Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Step out of the plane

Back when my kids were just young punks and my source of income was grading high school English papers, I used to think there should be a grade for risk. Some students were so gifted they could just roll out of bed, grab a pen and write a brilliant, flawless paper without even breaking a sweat. But there were others--and I'm not talking those who didn't give a rip and barely manage to turn in something--who weren't nearly as innately gifted. They struggled with sentence structure, spelling, indeed, with a lot of mechanics. However, there were risks taken. I loved these kids and their writing. I loved the moment when they realized they were on to something and that something had come out of them and onto the page. And I always wanted that to be acknowledged as much (maybe even more!) than those perfect pages that sprang so easily from the word-smiths.

And I realized back then that there is always a connection between risk and reward spiritually. That is, I honestly, completely believe that God meets us in direct proportion to how much we risk in faith. I don't say this just sitting in my cozy living room, staring out into the world, but because He's shown Beve and me this over and over. We stepped out in faith more than once. In such extreme ways that many around us shook their heads, laughed, called us crazy. Questioned why and how, and what on earth we thought we were doing. Come to think of it, from the moment we decided to get married--without knowing where we'd live or what we'd do--our life together has been defined by stepping out in faith. Leaving this job for the next before there was a next, leaving that one for seminary for me, without a job or home for our family. Risks every time. The very place we now call home Beve claimed by a faith I questioned up one side and down the other, and we took a risk to buy.
And He always met us. We have seen Him work. And known to give Him praise.

But I'm slow-witted. And I forget.
And now I'm 55 years old, settled pretty well into this life and the ones who are being called to step out in faith are my children...and it's a whole different thing to let them risk than to risk myself. Or to risk WITH them. Sigh.
But most sadly, I've forgotten that God will meet them in proportion to their risk.

So early this morning--like 4 AM, after a tossing and turning night--I started thinking about sky-diving.

Yep, sky-diving.
Something about which I personally know nothing.
However, I do have a great imagination, have read a whole lot, and have seen plenty of movies, TV, etc. So I think I can speak to this in a limited way.

You have to step out of the plane. That's the first risk.
Then there's a free-fall. That's the second risk.
And only then, does the parachute open (or get opened).
The parachute doesn't open IN the plane.
You have to take that giant, scary step out into the wild, blue yonder.
Fall into space. And fall and fall and fall some more.
And that's such a big risk, you couldn't pay me to do it. No way, no how.

But stepping out to what God has called you into, that's also a risk, if you look at it with your little human eyes.
Of course it's hard. Risk always is. Leaving safety, leaving what you know for what you don't. Hard indeed. Leaving what is easy and controllable for what is risky and uncontrollable. Hard, indeed. But...
He meets us in proportion to our risk. I really, really believe this. The more you're willing to give over to Him, the more you're going to receive when He meets you.

This isn't just me talking.
It's the disciples who laid down their nets, and Matthew who left his table with the money still on it. It's Zaccheus who climbed up a tree, and Saul the persecutor becoming one of the persecuted. It's Mary wiping His feet with her tears and Jairus who trusted Him to heal his daughter. It's Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Jim Eliot, Mother Teresa, Brother Andrew, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Corrie Ten Boom.  And so many, many more besides. I can't begin to list all those who have left, or stood up to, or risked all for Him. And seen Him meet them in proportion to that risk.

It's true that we don't know what lies ahead when we take such a step out of the plane. But it's also true, that we don't step out alone. He will meet us in the wild, blue yonder.

For SK.

Monday, October 29, 2012

With you in the storm

The small wind blowing here in the Northwest keeps me tethered to those on the other coast--and all the way to Chicago-- who are bracing for the great trifecta of storms already causing havoc before the worst even hits.

My hands can't reach, but my prayers stretch to heaven and back to family, friends, and, of course, the countless I don't know and will never meet, who don't know what the next few hours and days will bring.

So we pray. With you. For you, over you. We stand behind you as you're struggling to stand in the force of this wind.

And trust--believe, have faith, KNOW--that God will be with you in the storm, as the Casting Crown song says. He will hold your hand.
Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Strengthened in His power and love

The prayers of Paul...
Along with the Psalms they are one of the great aids in prayer. When my brain seizes and I'm stuck repeating the same words over and over, like a small child, who can only say, "Bless Mama, Daddy, brother, sister..." there are these creative and comprehensive prayers which dot his epistles to the churches he'd planted, visited and discipled. To think that every letter is marinated in prayer. Beginning, middle and end, absolutely drenched in it. This is Paul's approach to discipleship, encouragement, exhortation and chastisement. Prayer.

And we have them, We get to pray them for those who are in the fiery furnaces of life, for those who are newly born in Him and those who are so close to home-going the light of heaven is blinking in their eyes. And every stage between, these magnificent prayers are ours for the praying.

So this day, I offer this one--one of my favorites (though I have to admit that if you've ever sat in a Bible study, retreat or class I've taught, you're probably rolling your eyes at the word 'favorite' because I say that about sooo many texts in scripture. But I can't help it. And I mean it!):

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled of all the fulled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Ephesians 3: 14-19

Really, what else is there to pray for someone? God's gifts to us, as Paul prays, are His power and His love. Do we get it? Even as we're rooted in love, there's more to get about it, more to grasp. He loves us as wide as the outstretched Cross, as long as He has been, as wide as the universe and as high as heaven itself.  And He will--by the power IN us--flood us with comprehension that He loves us even more than this. And fills us even more than this. To the FULL MEASURE OF ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD.

So this rainy Friday afternoon, I pray this for you who read this, and pray that you pray it for those in your own sphere on influence.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3: 20-21

Thursday, October 25, 2012

List Keeping

Recently SK went to an 80s birthday party. She threw together an outfit from things she had lying around in her present wardrobe, asked me if it looked authentic, and I said, "Looks good to me." And when I look at pictures--of Beve and me as well as a whole nation--from those days, I see poofy hair, puffy sleeves, high waisted jeans (usually acid-washed), and (not on Beve) a whole lot of panty hose.

Ah panty hose. I think fondly of it now, but panty hose was the subject of our first married fight. Our first ever fight, actually, since there weren't any before we married, either. We just didn't have time.  We were just a stone's throw away from being really poor that first year. I mean, count every penny and account for them poor. And I wasn't used to either counting or accounting for my pennies. Nor was I used to having to share my closet with a boy, which kind of creeped me out one day when I realized just how enormous his shoes actually were and how much space they'd actually take in our not-very-big apartment-sized closet. I stuck my whole size nines inside his shoes and could walk around in them. As I say, creepy!

