Friday, June 28, 2013

Hubris...the enemy's best friend

Hubris: the arrogant pride that just KNOWS I can do this, am this, am all that. The presumptions that make me judge and evaluate and look down my long nose at those around me, take up jobs that aren't mine to take, that make decisions based on brain and my own willful ambition rather than humility and HIS will.

The word hubris has been rolling around in my head for the last couple of weeks. On and off.
Four times recently (yep, I've been keeping track), four different people have spoken of something in their own lives as being a mark of hubris. I might not have noticed the first time (though I can tell you the first time it was my middle sister who used the word), when hubris began to appear in conversation following that, I felt like I was being hit over the head.

Like God was saying, "Take a look at yourself, Carolyn." Wake up and smell what you've been stepping in, as my daughters would say.

So here's my look.

I grew up in a smart family in a smart town. Just recently I saw an article that ranked my home town as the 10th smartest town in America. That's because the main industry in Pullman, Washington is a university. Well, that and farming. And, as we liked to say, most of our farmers go to college--at least for a while! So when I say my family was smart in a smart town, I'm saying something.
And that's when it hits me. LIKE A LEAD BALLOON.

Being smart isn't a virtue. Brilliance, education, professional success, advanced degrees are all missing from the Bible. Well, I take that back. They aren't missing--they're actually pointed out as hindrances, ie, see Pharisees and Sadducees.  All my inflated notions of what counts, when I don't think about it, but just let myself drift is my hubris--my worldly pride that I'm all that and more, that I'm more that others who are less than me.

It's not a bad thing to succeed, of course. God intends us to be good at what He asks us to be, to do well what He calls us to do for Him. It's the 'pride of life,' the presumption that we are better than others because of something in us, something after our names, perhaps, or our names themselves, that is the problem. This is hubris.

In Greek tragedies, the concept of hubris necessitates the concept of nemesis. Nemesis means an agent of downfall. The enemy is our downfall, of course. And this is what the enemy most wants us to feel. He loves that we feel superior to others. He wants us to look around a room and think we're the smartest or most educated or most whatever sitting there. He wants us to see castes wherever we go, climb every ladder, look for every class. He wants us striving for our own sake, so that IN OURSELVES we find value. So that, as our nemesis, he can cause our downfall. Our final downfall. Our pride of life is his best friend--his active ingredient in the work of making us fall.

Thanks be to God, though. Isn't this always true?
Thanks be to God.
He not only wants us wise, rather than smart, humble rather than proud, He actually gives us the way to become what He wants us to be. EVERY single day. In whatever life He's given you--with large responsibilities or small ones--He asks you to die to yourself. He asks this of me. He asks this even knowing my hubris. Even knowing exactly how difficult it is for me. But as He asks it, He gives the WAY to do it. He says, "Come to me, MY way is the way." We cannot try hard enough to drop our pride by our own selves. There's no possible way. We can only die to that pride. Daily. That's why Jesus added that key word when He first told His followers what He's still saying--"You must die to yourselves." DAILY. And that's why the One who can do it dwells within us. The Holy Spirit is no respecter of classes, intelligence, achievement. He is an equal opportunity lover. An equal-opportunity savior. He saved me. He loves through me.

Yes, He loves through me.
And He's daily changing me as He helps me die to my instinctive hubris.
I am not my own. What I was born with is not who I have to be.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


The dogs wonder why I haven't crawled into bed. And why Beve's outside trying to change a headlight so J can drive to Seattle. That is, drive to Seattle as soon as that headlight gets changed. And why SK is wandering around the kitchen looking for something to eat. None of us are doing what we're supposed to be doing at 10:30 at night. And it's a most unsettling state of affairs.

They're creatures of habit, our dogs are. We've had Kincade for a year now, and though he hasn't run out of puppy-hood, he's a whole lot closer to the end of the race than he was even six months ago. 120 lbs of friendly, he meets a new best friend every time someone walks through our front door. Today it was the Comcast guy. Yesterday, it was a teaching colleague of Beve's, who would have gladly taken Cade to Minnesota for the summer. "He's just so sweet," he said, as tennis ball after tennis ball was dropped into his lap. To Kincade, it's like a praise-offering to allow YOU to be the one to throw those balls for him. He's indiscriminate with his affections, too. He'll climb into the lap of anyone who happens to sit down on our deck. He is, after all, a GIANT lap dog.

