Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wherever you go

It's been a long time since I've written about one of my daughters. They've been living their lives, going about their business. You know, single twenty-something women who enjoy life, each other, their friends and all that such a time as this offers to them. They both love the Lord, seek Him in their decisions, want to please Him, and honor us in ways that are appropriate. Sometimes it's harder for us to remember that they're as old as they are and that such ways ARE appropriate. We tend to give them advice far more often that we should. It's a learning process, this letting our kids grow up.

But I've been thinking about our older daughter, E, this morning. Thinking about the path she's been on in the last decade.  When E began looking at colleges and universities to attend after high school, her interest was aimed at those with good Physical Therapy programs. Since middle school biology she'd been interested in human anatomy and that interest grew as she played sports in high school and, simultaneously, worked in the training room. After doing a course called "Health Care Services," she did an 'externship' with a company that makes prosthetic limbs and was fascinated by it all.

But, rather than going to one of the many universities with such programs, she was given the opportunity to play two more years of basketball at the local community college. This trumped everything, though I have to admit I wasn't supportive of that decision. I come from a very academic family, and she'd been accepted to a wide range of very good schools, so to go to a community college didn't sit well with me.  However, looking back, it's easy to see God's hand at work. She got two years of free education, became very involved in student leadership, got to play the sport she loved competitively for two more years, and, the course of her life began to change.

By the time she left, she was no longer interested in physical therapy. She loved the kind of event and leadership planning she'd done, so decided to pursue Sport Management. At the university she attended, she worked in the Sports Information Office, writing press-releases for specific sports, and helping at football games. She loved it. Two and a half years later, she was at an Internship at the Olympic Training Facility, working with USA wrestling, through the 2008 Olympics. She loved that too, and would probably still be there had there been a job for her afterwards.

The economy crashed, Sport Media jobs were hard to come by, so she got a job. Not a career, just a job. And talked to people in sport management who told her a Masters Degree would help her get where she wanted. So two years ago, she went back to school. In December, she finished a Masters Degree In Communication in Digital Media.

During her last term she got an internship at the local NBC affiliate in Seattle. Then in January, they asked her  to come back as a temporary employee because some people had left in the digital media department. A few weeks ago, after a lengthy process, she was offered a full-time position as Producer of Digital Media.

That's a long story, huh?  And a winding road. She's become a news junkie, in a position she couldn't have imagined when she was 17 years old, about to graduate from high-school. She wouldn't have wanted to imagine it. She wasn't very interested in current events then. I don't even remember her paying attention to the news.

But God led her down the path slowly. He guided her steps at exactly the right pace. The other day Beve and I sat in King-5's news room for a little while watching her work. It's a wild and crazy dimly lit place, cluttered with computers, noise and activity. People talking across the room to each other, people eating at their desks, peering over each other's shoulders. No cubicles here, it's more like one giant organism where all the cells might have different functions but all work together so that the whole lives.

A lot of people I know knew what their lives would look like by the time they took their first steps. They were born into such lives and wouldn't have it any other way. Others made their career choices early and never wavered. My mother was like this. She knew at seven that she'd become a teacher. Still others kind of fall into a profession by default--they follow the family path, so to speak. My family, for instance, is rife with engineers. And two of my siblings became engineers because of this, without really being 'called' to engineering.

But there are those who are moved from one thing to the next to the next until they land where they have always meant to be. E is like this. My sister-in-law who is now a very good elementary school teacher is another. Their whole journey has had purpose, of course. Nothing in the Kingdom is wasted. And sometimes God uses a person in one position for a season, then moves them.

My point is that whatever our circuitous journey, we can be sure that if we follow Him, He will lead us in the way that we are to go.

"...Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1: 9

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it."  Isaiah 30: 21


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Taking heart

My hands go still over the keys. Waiting.
This is the place where I parse my life, search through the daily events to discover what lies beneath. Most of the time I live on just the tip of the iceberg. I see so little of how God works. So I write to learn.

Most of the time I am concerned with the matters of my own little life, with the pain of those closest to me, with the joys and trials and worries and wonders of those with whom I am in relationship.

And I have to confess that lately I've caught up in 'very me,' as a poet (whose name I can't quite remember at the moment) put it. It's not news that I live in a rather weak body, with pain in many parts. As I write those words, however, I quickly want to bear witness to God's faithfulness in my life, to the grace He's given to me in giving me EXACTLY this life and this body. Exactly as it is, flaws and weaknesses alike. CS Lewis says, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." I've come to believe that pain--and being thankful IN it--is the one thing He's given to me to share with the Body. To the world.  Mind you, I don't say 'thankful FOR it' but IN it, because HE walks in my pain with me, as He walked in the fiery furnace with Shadrach and his buddies or was in the lion's den with Daniel.  He is always in the pain with us.

