Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Focus

It's like I've been in touch with friends from every era of my life. That's what this season is. That's what praying does. I'm a myopic creature. I know that. I put on my glasses almost the moment I get out of bed. It's easy to be even more myopic spiritually.

I got to thinking about this tonight when Beve was talking about his day. He has large concerns. I know that. But as he spoke, I kept thinking of how each situation affected him. Beve is my concern in his job. And even as I admitted that to him, I realized how myopic that is. He thinks about kids, teachers, administrators, staff--always thinking of those he serves.
As I was getting my dander up about something today, he said, "It doesn't matter what the other person does. I can't control that. I AM responsible for what kind of job I do."

It was a good slap in my face, so to speak. Or perhaps I should say, it made me put on my spiritual spectacles and see the larger picture more clearly. There is always more going on than just my puny concerns. More than my family, more than my corner of the world to love and pray for.

And these months of intentional prayer for such a diverse group of people from my life (and even those who aren't connected to me in any personal way) has been like a bright light added to those spectacles. I need focus and I need His light to remind me that 'me and mine' are not the center of the universe. This re-focus is exactly what God wants for all of us. He wants us to get outside of ourselves and be reminded that even as He loves every hair on my head, so He loves every hair on the heads of those I've never seen nor will ever meet. That He knows them is enough. Yes, it's more than enough for me to care about them--on every continent, in every walk of life.

What if each of us who are called by His name (Little Christs), took one city, town, village, people group? What if each of us made it our responsibility to pray for that place and people? Do you ever wonder what would happen if we actually did this? If we tackled the world this way? By prayer first? I mean, taking on a people and living with them the way we live with our families, taking them to God exactly the way we do our children, our parents, our friends, our spouses--wouldn't it be cool to see Him work. May He unleash His power through us. He wants to, I know He does.

"May Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth (exactly)
as it's done in heaven."
Amen.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Keeping at it

A cool moment from this prayer adventure I've been on with God during this season of outward inactivity:

Last night Beve, J and I went out to dinner with a couple of men Beve works with, then on to the high school basketball game at Beve's school. It was 'Coaches Against Cancer' and even though it was the only game I expect to attend this year, it's one I don't miss. Beve's school has had a lot of success in basketball over the years--the basketball coach is a man who loves kids, history, character, basketball. And Jesus. He might not talk about Jesus in the classroom or gym, but he's all about character and even when his teams aren't first in state, it's a pleasure to watch him coach. We always sit behind the bench; this is left-over from the days when Beve used to be an assistant coach, and I liked to watch him talk to players when they came off the court.  Beve stopped coaching when it grew too difficult for him to hear in loud, acoustically-challenging spaces (and gyms are ALWAYS acoustically-challenging!).

We got there early, in time to watch a C-team player for the opposing team fall and cut open his head. Early enough that we had to stand around and wait for the bleachers to be pulled out after that C-team game. Then we took up our customary seats and were promptly surrounded by a whole lot of men Beve has had relationships with over the years. I'm not kidding. One man who sat right beside Beve, LS, was the head coach of the team Beve helped with right after we finished grad school--the year J was born. I'm talking 27 years and 3 jobs ago for Beve, not to mention a whole lifetime for all of us (especially SK, who wasn't even alive then!).

Another man who walked up could have shocked the socks off me, if that was actually more than a metaphor. You see, this man and his family were ones God told me to pray for a couple weeks ago. However, I thought they were living overseas. About eleven years ago, they decided they'd take teaching jobs in Singapore, and after many years there, they went on to Turkey. But...apparently (obviously!), they came back last summer. He took a Principal's job at a town just down the road a piece and his younger daughter goes to Beve's high school. Somehow, between this and that, Beve and I hadn't talked about their return. Anyway, there I was, two weeks ago, praying for them, thinking they were in Turkey, not knowing WHY I was praying. And here they were, just a mile away from Beve's high school.

So I told AD that about my praying for him. He was delighted. Then he said, "Two weeks ago? Really? Two weeks ago I went from hating my job to loving it. And I haven't been able to figure out what made the difference." He stopped a moment. "I don't know why I should be so surprised that God does such things. But I am."

I am, too.
But it's pretty cool, huh?
I absolutely LOVE that God does such things. And that He gave both AD and me that moment to reveal to both of us that HE was in it, that HE had been working on AD's behalf, that He is ALWAYS working. This encouraged AD, and it encourages me...to keep at it. Yes, that's it, just to keep at it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Olympic praying

Any other night it would have been a nightmare, a heart-pounding, sweat-producing, knocking-me-upright-from-a-dead-sleep nightmare. But not these days. Perhaps all the nights this winter have been heading to this one night and all the dreams leading to this one. Not a pleasant dream but a real one, and a dream from which I awakened and knew God wanted me to pray for those who'd inhabited that dream every bit as much as He'd been pressing me to pray for all those who'd inhabited all the other 'easy' dreams before it. Maybe He was saying, "For such a time as this, I've also called you to pray."

