Monday, October 28, 2013

Sisters weekend

My sisters and I got up Friday morning, went about our business, got ourselves dressed, then looked at each other and began to laugh.

Yep, we'd packed matching clothes. How thrilled our mother and grandmothers would have been to have seen us tromping around Spokane together in our blue and gray, which are, coincidentally, the same exact hues of our high school. And they say we weren't loyal Greyhounds? (Actually, no one said that about me, but I'm pretty sure my tall middle sister who never even considered going to a high school reunion might have that accusation thrown her way!) This picture was taken by one of my closest friends who was waiting to be seated for breakfast with her father when we walked in to a popular restaurant. I think the huge grins on our faces came from my utter delight in running into her unexpectedly.

It was a quick but good weekend with my sisters. Not enough time with them. I was feeling a bit under the weather so wasn't up to deep conversation. This happens. We did get down to the Snake River in Pullman, watched my youngest sister's husband (she's in the dark gray sweater), their two daughters and my oldest daughter, E (in an alternate life from her TV newsroom!) inoculating just weaned calves. E was putting some kind of anti-respiratory serum up their large nostrils, while her cousin and uncle simultaneously gave them shots into each shoulder. It was quite the operation. I was fascinated enough I could have stood there for hours. But RE's two-year-old grandson was restless so after a quick bareback ride on a horse with his aunt, we loaded up and headed back up the canyons home.

Saturday afternoon, I sat at a table in the home of my best friend from high school. Her parents' home, I should say. That house hasn't changed a bit in the 30+ years since I last walked through its doors. PH hasn't changed that much either, some silver running through her hair, some tremble in her voice that wasn't there before. But she's more herself than she was then, I think. More clear about herself. Deeply connected to what she's about, what she wants from this life and what it wants from her. She walks with a calm and sureness I never saw before, moves with it. I liked that about her. Liked that she didn't hesitate to say that she felt herself sliding into old habits around me. The younger her wouldn't have done that. She says she's teased about being a 'wallflower', but I think maybe it's okay to be quiet, to think deeply and surely, to listen before speaking, to not simply explode into a room, like some I know. Like one I am.

Sidenote: I am that, you know. I can take over a room. Can so overwhelm it with my presence that no one else has a chance to catch their breath before I've decided which way the conversation, the very mood, the EVERYTHING will go. I don't know what a room is like when I'm not in it, but I don't always like what I am when I'm in a room. If that makes sense. I would like to wait more. To be a still in a room full of people as I am in a room alone with God.

Another friend sat at that table with us. We shared our stories, and they were convoluted, sometimes broken ones. This is merely the truth. We don't have straight-forward histories. Life hasn't always been easy. It's been life and sometimes we've had to claw our way through it. Sometimes it was hard to breathe. And though each of us began the same place, we aren't in the same place now. To be clear, we were all Young Life kids back then when we shared a wheat-field world together. We were young and idealistic and thought that everything ahead of us would be easy and sweet and good. But it hasn't been. And the bumpy road that each has walked has taken us to different places.

Some might say that for me, whose heart longs--even faints--for the courts of the Triune, Living God, it would be difficult to hear them speak of their journeys away from the faith of our youth without an agenda. But it wasn't. I simply drank my tea and shared grapes with them. And tried to understand as much as I can how one can go from anger to questioning to nothing at all. And what I know is that we are who we are. For a reason. I love these two people. No matter what. They are themselves. It was sweet and familiar to sit there, looking out over our town and our history. Gaps linger, but we have a place to begin again.

Later, at my sister's house, we started a new tradition in our family. We had a Saturday night Shabbat dinner, lighting candles for ourselves and our children, tearing bread, drinking wine (juice for some of us). There were words in the prayer my brother-in-law read that spoke strongly to me, and summer up this weekend. I'll leave you with them:

"You have given us Your peace, and set a hunger in our hearts. Restore our strength.
Give new energy to tired limbs, new thought to weary minds.
May this...restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Family

E drove up this afternoon so she could drive me east across the mountains in the morning. I'm off for my 'sisters' weekend with ... you guessed it, my sisters, while she heads out to the farm to hang with her girl cousins. We're both looking forward to the kind of conversation on can do only with women one knows as intimately as we know these women we call family.

