Sunday, March 31, 2013

Every day is resurrection day...from now on.

One of my mother's favorite Easter songs, aside from the "Hallelujah Chorus" section of Handel's Messiah, is a catchy little song from the 70s, called, "Every Morning is Easter Morning."  She loved it so much we found it on the internet and had her two most musical grandchildren sing it at the family memorial service.
"Every morning is Easter morning,
Every day's resurrection day,
Every morning is Easter morning...
From now on."

Think about that with me for a few moments this Easter night. Every morning we wake up, every night we fall into our beds, every step we take, whatever happens to us--we're living in light of the Resurrection. You might even say we're in the Resurrection garden, because we've seen the rolled-away stone, and are celebrating with our whole being-saved lives that "He's ALIVE!" "HE'S RISEN!"

Every day, every single day, is Resurrection day.
Every single day, my life is new, because of that Resurrection.
My life is HIS because of His resurrection.
Every single day.
And it colors (I pray) how I live...every single day.

"In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had:
Who, being in very nature God,
     did not consider equality with God
        something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made Himself nothing
     by taking the very nature of a 
        servant,
     being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man
     He humbled Himself
     by becoming obedient to death---
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted Him to the 
          highest place
     and gave Him the name that is
         above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee 
        should bow,
  in heaven and earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
      Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father."


From now until we join the great throng bowing and confessing together,we get to--daily!-- sing the Hallelujah chorus in our lives, and live in Resurrection. It's the great, amazing-grace privilege of salvation.
Happy Easter Sunday; then, Happy Easter Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Yes, Happy Resurrection day, from now on.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Between times--repost

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I wrote this post a year ago, on our way home from a wonderful week in Kauai with some dear friends. On our way home, we had a layover in San Jose, CA, in a very nice hotel. It was the kind of place I'd have enjoyed any other time, but that night all I could think about was how much I wanted to be home, and how that hotel merely felt like a stop-gap on the way to where we were meant to be. Side-note: I picked up bedbug bites at that very nice hotel. Yep, got a string of them all along the side of my head I sleep on every night. So everything you've heard about even the nicest hotels I can confirm. It was not pleasant, and makes me a little sick, even thinking about it now.

ANYWAY, picking up this post from where I felt like I was in an 'in-between' time and place. Between vacation and being home. 

This makes me not unlike the disciples--though, of course--on a very-much-shorter-and less-cosmic-scale--who had lived in one reality for all the days since they'd been pulled out of their everyday existence of tax-collecting and fishing and however else they made their living, into something entirely different. All by the voice of one man calling them by name. "I saw you under the tree, Nathaniel," "Come, Simon, James, John, I'll make you fishers of men." And they came, abandoning all they knew and were presumably used to for some kind of dusty itinerate life on the dusty road, walking from one place to the next, sleeping who knew where, calling men out of trees to feed them and feeding people on hills out of boys' lunches. Watching the sick be healed, the lame walk, and the blind made to see. And hearing the man they walked with speak and speak and speak. And all through those days, it was the best of times. Like the sun was warm on their faces every day they walked with such a man. Even when doors were slammed against them, leaders rose up in ire to protest such words as their teacher spoke, they had the one thing that made such a time like walking and living and being in Paradise--they had Him among them. Every single day.

So when those days ended--not with a whimper but a bang, they were shocked into a 'between' time. Yes, He had warned them. If they'd been really listening, they'd have heard they foreshadowing not only in His words but in His increasingly weighted action as He moved inexorably toward Jerusalem and all that awaited Him there.  Toward the Gethsemane, Calgary and the darkness beyond. But (like us, who are equally thick of mind and only clear in vision in our rear-view mirrors), those people who walked with Jesus didn't hear His words nor realized what His actions meant. They were living in a fool's paradise.

So shocked they were. The shock of their lives when that Paradise ended. As shocked, I might guess, as the shock the first people on this planet felt when, due to their short-sighted-ness, the first of our lot also left Paradise to wander blindly on their own without the intimate company of God.  It's a striking parallel, isn't it?  The first pair didn't live to see Sunday. Never knew a resurrection was coming. They lived with the loss--and the knowledge that they'd lost Him of their own accord (if they dared admit for an instant that it was actually their own fault, which humans are usually loathe to do).  Still, whether they admitted it or not, there was enough fault to go around--God makes that pretty clear in Genesis 3--Adam must take some, Eve still more and the enemy still more. God is a fair and righteous judge and lays responsibility at the feet of those whom it belongs.

At the Cross, that responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of--every person who walked with Jesus. None got away scott-free, whether they'd run away or stood and watched. More than that, not one of us who ever lived is off the hook for what happened that Friday morning at the Cross. We do well to remember that all our Paradises ended there.  ALL of them. The best days we've ever lived stop short at the cross.

And with those men and women who holed up in the 'between' time of that long Friday He spent hanging there, and the Saturday when they had no inkling He'd ever be anything but dead.  We must stand still with them. We must linger there and remember what He was doing during that 'between time'. Jesus wasn't simply biding His time, waiting those three days because it made for good drama. He was still 'about His Father's business,' raising hell, so to speak against the forces of the enemy. Because all the sin of all those who'd ever lived (starting with that bite-of-fruit that started the whole ball rolling) He was down in hell, waging war with the enemy. Yes, while the disciples were licking wounds mostly imagined, Jesus was busy saving their lives.

That's what that 'between-time' was about. For each of us, that's what Saturday is. While we're shocked into silence, or trying to decide how to get even, or so hurt we curl up into a corner, Jesus had waged and won a war on our behalves.  The worst thing you ever did, the thing you cannot bear to expose, the pain you've caused that would throw you out of Paradise (and if you don't think you have such a thing, chances are, that sin is pride or arrogance), Jesus has saved you. From yourself, to begin with. From the enemy, ultimately.

 Sit with that a moment. Between time.

Then tomorrow will be so much sweeter. Will also come upon you with shock--but also so much joy, there will be tears, laughter and dancing. And no place on earth will contain it. That's Paradise--that's what resurrection feels like. At least, it's what I think it was to His first disciples. So when the TIME comes, shall we join them in the dance?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Worst/Best day, recycled


A re-post from 2011, which was from a journal entry written several years before.


It was sunny and hot today.  Not a cloud in the sky, with a blazing sun overhead exactly at noon.  The temperature was somewhere between 86 and 95 degrees Farenheit.  The sky was as blue as the eyes of my middle child.  Nineteen hundred and eighty-two years ago today, that is, the sky was that blue.  Today in Jerusalem, where the temperature really was 30 degrees celsius, but felt like 34 (according to Accuweather), which is 86 and 94 F respectively (and don't worry, I didn't do that math myself; that whole 9/5s + 32 stuff is beyond me...if I'm even remembering the equation correctly), I'm not sure the sky is bright blue.  Pollution has changed the color of the sky in most other urban centers, so I'm guessing the sky there is kind of a dingy flat color, with barely a tint of blue in it.  I haven't been to Jerusalem, so I could be wrong, but that's my guess.  But back then, back in the year 28 AD or so, that sky was blue, even in the heat of a spring day.

When Jesus lay on His flayed back on a rough wooden cross, while his arms and legs were stretched into position and nails pounded through his very human flesh, he stared at an azure sky.  Yes, azure--the exact color of an unclouded sky.  "The heavens declare the glory of God," the Psalmist says.  The heavens that Jesus last glimpsed on his dying day, while nails sharpened by our sin pierced his skin.  The distance between the two sides of His family tree, the distance between the two sides of Himself was clear in that moment. Well, that distance had been growing ever since He gave Himself up to God in the Garden of Gethsemane.

You know that moment, don't you?  That sweating blood moment where He made a certain plea that must have broken His Father's heart not to grant:  "If You're willing, let this cup be passed from me...nevertheless, not my will but yours be done." The same Father who sent an entire angel chorus to set up camp to sing His Son's first Birth-day chorus, the Father who heard His Son tell Mama and Step-Papa Joe, "Didn't you know I'd be in my Father's house?"  The Father who said the first time Jesus stepped out in public, "This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him,"  If you're a parent, even a little ol' earthly parent who make more than their share of mistakes along the way, you know how it feels when your kid hurts.  And to know that the hurt in front of this son--this Beloved Son--will separate You from Him for the first time in eternity, will kill Him, will destroy Him, how that must have made God wept that dark, black Friday when the sky was azure, and the sun was golden.  It was the worst day in history--not only on earth--but also in heaven.  Wasn't it? Wasn't it?

