Monday, November 25, 2013

A Thanksgiving potpourri

Tomorrow evening Beve, J and I head south to older daughter E's place because early Wednesday morning we catch a flight to Oakland to spend Thanksgiving with younger daughter, SK. When I say early, I mean 6:00 A-stinking-M early. And though that's the shank of the morning for Beve, it's knee-deep in rem-cycle for J and me, so we'll be struggling just a wee bit. Still...worth the price we'll pay to spend a few days in our baby's new neck of the, the bay.

We'll meet my sister, LD, her son (who lives and works in San Francisco) and LD's boyfriend, for a very non-traditional Thanksgiving day feast. We went round and round the turkey mulberry bush about this. Finally settled on something we're all licking our chops over, something that won't take all day, will allow us to get out and about, which is part of what we're there to do (the last time J was in the Bay area, he was a babe in arms!).

We had a turkey and the fixin's on Saturday with Grampie, who kept exclaiming, "This is pretty good." He was especially taken with the Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider. He couldn't quite make heads or tails of what it was but if it'd been alcoholic, we'd have had to cut him off a whole lot sooner than we did! It was a good evening for him--we talked about Beve's mom, of whom Grampie only has the vaguest of memories. We told him all kinds of things about her: that she sewed, did stained glass, welding art, loved to host parties, was tall and dark-haired. Then he said, "But I don't remember her very well." He may not have meant what I credited him with meaning but it was a significant distinction for a man whom I would have said had always equated who a person was with what that person did.

Now, because this is a potpourri of sorts, or perhaps a cornucopia, I thought I'd answer these questions posted by my daughter E on her blog. How it fits in with Thanksgiving, I'm not quite sure, but let's just go with it, okay?

1. What's one nickname you've had that you have hated and who gave it to you?
My mother called me Carrie-Terri sometimes when I was young because my full name was Carolyn Theresa. I don't know if I hated it because of the sing-song quality of the name or because it was when she was trying to fit in with my teen-aged friends that she trying calling me thus. And a couple of athlete-friends called me Little Crank, because my older brother was always called Crank. I didn't HATE that, just didn't love it. You know the difference?

2. Who is one person you've tried to model yourself after?
My first instinct was to say "Jesus" because it's absolutely true, but it sounds a little too trite. So I'll say my dad. Also true. Of course. He was strong and loyal and honest, and sooo many other things. And I miss our deep and transforming conversations. Also my Beve. He's the most giving person I know. He just never stops giving to people. His heart is so Christ-like, and what's crazy is that he doesn't even think about it, doesn't even know it.

3. How do you recharge? Time alone. Time in the Word. Writing, reading, praying.

4. What is your favorite holiday and why? I love Christmas Eve. I mean it. Christmas, yes. But Christmas Eve is even better. I loved it as a child when everything was anticipation, and our family had a whole lot of wonderful traditions, like reading the Luke story and playing "Santa", having a talent show and going to the midnight service; and now with our own family when we do a lot of the same, but have added our own tradition of being honest about where we are with God, then sharing communion in the room by the tree with only candles and the fire as the light. It's my very favorite moment of the year, when God comes close. We enter in, and He is there.

5. Where is one place you've always dreamed of vacationing? I'd like to go to the Gold coast of Australia. I like warm places. Beve LOVES the sun and I do better there, too.

6. If had to be one a reality TV show, but could choose, which one would you be on? Hmm, not so much for reality TV but, if I could dance, "So You think You Can Dance" or sing, "The Sing-Off". Real competitions for people who are gifted (which I'm NOT). I'll content myself with just watching. 

7. What is one dessert you can never say "no" to? Pumpkin Bread Pudding, which, coincidentally, we'll be eating on Thursday. Hmm, imagine that. It's AMAZING. But then, I LOVE almost anything pumpkin.

8. If you could spend time with any living person for the day, who would it be? Eugene and Jan Peterson. I LOVE them. I miss them. He did the Bible translation The Message, and I was fortunate enough to become friends with them when I was in seminary at Regent College. The day we spent at their home in Montana was a precious gift--I'd love to repeat it.

9. Is there a commercial that can make you tear up? What one? Any commercial about animals, especially with the Sarah MacLachlan song in the background. Stop it, I'm serious, just stop it right now.