Interestingly, these weekends I share with my sisters only began after our mother was too incapacitated to be a part of them. We went on a couple of trips with her prior to them, but the actual setting aside time just for us came as a result of her death as much as anything. For one thing, we no longer have to worry about the impact such a weekend might have on her--on uninvited her, I should say. It would cut her to the marrow of her very easily-cut bones. For another thing, I think we've taken it upon ourselves to be intentional about remaining close, being family without the natural bridges parents or family homes might be. It would be easy enough to slip away from each other, to drift off into our own spheres. After all,  we are very, very different women. Our life-views, our jobs, our marriages and relationships bear very little similiarity to each other's. Still, we feel strongly connected enough, deeply committed enough, that we not only stay in touch, but have pulled the whole unwieldy mess in with us.

Thank God. Families are often--Always!?--unwieldy messes. Aren't they? This man's off the rails in behavior, that one drinks more than she should. This one hasn't been attentive as he should have (in our own estimations, of course) or is too controlling or smothering.  God put us in families and they're often messes. Because families are made of people and people are made of messes. We all are and each are and...

Well, that's the way of it.

Let's just take your mess and my mess and put them together and see what comes. That's what my parents did when they married all those years ago before they had the faintest idea what they were doing. What all young people do when they say those vows before God and everyone. When they decided to build this family that they believed would last beyond till death did them part. They looked at each other, and didn't know back then that God was watching more closely, watching and knowing that their plan was good and that the unwieldy mess they'd be creating He had His fingerprints on.

God made my family. For better and sometimes worse. I'm the richer for them, the poorer without them. Surely in my sickness, always they're my health. Yes, till death part us. Family.
Amen.

PS. I'm not taking my computer this time (oh the horror, oh the joy of being unplugged for a few days!!!), so see you Sunday night!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Grow up

I mentioned in my last post that I'd written a long email that was eaten by my dog computer clumsy finger pressing the wrong key. Since then I've been thinking so much about the subject of that note, that I finally thought I'd just write it up as a post.
Because, you know, this is what I do.

What I've been thinking about is the idea that even as we're made in the womb complete in the Image of God, we also spend our lives becoming more like Him. It isn't a one-time deal, a set-in-concrete deal. Sure, we're given specific gifts and talents, bents and traits. I'm never going to be 6' tall and Beve is never going to have any but the bluest of eyes (don't talk to me about contact lenses--you know what I mean!). We are what we are. Likewise, I learned to do addition subtraction and even know my multiplication tables (though NOT my 13s, DAD!!!) and with a certain fortitude can even balance the checkbook. But I'll never be a mathematician. An engineer, a rocket scientist. It's just not possible. My head would spin so fast with the effort, it'd come right off my head, I'm not even kidding. And you know what? Because I am who I am, created exactly as I am, I don't have the slightest interest in being any of those things I couldn't possibly be.

That's part of the story. But only part of it.

The other part of the story is that who I am is always, always changing. Or to say it more clearly, His image in me is always changing or becoming more pronounced. At least that's the goal. The point of walking with Him. Some might (and have) disagreed with this. They say, "That's just the way I am," to explain decisions, attitudes, behaviors, etc. But I'm not convinced that such a sentence is or ever should be an option for those of us whose aim is to 'be holy as I am holy.'  Let me see if I can explain this is very human terms. A small child, say a one-year-old, is made in the Image of God. She bears His likeness in and on her. This is a foundational truth. However, what if that child never grew up, if she continued to babble rather than talk, not to read nor learn to tie her shoes, never to use a toilet--not because she couldn't, but because "This is just the way I am." It's a ridiculous notion, isn't it? Of course. But somehow, we get to a certain point in adulthood and think we're finished. We think we are what we are and everyone around us will just have to deal with it.

 This ISN'T, patently ISN'T, what He means by being made in His Image. It doesn't happen all at once at conception but is a life-on-this-earth-long process. And I guess what He wants to tell us, what He inspires Paul to spend a whole lot of ink telling us is to GROW UP. It's just that simple. Grow up in Christ. Just as that child grows and learns and keeps growing, so does a 56-year-old me. And a whatever-age-you-are you.
Yep, that's it.
Grow up.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Seasons

Just messing around on the new-to-me Ipad (Beve got a new one and gave me his oldish one), I found a pretty fun photo app, so thought I'd post a picture. Just a picture tonight. Then I'm going to bed. I've been sitting here in the dark too long. Long enough to have written an email, then somehow manage to delete the WHOLE thing with a single swipe of my little finger. Long enough that my son who texted me when he left Seattle, is now pulling into our driveway (that's about 1.5 hours, folks). So, just a picture tonight.