But also the day for which Jesus had come.  The day for which they'd planned, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--God in three in One--since that first Garden.  Yes, this Friday was always coming.  The betrayal by Judas, even his unbelievable kiss in Gethsemane.  The monkey trial of the pharisees and the washing-his-hands-of-the-whole-thing by Pilate, who'd never have a good night's sleep the rest of his life.  The near rioting screams of the crowd that freed a murderer and condemned a Savior.  All of it had always been on its way.  Jesus had spent His entire life on earth with His face 'turned toward Jerusalem.'  And God in Heaven, sad as it made Him, turned His back on Jesus, just as they'd planned--when the sacrificial Lamb of God was nailed to a cross against a clear blue sky on a verdant spring day before most of eternity's population had ever even lived.

Look at Him hanging there on that worst, best day.  The day the sky was blue, then the sun went dark. Dark in fact, and dark with our sins on that worst, best day.  Through out history, this day has been known both as black Friday and Good Friday, and how true both names are. The azure sky went as black as the sin that stained the Good.  The singular, true Good.  He hung there, done for with our sins.  The worst, best day. Ever. And with the angels weeping as loudly as they'd sung at His birth, God in His heaven let Him. Of course they cried as loudly at that death as they'd sung at His birth.  Of course they did.  Their cries, God's cry--it blackened the cry and rent the temple...because God Himself was dying.
"It is finished!" The Man on the Cross said.  What He'd come for.  It was finished.  FOR US.  Finished.

Thank God.  Yes, Thank God.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The great present tense verb of God

The great present tense verb that is God.
That's what I've been meditating on today, this Last-Supper day.

When Moses asked the Name of the One who spoke from the burning bush, the answer was in the form of a present tense verb. "I Am that I Am."  We often translate it, "I will be who I will be," so that it makes more sense to us, but really, it's the infiniteness of that, "I AM that I AM" that sticks. That rocked Abraham's world, and rocks ours too.

God is always in the act of being. He just plain be, if you'll excuse my poor grammar. Before the world was created, when, "IN the beginning, GOD..." to the moment He spoke to Abraham to leave Ur, down through Moses, Ruth, David, the prophets, and straight to that moment when He becomes flesh and dwells among us. Now acts, lives and breathes as we live and breathe. Yes, the days when Jesus walked on earth were in a particular time and place. But His action, His words, His being is not confined to those days and moments.

We discover this most clearly in the story of the Last supper (along with the seven "I AM's" He speaks, in John's gospel).  In that upper room, we are swept right into a moment that transcends past and enters our present and extends until He comes again. "This is my body," He says, as He lifts ordinary bread His listeners understood how important bread was to their diet--it wasn't a side-dish that one could take or leave. No, it was the most basic, foundational food in life That's what is what Jesus wants us to get about who He is, how much we need Him. And how long we will. EVERY single time we eat together--in His name--He'll be there, in the most basic, important way. He IS there. Present tense. And it's a clever turn of phrase He uses--'my body, broken for you." We break bread together as a positive, communal thing. A communion, if you will. It's something that joins us. And yet, His being broken--in all its horror and pain--is what makes that community--indeed, that breaking of bread together--possible. And even now, His present tense action of saving us, and our responding to that salvation, it what makes our coming together--our breaking of the bread together, and experiencing that it's HIS body broken for us--possible.

 And so with the wine. "This is my blood, shed for you." His blood was shed on that Friday morning on that hill above Jerusalem, but we also acknowledge the present tense truth of it every time we drink that wine together and commemorate that He will come again.

But beyond this, think of all the present tense verbs we know about our Triune God. He always acts on our behalf, He intercedes for us; while we stand, He fights the enemy for us; He heals, saves, hears, comforts, keeps us from falling, shields us, guides us, dies for us, REIGNS, dwells in us, speaks through us, speaks to us, teaches us, listens to us, hears us...and so many more, the list would reach from one end of the earth to the other.

In fact, isn't it true, that He is the epitome of present tense verb? That every perfect thing, everything true, honorable, good and right action in the universe can be attributed first to God? And can't it also be said that we are merely derivative of that goodness, when you think about it? That is, when we are good, we are acting most like the way He intended us to act and be--in His image.

That's the great present tense verb of God is: He lives. He LIVES. HE LIVES. Yes, He lives and NOTHING coming tonight or tomorrow morning, nothing man, woman, angels, demons, the devil himself tries to do can stop that.

As we move into good, dark Friday, let's hold on to that--our great Present tense of a verb God already IS. Was always already IS.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Figs--repost

It's Tuesday of Holy week. In years past, I've been very intentional about writing my way through Jesus' steps toward Calvary each day. And I'd fully intended that again this year, but with one thing and another, it's already Tuesday and I'm just now noticing. So instead of re-inventing the wheel, here's a post from the Tuesday of Holy Week 2011. 


Sometime on that very busy Monday, Jesus had apparently wanted a piece of fruit.  No big deal, just a little fig as they were walking along.  I wonder how often they picked fruit from trees as they wove in and out through the towns, along dusty back roads (and dusty front roads too, for that matter, since pavement was two thousand years in the future), over hills, by the sea.  It wasn't like they had a chuck-wagon behind them, with a craggy, grumpy old cowboy ready to fix hearty meals over a fire he'd laid himself while they were off doing ministry.  No, they lived by their wits, these first followers of Christ. And more than one fruit tree, I'm guessing, fed them.  But not this fig tree, not that final Monday.  It was empty of fruit, you see.

And that didn't sit well with Jesus.  At least this is how I always read the story as a young believer.  Just this simple, just this based on human hunger and a little put off not to be fed when He wanted to be.  But, of course, this isn't really His character, is it?  God Incarnate isn't mercurial so that He'll condemn on a dime what doesn't satisfy His base hungers.  This would be a human response, and not a very righteous one at that.  So when Jesus doesn't find a fig on that tree, and this absence causes Him to curse it for all time, I'm guessing the disciples were scratching their heads a little.  Drop-jawed with the inconsistency of this response with what they'd come to know about Him.  Did they whisper among themselves? Or were they so startled that they could only squeak with it? The truth is, Jesus could just have easily put a fig on that tree, if He'd had a mind to.  The man had made a banquet out of a few fish and loaves, after all.  So one measly fig to satisfy His hunger? Piece of cake...so to speak.  But that wasn't what He was about.

The next morning--Tuesday--the disciples and Jesus have occasion to pass by the fig tree again.  And not only is there no fruit among its branches, but it's positively withered from the roots.  Peter (and all the others, too, undoubtedly, though he tends to be the quick-draw spokesperson, which is an all-too familiar quality, just ask my family, my whole, large extended family) remembers what Jesus had said to the tree the day before, and stops dead in his tracks. "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

"Have faith in God, " Jesus answered.  "Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea, and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours."

Now we get to down to it.  In Jesus' answer, we (and the disciples, of course) understand that the 'curse' wasn't about the fig tree at all, but was a vehicle by which He could teach about prayer.  A teaching moment, some might call it today, though a better-by-a-country-mile phrase would be a sign and wonder.  Almost every miracle Jesus did had the purpose of revealing something about Himself.  Yes, there were times when He was simply moved by compassion. We are told that.  But often, even when He healed the sick and, particularly when He raised Lazarus from the dead, He was pointing to Himself, pointing to something essential for His followers to understand in the life of faith they/we are called to.  As John puts it, "These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and believing, you may have life in His name." (20:31)

So this 'curse' of the fig tree has nothing to do with the fig tree itself, and everything to do with prayer.  He was performing, for the disciples, an exercise of faith. There are echoes here--or shouts for the hard of hearing, as Flannery O'Connor put it so eloquently--of John 15, where Jesus tells the disciples that, "I am the true vine and you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers...If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you." (15:5-7)  It's a visual aid, to show what is possible if--with Him in residence in us--we believe God to do what we ask.  Now clearly, He's not advocating that we go around cursing fig trees or moving mountains, like we're some kind of magician.  Of course not.  And, come to think of it, I can't actually remember the last time anyone managed to move a mountain into the sea via prayer.  The most faithful understand this isn't the point, and the rest of us thankfully don't have enough faith to actually do so.