Because here's my dream:
I was in a farmhouse deep in the woods near Sochi with some women. And I was helping them pack their back-packs. Yes, helping them pack them terrible things (they looked like batteries, but weren't) that would do terrible things to athletes and coaches and spectators. But what I was doing was protecting those devices from becoming the destructive objects they were meant to become. What I was wrapping them in was some kind of towel these women couldn't even see, but I knew was there. And it was meant to save not only the victims but the carriers of the back-packs. These women also needed saving from this terrible act.

That's what got to me when I awakened.

I don't know what lies ahead in the days of the Olympics. I really don't. I only know that God has put on my heart that I am to pray for all those who might seek to do harm there. The enemy prowls. We know this. And God has put on my heart that he will be at large during the games. The games. The wonderful two weeks when countries put aside different ideologies and play--this is a moment when the enemy will be at large. And God wants me (and maybe you?) to be praying...

May HE intervene, be the protector. And BE glorified.
Amen.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A simple prayer

A simple prayer tonight, to which I have nothing to add.

My Lord and my God,
take me from all that keeps me from Thee.
My Lord and my God,
grant me all that leads me to Thee.
My Lord and my God,
take me from myself and give me completely to Thee.

Nicolas of Flue, Swiss hermit (1417-1487)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thoughts about the poor

It's been a while since I've written but I've been half writing this post all day long. Unfortunately I never had my fingers on the computer keyboard when I was writing it. The first time, I was still lying in bed early this morning, barely awake. Perhaps I came out of a dream that related, though I can't remember the dream at this end of the day. But I'm thinking about the poor, the marginalized, all those who are on the outskirts of society.

Yesterday Beve and I went to a movie. And I used a cane. Lately when I've ventured out of the house, the cane has been a great aid in keeping my bum left leg steady when I'm still not quite able to look down and check for uneven pavement. But a cane as accessory creates an interesting dynamic in public. People cut wide swathes around a person with a cane. They open doors as though they had all been trained at the finest finishing schools, and pull each other out of the way as if the oh-caned-one was double the girth and needed extra room to wash her hands in the restroom. It's a very interesting phenomenon, one that disabled people have always experienced, but something new to me.

It's something that anyone who is outside of the mainstream must feel. When I say outside of the mainstream, I'm talking those who live in poverty. Poverty creates a different kind of setting-apart. It's all about marginalizing people, looking at them as a 'them' and not 'us.' And yes, cutting a wide swath around them.

As I've said before here, I freely admit I've never been poor. My life has been unrelentingly middle-class, from beginning to end. However, from India, to Alaska to Mexico I've spent time with impoverished people. And my first job after college was working with mentally-disabled adults. So I have a heart for the marginalized. It's nothing special for me to write that. Indeed, it's no special heart, like someone might have a 'heart' for a specific people group, because the one people-group we were commanded to care for were the poor. "The poor you will always have with you," Jesus told us. In Matthew 25, when He talks about the sheep and the goats, He tells His disciples that "that which you do for the least of these you do for me." The least of these were the poor, the sick, the naked, the imprisoned. And James says that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." (James 1: 27).

This is the basis for my political leanings. I know that there are lynch-pin, hot-button issues for everyone. For farmers, agricultural concerns make the democrats' left-wing 'tree-hugging' stances a bitter pill. The republican plans are always better for them. I understand that. It makes sense to me. But don't talk to me about economics. My eyes glaze over when we start talking million, billion, ga-zillion dollars. I don't get it. Honestly. I'm not trying to sound stupid about it, or have my head in the sand, I just don't get macro, micro, or any other kind of economics. What gets my blood moving is how we can care for our people. And what our people need.

And this is what I think: If we really care for the marginalized, the poor and disabled among us (and perhaps I shouldn't lump them together, but I am at the moment), we would care for them. For example, we would see to it that every child has the opportunity to have an education. Oh wait, we already do that. It's only reasonable. And we'd feed them because they don't always get food at home. And we're doing that. Also a reasonable thing to do, right? And give them medical attention when they need it.

Now I've beginning to sound like a radical, right? Almost like a socialist. Or exactly like a socialist.
But I'm not so sure it's such a terrible idea. To me, it sounds like the way the gospel works. That we care for the weak and hurting among us. That we who are strong and have more, carry the burden for those who cannot. "The poor you shall always have among you." What did He mean by this? Did He want us to ignore them? Or to actually live in such a way that we help them?


That's my first cliff dive.
I'm sure it's a whole lot more complicated than this, but I live with a man who spends most of his days with families who have not.
That's it, just have not.
And he gets grows weary of the options that aren't open to them because of what they don't have. So this is what I've been praying today as I think about the poor among his students. How do we serve and care for them? And specifically, how do I help Beve carry the burden he carries for them?

Friday, January 17, 2014

The cliff of risk

Those of you who are faithful readers of this blog know that I've been keeping journals almost as long as I could write my name in cursive. And those journals have been unedited, mostly-unshared and un...well, everything else. But unedited is the main thing. I'm thinking about that tonight because in the last almost six years since I began blogging, this little blog of mine has been very like a journal.