Seasons
There's beauty in each of them.
(and yes, even though I'm no photographer, I actually took these pictures.
Amazing how creation can make even the most amateur among us
look good!)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The last blue notebook

This is an auspicious night. A sad one. In fact, I'm sitting here on my bed with a dog and a sleeping husband and this brand new, never written-in journal and I can hardly bear to write on the first page. You see, after 36 years and at least twice that many blue notebooks, I've come to the last one. 

For years, my source for these journals (or composition books as they are actually called) has been the Student Bookstore at Washington State University. When I lived in Pullman, I bought them myself. Then my mother bought them for me. Then, after my mother became too ill for it, my sister became the purchaser. However, in the last decade they've been harder to come by. A few years ago, RE bought me a huge stack. I was set for a long time, I figured. 

Set until about now, it turns out. Tonight, when I finished the last page of my last notebook, I went to my stash shelf to grab the next unwritten journal, and only found ONE blue notebook left. 
There are other compositions on that stash shelf. My sister has seen to that. Even my mother did. Mom bought me a different type a long time ago--anticipating this day, I suppose. And RE is always a planner. She knew last Christmas that I must be running low, so she bought what she could. Something nearly like, but NOT like, these old friends of mine since I was twenty.

Think of that. All of you journallers out there--you love the joy of finding a new book in which to spread out your hopes, prayers and dreams like and offering on a pretty table. I haven't ever even looked at those pretty books. (though, to be completely frank, I do have 10 that I've been given and used along with the blue notebooks along the way), I want the continuity of my seamless old friends, my comfortable green lines on lighter green pages that I've been staring at each day for so long I don't see them until tonight. Tonight I see them all lined up there on my shelf like sentinels, standing guard over my life, helping me pay attention to what God is doing. Always what God is doing. So many many times I've actually SEEN Him speak as my own hand moves the pen across the page. Writing things I didn't even know were in me to write. That's Holy Spirit-stuff. And it's all in those blue notebooks.

So I come to the last one (which I believe is my 75th--72 are up there, and the last one, plus the last RJD one need to be shelved). 
Unless I can comb the internet to find a cache of them somewhere in the vastness that is the web. 
I'm not hopeful about that tonight. 
Tonight I'm simply thinking about the joy of these blue notebooks,
the possibility of what will be on the empty pages of the one lying beside me. 
Tonight I'm only letting myself think about one last blue notebook.
And, yes, 
I'm feeling a little sad.

Update: 
If any of you come across them, leave me a note with the location so I can get some!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Consider this:

When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You set in place,
what are mere mortals that You are mindful of them,
human beings that You care for them?
Psalm 8: 3-4

Yet, it's all for us. That's the truth of it. All that glory, all the dazzling color we see in autumn and spring, the starkness of winter, the bounty of summer; all the majestic diversity of this planet, the unfathomable breadth of the universe wasn't complete without us. Without humans. Animals didn't do it for God. Nope, it was all meant for OUR presence in it. 

"If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one's there to hear it?" asks one age-old question, and is ALWAYS answered by the sixth day of creation, no matter what side of the answer you happen to land. That is, 'Yes, sound waves go out whether they are heard or not;' or 'no, it takes ears to hear the sound of a tree falling;' both imply the idea of hearing. Or more precisely, the possibility of a created being that can think about such a question. Can think and contemplate and feel and, of course, hear. 

And revere that tree that falls. Stand in awe of that forest, that mountain, the expanse of water in a wide river or magnificent falls, the wind across a sandy desert, prairie, ocean. But finally, in the greatest moment of awe, the one that buckles knees and bows one's head or throws arms high toward heaven itself, see that the same Omnipotent, Transcendent Creator created me. Yes, little old me. So small, I'm not even a speck in the microscope of the cosmos (in neither  space nor time!), He created me with exactly the same intense purpose that He flung stars into space and divided day from night and sea from land.  Yours, mine, and each life is His very intention. His supreme gift. And...He's mindful of it. Full of mind of it. Of my life. His infinite, beyond comprehension mind is FULL of my tiny speck of a life. He cares about my smallest concerns and my most ordinary moments. 