In other places, He gave a blueprint for prayer (the Lord's prayer, for those of you who didn't catch what I meant), but here He's concerned with the foundation.  And that foundation is faith.  Faith.  Our half-hearted, uncertain, worry-warted prayers have a way of bouncing off the walls of our ceiling and of our hearts, but that's about the end of it.  No, Jesus tells us here--and many other places as well--that it's certain, full-throttle, 'I believe and I trust and I know You can and will do this' prayers that He is interested in, but those prayers mean that we believe and trust and know that He is.  Just that, that He is, and that He's in relationship with us and cares about what we care about. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and being certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)

Sometimes the best way to shore up our flagging faith, our certainty in what we do not see, but want to, is to remember the ways God has been faithful in our past.  A list, a recitation of His goodness to us really does the job.  When I've made such a list, it's made me feel joy and humility all at once.  That God, my very Big GOD should have done so much for so puny me, who has so often doubted.  It utterly slays me--and reminds me that yes--YES!!!--He lives and breathes and has made His home in me, and therefore, what I ask, He answers. I absolutely believe that the more we are willing to trust Him, the more He will do for us.  Four years ago right now, our youngest, faith-filled child was convinced that Whitworth University was the only place she should go to college.  The cost looked overwhelming to us.  But she was certain, and God met her at her faith.  No, He did more than met her, He inhabited her faith and brought it to fruition.  Four years later, she is about to graduate (ed note: and now HAS graduated, of course).  God has been faithful.  She believed and He was faithful.  This is relationship--God-dwelt, faith-filled relationship. It is both awesome and humbling.

How do you pray?


Monday, March 25, 2013

"Earth is crammed with heaven..."

Earth is crammed with heaven
and every bush afire with God,
but only he who sees
takes off his shoes.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Today was a 'taking off my shoes' kind of day. The first real day of spring, with skies above declaring the glory of God, and the sun shining His brightness, the hyacinths are blooming their brilliant violet  and everything in me sings. I'm waxing a bit more poetic than normal, but doesn't it always feel a bit so when we can finally throw open our doors? We've been cooped up in here for a whole lot of rainy, cloudy days, without even snow to break up the monotony (I know I shouldn't complain about that), the dogs and me. We dash outside to run for a bit, me with my raincoat firmly over my head, them shaking themselves off in my kitchen afterwards, but they've been restless.

So today, I pulled out a lawn cushion, took out my cup of tea, grabbed a 'chuck-it' and we spent hours in the spring together, listening to birds, following scents across the yard, chasing balls, chewing on them, reading, drinking tea, praying. Praising God for the great change of seasons.
One of the things I love most about spring is how fragrant it is, at least here. I can never quite put my finger on all the scents but it's sweet, full of color. I love that God didn't only make plants and flowers pretty but He made them smell wonderful as well.

The fine taste of my tea, the sweet smell of new flowers, the sound of birds in our trees, the sun overhead and feel  of a Springer's fur in my lap. It's absolutely true that He made creation so alive that  with all our senses we can "Taste and see that the Lord is good." 

Today, as I was sitting outside, I thought of how each of us is made in the image of God, and wondered if this amazingly diverse and beautiful world He created is, likewise, an image of heaven. There's more to recommend such a thought than those streets of gold, for all that Revelation tells us that's what Heaven is. I don't mean to sound sacrilegious, but I find the natural creation far more majestic, magnificent and...well, heavenly than gold pavement. 

The most important thing, of course, is that whatever heaven is, He will be there. As He already IS here--in me. That was the end of my pondering.  When it comes right down to it, I am the bush afire with Him, crammed with Heaven. Each of us is. We can look around the world and see Him in everything He makes--we should. We can also look at each other. And stare in awe at the glow of a bush aflame with His Spirit that does not burn up.

"They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." Acts 2: 3-4a

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beautiful beyond compare--again


Re-posting my way to the end of the month when I'll celebrate the fifth anniversary of this blog. Yippee. The post I'm recycling today has been one of the most viewed posts I've ever written, which tells me that either it had a very good title (meaning it linked to a whole lot of other things), or that this topic is something that strikes a nerve with people. In any case, here it is.

A few nights ago, a friend sat in our living room staring at this wedding picture of Beve and me.


  She said, "He was really good-looking.  Well, he still is, even older with gray hair."  Then she paused.  "Isn't it interesting how often really good-looking people tend to marry people so much less attractive than themselves?"

Last night, as I stood in the shower, I started laughing about this comment.  I mean, belly-laughing until tears were mixing with the water from the shower.  It isn't the first time I've been around this block, you see.  Not by a long shot.  Almost from the first moment of our engagement, I heard comments about how handsome Beve is.  (And, actually, the guy I dated in college (in an informal dorm vote) was voted the best-looking guy in that small college.)  So I'm no stranger to being in relationships with very handsome men.  And to the often strange looks I've gotten by some in this world who don't get it, who just plain don't get why that man would be with someone like me.  I've had cashiers in stores tell me to my face that Beve is the best-looking man they've ever seen, Nordstrom employees say he should model for them, friends tell me they could drown in his blue eyes or have a crush on him.  The list is long.

And along with those comments about him have come those about me and my relative place in the looks department. "You and I," an older friend once told me, "have to be content with the fact that we are not attractive women and can't do anything about it, while our husbands are."  Oddly, though I love and respect her husband, I've never thought him all that good-looking.  But I'm very glad she does.  Another friend has told me, "At least you married up and gave your kids a chance, looks-wise."  "It must be hard to be married to the best-looking person around, looking as you do?" is something else I've heard.

Yep, I've grown accustomed to these things over the long course of our life together.  And yet.  About 95% of the time, I never think about Beve's looks at all.  No more than I think of mine.  I mean, I think of them.  Sometimes he doesn't put his clothes together very well: like rust cords with green shirt.  Seriously?  So to put it in a grammatically-poor sentence, I like him to be looking good rather than good looking.  And he feels the same way.  Though it may be hard to believe, I don't think he's ever noticed his own looks.  That just isn't important to him.  We are equally yoked, because God meant us to be, even on the outside.  No matter how tall he is, how smart I am, how handsome or not either of us are.  God does this.  And that's what counts.

And to my Beve, I'm beautiful.  The first time in my life I really felt beautiful was with him.  Truly.   He made me believe it.  Then he made me know it doesn't matter.  That's one truth.  And the second truth is that when my children were little they thought I was pretty simply because I was Mommy.  I was their definition of beauty, because they loved me.  That's another truth.

But the over-arching truth is that I am who I am.  This external self as well as the internal one is created in God's image.  For His purpose.  Perhaps by the world's standards there are others whose features are more pleasing.  And I'm okay with that.  This body, this face, this whole me is who He made me to be.  And I'm beautiful beyond compare.  To Him.

So no matter what the world might say about me, I'm comfortable in my own skin.

What about you? How do you feel about the face and body you have been given by God?  Are you comfortable in your own skin?

The sum of a life

First, because I wrote about it (twice) here's a picture of the quilt RE and I made last week.

What I'm really thinking about tonight is the sum of a life. What it adds up to, when all the factors are put together on paper, all the equations are made. Yesterday Beve and I traveled south to our state's capital where we joined our dear friends for the resurrection service of D's dad's life. This man, a stately, thoughtful man was also a brilliant one, a man renown in his field, respected by his peers, admired by all who came in contact with him.

But there was something startling to me about reading the condensed version of his life in the bulletin. I mean, there was just so much breadth and depth and diversity to his interests and travels...and the lives he touched. To have such a life so summed as his, I thought.

But then his sons stood and talked about their father. Told some funny stories--the kind of stories only sons who love their dads could tell. They could tell such stories because their dad had had a way with funny stories too--they said that; they learned it from him (even when he told the same story over and over). And  they made the grieving company begin to smile and laugh. And then those two tall men spoke of the deep truths of what their dad had meant to them--that he'd had integrity, that he'd always worked hard at whatever he'd been asked (or employed) to do. And that--ESPECIALLY that--he'd taught them how to love their wives by loving his wife so well. He'd loved his wife so well, he'd made them better husbands.

These truths aren't exactly credentials you might see on a resume, but they are the sum of a man's life. They add up to everything. That a person's child can stand up and say, "You made me a better spouse to my spouse simply by being your child, by being saturated in the love you had for your spouse." I was awed by those words from those two tall man, so like their dad. And the one, my Beve's friend, so like my Beve. It felt like the holiest of moments, like the moment when the Father looked in and said, "Well done," to that dad. Well done, for a life well-lived and a life well-loved, and having loved well.

Tonight as I'm thinking about it, it makes me consider that we all have to face such a day. Or, perhaps I should say, we must prepare for a day when our beloveds will have to face it about us (unless we outlive them all). What will the sum of my life be? What will be the great truths of my life--not just the biological and chronological facts--but the actual truths of my life be when I am in His throne room too busy praising to care?

It may not matter to me then, but if it matters to my children, it matters. More importantly, if it matters to God who I am in this world, it matters to me. So again, what will the sum of my life be?

And what will yours?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

George--revisited


This is a post from July of 2011 when Beve and I were in New Jersey at the home of one of Beve's closest childhood friends. Such a visit is a yearly gathering of three men and their wives who have shared a lifetime of commitment to each other. The man whose home we were visiting that summer has lost his father this week, and his precious dog just last fall. So in honor of both these beloveds in D (and his wife)'s lives, I wanted to share this from that hot summer day. It reminds me not only of the dog, but of what we will all find at the end of our roads. So to D, here's to you. You are in my prayers today.