Meanwhile, Jamaica watches from a cautious distance, not trusting anyone she hasn't been properly introduced to--she is an ENGLISH Springer Spaniel, after all, and you know how proper certain classes of English society are. Or have I been reading too much Jane Austen lately?  Anyway, Maica likes her people, and only her people, thank you very much. And she wants all of us to do exactly what we're supposed to all the time, like play ball with them first thing every morning, take her for plenty of rides, not go on trips with out her, and GO to BED when she's tired!!!

 Here's Kincade photo-bombing a quilt I made for a friend who's been fighting brain cancer all year. Amazingly, she just bought a new duvet cover in just these colors. So this looks even better on their bed than I imagined. She told me they've never had anything nice on their bed, and now she wants their room to look perfect every day. I love that.  I had no idea, but God knew, and I'm really glad that it worked out as it did. This is exactly why I love making quilts for people.

That's all I have to say tonight.
Tomorrow, remind me--I've been thinking about the word hubris. It's what I intended to write about, but I'm just too tired now.

Our dogs are thankful that I'm saying goodnight.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekend prayers

I woke up Saturday morning with a. a headache; and b. pastors on my heart. Since I had to lie on my side with a pillow pressed to my throbbing temple, it was a perfect opportunity to pray for all the pastors I could name. Even some I couldn't name, like, "the pastors at the church SK loved so much in Spokane." Praying for Holy Spirit-authority as they wield the word of God, for compassion as they shepherd the sheep, for power to withstand the enemy's attacks, and for wisdom to speak what God gives them to speak, privately and publicly in their role in the Body. And all through the day (a quiet day, even for me!) those men and women kept coming to mind.

We've been with many close pastor friends on Saturdays. And at some point as the clock moves toward evening, the pastor begins to step away, even when he's still sitting among us. His thoughts and heart and spirit press inward to what God intends for the congregation the next morning. Some physically leave us at some point Saturday nights to spend time alone in an empty church. Others rise so long before dawn they might as well not have gone to sleep at all. These are the things the pastors we know do because they do not--cannot--view Saturdays as we do. For them, that day is a preparation day. In other jobs, it would be odd to have one's weekend before the most important hours of the week, but this is the rhythm pastors work.

It just kept weighing on me Saturday. Or I should say, pastors did--both in their work and in their lives. So I couldn't help praying. Sometimes just speaking names and letting the Holy Spirit pray what He would.

On into Sunday, when my head still pounded and my spirit still ached for those who stand in pulpits or teach in Sunday school classes, or sit in hospital rooms with the sick and dying (maybe even some with headaches!).

One might say, therefore, that my head was hurting with pastors all weekend long.
And that such pain pushed me to prayer, which made it a pretty good weekend.

This morning, my head was clear. Very clear.
But I really, really wanted God to put someone or something in my mind for whom I could pray all day. So I didn't move for a few minutes. Then a few minutes more. Tried to summon something, to imagine someone. To picture a face, an idea. These thoughts and imaginings kept drifting away. Finally I had to get up and...
well, you know...
morning ablutions.

And you know what? Nothing. All day long, nothing. Just the normal stuff, the ordinary thoughts of daily life, with God intertwined in the normal ways. I'm not distracted by anything, I mean. Does this sound crazy?

Because it doesn't to me. To me, it's very strong evidence of His presence in the need to pray for pastors over the weekend. I couldn't manufacture something else this morning, even when I tried. He either speaks or He doesn't. And sometimes His silence is as important as His voice.