10. What is your go-to karaoke song? If I actually ever SANG karaoke it, it'd be "Sweet Caroline." ;)

Oh yeah, we'll be eating good old American Irish shepherd's pie, E's recipe. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Learning from others

Wide awake at 3 AM the other morning I began thinking of how my marriage has benefited from others. Instead of counting sheep--because that has NEVER worked and seems a bit ridiculous from inside the flock, if you know what I mean!--I started counting marriages, and identifying the qualities that have touched or even convicted me/us to change how we practice ours.  Practice is a good word, come to think of it. We spend our lives practicing this thing we do together, working on it, paying attention to it, getting it right, backing up and figuring it out again when we've started down the garden path to a brick wall rather than a gate. Yep, it's a life-long practice, marriage is, and we do best to learn from each other. And by each other, I don't merely mean the person sleeping on the other pillow in our bed, but others who are also practicing their own.

So I thought it might be edifying (there's another good word!) for you already practicing, those who dream of practicing, and even those who know OTHERS in the practice, to share my list with you (sans names, as usual, of course).  Well, it's just part of my list, because otherwise, it'd be crazy-long--I did say I was trying to fall back asleep.

  1. My parents: From them I learned how easy it can be to apologize. My dad told me that once. My mother wasn't an easy person to love. She got mad quickly and loudly. And my dad apologized A LOT. Sometimes that actually made her even more mad. But it helped me take responsibility in my marriage quickly, rather than blaming Beve when I've really blown it.
  2. My aunt and uncle: They just plain liked each other better than any one I knew. They shared common interests, they slept (still sleep) in a regular double bed--though she's 5'10 and he's 6'2--and I wanted my marriage to look like theirs. 
  3. A couple of musicians: Intentionality. This is a couple with busy lives. I can't begin to tell you how busy. But their date-day is sacrosanct. They don't take it for granted, they don't take each other for granted, they are intentional in every part of how they treat each other and that time together. Always.
  4. our friends who moved away (and we still miss you!!!):  Their unwavering, deep, overwhelming support and belief in each other. I love listening to her talk about him and his gifts. She's so certain of who God's made him to be. Even when he doesn't always know it, SHE does. And he's there for her in the same way. It's pretty powerful.
  5. Two kinds of artists: There have been struggles in this journey together (as each journey as had, of course) but what has gotten to me is how he, M, said, "I'll be the wall!" Nothing will get past him, and she can do anything TO him, and he'll still stand there. You'd have to know more about them to understand, but it makes me cry to think of this. To learn from this. To be the WALL for each other. WOW.
  6. Across the country: From them I learned to love more fully. Or let my love fill in where there is a gap from others. And to wait, to hope against hope. To put hope to death and love anyway. To simply love. Theirs is a story of such deep love and commitment that you hardly ever see. EVER. No matter what was lost, no matter what MIGHT never come. And might be given back. And I keep learning from them what marriage commitment means. AND I learn from them what a gift can mean when IT comes. Finally. 
  7. a young married couple: This couple stopped for the day when they were passing through town a while back. She was pregnant, he was excited. We got to talking about marriage. We'd been married for many years, they only for a few. And he said, "One of the things I love most when she's upset is that she'll say, "I don't know if it's something I need to share with you or something I need to work out with God by myself." WOW. WOW. I learn from that. Took that away from that lunch and my spill-my-guts self immediately began to pray that I could practice that.
So there you go. 
I hope there's something here to edify you. 
Even just writing them down has re-affirmed and re-convicted me that there are ways to better practice marriage with my beloved Beve.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cut off from the head

In response to a question raised by my last post, in which I casually mentioned I'm having neck surgery next month, I thought I'd explain it more thoroughly, because though my pain-flooded journey has been well-documented, the consultation with the neurosurgeon was very interesting, and has given me pause in the last week. Spiritual pause, I might even say. I do say, here and now.

Dr. H (as we'll call him) comes into every consultation with the idea that he'll say NO to the idea of surgery. Let's pause here, to begin with. A person who makes his living doing surgery starts with the idea--every time!--that he WON'T do that for which the person has come to him. He wants the images (from the MRI), the symptoms, the person's general health to make it clear that surgery will make a difference in her life.

