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.

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,

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.

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.

Pretty dang yucky.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A giant goes home

A man died today. He was an ordinary man, lived most of his life in a small town, teaching PE at an agricultural university. But he had extraordinary influence and impact on the world. Beve and I are here because of him--married, with these children and have ministry. We believe and are faithful and have faithful, believing children who do ministry because of him. A host of people could say that. The ripples from his life, his ministry, his love for Jesus spread across the world. It's remarkable and beautiful and humbling to think.
So right now, as he's breathing in the unpolluted air of heaven, and saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy," face to face with the One he loved so much, I wanted to share more publicly a post I wrote the first few weeks I had this blog (then reposted just last April). It's my way of saying, I love you, Sam. Always have, Always will. Thank you. There's not a strong enough word for what I feel when I think of how grateful I am for your impact on our lives--all our lives!

He was a long, tall Texan, as the saying goes. An athletic man who loved kids and loved Christ and had been in Jim Rayburn' first Young Life club in Texas back in the 40s. We, my contemporaries and I, were lucky, in the way that God is lucky (which isn't luck at all!) that this Texan was in our town, teaching at WSU and willing to start Young Life with some eager college students back in the 70s, about a year or so before I started high school. By the time I walked into my first YL club, there were 100 strong a night, and more on the way. They were golden years of Young Life in the Palouse, and I was in the thick of it. Thick, too, was the drawl of the Texan as I sat at his feet every chance I got to lap up what he knew of Jesus, what he knew of the life of a disciple. I drank a whole lot of milk in those early days in Young Life and Campaigners.

I'd grown up in a liberal Methodist church, memorizing the books of the Bible like any good Sunday school kid, but not really learning much about Jesus Christ. When I heard the real story of the cross and resurrection,the summer before I started high school, it was like I'd been looking for Jesus all my life--waiting for that puzzle piece to fit my life together, I just didn't know it--and I wanted in. But I wasn't in my hometown when it happened and I wasn't sure but that I might not be the only Christian in our whole town. My first Young Life meeting, a couple months later, was a revelation. This big ol' Texan stood up and started talking about the Jesus I'd just fallen head over heels in love with. I walked up to him afterwards and asked him point blank (OK, so I'm a little dim!) if he knew the Jesus I knew.

He got me plugged into Campaigners almost before I could blink (which, I have to tell you, I first thought was going to be something like the Young Republicans. Think about the name. Where did that name come from, anyway?) and there two college students took me under their wings. It's funny how, in those days, those two women seemed so old to me. I mean, they were in COLLEGE. But now, we're all just empty-nesters together. We had some times together, I'm telling you. One infamous trip up a mountain getting stuck in the snow and having to sleep--nine of us--in April. Completely unprepared for the weather, the car-sleeping, all of it. We were babies. When I think of it from my age now, I shake my head at the potential danger. But the faithfulness of God in that moment. And in what was created in that moment--all those girls--every single one of them, is my very close friend 36 years later, because of that week-end, to no small degree. That, I think, is spiritual formation.

But the Texan. To try to distill his influence on a paragraph or two might be impossible. But I remember one Young Life message with absolute clarity: a cross-talk he did as Barabas, with a giant B on an old sweatshirt. He talked about being in prison, waiting to be killed, hearing the rumbling of the crowds, hearing the swelling noise as they began to yell, and then the dawning knowledge that the crowd was screaming, "Free Barabas!" His voice shook, it actually shook as he said, " I didn't deserve it. I deserved to die. But I was freed." And he spoke of the cross, and Jesus' death from his eye-witness's view-point, as if Barabas had had to follow, had to see this man who had taken his place, the place deserved. And then the clencher--we are all Barabas. I remember that talk, in the large crowded rec room of my friend's house on State street on Sunnyside Hill in my home town my freshman year in high school as if he was standing before me right now. I tell you, I haven't heard many sermons I can quote verbatim, but that one tightens my heart every time I think of it. So profound it could be given every Good Friday, and we'd still never get it. We deserve it--we sinners--and He took our place!

