Friday, October 29, 2010

Ten...

things you might not know about me:
  1. I am left-handed.  And so is the Beve. Thereby creating one completely right-handed child (our son), one who does most things right, but dribbles (on a basketball court--and this is significant) left (E), and one of the most ambidextrous people you'll ever meet.  SK prefers to eat right, write left, and everything else is up for grabs!
  2. I hate mayonnaise.  OK, so this isn't much of a secret.  Most people who have more than a passing acquaintance with me have heard me say so.  But the other day I started to watch "The Next Iron Chef" where the chefs had to use a single condiment to create a fancy dish--things like BBQ sauce, hot sauce, yellow mustard all seemed reasonable.  Until the camera shifted to the man working with mayo.  Scooping large spoonfuls of it out of a jar...I thought I was going to vomit.  Quickly switched the channel before I could discover he'd made something I actually like from something I so loathe.
  3. I'm a California girl.  Technically, anyway.  I was born in San Pedro, which has now been swallowed up in LA, but back then was just a little seaside naval base town.  I remember...absolutely nothing about it.  We moved to Washington when I was three weeks old.  Coincidentally, my first airplane trip was when I was three weeks old.
  4. I have one near-sighted and one-far-sighted eye.  This might explain a whole lot about me, actually.  But what we most notice in our daily life is that I often think pictures are crooked on walls when they aren't.  The other day, Beve hung up hooks in our bathroom, one on each side of a tall towel rack and I was absolutely convinced that one was higher than the other.  He had to get out a tape-measure and level to prove to me that--once again--it's my eyes that don't work correctly. The glasses are meant to help, but apparently they don't always do the job.
  5. When I see a woman leave a public restroom without having washed her hands, I want to accost and accuse her. Seriously, what is it with grown, well-coiffed people NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS?  If there's a hierarchy of sins, that's right up there in my mind.
  6. I have never believed in Santa Claus.  My mother had started the whole Santa thing with my older brother, saw where it might lead, and cut it off at the pass.  However, she forgot to send me the memo that other kids in Kindergarten actually did think Santa was real.  My first conversation with a principal was when he kindly asked me to stop telling my classmates the truth.  Apparently there had been calls.
  7. We used to own a Llasa Ahpso named Sassy, a little caramel-colored curmudgeon who loved Beve and hated kids.  In fact, she had a habit of biting them.  We almost had her put down on a camping trip in Canada when she bit the daughter of the friends we were traveling with, but they talked us out of it.  A year, and several nips later (her teeth were small enough that no one was ever hurt, just scared), we gave her to a 'Llasa Rescue.'  Well, I'm pretty sure I saw her yesterday when I was picking up Jamaica at the groomer.  When I walked in and started talking this caramel Llasa began barking and flailing around in its kennel--while 'Maica was still just lying in hers.  So I asked about the Llasa.  "It's pretty old," the girl said.  "It was five when it started coming here in 2004."  Exactly, I thought.  "Does it live with a family?" "No, no kids," she answered, looking at the card.  Yep, Sassy, alright.  Pretty sad to see her.  
  8. In college, the quarter when my heart was broken along with my engagement, I allowed myself to take an Incomplete in an English class.  Yep, a class in my very major.  Then I never finished it.  And you know what happens to an I when you don't complete it?  It becomes an F.  For years,  for decades, this haunted me.  Kept me from wanting to go back to school.  Every other grade in that major was definitely NOT an F, but that one grade, that one tiny F was a humiliating secret I never wanted anyone (even a nameless grad program) to know about.  Finally, however, Regent College happened.  My transcripts had to be sent for.  And you know what?  That I had never been changed to an F.  It was nothing.  Still an I.  I don't know why. 
  9. I actually know my own IQ...and wish I didn't.  Back when my father was getting his PhD at the University of Michigan, my parents had their three oldest kids tested at the university.  And they discovered that we're all pretty intelligent human beings. And they reminded me of this more than once, especially on the occasions when I brought home report cards that weren't as good as they expected. However, being smart isn't the same as being wise, and I think my parents/family placed too high a premium on the former.  And I've done the same, I'm ashamed to admit.  I judge people by their brains, and it's WRONG.  There isn't a single thing in scripture about being smart, but there's a plethora of words about the Kingdom value of wisdom.
  10. I'm not where I thought I'd be.  It actually kills me to think of my life at times.  I never thought I'd get to this age and not have had a career.  I don't regret my life, don't regret having stayed home with my children or the paths that God has clearly led us on, but...sometimes it seems so small.  I don't want it to have been big, I don't have giant ambitions, never did.  But something that counted in His Kingdom, I hoped for that. Still do.  Even now, when my life is hemmed on one side by pain and the other by in-laws and their needs, I still hope--in the most prayerful way one can use the word hope--for a life that counts. Is this it?  Is this small faithfulness all He asks of me?  Then, please, God, let it be enough for me, too.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pledging my allegiance

I don't know if any of you have noticed, but it's election season here in the States, which means our mailboxes are cluttered with paper, we have to mute the TV every time a commercial comes on, and I even get more annoyed in the car than usual.  This afternoon after picking Jamaica up from being groomed (she's now sporting a teal-colored bandana around her neck, and E says she smells like an old woman!), I flipped on the radio, which was set to a Sports radio station.  Within five minutes two ads came on, sponsored by the two men running for the Congressional seat in our neck of the woods.  Actually, back-to-back.  And in them, these men accused the other of EXACTLY the same thing--outsourcing jobs, rather than giving them to people of this country.  Are you kidding me? So which is true, or are they both, and if they are, how in the world is someone supposed to decide?

Now let me be perfectly honest here.  I read my Voters' Pamphlet the other day when I was trying to go to sleep vote.  It's not for the faint of heart, you know.  It never is. The little bios the candidates put in are eschewed in their own favor.  If there's any time a person wants to blow their own horn, it's when he or she is trying to get your vote.  I get that.  It's the nature of the beast we call democracy.  People have to get elected in order to serve, and in order to get elected, they have to make people vote for them.  Thus, we are bombarded right now, perhaps more by their ambition than what might be good and true and right about how they intend to serve.  OK, raise your hands if you fully trust anyone who runs for public office.  My hand isn't raised, that's for sure.

So how do we do it?  For most of us we choose issues we feel strongly about--the economy, the environment, abortion--and cast our votes based on those things.  Voting this way tends to lead us to a specific party, which simplifies the voting process--just look for the right letter after the person's name, and wah-lah, voting is simple.

However,  it's not simple for me.  And I suspect there are a whole lot of people like me out there. I do lean one way more than another.  But my allegiance can never be to one political party, because I answer to an eternal one.  So I must take care with my vote...take it more seriously than simply look for a political affiliation.  All the initiatives are mind-numbing to read through.  To try and make sense of, let alone try to imagine what the long-range effects of them will be. So I read and think and pray, to treat it all with a great seriousness but not to take myself too seriously. In the end, as I sign my name and seal the envelope, to trust in God's sovereignty.