But I got used to it. Got used to not being able to see around him in the bathroom, to not worrying about how high to place things in the kitchen because he'd always be able to reach the top shelf. Not having a full half of even a large bed because a 6'7" man takes up a whole lot of space. I got used to all of it.

Then one morning as I was putting on panty-hose to go to work, he stared at me a moment then said, "You're doing it wrong. That's why you get so many runs in them." I think my jaw hit the carpet.
Now all of you women who have worn hose (and lucky you who haven't had to) know exactly how I was putting on those hose. I scrunched both legs to the toes, pulled one all the way up, pulled it back down then pulled up the other with it, so they'd go on evenly. WITHOUT RUNS.
"Excuse me?" I asked Beve. "How many pairs of panty hose have you actually put on?"
"None, but I can tell it's inefficient to pull them up and down that way. Just put them on like pants."
"LIKE PANTS??? You don't know what you're talking about."
He walked out of the room, left the apartment and went to work. Without another word.
By the time he got there, he was sorry, and I was sorry and we talked it out. And now we've had many laughs about how silly it was.

But the truth is, most of the fights between people begin as silly things. Really silly things like panty-hose, or where to throw kleenex or which way coats should be hung on hangers or any one of a hundred-thousand other things. 'I'm right and you're wrong,' we're saying no matter what else we're saying.

I remember the first fight.
And I remember a particular night a couple years later when, after some now-forgotten disagreement, I stood in our bedroom, brooding. Wanting to hold on to my 'righteous' anger (which, of course, was only selfish) about whatever offense I thought had been done to me. Asking God if it would be okay to hold on to it just a little longer. And hearing Him say, "How long? How long before you wouldn't be able to let it go?"  There was a clench in my stomach in that moment because I realized that I could do it. I could hold on...but then I couldn't. I had to let go that very instant because the risk was too big. That night I learned that the most deadly thing in marriage wasn't disagreeing, but holding on afterwards. Keeping score. Letting this small fight be tacked to a list with that one, and another one, until some day all there would be between us was a long list of fights and "You're wrong" and "You always..." and "You never..." I remember turning on my heel and running through our apartment to Beve, to make it right with him before another moment passed.

And then--only then--did Beve and I learn to fight, fight fairly, and learn to forgive.

 I can't claim that I don't ever brood. But Beve always calls me on it. He's lived with me a long time and knows me very well, which is sometimes really annoying. But God uses Beve to remind me--no list keeping.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rainy homonyms

Rain 

Here in the NW
that's an autumn given.
The rain comes.
Showers down on friend 
and foe 
Good and bad
and
Like it or not, 
we live with it.
Grumble about it, get used to it,
Live with it.

Rain 
on me, Lord
Shower down 
on me
so that I'm 
changed by the shower 
of your love,
your power,
your goodness,
your strength,
your very presence 
all over my life.
Rain on me
so that I flood
over my banks
 and change the landscape of
the terrain of my world.
Rain on me.

Rein
me in, Lord.
Like a horse needs a bit in its mouth,
so I need you
in my thoughts,
in my words,
 in my actions,
in my life
Keep hold 
so that I cannot hurt 
those around me by what isn't you.
Rein me in,
control my very being
so that I only move where YOU
wish me to go.
Rein me in.

Reign in me, Lord.
Sit on the throne of my life
You are my King
My Sovereign,
My Lord.
You are Majesty.
I serve none but you.
Reign in me,
May your Crown be the 
One I bow to,
Your throne
the One
I worship,
Your Name
The One 
I adore.
Not simply in word,
but in my life.
This rained on, reined in, Reigned in day.

Reign in me, 
Holy God.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Let the children lead them

About eight years ago, when I was the youth elder at the church we were attending, the idea formed of a transgenerational mission trip. We envisioned taking families, high schoolers, singles, couples, seniors...any and everyone who felt called to it. And while we were still in the talking stage, somehow, the whole ball of wax became my baby, or at least I was the human in charge. I never once thought I was really in charge of any part of it.

We had a whole lot of takers that spring. Before we reached our air-ticket deadline, we had 52 people on our team, ranging in age from 5 to 72. There were actually six children on that trip. We were all very excited about what God would do in and through us that coming summer. We were "Blessed to be a blessing," as we put on our matching yellow shirts.

But then one Tuesday night, I went to my very last meeting with the other elders, along with the man who was taking over as Youth Elder. With his wife and two young daughters, he was also part of our mission team. At that meeting the mission elder told us that the mission committee had decided that no one under the age of 11 should go on mission trips because they'd be unlikely to actually be team members. Read that to mean, they didn't think children could share the gospel.

My reaction was fast and furious. And I mean red, hot furious. Thankfully, I only asked what Beve would call clarifying questions that night. I wanted to make sure I absolutely heard this correctly. Then I went home and wrote a response (which I found tonight):

In 1995, on our second high school mission trip to the small Tlinget village of Hoonah in SE Alaska, a family of two brothers and one sister came to our M.A.D. (Music, Arts and Drama) camp, that our youth group was putting on for the children of Hoonah. Crystal, Frankie and Jeremiah were wild, wild children. Tlinget families, all native Alaskans for that matter, receive monies from the government and many of them drink and smoke this substantial amount of money away while neglecting their children. These children's family was no different. Jeremiah, who was five that year, came with his siblings each day with a huge backpack full of candy. I mean it was LOADED--and they didn't need an ounce of sugar, if you know what I mean. The three of them were so out of control that our high schoolers wanted to bar the doors of the little First Presbyterian Church of Hoonah (like there might ever be a Second?) as soon as they saw those little hellions coming on their bikes, Crystal carrying Jeremiah behind her, while Frankie toted the backpack. Before the second day was over, we were calling them "the Herdmans," from the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
We tried putting them in appropriate classes, but they wouldn't stay there. They collected like dust bunnies under the stairs to eat their candy and bounce in the sun. The teen teachers came to us in concern, then frustration, then annoyance, then downright disgust. They couldn't handle them, then they WOULDN'T. We had a mutiny on our hands.