We had conversations about many important decisions in my life. Life decisions. Some of his advice I took, some I didn't. He tried to talk me out of going away to college. I went anyway. He was all for me marrying the Beve, of course. And was proud to do the marrying, in fact. He and his wife came to see me in the hospital when I had my first child. Turns out the only thing the Texan didn't like was that we hadn't named her after him--she had been born on HIS birthday, after all!! He was a tease that way. In the years since we moved to this town, I've been lucky to share a meal with them now and then, to have them in our home. We have never lost touch, the Texan and me. How could we? It was on the rock of his life, that my own was built. We talk of matters of faith, and matters of the heart. Outside of my father, no other man had greater influence on me for so long a time. God used him. I am who I am because of him. Thank God.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Waiting in the rainy season

It's raining.
It rains in my corner of the world during November. The sky is gray and close, the wind blows and even the dogs stand at the back door rather than run out to play in the backyard.
It takes us all some time to settle into the darkness of standard time and the coming of winter.

I have never lived in a desert climate. For all but the first year of my married life, I've lived at sea-level. Winter doesn't come with a bang here. It comes with more raindrops and a deepening darkness. Crespuscular rays of sun are about what we get. It's not quite as though we live in Alaska or Finland, but it's a gloaming. And slow in coming.

For the Psalmist, the hardest, most empty-of-God days are those in the desert. The Israelites wandered for 40 years. They had His promise, His covenant and faith. It was a hard place to be and they didn't do it well. Dry and sometimes deadly to them, that's what the desert was. Right? We know that. We understand desert metaphors in our faith. I've lived in the desert before. Felt far away from God, felt like I could neither hear nor see nor know where I was going.

But today, as I look out my rain-spattered window, I think that for us Northwesterners, a more apt metaphor might be this drenching season. The clouds cover the bay from where I write these words. The wind blows the last of the leaves from the trees, and I am cold, inside and out. Wondering if I'll be warm again. Wondering if He'll warm me with His words. Does He speak in this season?

"Be still," Jesus told the giant storm on the sea, but this isn't such a storm as that. This is just a November storm. It will rain like this until March. And I will pull my coat over my head and hide. Will God meet me in these raindrops?

These are the questions of 'desert' moments. They fit here. These are the cries of my heart when I want MORE and don't even know how to ask. My heart is troubled and I don't know what that trouble is. But I wait. Patiently, He tells me. Wait, and hope, and believe that though "Clouds and thick darkness surround Him, righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne."  Psalm 97:2

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130:5-6Wai

Friday, November 6, 2015

Beautiful beyond compare

It's November. The days are darker, the nights are longer, and perhaps that's why I'm a little bit more introspective. Or maybe it's not introspective. Maybe it's just who I am burbling to the surface. It's me staring into the mirror and discovering there are wrinkles upon wrinkles on my face and the gray hairs which I expected to make my straight, fine hair more full are just gray. Just gray overtaking me. I don't know what it is, but I've been thinking about how I look. HOW I LOOK. And that's a giant leap through the looking glass back into years I'm glad to be past.
But some days here I am. And I admit to them. Here I am.

So I take out a blog post I wrote 4 years ago to remind myself of truth.
It's also Random Journal-Link-up day, so it's rather serendipitous that I'm thinking of an old post today. Rather like, "Yes, these are the words meant to be shared right now, for me, and for whomever else."
Please follow this Link to Dawn's wonderful blog to see all the other offerings.

Now, to my post, from May, 2011

A few nights ago, a friend sat in our living room staring at a wedding picture of Beve and me.  She said, "He was really good-looking.  Well, he still is, even older with gray hair."  Then she paused.  "Isn't it interesting how often really good-looking people tend to marry people so much less attractive than themselves?"
Ed note: here are a couple of pictures from our wedding day since I'm not sure which one she meant.