I edit as I write this blog. It's a swipe of a key to do so on a computer. Doesn't mar the page. I don't like marring the page. Never have. I'm a little compulsive that way about my journals. In fact it used to be that if I started a sentence with the wrong word, I'd make it an exercise in English to make that wrong word fit my thought and the sentence would make sense. As I've aged I'm more willing to cross out words, but it's still not comfortable.

Such things can tell you a lot about a person. That rigidity.

My point is that this little blog journal has made me more flexible, more willing to admit I don't have it right every minute. That's a good thing.

But I'm also aware that I don't put everything on the table, so to speak, on this blog.  When I spent my days reading high school English papers and helping kids write better, I used to say that there should be a grade for RISK. Some students are naturally good writers--or proficient academic writers, I should say. They do everything they're asked, and they do it very well. So they score well. Other students have far fewer natural skills, have a host of reasons why those skills aren't as proficient, but a few of them took risks. By risks I mean, they'd stretch so far, try some thing in their writing that set them apart, even if their skill wasn't equal to it. Maybe they were willing to take on a subject that was difficult, or try writing in a genre that was unfamiliar, or even (a very few) expose a part of themselves that was so raw and deep that to give any sort of grade felt like another punch in the gut to a life that had only had gut-punches. Whatever it was, I felt that they should be acknowledged for that risk, honored for it.

I've broken a lot of English rules on this blog, I'm willing to admit. Glad to admit. I know when I break them and know to what end I do so. But I haven't really broken through that one 'rule' I felt so strongly about in the ten years I spent working in English departments. I haven't broken through the wall of risk. Not really, I mean. Sure, I've shared some things that other people might not share. But these are things hard for ME to share.

So my hope for this coming year is to step out closer to the cliff of RISK. To write things I believe, to be more provocative, more thoughtful, more deliberate. To take more risks. Yes, just that.

And we will see where we land.
Editing as I go, of course. But not deleting.
So five quick 'semi-risky) things:

  1. I'm a contemplative. Or a mystic. Whatever you find more comfortable to call me. The noise of the modern age is too much. It drowns out God for me. I must go into the quiet, the deep, utter quiet where I can hear my heart beat, and then the door opens to hearing God. 
  2. If something happened to Beve, I'd absolutely consider joining a monastery. And no, I'm not a Roman Catholic. 
  3. But while we're on that subject, I LOVE Pope Francis. I mean, I could wish to be a Catholic just to claim him. Or maybe I will anyway.
  4. I'm a Democrat. Half of my extended family is Republican, half is Democrat, and it feels like our family doesn't really fit anywhere, we Evangelical Christian Democrats. But we're real people. And I get tired of the notion that I can't be both. I can, and I'll tell you why another time--and it's ALL about the gospel (that's my teaser!).
  5. I believe that God loves all of us. That there isn't a single person on this earth excluded from that love. And that He made us. Each one of us is a unique gift of God. Exactly as we are. That's not so risky for me to say, since it's pretty much what I mean to say with every post, but I just couldn't bear to end to without repeating it. We need each other. With all our differences, we need each other. He meant it that way.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Being Human--some quotes

Some quotes for your day from a book I've been reading (and pondering and chewing on and thinking about and...well, you get my drift):

From Becoming Human by Jean Vanier (the man who founded L 'Arche, an international network of communities for people with intellectual disabilities)


  • We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. Each of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help. 37
  • If we deny our weakness and the reality of death, if we want to be powerful and strong always, we deny a part of our being, we live an illusion. To be human is to accept who we are, this mixture of strength and weakness. To be human is to accept and love others just as they are...weakness carries with it a secret power. The cry and trust that flows from weakness can open hearts. The one who is weaker can call forth powers of love in the one who is stronger. 40
  • Belonging is a beautiful but terrible reality. In every relationship there are times of light and bliss, when two people call forth that which is most beautiful in each other...However, there are times not only of light and bliss but of darkness and depression. In each of us, there is a shadow side...40-41
  • We do not discover who we are, we do not reach true humanness, in a solitary state; we discover it through mutual dependency, in weakness, in learning through belonging. 41
  • One who is weak, who lives in true communion with another, will not see his own weakness as something to be judged, as something negative, he will sense that he is appreciated, that he has a place.
  • The heart is never "successful." It does not want power, honours, privilege, or efficiency; it seeks a personal relationship with another, a communion of hearts, which is the to-and-fro of love. 63
  • It is in belonging that people discover what it means to be human. 66
I'm only about halfway through this book, but couldn't resist sharing these words today. Hope something makes you sit up and take notice. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The size of the pain

Because I'm a very loving wife and because Beve's a very good sport, I'm going to post a picture of him today.

There's method to my madness. You see, it's a pretty adorable picture of our pups, who love Beve and each other, but not such a great picture of Beve. He looks rather drawn, doesn't he? Couldn't summon up a smile to save his life (or if I was being held hostage, as he's wont to say at times). Nope, this is Beve in pain. Something I haven't seen much in the 30 years of our marriage.

You see, Beve's tough. He has two kinds of arthritis, Meniere's disease, and a bad knee, but those things barely make him miss a beat. But small thing--something no larger than a grain of sand has put this look on my husband's face. It's pain that makes him sweaty and nauseous and feeling so horrible he'd just as soon vacate the whole sorry mess of his body, thank you very much.