Except we also had children of our own. SK who was six. KM, who was eight. These two little girls liked candy. A whole lot. They liked these kids who were handing out treats from a bulging backpack every morning. And before you knew it, our kids had brought those 'Herdmans' downstairs to climb all over Beve like little monkeys (and Jeremiah really did look like a little monkey!). And by half way through the week, SK was sitting in the basement helping a couple of them make those bead bracelets--you know, the ones where each color represents something different about Jesus and salvation? And KM had Jeremiah at a table with her dad, who was drawing boats for him. Talking about things they knew--they lived on an island, they knew boats. 
And one afternoon, while the others were out playing on the gravel, I came out the front door where SK was sitting on the steps with little Jeremiah, quietly telling him the story of those colored beads. Who Jesus was, Did Jeremiah know Him?  Had he ever heard about him before? It was a simple thing. She was six. He was five. What could it mean?

Then the last evening we were in Hoonah, just before we had to march down the one paved street to catch the ferry, we stood up in the old clapboard church to sing to the pastor and his wife. They'd been good to us, we wanted to bless them. I remember we were singing, "Will You Be The One?" It was our theme song. "Will you be the one to answer to His call and will you stand when those around you fall?...YES, I'll be the one." Anyway, the back door swung open and there was Debbie, the Herdmans' mom. She wanted to thank us. She'd seen us at the musical we'd put on, but she wanted to see us again, to say she might start coming to church if Pastor Greg didn't mind. Debbie only had one front tooth and she was a big woman. She'd lived a whole lot of life. Rough life. Those three kids we'd gotten to know over the last ten days were the last in line of a whole lot of kids. She'd lost one, too. One named Jeremiah, so she'd named her baby after the one she'd lost.  Someone loving her baby--her babies--meant a lot to her. So we sang another song for her, and by then SK, and KM and...well, all of us were bawling because we were leaving. When it felt like we were right on the verge of getting to the best part. If you know what I mean.

By the next May when we'd decided to return to Hoonah for a third year, we'd heard that the church had grown from 40 to about 120, in part because Debbie had become a Christian, and was telling everyone she knew about Jesus. One Sunday morning, just before church, Beve was called into our church office to take a call from Pastor Greg in Hoonah. Little Jeremiah had been hit by a car the day before and had died instantly. Our Jeremiah. And Pastor Greg was calling with a request straight from Debbie and her Tlinget clan. In Tlinget culture, 40 days after a person dies, the spirit ascends into heaven. And on that day is held a feast. The 40 Feast. Exactly 40 days after Jeremiah died, we'd be in Hoonah. We'd almost decided not to go back to Hoonah that year. I'd almost decided not to take SK that summer. But all those 'not's didn't happen, because we were going to be in Hoonah, where we'd sing at Jeremiah's 40 day feast.

This gives me tingles and tears to write, even now, so many years later. To invite a non-native group into a sacred Tlinget ceremony, to ask us to feast with them, was huge. We were their honored guests. We did, of course. Crying, singing, thanking God for the privilege, remembering that wild, dirty-faced gap-toothed little boy and his mother who stood through every song. And afterwards, the elders of the clan stood and spoke in Tlinget about us. And then someone translated the words that had been spoken. What we later learned is that it's almost unheard of for any translations to happen during such occasions, so that alone spoke to what we'd meant to the people. A door was opened between our people, they said. We had truly brought God to them.

Debbie later wanted to see SK. To hug her. KM wasn't there that year, so it was only SK to hug. But Debbie told me how much Jeremiah loved that bracelet, how he'd tell her what every color meant, how he called it his Jesus band.

I don't know how God looks at all of this. I will say this. What if SK and KM hadn't gone to Hoonah that year? The high schoolers weren't doing it. They didn't like candy enough, for one thing. They had certain expectations of how their classes would go. But our children--younger than 11!--just took what was offered, accepted who they found and shared what and WHO they knew. And it was life-changing. For Jeremiah, for his mother. For a town.
And yes, for me as well.
I know I'm biased. Of course I am. But the fundamental truth is that people are in the Kingdom because children led them there.

PS. The children on our Mission Team were not only 'allowed' to go to Mexico with us, but given full status as members of our team. We should never be surprised at how God's faithfulness in our past is the very help in times of trouble that we need for THIS day. Over and over I learn this. Praise Him.

Lessons from my puppy



I know, I know, I've become one of those crazy people who are obsessed with their pets. Who talk and write about them constantly, who make allowances and excuses for them, and everything revolves around them and...

But that's what happens when a small, free-for-the-taking craigslist puppy who, at 13 weeks looks adorable and pint-sized and hard-to-resist comes home and is quiet and sweet. He looked to be about a normal-sized lab, which was fine with me. We'd already done the out-sized ones. Two at once for seven years, two 100 lb labs knocking on the walls, bumping into my legs, squeezing the air out of rooms and cars, and even the backyard, it seemed. This one, this sweet, caramel-colored, already partly trained Kincade wouldn't be that big or overwhelming, which was a good thing, since I'm a whole lot less able-bodied than I used to be with my bum leg, back, life.

How wrong can a person be?
Today Kincade is 7 months old. Exactly.
Today, Kincade weighs 85 pounds, which is larger than the size I was hoping he'd be full-grown.



Today, our sweet, little, quiet puppy still thinks he's a lap dog, loves every person he's ever met, and has hopes to meet every person who's ever lived so he can love on them as well, is sucking more air out of my life than both those big labs combined. Even this moment when he's snoring at my feet, I'm frantically trying to finish this before he finishes his nap. Because once that nap ends, the quest for more loving will start. More playing, more exuberant...well, just plain being. That's it. He's the most exuberant puppy I've ever known (except perhaps for my niece's St. Bernard, Sally. Hmm, I wonder if this joy for people and play and living comes with the size of heart and paws on a puppy?).

because the dang weather was so nice, so perfectly sunny and beautiful for months on end, a major--MAJOR--mistake was made with him. I love having my quiet time out on our back deck when the sun is bright. Even when the air is cooling in autumn. I just bundle up a little more, drink my tea a little hotter and enjoy the word. And intermittantly throw balls and toys to the dogs.  But Kincade is too young to remember any other routine. In fact earlier this week when it rained in earnest, he was bewildered the first time he went to sit on the grass. That wet on his bum startled him so much he instantly shot back up and turned a circle to see what he'd sat on.  He doesn't know rain. And he doesn't know--doesn't accept--that I'm not going out with them in the morning if the sun isn't shining. He mistakenly thinks my life is all about him. His dog-sized brain thinks that all this time the first action of the morning is outside play-time.