The air was thick today, so thick it felt like I could reach out and cut right through it or lift it off my chest, heaving under its weight.  Heat will do that, weigh down the limbs until it's like trying to walk in water.  And I suppose one could make the case that our very sweat and the moist air together are a near kin to water, a second-cousin of sorts.

My first step outside this lovely Cape Cod-style house of our dear friends was into the haze of the late afternoon while those friends and Beve were off picking up a few things for dinner and Beve's much revered (in our house), much anticipated new bread recipe.  The professor, RP, his wife, JP and I were here with D and ML's gorgeous, beloved, golden retriever, George.

George.  What a magnificant beast this dog is.  This closest-thing-to-an-offspring our friends will have, George is easy going, gentle and seriously devoted to his people.  D, who is one of the funniest men you'll ever meet, tends to commentate for George like he's a sportscaster and George is the superbowl.  It's clever and always entertaining.  ML, while cutting up veggies for salads, saves broccoli stems, pepper ends, and other such delicacies, puts them in his bowl, and George comes running the way our dogs run for cheese.  Yes, George is a vegetarian!

They love him, walk him, throw balls and treats for him.  He lets them know when he needs to go out or is tired or being ignored by bumping against their hands, or--failing to get their attention--pulling on their t-shirts.  When 'Daddy' takes a shower in the early morning darkness, George begins pacing, because it means D is leaving for the day, rather than 'telecommuting'.  He waits by garage door all day long for his people to come home.

This is a dog I could love.  This is a dog who IS loved.  Wholly loved.

This afternoon, while his people were gone, George wouldn't settle.  The folks in the house were the wrong folks.  It just wasn't right, you see.  Finally, J and I decided that he just needed to go out.  We knew the routine.  He'd go out, do his business, and come right back in.  We stepped out into that thick-as-butter-you-could-cut-with-a-knife heat, and before we could get his whole one-syllable name out of our mouths, he was around the corner of the house and at full-gallop down the street.

I instantly took off after him.  The professor and his wife came after me, but they were barefoot, and the pavement burning.  I ran, trying to keep him in sight.  At one point, as I called his name, he stopped, turned toward me, and I swear he practically thumbed his nose at me.  He was hell-bent for who-knows-where, and we weren't about to catch him.  J caught up to me, though, and we tried to stay on his tail.  Our hearts were racing (only barely from the heat) as we began to imagine having to tell D and ML that we'd lost their dog.

R, meanwhile, was tearing around the house, looking for keys to the car, so our search could be more efficient.  So when we heard a car behind us, J and I expected R to be driving it.  (In this heat, the lovely neighborhood was as still and quiet as a ghost town, so a single car made a huge racket...or was that my echoing heart?)  However, the car carried D and Beve.  George had, by good fortune, providence or the hand of God, run straight toward his people coming home from the store.  They blocked his escape route, opened the door of the car, and he jumped in as if that had been his intention all along, like he was saying, "Just coming to find you, and did you know those other people are still in OUR house?"

It took George about half an hour to stop panting.  He had taken that run/trot in a long, fur coat, after all.  It took my heart about that long to stop racing as well.

But it also taught me a lesson.  I know some people who have tried, and even are still trying, to run away from their relationship with God.  Away from their true home, so to speak.  And even when they are chased by people who care for them, want their best, and call them on behalf of the One who loves them best, they sometimes thumb their noses at those 'chasers.'  They don't know or trust.  Believe, I guess, that these well-meaning, caring 'friends' know the way home.  So the run away takes them farther adrift.

Or so it seems.  From our human perspective, anyway.  However, somehow--because this is how He works, what He's always about--they end up exactly where they were always on the way to.  Right at the one place they most need to be.  With the One they've been looking for when they didn't know they were lost.  With the One who will open the door to them because they're loved.

Keep running, and you'll run into the Lover of you.  That's what I learned from George today.  Keep running and you'll end up back home where you ran from in the first place.  It's what happened to George, and what I believe (and continue to pray) for the runners in my life.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Skill-set--repost


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we give to Him, what skills we bring to Him--He already knows. When we try to do it for ourselves, we end up with a golden calf, broken in pieces, and probably a whole lot of anger to boot.  But when God does it--when we use what He's already given us to use--it's enough.
(Reposted from November 2010)

Before Memory--repost


When I was about a year old, the story goes, the family was visiting some friends when I wandered out into the back of their yard and sat on a box.  That box, it turned out, was a bee-hive, and my sitting on it did not, apparently, sit well with them.  I was stung multiple times, causing--my parents always believed--the allergic reaction I've suffered from such stings ever since, meaning not bad enough to kill me, but significant enough to greatly affect my life (both physically--a whole swollen leg from one small sting will do that; and mentally--abject fear will do that as well!).  I do not remember one thing about this singular event in my life, but I certainly remember the result, and perhaps the fear as well. Indeed, perhaps my fear was actually handed to me, like too much bee-juice in my blood stream, from my own fear that day, and my mother's fear, and perhaps the fear of all the other adults as well.

When my sister, the Dump, was six months old, her legs were put in a splint for some reason I no longer remember, keeping her legs at right angles from each other.  Something about her hips being out of alignment, like she was an old Buick before she'd even had a hundred miles put on her.  That splint, or cast, stayed on her legs for a year, keeping her from learning to walk at the age when most children do.  Apparently she sort of managed to walk in something of an L-shaped lope, if she held on to something or someone, but with her legs splayed so, a normal gait was impossible.  However, the day that splint was removed from her legs, according to family lore, my sister stood up and walked.  She doesn't remember a single thing about this, of course.  Not the splint, not the inability to walk, not the learning to.  She'd actually learned something even without doing it.  All she needed was the opportunity to move.

My older brother was born while my father was out at sea.  My mother, along with her parents, were settled in a navy town, in a larger city, awaiting the baby, awaiting my father's return.  The baby came first.  Early.  Word came to my father across the globe, over in the Orient, I think.  R was six weeks old when he met his dad.  When Dad came off the ship and saw my mother, he barely glanced at her, kissed her perhaps even perfunctorily  according to our family lore, before taking his son--his namesake--into his arms for a good long drink of look and love.  It was the most important meeting of my brother's life (well, almost) and happened six weeks after his birth, but well before memory.  I have it in my head, though this might just be poetic license, that my brother smiled for the first time that day.  He should have, don't you think?

But all these things happened before memories began. These things--for good or evil--that happened to change our lives.  There are some people in this world who are disinclined to believe in the lineage of bad that goes back to the garden, but my own garden story, which I do not remember, is a metaphor for how the garden story that has infected me, us, the whole human race.  Eve and Adam made choices in a garden and we've been with the choices ever since.  And my sister's story, also before her memory, is such a picture of the gospel stories of healing.  Yes, yes, I know, also fully 20th century.  But I can picture the small, chubby (and my sister was quite the roly-poly toddler) little girl suddenly free from her chains (or casts) rising and walking.

And then there is the story of my brother meeting his daddy.  Meeting the one who'd given him life.  The most important moment in his young life, right in all those men.  My dad drug my mom, my brother, my grandparents all over the ship that day, introducing him--"this is my son...oh, and this is my wife, and in-laws".  My dad loved his wife.  Liked his in-laws well enough, even at that early stage. But oh, his son.  "This is my son, in whom I am well-pleased."  Can't you just hear it?

Yes, this story of my brother does have the ring of that story on another waterfront.  God introducing His Son to all and sundry.  "This is my Son."  As proud as my Daddy that day on the ship.  But more, of course.  Also knowing who Jesus was, what He'd say, what He'd do.  "Listen to Him," God said that day at the river.  But still, a pleased-as-punch dad.

But this picture of R meeting Dad is also every one of our stories. He met his dad one specific day in March, probably just about today, 54 years ago.  Well before he remembered.  The most important thing that happened in his life.  Hmm.  The most important thing that happened in R's life didn't happen 54 years ago today, but probably more like 2014 years ago today, give or take a day, or year.

That's the likely day that God's only begotten Son was actually born in Bethlehem.  March.  Maybe April.  4 BC. Probably.  Before memory.  But whatever you're doing today, maybe take a moment and think of that.  That this--THIS--is the day not only that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made for you. Before memory, He was making it for you.  In that manger in Bethlehem lay the most significant person you'll ever meet.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Koinonia

It's been a quiet weekend. After a week of furious quilting with my sister, along with a quick trip out to San Juan Island to see our brother on his own (new) stomping grounds, RE left for home yesterday morning and I've just managed to do some basic chores I'd overlooked all week. It's ridiculous how much of Kincade's dog hair can pile up when I don't sweep every day! But generally, I've been having a quilting bee hang-over. The quilt RE and I made in 4 1/2 days is the largest, most complicated quilt I've ever attempted; we managed to sew all the rows together wrong the first time through. You'd think I'd never made a quilt before, it was such a rookie move. But we got it finished, with only a few tears, cuts and bruises. No broken bones.