Yes, there is an however. Sometimes I get wrapped up in me. I forget. I stop thanking Him with my whole heart. Forget that He is really, really in it; instead, I plead, and push and pretty much act like a ninny, crying in a heap.  I've been like that lately. Yes, my physical pain has been pretty bad. Significant enough that I've found relief only when flat on my back in bed. I can't drive distances now, because I'm a liability--to myself or to others. So it's a reduced life.

Thursday, Beve and I went to Seattle to see a neurosurgeon. Though that might still be in my future, he at least gave me hope that there are other treatments that will help before considering such a serious (and not necessarily successful) option. These treatments me more trips south, more relying on Beve to get me there, but potentially giving me back some of my life.

So I take heart.

And last week, while I was caught up in my own small life, the world was exploding. And I was reminded that I am the least of these. And what I suffer is little.

Finally it hits me like a lightning bolt that my physical suffering does not keep me from being able to pray, to mediate on His word, to be in relationship with Him. In fact, some of the most powerful intercession He ever does through me happens when I am unable to 'do', but must simply be, because my body won't allow for anything else. It's the most glorious thing, the most amazing, wonderful thing. Deep and wide and high and love--and I wouldn't change it.

So when you read this, and are tempted to pray for my physical health, stop a moment and ask God--as I am doing--how He can most use me for His Kingdom. Whether healthy or hurt, His will be done. Amen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It is well

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, 
Thou has taught me to say,
"It is well, it is  well
with my soul."

It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well 
with my soul.

Though Satan should buttet, 
tho' trials should come
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded
my helpless estate,
And hath shed 
His own blood 
for my soul.

My sin--O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin--not in part, but the whole, 
Is nailed to the cross 
and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord,
Praise the Lord,
O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day 
when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound
and the Lord shall descend,
"Even so"--it is well
with my soul.

It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well
with my soul.

Try reading the words rather than singing them.
Can you do it and really mean them?

That's what He's given me today--the courage to say them, the peace to mean them.
No matter what, it is well with my soul.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lessons from the flowers

One of Beve's 'must-see' TV programs is "Sunday morning" with (now) Charles Osgood. He tapes it so we can watch it at our leisure, and we always get something thought-provoking from it. Yesterday, along with the myriad stories about Boston, was a story about plants. At the time, I thought it was a throw-away segment squeezed in between stories far more interesting. But this morning, as I sat out on our deck in the glorious spring sun on deck furniture pulled from the shed yesterday, it began to haunt me. Profoundly.

It was about plants. Flowers. So I just re-watched it, and took enough notes that you'd think I was a college student studying for a biology test. "How do they know when to bloom?" is the question plant biologists have long studied. And this is what they've learned.  Because plants are rooted, they actually have a more complex biology than mammals. They don't have the luxury of movement in order to grow and have sensory experiences. For plants, those experiences are what make them so complexly amazing and beautiful--they feel when they've been stepped on or cut, smell a sick plant beside them (and are infected by that sickness) and see (but do not hear, no matter what folk-lore you've heard about talking to your plants). In fact, their visual receptors are far more complex than humans. If they could think, they'd think us 'color-challenged.' We have about 4 or 5 color receptors. They have 13.

But to answer the basic question of how they know when to bloom, flowers see light. They instinctively know when days grow longer and nights grow shorter.  And they move toward the light.

The analogy, of course, is a simple one. We who are in Christ are meant to be rooted. Though we are physically able to walk and talk and think and feel emotion, it's our rootedness in Him that is the most important thing about us. Seondly, it's in this rootedness, it's our receptivity to Him that allows us to see more than the world, which only sees the visible. We see the invisible where Christ is (see Colossians 3: 1-4) and in seeing Him, focusing on Him, all the colors of His creation are brighter, bolder and more visible as well, because we see as He does--with greater range and complexity. Thirdly, as His followers, we bloom, flower, surge into His likeness because we see the Light. We know the difference between darkness and  Light.  We know that the True Light has come into the World and the world--and darkness--cannot overcome it.

How's that for a lesson from the flowers?