There's a whole lot of new training that has to be done now. He's good at sit, stay, come, drop-it, get the ball, OK (meaning he can eat once his food has been put down). He sits when I raise my hand over my head, stays when I put my hand out, does what I ask with a snap of my fingers. He's one smart and obedient dog for all that exuberance. But now he has to learn that play-time is up to ME, not him.  That, actually, most of his life is up to his master's will. That's the point of being my dog, rather than a wild one, isn't it?

Hmm. Sometimes I forget how much I can learn from my dogs.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our responsibility

So this isn't supposed to be a political blog. I promised I'd stay strictly out of that arena when I joined the Christian blogging community. And I understand that. It's too easy to marginalize and alienate people, to make assumptions about what believers should and shouldn't believe. As disciples of Jesus, we are clearly told to be in the world but not OF the world. And our allegiance always flies over the muddy ground in which politics dwells.

However, it's difficult in this season to be an ostrich, to not mention what is happening in the here and now especially because my Holy Spirit given gift is to see the Spiritual in the daily life around me, to always look through the lens of eternity at what is going on in the world.

Therefore, I've had to sit on my hands to keep from writing about the presidential campaign in the US. And have done a pretty good job, you'll notice. It hasn't been easy because I'm nothing if not full of opinions and passion about...well, almost everything. Perhaps not NASCAR or any kind of auto mechanics, but almost anything else. And I'm no wall-flower about sharing those passions and opinions. Sometimes recklessly--without prayer or thought. I've been known to have to repent in dust and ashes and make my peace with those whose toes and feet and whole beings I've stomped on in my blasted certainties.

But about this campaign, and sitting on my hands. Done well enough until last night and the finger wagging and frigid air and mean-spiritedness and lack of respect between the candidates.  And the twisting, turning, bending and sometimes breaking of truth. It was a poorly done performance. Made a mockery of the concept of respectable debate. And a mockery of voters, who should be smarter than to fall for such tactics.

I'm disgusted by the whole affair. Have been for a long time, if truth be told. More work is done to see the other person (or party) defeated than to see the people for whom one is called to serve, actually BE served. We've been the victims of this system for more than one administration, more than one congressional session, but the animosity continues to worsen.  And each candidate, it appears, must step down into the muck and wallow around in it, throw wet, sopping, ugly clods of that mud on their opponent or not achieve their goal. Not win their prize. These are ambitious people we vote into our highest offices: that's what this mud they dwell in tells me as much as anything else. Anyone who's willing to be as mean-spirited, as intent on making another person diminish in order to elevate one's own position is ambitious indeed.

And, no matter how much either of any candidate professes a belief in Jesus, their words and actions do not line up with the gospel. Not during campaign season anyway. Not when they're stumping for our votes. When Andrew and John's mother came to Jesus asking for them to gain the special favor of sitting beside Jesus in the Kingdom, not only did Jesus say no way, no how--it's not mine to give, but told all the disciples, "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. But not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first, must be your slave." Matthew 20:26ff

 This should be our model for leadership. Particularly among believers. We should expect more of those who profess to serve Jesus Christ. And evaluate them thusly.

It's okay, I think, to be disheartened by the rhetoric of this campaign. We should be. It should appall and frustrate us that there is no one in this nation who will step up with honor and approach it all as a Holy called one. Has no-one been called to such a task? Is there no one like Esther who might not have been born for such a time as this? To do rightly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God?

Pray with me. For an Esther. And for this season, for a dose of grace between the two left standing. Perhaps a shower of conscience that says, I will not enter the muck again. This far and no farther. In fact, this far was too far.
Our responsibility is not merely to vote--which we only exercise once and takes but an instant--but to pray that God interrupts, intervenes and engages in the work of the giant 'business' of running our country. We can do this, and thereby create monumental change, every day, no matter who wins the election in November.

And that, my friends, is our God-given right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

For God so loved

One of the books on the suggested reading list I received with my acceptance packet to the 'unseminary'  Regent College last century (take that to mean 1997) was Frederick Buechner's Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. Being the bibliophile that I am, I instantly turned the word 'suggested' into 'required' and set tracking down and reading every book on the lengthy and comprehensive list. These were the days before the web was nearly what it is today, so finding them was more arduous. However, with a bit of help from my parents who were in Portland, I (meaning my mom) found Buechner's book to Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and place of such riches and treasures, it's near enough to paradise to one like me.  So Mom picked it up for me (along with about 4 other 'required' books on my list). They glanced through the books, then glanced again at Buechner's, then Mom and Dad took turns reading it as they drove up I-5, and out to the Olympic Peninsula where we were living back then.  They loved it. Raved about it to me. Couldn't get over the twists and turns they encountered in Buechner who is always, always worth the price of admission. I don't have the book in front of me now; in fact, am wondering if I've let someone borrow it in the 15 1/2 years since that spring, but the title itself serves well enough for these thought today (with my sincere apologies to Mr. Buechner if I'm off the mark).

I think Buechner makes a grand and beautiful point in the notion of the Good News as comedy. Just as King Lear (the play from which he bases his observations) could be perceived as such, so the gospel. The central action is so absurd, so ridiculous one can only look at it with a mouth so slack-jawed that a host of flies could set up shop. Think of all the claims: a virgin mother, a child born in a cave or stable or barn, yet worshiped by such a variety of the cosmos's strata as shepherds, kings and the heavenly host itself. AND feared enough by a king to cause the deaths of every child in the whole region--except the One that king was trying to kill. Teaching teachers, Walking on water, feeding crowds, doing miracles, teaching incomprehensible truths to people who'd left their very lives--their LIVES!!!--to follow this unlearned man from a back-hills town.
Supposedly forsaking that mother but even in His last, barely-able-to-breathe moments caring for her welfare. Telling of His death--over and over. And going to that death without complaint or defense or anything but love--even while bleeding all over the ground.
Doesn't this sound a little ridiculous if you think about it in those terms? Like a dark comedy, I'll grant you, but a comedy just the same, with the protagonist something of a fool and those around him a group of bumblers half the time? If I came across such a movie with so many far-fetched notions, I'd be walking out of the room before the first kerfuffle. I'm like that.