Yes, to trust in His sovereignty in this nation of ours where people with great ambition (but not necessarily the greatest integrity) sit in the seats of power.  To trust that He can work His righteousness even through those who do not honor or know Him.  Do you believe this?  I do.  I believe that His power overwhelms the power of mere humans, that His authority makes man's look like the authority of a gnat (to paraphrase CS Lewis). So, as I mail my ballot, I ask Him to be God.  To overwhelm any flaws in my vote.  To not let my voice get in the way of His voice, even in this election. I am thankful for my right to vote, but my only true allegiance belongs to the King.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A passing lunch

Every now and then someone passes through our little city that I have a history with and I get to spend a lovely hour or two over a meal, catching up with old friends. Today brought just such hours for me. If my Christian life was laid out like the books of the Bible, these two people would have first figured in the first pages of Genesis.  I've written of them before, I know.  The first day I met the Texan, he was speaking at the first Young Life club I ever went to, with a voice that drawled (and still does) and  a little bit of sweat on his forehead, and a whole lot of passion in his words.  I met her when she threw open the doors of their home once, twice, a thousand times, to me and a hundred of my peers.  She welcomed us in with a smile and a warmth that never wavered.  And I'm telling you, we crawled all over that house for just about every occasion one can imagine--for Bible Studies, club, for leaders' meetings and after-game get-togethers, and sometimes for no particular reason at all.  I remember especially sitting on their stairs after basketball games, because it was the best spot to greet and talk to everyone who tumbled in through the front door.  The Texan may have been the head of Young Life, but his wife was surely the heart behind the head.

So I have a long, long history with these two beloved people.  About 39 years of history, if I've counted on my fingers correctly.  I know their sons--to be completely candid, their oldest son was the first boy I ever had a real crush on.  Unrequited, of course.  But I don't regret it.  He was a godly boy, and was kind enough to me when he didn't have to have been. Their second son was in my class and was good looking, athletic, and a real tease.  There was always a connection between he and the Beve for many reasons, not the least of which was their skill on the basketball court.  And they did a pretty fierce juggling routine every year for the school talent show.  He was a good guy, that second son. Still is, for all I know, though I hardly ever see him.  Or the older brother either, for that matter.  And the youngest son--he was a whole lot younger, but he's always been a great person.  And maybe, just maybe, is the pick of the litter, but that may just be my bias toward youngest sons.

Anyway, we had a great lunch.  We caught up with each other, told news about our families.  Broke bread and shared Jesus.  I was thinking as I left them that I sometimes feel like Mary, treasuring things up in my heart.  Conversations, for instance.  I treasure them.  But even just watching them I treasured.  To see a couple who have been married for almost sixty years so solicitous of each other, it's very sweet.  She went to ask for a booth rather than a table, and he looked at me and said, "Where'd she go now?" Then we talked about how she's having to do the driving now, and I asked if that was hard for him.  And he answered, "Well, I'm learning to be patient."  And we observed that marriage is always the place where we most learn what God needs to teach us about ourselves.  Yes,  Her speed is quicker than his these days, but she waits for him, watches to make sure he's with her.  He took her hand to pray for the meal, and his voice was as deep and widely melodic as it ever was when he prayed at the end of club. It still has the twang of Texas in it.  It all touched me that this is so.  That they walk together still.  And gladly so.

Yes, like Mary, friends like these I treasure: who they are to me, and who they are to each other, and just who they are.  And I treasure as well the 'whenever two or more are gathered, I will be there,' time we had with Christ at our table at lunch today.  Because He was there, and I felt privileged to join Him with them.

That bloomin' staff

I've been reading the Books of Moses lately.  Keep coming face to face with both God on the mountain but also with the gritty humans at the base as well.  The base humans grumbling and complaining for forty straight years, it seems.  Or maybe forty straight thousand years is more like it.  Anyway...Numbers, chapter 16 and 17 holds a great story.

There were many among those Israelits who wanted to be like Aaron, who felt they were 'holy' enough to be priest, were certain they had the gifts necessary to serve in the tent that housed God's temple.  The mantle of authority would fit their shoulders well, and that staff of power?  Their hands were made to wield it.  So they complained a little; more than a little.  Some of them even went so far as to try to take that power that wasn't theirs to take, authority (to use the proper word) ordained by God.  Called by God.  And the earth swallowed some of them up alive.  And scorched 250 more of them, leaving only the stolen censors of incense, which they'd taken from God's true priests.

So God finally settled it once and for all.  He showed the whole nation which tribe was set apart for the priesthood, with all the responsibilities in the temple, and all the privileges as well (getting to eat the sacrificial lamb and go into the holy of holies, not having to fight or do manual labor, to name a few).  A good thing God decided to make a public display to reveal this, if you ask me.  I mean, up until then, God had told Moses how things would be done, but Moses apparently had some kind of speech impediment, so Aaron was his mouthpiece.  Can you imagine the people if Aaron stood before an entire nation and said, "God says that I am to be the priest, and my line--the line of Levi--the priesthood."  Sounds a little fishy, and even the most devout among them--namely Caleb and Joshua--might have been skeptical of a so-called God's pronouncement coming from Aaron's own mouth.

So this time, after the scorching of those who'd take it for themselves, God decided to show the truth. He told them to take twelve dry staffs from the tribal leaders from the twelves tribes of Israel. The one that sprouted in the morning will be the line of the priests.  The next morning, eleven of those staffs were as dry as kindling but Aaron's not only sprouted, but blossomed, and bore almonds, no less!  Case closed.

It occurred to me as I read this that we often have folks going into the priesthood or ministry with dry staffs.  I don't necessary understand all the reasons one might hanker for such a job.  I mean, it may be the hardest job I know and that's for people who are certain that their staff had sprouted.  I mean, that they'd been called.  But what if one is to attempt it with no sense of anything other than that this might be a good way to be close to the holy-of-holies, where one can eat the best lambs, live on the tithes and not have to fight.  To attempt such a calling with only one's own desire for the mantle of authority and desire for power is a dangerous proposition. The earth probably won't swallow any of them whole nor burn them alive, but metaphorically I think it isn't far off what might happen to a person who tries to pastor a flock without being called to the task.

Maybe if we took this seriously, and really believed that the priesthood/the pastoral ministry was a blooming-staff calling, ala Numbers, we'd be less likely to make the decision ourselves.  In fact, we'd do everything we could NOT to be in that position.  And--and this is just as important--we'd take better care of those whose calling had come with flowering staffs and almonds.  We'd stop running them so ragged that they got wrung out and needed out.  Maybe, if we really understood what this blooming ministry call is all about, we'd actually trust in those who wear the mantle of God's authority, and wield the staff of His power.  Just imagine the kind of Body life we'd have then. I think we'd all walk more humbly together if we really got this.  Because it's really God's authority and God's power I'm talking about.  Not a person's.  And a pastor who gets this can only wield the tools given for the office by exercising spiritual deep knee-bends,if you know what I mean. That is, spending so much time in prayer he or she gets calloused knees.  And the flock's 'job' is to be exercising the same way--praying for their pastor, praying for that holy staff to keep blooming. 