But I do have quite the 'hang-over' from having sat at my quilting machine for a day and a half, doing the actual quilting. It's hard on bodies such as mine and my sister's. Neither of us are what you'd call physically fit. Each with our own issues (though some overlap), we sat side-by-side and willed ourselves through it. And while I quilted, she cut out a couple of projects I've had in my queue, waiting their turn.

It was a good week. A Koinonia week, if you understand that word. When I was in college there was a popular worship song that went, "Koinonia means fellowship, Koinonia means love one another. And when it gets hard, Koinonia means 'take my hand, we'll do it together..'" That's what my sister and I were doing this week. Doing it together. We checked out patterns on the internet, tried this one and that one, checked each other's work, got each other tea, gave each other breaks. And when it was too hard for me, when my leg hurt too much to bend over another minute, she just carried on while I lay on my bedroom floor and closed my eyes for a few moments.

We often put Christian fellowship in certain kinds of boxes. We think of it as sitting around in church halls, eating potluck dinners together. Or maybe having picnics on a summer afternoon. And we think of the actions we do for each other as service--when we help someone move, or build a house, or plant a garden, or take a meal to the sick. But all of it is Koinonia. Every bit of it.

Jesus said that whenever two or more are gathered in His name, He is there. And that 'there-ness' of Him, that presence, makes it Koinonia. Fellowship. "Love one another as I have loved you," He says. In every way there is to love. In the quiet ways, like simply sitting as a person barely speaks about what is most troubling in their lives, and in the largest ways of all, giving of one's life in sacrifice for another. All of these ways are Koinonia.

And, it's as much a matter of Koinonia to say, "I need you to take my hand," as it is to be the one with the strong hand helping. It's as much a matter of the body, I should say, to know and admit I'm weak and in need as to be the one who is strong. Both are part of fellowship. We do it together. You and I and Him.

Koinonia.
My sister and I lived this again this week, with a giant quilt stitched between us. One she will give to a woman who gave much to her. Doing together to bless. Yes, Koinonia also means being blessed to bless others. Fellowship.

Thank you, RE.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Foolish--repost


A post from the autumn of 2009 when we were much involved with Beve's beloved sister's home-going. While she lay in a coma, life went on around us and sometimes we had no choice but to be involved in it. This was one of those days.

Another day, another drive down the freeway in pouring rain.  And when I say pouring, I mean think of driving through a full blast spray from a garden hose--for 40 straight minutes.  It's the kind of rain where you think your windshield wipers are completely ineffective, but if you turn them off for a second, you realize they really were making a difference.  Without them, it's like you're driving at the bottom of a swimming pool.

I had a very important, "Don't sit down, I'm going to take you right back," five minute doctor's appointment.  As I left, prescriptions in hand, the woman behind the glass window (and don't ask me why they have a closed glass window, but in the middle of the summer's heat wave, when the woman opened the window to talk to me, a blast of arctic air hit me, though she closed it even to write out a receipt to me, letting me go back to sweating with the rest of the waiting room occupants) said, "I should have called you this morning to tell you not to come down if you hadn't had your blood drawn."  I said, only slightly grumpy,"I kind of wish you hadn't told me that."  Then I paddled my boat back across the parking lot, got into my car, and hydroplaned back up the freeway for another 40 minutes of clenching my hands against the wheel, and, without even noticing, holding my shoulders in a rigidly raised position.

I do that, you know.  I hold my shoulders tightly when I'm a little anxious.  Or angry.  Or stressed.  And I hold my breath as well.  Blow it out at intervals with a long sigh of breath.  My jaw juts when I feel like someone is condescending, not taking me seriously, doesn't give me credit for having a brain.  Especially, I have to say, if men roll their eyes and say in response to something I've said, "Isn't that just like a woman?"  Even thinking about such things makes my jaw jut right this moment.

I could make a list of my faults, the way I act foolishly at moments, the way, now and then, someone thinks I'm foolish when I'm not.  If that makes sense.  Last week at the hospital, in a conversation with a medical professional who was absently doing something for G-J, I was describing her. "She isn't perfect, though," I told him, "She doesn't suffer fools."  He answered, "You mean she doesn't suffer foolishness.  Nobody suffers fools."  He walked out of the room as he said that--getting the last word, I suppose.  But he was wrong, you know.  In truth, some of us do suffer fools.  In fact, if we take Paul's words in 1and 2 Corinthians seriously, we'd be glad to both act foolishly--in the eyes of the world, and to be counted as fools.  For Christ's sake.  Read 1 Corinthians 2, read 2 Corinthians 11.  Paul doesn't mince words.

And here's the reality of my human-ness.  Sometimes I act very foolish.  Sometimes I take offence when I shouldn't.  Sometimes I think things are about me when they aren't.  Right this minute, as quickly as I can write this, I can think of half a dozen times in the last two days when I've made mountains out of molehills.  Taken myself or someone else too seriously.  Held on to grievances, then justified why I was holding on to them.  Driving up I-5,  I was having a conversation in the car.  Well, perhaps I should call it more of a shouting.  And I was alone in the car.  If there hadn't been a watering can turned upside down on top of all of the cars alongside me, I'm pretty sure anyone trying to pass me would have considered me not merely foolish, but a dang fool.  And I have to admit all that tension I feel in my shoulders tonight?  It didn't comes only from the drive, but from the anger I unleashed alone in that car.  Man, was I mad, and I let the person I was mad at have--even though that person was nowhere near my rampage.  Foolish?

Or...healthy?  I've always been a screamer, you know.  I've buried my head into my pillow to yell, opened my mouth with I was alone on the hills above my home as a child, even learned to scream without making a sound.  Somehow, the catharsis that comes through such release has served me well.  Sometimes I yell at God as well.  I tell Him why I'm mad, what I want Him to do about it, I remind Him that He is, after all, God.  I mean, very God of very God.  And though the world would call me foolish, I feel better for it.

I think it's okay to be foolish, to look at life, at our struggles as ways that we are commended before God.  And it's okay to tell Him it's hard.  Foolish.  And if the world doesn't suffer such behavior, that's just fine with me.  We are citizens of heaven, after all.  And as far as being a fool,  or suffering them, I'm reminded of what fools were in medieval courts.  They were the ones who, by story and song and acting silly, pulled the court out of dark thinking.  And  in their 'foolishness,' they broke through to tell Truth.  Always truth.  Yes, I'll be a fool, and I'll be foolish.  For Him and to Him.  And through Him to whoever He puts in my path.  To tell the Truth and to tell the Way and to tell the Light.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two are better than one

My sisters were in town this last weekend. Here we are on Saturday morning--laughing before we'd even dressed for the day. We had our requisite tea at the lovely Abbey Tea Garden (it's a requirement if you come to visit us!), and went down to the bay for a meal where we could watch the boats and gulls and sun setting on the water. It was a harbinger of spring up here in the northwest, but LD, my middle sister (the one on the right), felt chilled to the bone all weekend. She says her thermostat isn't working very well; I think she's just used to the warmth of southern California. LD was only here for 48 hours--and was pleased with how exact that was. RE (the one in the middle--our youngest sister) is here for the week.

Which leads me to what we're doing this week. RE came over to make a king-sized quilt for the woman who did the flowers for her daughters' weddings. Small towns are wonderful things. People do things for others because they know you, have long-standing relationships with you and, "Of course you won't pay me for that!" So ever since those weddings, RE has wanted to do something special for her. So here she is. I got out two of my machines, pulled out two tables, complete with cutting mats, and we've been at it. Fourteen hours today. I'm NOT kidding. We're calling it the sweatshop: our machines running side-by-side, a little conversation between us, just piecing and piecing and cutting and piecing some more. We came within a stones throw of finishing all the squares today too. You'd think that 14--er, 28--hours would be enough. But my arthritic lower back finally gave up the ghost, long after my bum leg had stopped complaining and retreated into complete paralysis. RE and I are nothing if not stubborn, however, and we just couldn't help trying to finish. But with 11 squares to go, I had to call it a night. I have to be able to walk tomorrow when we lay out this huge quilt, manipulate square placement and begin putting it together.  The goal is to finish it this week and there are a whole lot of steps ahead of us yet.

