They thought we'd be collegial. The slow disintegration of that working-together is frustrating to every one of us, (red or blue). It damages us.

Do we toss out every person in congress? Do we simply start over?
Or what?
I don't have an answer.
I just know that we can't go on this way.

But I'll be thinking about it as I fly over our United States today.
Watching the terrain, thinking of how beautiful it really is (when I get past the rain up here in the PNW).

And because I pray, I'll be praying. Always.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My potato friend

When I was in my formative years--my teens and early twenties, the garden of my life was populated with all kinds of people. There were friends who were like ornamental flowers, they were fun to laugh and play with now and then, but they didn't last. There were my favorite kinds of fruits--raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, cherries (I can eat any of these until I'm sick!). These were my favorite kinds of friends to hang with. I had some friends I never got tired of hanging with, people I could talk to all night, and have so much fun with. And then there were the potatoes. I love potatoes. This is important to understand. I can't think of a single way you can fix a potato that I won't want. They're also my go-to comfort food. Better than chocolate or other candy--for me--any day of the week. And what is also important about potatoes is that they're root vegetable. They are hidden under the soil, they go deep.

I have one friend from my youth that I think of as my potato friend. Writing about her in relation to a garden is important because she's become a gardener now. An organic farmer, to be more precise. Her garden is large and lush and full of all kinds of beautiful vegetables and fruits that she takes to markets in the towns near where we grew up.

So let me tell you about my deep-roots friend. She has roots and depth and we spent hours in our teens plumbing those depths together. We spent plenty of time having fun with our group of guy friends but when I think of her, it's the time we spent alone together, talking about God, ourselves, the future, boys, all matters of life that I most remember. If you asked me how she impacted my life, I would be hard pressed to answer, in a way. It isn't because she didn't, it's because we were so often with each other, so tied up together in every activity, everything we did, that it's like what Catherine says about Heathcliff,

 "Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being."

 My friend, PH, and I were each other for all intents and purposes our last two year of high school. I rarely did anything without her, without consulting her, without thinking about how it might affect her. And I know the same was true for her.


Yes, she is a quieter person than I am, and I might have swallowed a lot of air in the room when we were with a large group of people (I know myself), but that didn't make a whit of difference when we were sitting by ourselves on the dock at her lake cabin, or sitting on the side of a wheat field after a long bike ride along country roads. And it's in our quiet, alone conversations, that she most impacted my life, that she was my potato friend, pushing me to develop deep roots, giving me solid, lasting food. 

We haven't been close as adults. There are reasons for this on both sides. Her life has had twists and turns in it that we couldn't have imagined back in our dock-talking days. She has worked hard to get her organic farm, to discover that she could, needed to, and is brilliant at being a one-woman wonder at digging in the dirt and drawing sustenance and beauty from it. She goes at it with a singlemindedness that is hard won and worthy of her. I am proud of who she's become, and glad to see her as healthy as the earth on which she dwells. 


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Truth is always truth

When I was a little girl, and first began to understand complicated language, I loved stories. And...I was more than a bit of a liar. This is a sad reality of my childhood. I liked to tell stories about things. I stretched truth to make me more interesting, to get out of trouble, to hide things.
When I was caught, though, caught red-handed, as the saying goes, my mother would say, "You are lying to me."
And my response to her was often, "I'm not lying, I'm telling you fiction."
As clever as I thought this was, this did not help my cause. My mother had not been born yesterday.
Later, as a teenager, I became convicted that my 'fiction-telling' was wrong, not simply when I got caught but because TRUTH is right. And Jesus said, "I am the TRUTH." My life had to--has to--revolve around TRUTH.