But it's also a tragedy, as Buechner says. Lear is more often seen as a tragedy, of course. And in our story, we have a protagonist who never loses sight of the tragedy of the past and the one He'll face in the not-very-distant future, who always knows where He's going, not only where He's going but why. No matter what else He's doing, He has His face set toward that, His whole being poised for the one great act of His life. And if all the prior actions seem incomprehensible to the naked (or doubting) eye, it's no more than He expected...even depended on. He's run out of town, knows He's a wanted man, and tells His followers they can count on the same if they take up their lot with Him. In fact, that lack of understanding (belief!) would be the vehicle by which His life's mission would be accomplished.  That the authorities didn't believe and felt threatened by this man who claimed to be the One their very religion was basing their ultimate hopes, was EXACTLY what He already knew would happen. And it was the instrument of what we might call the Gospel tragedy.

Oddly, when you think about it, both these things are true. But both are so far off the mark that if we stop there--as the majority of humans have through-out history, you get it wrong. Just plain, dead to rights wrong, and dead for eternity, if you don't mind me saying. Because that's the bottom line of leaving with the notion of either seeing Him as a comic fool or a tragic hero and only that.

 Buechner says that ultimately we must see the gospel as Fairy Tale--but a true one. A great case can be made for this. I would venture to make such a case--a hero riding in on a white stallion to save the heroine (us) from the enemy (our own sin and evil incarnate!)...but
I think a better word would be Romance. The Gospel as Romance. The great story of Creation as Romance--Love Story. Everything about the Good news is about One loving another (or a Whole world of others). His love story, one might say, and should. Not a hero out of nowhere, but one who conceived and planned and was always in love with us. From the beginning.

Yes, the Gospel starts (and ends, I think) with the words from John, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."  For God so loved...This is the story of the Gospel. It's the story of Creation--"For God so loved..." that He created humans. "For God so loved," calling Abram from Ur, and protecting a remnant in the ark, saving Joseph in that pit, and bringing his family to Egypt. "God so loved," when He called Moses, told him His Name, led the people out of bondage, led them across the Jordan (eventually) gave them a king after His own heart. "For God so loved," when He always and repeatedly kept the covenant that humans sinfully broke time after time. Even when He got angry, called us stiff-necked, turned His back,destroyed the people of the earth and started over, kept a whole generation from the Promised land, watched evil over and over and over, "God so loved" that He promised a way out. He promised His Incarnate was coming. "God so Loved," that He had it all in place from the moment that apple was taken and eaten to the moment He watched in silence as nails were driven in His 'Only Begotten Son's' flesh and hear the words, "My God, My God, why have You foresaken me?"

Even in that one great shuddering moment, when the Only Sinless one in all of Creation, past and future, cried out, He loved the world. He loved so much He watched in silence. Knowing what it was all about. Knowing that He'd taken ALL the sin--from the apple to this moment when you are reading this blog to the very end of all days--of humankind onto Himself and that, more than the cross was crucifying Him. And was separating Him from God. Right then, God so loved--even with all that sin on His dying body. Knowing that our Salvation was at stake.
Then, in the cosmos-shattering silence of the next three days, God so loved the world that the Incarnate One went down to the gates of hell for our lives.
 And God allowed it.
 God meant it.
And God so loved...
that winning our salvation meant resurrection.
RESURRECTION.
Life Eternal.
First for the One whom had taken our sins,
And then for us.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosover believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." 
                                                               John 3:16

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Making the ordinary holy--redux

I was re-reading some old posts last night, and when I came across this one, knew I had to re-post it because it made me laugh, then made me think. And both are good things.

March, 2010
After a conversation yesterday, I started thinking about that often-talked-about difference between working to live and living to work.  A few times in the course of my life, I've run across people who have exemplified this difference to such a degree that their example bears following.

Years ago, out on the Olympic Penninsula, we lived out of town on our own little acre (well, ours and the bank's, though if we still lived there, we'd own it outright now).  Because of this, we had a well and septic tank.  And, eventually, the need to clean out that septic tank. Such need led Beve, through his normal channels of research, i.e., talking to everyone he knew who also had a septic tank, to a man named Dale Brown.  Dale Brown who called himself--get this, I kid you not--The Turd Merchant!  Beve set a date for this merchant of turds to come to our house, which, of course, happened to coincide with a time when I'd be home from work, but he might not be yet.  Such is always my life.  So one bright spring afternoon, Dale showed up at our house with his tanker truck, complete with the name emblazoned across the side, like he was proud of it or something.  I showed him the septic cover, then made myself busy in the house with who knows what, probably laundry and vacuuming.  Yep, I'm guessing vacuuming where the noise could keep me from thinking what Dale Brown was pumping up from our septic tank out back.  Only Dale hadn't started pumping when he came to our back door and knocked loudly.
"You gotta see this," he told me gleefully.  A large cover had been dislodged from our yard, a giant hole exposed.  I stood uncertainly in the doorway.
"Come on," he said. So I put on my shoes and followed him out to our septic tank, where I stood as far back from it as I could and still seem to be seeing it.
"See that crust on it?" he asked.  I nodded. "That's just how it's supposed to look.  You've done everything right.  This is like the perfect septic tank.  I'm so excited, I wanted to take a picture."
To him it was like he'd uncovered buried treasure in that septic tank, while to me, it was a hole full of...well, exactly what it was!
 I backed away from the edge, barely glancing at it.  And I'm pretty sure I pulled my arm up over my nose when he actually laid down on the grass, peered down into the tank and pointed.  Then, HALLELUJAH (because I really do have a weak stomach!), about that time, Beve got home, wandered out to take my place as interested spectator, so I could hustle back into the safety of the house. But then, Beve is always interested in those kind of things, and doesn't have as quick a gag reflex as I do.

That afternoon, as he pumped the tank, Beve and Dale talked.  Shared war stories, so to speak--or perhaps I should say tank stories.  Then they got to talking about how good it is to like the job you feel called to do.  Yes, even Dale Brown, the turd Merchant, who told Beve this story.  Once he was taking a load of garbage (not from his job!) to the county dump.  The woman checking cars through looked like she'd been sucking on prunes all day.  Grumpy and ill-mannered, definitely not smiling.  Dale asked her what the matter was, and the woman said, "I work at the dump. Wouldn't you be in a bad mood?"
Dale said, "Listen lady, I pump turds for a living."
And made the woman smile.  Laugh. "You beat me," she said.
"Not only that," Dale said. "I love my job.  It's a service people need, and I get to do it."  He didn't say it, but the implication was--'just like you.'