Your spiritual health is your pastor's main business.  It's what he/she's about.  Thinking about it, caring about it, praying for you.  So who takes care of him or her?  Who prays for your pastor while he/she is praying for you?  Do you?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making up the difference

Since the elders have flown the coop, and taken up temporary residence on the other side of the continent, I've been in turbo-quilting mode.  Projects have piled up around here, are literally covering every available surface in my little sewing room (formerly known as J's bedroom). When I counted what I need to finish before Christmas, it about made me have to go take a nap.  Seven quilts.  Yep, that's right, folks, seven.  Isn't that the number of totality?  Of completion?  As in it will completely total me if I actually manage to finish all of them? But despite my lack of worldly ambition, I do have it.  Ambition, that is.  And I like to finish things.  I REALLY like to finish things.  It might come from that whole wrote-a-book-but didn't-manage-to-get-it-published-even-after-47,000-revisions-and-eight-long-years thing.  Or maybe from growing up with a mother who tended to start projects but never finish them.  I hated seeing her half-braided macrame plant-hangers laying on the dining room table, along with letters she wrote but never mailed (though come to think of it, maybe that was better than the ones that did get to their recipients), and lists of things she planned to cook/buy/do, wanted us to do, wanted Dad to do. Anyway, I don't make lists very often, certainly don't make them unless I can check things off of them, and absolutely don't want to say I'll do a thing and not follow through with it.  It weighs on me.  Keeps me awake at night until I'm itching with it, feel like every molecule is fidgeting with need to get up and get going. 

So I have quilts to make.  When I told Re the actual number I have in the queue, she said, "Wow, we'll have to start paying you soon."  But that's not the point.  The point is, I love doing it, love praying for the person who will one day sleep beneath the quilt, love that every stitch is a spiritual exercise for me.  And I feel so connected to these people and their quilts.

Here are my current offerings:

I just mailed this off this morning east of the mountains.  E says it reminds her of Psalm 23, all green pastures and still waters.
 And this is the t-shirt quilt top I finished this evening. It belongs to E's best friend CC. Every t-shirt is from a college ministry and/or mission trip during her years at Western.  Pretty powerful testimony this quilt will be in the coming years.  All the places she's been, the people she's touched.  Yep, pretty powerful.

And then there's this one.  Ok, I don't actually know who this quilt will be for.  I love the colors, dark as they are.  The peridot, gray, black and white.  It's pinned and ready to be quilted which is the hardest part, but I'm learning.  Anyway, I'm certain God will show me who this quilt is meant for soon enough.

I told someone last night that I'd be praying with him as the fall turns to winter.  And since I know he reads this, I  thought I'd write this post about finishing what I start because the two are connected. I don't know about you, but there have been times in my life when I've told someone I'd pray for them, then--to my great shame--barely follow through.  Maybe pray once, or twice, but have no staying power for it.  However, several years ago, I asked God to fill me up beyond my own ability in this area, to make me itch to pray for others, to awaken me from sound sleep if I hadn't, and to fidget at the cell level when I fail to.  And it's been nothing short of a gift to me that He has filled up my lack with His ability.  I am no different.  It is only God keeping covenant that has made the difference.  Do you get where I'm headed here?  God always keeps the covenant.  Even in the Old Testament we see it.  The people failed but He made up the difference.  He kept the covenant.  And so when we promise to pray for someone--if we ask--He will make up the difference.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Opposite sides of the coin

For no particular reason, except that it's Friday.  Oh, and Grampie and Thyrza left for Baltimore yesterday to see Thyrza's daughter, grandchildren, great-grandchildren for the next two + weeks, I am feeling somewhat free. A little like how I felt the day I took SK to her first day of kindergarten, came home, just got right to work doing the morning chores, same as usual, then suddenly just dropped the basket of dirty laundry right in the middle of the hallway, called a friend and went out for coffee.  Suddenly free for a couple of hours for the first time in about nine years.  That's somewhat how I feel this morning.

I don't think I always realize how much I carry around about these two elderly people who think they're still completely independent, but don't remember when their doctors' appointments are, or whether they've taken their pills (that's just Grampie), and are likely to fall and break something if they get off kilter in the slightest.  The other day we had lunch together (Grampie, Thyrza, Beve and I) and after Beve went back to work, a young woman came in and sat at the table next to us with her small daughter.  The way she had to care for her child reminded me a lot of what I do for these elders when we go out.  Get their food, push in chairs, open and close doors, walk at their pace, watch for traffic, remind them to use their napkins.

As we drove across the state twice last week, we saw the difference in the autumn colors just in two days.  When we drove east on Friday, the leaves were beginning to change, but were somewhat muted.  By Sunday, they were brilliant. Fairly dripping color from every branch of every deciduous tree.  And it struck me that the most vibrant colors in creation come at the beginning and end of growth.  In spring, as trees and flowers begin to bloom, the earth is actually buzzing with bright color.  And so too before the nature world dies for the winter.  And it hit me that I should let this natural color, this created, dappled beauty teach me of the beauty at both ends of a human's life.  Most of us think of babies and their feet that have never walked and their hands that have never worked and their bodies with only the scars of birth as beautiful.  Sweet and soft and untouched beautiful.  But isn't the opposite side of the coin the lined faces and scarred bodies of those who have lived a full span?  The callouses from a working life and the gnarly corns from a walking life--aren't these also a different hue of beautiful?  In God's eyes, aren't the oldest eyes and the youngest eyes just about the same glory, and cycling back to the same moment?  That is, just starting, just ending, and--for those on their way to Him--back home where they began?  I think He sees it that way.  And when I can put aside my expectations (for myself and for them) I can see it that way too.

And now, because it's Friday, and I feel like it, and I came across this, I thought I'd share with you a photo of us, about a dozen years ago, I think.  My Beve when his hair was dark, and my babies when they were still (mostly) in our control.  And of me when I looked...kind of like I do now, actually. E's holding our crazy dog, Sassy, who liked Beve, but had a problem of nipping at children.  She didn't last long with our family.
Compare it with my profile photo...with Jamaica hiding behind me.  These kids have a way of growing up on us when we're busy doing life.  I look at this picture of the younger them and remember how much I liked them at those ages.  But look at the more recent one, and think exactly the same thing--how much I like them now.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A little bit crazy

Last night I wrote a post about more of our weekend with SK, but got so caught up in the perverse world of 'Criminal Minds', I didn't manage to finish it.  I don't know why I get sucked into these things.  Cop shows, that is.  I mean, I really don't like watching the crimes committed.  Hate seeing the victims as they squirm and plead in the moments prior to their untimely awful deaths, but it's interesting to watch how the crimes are always solved.  Always.  And always in a single hour.  It's miraculous.  Those cops/FBI/CSI/NCIS agents are so brilliant.

(Beve and E just opened the back-door to mow, and said, "Just kidding."  Because it just started pouring!  So much for that!  E's really glad she changed her clothes for those few moments before having to go back up to campus.)

Anyway, as I was saying, I just get sucked into these shows at times and forget what I'm doing.  Ridiculous, huh?  Like Beve's mowing, so much for that post.  But I do have a couple of more observations about our time in Spokane last weekend.

First, while SK was busy, we spent Saturday evening with friends we've known for three decades.  Beve and the husband worked together the first year we were married, the year we lived in Spokane.  We lived in a small apartment which is now a parking lot for a hospital on the South Hill, and these folks were some of the first people we entertained in our new home.  They remember being surprised by the bookcases in our small apartment, filled with the kinds of books no one they knew even read. The husband said, "You have a photographic memory, don't you?"  I think I snorted my rooibos tea.  "Not even close," I told him.
 "But you are a genius."
"No way, no how." If I ever gave that impression...well, let me just say, if I'm ever the smartest person in the room, it's because I'm the only one sitting there.
We spent a lot of time that night talking about matters of physical health.  See, the wife has struggled with a lot of ill health in the last decade.  Breast cancer, for one thing.  And chronic pain, for another.  Now, it's a full-time job, taking care of her health.  Eating a certain way, taking the right combination of vitamins and medications, etc.  She pays a whole lot of attention to what goes into her body and what she does with that same body.  At the same time, she believes that God will heal her completely, just as Jesus healed in the gospels.  