So we began our consultation as I've begun many, many consultations over the last decade and a half. Telling him my story. "Back up," he said. "Tell me about the trauma that caused this. There was one, wasn't there?" So I told him about the car accident at seven, and he sang the same old song and dance number I've heard a dozen times before--about my body reacting like a football player's who was injured playing, and later had all kinds of physical problems as a result. I told Beve later that surely they must have all learned this song in med. school because they all know the words by heart. Come to think of it, I can sing it right along with them now.

But then the examination began and this is when it got interesting.
And new.
Dr. H had me walk across the room, then walk on an invisible line (and I laughed, because I've said for years that if I ever got stopped, a cop would think I'd been drinking because I can't keep my balance when I have to place one foot directly in front of the other. I stumble EVERY time).
Then he took out his hammer and started checking my reflexes on my knees.
"Tip your head as far back as you can," he told me (one of the most painful positions in my life!).
Then he pounded on my left knee again.
And my RIGHT leg jumped.
He did it again, and again, my RIGHT leg jumped.
When he pounded on my right leg, ONLY my right leg moved.

When he had me bend my head all the way forward, and tried it again, exactly the same thing happened.
Then he pulled on the middle finger of my left hand, and my thumbs moved.
Both of them.

It was the oddest thing.
If it hadn't been me, I would have thought it was magic. Or that someone was in cahoots with the doctor, trying to play a trick on me.

But he explained it to Beve and me thus:
The nerve in my neck is SO pinched that the impulse from my left leg (which is the one in constant pain!) doesn't get past that pinch but goes just to the neck then down the other side of my body. NOT much is getting all the way to my brain from the left side of my body, in fact. So the right side is healthy, and the left side is weak and in constant pain.

What I've thought all this time was my LEG is actually caused by my neck. And was probably the result of that accident.

But here's what gives me pause. Dr. H said that because I'm in good health, I am a good candidate for this surgery. This shocked the socks of my unevenly healthy feet. I needed an instant reboot to take in his words. For YEARS, I've felt unhealthy. But the truth is, it's THIS--this one thing--that has completely taken over my life, has made it hard to walk, to sit, to lift things, to be steady, to...well, to live fully. But my body is relatively healthy. That's amazing. So he said, "I'm offering to do this surgery. But I want YOU to consider whether YOU want to have it." It was a very liberating kind of consultation, I can tell you that. We spent a week really, really talking and praying about it. And decided that it's worth it. A long recovery awaits--with no driving, bending, lifting, sleeping on my stomach (!), turning my head, and sooo many other things I can't even think of right now, but we're hopeful about two things: 1. that my left arm will become stronger and will have no more pain. 2. the pain in my left leg will not get worse. He cannot guarantee that I won't have neck pain and I will certainly always have leg pain, but I can live with that. I'm used to living with it. I feel grateful for what I might get. For what is possible.

But here's the other part, the thing I've been thinking about for days now. Because that nerve in my neck has disconnected my left leg and arm from my head, I've lived in pain. We never consider a body literally disconnected from its head because that's called 'beheading.' Sure death. Right? But spiritually, we often live disconnected from our Head. Maybe even connected to other parts of the body. I've been imagining this. I've been thinking of times when believers get together, get off-track, and it's like a pinched nerve in the neck, like all the impulse from the pain-filled side just stops at that pinch and flows down the healthy side...and the so-called healthy side never even knows that they're compromised as well. I don't know if this makes sense to you, but it has to me this week. I can think of times in my life when I've spent in relationship with people, thinking it was good and right, and, even though they were weak or different or in pain, I was strong enough to carry us. But then something happened, and I realized how far off-track I'd gotten in my thinking to have done that without my Head. And...sadly, at least twice, it took painful surgery of a spiritual sort, to get the pathway cleared and the connection RIGHT again. Those were hard, hard lessons to learn. I wish I could say it only took once. I'm a slow learner, though. And I want--desperately--to believe that I can DO this, or be this, or whatever it is. And do it for Him.  Even if He didn't ask me. Even if He was clearly (yes, sometimes it's pretty dang clear) telling me NOT to.