Now, to press it home, here are a few pictures from our garden.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Be not afraid

Have you ever been in a room where the addition of a single person changes the atmosphere?  Just their presence, the force of their high octane personality, creates a swing in the mood of the whole.  I've been in a group of people talking quietly, maybe a bit seriously, and into this environment comes a person who revs the group into a whole different place--teasing, laughing, private jokes with close friends, loosening up even strangers (most of the time, anyway).  And though, most of the time, I think I veer toward being a pretty earnest, serious communicator, there are certain groups (my extended family, for instance) in which I have functioned as the octane that sparks the group. So, oddly, I know what it's like to both be changed and to change a group by the force of personality.

A group of scared men had retreated behind closed doors.  Not just closed doors, actually, but locked ones.  Deadbolted, I imagine.  And why?  Because they were afraid.  Afraid of what was out there...er, who was out there.   Odd to think of these burly, muscled men afraid but it's the truth.  They were dead afraid.  Locked down afraid.  And when I imagine them talking, I think of several things: where it had all gone wrong; what on earth they were going to do next; and what about this crazy story those women--Mary especially--had told them about meeting Him in the garden?  A couple of them had seen a rolled away stone, empty tomb, discarded grave clothes, but--and this is a pretty big but--they were still hanging around in a locked room, questioning what it all meant.

Then in an instant, an sudden, unexpected instant, everything changed.  The very air in the room changed.  Because into that locked room came a new person.  "Don't be afraid," he said to those men who were shaking in their sandals. "I'm not a ghost. Touch me and see.  Touch my hands and feet." Stop being afraid. He says by His presence. His very presence first alarms (of course, I mean, someone appearing in a locked room?  Wouldn't you be scared?).But immediately that same presence changes their fear into joy and amazement.  His very presence!  What they hadn't been sure of they now know to be true.

It is important to note that what they were afraid of hadn't changed.  Only a single thing had changed: the presence of Jesus in their midst.  That's it.  His presence took away their fear.  His hands which had only three days prior had had nails pounded into them and his feet which clearly hadn't even scarred yet confirmed to those men that they had every reason to fear the pharisees who'd been after Jesus' hide.  Yet those same nail holes calmed their fears.  His voice calmed them.  But mostly, significantly, His presence, His very presence calmed their fears.

And once those fears were calmed, Jesus 'opened their ears so that they could understand the scripture,' according to Luke, then He explained everything that had happened to Him. He 'breathed on them,' according to John, and said," Receive the Holy Spirit.."  And there you have it.  Right there (or in the first chapter of Acts, in the longer, more well-known version of this event) is the reason the disciples went from fearful to fearless forever (how's that for allileration?). The presence of God.  It's always--always--about His presence.

So here's the deal--for you and for me.  Definitely for me.  I need to remember this. THIS WEEK we need to remember this, to know it down to our toenails.  To remember it in the watches of the night:  Where there is fear, He is NOT.  Where He is, there is no fear.  So when I am afraid, I am not living as if I am filled by the Holy presence of the Living God.  The Holy Spirit that was given to comfort, empower, to embolden me.  It sounds easy, doesn't it?  But I've struggled with fear.  I've awakened in the post-midnight hours with my heart pounding in worry about a child, a sibling, a friend. And many times those fears came straight out of dreams with not bearing on reality.

 Fear isn't always rational. But sometimes our fears spring straight out of our nightmares and threaten our walking around, daily lives. And that's fear with teeth. This week a city was dead-bolted in terror and the whole world watched in vicarious fear. And, as understandable as it all is, it's also surely enemy territory. Yes, such fear is exactly how the enemy likes it. After all, he is the author and perpetrator of such acts, no matter who set down the bag, pulled the trigger, or what the motive. It's always enemy territory when such evil is afoot. And when such evil is afoot, we have reason to fear. To hide ourselves away.

But in comes that Person.  That one presence that changes everything. Into homes that are locked, into a whole city closed down, He comes. Calming fears, opening eyes, making a way when there seemed to be no way.  And we need Him.  need Him to say, "Don't be afraid!"  Stop being afraid.  If I can speak His name in those dark watches of the night when I'm awakened in fear, He will be there.  Because He already is.  That's the clencher.  He already is.  He already in IN me. We need Him to remind us that He's the victor, no matter how many skirmishes go badly. HE has already won.

That's the point. Jesus tells us, "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  John 16: 33

Thursday, April 18, 2013

There is no try...