Now I trod lightly when I responded to her, and I tread lightly here as I write about it, because I believe that Jesus definitely did heal in the gospels, sometimes because 'His heart was moved by compassion.'  However, I also believe that what He primarily intended in His healing was that the Kingdom Come.   Healing as a sign and wonder to point to Him actually being that Kingdom come in human flesh.  So too today, at least in regard to my own relationship with chronic pain.  Yes, I mean that.  What I mean is, I have to ask what will bring Him greater glory and surrender to that.  Maybe a miraculous healing will do the job for her.  But for me, I've come to believe that this ministry of suffering is a holy thing.  Granted as a gift.  I may not always be comfortable with it, but I accept it.  "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His suffering...and so somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-12). My suffering is nothing compared to His suffering.  Absolutely nothing.  The weight of the world literally on his shoulders, bowing His head, piercing His hands and feet.  To know Him this way, to participate in this somehow?  Yes, Lord, I say by faith.  If it best glorifies You in my life.  Whatever it takes.

I did say this gently to our friend that night.  Sort of.  But we come at this problem from different places.  I get that.  There are many, many believers who, with every bit as much faith as me, believe that healing alone is the only possible point.  And maybe they're right.  Maybe I'm just a little crazy for believing that pain is a gift, and is actually something He can/will/does use to glorify Himself through my little life.  Or maybe I'm just trying to justify why I continue to live in pain with no end in sight.  Maybe.  But I live in joy and hope and trust that my life counts...as it is.  Not after the pain is over, not after healing, but today, as it is, because He is working, and He is glorified in me, and through me.

Wow, quite a rant there. But here's the other moment (and perhaps another rant) from the weekend.  We went to church with SK Sunday morning.  She's going to a new church, which is a church plant from the church she went to for the last three years. And, of course, it's fairly small at the moment, this being its 7th week in existence.  But Sunday morning, a man told the congregation that they'd met their budget for the month of October, so whatever offering they received for the rest of the month they'd be giving away. Sure, there were many projects they needed to do around their new facility, but this was a core value that they'd committed to before they'd started.  So it was important that they start as they meant to live.  From the beginning.  This was impressive to me.  God-filled, actually.  There are always so many reasons NOT to do what God intends.  But to give away--even as they actually still need the money, simply because they had meant their monthly goal: this is what it means to live the counter-intuitive 'glorify God in my life, no matter what it costs' life we're called to live in the Kingdom.  Beve and I left that church, dropped SK off, feeling great about the folks she's chosen to throw her lot in with for this next year.  Disciples of Jesus have always looked a little crazy compared to the average Joe.  Always looked swam against the stream.  Giving away life in order to save it, dying to self in order to live for Him.  A little crazy.  But again, whatever it takes.  Whatever it takes to glorify Him in our lives.  Collectively as well as individually.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A contrast

Back in the 'Ham after our weekend with SK behind the Pine-cone Curtain.  We followed her around.  Literally.  And now we're both exhausted.  The schedule that child woman keeps is unbelievable.  So, here's the first glimpse from her weekend:

Friday afternoon was the Inauguration of the new president of Whitworth University.  Beve and I sat on bleachers, being 'general admission', ala choir groupies.  It wasn't our first University President Inauguration.  Three years ago, when E graduated from WSU at mid-year, her commencement ceremonies were hi-jacked (at least from our uninformed point-of-view) by the inauguration of WSU's president.  Let me tell you, the difference between the two ceremonies was remarkable (clearly, since I'm remarking on it!).  That December day, while we twiddled our thumbs waiting for the commencement to begin, various dignitaries stood and...how shall I put this?...blew their own horns.  Or perhaps tooted the horns of the new president.  I mean, you'd have thought the man walked on water, healed the sick, called forth Lazarus, and raised himself from the dead.  And when he talked, he wasn't ashamed to admit he might well have done those things and could/would do them again, thank you very much, just watch him.  It left us shaking our heads and a sour taste in our mouths, and feeling badly not just for our daughter but for all those graduates and their parents who'd hoped that someone, just one single person might have said something aimed at them and the uncertain future they were dreaming of when they moved the tassel and tossed the hat that morning. 

Friday afternoon at Whitworth, the Inauguration of Beck Taylor was similar in certain superficial ways.  There were dignitaries, they all wore academic robes and a stage-full of them spoke.  And...that's about it.  The content, the substance of the occasion was deep and wide and high and long.  Measured true with the love of Christ.  A pastor representing the church told Dr. Taylor (whom even the students call Beck), that, though it was audacious of him to say such things in such a vaulted company, he dared to say that only servant-leadership would do here, like the leadership of Christ.  The moment power got the best of him, he'd be in danger.  And the outgoing president, charged with giving 'the charge', encouraged him to make time for himself, and time for his family.  He encouraged his wife to remind Beck some days that he wasn't nearly as bad as he thought he was, and other days that he wasn't nearly as good...and to have the wisdom to know which days were which.  And Beck Taylor promised that he would continue to help Whitworth to walk 'the narrow ridge' of faithfulness to the gospel while grappling honestly with the issues of today.  Christ spoken, all the way along.

Now I understand that this stark contrast comes in part because WSU is a public institution, and Whitworth a private Christian one.  But can't the principles of servant-leadership be applied to a public institution to great benefit?  Shouldn't the president of WSU also seek to serve the school before his own rise to power?  And, shouldn't it also be true that a balance of personal life and family life would not hinder but help the cause of public universities because administrations would have more positive energy, not merely the candle-burning-at-both-ends kind?  I don't know, just a thought.  And, I dare say, the idea of adherence to a narrow ridge of faithfulness to Christ--no matter where it is--should be every Christian's prayer for every person in this world.

The bleachers were not comfortable Friday afternoon and I was sitting on both Beve's and my jackets, having forgotten my pillow.  So that ceremony got long, I'm not going to lie.  But it was also a deep encouragement to me. 

The thing is (as my dad would say), now that that WSU president has been comfortably installed in that red-brick house (where Beve and I used to run the halls, and Beve and his buddy, the president's son, actually played golf in the second-floor hall-way), I'm guessing the entire university community has realized that he's never once walked on water, healed the sick and certainly can't raise himself or anyone else from the dead.  Frankly, I'm not even sure how good a president he is. Seriously, I simply don't know.  But at Whitworth, the standard is both lower and higher, if you get my drift.  No one is going to expect Beck Taylor to walk on water.  But they do expect him to bow to the one who does.   And if he ever heals a single person, everyone around him won't pat Beck on the back, but bow and worship the One who worked through him. Part of Dr. Taylor's job is to raise not people, but funds, though in this economy, people might just be easier.  But for this, too, he must follow Christ.  First, last and always.  To walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

Just like--yes, exactly like--you are expected to follow Him in the life He calls you to live. And the standard in your life cannot be compared to the world around you, but to Him.  Like with Whitworth's new president, it's both lower and higher. Hallelujah.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Last time

Tomorrow Beve and I drive across the state for SK's last college Parents' Weekend.  It's hard to believe.  The last time.  Even that phrase kind of freaks me out a little. It's all moved so quickly.  I can hardly wait to see her.  But I want it to last.  This moment.  This wonderful, amazing season in her life, where she's surrounded by professors who stretch her, friends who love and encourage her, when all the world is right there in walking distance.  House, theater building, music building, chapel, HUB. Repeat.  And repeat, and repeat again.  I love that she found this community that so suits her, that was waiting for her long before she was even born.  I love that she took a single look and knew it, that she trusted more God more than her dad, and God met her at the point of her trust.  Her trust, and His meeting of it, was profound to Beve and me, too.