 And not only that, but this "I AM THAT I AM" is Abba. Daddy. 
Consider that. Consider that we get Him for a Father, that we are His first, last and best concern in this great Creation of His. As small as we each are, as short our lives in comparison to trees, mountains, rocks, the universe, we are His best thing. He didn't come to die for this planet. He came to live and breath and die and save us!  Humans. People. You and me. 

It's too much, I think. 
I cannot fathom the depth of such love.
But I thank Him.
With my puny pen and inadequate words and fingers trembling across the keys of a computer. 
With my small life and ordinary moments. With mis-steps and false-starts and mistakes and SIN, and getting it right sometimes in spite of myself, and being forgiven again and again: 
With all that is within me, I praise His Holy Name.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The intent still holds

This blog began at the end of March 2008. And, because I'm in a kind of reflective mood today, I thought I'd take you back and let you glimpse what on earth I thought I was all about five and a half years back. Motives, intentions, goals change. Expand, Broaden. Perhaps this is true of my blog, but it's also still fundamentally true that what I intended in the beginning still holds. Will always hold (except that I'm five years older and probably wouldn't call myself 'midlife' any more. Living to 112 seems neither likely nor appealing).

The idea is to approach this like I do the ubiquitous blue bound books I've been writing in since the age of 14. The reflections of the Word, words, the world the same as always--only now with a delete button. I'm not one of those diarists who gather their diaries in a heap at the end of their lives and light a match to them, afraid of what their children or spouse might discover about them. I'm a writer. I want readers. Always have.  From the beginning, in my journals I imagined the person I was addressing my words--the conversation I was having with her on the page. And now I know what she looks like--what they look like--there are three of them, with dark hair, with green and blue and brown eyes. Tall and smart and somewhat mocking, ready to catch me at any inconsistency, keeping me on my toes. Sometimes appreciative, though not nearly as often as I might like. But they might say the same of me.

So I start, not in the beginning, not with a hello or introduction, but already conversing, midstream.

Midlife, so to speak.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Today I believe

From Celtic Daily Prayer,  A Northumbrian Office
The evening prayer's Profession of faith (page 21-22)

Lord, You have always given
Bread for the coming day,
And though I am poor,
     Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Strength for the coming day,
And though I am weak,
     Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Peace for the coming day,
And though anxious of heart,
     Today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
Me safe in trials,
And now, tried as I am,
     Today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
This darkness of mine,
And though the night is here,
     Today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
When time was ripe,
And though You be silent now,
     Today I believe.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pressed and prodded with a pink carnation on top

I had an appointment. Let's be clear about that. I'm like that. I mark things on my calendar, keep track, know what's coming. I have all kinds of card-catalogs in my brain, too. This one might have snuck up on me but I made the appointment just the same. So when I walked into the Mammogram clinic this afternoon, I wasn't expecting party favors and cupcakes, balloons and hand-massages. For me it was just one more thing to cross off the yearly "Has to be done" list. Those of you who live in my zip-code, in gender and chronology know what I mean (or should!!!).

But this is Breast Cancer Awareness month. And at our clinic, each Friday of October is like Mardi Gras for all who walk through the doors. A cheap pink necklace given by the technician upon completion of the stretching and flattening buys entrance to a large conference room where women oozing delight and camaraderie swarm, handing out goodie bags, complete with pink water--whatever that might taste like. Red velvet cupcakes frosted high with cream cheese frosting sat on a long table in the middle of the room. I have to tell you, I'm not usually a 'red velvet' kind of gal. It has no real taste that my plebeian taste buds can discern, and though I adore cream cheese in any form, it no longer returns the favor. Instead it makes my mouth and throat itch. However, stacking appointments this morning, I'd had an ultra-sound prior to the mammogram, and hadn't been allowed to eat anything since last night. And it was almost 2 PM by then. So those red velvet cupcakes looked like heaven in a paper wrapper to me. So much I might have eaten two, but I'm not admitting anything. And I definitely plowed through a breakfast bar full of raisins like I'd been waiting for it all my life (and I HATE raisins!). Then I let a well-coiffed woman whose name tag identified her as a Mary Kay representative give me a quick hand massage with the Satin Hands lotion--a product worthy of its name. I talked a bit with a couple of jewelry representatives, was handed a carnation (pink, of course), congratulated for my wise choice of getting my boobs squished and adjusted, then I left. A little bewildered by it all.
"Tell everyone you know," a woman said as I walked out the door. "Remind your friends that though it won't prevent cancer, the sooner and more regularly you get tested, the better your chances will be IF you do get it."