Working with someone is a powerfully good way to move more quickly, I discovered today. I can sew pretty fast on my own, can make quilt tops easily enough, but doing it with someone makes it a communal thing. Obviously I'm not the first one to discover this. As far back as Ecclesiastes, the writer knew it, "Two are better than one, for there is more reward for their toil."  It's a joy to learn this with my sister. And to know that, like most of my quilts, this one we make together will be given as a gift of love and thanksgiving.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I really need to get some sleep.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I think of water--repost


This is, perhaps, one of my favorite posts of all time. But I don't know, it's hard to reduce five years' of writing this blog down to a single favorite post. In any case, these words startle me again, convict me, and make me want to be more. And, to tell you the truth, it's hard to believe I wrote them. But that's how it is with a lot of writing. When it's re-read, it isn't mine any longer, and I can see clearly that the Holy Spirit did the work:

Have you ever been really thirsty? I had a night like that--it was terrible. I woke up every few hours feeling so parched, I thought I wouldn't be able to get my tongue unstuck from the roof of my mouth. I drank about a gallon (so maybe I exaggerate!) of water and it didn't dent the giant need I felt. But this morning it made me think of something I wrote about in my journal a couple months ago, so instead of composing on the spot, as I've always done so far (but who knows, I might be starting a new trend here), I'm going to post that. We'd gone to an all-day Renewal Sunday, where the spotlight was on mission, at the church our friend pastors, and these thoughts are from my journal that night.

February 10

Of all the thoughts, images, impressions of this day, what lingers is water. What it is to experience fresh, clear, clean, life-giving water after a history of not even knowing what that is. Never seeing, as many Wolof people of Senegal don't, the pure essence of the thing when it's right beneath the ground, available with the proper equipment, because all they've ever known is a facsimile, muddy and full of twigs and  ugly in looks and taste. Yes, Water--it makes me cry to see again, when I close my eyes:
the first pump of the handle, the first rush out the spout, the clear glass waterfall of it spilling into the bowl, and the beautiful little children dipping their hands into the bowl and scooping it up to sip, thrusting fingers through the pouring fountain of it. Life-changing. The metaphor is too obvious to be overlooked, even for those dull-witted (as we are), this is Kingdom work, this amazingly simple gospel work of giving water.

And I write of it with tears and hunger--the Wolof people of Senegal, the least and the poorest in this world, who have scrambled their whole lives in pursuit of water and sustenance. What could I learn from them? I want to sit in their doorway with them, Lord, I want to be taught of the world by them. I want to see what the world looks like through their eyes, hear who you might be to them. My heart is breaking and full all at once, and I think of water.


And how we are so consumed by our consumer mentality and desire for health and perfection that we purify the purist water on earth. And pollute in the process, by the sheer volume of plastic jugs, bottles and containers we use and throw away. Yet there they are pulling up dirty, brown water, drinking it, cooking in it--cooking in mud. Never even knowing what water looks like. We shower, water lawns, wash clean clothes... and there are children (3 in 5) dying from lack of or bad water. No wonder we're fat. Fat and dying. Me as much as anyone.


And I think of water. Jesus' tears for the poor in this world--the poor whose needs I glimpse, and those whose needs I do not. The poor who wait to hear the world has not forgotten them in their plight. He weeps because He called us to be His church in their world, and we worry about what the church can do for us--we think it's here for our sake. He weeps because they will never hear until they survive to hear, and that means those needs, those basic needs, so basic we don't even list them as needs--water, food, clothing, shelter--are cared for. He weeps.


So I think of water. And how thirsty I am for Africa, how that thirst is a Psalm 63 thirst, "my soul longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water." Africa--exactly! This thirst has grown and grown until I am nearly dehydrated with it and it aches through me. And I thirst for it for them. Water for the land and water for those in the land.

Africa. I think of water.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Savoring Life-repost

It's a perfect time for a few days of reposts. My sisters will arrive in the next couple of hours. One of them, LD, will only be here for the weekend, so we'll be cramming as much as we can of us into it. That means no time for me on the side. I'll take the trade-off. These women are my blood. It's funny how that's come to be. I might not have guessed it when we were children, but as adults, my sisters mean as much to me as any human beings beyond my immediate family. It doesn't mean I don't love my brothers. I do. Deeply and thoroughly. It's only that these are my sisters.

So, in honor of savoring the life I have with these very different-from-each-other-and-from-me women, I give you this post about savoring life:

"Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?"  'Emily Webb,' Our Town.

Had a conversation this evening with some folks who were contemplating this very idea.  One of my friends, as she looked back at the days when her now-married kids were in high school, was lamenting that she didn't really savor those days. Those sweet days just sped by while she wasn't paying attention.  I instantly thought of Our Town, and the day the character Emily Webb was given to return to her life after being dead.  Everything is so poignant to her, from her little brother to her mother, just busy making breakfast.  She pleads with her mother to look at her, to just stop a moment to really look at her, but Ma Webb can't.  She has bacon and eggs to fry, lunches to make.  Slowing down isn't part of the plan.


And so it is for us.  Just a couple of weeks ago, SK (who is currently in Uruguay) commented that she can hardly believe she's halfway through college.  I told her, "Time only moves faster."  She thinks these days are quickly passing, just wait until she's my age.  Wasn't it only yesterday that I had three children under the age of 4, spent my life with Sesame Street, Marble Works, Polly Pockets, Shoots and Ladders, and "Can I have a snack? A drink? I need to pee. J hit me, she's looking at me," and tears--oh the tears.  Baby tears, angry tears, tired tears, "But I'm not tired" tears.  Didn't I finally just close my eyes and sleep straight through the night for the first time in years just last night?  Wasn't it just this morning that I was standing at the end of our road watching my oldest in a brand new dress climb onto a school bus for the first time?  Wasn't it merely a half day ago, that I was taxiing them all over town to various activities and obligations?  I could swear I'm still wearing the same pjs I wore when I was pregnant with each of them (Ok, I really am...it's an old hospital scrub Beve traded for when he was working at a sports camp in Arkansas during college!).


My point is, like my friend, like Thorton Wilder's Emily of Grover's Corner, I think I've been so busy living, that most of the time I don't stop and savor the wonder of each season, let alone each day.  Yes, I'm thankful (as someone else said tonight) that I have my memories, but if I've learned anything lately it's that memories can disappear.  All I have--all any of us have on this earth--is one single moment at a time.We don't have the privilege, like the fictional Emily Webb did, of returning to some earlier moment in our history.  We walk, run or skip (if we're lucky!) on this one way-street that always ends in the same place--breathing out one final breath in these bodies. What we have, therefore, is this: We can either be like Mrs. Webb, bustling about our lives without ever noticing what's right beneath our noses, OR we can breathe in wonder, and expel what doesn't count.  Those things, I might say, that don't last.  Because just as sure as this life is like a whisper of time, that solid is eternity.  And I believe that the only way to really know life while I live it, the only way to taste and see that this life--this day, this very moment--is good, is by tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.


So I let it flood over me--all those days with my tiny children, all those teaching moments in the car as I drove them to and from school, church, activities, all those conversations with my now adult children--I smell them as a sweet aroma tonight, and thank God for them.  Thank Him that my times--our time together!--is in His hands.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Relishing on Thursday

It's Thursday. Wow, caught you off-guard with that one, didn't I? A couple of weeks ago, my BB (baby brother, for those of you new to my blog) asked me how I have days to look forward to since I don't work, and presumably have no schedule--weekends, holidays, summer vacations apparently don't look much different on the outside. This isn't how it feels from within, however. My week definitely has the same kind of rhythm to it that working people have. I look forward to weekends because Beve is home and very often we have visitors, plans, and a more involved schedule. I don't quilt, or blog as often on weekends. Don't have the surfeit of hours to sit on my couch in the quiet to read, pray and meditate. This is also true of longer vacations as well. So there's both the good and the not-so-good of how life changes with vacations.

And there's also a visceral, life-long reaction to the days of the week. Thursdays, for example, have always brought a little more skip to my step. I say that metaphorically these days because that's about all the skipping possible. Apparently last weekend I was actually full-on limping and couldn't even tell. I don't think I've been doing it this week, but, as I say, I can't tell. But the day is coming when I won't be able to keep from it. My shot left leg doesn't is a one-way street. For now, however, the pain hasn't gotten ahead of the ability to step on it for at least a moment at a time.

Ahem. ANYWAY. I like Thursdays, especially Thursday nights. Always have. They're a portend of the weekend. An Eve. I've always liked them almost more than Fridays because the anticipation is there. If I could just get through one more day of school, could just finish this paper, study for that test, handle those kids, be present with those people once again, it'd be the weekend, and there'd be a different kind of being. I think the best way to put it was a desire to 'finish strong' on Fridays, so I could enjoy the weekend.