Yep, it was a good weekend.
And for pastors, the word He gave me for you was--"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6: 19

Friday, June 21, 2013

What I'm thinking about right this moment

Things I'm thinking about right this moment:

  • the ridiculous number of quilt tops in the closet that need to be finished in the next two months. I can't even tell you how's just too embarrassing.
  •  how much work we have to do around this house now that Beve's officially on summer vacation. I made a list today then wadded it up and tossed it in the recycling. And went back to my latest quilting project (which will join the quilt-tops that must be finished in the next two months!)
  • when summer vacation stopped being vacation and began being 'work as hard as you can to do everything you didn't get done during the school year?'
  • How much fun Grampie was last night when we saw him. Sure, more than half of what he told us didn't make any sense, and the half that DID make sense wasn't true, but he was in great spirits and talked a blue streak. Who cares if he thinks he's leaving "Saturday morning," thinks his parents are still alive (and maybe his grandparents as well)? Who cares if he talks to Beve about Beve (in the third person) when he says he's going to live on a farm with his son? We just answer as if he makes sense, because as soon as he closes his eyes for even a half-an-hour, he'll think it's a whole new day and have some other new plans.
  • I don't have to finish EVERY book I start. What is it in me that makes me think I do? Makes me stay up almost to dawn because I just have to finish--and it wasn't even that good.  
  • And now I'm exhausted.
  • My parents, whose wedding anniversary was yesterday. They'd have been married 58 years. I wrote my siblings that it's odd to think that we weren't at their wedding (as children normally aren't) because we were the most important observers and participants in their marriage (as children normally are).   
  • Psalm 131, which (as I said the other day) is my Psalm for 2013.  It's short and powerful, and today reminded me that though I've never had a career, never been a 'professional', never even worked full-time since I've been married, my 'job' has been counter-intuitive to my own nature. My natural instinct would have been to point to CAROLYN in bold letters and bright lights. You should see how I can do this. Really. Ask my family, they'll tell you. So He has put me--by His hook and by His Shepherd's crook--in a quiet, hidden life, where I've learned that my job is Him. Or I should say, I'm learning it. He strips things from us and we learn. My heart is not proud, my eyes are not haughty. That's what this Psalm teaches me--DAILY.  I do not concern myself with things too wonderful (read IMPORTANT or LARGE) for me. I have calmed myself and quieted my ambitions. Like a weaned child with its mother I am content.
  • Yep, that's it. Learning contentment. Do I sound like a broken record? No matter. That's what life's about. Learning the secret of being content.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Six Sentences

I've had a hard time writing lately. It's not because something is wrong exactly, or at least nothing I can put my finger (s) on, but because I sit before this white box in which I'm supposed to pour out my thoughts, and nothing of value comes. Life passes and I try again. And again, the delete key is more my friend than the publish key. I can't claim busyness, though I've been busy. Seven trips through the excruciatingly slow detour around the downed bridge on the interstate in the last three weeks attest to that (the new military-sponsored temporary bridge opens today, Hallelujah!!!). I can't claim extraordinary pain, because I don't even know what that would be. I simply can't find the words right now. At least no words that will stick.

But this morning I woke up thinking about a very familiar passage of scripture. I don't know about you, but when I awaken with scripture in my brain, it's a sure sign that Someone other than me put it there for a PURPOSE. Sometimes, I'm chagrined to admit, I get up and go about my day without focusing on the passage that's rebounding around with all the "Gotta have tea," and "shoot, I really did the math wrong when I tried to make that quilt bigger than the pattern, didn't I?" (yep, that happened yesterday. Why I--a total math dunce--thought that quilting would be a good ministry is beyond me. But I'm all in now)

This morning, however, I didn't push aside those words. Maybe because they were just too insistent. Maybe because I don't want to face all the extra cutting have to do for the quilt. But here I am, having faced the words, God's point (I think) and I haven't even made my tea yet!

It's a simple passage. A familiar one. Maybe it's the familiarity of it that makes it so easy to miss, or easy to neglect in my living--my actual daily, 'walking-around' life, as Eugene Peterson would put it in Romans 12:1-- Here's what I want you to do, God helping you--Take your every day, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.

I haven't been placing my life--daily--before Him. First, last, and in the middle. And therefore, the result is what I felt convicted about before 7am (which is before dawn for me) this morning! LOVE. Six sentences in 1 Corinthians 13. I was about to write 'simple sentences' but since there's no way on earth--or as mere mortals--that we can love like this WITHOUT the Holy Spirit's help, I don't think they're simple at all.