That's the point. We can't DO ministry on our own. We just can't. We are the Body. We need each other. But we need to be connected to the HEAD. ALWAYS.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nine things...

A woman I've known since before she could walk posted a list of random facts about herself on Facebook this week and challenged her FB friends to both like, then post a pre-determined (by her precocious and adorable children) number of facts about ourselves. I did like her facts, though I knew most (or perhaps all) of them. As I say, I've known her since she was a babe in her mother's very faithful, loving arms. This woman's aunt was one of my closest friends in college, but over the long years since then, I've had more than a passing acquaintance with about a dozen of the extended family--and it's a great one.

This leads me to my own list, which will number 9. That's the number I was given. I requested a low number, because I'm not sure I can think up 17 or even 12 things most people don't know about me. Nine seems iffy, but I'll give it my best shot.

1. I was born in San Pedro, California but moved to Washington when I was 3 weeks old.
2. I flew on an airplane for the first time when I was 3 weeks old. (See how these two dovetail?)
3. I've lived in three countries (the US, the Netherlands and India), four states (all three of the Pacific coast states and Michigan), and 13 cities (I'm not going to list all of these, but the shortest name is Epe,  in the Netherlands and the longest is Ypsilanti, Michigan!) in my 56 years. (Ed: my brother just reminded me that Bellingham is actually a longer name than Ypsilanti, of course. However, Ypsilanti is just sooo strange to say. AND it's the first address I ever learned: 1111 Lori Street, Ypsilanti, MI. so I stick by my choice!)
4. I'm a crazy, crazy football fan. If you look closely, you'll be able to see me with my face painted, screaming at the TV from the comfort of my living room. The first pro-game I ever went to was with Beve's sister's husband. And that's saying something!
5. In the last two and a half years, I've lost 45 pounds. Feeling pretty good about that, especially when a doctor was talking to me last week about other things and said, "One thing in your favor is that you're not overweight." WHAT? Not overweight? For the first time in decades? AMAZING.
6. Speaking of that, I'm having disc-fusion surgery next month on my neck. C6-C7. Can you read sarcasm here? If so, read this appropriately: I'm REALLY looking forward to it. Seriously, though, this has been a long time coming--like a decade. So I'm hopeful that it'll make my life better.
7. I no longer cook. I mean, like EVER. Part of it is that I hardly eat anything one can cook. Partly it's because I never know when Beve will be home. Partly because I don't feel great. Put that all together in a pie, and it adds up to...nothing. Beve cooks. And cooks well. He also vacuums, does laundry, and just about everything else one might call domestic.
8. I do sew. I've been sewing all my life. Or at least 46+ years of it. I find it soothing. And love the creative process. As my aunt commented the other day, I DO dream in quilting designs. I look at others' designs and modify them to suit myself. Or dream up my own completely. And call it all fun.
9. I ALWAYS have at least two books going. No, that's a lie. I always have at least three. One I can finish in a sitting, one that will make me think, and one I read devotionally. I'm not rigid about this, though. I'm glad to add more to the mix if someone offers a suggestion. I just can't help myself.
Which leads me to ask--any suggestions?

Friday, November 15, 2013

A blog I love

I'm a crazy-faced reader. The phrase 'crazy-faced' comes from my kids, and it's what they call our dogs when they are completely out-of-control. And I'll admit, they can get out of control more often than they should, especially this time of year when the weather isn't co-operating with their desire for ALL of their pack to hang out outside all day and half the night. I'm not ashamed to admit that while I don't mind the rain, I'm NOT all that interested in sitting on our back deck for hours at a time, throwing balls for our dogs. So they get a little crazy-faced by the time Beve comes home and goes off to play with them. He's far more intrepid than I am. Always has been, always will be.

But I AM a crazy-faced reader. Can't get enough of it. If there isn't a book in my hands, there's one at the ready. Or something I'm still chewing over and over until it nourishes me down to my marrow. 
One of the things I read a lot of these days are blogs. Of course. It's giving back to what I've been given, in a way. I read quilting blogs, family blogs, blogs of other believers. I even read some that smack of irreverence but make me think outside my box and, trust me, I need that, living in this small box of my own life as I we all do! 