Dale Brown, the turd merchant, had turned his most base of jobs into the most holy, because he believed he'd been called to do it.  Called to serve the world in just that way.  It isn't WHAT we do that makes our work holy.  It isn't whether we're full-time employees of the church or a ministry that makes us doing our work unto Christ.  It's how we do the work we're given to do.  It's doing even the most earthy of life's jobs with our eyes trained toward Him. Doing what we do for the Kingdom.  Whether a teacher or garbage collector, a writer or an engineer, a clerk or a parent.  Ultimately, what makes the ordinary holy is WHO we serve when we serve.  Dale Brown teaches me this.  Pastors can also, but I think someone like Dale Brown might do it better--because he lives it, as he does something most of us would never, ever do.

How will you do your work, your God-called, God-given work this day (or maybe Monday, if you get this day off)?  How will you do whatever it is you have to do this day?  How will you make the ordinary holy?  We could do worse than follow the example of the turd merchant.

"Do your work heartily, as unto God, rather than people."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

His vessel

A few times in the last week I've had conversations with people who have had the experience of saying something to someone else that God used in a different way than was meant by the comment. Some innocuous comment to the speaker took on weight and heft and even changed direction for the listener.
And this has caused a bit of anxiety for the speaker. "But that isn't what I meant, and now they're basing their whole project on my words. My simple, abstract, "It might be nice, could happen," words.

And I've been in this exact situation this week as well. A friend wrote me a message on facebook that she'd shared with her husband a conversation we had during the summer--our crazy as all get-out summer.  And that conversation helped them talk to their adult son who was on the cusp of making a decision that worried them greatly. And you know, I can't remember a single word I spoke that day. NOT A SINGLE WORD. I remember floating in our pool together, remember talking about a whole cornucopia of subjects, but not the substance of them.

And my daughter, E, wrote an article for a Seattle newspaper in the spring that catapulted an organization to coming to Seattle with a large contingent of people from all over this country to do ministry. They always--only!--come to cities they are asked to come, and E's article, they believed, was their invitation. Because the article was written for the large (and secular) newspaper, E strove to leave her personal beliefs out of what she wrote. Neverthe less, they felt invited from her words. Now, when they come to pray, they always seek her out, want her involved, and, this time, were anxious to introduce her to the rest of the locals who have risen to the call of this ministry. And she's felt uncomfortable about it. Somewhat guilty, in fact, like she's been dishonest somehow, because she knows she hadn't intended to and didn't invite them.

E and I talked about this the other morning. And--amazingly, unless you know how God works--I had just that morning read a short devotional about how the Holy Spirit often confuses us when we go to share with others, and works in ways we never expect, speaks so that they hear what He intends, not what we think is important.

My point is, the work of the Spirit is sometimes in the ears of the Spirit rather than in the words of the speaker. We don't have to know what He's about. In fact, in some ways, it's not really our business, but His. If E got to be a vessel in the Spirit's call of this ministry, so be it. No matter what her motive, no matter how confused she feels now, He is not confused. He knows exactly what He's about--always. When she 'happened' across this ministry last spring in Asheville, North Carolina, He was ahead of her, making sure the one believer on that trip meet and interview and write such an article. He was beneath the top layer of her words, working in ways that touched who He needed to touch, so that His work was accomplished.

And often--perhaps more often than not--we don't even know when we share the one word a person needs for their exact situation. I wonder how many times we simply say goodbye at the end of such an interaction without realizing that the other's load is lighter, or that something is being stirred by the Holy Spirit.  Maybe He hides most of what He does from us so that we aren't too self-conscious or too puffed- up by our own abilities to say exactly the right thing in the right moment. Such work is His. We are always, only His vessels.

This is privilege enough. So the few times we are told what happens with our puny, unknowing (to us) words, we should be filled with awe. Even me? He uses even me for such a thing? WOW.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Built for Joy

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. Feeling blue, one might say.
And it's been really surprising. Not merely to me, but to my giant husband who has lived with my many moods for more than half my life. He knows my face--or all my faces, since I wear my moods on my face more than many people. I'm not so much for hiding. If you don't believe me, just read my blog.
Oh wait, I guess you are reading it.

Anyway, so feeling blue. Or down. Or malaise, or whatever you want to call it.

It's an odd thing because I'm not naturally a 'down' person. Trust me, this is the case. I mean, I can feel sad as a natural consequence to sad events, can cry at those sad puppy and kitty commercials (dang it!), or movies or stories. And when people are hurting around me, I hurt with them. Cry out for them. For example, Beve and I walked into Grampie's room a couple of days ago, and he was sitting in his wheelchair with his shirt unbuttoned, his pants unzipped, and he didn't even notice. He kept asking when he was taking off, and where he was going. And when we called Thyrza, he asked her the same question. Then not only didn't say another word, but wheeled himself away while she was still talking. To see him like this is heart-breaking. For him, for Beve, for the rest of those who love him. I can cry right now thinking of who he was and who he's become...and what he might be reduced to before it's over.

But, even as we deal with him, and other very serious issues, I generally feel content--a contentment I've always attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit within. Yes, I've struggled. Yes, there are times when pain has pressed heavily on me, but...

not like this.
Beve and I have talked about it a whole lot. Because some/most of my sadness has been directed toward him. I've been needy with him. Jealous of his time. Acting like an insecure young wife rather than...well, me.
And it's bewildered him.
Not surprisingly. If he's steady, I'm at least sanguine.
Really. Made for joy.
And we're us. US.
Certain of who we are. Who he is. Who I am.
And certainly who the threefold cord that is not easily broken is.

So all this 'blueness' is out of character. For me and for our marriage.
So why even admit it? Why not pretend that I'm never anything but wholly great and wise and amazing?
Well, because I'm a real person. Not a cardboard cut-out who never struggles or has a perfect heart, or anything else. I'm only me.

But here's the thing.
This morning,
God revealed a few things that aren't new but felt like a hammer to my dull brain.
If it takes being hit on the temple, and it's hit by Him, I'll take it--any time!
Thank Him.

It's the enemy who robs us of joy, who makes us worry and fret and needy and all those things.
And all the stressful situations of the last year made me ripe for the enemy's picking. And believe me, the field of my life was ripe for him.
The enemy waits for such things--he's like a prowling lion, we're told. He waited for his chance. And leapt. Plucked. And the result was my rotting, sad, distrusting, weaknesses turning on my beloved Beve who did nothing but stand there and take it.