What is truth?
This is a question we should all be asking ourselves in this new reality we find ourselves since January 20th. If we live in the United States, it's almost like we've been dropped into Shakespeare's play, Taming of A Shrew. Do you know that play? Though it's often performed (I've seen it twice in the last decade--once in a beautiful setting in on the beach in Vancouver, British Columbia) the overall theme might be questionable to women today. But let's not worry about that right now. I merely want to talk about the moments where Petruchio and Katharina are on their way back to her father's house, and have this conversation (Hortensio is a servant) :
PETRUCHIO
Come on, i' God's name; once more toward our father's.
Good Lord, how bright and goodly shines the moon!
KATHARINA
The moon! the sun: it is not moonlight now.
PETRUCHIO
I say it is the moon that shines so bright.
KATHARINA
I know it is the sun that shines so bright.
PETRUCHIO
Now, by my mother's son, and that's myself,
It shall be moon, or star, or what I list,
Or ere I journey to your father's house.
Go on, and fetch our horses back again.
Evermore cross'd and cross'd; nothing but cross'd!
HORTENSIO
Say as he says, or we shall never go.
KATHARINA
Forward, I pray, since we have come so far,
And be it moon, or sun, or what you please:
An if you please to call it a rush-candle,
Henceforth I vow it shall be so for me.
PETRUCHIO
I say it is the moon.
KATHARINA
I know it is the moon.
PETRUCHIO
Nay, then you lie: it is the blessed sun.
KATHARINA
Then, God be bless'd, it is the blessed sun:
But sun it is not, when you say it is not;
And the moon changes even as your mind.
What you will have it named, even that it is;
And so it shall be so for Katharina.

Doesn't this sound familiar? It does to me. It rings of alternative facts. Whatever he says goes. That's the moral of this moment, the slippery road.

But it isn't Truth.
I was reminded by a good friend this morning (thanks, Jmas) of these words of Jesus: "You say I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." John 18:37
We know truth. We do. It doesn't shift like sands in the Sahara during a wind storm. It is firm ground beneath us. The sun is always the sun is always the sun. The moon is always the moon.

Yes, truth is always truth.
The thing is, we are beginning to wonder if we can trust what we hear or read from the media. And though I am certain there are biases, I believe that most people in this profession are good, hard-working, professionals who want to do the best job they can--which is, in their case, tell us what is happening around our country and the world on a daily basis. I have a daughter in this job, and know others like her. They are so dedicated to truth, to unbiased truth.

So remember this. And remember that the sun is always the sun, and the moon is always the moon.

We follow the one who is the baseline for Truth. He is the measurement. "I am writing to you," John said in his epistle, "not because you do not know the truth. No lie comes from the truth."
Amen.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A family meal

I come from a large family. Some of us are loud and outgoing, some of us prefer to be observers. And some like best to care for others. They get great joy in knowing others are well-cared for, while I'm sitting in the middle, laughing and telling stories. My Beve is one of those. It isn't that he doesn't tell a good story. He does. He just likes the hospitality part, too. I could name the others (like my sweet, dear aunt, and my dear, sweet youngest sister) who also have the gift of hospitality that has passed over me without a second thought. But my family has a whole lot of other differences, too. Some of us are Christians. Others are Atheists. We have athletes among us, and clutzes (I'm raising my hand here). We are a family of engineers, farmers, teachers, bankers and accountants, and business people. Even someone in media.
And we're Republicans and Democrats.

But when we gather together, when someone rings the old bell on the porch of the cabin, for instance, to call us to dinner, we are family. Just that. Family.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist (oh, and we have one of those, too) to figure out which among us are Red and which are Blue. We're all pretty smart people, you know. But at dinner, it doesn't matter. We've loved these people our whole lives. Or they married someone we love and that's good enough for us. And it doesn't matter who believes and who doesn't, either. They're family. I don't take my food and only sit by those who believe the same things ideologically that I do on every issue, or find the corner where the Evangelicals sit. These days, I'm calling myself a post-Evangelical because I'm not sure I want to claim them, anyway.

My point is, we just belly-up next to whoever happens to have an open seat, because the table's big and we haven't seen this large unruly mess of a family in a while and there's always a new conversation worth having here. Those conversations remind me of what we share, even though there are all these things that separate us. Sure, I'm a Christian, and my sister, Dump, is an Atheist. Does that mean I love her any less? SHE'S MY SISTER!!!

I've been increasingly frustrated, reading the news, wondering why our leaders can't simply sit down together, and remember what they have in common. I'm not talking about the man in the White House. I'm over him (only 13 days in and I'm out!). I'm talking about the ones who sit across the aisle from each other every day and have to try to work for our good, who are supposed to be representatives of us. ALL of us. They aren't in this for themselves but for us. Christians and Atheists and farmers and engineers, all together. YES, with different interests but all one giant melting pot of an experiment, called this country. I'm tired. Aren't you all tired?