One of my favorite blogs is one that isn't written very often. The writer has too much on her plate. Too, too much. But what she writes is so profound, so deep and heart-wrenching and exposing that I ALWAYS come away from it moved. No, more than moved. I come away with a stronger faith, a truer sense of God, and a desire to BE this woman when I grow up, even if she is all of 25 to my 56. 

Today, she's featured in an interview that I thought would give you a picture of who she is. Her name is Katie Davis, and...well, I'll let this interview tell you her story. Pay attention, God will work. I just know it!

The interview: A Red letter Christian

The name of her blog: on earth as it is in heaven

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why we do what we do

Someone asked me the other day what drives me to write. I hardly knew how to answer this. What drives a person to be themselves, I might well have been asked. But later, I thought of this wonderful passage from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainier Maria Rilke. These words have stood in the place of mine more than once. And they speak to all passions, I think.

Why do you do what you do? Why do you want to be in your career? To teach, to research, farm, build, nurse, nurture, whatever.
well, you get my point.
The words of this section (found on pages 18-19 of Rilke's brilliant little book) aren't about result, mind you, they're about motive, about the 'why' for each of us. Vocation, calling--whatever it is that MAKES us do what we do, be who we are as we do it, and live for the doing. Yes, breathe for it, if you know what I mean...but then, if you know what I mean, perhaps you don't need these words.
Nevertheless, here they are, 'without further ado.' [bold type my emphasis!]

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night--must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even to its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

An Armistice Day birthday

On November 11, 1918, my mother-in-law, Thyrza Augusta Lester Knazovich Wiley, was born in Saskatchewan to Michigan transplants who'd moved to the tree-less, bitterly-cold north to try their hand at homesteading. It was Armistice Day. Today she celebrates her 95th birthday. She's seen a lot of Veterans' Days in her long life, a lot of veterans, too. She was married for 50 years to a career army translator, and lived all over the globe, following his career. When he died, he was buried in Arlington National Cemetary.

 She married a second veteran almost 21 years ago, a man who set aside his college education for a couple of years to serve in the China-Burma-India conflict of WWII. She's as proud of this country and the military as if she'd picked up a gun herself. She did serve, after all. No military spouse is left out of what it means to serve one's country. Their sacrifice of time, communication (so different in those days than now!), and physical presence. They know what it means, and they do it.

So today, I celebrate her. Her life, her kindness, her faithful heart.
And I honor all those, like her, who are the at-home veterans of the military, who also serve.
Yes, if I might take some liberty (civilian that I am), I salute you all.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


I just read three blog posts from different corners of the globe. And each post had the same sentence in it: "But He makes me brave."  Now I don't necessarily jump to the conclusion that God is speaking to ME through every blog post I read, but when three in a row make the same point, even the most slow-to-get-it (like me!) sits up and takes notice.

What I know is that I'm patently NOT brave on my own. I have as many fears as anyone. Some are silly, some aren't. Some make sense in my crazy brain because of events from my past, some don't. But my own fear isn't ever the point. Neither is my ability to be brave on my own. Like that's even possible. Or possible to sustain, I should say. And these days, there are reasons to be afraid. There are global reasons. There are many among us who believe that we're living in the last days, that all that's happening in our country and across the world point to the end times. I can't say whether this is true or not. It seems to me that we've been looking for the last days since the day Jesus ascended to heaven. But there are things that trouble us about this world. Things that trouble me. And where I'm troubled, it's easy to fear. I admit that. Perhaps some of you more instantly go to faith than I do. For me, it's a process of surrender. Of letting go of myself and giving over of those fears to Him. And standing where HE says. Being faithful to stand. And stand and stand.

But, to be honest, it's the personal things that are harder. I also admit this. I can't tell you what they are exactly but they're real, and without Him, those fears can be consuming. Can take my feet out from under me.

These words from across the globe this morning--"He makes me brave"--are like a light shining in the darkness where I've been sitting lately. I've been sitting here, trying to trust Him but, at the same time, holding onto those fears.

What He whispers is, "open that hand and let them go!" Trust Him. He will make me brave. "Be strong and courageous," the Lord told Joshua (1:9). "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord Your God will be with you wherever you go."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

As the deer...