Those of you who have dealt with them, know what I'm talking about. Yep, Kidney stones. This is Beve's third or fourth bout with the vicious little monsters and this time's breaking his personal record as the worst. He's been down and out since Friday. Trying to sleep between bouts of heaving over a sink when the pain meds wear off. He finally took himself to the doctor yesterday (Pretty handy that I can't drive at the moment!) and the diagnosis was, "Yep, you've got kidney stones. Drink lots of water, here's some heavier meds. If it doesn't get better, come back." Exactly what we expected.

Here's the thing. the kidney stones Beve's had before have been tiny things. The first one was so little we weren't quite sure that what he'd found in the strainer could possibly have caused all that pain. But the second time, there it was again, a grain of sand. Crazy small to cause a giant to stumble as it does.

But the truth about life is just this: it isn't the size of the stone that matters, or the size of the pain. It's what it touches. If we're hit by a grain of sand on a fingernail, it won't matter at all. If it flies into our eye, it causes great hurt. And so it is with emotional pain, spiritual pain. EVERY kind you can imagine. The enemy, I think, wants to hurt us where we are the most vulnerable. He wants us to feel it excruciatingly, right down to the marrow of our souls. And he knows where those points of weakness are. He knows what will cause the most harm in our relationships with each other and with God and THAT is what He goes after.

It's okay to feel that pain. It's okay to be gray-faced and nauseous about what that pain touches. That's real. Honest. God knows, of course. Doesn't He? Let it rip at Him how much it hurts, I say. That's what Beve's been doing as He sweats it out in his stoic way. That's what sweat is, and puking is.

However...

 Stand. And stand and stand. And...put on the HOLY SPIRIT. Let HIM shield you from all the darts (and even grains of sand) of the enemy. He IS what we need when we're in pain. He is the medication for our spirit. His Spirit in our spirit.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

His Business--LIFE

As I was waking up this morning, I was praying. This happens now and then. It's an awesome experience for me, a person who doesn't awaken easily and needs silence and a strong cup of tea in order to form coherent thought. But when the One who lives within me starts praying, it's like a jolt of adrenalin, even to a sleep-flooded brain.

I don't know why the Holy Spirit was praying this morning, or for whom He was praying. I only know the words that came out of my mouth, unaided by me. "Life is your business, Lord. It's up to You." I lay there in my cocoon of pillows and quilts and thought about that sentence. At first it seemed self-evident. Of course, I thought. But then I did a double-take. And began to pray in concert with the Holy Spirit.

You see, in all the ways you can think, life is GOD's business. Conception itself is like a shot in the dark. Isn't it? Without God, I mean. And yet, here we all are. And the life we have, we have because He gave it. The parents, the siblings, the exact situation of our lives. We aren't made of chances. I forget that too often. I forget that Life is His business.

And so is New Birth. Many, many years ago, when my middle brother was a troubled adolescent, my dad (not yet a believer) asked me to convert my brother, A. I told Dad that I couldn't do it--that conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. Then Dad asked what programs I could help their church put into place that would make A become a Christian. I remember shaking my head at my heart-broken, well-intentioned, loving dad. "That's not how the gospel works, either." I told him. "I'll share the gospel with A, and we pray for GOD to work." 

That conversation came back to me this morning. Reminded me of Nicodemus going to Jesus in the dark of night (except that it wasn't A himself who wanted to be born again!). Dad was talking about the business of new life for his son. And that's God's business. For some reason, though I was only in my twenties then, I intuitively 'got' this then. "For God loved the world SO much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal LIFE." This is the answer to Nicodemus. This is the answer to us, as well. He gives us life, and eternal life. It's His business.

But life is also His business. I mean, the living of our lives is also His business. We can wrap our brains around the beginning and ends, maybe, but there is no part of our living in which He is unconcerned. This has been brought home very clearly this weekend. Two people close to me have been very ill this weekend. One has been hospitalized for the whole of it, causing a lot of fear and trembling for those who love her most. It's been a scary thing. But also an awesome thing to see God work on her behalf. In every way you can imagine, He's been behind the scenes working. People praying, doctors doing. God works. That's the point. He's in the business of life. 

But I also know a person who's in the last stages of life right now. God's business with him is to hold his hand, make him comfortable and ease the way. That's what God reminded me this morning--that if He's in the business of life, it means He doesn't stop His work for the whole of it for any of us. From first breath to last, He's in it. And wants to be in it more than we know. Even those of us who know Him and all Him Lord, He wants more. He loves more. That's the reality. He's the Life for EACH of us because He loves EACH of us.

So how do we respond to this LIFE He holds out?

"This is the record, that God has given us eternal life. And that Life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life. He who has not the Son has not life." 1 John 5:12

Friday, January 10, 2014

Showing up

It's late and I should be in bed.
The wind's blowing fiercely outside and our poor, sensitive Springer, Jamaica, can't quite figure out why I'm NOT there. She trots down the hall to the bedroom, then comes back to check on me. Trots back, and repeats. It's unnerving to her that I'm sitting out here alone, with such bluster outside and such quiet within. Yep, here she comes again.