So I'm sad.  And that's okay.  It won't keep me from loving this weekend with SK, which, at her frenetic pace, means we'll only see her in bits and pieces.  We'll follow her around, as much as we can, have plenty of time with each other, which is always a boon, and we'll see some great friends as well.  Yes, jam-packed-full and we'll suck the marrow out of all of it.  And when we're driving back home Sunday, then I'll let myself relax enough to feel the 'this is the last time' sadness that is hovering at the edges.

The fact that God met her in such a way in such a place will help SK trust again and again and again.  More and more and more.  It's a good way to live, and one I certainly pray she takes with her when she moves beyond the Pine Cone curtain.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thirty-three men

I'm sitting in front of the TV this morning.  It's something I've done before.  One sunny Tuesday morning in September nine years ago, I turned on the TV and didn't turn it off until the weekend, at least.  But that certainly wasn't the first time I was 'glued' to a television because some world-changing event was happening somewhere.  The first time I remember this phenomenon in my life was in November 1963.  Actually, I remember exactly where I was that day in November when a couple of shots rang out in Dallas.  I was out at my afternoon recess in first grade at West Willow Elementary School in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  By the time I walked the two blocks home, my mother already had our black and white television turned on. And that TV stayed on a long time.  We watched as a president was pronounced dead, another man took and oath. We watched long lines of people march past a flag-covered casket.  And I especially remember watching the funeral--the horse with no rider, the woman dressed in black, even with a cloth over her head, and the children (the girl just my age with my same name) so solemn.

Since then, I've sat in front of a television like it's my job (a nod here to SK and her buddies for that phrase), and watched men walk on the moon, a very small child being saved from a well, a school shooting, a bombing, those airplanes flying into buildings, a hurricane that caused a flood that tried to level a city, and so many more. Usually the news centers on such horrors that I grip my hands together, breathe the name of Jesus as I watch the screen. Ask Him to be present in the pain of those who are not safely on this side of their television sets.  Not safely removed and protected from the horror, but changed forever by it.  Their life divided into before and after by whatever that news-worthy event is.

Today again I'm in a familiar spot on my couch, watching this amazing story.  Yep, I'm a news junkie, when it comes to such things.  With the slow crank of a pulley bring to back from deep in the earth, these 33 miners in Chile are saved.  For the last 69 days, they've been stuck in a place that would have killed me.  I keep thinking that.  I'd have to have been drugged, I'm sure of it.  The dark, the sense of all that earth on top of me, it'd do me in.  But then, I'd never have gone down there to begin with, so I guess I'm safe.  But what has interested me about this story along the way is how they created community down there. By the time there was communication with those miners--17 days in--they'd set up hours for working and sleeping, made private space and communal space.  They had responsibilities for the team and responsibilities for the mine. This reminds me that we were created with this drive, that it's part of our deep nature to be in community.  And even in the worst of times, even when hope is dead within us (as it might have been for those first 17 days), what is best in us drives us to look for community.  And...it's also how we are created in God's image.

God is communal, after all.  I mean, in His own self, He's communal.  His own Three-in-One self, I should say.  And from the beginning, He knew "It is not good for man to be alone."  Just imagine what the last 69 days if there had only been one man down in that mine, rather than a whole community.

God creates us each, but also for each other.  And also for Him.  As I've watched these men lifted one by one (yes, some things a person, even in community, must do alone), it's been interesting to watch the various reactions when they first reach the surface.  Many drop to their knees before they even hug their loved ones.  One said, "I was down with the devil and found God."  A long battle is ahead toward emotional health, from the sounds of it.  But if they found God under the rocks, they can be sure He won't leave them now that they can see the stars.

There's a sense of rebirth for these men, of course.  One can't help seeing the Biblical images here.  Men being lifted through the rocks from the center of the earth--where we consider hell to be.  Lazarus being brought forth.  Even a stone being rolled away from a tomb is hinted at here.  New life for these men.  So what will they do with their lives?

And, as I watch this, I'm loving it.  I'm drawn to stories, always.  But I'm a sucker for a happy ending, and, at the moment, we're about six hours, and six miners, from a very happy ending.  And I'm guessing our communal God, who was deep in that mine with them, is watching with joy as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Skill-set

Holy uncreated God.  Uncreated. All-knowing, all-powerful, all-encompassing.  Everlasting.  Before creation.  "In the beginning, there was God," God.  At the birth of all creation, there was God. Before there was light and form and air and water and substance, there was God.  Uncreated, everlasting, before. God.

It's so far beyond my ken that when I try to fathom it, I bump up against the edges of my finite createdness, my bodily skull, and my memory which doesn't stretch as far back as my skin, and I cannot comprehend.  How can there be uncreation?  How, in fact, can there be eternity?  What is holiness?  I mean, complete, utter, without one ounce of sin, holiness?  The kind that burns a tree without destroying it, that makes a man's face glow because he's been in the presence of it, that lifts a man straight off the ground and into heaven, and causes others to fall on their faces.  This uncreated, holy other, I Am that I AM God is so large and far off, so unexplainable, so hard...yes, so hard, that following Him was hard.  He gave rules to make it easier, sent Aaron to be Moses' mouthpiece and speak the truth, gave some (Joshua and Caleb) strong faith, but I have to admit that if I'd lived in the wilderness with Moses and the gang, I don't think I'd have been any different than most of them.  Trying, yep, giving it their best shot, but their best shot wasn't anywhere near good enough, but how could it be, after all?

I was thinking about this this morning, because I was reading about the Israelites making the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain.  There was Moses, having the time of his life, the very time of his life, which he'd had a time or two.  It wasn't always equal, you know.  He'd gotten the burning bush, God's own voice, seen the back side of God in the wilderness and had his face changed.  And all the people got was Moses' second-hand story about it.  So I get it, that it's sometimes hard to live by someone else's faith.  But much was expected of Moses as well.  If you think it's harsh that, when Moses had that one moment of disobedience and reluctance,  God told him, "that's it, buddy, you'll get to see, but not enter the promised land," remember what amazing moments Moses had had with God.  Intimate moments--as a man talks with his brother moments.

So Moses disappears up the mountain for a long time, and they start wondering if everything he'd told them about this I AM that I AM God of his was actually true.  So they build a golden calf.  Now, intellectually, it seems a bit childish to me: if Moses isn't going to come back, we'll just create our own God to worship.  And hey, what about a cow made out of gold? But apparently it was supposed to be somewhat like an Egyptian bull-god named Apis. But there's a part of me that kind of gets it.  See, Moses goes up the mountain, is overwhelmed by the glory, the wholly Holy Glory of God and they see a difference.  They want that for themselves.  Of course they do.  So they create some gold thing (though they've been told not to), dance themselves into a frenzy, and what happens?  Well, nobody's face glows with anything but sweat, that's for sure, and all they get for their trouble is a whole lot of broken gold at the end.  Not to mention anger for Moses and God.  And it's not a pretty sight, my friends, that's for sure.  The very opposite of what they'd been looking for. 