The other day, son J and I had a conversation about 'try', as in, "I try to be a good person.' This is his guiding principle right now, one I've heard from many, many people. He said we aren't so different in that, that I try as well, just with a belief in God. I disagreed completely, though he couldn't really hear me. So I write this here, working out my thoughts in the way I think best.

It's true. I don't believe in TRY. I don't believe I can possibly make enough effort to become 'good' or holy (which is the word I would rather use). In fact, it's a fundamental core deep reality that effort got us nowhere, was so impossible that God had to come to earth to do the work for us. Our 'try' landed (and continues to land) us in hot water, ie, sin so deadly that we are doomed.

The events of this week shout of this fact. We believe in peace while, even at the most peaceful of events bombs go off. We believe in personal rights, without knowing the difference between right and wrong. For instance, the other night when Beve and I were out at dinner, I heard a father tell his son that he should learn the difference between right and wrong because, "God is watching every move you make." Then went on to talk about how he (the dad) loved both the boy's mom and a new girlfriend. We believe in truth, but that's often prefaced with 'your own truth', and never in relation to THE Truth, the absolute truth. What I'm saying here is that humans have made everything relative to themselves, and nothing relative to God.

And this is because we don't know Him. 'There is no peace," scripture tells us. "All have sinned," we're told. If we could be good enough ourselves, could control our lives, we'd do it. We can't.

So how then should I live? Only with His aid. Only asking Him to do more, to increase and me to decrease--in my own life! Starting each day with the prayer that He will live it through me, surrendering my body, mind, soul and strength to Him so that He, who is holy, creates what is holy in this temple in which He lives--the life I'm merely renting from Him. And thanking Him that He loves me enough to do it. And that He loves me when I fail, when I take over again, that He loves me enough to forgive me when I fail. Yes, that He just plain loves me enough.

This is truth: that He will come and dwell with us, and we get the amazing gift of beholding His glory right within our tiny lives. And--the Father can glorify HIM within those lives.

There is no try in this, there is only surrender to Him.

And great joy that it's enough.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The quarry: Earth!

It's been a hard week, pain-wise. I'm reminded, again, that my body is weak, and that I am not in control. These are good lessons for me. For all of us, don't you think? We like to be in control, we humans. But when the smallest things--things most of you probably won't consider until you're in your 80s--are outside your control, it's a revelation. Like the idea that a leg will hold when you rise from a chair. Or that your neck will support your head. Or any one of a thousand things that your body, made of bone and muscle and nerve and tendon, was built to do. Built by God to do, I should say.

But because we live on this earth, this fallen, broken planet, some of us get broken bodies. It's not because I did anything worse than anyone else. Nor because I did anything better, I might add. It's just because I live here. And God allows such things. And uses such things. In my case, He has used and used and used the brokenness to make me whole. So who am I to question that? In fact, I've been awed by who He's making of me in this brokenness.

But sometimes--I tell the truth--it's a real drag. A REAL DRAG. As in dragging through the day, barely able to function, wishing for my bed every minute where pillows can...well, pillow the screaming parts of this weak shell in which a not-weak soul lives. With Paul, "I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, in plenty and in want..." but sometimes that want means lying in my bed, asking God for His strength to live through my weak body. Sometimes, as I'm lying there, I imagine the great, glorious day when I'll be a doorkeeper in His throne-room, face to face with Him. And all the pain will be gone. And another Philippians verse comes to mind, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Yes, I believe this. Totally.

So I came to this beautiful quote in my devotional (Celtic Daily Prayer) the other day, and it's  stayed with me. Haunted me, I suppose you could say, the way Christ haunts us when He intends us to hear Him.

"See the Quarry: Earth!
     Christian, there is but one place you will
ever learn to follow Him, to worship Him,
to obey Him, to love Him.
     Only one place, one time...to love Him.
 Only one opportunity to be changed into
        His Image.
The place is there...the time...
your 70 years."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How much He loves us

"For the many that come to Bethlehem, there be few that go on to Calvary." Evelyn Underhill

It's easy to get wrapped up in the joy of that baby in the manger. To be overwhelmed by the voices of the heavenly host singing Hallelujah, to witness a star so bright that men came all the way across the known world to discover the one over whom it shone. How sweet is the picture of the God whose son lies in a manger, whose very human mother feeds him at her breast. He's the one who also calls children to come to Him. He's the one who calls people away from whatever nets they spend their lives hauling, so that they might become fishers of people. People are drawn by the voice of this One who calls. When he was a baby. Or a twelve-year-old boy, or a man in the river on whom a dove rests. A man who opens His mouth and draws people in.