"As the deer pants for the water..."

This is exactly what I was thinking about a little while ago.
I was thinking about my sense that because I really GET how much I'm loved by God--exactly, wholly, immediately, always--I long for Him. It's classic cause and effect. He loves me and that creates a deep-calls-to-deep longing in me (which reminds me, that phrase is also from the 42nd Psalm, I think). There's always so much more of God than I--than any of us--can understand. It comes from our being finite and Him being infinite.

And that longing for Him has been represented in different ways by different verses during different seasons for me. Sometimes it's a promise, sometimes it's a prayer, but almost always the verse comes from a Psalm because I read the Psalms round and round and round through the years never stopping so they mark my days with a cadence. I can't remember all of them, but there's Psalm 86: 11, "...give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 27: 13, "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 63: 1, "God, You are my God. earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for You in a dry and parched land where there is no water." There's ALWAYS Psalm 84, which is the Psalm of my life, packed full of everything my heart cries to Him.

This year, the Psalm has been 131.
My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters 
or things to wonderful for me.
But I have calmed myself
and quieted my ambitions,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

But there was a season when Psalm 42: 1-2 was my prayer of longing. "As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?"

This morning as I was pondering the goodness and rightness of longing for God in response to His great love for me--BECAUSE He loves me, how can I NOT long for Him more and more and more?--I suddenly saw a deer on our front patio. We live in a city where it isn't uncommon to see deer, you must understand. We're right at the edge of the Cascade Mountain Range, and there are great forests all around us. We see deer often. But I've never seen a deer on our front patio before. It's not easy task to get up our rock wall onto our patio and our loud, anxious dogs would surely be deterrents. At least that's what I've always thought. But there was it was, and inside our living room, our dogs slept peacefully, leaving only me to notice the quiet deer standing among our foliage. It stared at me, then--amazingly--walked straight up to the window for a moment. Looked straight at me unblinking (do deer blink?) then calmly walked down our driveway and up the street.

And I sat on the couch, stroking my Springer Spaniel's head so she wouldn't break the mood, and the words of this Psalm came to me. Panting for Him. Longing for Him like a deer longs for water. Quietly, gracefully, without blinking, without losing focus.

That deer this morning was just for me, I think. God did that. A moment He gave to remind me that my longing is good, that when it's questioned it's the question that is wrong. Keep true, He tells me. 'Maintain your quiet focus. Be that deer. Don't blink. I'm in this. I will satisfy your longing.'

Monday, November 4, 2013

Buy a battery--repost

It's a good night to revisit an old post, I think. A good night to remind myself (and maybe you) of something I sometimes forget. This was written just about exactly five years ago, but it's something I could write tonight. I should write it to myself, too!

So here you go:

Have you ever been around a fellow Christian who spends all their time trying to figure out what deep, spiritual thing God is saying? In any and every situation, there's a mystery to be solved, or a supernatural intervention to discover.   I have...the Beve has, I think we all have.  Many years ago Beve was in a men's early morning Bible study.  One morning one of the men was very concerned, needed prayer. You see, he had planned a trip across the mountains for that day, but when he went out to his truck that morning, it wouldn't start.  The way he looked at it, either God didn't want him to go, or the enemy was throwing up a roadblock to keep him home.  Sitting next to Beve that morning was a scientist (our son's fishiing buddy!).  As the troubled man was asking for prayer, "What do you think God is telling me?", the scientist leaned over to Beve and said, "Buy a battery!"

That phrase has become a standard response between Beve and me.  Whenever we see someone--and that includes either of us!--gyrating to see what obscure, or deeper lesson He's trying to teach us, one of us will murmur it to the other, or at least think it internally,"Buy a battery!"  Buying a battery can be just as spiritual as anything else.  Sometimes--maybe often--the answer is as plain as that.  That obvious.  God, who is a mystery, also tells us ordinary things, obvious thing. He's in it all, isn't He?  Maybe we think too much about the meaning of an event, rather than realizing that He just wants us to take care of business, by buying a battery when we need to start our car.