The most glaring thing to me, though, isn't about what they did or how Moses reacted to the calf, but what God made them do next.  He put the Israelites to work--to actually give them what they'd been trying to manufacture on their own, which is exactly how it should work.  They'd spent a whole lot of time standing around, doing nothing, and their questions festered, their doubts grew and they looked at how Moses experienced God versus how they didn't and they wanted that.  They wanted their own mountain on which to worship--just like Moses had.  So...God put them to work building it.  Building a portable temple in the wilderness.

This is remarkable.  This elaborate building project came on the heels of their disobedience, which came as a result of their doubts about Him.  And it was for a people who would pull up those tent-stakes repeatedly for 40 years.  They built a giant tent for the worship of God right after they'd tried to worship a calf as a counter--immediately--their propensity to graven images.  God put them to work because the people of God get into trouble when they have too much time on their hands, and He put them to work building a temple, because they needed a place to worship Him.

These are the things that counter doubt.  The things that counter disobedience.  Work and worship.  But there's one more thing:  God used the people in ways they were already gifted.  They didn't have to try and figure out how they'd accomplish the building of this movable temple for His glory.  He'd already given them skills, talents and gifts to do the work He meant them to do to honor Him.  "God has chosen Bezalel...and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understand, with knowledge and with all kinds of skill..." Exodus 35: 30-31.  There's a holiness of skill given to these men and women, given by God purposely.  Their gifts aren't less than the priestly (pastoral) gifts; in fact, at this moment, for this matter, they are more important.  Different gifts are raised up at different times, but all are from Him.  And these people, these skilled and gifted people, had to show up--had to offer their gifts into His service.  "Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given an ability and who was willing to come and do the work. (36: 2) They could have stayed home, I reckon.  But would their gifts have disappeared?  Probably not, but the gifts are given for His service to those who come.  My un-qualified guess is that perhaps those gifts would have become bitter curses sooner or later.

What they already had was enough.  They didn't have to be Moses then.  In fact, they couldn't be.  Moses couldn't have built the temple--he didn't have the right skill-set.  All he could do was go up the mountain and lead the people. Moses was no carpenter, that's for sure, and when it came to wood, bronze or silver-working, he was all thumbs.  We often worry about what we have to offer the world, or the church.  Try to add to our skill package.  And sometimes that means we stretch ourselves into areas where we just aren't meant to be.  We even do this on teams, looking for a person to fill a gap, to bring the right 'stuff' to the table.  Exodus 36: 6-7 says, "The people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was enough." WOW.  Though this isn't actually about the work, but the offering, about giving to the sanctuary, I have the strong sense that it's the same.  What we give to Him, what skills we bring to Him--He already knows. When we try to do it for ourselves, we end up with a golden calf, broken in pieces, and probably a whole lot of anger to boot.  But when God does it--when we use what He's already given us to use, it's enough.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

One of the seven dwarfs

I've been in a grumpy mood today.  Maybe it's because I'd barely roused myself from the bed and walked into the kitchen before Beve was asking me to find the whipped cream dispenser.  He'd made hot chocolate and needed his whipped cream.  He was in quite the middle-of-the-day perky mood, which, to him, it actually was, since he gets up before the sun manages to rise...in New York!  I can't even think that early, let alone figure out where Beve hid his whipped cream dispenser last spring when he had his last cup of hot chocolate before it got too hot.  I did manage to find it (in the china hutch--of course!). Whew, dodged that bullet.

Then we had to race over to Grampie's so we could call his son, R, in Finland.  The other day, I had a moment of deep heart ache when Gramps called to ask me if I knew how to call R.  Yes, I told him, I did know. Walking to the phone list we keep on the wall beside our phone, the very list Grampie made for us years ago when he was still functioning on more cylinders, I slowly gave him R's number.  "What time is it there?" he asked me.  This, too, is a question he used to know the answer to without even having to think.  R's lived in Finland for 30 years, and for most of that time Grampie could simply look at the clock and instantly say what time it was in Helsinki.  He always knew when to call in order to catch R.  But then this last question, "Is he at school now?"  "Grampie, " I answered gently. "It's 2 AM right now, he's sleeping."  "But is he working now? Or is it still summer there?"

Conversations like these with Grampie get to me because I feel like I walked this very road before with Mom.  The next day Grampie bought an international phone card and wanted to have one of us come over and 'install it on the phone' so he could call R.  I tried to explain it didn't work that way, but he couldn't follow.  So Beve and I went over this morning to place the call across the globe where R was watching TV with his wife on a Saturday evening.  Beve and I chuckled at how Grampie puts the phone on speaker, then holds it up to his forehead.  Inexplicably.  And Thyrza sits in the next room with the other phone, and sooner or later, whether just across the city, or across the pole, Grampie and Thyrza will start talking (even bickering) with each other, get completely distracted from the conversation at hand.  Today they were disagreeing about whether R had ever been to their place here in B'ham...and Thyrza's deep sighing and odd, nervous chuckle when it was clear that she'd forgotten he was here for three weeks in July was telling.  She hates thinking she's ever forgetful, though she's just barely better than Grampie. And that's really frustrating at times. Now I'm the one deep sighing. Then suddenly they were telling each other they had to get to lunch, and there was R, still on the phone, and we were sitting there, and Katie bar the door, they were on a tear, slow motion as it is in their walker-world.

So we high-tailed it out of there (gladly, I have to say) and I came home to sit in our living room and watch the rain. But somehow I'm still grumpy.  Need a nap.  Or maybe just some quiet.  Or church.  Or all of the above, all at once.
Hope your Saturday's more exciting. Hopefully you're Happy or Sleepy or even Dopey.  Anything but Grumpy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bob's burgers and Beve

Had a typical afternoon, and by typical I mean I took Grampie (and Thyrza) to the doctor.  It was in this office a few months ago, that in helping Grampie fill out paper work, I came across a section about 'sexual function.'  'Maybe you want to read this part yourself,' I told Grampie.  He shoved the paper back at me. 
"No, read it to me."  So in a whisper, I asked, "Have you ever had erectile disfunction?"
"What?  You're whispering."  He said.
"Erectile Disfunction." I said.  The room stilled, I'm sure it did. 
Grampie looked at me.  "I'm 86 years old," he finally said.  "And my bride is 91."  Then he shook his hand.
"Enough said," I answered.  Really, enough said.

This is a doctor who looks younger than my son, spoke well over the heads of the elders, and when Grampie seemed to (ok, actually DID) get high-centered on his weight loss, Dr. C pulled out his ball-point and drew Grampie a picture of his prostate, urethra and penis right there on the paper covering the table.  It was quite the moment.  Grampie looked at it, scrunched up his mouth and said, "But what I'm really worried about is that I just keep losing weight."  The doctor turned to me, "Ah, now I remember why you came with them."  I was still trying to recover from seeing someone draw a picture of Grampie's penis in front of God and everyone (namely me). 