But they are powerful profound and life-giving to all with whom we interact.. And IN Him, we are changed by our acting them out. Our loving thusly.

Six sentences describing love. Describing the action of love. Not the emotion of it, not the mushy romance or even the overwhelmingly protective parental pride of it. But the proactive, beyond and not-of ourselves, God-only action.

That we are called to practice counter-intuitive to our own nature, against all odds, against all reason, against all that the world offers or describes or lives out. We are not of this world and we are called to this:

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Convicting for me. How about you?
The good news is--HE is ABLE and willing to help you love exactly this way. Love those who you are are least prone to love on your own. I have learned this before. And it was a gift. And, as I offer myself (ala Romans 12:1) He will love those I'm struggling to love right now.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

My children's dad

Happy Father's Day to this man 

A man 
enough to show us
how curly his hair
really is;
enough to carry 
enough to always
stand behind us--
to cheer our children,
to encourage,
guide, and
lead from
in back.
The man 
God gave 
to be the father or our children.

(PS. I had to stand on a chair to take the picture of his curly hair!)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Things I learned from my father

In honor of Father's Day tomorrow, some things I learned from my father.

  1. Parental love is largely unrequited. Parents ALWAYS love their children more than those children will love them back. 
  2. Peanut butter is a daily staple (often just a bite off the end of a knife!).
  3. "Don't pay us back, pay for your children. It's our job to take care of you and will be your job to take care of them."
  4. The best hiker hikes at the back.
  5. How to do back hand stands/flips (ie, the picture and multiple nights on our living room floor!).
  6. Always do more than your fair share.
  7. A corollary is that marriage is NOT a 50-50 proposition. You just give your all, and leave the other person to give what they can.
  8. There are no such thing as 'odds' in medicine. You'll either be healed or you won't.
  9. "Crud" (which the worst word he ever said) meant he was REALLY, REALLY mad.
  10. It never hurts to say you're sorry, even if you don't believe you're in the wrong. 
  11. If you're not willing to do something, you shouldn't expect anyone else to either (in my case, this usually related to housework).
  12. Doing your best is more important than being the best.
  13. Leave a place better than you found it.

That's 13. One of the last thing he teased me about was that I didn't know my 'thirteens.' (13 times tables). I still don't but these 13 things represent a lifetime of things he taught my siblings and me that have made us who we are. 

Happy Father's Day in God's throne-room, Daddy.
I love and miss you.
See you in the morning...
of eternity,

Friday, June 14, 2013

Being a Mary

I'm a Mary. That's right, I've 'chosen the better way," as Jesus himself told a tired, overworked and frustrated-with-her-sister Martha. Mary was sitting at the dirty, (probably) smelly feet of Jesus, taking in everything about Him, from those dirty feet to His cadence of words and the sometime indecipherable meanings just to be in His presence, listening to Him talk. She probably didn't contribute to the conversation herself (being a woman, after all), but just sat there, soaking it in.

Ignoring the banging of pots in the kitchen, the increasingly urgent tone of her sister's voice as she barked orders to servants (and I'm sure there were servants--these were people of means). Mary could block out what she didn't want to notice. She simply focused her concentration on what interested her.

I get that. When I was a little girl my parents took me to a hearing specialist because they were sure there was something seriously wrong with me. It turned out I wasn't deaf at all. I just wasn't paying attention. My mother LOVED to tell that story, especially when she was mad at me for...well, not paying attention.  And my kids can tell you of the many times when I look straight through them when they're talking to me because I'm thinking about who knows what. And my sisters will be happy to tell you of how often I get distracted by  conversation when they're working away in the kitchen.

You see, I know, I know as much as I know my own name, that if I'd been in that house in Bethany, I'd have been sitting in the front room, next to those smelly feet. I'd have been gazing up at Him. I wouldn't have even noticed that it was my own house or my own sister who was doing all the work to feed all these dozens of people who'd shown up for a visit (and we're talking dozens and probably for more than just dinner but breakfast and the next dinner and the next as well). I wouldn't have cared a whit what needed doing if there was conversation worth having about life, and LIFE, and LIFE in HIM.