That's just plain truth. People were drawn to this Jesus of Nazareth. They must have been. When I was a teenager, a poster hung in my bedroom called, "One Solitary Life.":  Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...
While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life."

When that poster was hanging until it was tattered in my bedroom, it was the property of my sister, LD. We were both followers of Jesus, very involved in Bible studies in those days. LD's dream was to be a missionary someday (I...not so much). Down the road a few years, we both had our years on the mission field--for good and not so good. And during high school I was in a large circle of friends who also followed Jesus. Everything we did was about Him, one way or another. We used to laugh about the idea that if we were sitting at a burger place having fries, he was sitting across the table from us. Or if a bunch of us went bowling, we were really "having church." Whatever we did, we were His. 

And I couldn't imagine that any of those people would ever be anything but completely faithful, sold-out, lock, sock and barrel for Jesus Christ. I just couldn't imagine it. 

But it happened. It happens. Life happens. Things go wrong. "When God calls a man," Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, "He bids him come and die." This is a very, very hard thing to get. This dying to oneself, or, taking up one's cross and following Christ. It isn't easy. We don't just sit in that stable and listen to a heavenly choir sing pretty ditties over a baby God. We have to follow that God to Golgotha (a much harsher word than Calvary, don't you think?). We have to get--really get--who He is. And why He came...that is, who we are. It's all very well to say, "Jesus loves me," but if we don't understand it in light of what HE's given for us, it's a watered-down, sickly sweet tune with no teeth in it. 

But it's the very truth of His death, and that death didn't hold Him, that has siphoned off some I expected to always walk with Him. Romans 1: 18 says "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."

When I think about all those I used to walk with, I wonder how deeply they ever got the message of the cross, how much it penetrated to them what God's love really is. How much it costs. And how much it costs us.  What are we willing to give up to the one who gave up all for us? Are we willing to go all the way to Calvary?  Because I have the feeling (the Faith?) that that's what we're in this for. To walk with Him as far as He asks us. No matter what that is, no matter where that is. Trusting that whatever He does is made of the same love that brought Incarnation, Calvary and Resurrection. Love that changed the world is how much He loves us. Not always gentle but always through and through.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Quilting projects

It's been a while since I've posted pictures of my obsession most recent quilts. But since I just got a GIANT monkey off my back last night in the form of one I've had sitting around for over a year, it's a good time.

1. This quilt now belongs to a baby in my family, born in February who is growing bigger by the day and I still having seen him (though I'm hoping to on the 22nd, when I have to be down in Seattle...will that work for you guys, L and E?).
2. I posted this already but couldn't resist. My sister's friend loves it, took it right home, put in on her bed, thus rendering unnecessary the beautiful bag RE made for it.
3. Beve asked me to make a second set of couch covers, and this is what I came up with. The green matches the color of our living room walls. They were more work than I'd do again for something so utilitarian. But that's how I roll.
4. A simple cover I made for the large ottoman in our TV room. Kincade likes to jump or sprawl on the ottoman while we watch movies (and just barely fits!), and was gouging up the leather, so this is a pretty good solution.
 5. This was made for a good friend and colleague of Beve's who has been battling cancer. Not a fancy pattern but the colors are rich and completely complement his home. By the way, I chose the photo because you can see my workhorse quilting machine in the background. I also have Bernina that purrs like a kitten.                   
6. But this has been the quilt that's been giving me fits. It's the 7th t-shirt quilt I've made. In fact, the quilt I started on when I took up this hobby was a T-shirt quilt for E. And I hadn't the faintest idea of how one actually made a t-shirt quilt. If I had--cut all the pieces exactly the same sizes, for instance, like any sane person, it would be a whole lot easier. But it's hard, hard work. A puzzle without a key. Then I increased the degree of difficulty by adding three or four different fabrics to the mix, and couldn't (for the life of me) allow dark blue to touch dark blue, etc. Oh the pain of it all. Then to square it up. Yikes.
So I have had these t-shirts for a year. Yes, an entire year without finishing this quilt for a colleague of Beve's.  
I'm not sure I'll EVER do another T-shirt quilt.
But I sure love the way it turned out...

I have about 5 other quilt tops that need to be finished, but I can't show them off yet. They're gifts and I don't want to take the chance that the recipients might see them here.