So since you--all of you--are everyone I know, I thought I'd tell you.
It only aids. Give more information exactly where more information is needed.
And...if you play your cards right, there might be a pink carnation at the end of your mammogram.
If not, at least there will be a sense that you did something good, that you're taking good steps.
Wise steps.

This post was brought to you by
National Breast Cancer Awareness month
Happy October!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

For such a time as this

My life allows for the most amazing conversations. I'm not kidding. Just as I'm going about ordinary business like taking Jamaica to the groomer for her semi-monthly  (ahem) yearly haircut (she lost 15 pounds, I swear she did!), or stop in at one of my favorite quilting stores just to check the clearance section; er, that is, to feed my obsession, I find myself in the middle of a conversation where God Himself shows up. Across the counter from a woman who thinks she's just talking to little old me, and there He is, in the business of saying something so important I can hardly catch my breath for the largeness of it all.

So it was the other day at one of these quilting stores. I was about to walk out the door, small pile of fabric in hand. Okay, it was a large pile, but the clearance rack was bursting, positively bursting and I just couldn't leave it there, could I? Not when so much of it would fit with fabrics in those project bins on my shelves.

ANYWAY, the owner of the shop stopped me to talk about an upcoming event, which morphed into a conversation about fear. Kind of a strange segue on paper, but it didn't feel that way standing there. She is sporting a mouth full of silver braces for the second time in her life. It's a complicated story and not mine (obviously) but she's been in a lot of pain for the last year. And a lot of fear as well. All this led to depression and anger and...well, you know the cocktail of emotions possible in such a situation.

I stood on my one good leg leaning on the counter, chuckling a little inside because she had no idea how much I understood of her situation. All pain is personal, of course. Let's be clear about that. What she feels I cannot hope to know. It's hers. Yet, I've experienced enough of my particular brand of pain to feel compassion for her. I told her this. And then I told her exactly what I've lived with and in for the last decade.
And I talked about how difficult it is, but also how much easier it is than it might be, how we all get something, after all, and this is the pain I got.

But she interrupted me to say, somewhat wonderingly, "You aren't depressed. How do you do it?"
My answer was quick and instinctive, "Because there are gifts in the fire," I told her. "Because of life. Think about it. Think of all that life is."

 "You've given me a little bit of your profound strength today," she answered.
And there He was. THERE HE WAS. Right there. Right there, saying, "For this moment, I allow you this pain. For such a time as this you are here."

So I said, "It's not my strength. I'm as weak as they come. God--and Him alone-- is my strength."

Her mouth, with all that silver, opened into a perfect O.
Then she nodded.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The baddest dude

I was just thinking about the Sunday when our then 3-year-old son was really put out after church. In Sunday school, he'd heard that "Elizabeth had a baby in her tummy." The teacher told us he'd been quick to tell her: "She does not! She's my sister and I know her!" It made us laugh that day. Our always-emphatic son was too small to know the difference between Elizabeth his sister, and Elisabeth, the cousin of Mary. To him, there was only one Elizabeth, and he knew who she was.

But it's a good story about Elisabeth and Mary as well. Or John and Jesus, actually. That Elisabeth, of course, did 'have a baby in her tummy,' and when pregnant Elisabeth saw much-less-pregnant Mary arriving in her home, 'the baby leapt in Elisabeth's womb and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.' (Luke 1: 41)
John moved. John recognized the Child Mary carried, a recognition which gave room for the Holy Spirit to also move in his mother. This is pretty powerful, isn't it? Without any of the senses, through the strongest of veils here on earth--that is, in the deep, safe 'tummy' of his mother, John knew the Messiah.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that this unborn child was the first human to recognize Jesus Christ without the supernatural intervention of a dream or vision. Just God the Holy Spirit in him from the first, intending even then, that John would be the one calling, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

Later, pure human that he was, John had doubts. This doesn't surprise me. There he was, alone in a prison cell, anticipating his death. Days away from having his head removed and placed gruesomely on a platter. The first to die for Jesus as well as the first to know Him, John was. This is just the truth of it. And while in the dark cell, he sent his followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one we're looking for?" John needed reassurance. If Jesus could sweat blood over the death facing Him, surely John could ask such a question. We never hear another word of doubt once Jesus answers sideways, "Tell him the deaf can hear and the lame can walk." See, Jesus didn't bother with a straight declarative, He knew John would get it, as John had always gotten it. [Of course, Jesus wasn't big on straight declarative statements about Himself. It wouldn't be called faith if it had been that simple]

Yes, John was the first to know, the first to be leap in the very presence of Jesus, the one--the ONE--who baptized the Messiah. He didn't want to do it, of course. John knew Jesus. And that knowing, that true "I KNOW who you are!" humbled him. But he did it anyway, because Jesus asked it. In obedience.  And all those there heard God Himself speak from Heaven at that river, but little did those onlookers realize that they were seeing a prophecy, a played-out picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus right there at the Jordan.