Mary's always been the one we're supposed to emulate, of course. That's what this story of the sisters tells us. So why is it that, once a party ends, and I'm alone in my room, I regret that I was so consumed in conversation that I didn't 'do' more? That I didn't help but only talked? Usually I feel like kicking myself because I haven't pulled my weight or am just plain lazy. I certainly don't feel like being me--being Mary--is the 'better' way.

The question is, then, how do we 'be Mary?' That is, how do I, or anyone, live and work, and do what needs to be done and--at the same time--BE in His presence?

I suppose I just answered my own question by the question itself, didn't I? It's the seamless life. I've talked about this before. What I mean is that when we're standing at our sinks washing dishes, we do so with the same reverence shown when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus' feet with her tears. When we sit at restaurants with colleagues, it's like we're sitting in the Upper Room.  Imagine living this way.

This is what it means to be Mary, I think. Some of us are bent her direction, but all of us are meant for her heart. That's what Jesus meant when He spoke to Martha.

Part of my daily devotional is a prayer with these words in it. They've become written on my heart this year. Hopefully, they'll be how I finally learn to be Mary.

'Be in the heart 
Of each to whom I speak
In the mouth of each
who speaks unto me
This day be within and
Without me...'     
from Celtic Daily Prayer. (morning prayer p.12)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My latest trip

My trip to California was wonderful. As always, it was a trip TO someone (s), FOR something, and WITH people. With my sister, RE, to our sister LD and her sons, for her younger son's high school graduation. We managed to celebrate him, eat our way through the county, enjoy the scenery and do some of our favorite things together.

At KCK-2's high school graduation. He's the one playing the keyboards. Rockin' out with the senior choir to " 'Aint No Mountain High Enough..." He'd told us that he thought he was going to play a different instrument but at the last moment, he was put on the keyboard.
"What instrument?" his brother asked.
"Do you even play trumpet?"
"I can fake it," he said. This nephew usually plays tuba. And some baritone, trombone, flugelhorn. And piano, of course. Well enough to rock out to a song of his choice, with a stadium of people singing background. It was pretty cool, if you ask this unbiased aunt.

These brothers are as close as my daughters, as close as I am to my sisters. It's very cool to watch. It wasn't so long ago that the older one called the younger (much smaller) one "annoying" at every turn. The older one, KCK-1, just graduated from Berkeley in May has a real, adult job and a real adult apartment right in San Francisco. I think he's going to take care of all of us when we are old. KCK-2 is off to UC Davis in September, has his mind set on...well, so many things he can't settle yet. When I look at them I can hardly believe they're so tall and old. Growing up and becoming friends is good.

Yep, growing up and becoming friends is good. My sisters and I had our requisite afternoon tea at a very frilly tea place in Thousand Oaks, CA. We aren't easy to please after all our shared teas, and this was a scrumptious one. Really. We only wore the hats long enough for the picture, but they sure look darling on us, don't they? I'm the tan one, by the way. I've always tanned just by stepping out into the sun while RE (in the white hat) can't get a tan to save her life. However, RE, who is short like me, and is married to a not-tall man, has the tallest kids. So go figure. Funny thing about genetics, huh?

Now, for some of my favorite pictures of the rest of my trip:
At the Santa Barbara Zoo:


giraffes and their babies!!!
LD and her lovely boys
At the beach!
RE contemplating the waves (with a seagull).
And now I'm gladly home. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

California, here I come...

I'm on my way to Ventura, CA Wednesday to celebrate the high school graduation of the boy in this picture (via Seattle tomorrow where I have to have a rather unpleasant medical test. Better not think about it!) This boy, my middle sister's younger son (the one on the far right), is now a strapping 6'1" 18 year-old, our parents' youngest grandchild. RE (the one on the left) and I will meet in SeaTac airport and be ready to party in the low-key way we do. In this picture, taken over 3 years ago in San Francisco, I'd forgotten my "Sisters" t-shirt so I stick out like an orange...well, orange, I guess.
RE reminded me tonight to be sure to pack it.
As usual I'd forgotten.

All this to say, I won't be near my computer for the next few days.