Now, back to my machine.
It really is an obsession.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Found words

Found words. Annie Dillard has written an entire book featuring words written by others, words that have transformed her in small and large ways. So now and then it makes sense to share some of my own 'found words.' These are words written by Frederick Beuchner, a man whose name you've read before, if you've read this blog for any length of time. He resonates with me. These words are reason enough for that resonance.

If the world is sane, then Jesus is made as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully--the life you save may be your own--and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.

As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 1--

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and the wisdom of God is stronger than human strength...God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of HIM that your are in Jesus Christ who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let those who boast boast in the Lord."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why I believe

"Why do you believe?" A question posed just now on the page of a book I read through every year or so. A question posed on street corners, in coffee shops, living rooms, churches. Shouted by disbelieving offspring or parents or friends. Whispered in the night by one's own doubts.

"Why do you believe?" Hmmm.
I write this blog from (as Flannery O'Connor would put it) 'a standpoint of Christian orthodoxy.' That is, a foundation of certain faith, of belief granite strong. Based on the rock.
But there have been times, for me--and I assume, for most of us, to one extent or another--when, as I once said, I lived on an 'island of faith in a sea of doubt.  Even then, there was that small rock island of faith. I've lived on such islands more than once. Or in deserts where faith seemed to blow away with the sand. But there's always, always been a core of presence within me. Since I was 14 years old. Because that's exactly when the Spirit came and made His dwelling within me, just as Jesus promised He would.

However, there was a season in my twenties when I consciously tried NOT to believe. I was hurt. Deeply hurt. I'd been certain I had heard God about my future and I was wrong. Wrong in a broken-to-my-core way. A long ways beyond broken hearted.  So I decided to take a turn at going it alone. Without Him. I was like a little kid who scrunches her eyes closed in a brightly-lit room and pretends everything is black and everyone has disappeared, then tries to pretend she's blind.

It didn't work. That LIGHT kept squeezing in through the cracks. I couldn't keep from opening my eyes. No matter how hard I tried to keep them closed, my instinct was to look at the Light.

When I read this familiar question tonight, that year was what I thought of. I believe because I can't NOT, to use a double negative. I have to. I look around this world and am overwhelmed by His presence in it. I was caught in His grip and He's never let me go, even when I closed my eyes and tried to spin away. Because He knew me. He knows me. He knew that it wasn't what I thought He'd said that counts but what He did.

Of course I mishear Him at times. Of course He says no to me. Sometimes I hear what I want to hear. Sometimes I pray for things so silly, foolish, selfish or just plain wrong that He has no choice but to say no for my greater good--so that His will is done on earth (and in my life) exactly as it is in heaven.

When it comes down to it, I believe for these reasons...and so many more:
"Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you..."
   "The amazing proof of God's love is this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.'
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...In Him was life and that life was the light of all people...The Word became flesh made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son who came from the Father, full of truth and grace."
"I AM that I AM..."
"In the beginning God..."

Why do you believe?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Loving God best

I woke up this morning with a CS Lewis quote running through my head. A friend of ours wakes up each day with a song, and can reproduce it all day long. And I'm used to working out difficulties in my writing while I sleep. Even difficulties in my relationships. Well, that is, the Holy Spirit who neither slumber nor sleeps but watches through the night, works them out while I'm sleeping. 

So now and then I awaken with a quote that just won't let me go. It wraps itself around me for all its worth, until I know I need to stop and really pay attention. Today, it's a CS Lewis quote, though I actually didn't know it was until I combed the internet for it. Then I hit the side of my head because of course--OF COURSE--it is.

"When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving toward the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

Think on this a moment. 
Are first things first with you?
Do you love God better than your earthly dearest? 
Do I?

I have nothing to add to his profound words.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Leashed power, a refresher

A couple of years ago, I did a series on the Beatitudes, and this is one of those posts. I started thinking about it today because I've been struggling with this same old issue lately. Of course. There's nothing new under the sun when it comes to the sins we have to overcome. May it strike a chord in you as well.

"Blessed are the meek..."
If there's one thing people have rarely said about me, it's "You sure are meek, Carolyn."  And by rarely, I mean NEVER.  In fact, when my sisters and I were together a few weeks ago, we got to talking about how one of the 'besetting' sins of our immediate (and come to think of it, extended) family is that we're a proud bunch.  A 'we think we're so superior we stink up the joint' bunch.  I hate having to admit it even as I write it I can't quite imagine NOT feeling it because deep down I really believe it. Unfortunately.  We're our father's children and he was so blasted sure of himself and his place in the world and that was on top of the heap, and he expected us to be right up there with him.