So this is all that we get from John:
1. What it means to recognize Jesus, though we cannot see Him with our senses. What it means when we sense He's present.  It means we move and leap. And that only the Holy Spirit reveals such recognition to us.
2. It's okay to doubt. Sometimes we're stuck in dark, lonely cells. It's okay to ask if He's there, REALLY. To ask Him to show us, to answer those doubts. "Are you the one we've been looking for?" It means to ask it, but also to trust that the answer might come side-ways, not straight out. If we know Him, we'll recognize that answer, too.
3. What it means when we come face to face with Him. If we aren't humbled by it, we haven't really seen Him. That's what John the Baptist teaches us. "Me baptize you? I'm not worthy to tie your shoes," John said. This is where we start, too. When He asks us to do something, we start with, "Me, Lord?" Really, me? Because compared to Him and how He could do things...well, let's just say, we should be on our faces at whatever He asks, because of the very privilege of serving Him.
4. Above all, what it means to live the life of a disciple. Willing to see, recognize, move, bow, do and...die for Him. Yes, even that. "He must increase, and I must decrease," John said. These are words of the truest of disciples.

 Our son, J, called John, "the baddest," when he was three. As in, "John the baddest." Since then we've referred to John the Baptist as 'the baddest dude.' J didn't know it then, but he was already using 'baddest' as slang--like the best. Yep, that's the truth of John. There's a reason Jesus said, "Among people has not greater man been born of woman." Would that we learn to follow his footsteps.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Between thieves--repost

This was originally posted in  September of 2011. It hit me hard today when I reread it...like I'd just relived it. I think my heart is still pounding a bit hard.

The list was long, my time was short, my head was down when I practically walked into a shopping cart pushed by a woman walking out of the store where I was hurrying in.  She was an ordinary blond woman in her early thirties.  I might have passed her any other time and wouldn't have noticed her.  I stepped out of her way exactly as two men rushed out of the store, and one grabbed her from behind.  She immediately said, "Hey, what are you doing?" I thought it was some friend, maybe even her husband teasing her. But then the other man (a very tall man I've actually mistaken for Beve when catching a glimpse of him peripherally) stepped between me and her cart and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. I sidestepped to keep from being hit by them, my heart pounding.  The woman yelled another fraction of a minute as her arms were pinned behind her back, and then something kind of sank in her.  Completely sank.  Like all the air and heart and everything else had popped with the balloon of having been caught.

I kept walking into the store, glancing at another woman about my age who had also watched this drama unfold  on this sunny Wednesday afternoon.  She turned toward Starbucks, I headed back to the Pharmacy, but for a single moment we really looked at each other.  She put her hand on her chest.  "Yeah," I said. "I know."

It took a long time for my heart to stop racing. But then I thought of that woman, and how her heart was probably racing, somewhere--in a police car? the store?--and though I guessed there must have been pretty strong evidence for those two undercover (though no longer undercover to me!) cops to cuff her, it made me feel very sad. Maybe she has a family at home thinking mom was just picking up a few things for dinner.  That's how she looked to me, anyway.

That's the way we humans tend to see things, though. That tattooed, hoodied,saggy-jean-ed, scruffy-faced young man was the one who pinned the nicely-coiffed woman's arms behind her back.  If you'd have told me ahead of time, I'd have pointed my finger at the wrong person.

Two thieves were killed beside Jesus.  I don't know what they'd stolen--we aren't told that. And it doesn't matter.  We usually look at their place in His story as side notes, "He was crucified between two common thieves."  But what if we turn it on its head, so that the only place God ever intended Jesus to die was between thieves.  That had been His plan all along. He is Sovereign, after all.  And the reality is that those two men hanging for their crimes represent us.  We are, one way or another, all thieves.  "All have sinned," of course.  We all deserve to be handcuffed and carted off to jail for the crimes we have done against God.  We might clean up well, put on our best face, but inside, we're exactly as they are. Yes, exactly like them. So there they were...and right between them--(between us!)--God Himself breathing the same bloody, painful gasps they were breathing.