So I should walk down the hall and put her out of her misery.

But there's something I wanted to write tonight:

God's been showing up in my dreams lately. I'm not talking about Samuel or Joseph or Joseph kind of dreams, where He speaks loudly and clearly and I know it's Him and I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. Nevertheless, about six weeks ago, I began dreaming about people who have populated my life in large and small and unexpected ways. The dreams themselves weren't significant. What mattered was that when I awakened, I remembered the person. All day long, that person stayed with me. The next day, a new dream and a different person. Now I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer but even someone as dull as I can be caught on by about the third day. I told Beve about it, and he began to ask me who the person of the day way. I began to write their name in my journal.

As I said, this has gone on for six weeks or so now. Long enough that I am ready each morning for whoever God might bring to me through my dreams. An old friend from high school who is now a French professor, my third grade teacher, Beve's mother's best friend, a woman I knew in Holland, a former associate pastor, a cousin. Well, you get the idea. The list is six weeks long. Just to be clear, it hasn't been every day. Those first few days after my surgery I didn't dream about anything. Didn't do much praying, either, to tell the truth. They passed in a haze. I looked back at the post I wrote about the hospital and I can hardly remember it. That's what pain and stress does, I think.

Still, for the most part, God has set me to praying for this season. And it's been pretty cool. And then came this morning. I was awakened to my phone vibrating. (I should say, I was awakened the second time. I woke up with Beve this morning, and Beve beats the roosters more days than not. He did this morning, that's for sure. He was out the door before 5 AM. But then, it's been that kind of week. The most stress there is in his job the earlier he gets up. And this week, he broke some records. Broke a couple going to bed, too, I have to admit. He nodded off while in the middle of a conversation as we were eating dinner the other night, too. "Go to bed," I said. I felt like his mother. My point is that it's rare that I do more than breathe when he gets out of bed each morning. Today we had a conversation I actually remember!)

Then I went back to sleep. When I awakened three hours later to my phone vibrating, it took me a couple of seconds to realize what was making that noise. Long enough to register who I'd been dreaming about, though. Then I picked up my phone, looked at the text, and it was from the very person who'd just been in my dream.

That's what I call God showing up.
Here I am, stuck in my house for these three months, almost like I'm quarantined, living a life of restrictions, and HE shows up. Says, "You aren't on vacation, you know." He has purpose and ministry and use for me. Even when all I can do is sit in my chair.

If this is true for me, I KNOW it's true for all of you as well.

On a completely unrelated note, here's a picture of E for your weekend. I wanted to give you a clue as to what we're really on about up here in the Northwest. I don't wish to besmear the New Orleans Saints, but...Go Hawks!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Learning from a 'Duck-duck-goose' circle

When Beve and I were young and our children were pre-schoolers, we bought our first house. We barely owned it, of course. When I look back now and think of how little we paid for that old three-story farm-house, I have to laugh. 45,000 dollars. Yep, that's all. But it was a fortune to us then. It took a lot of work, too, getting it to a livable condition. The sewer backed up on the very first weekend we lived there. I mean backed up so badly the driveway had to be torn up, a new sewer line put in, and eventually a couple of alder trees taken down. We put in new walls, changed where the front door was, painted every room, put up wall paper. Built outside stairs, walkways, put in a garden. You name it, we did it.

And in the midst of that, had three very young children. It was a crazy time. But then, as I say, we were young and had the energy of the young. We included our children in everything they could be included in. They thought the garden was their own (as it was!). I came out one day to discover this:
Beve had allowed them to harvest the very first fruits of our carrots. You can just see how proud J is of that carrot he's pulled from the ground.

It was a sweet time in our family's life. They were fun and interesting and chattered at me all day.

But, if truth be told, I wasn't a natural mother of small children. I adored them but also found them somewhat indecipherable. J had a habit of knocking SK (the baby) over. When asked why he'd done it, he'd simply shrug. The older two were always very competitive--even at the ages you see in this picture (3 and 5). Who was faster--at eating, running up the stairs, playing games, getting ready for bed, getting IN bed...you name it, they competed. Their competition stage only lasted until they were...18 and 20 maybe? Or has it ended? I don't know. SK, the baby, didn't have a competitive bone from her curly haired head down.

There was one day, however, that I learned something about myself and parenting that was so eye-opening, so shocking, so scary, that I've never forgotten it. J had been to a birthday party. Or maybe just to church. This part I don't remember. What I do remember is that it was the beginning of September and in mid-August we'd had new carpet put in to our house. It was a big deal for us, the expense of that carpet. You can imagine. (It was probably just a month or so before the above picture was taken).

I walked into the large room right off the kitchen where we spent all our time, and right in front of the fireplace J had drawn a 'Duck-Duck-Goose' circle on the carpet with a marker. It wasn't a small circle either. But it WAS a permanent marker. He was standing up as I walked into the room, I can see it as if I'd been carrying the memory like an old photograph in my brain all these years. He held the marker behind his back but dropped it as I said his name--rather harshly. You can imagine, I suppose.