PS. Interesting fact: I was born in California. And when I was a child taking long road trips  with my family, we sang songs to pass the time. "California, here I come," was one we sang every now and then. Not often, but when we did, I always felt like only my older brother and I should really be able to sing it, because we were the only ones who'd actually 'started' there. Just like my middle sister thought that the chorus of the Battle Hymn of the Republic was actually about her: "Laurie, Laurie Hallelujah!"

Ah, the things kids think.

See you Sunday.

Spread out before us in glorious array

Snippets from the weekend.

  • Watching our daughter plunk down money on appliances and a mattress. She's exactly the same person to whom I used to say, "STOP growing!" She'd answer (patiently!), "I can't, Mama. God made me to grow." Now I think she's more an adult than I am.
  • Looking into the clear blue eyes of our son, who is beginning to re-emerge. I love those eyes. Just like I love them in the face of his dad.
  • Setting sail with family to honor my sister-in-law's 60th birthday. 60. 60! Her son said the other day, "She's the only person I know who has been looking forward to being 60." I believe it. And when I say setting sail, I mean a spectacular dinner cruise on Seattle's Elliot Bay. It was a beautiful, if breezy, evening and when the sun began to set, the city was silhouetted and Cascade Mountains behind them glowed. Inside our private dining room in the bow, we ate a wonderful salmon and steak dinner. And had a rich variety of conversations as well. Conversations like:
  • the sewer plugged by a giant root ball, causing damage and upheaval in my nephew L and niece E's home. Their 4-month-old son has had as almost as bad a week as they have, with his life so disrupted. They're bewildered by the 'joys' of home-ownership. Come to think of it, plumbing/sewer problems have been something of a theme in my extended family this year. They are the fifth family among us facing it. Hmm, wonder if plumbing issues are a sign of the end times.
  • banking. Yep, I talked banking and even economic theories with said niece's father, who sat across the table from me. If you know me, you'll know how far beyond my natural inclinations and abilities such a conversation is, but somehow I found myself there, and didn't fall too flat on my face, hopefully.
  • quilting. My sister-in-law's oldest friend is a quilter so far beyond my abilities I felt more humbled and tongue-tied in her presence than I did talking economics. But she's a gracious and warm woman who encouraged my just-more-than-novice efforts.
  • match-making. Well, it started as a conversation about how we met our spouses, but led to a woman asking about my youngest brother. She has a sister, you see. "She's a scientist," she said. "Is she athletic? Does she like the outdoors?"You I asked. "Well, she'd like to. And I'm athletic," the woman said. My niece and I instantly knew without talking to each other that this would be a no-go. "Well, maybe in a year or so," the woman said, hopefully.
In in the midst of all this, my niece (the daughter-in-law of the Birthday woman) and I had a short, intense, profound conversation about our wants versus God's will. Just that  morning (in the shower, of course!) I'd been thinking about the phrase, "Thy will be done." We say such a phrase when we are praying as if putting a stamp on our own wants. Or reluctantly, when we know our wants are selfish. We know we are meant to pray these words, but we don't quite know how to mean them. This is what my niece CC and I were wrestling in our conversation. Or what we all wrestle each time we pray, like the will of God is a giant alligator we can't quite handle and should fear. But...the will of God created heaven and earth. It set the stars into space. The will of God created human life, and each of our lives. We live because He desired it. He willed it. And...He willed our eternal life. His will for us always leads us toward that. Toward Jesus. Toward Heaven. Our wills compared to that are...well, they're small and narrow and who knows where they'll lead. Why on earth, why in heaven's Name, do we EVER want our will over His? 

When you think of it that way, as CC and I (who was CC before her), began to see, it's just plain silly to want our way over His way. Saying, "Your will be done," is really the most freeing, beautiful statement we ever make. It's not unlike being on Puget Sound at sunset, with mountains, a city, and water spread out in glorious array. It's gives Him room to do what's best for us, and gives us the amazing opportunity of getting to live the largeness of what HE wants, rather than only in the confines of our own desires.

Which do you choose?

(The new background is a picture I took on the cruise. You can just barely see the Space Needle on the far right side.)