At exactly the same time I admit this, I realize it's like admitting I have a giant wart right on the tip of my nose that the whole world can see, and I'm actually proud of it.  Proud of something that is a wart?  Yes, as I say, it's my besetting sin.  The thing that haunts me every day.  Because, after all, Pride means that I think I'm capable of handling my life on my own, and I AM NOT. I am patently NOT.  All sin, it's been said, is a form of pride and the older I get the more I realize the truth of this.

I tell you all this because for me to talk about the third Beatitude seems presumptuous.  Impossible.  I mean, on my own, I've never even wanted to be what Jesus speaks of here.  And I am a small picture of the world in my attitude about it. "Blessed are the meek..." Meekness is NOT a characteristic that the world values.  When you go to a job interview and are asked about your strengths, would you dare say,"I am meek."?  Assertive, self-starting, a leader, a team-player: these are the traits most people consider strengths.

But Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek..."  And in saying this, He gives us a new understanding of meekness because the best example of meekness isn't of the milquetoast Jesus with a lamb on His shoulder from my childhood Bible-story book but of Him at His trial the night before Calvary.  Matthew's account is found in chapters 26-27 (if you'd like to re-read it).  The movie The Passion of the Christ is a careful representation of Jesus' strong, unwavering meekness.  Jesus contained Himself that night.  He held back the power that He could have unleashed on those who were about to crucify Him.  He CHOSE to keep quiet, CHOSE not to assert Himself.  It was humility at its finest hour, that long, sleepless night was.  "He did not count equality with God something to be grasped...but humbled Himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross." (Philippians 2: 5...well, you should really read the entire passage to verse 11!)  Yes, meekness as leashed power for the sake of others.

This is the meekness Jesus calls Blessed.  The meekness in which He'll aid and assist us.  Sometimes that meekness shows itself in giving way to another in the most ordinary of ways--like NOT honking one's horn when someone cuts you off on the road.  Other times, it's more significant.  It's about turning one's cheek when abused and berated and abused and berated--for no reason other than that you are convenient and NOT who the person wishes you were. God's been teaching me about meekness lately in such sharp relief, that the post I would have written two months ago is nothing to what He now has helped me understand.

The promise of this Beatitude is: "...for they will inherit the earth."  Psalm 24:1 tells us that "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it." This Psalm makes it clear that the promise of inheriting the earth is a comprehensive on.  Those who humble themselves, as Christ did, who live with the power of God leashed within them, are inheriting (a purposefully present ongoing tense of that word) ALL that God has creating.  Because we already have the Spirit within us, we already have the power of the universe available.  So it's all about leashing it--as He did--to God's command, allowing only Him unleash it when and where and how He will--all the days of our lives.  Within the Kingdom, it is meekness that will rule.

Oh Lord, leash me up.

Friday, April 5, 2013


It's been a whole year since the Random Journal Days began. I used to cock my head like a confused puppy when adults said time flew, because I couldn't figure out how time went any faster than it actually went. I mean, a minute's a minute, right? But now that I'm older I get it. I get the sense that though the shortest increments still move at the proper rate, in our rear-view mirror, the land behind us falls away fast and faster. So this last year has sped by, and it startled me to discover that it's been an entire year of people sharing from their journals. However, you can discover the truth for yourself HERE.

 My journals have recently moved to their new home on a shelf high in our bedroom--so high, in fact, that I cannot reach them without a stool. However, this is Beve's Spring Break, so I had him reach up and grab one. His 14" on me has its advantages. And no, that wasn't a typo. He really is 14" taller than me.

ANYWAY. He pulled out the journal labeled Summer 2009, and I opened it to a page with two entries, both of which have much to recommend them, both of which I've written about before in this blog. The first was about the wheat harvest in the Palouse, and a quick perusal of my blog entries reveal a plethora of posts related to that. The second is about visiting my mother in the nursing home. Though I've also written about her plenty of times as well, this was a momentous day. So...

For the first time ever, Mom didn't know me today. A very odd sensation to sit with her because there's more absence than presence now. Even though we [my sister, RE and I] spoke directly to her, she didn't seem to hear or understand. As I told LD [our middle sister] the other day, I can't imagine how many more turns there will be on this sad, windy road. We got there right at lunch time and found Mom with her head bowed, not paying the slightest attention to her plate full of food. Maybe that's even more odd than not recognizing me, that she is no longer interested in food--Mom, who not only never missed a meal, but ate by the clock, no matter what. If the clock says 6 PM she had to eat, no matter when she'd eaten before. And every event, good or bad, wonderful or painful, made her reach for chocolate, bread or potatoes.  But now her interest in food, her very taste for it, perhaps, has been forgotten. Along with everything else.