The point is, I think I earned my pay today.  Not that there's any pay.  By the time I got home, Beve asked if I wanted to go out to dinner.  So off we went, just the two of us.  And as we sat there at Bob's Burgers, we started talking about families.  He sees a whole lot of families in his line of work, of course.  And we have two very different family backgrounds, so there is plenty of grist for the mill, so to speak, except that Beve doesn't always speak about such things. Well, my Beve was in something of a ruminating mood tonight, which doesn't come around often, so hang on to your hats, grab your pen, take notes, but whatever it takes, remember.  And the sentence that had me dropping my Wasabi Chicken Burger (delicious, by the way!) was, "Our kids grew up in such a peaceful home, they really have no idea..." Beve sees kids daily who slam doors, scream at their parents, or have doors slammed on them.  Maybe maybe literally on them, until they bleed.  He sees kids who are scarred inside and out from things so brutal you can't believe they're walking around, let alone sitting in classrooms trying to study geometry.  How in the world can we expect them to learn with such emotional cacophony distracting them.  And maybe that's exactly why so many teenagers play their music so loudly--to drown out the painful noise of their own lives.

That's what that one sentence of Beve's evoked for me.  Yes, our kids grew up in a peaceful home, and usually I don't even think about it. But it's a gift.  And tonight, after a day when I was reminded again of what Grampie is losing (and what Beve and I each might lose someday), I hope that the peace our children knew here has grown into a place of peace they carry wherever they go.  So that someday, if they have to go to some doctor's appointment with Beve or me, and we don't have a clue what the doctor is saying, they'll still feel that peace and extend it to back to us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The rooster crows

Lately I've been corresponding with a woman who faces some of the same vicissitudes I've been living with.  It's been an interesting correspondence because we have almost nothing else in common besides this one struggle.  Granted it's something that tends to loom over our lives like a mountain looms over a horizon.  But other than this one mountain, we're very different people

I was asked to email this woman by my middle sister, who is a close friend of hers. I've shared a meal with this woman before so she isn't a complete stranger.  We had a rather uncomfortable conversation in the kitchen of my sister's home that day, too.  Really, really uncomfortable.  I can't even remember how we got into it, but it was immediately clear that what I expect for my children, what I hope for them is light-years away from what she does.   We both want our children to become certain kinds of adults, but what that means to each of us is utterly different.  In fact, our definitions are fundamentally different.

So it's been a difficult thing to communicate with her.  For instance, she asked me what I do to keep from being completely overwhelmed and distracted by the struggle.  The obvious answer is, "I pray."  This, of course, is the truth.  And if I was speaking to a person face to face, I would surely answer just that way.  However, I didn't tell this woman that, because I don't quite know her.  Maybe that's exactly what she was asking me, but what I know about her--that she's my non-believing sister's friend, and a non-believing Jew at that--make me think it isn't.  So I quell at being so transparent with her. 

Do you ever do that?  Have someone ask you a question to which the most straightforward answer would mean that you'd have to reveal that you are a believer, yes, one of those--and you know it, can feel it in the pit of your stomach and the instant sweat in your palms, and you should just answer.  I mean, isn't it true that the simplest answer is usually the best one?  Even, or especially, when it comes to talking about God.  But instead, you just maneuver yourself around with some convoluted answer that has you talking to yourself later, "Are you kidding me?  Did you really say something that foolish so you didn't have to admit you were with Him."  And then the dang rooster crows and you realize what you've done.  What you've really done.

But I'm sitting here tonight writing this post, when I should just open an email and write the truth.  It's keeping me awake not to.  And maybe, no matter what SHE thinks she's asking, God needs her to hear me say it.  Just to hear me say, "I pray."  I'm a person who believes that God is, that He is present to our suffering, and that He answers prayer.  Just that.  At least just that.

Before that rooster crows.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A protest

Got a text from SK a little while ago.  Now a quick caveat before I jump into my actual post.  Texting.  Let me just be clear that I didn't actually have my own cell-phone until SK's senior year in high school, though there was one with my name attached to it.  When we bought our second cell-phone, back in aught-one or something like that, it was supposed to be shared by E and me.  You see where this is going?  I don't think I had that phone in my possession more than a couple of times before I just let 'er have it, lock stock and phone number (which she had picked out anyway).  I might have made her feel guilty about it a time or two because I am a mother, after all, and learned the fine art of making my children feel guilty while still in the playpen.  Finally, however, SK's senior year, which coincided with my taking a trip to California with my mother, SK and I each got phones (I'd learned my lesson about that whole sharing thing!). 

The next thing I knew, however, these kids were sending me messages that I hadn't the foggiest idea of how to respond to.  Right there on my little screen.  Crazy, this idea that not only could a person talk from any old place in the world, but if talking wasn't an option, sending a word message might be.  We finally get 'unlimited texting' a few years ago, and now it's off to the races for all of us.  I have my own tiny keyboard and everything.  And you know, I almost can't remember what the world was like when I wasn't connected to this object.  Oh wait, I actually can...I'm always forgetting my phone, wandering off without it.  Not thinking about it, paying attention to it unless I get started on some kind of conversation.  Then I get distracted from the actual real company I'm in at the time.  And that somehow seems wrong to me. 

So there you have it, my phone caveat.  This morning the text from SK was one that sent me to the computer to check out a website.  And just the http of the website had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.  Shivers running down my back.  Because right in that http it said 'God hates fags.' I don't know if you've heard of it, but this is the website of a church.  A CHURCH that claims to love and follow the same Jesus Christ I love and follow.  Yet to get to their website, you must press a button with this phrase in it.

This church is known for being very conservative (seriously? you think?) and for their ubiquitous protests around the country.  This month they'll be at Whitworth University where SK is a student.  It was stunning to read what they believe is going on at Whitworth, and therefore, by extension, to imagine what they believe is going on at many other institutions at which they picket across the country.   I am not privy to what every prof at Whitworth teaches, but Beve and I are fortunate enough to be close friends with one of them.  And I can categorically state here and for all time that a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ you will not meet.  A man of God in the truest sense of the word.  And I believe his colleagues are men and women like him who want to honor the values of the institution at which they serve.  A Christian university.

What is worrisome, however, beyond this church's protest at one specific (I might say especially a Christian) institution is that they so misrepresent the gospel of Christ to the world.  Though I believe God hates, I definitely do not believe He hates any person whom He created.  If you can name me someone He did not, perhaps that's the one.  Sin He hates.  And homosexual sin He definitely hates.  But heterosexual sin He hates exactly as much.  And the sin I commit in my pride and selfishness.  The sin I commit when I put myself and my desires above Him and pleasing Him.  The God they are showing through their hate-mongering protests is not the God who laid down His life to save us from these sins. 

If I might be so bold, I would say that God hates the protests of these men and women exactly as much as He hates the actions of those they protest against.  All of it separates people from Him.  This church, Westboro Baptist, is so consumed by the hatred they believe is their calling, they've taken the Lord's name in vain. And that, my friends, is wrong. 

God is love.  How will the world know that we are His disciples unless we love one another?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Purging

I spent the afternoon going through my clothes.  We bought a new dresser a few weeks ago, a single, tall dresser which is meant to take the place of the two long ones we've had for years. Beve and I have quite a small room in this house, actually the smallest room of any room we've ever shared.  When we were first contemplating moving here, Beve pulled out a tape-measure and marked off in the bedroom of our former home, exactly how small this room was, and convinced me it would work. When my shins are bruised from our bed, I'm still not so sure. 