Here's another example: a couple of years ago, at the end of the summer, we became infested with fruit flies.  I'm serious, it was a real infestation, so much so that I was vacuuming our windows several times a day, all the while, praying, "Please God, get rid of these dang flies!"  It was truly disgusting.  But day after day, as I cleaned our windows, they continued to appear.  I never seemed to win the battle, and God was alarmingly quiet to my pleas.  I looked up fruit flies on the internet, trying to find a solution, then trying everything every reference suggested.  But I never got to the source of the problem.  Finally, one day, I asked God to 'please help me find them,' and then I stopped looking in obvious places.  And I discovered an old bag of potatoes in a closet that I would never have put produce in.  It was so amazing to find them that I knew it was God.
"Please help me do the work--the search--and fill up what is not in me to do."

See the difference?  Instead of sitting around trying to figure out what God might have wanted me to learn by this event, what spiritual lesson I needed to be taught, just help me use the brain You've given me to do what must be done in this situation.  Buy a battery!  Look first for the obvious answer.

Of course, sometimes it's the enemy. Sometimes it's God saying no...but first, maybe always first, look for the easy answer...Your car won't start?  God is saying, 'buy a battery!'  Maybe the simple answer is actually the miracle.  After that, trust that if He has something more to teach you, something deeper, it's His business, His holy, Kingdom-come business to make that clear as well.

Friday, November 1, 2013

No wonder...

November. Can you believe it? I can't. The year flew. This November brings so many things. A trip to the Bay area to celebrate Thanksgiving with our little city dweller (Yay, SK!!!), Thyrza's 95th birthday is on the 11th--which makes her the oldest person I've personally been acquainted with. We talked to her last night with Grampie. What a kerfuffle that was. "I should never have moved," she kept saying. "Why don't you get yourself back here," he answered. "I'm going to try," she told him. "I have room for you." Then he started talking to me about Kleenex, scratching his back, the oxygen machine, and completely forgot what the phone was, let alone who was on the other end of the line. He's NOT who she remembers. November also brings the end of Daylight savings time, which I love for the first hour of extra sleep. After that I'm sorry the darkness comes so early in the afternoon, and that Beve hardly sees daylight at all.

But first, November brings Random Journal Link-up Day

I can hardly reach my journals now that we've built the shelf abutting the ceiling in our bedroom where they've found their permanent home. Tonight, because November also means basketball season, Beve was watching some game on TV, and I hated to bother him, so I jumped and grabbed one toward the right end of the row. It's from the spring of 2009. This is rather a long entry, but it spoke to me, and I hope it will to you as well.

Holy week. While most of the world was busy going about its business, Jesus was aware of the inexorably ticking clock. Everything He did, everything He touched, everything He said has the scent of "last time" to it. I've been at the end of things before. The end of high school, which--then!--represented the best time of my life. The end of college and that final packing up of my things (with Dad's help!) and moving away was far less simply sad. There'd been great joys in college but excruciating heartache as well. Leaving home for Europe--twice--and the real (final) leaving home, leaving a life where I dwelt like the sun in my own singleness for marriage, where I'd never again be simply me. I had to die to that former self--each time, in some way, the last especially--in order to fully live in the new reality.

But such analogies break down because in each instance, along with the sadness of leaving was a joy--small or GREAT--about the future. What lay ahead was potentially, probably, hopefully, the very best of life. Not, I've NEVER lived a week where everything I touched was the final touch.

And most of us don't have such an experience. Even in the last days of our lives, we are either blithely unaware of the timeline of our breathing or are too busy with the difficulties of that breathing to savor such moments. To pay attention. 

It occurs to me that the last week of Jesus' life most resembles that of  prisoners on death row who know the date of execution. Their realm of life is puny by then, and they've already had most of their last things before being convicted, maybe before the committing the crime that put them on this path. Still, the knowing, the terrible, haunting knowing that death is coming, that a man-made, audience-d death waits at the end of the week must be a heavy burden. 

It was so for Jesus. It made Him get to the heart of the matter. He didn't have time for extraneous concerns. Trivial pursuits. No, such things fall away at the end, so when we think of what Jesus cried and prayed over, what He spent His sweat and tears on that last week, it's not rocket- science to get where His heart was. Praying and crying over Jerusalem, then demonstrating those prayers by clearing the Temple--He'd been about this business since He was 12-years-old. Washing His disciples feet as a picture of servant leadership--He'd called them, served them, slept with them, ate with them, LOVED them, and telling them He wouldn't always be with them so they'd have to serve each other. Allowing a woman to worship Him as a picture of His burial needs. In every conversation, every touch, death was the nuance behind His tone.