I felt harsh. I felt just about as angry as I'd ever felt with any of my children. I grabbed the marker and saw that it was permanent and threw it across the room in a blaze of heat. Then I grabbed his shoulders. I remember this moment so well. I was going to shake the living daylights out of him. Really. That's what I wanted to do. That's what I'd been going to do.

Until I felt those three-year-old shoulders that were so small in my hands. And his face. He wasn't crying. He was too scared to cry. I'd never seen a look like that on my child before. A look of fear.  "I'm sorry, Mama," he was saying before any words came out of my mouth. "I just wanted to play "Duck-Duck-Goose."

I picked him up and held him for a moment. Then put him in our 'time-out' chair. "What you did was wrong," I told him. Then I walked to the couch and sat down. What I'd been about to do was more wrong. I needed that time-out more than he did. I remember asking God to forgive me and to keep me from EVER getting that angry again.

It was quite the lesson. I've always remembered the red-hot fire of anger that swelled in me that day, that made me value carpet more than my three-year-old son. I never came close to anything like that again, thank GOD. Really. But it was a hard lesson to learn. Some parents are naturals with small ones. However, God gave me grace sufficient for those years.  "Be angry, but do not sin," He tells us. And that's what I learned that day. J had done the wrong thing, but he was learning the difference between right and wrong at three. Sure, he probably had a clue he wasn't supposed to write on the rug. He did hide the marker. Or maybe he hid it because I was already yelling. I don't know. What I do know is that what I'd wanted to do, had almost done was worse. That's where sin lies. In acting without considering consequences. Acting in a blaze of white-hot heat because some THING matters more than a person. "How could you hurt my rug?" Sounds so terrible when said that way.

But the truth is, we value things over people all the time. We get mad on roads, in stores, we allow our stuff to be more important than other people. And that's sin. I've long since been forgiven of that day with J, but I think God has sealed it in my memory so I don't forget to value human beings above all things. I learned this from my son, but must keep learning it. Day by day by day.

P.S. The carpet store had a solution, involving a syringe full of something, that got out the 'permanent' marker. Apparently that wasn't their first 'Duck-duck-goose' circle!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Living the questions

Alone.
Beve went back to school today.
So it's the first day since my surgery that I've actually been by myself.
Tomorrow is my post-op appointment, and I'm sure the dr. will say I'm healing at a pace. I feel better each day. That's as it should be, right?

Not what I'm thinking about this morning, though.
I'm thinking about a call Beve got from his principal yesterday.
A senior at Beve's high school was killed in a car accident. An icy road, a hill, spinning out of control. Then a fire. It was pretty awful. I'll spare you more than that.
She was a well-known, well-liked, a high-achieving, college-bound student. Probably on her way to church, Beve guessed.

Beve was on the phone much of the day. Talking with the other counselors, teachers, staff, the Mobile Response Teams (they come into school when crises occur).

Last night, he heard that a large group of students were meeting down at Boulevard Park, just to be together. Boulevard is a favorite meeting place for people, right on Bellinigham Bay, where you can watch sunsets in the summer, play frisbee, walk along the water and listen to the gulls and the soft waves of Puget Sound. It's beautiful there. Stop in at Woods Coffee for a cup, sit a bench and just be with God in one of the most pretty places in all the pretty places on our waterfront.
When E was young, her youth group used to have worship nights down there in the summer.

Last night was something like that, I think. A private memorial. Just for the kids, before adults and structure and anything else got involved. They needed to be together. "A time to mourn, as Ecclesiastes says. They'll be mourning for a long time, of course. But last night was their own, when they could huddle together in the cold. They all felt a cold many of them had probably never felt before. Death feels like that to the uninitiated. Even to those of us with the hope of heaven before us first must feel the cold of loss. Because that loss is true. And huddling together with those who feel the loss in the same way is the ONLY way to find warmth in the first hard days.

Hope will come. I believe this. I believe that God was in the car with that young girl. That He was sitting beside her in her last moments, holding her tightly even in the worst of it. And I believe that He was down at Boulevard last night in the middle of the huddle with those bewildered teenagers who are wondering what hit them.  And I KNOW He's up the hill at that high school this morning, in the classrooms, the hallways, in my own Beve as they all try to make sense of this.

All across this country, indeed, all over the world, senseless accidents happen every minute. And we wonder where God is. We get mad at the senseless things themselves. I'm not talking about the evil. That's a story for another day--though maybe it's the same thing, with the same questions. I don't know. I guess that's the point. We live in this beautiful created world. A world that has sunsets and walks along the bay with gulls flying overhead. But we also live in a world where terrible things happen. Things that lead to pain and death. This is the two-edged sword of our story.

The poet Rainier Maria Rilke once told a young man, "You must learn to live the questions." Well, maybe these are the wisest words I can leave you with this morning. We must face God with our questions, The questions we each have, the angry ones, the sad ones, the unfair ones.  And learn to live them.
With Him.