So we're finally downsizing our dresser, going up rather than out, and I made a concentrated effort to pare down my clothes. I mean, I was completely ruthless.  My friend, M, who likes to say, "Less is more," would be so proud of me today, as I filled three giant garbage bags with clothes for Good Will.  Nice clothes, too. Really.  Not a stain among them.  Some with their Nordstrom tags still on them.

It hit me that I have had a whole lot of chaff among my clothes.  Why is it that I need seven long-sleeved shirts all in some shade of orange?  You'd think it was my favorite color or something.  And how many short-sleeved black t-shirts does a person actually need?  I won't tell you how many I gave away.  I kept two.  I'm actually horrified with the redundancy I found in my closet.  For a person who rarely dresses in anything but pjs, there's no need for the blazers I've been holding on to or all those khaki pants. And the copious sweaters that are too hot for me these days--don't wear them, don't need them.  The end.

Yep, it felt so good to get rid of all that excess.  I can't tell you. I didn't even know I had all that stuff.  I mean, I wouldn't call myself a pack-rat when it comes to clothing.  Books, yes, but not clothes.  However, I learned a thing or two today.  And was reminded of some fundamental spiritual truths.

None of the clothing I own is of itself bad or wrong. But allowing it to build up and collect without purpose became a problem.  And I think this is the way things can become sin.  Something that is morally neutral can become sin simply by our holding onto it, allowing it to build up, collect and overrun our lives.  Overwhelm our spiritual space, so to speak.

It's what I do with what I have that is sin.  Wanting more, yes, but even just holding on.  Therefore, letting go, releasing my things is a step toward God.  Even good things, distorted, can cause a person to sin.  So this afternoon was a very good exercise for me.  I needed to let go of some of those things.  Some articles of clothing were easy to get rid of, but others I've held on to for sentimental reasons, without ever having worn.  Like the giraffe t-shirt that belonged to Beve's mother.  I finally sent that packing today.  There has really been no earthly reason to keep it.  Just to remember her, I guess.  Though now that I'm writing about it, I want to rush out to my car and dig it out of the bag.  Sigh.

But the most astonishing thing also happened as I was emptying my dresser.  I found an old wallet.  And inside, $100.00.  Now I've found $5.00 before, maybe even $20.00, but never 100.00.  And I can't remember when I put it there.  But you know what I was saying about how even good things can cause a person to sin?  When I found it, I thought, "wow, I can spend this on whatever I want, and no one has to know.  I don't even have to tell Beve."  Yep, I actually thought that for a moment.  That's what's in me.  A good thing found but an instinct to do wrong.

As soon as Beve got home, I told him about the money.  If I hadn't had that thought, I might have kept it as a means to buy him a Christmas gift or something.  But the instance it became a wrong thought, I couldn't do other than tell him.  That's Holy Spirit working, thank God.

I'm a whole lot lighter this evening, and a whole lot richer.  And I'm not talking about that 100.00.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A prayer

I've never wanted to be an eagle
but I have sometimes wanted to fly
I've never dreamed of being a dolphin
but I have sometimes wanted to dive.

"If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast."

At the end of my abilities, Lord, meet me.  At the end of my strength, touch me.  At the beginning and end of myself, change me.  Transform me.  Fill me up like a balloon, Holy Spirit.  Breathe in me until I am full and taut and light--aloft--with You. Then fly in me to where You want me to go, to where You have purpose. And Lord, burrow into me, until I am full and heavy with you.  Then dive in me to the deepest places, to where You call, to where deep calls to deep and I can sink into You more fully.

Search me and try me.  And if there is any hurtful way in me--and, of course there is!--root it out.  As far as the east is from the west, send it that far from me.  So that I am only Yours...and reek of you.
Amen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A quilting legacy

I finished a quilt this afternoon. Changed the sheets and put in on our king-sized bed.  Before I climb under it tonight, though, I'll place an old double-sized quilt on my half of the bed.  Beve and I have different temperatures so I've spent my married life sleeping on my half of the bed under more covers than the giant heater over there.  I'm thankful for the old quilts--the multicolored butterflies on a white background is my personal favorite--that my maternal grandmother made through out the course of her life.  Quilts--heirlooms though they might be--are for using, warm as any light blanket we own and soft to the touch of my ultra-sensitive skin, even with the perfect tiny stitches.  I imagine Grandmom sitting beside a radio, holding fabric in her hands, stitching as she listens for news that might tell her something of her beloved Tommy, so far away at sea. When I spread my fingers across the butterflies, I wonder which came from my mother's dresses as a child, and which were the house-dresses my grandmother always wore.  There was little money to spare so even clothes had to work for their keep.  During the depression, while her husband was out at sea, Grandmom took in laundry for people, did sewing for them to help make the money last until the next ship (and pay) came in.  So maybe some of the fabrics on all the quilts my siblings and I all slept once belonged to some woman in Brooklyn, NY or Los Angeles.

I like imagining such things.  I like imagining Grandmom finishing a butterfly quilt and putting it on her daughter's bed. My mother grew up without roots to a place, because the navy moved them so often.  So to my mother, home simply meant wherever her mother was.  My grandmother and her quilts, the crocheted bedspreads and table-linens.  The fancy cut-work doilies.  Yep, my Kansas farmgirl grandmother made all those things. 

Me?  I just sew.  Just learned to quilt about 18 months ago.  But I like to think I'm walking in her footsteps when I sit down at my machine.  When I listen to NPR on the radio, just as she listened to Amos and Andy, I sense that she's my heritage. As I cut my fabric and plan out my next project, I just might be the future she was imagining when she crocheted that extra-large bedspread that fits perfectly on our king-sized bed.  I'm my grandmother's legacy.

Legacies.  That's what I'm thinking about today. The women who fed me when I was barely more than an embryo of faith. And the girls (now women) I gave milk to when I was just barely chewing meat myself.  Some of those girls I was pretty sure would live lives worthy of the gospel.  In fact, I did little more than provide what they were already hungry for. But others were harder nuts to crack.  I couldn't figure out whether their eyes were open or their hearts or if they were simply showing up for the free food and games.  But every now and then I've had the privilege of hearing about one of those girls, now women in their late forties.  Just this spring, I talked to one of the hungry ones.  And she asked me if I remembered one of her friends, a woman I'd call reluctant.  A girl who'd just shown up, and I almost never knew whether any of it had taken.  She was perhaps physically the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, stuck in a backwater town, thinking she was in love with a wild boy.  I'm not making this up, even though it sounds like a cheap novel.  She really was just that beautiful.  But now...

Now she loves Jesus.  And she credits Young Life with leading her to Christ.  Wow.  We never thought we made a dent in her life.  But that's my point.  We can't know what our legacy will be.  We lay out our fabric, sew it up, make the quilt of faith but we don't know where it will land finally.

My younger daughter, SK, lives with four women who are Young Life leaders.  I'm thinking of them tonight as I write this.  By the nature of the beast--the beast being college lasting only four or five years--their ministry to their kids will end next spring.  And it's possible that none of SK's roommates will see giant changes in those they've cared for over the last four years.  But I'm here to tell them, to all the thems in this particular situation, that nothing is wasted.  God knows what pieces of the quilt He's been working on in these last four years.  He knows what their legacies will be.  Someday, I believe, SK's housemates will return to Spokane for some reunion or something, and one of those girls, now a woman, will be in ministry because of these Young Life leaders.  I've seen it over and over.  I've lived it myself.  Trust it. Trust God. It's all about legacy.