I'm thinking that if those we elected two months-ish, or two, four, or six years- ish ago could just sit down at a big BBQ together, they might find they could be friends. I'm not talking about a fancy dinner party, where everyone tries to outdo each other in dress and pomp and pride and who sits where and what they've done and who they know. I'm talking about a barbecue on the backyard, or out on the lake, or up at the cabin where there's no running water and everyone has to take turns going to the well for water and uses the outhouse--yes, even the highest and mightiest of them. And they all sit on benches next to whoever they happen to sit next to--democrat, republican, other. And maybe they all have to take turns turning the burgers and chicken, and corn-on-the grill. Maybe they all smell a little smokey when they take their seats, but it's okay because everyone else does, too.

The air smells fresh, and the conversation flows, and before they've finished their potato salad (brought by the good senator from Idaho!) they find out that they all have worries that sound pretty much alike. Personal ones, like parents who are aging (or spouses, maybe--some of them have been around a LONG time, you know). Kids who trouble them. And farther reaching ones. The folks they know worry about similar things. These exact things. Parents, kids, their homes, their lives.

I think a family meal might just show our leaders that they're like us.
They're supposed to be, anyway. They come from us. They are. We sent them there, but we didn't send them to fight like children. We sent them to be who we would be if we were there. Having differences, but getting along because that's what people do when they're family, when they want to make something work.

Don't they want to make this work for us? I'm just asking because, after all, they're there for me.
If they'd like to have a barbecue, I know a great cabin up on Whidbey Island where we could feed them. I'd really love to see them do it. I really would.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Welcome them in

"Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Matthew 25:35
"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt." Exodus 22:21
'The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but her frustrates the ways of the wicked." Psalm 146: 9

The United States is a nation of foreigners, of refugees, and flee-ers. Unless you're descended from native Americans (the true first nation!), you came from somewhere else. That's just the truth of it. And some of us who came were good, solid people with strong values. But others weren't good people. They fled their country of origin because they'd caused a lot of havoc there and wouldn't stop when they got here. That's also true. It just is.

But I'm not going to spend my first post after more than a year talking about all of us refugees who have landed on American shores. I want to remind us of the ones God gives us in scripture. And make no mistake, these are big ones. Such GIANTS we wouldn't be who we are if people hadn't welcomed them in.

Joseph was a refugee. His brothers threw him to the wolves, so to speak, and he ended up in a whole different land, having to learn a different language, having to start over. He began small in Egypt, and, in his case, the cream rose to the top quickly. He became in charge of things while still young and handsome enough that women threw themselves at him and men were jealous of him. Egypt wasn't a place that worshiped the God of Joseph. When he brought his family to live there, when that family multiplied again and again, they continued to think of themselves as foreigners and refugees because they knew where their homeland was, AND who their God was, when their God was different then the many accepted by the ones ordained by those in power. But before things got bad (in the time of Moses) they were good for a very long time.

Ruth was a refugee. An orphan and widow, she had no family when she followed Naomi home to Israel. Not only Naomi, but Naomi's most powerful kinsman welcomed Ruth in. Boaz married this foreigner. He looked beneath her differences to see how they were alike as humans, and he loved her. Because of that, King David was born. And...Jesus Himself.

And then, of course, there's the refugee of refugees, Jesus. Because of Him--HIM--Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt (so welcoming, that nation!) for two years. They were political and religious refugees of the first order. Weren't they? Afraid for their lives. Jesus would have been doomed if He hadn't left, just as those other baby boys were doomed because of Herod's mad fears about this newborn king.

As Christians, we come from this lineage. We are descendants of refugees. It's in our DNA, I guess you could say. both as people of this country and people who follow these refugees.  And as the verses written at the top of this post remind me, we are called to welcome strangers and foreigners. NOT to build walls. NOT to fear them. NOT to cast them out. We act like Christ as we welcome them in, we welcome HIM in, when we act so. Where we tell them they are not welcome, where we define who gets in by the color of their skin or the place they came or the way they worship, we do NOT act like Christ. There is NOTHING in these verses that even implies we only care for those who are like us.

We do this because, "THE LOVE OF CHRIST COMPELS US." II Corinthians 5: 14 That's it. The end.

I don't know how often I will blog, but this new world we are in gives me pause. Perhaps that's enough to begin again.
Carolyn

Friday, December 11, 2015

Marginalized and ostracized

I've been quiet this week.
Thinking, meditating, praying. Resting, too.
It takes all of those things when I've been stimulated the way I was last week end. Or when we had to make a long trip with a quick turn-around. It takes so much more out of me now than it once did. I'm not complaining. It's just life at this age with these particular complicating factors.