But know this:
"For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither any heights nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."    Romans 8: 38-39

Friday, January 3, 2014

Facing the lump

Whoa, wait a minute, I just about forgot. It's RANDOM JOURNAL LINK-UP DAY!!!! Not only that, but Dawn tells us that this is our 37th (WHAT? REALLY?) such link-ups. For those of you new to the party, RJDs are the day each month (we first did them weekly!), when we pull out old (or current) journals to discover pearls among the oysters. I've found many such gems as I've checked out the other journalers each month. Artists, poets, prose writers, mixed-media journals are all welcome to the party. If you keep a journal--OF ANY KIND--and want to be a part, or if you have never kept a journal but just like to read people who are honest and vulnerable about their lives, head over to Dawn's blog (just click the purple link above!).

By the way, we like men. That is, it'd be GREAT to see a man willing to join in. I happen to know several men who keep journals. Come on, we won't hurt you. I promise.

As to my contribution this month, I asked my resident giant to grab a blue notebook off the shelf, I can't possibly raise my arms that high at the moment. And he grabbed a notebook that began the end of February 2002. I don't really want to write the entry that I came across just now. I don't want to write it because it's too uncomfortable. Brings back too much from that time. But because of my reaction, because I took my glasses off, closed my eyes and both my men (Beve and J) asked what the problem was, I knew. It isn't that hard to know that God brought me to this entry. I just wrote about being vulnerable. Didn't I?

This particular day I'd traveled north across the border to British Columbia where I'd gone to Seminary at Regent College. I went up with a friend who was a current student, and had the chance to see my favorite prof, who'd been my supervising prof on my Arts Thesis, which had been a full-length novel which was then being read at a publishing company.

March 27, 2002
What a great, great day. Finally saw Loren in a completely Loren-like way [I've no idea what this means--I didn't explain]. What a huge influence he has been on the last five years of my life. In some ways I wish I was just starting at Regent, just to have the pleasure of it in front of me. Or at least I wish I could continue to meet with him. I wish he could always be my first reader. My first, best critic. 
I saw Dal Schindell [another Regent lecturer/artist] and was surprised that he knew who I was. He was VERY positive about my work, about the whole experience of my Arts Seminar, how important it was in the way they've restructured the Arts Thesis. I told him that that seminar had been utterly transforming to/for me. When I mentioned to Loren how amazed I was that Dal remembered me, Loren said, "We talk about you all the time. You're very well known around here." 
It wasn't until tonight that it dawned on me that my novel being read at a publishers' is a big deal to a place like Regent. Not just to me, but to the college, too.

These are very nice words, I'm sure you're thinking. What could have made me shudder, lower my head (which I'm not supposed to do), have tears spring to my eyes? It's something Beve said the other day, you see. Or something else. Or a whole lot of things I wall off. All based on that novel which was read and revised and read and revised until it was a shadow of itself and I was too. Or actually I was almost double myself in trying to lose myself in it. Anyway, I've told part of this story many times before. But this is the hard part tonight. Beve mentioned the other day that we haven't seen Loren and his wife in a very long time. Then he said, "I think you don't want to see him because of your book." I completely cut him off when he said that. No way was that true. It's just the way things work out. But my Beve's perceptive. Dead right this time. Loren, and Dal (and all of Regent College apparently) were proud of me for a while. But I didn't come through. My book failed.

I said that. Yes, I just said it. I failed. And I NEVER let myself say that. But after 8 years of work, when I finally said, "ENOUGH!" about that book, I was sure I wasn't a good enough writer to write a publishable novel. EVER. Not even to write the novel I'd already written about a dozen times. Loren (a brilliant man) believed in me, and I let him down. I let them all down.

That's my story this month. My vulnerable story. I know it isn't new and that I've told it before. In fact, I have a feeling, this part of my life is a little like the new metal plate in my neck. You see, I keep feeling like I'm having to swallow over a lump right now. And that's the way my novel on my shelf feels--like swallowing over a lump.

What's God's role in this?
I don't know.
I don't want platitudes.
I know them. He's in all things. Of course. He's God. He was in the beginning and He was in the ending.
What I want--from HIM-- is the courage to face the lump that is this dead novel. To face it and learn to deal with it.

The last quilts of the year


A.
B.
C.
D.

E.

F.

G.

 H.

I. 

Key: 
a. my first circle quilt for my sister LD
b. a simple striped quilt to match our family room, because I was tired of our ratty blankets, and like the fabric.
c. a mixed chevron (see how the brown goes the other way? Plus two photo-bombing dogs!)
d. a baby quilt for my cousin's baby Zoe, who arrived in November (Please pray for her--she's a fighter with a rough journey!)
e. a baby quilt for a very close friend's newest grand baby, due on her birthday (end of January)
f. brother bb's asked for (but apparently unneeded) duvet cover--he MEANT a fleece backed quilt.
g. the Christmas stockings I made to match our new mantle (I think I posted these before
h. a quilt for E. She saw one she loved on pinterest, so we graphed it out and I figured out how to make it in colors to match the colors she's chosen for her condo (and Christmas...but don't tell her. I think it can work all year, don't you?)
i. Another quilt found on pinterest. This one I made for SK (with many variations). With the colors she loves--deep, rich jewel tones. I've become fan of finding inspiration wherever I can get it.