Last night, as I stood in the shower, I started laughing about this comment.  I mean, belly-laughing until tears were mixing with the water from the shower.  It isn't the first time I've been around this block, you see.  Not by a long shot.  Almost from the first moment of our engagement, I heard comments about how handsome Beve is.  (And, actually, the guy I dated in college (in an informal dorm vote) was voted the best-looking guy in that small college.)  So I'm no stranger to being in relationships with very handsome men.  And to the often strange looks I've gotten by some in this world who don't get it, who just plain don't get why that man would be with someone like me.  I've had cashiers in stores tell me to my face that Beve is the best-looking man they've ever seen, Nordstrom employees say he should model for them, friends tell me they could drown in his blue eyes or have a crush on him (go ahead, imagine my eyes rolling--at least inside--when you hear these comments). My point is, the list is long.

And along with those comments about him have come those about me and my relative place in the looks department. "You and I," an older friend once told me, "have to be content with the fact that we are not attractive women and can't do anything about it, while our husbands are."  Oddly, though I love and respect her husband, I've never thought him all that good-looking.  But I'm very glad she does.  Another friend has told me, "At least you married up and gave your kids a chance, looks-wise."  "It must be hard to be married to the best-looking person around, looking as you do?" is something else I've heard.

Yep, I've grown accustomed to these things over the long course of our life together.  And yet.  About 95% of the time, I never think about Beve's looks at all.  No more than I think of mine.  I mean, I think of them.  Sometimes he doesn't put his clothes together very well: like rust cords with green shirt.  Seriously?  So to put it in a grammatically-poor sentence, I like him to be looking good rather than good looking.  And he feels the same way.  Though it may be hard to believe, I don't think he's ever noticed his own looks.  That just isn't important to him.  We are equally yoked, because God meant us to be, even on the outside.  No matter how tall he is, how smart I am, how handsome or not either of us are.  God does this.  And that's what counts.

And to my Beve, I'm beautiful.  The first time in my life I really felt beautiful was with him.  Truly.   He made me believe it.  Then he made me know it doesn't matter.  That's one truth.  And the second truth is that when my children were little they thought I was pretty simply because I was Mommy.  I was their definition of beauty, because they loved me.  That's another truth.

But the over-arching truth is that I am who I am.  This external self as well as the internal one is created in God's image.  For His purpose.  Perhaps by the world's standards there are others whose features are more pleasing.  And I'm okay with that.  This body, this face, this whole me is who He made me to be.  And I'm beautiful beyond compare.  To Him.

So no matter what the world might say about me, I'm comfortable in my own skin.

What about you? How do you feel about the face and body you have been given by God?  Are you comfortable in your own skin?

Monday, November 2, 2015

What it looks like to me

I've never been in a real throne room. I've never seen an actual king or queen seated on a throne with a host of people in a huge room all facing him, bowing before that majesty. But I imagine it. Shoot, I've seen plenty of movies, I've read plenty of books. My imagination is bigger than both. It reaches to the sky. To the heavens.

When I think of heaven, I think of a throne room. Don't ask me why. There are plenty of other images in scripture. Streets of gold, for instance. But that doesn't do a thing for me. In fact, it kind of turns my stomach. I don't care enough about riches to think it's all that glorious. Again, don't ask me why. A banquet? I can imagine that. I can imagine us all seated together, where there are no differences, but all are invited and the food is satisfying and the wine flows but doesn't make anyone drunk (except with love). Yes, that appeals. And we all look to the head and are sated by the presence of Who sits there, who sits with us. I love this idea.
And I love to imagine walking in a new Creation, a perfect earth, so to speak. In the mountains beautiful, unpolluted, beside rivers where I can dip my face straight into the flowing water and drink sweeter-than-life water that satisfies a thirst I didn't know I had. It tastes like joy, such rivers do. And I long for them.

But still, my first thought of heaven is a throne room.
"I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of our God than to live my whole life somewhere else." This is part of it. This verse touches on my craving, that simply to stand at the door is enough. Isn't it? And this verse reaches back into the past for me.