God judges not our outward appearances but the content of our heart, Samuel is reminded when he goes looking for the king God intends to replace Saul. Shoot, if we're honest enough, even we know how much more like those thieves who had the crosses to the left and right of Jesus' we are than we pretend to be.  We jeer, and are such fools with our lives we end up robbing ourselves of joy and hope and time and our own peace.  Contentment, too. You get my point.  I once heard someone say that all sin is a form of robbery (though I can't remember who now, sorry!) --stealing something from God and taking it for ourselves.  And that's why Him dying between thieves was so purposeful. So exactly right.  Because we are all thieves.  We have all taken our lives into our own hands and made an absolute hash of them, a botched up job.  Yep, thieves but pretty poor ones.  Pity us.  And we deserve what we get.  Like that one thief told the other that day. "We deserve this. But He did nothing wrong.  Remember me when you enter your Kingdom."  And so he's right, that robber. We deserve it.

But for one thing.  The man in the middle.  The one who took the handcuffs for me, was led off in my place.  And died.  That's the truth of it.  The only place He was going to die was between thieves.
That is why He came.  Thank God for that.  And thank God that even hanging there, with barely a breath, even at the last second, with only a few words left to say, He had enough to say to that believing thief, or thieving believer, "This day--this very day--you'll be with me in Paradise."

Friday, October 4, 2013

An adventure with my name on it

Today's the first Friday of October so you know what that means, don't you? Yep, it's'ye ol' Random Journal Link-up Day.

But I'm not feeling completely random. Just semi-random. Actually, that's a rather good description of my real personality. I'm random within boundaries. I color within the lines, but I don't have to make things their proper colors. I like the boldness of the unexpected.

Anyway, enough about my personality...except that this month this journal, this entry is ALL about my personality. Or my life's journey, I might say. Or pilgrimage. "I have set my heart on pilgrimage," says Psalm 84, and this entry reeks of that. You see, this is from the first page of the first of these blue notebooks.
In the beginning, I named these notebooks. I called the first one, "Blind Faith." You see, in 1977, I transferred from Washington State University to Northwest Christian College (now University) and the University of Oregon in Eugene. It wasn't an easy decision. In fact, almost no one in my life approved of it. Not my friends, not my Young Life leader who was something like a spiritual dad to me, not the other Young Life leaders whom I'd no longer be working in club with. My parents weren't overwhelmingly thrilled with the idea. But my dad told me later that he liked how adamant I was that I needed to go, he liked how I fought for it--that strong belief made them support my decision.

I was 20 years old, and had finished my sophomore year in college and was off on what I then called, "An adventure with my name on it." You see, I went to Eugene without ever having checked out the schools to which I'd been accepted. I just packed up my stuff, got my housing assignment in a dorm at NCC and went. (And imagine that--I'd lived in an apartment at WSU. I moved into an all-girls dorm at NCC with so mnay rules it was like a time-travel back to the 1950s--talk about culture-shock!) "Going with Blind Faith," I told people. It was my secret pun. A blue notebook in which I'd pour out my faith and doubts and prayers alike. Prior to that, I'd always used three-ring binders for my journals.

As you can tell, I became addicted to these blue notebooks. Addicted to living with that "Blind Faith," I guess you might say. "For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," Hebrews 11:1 (NASB) says. Yes, I still live with that kind of blind faith, I suppose. Both ways--in Him. Thank Him.

So bear with the very young me as she pours out her first mixed feelings about this journey.

Sunday, September 18
 Sheesh, from tears to laughter in one easy lesson. Just belief in Jesus Christ. I was empty today, more vacant than I've ever been, because any love from humans has become only in my memory. I don't remember EVER being in a place where I've felt so completely alone. And so it remains. But God chose this path for me, and I can't help being excited. I know it was His will and was reassured when I heard that word "adventure" tonight at my first fellowship here. And I love Him for it.
Yes, I'll be lonely again. But there are people around, and they also know Him. They struggle with homesickness, sorrow and all kinds of things I can't even imagine, maybe harder things than I have to bear. Maybe that's why I'm here, to walk with them as God walks with all of us.