It made Him unusually serious, I think. burdened with a weight slowly bowing His shoulders, as He anticipated not merely His physical death--a painful, gruesome way to die--but the bigger loss of His Father. "I and the Father are ONE."  Jesus often said this. Now facing the ripping of the fabric of that unity. Imagine that. Imagine facing the first moments EVER--in your life, your pre-incarnation, the history of the world--when you WEREN'T in complete communion with GOD. The first moments in eternity when God turned His face away from you. No wonder it was such deep sorrow. 

In a sense, it was then--in His last/first separated moments from God--that He was most like us. Separated by sin, the one who knew no sin. And it killed Him.

And it kills me to think of it, frankly. That my sin-filled, natural existence is the one thing that killed God. HAD to kill Him, of course, but also just did by the dirt and filth and infected sin of it. To think of moving from union with God to union with sin. Volitionally. For me.

That's love.
That's Jesus. 

Hit and miss

That's what I've been this week.
At least when it comes to writing blog posts.
Stuff happens and I think it'd be a great post. Then...
the next thing you know I've spent four hours at my sewing machine or three hours reading or a couple hours writing down my 'go-to' verses in scripture, then trying to list them in order of importance (Psalm 84 is on top of the list, but John 1 is at the bottom because I believe in saving the best for last!), or an hour on pintrest or...well, you get my point.

That point being I've been wasting a whole lot of time this week.
And going to various medical appointments, which is something of a hobby.
I think I need a new hobby.

yesterday, for the first time in my life, I jumped the fence.
That is, I tried alternative medicine.
I went to a naturopath. A Christian woman who clicks her fingers as she runs fingers over vials of some kind of liquid that tell her things about a person's body. We prayed before she started. Then, about ten seconds later, she said, "Wow, neurological." Then she said, "Hmm, but it's not in your brain." And, get this, the next thing you know, she's telling me it came from an 'old trauma' of some kind. By this time I was sitting up pretty straight, that's for sure. I'd walked in the door, removed my shoes (and cell-phone) and had told her nothing more than my name. Really. But there it was. Exactly as it is in my body. She preceded to learn (from my body) that I don't have a gall-bladder, that there are colds in our house (both Beve and J have them right now!!!), and that I struggle with headaches.

Not bad, if you ask me.
OK, more than not bad. I went in a skeptic and was slowly impressed that God was revealing things in that tiny office.

It wasn't all perfect, however. She dove into some emotional stuff, and there she got way off. There were two different little 'vials' about my temperament that she pulled that were supposedly out of whack and needed healing. One was that I'm insecure,  shy, timid, a person who is afraid to voice opinions or speak in public.  The other one said that I am 'angry, resentful, hateful, have a violent temper, am mean-spirited, selfish and ungenerous (is that a word?). This second is the worst thing she ever has to tell people, she said, but  they usually break down crying as they confess this deep, dark secret about themselves. Needless to say, I didn't cry. I was just stunned. Blank. I'm a lot of things, and I can name them as well as anyone. Lazy's one. Too opinionated is another. But these things? Not so much. Not even close. My kids, my husband, my siblings would all tell you that I've never had a 'violent temper.' So I told her that she was off the mark and she said, "I'm right about 98% of the time and  other times the people are lying...not that I'm saying you're lying!"
Really? That's something of a catch-22, isn't it? Either agree, or you're lying.

So I just let it be.
Then and now.
God knows what I am.
Who I am.

"Do you believe that God loves you just the way you are today?" she asked me. "And that he can't love you anymore no matter what you do or don't do?"
"Yes." I answered.
"Really?" she asked.

I wanted to say, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of God," but I thought that might be overkill.

All in all, the experience was a draw. She was right about my physical ailments, but she wasn't right about my temperament--about my flaws. And that's okay. I don't need a human to reveal my sin to me. It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict me concerning righteousness. I trust Him to do it. He does and He does and He does. Amen.