When I was a young believer, I went to my first concert. It was Second Chapter of Acts. Remember them? I was probably 18 years old. I don't even remember getting to that concert, held in Spokane, WA (an hour and a half north of my home town). At one point in the concert, Annie Herring talked about heaven. She said, "You know how people always say they want to ask God about this or that or something else? I think that when we get to heaven,we'll simply fall down on our knees and say, "Holy, Holy, Holy!""
I was struck still by her words. I don't remember anything else about the concert.

Clearly. I've never forgotten those words. "We'll simply fall on our knees and say, 'Holy, Holy Holy!'"It's played into what I believe about what heaven looks like. Us falling on our knees. Him, the King, before us. Yes, He's more than that. He'll lift us up because He's more than that. But I think it starts there. And I'm thankful for it..

I want to stand at the door and see that moment for people, the moment when they realize that HE is King, that they're seeing Him face-to-face for the first time rather than simply by faith. Only at the door. That's it. I'd rather be a doorkeeper in His house than to spend my life elsewhere.

What does heaven look like to you?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Being critical

When I was fourteen years old, I fell in love. That's how I always put it. It wasn't a rational, measuring all the facts decision but just that simple. I fell in love. As I grew up, I learned facts. Some people would say those facts squared with my love, others would say they contradict them completely. My sister and I have had long conversations about this very thing. I am not a fluffy kind of woman. I do not disregard my sister's point of view. She does not disregard mine out of hand either. Still, we do not meet where I find my greatest love. This is a loss for me because I love my sister and would like her to be 'in it with me', so to speak. Nevertheless, I do not love her less for not loving where I love. How could I? She's my sister.

This love I have for her colors how I love most people. I do not love them less for them not 'being in it' with me. Nor, I know, does she love me less for being in something she so completely doesn't believe. We are different. I know a lot of people who do not love where I love. And yet, I love them.

Still, this is a post about MY greatest love. See, this week I was thinking about a person with whom I struggle. I have had a difficult relationship with this man for many years. He is no longer part of our family precisely, but I was thinking about him. His son is my nephew, after all. Anyway, there are legitimate reasons for my struggle, but those are not the fundamental issue. The core issue is my own critical heart. That's the bottom line. I have sometimes felt this heart beating beneath a veneer of kindness I've shellacked across my skin to look better. It's one of my worst sins. My besetting sin, I've called it. That I look at others and instantly react, I hate this about myself. It's not worthy of the one I love. And that's what this post is about.

There are two things I know, one is that Jesus Christ--and He is who I am speaking, of course--wants to change me. When I read the gospels at 14, at 18, 20, 23,24,30,40, ever since and all the years between I knew that what He was about was changing a person from bad to good and good to better. He took away the worst and gave me a better self. That's part of the story of the cross and resurrection. My worst counts but it doesn't last, that's what He's talking about. He isn't interested in me wallowing in my worst, but in changing me into better.

I think about this. First, of course, because I am who I am, I have to wonder: if I'm like this after all these years of knowing and loving Him, how ugly would my self be if I'd never loved Him? What if I'd only had myself to try and get by with? What if I only had to pull myself up by my own boot straps every time I found myself judging others, finding someone ugly (in any old way)? Could I even do it? Or would I simply be an ugly, judgmental, nasty woman at this point? I shudder at that thought. NO, I bend my knees and praise Him, for saving me from that because I come from a line of critical spirits. It's deep and wide, and I am not far from the trunk.

But here's the second thing: I need Him. Every hour, I need Him. No, that's not even it. Let's be clear here. He loves me. Yes, that's the whole story, the unchanging, unflinching, WOW, story, but that story means He changes me. And desires me to give myself to Him so that change can happen. And I do. Just as I look backwards and have seen it, I look ahead and want it. I desire to be insides what I've sometimes veneered on the outside. I confess that I'm not, but ask Him for it. For a single person, and for all.

For me, it's not about judging others who do not believe what I believe but about loving those who are hard to love. I've said this many times, but Christianity has been incredibly harmful in the world. But Jesus Christ? He's never harmful. Sure, he's dangerous, but not harmful.

But that's a post for a different day.