Likewise, Sunday nights, even now, bring a small thud in my gut. Beve will be marching out the door at 6 AM (if not an hour sooner) and the week will take off at a sprint. It's been like this my whole 55 years. First Daddy would leave. Then I'd have to go to school myself. Then to work, then it was Beve, my children. Me. School again. And so forth. Always the same thud on Sunday nights. The preparation of clothes and studies and hearts and minds to gear up.

So it's Thursday. And I'm really, really looking forward to this weekend, which brings a promise and my sisters just after noon tomorrow. And laughter and whatever good conversation we conjure up between us.
For now, I simply anticipate.

And thought I'd share with you other things I relish...like Thursdays.

  • the smell of freshly cut grass, especially on red-cheeked children who play hard in the spring
  • a row of pens in a store, and a place to try them all out--just the chance to try them out
  • walking into a coffee shop--the smell, people talking together. It's like a village square.
  • the boardwalk down on our bay that bridges over the water to my favorite part of our city
  • The dogwood tree blossoming in our front yard.
  • cracking open a book for the first time, reading the first paragraph and knowing--knowing--I'm going to fall in!
  • Floating in water--the one time in all of life there is a cessation of pain in my body (but I'd like it anyway; water is my natural habitat)
  • the color orange in every hue but neon-- 
  • the sweat on the back of the neck of a baby when they first awaken from a nap and are burrowing into my shoulder (remembering my own babies when another cuddles in just so)
  • the first cut of fabric when it's on its way to becoming a quilt
  • the last stitch of a quilt when it's finally finished and the vision is realized--and I know where it's going!
  • the every-now-and-then glimpse, real glimpse of Him, right here, right now in this conversation, these words, this moment. Ah yes. This.
  • Being. Sounds foolish perhaps, but that's it. Being. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Angels watching over--repost


Today's re-post comes from the very earliest days of my blog. April 2008, but its subject is such that it could have been written today. Enjoy.

Monks read the Psalms, all 150 of them, as quickly as every week, depending on the monastic tradition. Me? Well, I just read one a day, like taking a vitamin (until I get to 119, then I break it into stanzas), year in and year out--since I was in college. Even in the years I had babies, and had no time for devotions, I at least tried to read my daily Psalm. In those years, the laments carried me far. These days, I simply let the day's Psalm roll around in my day. Though there are Psalms I like, ones I anticipate. I know when they're coming. When I get to Psalm 80, for instance, I instinctively start counting off because I'm only 4 days away from my very favorite, Psalm 84. But 51, when I need to repent (and I always do), is like taking a shower. But I also love 17 and 27. And 34, 37, 63, 72, 86, 88,...Oh, don't get me started.

But today, I've come to 91. I never read Psalm 91 without remembering one particular moment. In 1982, my friend Suzanne and I backpacked through Europe. In late November, we were up in Finland, in a small town, staying with some of her many Finnish relatives. Apparently none of her relatives like each other, because we'd been to three different feasts that day, that for some inexplicable reason all featured the same cake with white icing and fruit on top. It was very late, we were exhausted from the food, and the two saunas we'd taken--well, we had to be polite, after all!--when the grandmother of the family we were staying with(I can't quite figure out how she would be related to Suzanne), via hand-gestures and Finnish, summoned us up to her attic bedroom. She opened her Finnish Bible and spoke vehemently to us, pointing to the text, which was clearly 91:11 (we could read the numbers, of course) in what was clearly the Psalms. Of course, we couldn't understand a single word. She prayed over us, hugged us to her, and patted our faces with arthritic fingers. It was a holy moment to us, like having been prayed over in tongues. Maybe, after all, this is what the gift of tongues really is. We live in a world separated by languages, but, united by faith, the words we might not understand when they flow over us, reach God and we know we are hearing true and earnest prayer on our behalves.

When we went down to our room, we opened our own pocket Bibles, and read the words, which had taken on meaning larger than life. "...He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." Sat wondering at the words and the moments with her old, wise and prophetic relative and wondering what God meant for us.

The next week, with a Finnish tour group, Suzanne and I traveled into what was then the Soviet Union. We were the only Americans. Can you guess what all that meant?  For one thing, our US passports were instantly suspicious at the border,  where guards spent an inordinate amount of time asking us questions about our purpose in the USSR and searching our luggage. Every single item from my bag was swept onto the floor in a show of force, I suppose. But the peace we felt during their bullying made me certain of those angels that day. And, of course, for the tour, there was a Russian guide with a Finnish translator so we spent the entire time feeling deaf and barely having a having a clue what we were looking at. And you should have seen us when we came out of the Russian ballet--no tour bus and no way to get back to our hotel, because we didn't know the name of it--it had never been spoken in English to us. We stood there simply praying and amazingly (unless you believe in Psalm 91:11) a family from our tour group came up behind us, and helped us get back to our hotel. Angels guarding us? I think so!!!

Two weeks later, we left Finland to travel through Germany, intending to go to Italy. Only we were robbed on the train in northern Germany. It was a very scary thing, involved being taken to a police station holding tank in Bremen--like we were the criminals -- then sent back to the US consul in Frankfurt. However, we felt those angels that day as well, when the consul in Frankfort turned out to be from Suzanne's home town in Montana. I'll never forget sitting on hard wooden chairs in a room full of desks with busy people waiting to see him, when through an open door came a booming voice, "Helena, Montana--come on in here!" Like the sweetest music. Like angels' voices.

One of the things that got stolen on the train that day, was my Bible. My BIBLE!!! It was the hardest, hardest thing for me personally. I could hardly stand it. Yeah, yeah, Suzanne lost her passport, all her money, we were stuck in Germany until she got a new passport, more money wired. But my Bible? How could I live? Yet, all those Psalms, and all those other verses I'd learned since I was a teen were in me. I discovered that and it was a gift. And months later--like three months, I think, at the end of the train line in Paris, our things were found. My Bible was returned to me. Another evidence of being watched over, I thought.

I've seen it many times in the quarter century since--the times my Beve and I, after seeking God, stepped out on a very thin limb of faith, and we were watched over, kept safe. Toting our children behind us. We took these risks--moving without jobs, or homes--because of this sense of being watched, cared for, kept. In proportion to His call, of course. When He calls, He protects, we believe. "It's God's problem," the Beve will say. And angels are part of His solution. It's been our practice to live this way. I don't always remember, don't always do such a good job of trusting, of living like this is true. So I like coming back around to Psalm 91 every 150 days or so, to remember. To be reminded of angels. And His faithfulness--He who sets His angels to guard us.

Suzanne always wondered what her old Finnish relative had said to us, prayed over us. But I've come to realize she wasn't talking to us, she was talking to those angels. And He charged them to listen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Five years of blogging...and a give away to come

This blog was started 5 years ago this month. FIVE years. It was a tiny thing, sent off into the blogisphere with just the slightest notion of what it was meant to be. The idea was to pay attention to where God shows up, to where He interrupts ordinary interactions in the course of ordinary days. That idea hasn't moved very far from center. It's been an important aid in allowing the Holy Spirit room to spread out in me, to open my eyes to the myriad ways He's at work in the world. I'm enlarged by the writing of it, and for that reason alone, I praise God for the chronology of this blog. And I pray that it's had the same effect (some days more, some days dropping like a thud) on those who read it.

This little blog hasn't grown to amass a world- or even-nation-wide audience. But that was never its aim. To write what He gave, and hope that it's read by those who needed such words--that's my prayer. Still, amazingly, there are readers on almost every continent (I say almost because Antarctica hasn't logged in yet!) and from every corner of this country. It's rather stunning that it should be so. There's been no marketing, little joining to more well-known and well-read blogs. Just the words going out and praying for Him to use it. Why I'm surprised that He does does not speak well of my faith. We're like that, aren't we? We don't really believe He will use us, even when He's called us to the work. We're small and faithless creatures. And yet, we're His instruments. This truth alone is witness to His awesome love for us. "Praise God for His indescribable gift." Indescribable that humans are His chosen instruments.

And that, in my case, a tiny blog, a few paragraphs most days, are the tool of His choosing for this restricted, earthly disabled life. To think, I cannot stand on my feet all day, but the words He gives me can reach around the globe. How counter-intuitive is that? Only in the Kingdom. Yes, only there.

But the reality is that whatever your earthly reality, it's not the real story of your life. There's a whole lot more going on than you can see. And your impact is profound. Whether your job is teaching children or working in  a business office, you are doing Kingdom work because the Kingdom of God dwells within you. The third person of the Holy Spirit is engaged in ever aspect of your work because the moment you said yes, He came in. Whether you acknowledge Him or not, He's there. And lives are impacted because of His presence in you. They are. Pay attention. Allow Him more access to every conversation, and allow yourself to be the fragrance of Him in even the most inconsequential of tasks...because you'll never know what He intends to use.