ONLY the Holy Spirit can fight him. I can't. "Ephesians 6, Carolyn, Ephesians 6," God whispered this morning. "Stand and stand firm and stand. And He will fight." As the Message puts it in Romans 8, "With God (the Holy Spirit) on our side like this, how can we lose?"
And, that hammer struck my head and I thought, OF COURSE! I've been so silly.
Yes, so ridiculous.

Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And when I remember this, and know it--know it--to the marrow of my bones, the joy returns all the way to the surface. I am restored.

I am built for joy.
That's the truth. Kingdom truth--that I am built for Joy.
So I claim it in His Name.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Burning bush

Oh Lord.

We say this all the time. And hear it said around the world, around the clock, around...
but this word LORD is the name most often used in the Old Testament for the One who set the stars into space, who created man from dust and woman from his rib (if you're reading Genesis 2).

LORD.
As in...well, Exodus 3 and the burning bush LORD. That's where Moses (and the rest of us) finally understand who it is who is in charge of all this, who called Abraham out, who protected Isaac on the mountain and found a wife for Jacob, who protected Joseph from his brothers and then from the wife of Pharaoh. Who it was who brought the whole family down to Egypt and multiplied them 400 fold. In all that time, through floods and famine and murders and babies born of the promise and born because humans couldn't wait for the promise, those sixth day creatures, those summation of His work--humans--didn't know who He was who was in charge of all this, who they were worshipping, when they remembered to worship at all.

So He burned up a bush to get one unexpected man's attention. I say unexpected because Moses is really the last person you'd imagine if you were drawing up a hero for his people. He wasn't raised to be a good Hebrew, after all. First physically hidden, then hidden in the palace itself, then hustled out of town, because when he finally got over being privileged he did it with a bang--by killing someone who was hurting one of his own people, a Hebrew. Yes, he finally acknowledged his heritage and then had to run away and hide. Not only this but this palace-raised Hebrew was so inadequate at speaking he couldn't actually do it. His brother had to be his mouthpiece.

Yep, there were a whole lot of reasons that this burning bush was unlikely. If any of us had been in charge, there's no way we would have chosen such a man to lead His people.

Or to have this most monumental of moments at the burning bush. In every lifetime, there are events so large that we know instantly where and what we were about when they took place. 9-11, for example. Any of us old enough will always remember that. Columbine. The Challenger Explosion. Kennedy's assassination (if you're as old as I am).  But there are moments that are so large that all of history stops and remembers. ALL the universe stops. Bethelem. Calvary. The Resurrection morning.

But first, this moment.

The moment when we learn God's name. His name. His very own, beautiful name.

When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, Moses asked, "Who should I tell the people you are?"--what shall I call you?"--and God said, "I AM THAT I AM." Or YHWH in the Hebrew. Those 4 Hebrew letters are called the tetragrammaton (which simply means '4 letters'), and though Christians have turned that name into the word Yahweh, and use it easily, no Jew would dare pronounce those sounds, speak the Name of Almighty God.  Once when my sister-in-law was in a hospital, her doctor was an orthodox Jew, so I asked Him about the tetragrammaton and though he had been eagerly talking with me about the Hebrew alphabet just seconds before, the moment I mentioned, "The Name of God," he visibly started and backed away.  To him--to Jews throughout history--these four letters must not be spoken for fear of blasphemy.  His Name is that Holy, that Other. Historically, Jews used the word, 'Adonai' in place of the tetragrammaton.
Adonai is translated LORD, which is what we're used to seeing in the Old Testament. However, now Jews simply use the word 'el', which means God. Appropriately, amazingly, Adonai is a plural form of the word Adon, which may mean nothing to you, but thrills me to think that even in linguistics God reminds us that He is Triune.

So, YHWH. His name. "I AM THAT I AM."
This ontological statement of being is God's very name. I will be what I will be.
This is what we stake our lives on. He is what He is.
When we say, "Oh Lord," we are acknowledging that He is that He is.
When we pray, "Dear Lord," we are praying to the unchanging nature of the One who is. Who IS.

That we know His name, that we know His character--this should stop us in our tracks and keep us from using "LORD" like a let-out breath in our prayers. You know what I mean, don't you? "I thank you, Lord, and Lord, I just want to ask, Lord, that you, Lord..." It's HIS name.

He tells us a whole encyclopedia's worth about Himself in the Word, and even fills up that Name with another, human Name generations ahead in Bethlehem. But, as I say, that's in the future from this burning bush moment with Moses.

So take off your shoes, stand here with him, be awed by YHWH--I AM THAT I AM.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Light

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.

It shouldn't surprise us that the very first action of Creator God was the creation of Light itself. Our Creator has always been about the creation of light.  Though there are creatures of the night on this earth, humankind is not one of them. Those who physically work through the night often struggle in the inversion of their lives. Missing light is not to be taken lightly, so to speak. When our son tried it for a while, he was plunged into a corresponding depression that prompted the use of an artificial sun lamp to mimic what he'd previously taken for granted. And though some people become used to such a schedule, the world doesn't easily accomodate their lives. We have next door neighbors, for example, who are bakers. They begin their workday at 2 AM, meaning they get up at 1. Because their bedroom is very near our deck, we have to be careful of noise beginning about 5 PM on beautiful summer evenings, which we always have to remember early in the summer. And, if I'm honest, can be a bit constricting. But honestly, I've always wondered how they do it, how they live their lives backwards in this way, missing summer sunsets from their large western-facing front windows.

However, living in physical darkness is not the darkness our Creator (who wears so many other hats as well) is most concerned about. It is spiritual darkness. Kingdom darkness. Eternal darkness. Anyway you want to say it, since the very beginning, this has been His chief concern. Well, maybe not from those first days, but certainly from the fruit-and-eating moment in the Garden.

"Let there be Light," our Creator says. And then He goes about spending history bringing Light into the world. Even though humans had been so faithless everyone but a single family and all the morally neutral animals had been saved, He gave a rainbow to Noah to declare there would be Light, and His continuing faithfulness. He called Abram out of Ur and gave Him such a bright-light of a covenant that generation after generation of hard-hearted people were reminded of it. He confirmed it to Moses, to Joshua, to David, who said, "You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light."