And she cries SO easily (well, she always has) and wants to go 'upstairs.' That's the one thing we could make out today. This insistent plea to go upstairs. It's like everything is in reverse. She's almost a newborn baby now, unable to do anything but cry, pee and cry some more. She not only has lost the ability to speak except for strange, random sounds, but also the ability to hear.  Her bed has to be changed daily, because she wets it and everything in her room is foreign to her. And now, even her children whom she once loved more than life, are strangers. So she cries and wants to go upstairs.

So I want her to go upstairs, too. I want her freed from the prison that is her body and the darker vault that is her brain. Years ago, when she was first forgetful, I couldn't begin to imagine what this would be like. It almost seemed like she was making it up--or that we were. And sometimes I thought we were exaggerating the problem when we tried to describe her memory issues to others...and I know positively that there were some who thought we were making it up as well. Would that we had been. Would that it had all been nothing. Anything but this cruel pass.  But this can't be made up. These vacant eyes, random sounds, total emptiness of spirit where a person once lived, it can't be made up.

So when I think of this being the first day my mother didn't know me--in my whole life--that isn't the worst of it. The worst of it is that worse things still lie ahead for her.  Before she gets to go 'upstairs,' and be free.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bee stings and a quilt give-away

So I had a great post planned for yesterday...one that had been rattling around in my brain since Saturday night. However, Sunday morning I managed to get stung by a bee. I know, right? A bee in the first week of April? What was funny--at the time--was that I didn't even feel the sting, just lifted my hand to my neck sometime after that and wiped away a bit of blood. My neck is so messed up that it tingles and stings at the best of times so apparently a bee sting didn't register as something unique.

However, I know it was a bee-sting because it swelled up like crazy, kept me from sleeping and hurt enough to be distracting until this morning. In case you think I'm a total wimp, let me tell you that I'm allergic to bee-stings, and rediscovered that these last couple of days. I think it's been 30+ years since I was last stung and am now hoping it's another 30 until it happens again. My kids and Beve have all been stung over the years and none of them react, so I had to call my sister, whose husband has the same allergy I have, to ask what to do to stop the swelling, when, last night, I was still ballooning up. 

So I've been really, really distracted in these last couple of days, which is crazy because I live with pain all the time. And I'm used to it. But a tiny insect pushes venom into my neck and I'm over the edge into "I CAN'T HANDLE THIS!!!"

Interesting, the word venom. The idea that bee stings, like rattlesnake bites, inject venom into us. And some of us are more sensitive to bee venom than others of us. But venom is dangerous. It hurts. Whether it's a simple, momentary sting or a deadly bite, venom is our enemy. 

You know where I'm going with this, right? Venom in our conversations, our attitudes, our actions and reactions--all are just as dangerous, as stinging or even deadly as the venom of insects or snakes. And we're aware of this when we're the ones who are being stung, of course. Most of us are very aware of the venom of others toward us.  But it's our own venomous words and actions that are our responsibility. I think of how easy it is to tease someone about something that really isn't funny, is too sharp to keep from cutting to the bone. And when I think about it now, it's really venomous, because it stops communication on a dime--on a sting--and often creates two different kinds of reactions: A one-up-manship in similar kinds of teasing, which becomes bickering pretty quickly; or defensiveness.  I've been on both sides of such venomous teasing.  I've been guilty of sometimes saying things that cut someone deeply, and pretending I was merely teasing, I confess. When I consider it as venom, it adjusts something in me. To sting someone, to be the agent of venom pouring into them--what a terrible thing to consider.

What a anti-gospel thing, really. The exact opposite of what we're to do and be to others. The gospel, John tells us in his epistle, can be reduced to "...they who do not love do not know God because God IS love." It's just that simple.

So a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to give away a quilt on the 5th anniversary of my blog. That date was Sunday, and, as you can tell, I didn't even write. So here's the deal. I'm going to open the blog lines between now and next Tuesday, April 9 (and will mention this every day!!!), so if you're interested in a chance to get a home-made quilt (by me!), make a comment. You can comment every day, if you'd like. I'll announce next Wednesday, April 10, who has won.
Good luck and God speed.