That's sermon enough for today.
In honor of this 5th anniversary month, three bloggy housekeeping items:
I've applied for (and received) my own domain for this blog. It sounds more important than it is; simply means that from search engines it's easier to find me, I think. And more difficult for anyone else to take a portion of the blog's title. The idea of having the blog's domain is a bit of a spiritual concept, like it's a creature God gave me to control ala Genesis 1. Under His ultimate authority, of course.
Secondly, it's now possible for anyone to comment on my blog posts whether or not they have a google account. I don't know if this will make a difference, but I wanted people who have felt hampered to have the freedom to respond if they so chose.
Thirdly, during the month of March, I'm going to post several of my favorite blog posts from the last five years. And...on the actual 5th anniversary, which is March 31st, I'm considering doing a giveaway. And it'll be a big one. A GIANT one. Worth the reading. If you know my hobby, you'll guess what that giveaway is. But you'll have to read on March 31st and comment to have a chance.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hidden Treasure

This is Jemima. My Beanie, as I called her. She was our beautiful, docile, obedient pure-bred yellow lab who barked at strangers but decided they were friends 30 seconds later and wanted to be petted until one's hand fell asleep. Beanie loved stuffed animals. She could have carried them around until they were tattered and ragged like a small child. Or like she was their mother. In fact, I used to think we did her a great disservice by not allowing her to have puppies; she was the most maternal dog I've ever seen. But the other large lab who lived with us in those days, our Big Lug, Jackson, was fond of tearing into those stuffed animals until they were nothing more than small pieces of fluff on the rugs. So Jemima buried any stuffed animals she got her mouth on. In fact, she'd sneak up the hill to dog Dougal's house where his owner left plenty of stuffed animals around for him--more than once we had to carry one back to her and apologize for our canine thief.

But she was a smart dog. A brilliant dog, I think. And she got tired of Jackson tearing up her stuffed animals. So she buried them all over our flower gardens.  We have a whole lot of flower gardens on our lot-and-a-half-sized yard. A whole lot more than we should have, we've decided lately (but that's another story). Periodically, after burying it, and having nothing to carry around in her mouth, she'd dig one up.  And seemed to know exactly where every single one of those ratty, dirty stuffed animals were.

Even the last morning of her life (though I didn't know it was her last day), even weak as she was, I watched her sniffing and pawing a back bed, looking for exactly the right spot in which to dig. I knew what she was looking for and after she died, I was certain we'd find a stuffed animal there. I hoped we would. We certainly found them other places. For years. Once I was working on a front bed and there was the head of a teddy bear sticking up out of the soil as though it'd been sitting there waiting for me. For a while, every time we came across one, I got teary, thinking of my Beanie.

The last time we found a stuffed animal was probably two years ago now. But if I had to guess I'd say we've maybe found half a dozen in the half a dozen years since she died. And we never did find the one she was looking for that last morning.

Until yesterday.

It's been six and a half years since Beanie sniffed in the bed looking for this little bear. But Kincade found it like the hidden treasure that it was. It didn't look anything like this when he found it, of course. It was black and smelly and unrecognizable when Beve brought it to me. I knew it immediately, though. It's a very soft Gund bear, given to E on her second Easter by a college student who had seen her with a similar brown one that had lost almost all of its fur behind the ears where she always held it with two fingers. E never took to this one. She wanted "Gundo" and no other, thank-you very much. So this one was always pink and pristine...until Jemima got a hold of it and buried it who knows when.

The bear is cleaner since going through the wash but it'll never be as pink and pristine as it once was. And I'm pretty sure what it was made for, it will never be used for. This is a very, very good lesson from Beanie (and Jackson, come to think of it). Beanie didn't really want to bury all those stuffed animals. She wanted to carry them around with her. To love them. To play with them, in her canine way. Her burying them was her way of protecting them against Jackson. Her defense against them being destroyed. But in so doing, she also destroyed them. I think this is something I also do. God gives me gifts but I'm so afraid of them being destroyed that I hide them. Save them for later like butterscotch (I was going to say chocolate because it's what people always say but you'd know I was making that up--I'd give chocolate away in an instant!). This is truth that Jesus dings us about over and over in the gospel (dings in this context is a word my dad always used!)
"...Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." Matthew 5: 14
"No one light a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light." Luke 8: 16
"None of you lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bed. Instead you but it on its stand, so that those who come in cane see its light." Luke  11: 34

And then (Luke 19: 12-26) there's the parable of the ten Minas, where servants are told, "Take this money and put it to work." Two do so, but the third says, "Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.
What's amazing about this is that the servant had been given a very specific task, and even knowing exactly what the master was like, didn't do it, out of fear. He'd been given a treasure, but hadn't responded to the responsibility that went along with that treasure. The result was that he lost what he'd been given.

God gives us our gifts for a purpose. No, let me rephrase that, He gives us gifts for HIS purpose. For His Kingdom purpose. Not just to make us fat and happy, or rich in this world. He's about His Kingdom. And if we bury those treasures, they'll end up losing their color, their value and their usefulness. And we'll all be poorer for it. Yes, all because gifts are made for the Body and the Body is made up of this great tapestry of  gifts.

I know there are some reading this who are uncertain what your spiritual gifts are. You think it's some great mystery. But I don't think so. I'm pretty sure God has made as many gifts as He has people, and that His intention is to use us exactly as we're made. Learn who you are. Learn how you're wired. Learn what you're equipped to do. These are how He wants you to expand His Kingdom.

If you're really unclear, there are some very helpful 'lists' in the New Testament: Romans 12 might be my favorite because it is so full, and sounds less 'churchy'. But 1 Corinthians 12 is also good, and Ephesians 4 is helpful. The over-arching words of Colossians 3: 17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." And 3: 23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Return to my first love.

Just got out of the shower. After years of being a morning shower person, among the myriad changes brought on by my nerve damage was the need to shower before sleeping. The whole of my skin is much more sensitive these days and in order to sleep soundly, it must be clean and cool. So I stand in the shower for long moments just before slipping into bed. And the best day of the week is the one where we've just changed the sheets. Far be it from me to get into clean sheets with dirty skin. No, that would be anathema to me.

And now you know a whole lot about my nightly ablutions. But there's a point to this, and it's patently NOT that I want you thinking of me standing in the shower. But I've often had the best conversations of my life in the shower. And the best cries, too, for that matter. About a decade ago, when E was a high schooler she didn't like to cry. In fact, whenever she did, she'd say, "I think I'm just tired." She was tired a whole lot in a particular season, and though she had good reason, that reason is not mine to tell, so I'll just say that I suggested she get into the shower and let the tears fall.  But my daughter is not me, and it didn't work for her. What does work is commercials about dogs. For me too, come to think of it. But that's another story.

As usual, I digress. It's what you get when you sign into this blog. I'm a story-teller, after all.
Anyway.
I shower at night.
And have conversations with people who aren't in the shower with me. Work out conflicts. It's a whole lot more effective than writing angry letters. Writing such letters isn't bad in and of itself; it's the sending them that is a problem. My siblings and I were recipients of such letters during our growing up and even adult years. Our impulsive mother with a razor-sharp temper never understood that such letters were dangerous, devastating and a prudent approach (in person) was healthier. Likewise, knee-jerk emails and texts sent in anger often have similarly negative results because they don't allow for real communication.
So I work out such anger in the shower.

But mostly, primarily, I talk to God. Sometimes Beve comes in and asks what's going on in there because I've been standing there so long. He was raised by a dad who believed in 'navy showers', so called because on ship water is necessarily, though counter-intuitively, in short supply. Get wet, soap up, shampoo, rinse off. Done. And none of us take extraordinarily long showers around here. Still, sometimes I get distracted. Just stand there in the spray, praying and singing and forget what I'm about. Like a foolish child.

It was like that tonight. No conflict or burning anger that needed to be worked and prayed out. But this weekend it's like I've been pulled into Ephesus. Listen to these words from Revelation 2--"You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first."  'Return to your first love,' is how a different translation puts it. That was His word.

And suddenly these words from His letter to Ephesians (a letter which was very likely a copy of a circular, meaning it was sent to many churches all over the region, but this is the one we have) is in BOLD print. Taking these words alongside what He speaks to the Ephesians in Revelations is powerful. It's like a blueprint for what our first love IS, how rich it can be in us. And it makes the 'return' and repentance not a chore or a struggle but a 'Father, may I?'. Like, 'I must have you in my life." It's the burning desire, the only desire. Because after all, what else is there to desire than the magnificent words that Paul prays for us in the last seven verses of Ephesians 3 (14-21).

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you maybe be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His pwoer that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.