 And on this Creator-lit Light went, until there was a prophesy about  a specific kind of Servant who would bring a new light into the world, in Isaiah 49: 6, "I will also make you a light for a Gentiles, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth." (If this sounds familiar, read Matthew 28, and you'll see the Light of the world proclaim these very words.)

So history comes to a single moment. A neon light of a moment when all of the cosmos had to put on sunglasses and wear sun-block...because, as John says in His prologue, "The true Light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world."  From the dawn of time, we've come to Creator God's crowning moment of "Let there be Light." And there was Light, and His name was Jesus. "The Light shine in the darkness and the darkness has not over come [Him].

Whatever was dark in our lives--and, the point is that everything without Him is darkness--He overcomes with Light. And when there are corners of darkness even now, even in our walk with Him, He is the Light that first illuminates and then overpowers such corners. Darkness cannot resist light because God saw--from the beginning and always knows--that Light is good. Even when we want to hide in the darkness, when we are afraid of our hidden things brought into the Light, Light is good. It might not feel so from a human point of view. We might resist. But light is Good. Because Jesus, the Light, is always Good.

What is in the darkness of your life? Or in the lives of those around you?  God is in the business of separating the Light from the darkness. And He will do it.
In the Name of the One who IS the Light.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loving and praying

It's the first week of October, which means it's time for another Random Journal Link-up

Unfortunately I'm late to the game because we've been in technology-free zone around here. We had our carpets cleaned yesterday, so cleared out furniture Friday (including router, modem, do-hickeys, and thing-a-ma-jiggies), and put said stuff back today. We only have carpet in one room (plus the area rug in the living room) but that's exactly the room where all that jazz lives. Thus, here I am on Sunday night with two posts in my mind...

But first this one, culled from a journal in 2005. The great disadvantage of all these identically colored journals is that I can't tell if I've already picked this edition before. But it likely doesn't matter.
Anyway:
Monday, February 1, 2005

Dinner tonight at the home of one of Beve's students. The most disturbed student he's ever had, Beve said afterwards. It was strange and sad and heart-wrenching.  There was his mother, a sweet, dear Ukrainian woman, and there was V, a profane, disrespectful, hard boy. She'd cooked for days to show her thanks to all the adults who have worked so hard and cared so much for her troubled son. He walked into the apartment and started swearing, passed a photograph of his younger self, flipped it upside down, then closed himself in his room--where he hasn't been in a month.

So we sat at her table and ate a lavish, amazing feast. Far too much food, but very, very tasty and his mother kept bringing more, serving more, never once sitting with us because her service itself was also a thank-you. By the time she placed dessert on the table, V finally joined us and for a few moments, there was a window of the real boy inside him as he talked about the birds at the home where he's now living. Smiling, almost laughing as he talked of how these dozens of birds live IN the house and fly all over the place.  But then he had to leave--before he wanted to--and the window slammed shut behind iron bars of angry profanity again. It was scary. He didn't care who was in the room, who he had to beat his head against. When he finally gave in and left, I was actually surprised--I'd never imagined that acquiescence was possible.

No wonder his mother's constantly on the verge of tears. What kind of fear is that of a mother?

Beve says this boy's career goal is to be a sniper. And that students cheered when he was removed from a class, and that he painted his face and yelled obscenities in a courtroom.
I wonder what will happen to him. Will we hear his name on the 6 o'clock news?

But tonight, just as Beve was about to drift off to sleep, he said that something about this boy reminds him of [my brother] A.  I shudder now, while Beve's already into the deep REM cycle. I have often wondered if I'll read about him in the paper--still--or hear his name in the news.
And I've never known how to pray for my brother. So most of the time--ninety-nine% of the time, I don't even try. I shouldn't admit this. But it's true. It's just too hard. No, that's not quite it. It's that I don't actually believe that anything will change. If I'm honest, I actually think A's beyond change. Beyond hope. That's where I have to start.

Forgive me.
Why do I think I'm worth more than A? No, it isn't that I think I'm worth more, or even that A isn't worth enough to save. I absolutely believe he's worth enough. And that he's loved, fully and completely, by God, the TRIUNE! What is lacking is not God's love for A, but my love for him.

Generally speaking, this could be the lack in most, even all, of my prayers for others. My lack of belief is predicated on my lack of love for the person I'm praying for, more than a lack of faith in God. Of course I have real faith issues--who doesn't?--But those are different than this. To be clear, let me put it this way: I list the names of those people I feel least certain God will change, it would correspond pretty closely with a list of those I have most trouble loving.

Resurrection power, the power, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is mine--available via the Holy Spirit to love through me, create love in me, believe and be faithful to pray. That power to love. I ask for that tonight, Lord. As I sleep, be awake and working through the watches to love more than I can, to put to death the Carolyn who cannot love and does not pray.
LOVE in me.
LIVE in me.
Amen.

A note--the brother I write about in this post died three years after it was written, un-reconciled to our family. However, by the time I preached his memorial service, there was no question that God loved him through me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In the beginning

"In the beginning, God..."
"In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

Let's say we don't start with a little story about my life or anyone's life who ever lived but with the One who was in the Beginning.
Let's say we start our own story with His story, which doesn't have a beginning because He was there from the beginning.
Before there was Light, water, earth or fire.
Before there was thought or imagination
Or sin or division

Before there was any love other than His

There was God.

Wrap your minds around that if you can. Let your stories start there. Let your wants and dreams and hopes and longings be tied to the gravitas of this first statement of the Word, which St. John re-iterates to describe the Incarnate: "In the beginning, God." That's all.

God.

We live like we're back in the middle ages. You know what I mean? People thought that the earth was the fixed point in the center of the universe, that the earth was flat, and the sun went from horizon to horizon then somehow put itself to bed until they needed it again. For their needs, wishes and desires.

We do this with God. Like He revolves around us. Like He is there for our benefit, to fix what we need fixing, and far be it that He might ever NOT do what we want. Far be it that we AREN'T the dead-center of the spiritual universe.

In the Beginning, God.

He was there. He is there from the beginning.
He is what our story is all about. Our lives revolve around Him.

Let's start with that.
And maybe it settles us into the life He's given us so that, rather than wanting, straining and never being satisfied,  we think and say and live,
"Yes," and "not my will, but yours," and "So be it," and "thank-you."

Yes, in OUR beginning,
God.