And now--sob, sob--I can't get near my sewing machine until my surgeon gives me the OKAY, which won't be until MARCH. MARCH, I tell you I might just expire before then. From lack of quilting. I need a new hobby. Sigh. One that I can do without bending, twisting, or raising my head. I've been watching a lot of TV. More than EVER. And a lot of sleeping. Not quite more than ever but that's only because I was once an infant.

In any case, that's my quilting review of the last few months.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Moving with the year

There are a lot of 'year in review' blog posts out there.
And a lot of 'goals for the year ahead' posts floating around as well.

I'm contemplative enough to find great delight in looking back over the past, taking personal and not-so-personal stock in what has come and gone with the pages of the calendar. But one has to have a handle, a hook (as they call it in the writing world). And I'm not sure I have a hook this year. Or maybe my 'still-recovering-from-surgery' brain doesn't know what that hook is quite yet. So this post will be a bit of a ramble. I'll just let my fingers (and the Spirit? Please, Lord?) work out what might happen on this page.

The other day I saw a Facebook post by a young woman who said she's moved each year for the last decade. "Let's stay where we are, shall we, 2014?", she quipped. And though I realized exactly what she was saying, my instinct was to say, "oh honey, that's the one thing you can't ask. The only thing you CAN count on is that 2014 WILL move. And that YOU'LL move with it!"

Life moves. It just plain moves. Moment by moment. Day by day. Two weeks ago I had a metal plate put in my neck. Now I have a scar that I didn't have for most of 2013, but will have every day in 2014. It's the way of things. A moment happens and we are changed by it forever. Most of those moments aren't nearly as visible as a scar on one's throat, but even the smallest, most unlikely ones can change a life. I think of all those moments in my life: the one where I chose to run across a street without looking when I was seven years old, and was hit by a car. Or when my dad decided to take a job in Pullman, Washington rather than in Iowa or New Mexico or stay in the navy. That decision (OF HIS) changed my life.

My point is that I can look back on this year, as well as most years, and see how God-haunted it has been. My younger daughter took a temporary job at the end of 2012 that directly led her to the job and life she now has in the Bay area in 2014. She doesn't love this particular job, but she cannot deny that GOD has led her where she is, that HE has revealed a ministry for her that she never saw coming--with inner city kids, with Young Life, the very organization that brings her full circle to where Beve and I took our first baby steps in discipleship 42 years ago. But for SK, it all began with answering yes to a temporary job. Sure, God could have done it a different way. HE's God. But He didn't. He uses our simple decisions and ordinary lives to grow us.

I think of my older brother who began the year working in the deep-freeze of Siberia, and ended it on a different project in the jungle-climate of Hydrobad, India. Other Americans around him complain about how things are (or aren't) done on their project, but my brother simply says, "You should be in Bratsck." He learned perspective in 2013, by doing his job. His ordinary job in extraordinary places. God does that, too.

I think of my older daughter who's seen dreams come true in 2013. God has met her at every turn, school, job, condo, community. She's a planner, my E is. She likes things all laid out on a grid, and 2013 was a more windy road than she'd have wished but God knows her, and He hasn't failed her in the most ordinary of ways.

Yep, it's been a good year. In large and small ways.
It'd be easy to worry about the hard parts.
You know what I mean, don't you?
I mean, just look around. We watch the news these days (E's dream job IS with a Seattle TV News Station, after all!), we see what's going on. Beve comes home with stories that have turned his beautiful dark, dark brown (really black!) hair completely gray. This city, this state, this country, this world...Pollution, economic crises, government incompetence, evil of every kind at every turn. Yes, our 'problems' are legion. If only they could be foisted upon a herd of pigs and sent over a cliff into the sea, so we could be rid of them.
But they can't. We live with them. We live uneasily with these issues on our diseased and sin-filled planet. Uneasily and fearfully. But here's the thing: whatever we see on the news isn't the boss of us. Sorry about the poor grammar, but that's the best way I can think to say it. Even our own FEAR isn't the boss of us, if we don't let it.

He didn't let it. He allowed Himself to to wrapped in dirty rags, learn to walk as a human being, grow up among working-class folks (because that's how you learn), just to get to the point where He could tell us, show us, BE the answer for that fear. And not simply the fear but for why we HAVE the fear--the real ugliness that lies outside our doors.

I don't want that to be the last word of 2013, nor the first word of 2014. I don't want fear or evil ugliness to be the last word EVER, because it isn't. It just isn't. "I believe and have come to know that YOU, Jesus, are the HOLY one of God." That's the last word. A bit of a paraphrase of Peter's great declaration, but that's what it comes down to for me.

Today and every day.

I have a few scars on this 56-year-old body of mine. More than you really want to know, actually. And a brand new one has joined them. Each of these scars is part of my story, a story that has, honestly, had brokenness and pain in it. But each scar has also been met with Him reminding me that HE is bigger than anything else. The ordinary decisions have led me to Him and the unfathomable fears have also led me to Him, because I believe and have come to know that HE IS the Holy one of GOD, and believing, I have life in His Name.


 Happy 2014. May you move with Him as the year moves with you.