So worth it, though.
We drove east last weekend for the memorial service of the man who was instrumental in our foundational growth as believers. I don't need to write about him, I did that the day he died (see "A Giant goes home" from November 13) so let me just say that to share that day with others whose lives were also touched by him was something I will never forget. His wife, whom I love like the mother I wish I'd had, his sons who are now dear friends (one of whom was my teenage-crush--just ask anyone; shoot, ask him!), many Young Life leaders from my high school years,people I haven't seen since those Young Life days,  many adults who knew my parents, a college roommate, and friends who have spanned all the years from then until now. It was a reunion of the best kind, a worship service in the truest sense and a memorial service worthy of the man we came to honor and the God he loved (still loves) first and best. I wouldn't have missed it and am richer for having been there.

But this week, in light of that service, in light of how Sam loved Jesus, how he taught me to love Jesus, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be an outcast, what it means to love the outcasts and marginalized. We have a unique opportunity right now to be Jesus Christ is the flesh in our country. We--those who call ourselves Christians--are meant to love. The end. Christian literally means Christ-one, or little Christ. There is great privilege in that name. Great responsibility. Those we are called to love are not those merely like us. And, if I read my gospel correctly, it's not merely with an agenda. We invite the outcast, the marginalized, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, those who are suffering IN because IN THEM we are inviting Jesus Himself. That's it. It isn't so that we can witness to them. It isn't so that we can get jewels in our crown or because we might be in the same situation some day, it's because He is in it, in them. He asks us to and we do it.

The idea that we close our borders, that we keep out a specific people group, that we say no in order to be safe, is as counter to the gospel of Jesus Christ as fear is to love. And that's the truth of it, it's fear acting, not love.
However, I've read a plethora of articles using the argument that we can't allow this to happen to Muslims because it could also happen to Christians.  This is a wrong-headed, selfish argument. We say no to something because it's wrong. THE END. God takes care of us. We do and live and practice righteousness. We practice hospitality. What becomes of us is up to HIM.

I've been quiet. I've been praying. I've been meditating on this season. Come Lord Jesus. COME.
Let me be a part of YOU coming. Let me, in the quietness of my little life, pray for hospitality. Trust Him for our safety, and LOVE those He calls me to love.

No one is left out of that.

Marginalized, ostracized,
Crucified.

We want to be kept safe.

I think we have it all wrong.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A true story

Those of you with weak stomachs are going to want to forego this post.
In fact, I wish I could forego my life for a while right now.
I'm telling you, there's a big YUCK factor in what I'm about to share, but an even bigger yuck factor when you realize that we have to actually LIVE here.

We have a rat in our house.
A real live rat.

Are you grossed-out yet?
I am.
Saturday night Beve was standing in our kitchen when, out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement. An ugly-furred, long-tailed rat scurried RIGHT BEHIND him across our kitchen floor, straight into the corner of the dining room, where he tried to shoo it out of our French doors but it beat a hasty retreat beneath the radiator against the wall. The next morning we checked the corners and discovered rat poop in the corner of the living room by our large bookcase.
Beve put out rat poison, a trap, and we hoped for the best.
Sunday night, my sister who unfortunately chose this week to visit, also had a face-to-face encounter with the rat when she turned on the kitchen light.
She screamed.
I would have screamed, too.

Monday morning, Beve called an exterminator.
"We don't have any appointments available until next Wednesday," the woman said.
"We have a rat in our house," Beve answered.
"I'll have someone call you back right away."
An exterminator was at our house that afternoon.
We now have professional traps in our house.
Last night Beve saw the rat ON TOP of the bookcase.

We've been sequestered in our TV room ever since and I've named it Garfunkel.
My sister said, "If you name it, you won't want to kill it."

OH yeah? Just watch me.
Me, the pacifist. Me, the almost vegetarian. Me...PLEASE, kill this Garfunkel rat and I'll dance a jig. I'll dance to Simon and Garfunkel. I'll do just about anything.
And then we're going to fumigate our entire living room. I can't imagine how many of my beautiful books I'll have to jettison. Those are my books from seminary, my collection of CS Lewis books, our photo albums.
You know, nothing important.
Sigh.

The rat got in through the dog-door.
That's what the exterminator showed me. Sick.
Happens when the weather gets bad quickly, like it did here.

We're not going to use the dog door any more once the rat meets its end.

Sorry, pups.

That's all I've got tonight.
No spiritual truth.

Just this.

You know, I was never afraid of rats. I saw plenty of them in India.
BUT IN MY HOUSE?

Pretty dang yucky.