Friday, November 28, 2014

The eve

I've had a hard time settling down to write this fall. There's just too much to do: too many decisions that don't take imagination and creativity...and leave me staring at this little flickering box on which I'm meant to pour out thoughts that signify something. Anything.

It isn't that I don't have thoughts, but you don't care about diapers for the elderly or whether the tile should stop at this point or another on the wall; how many hours a care-taker should work and what I need them to do for Grampie. You don't need to know how many different sized gloves we eventually decided we should buy to have on hand, just in case...or how we had a dry run through with Grampie and an Occupational Therapist, who thinks we've done a great job preparing our home.

And for the life of me, I can't think of anything profound to say about most of what I spend my days thinking about. I only know that I get up each day and pray that even in these most prosaic of decisions, God will be glorified.

And that His grace will be sufficient for this path we trod.

Today is Grampie Eve.
That is, tomorrow we bring him home. As far as we can tell, we have done our due diligence. The bathroom looks lovely (I'll post pictures one of these days). The kitchen isn't finished but it's usable as it is and we decided not to wait any longer.

Our kitchen is stocked with the kind of finger-foods we haven't had around since we had small children. Still, Beve's out running around gathering the last of the equipment.

And I sit here in the quiet. Pondering this journey that begins tomorrow. No matter we've planned, there's no way to be prepared. No completely, anyway. The two lovely young women who will share the care-giving job each morning were asking what kinds of things Grampie likes to do, which bewildered Beve and me. He doesn't like to do anything any more. He doesn't notice the television, doesn't understand what he reads even though he can still read words, he can't do puzzles and doesn't follow me when I try to get him to sing with him. He mostly just sits or wheels himself around in circles.

But he'll be here and my lovely giant of a husband is beside himself with gladness about it. He's waited for this day for two years. And that makes me glad too.

So tomorrow, when I get up, may I rise with the day and say again, "In this day, God, be glorified. And may your grace be sufficient!"

Monday, November 17, 2014

A pack-rat

There's a check list on a 3x5 card next to me. On it I've written all we have to clear, sort and move before the 'Big Move,' which creeps up on us ever so quickly (or slowly...our tile man fell off a deck last Friday, bruising his tailbone. I was appropriately sympathetic toward him on the outside, but inside, my flesh was saying, "WHAT? Another delay?!"). We're losing A LOT of storage in moving Grampie into our home. We've taken all the storage out of the bathroom, though we hope to add some later when we don't need to maneuver a wheelchair into the shower; have none about the washer and dryer because we widened the door beside them and stacked them. And we can't store anything in the room where Grampie will stay either. Anything other than his things will confuse him.

Here's the thing, I'm married to a bit of a pack-rat. Not a hoarder of the likes of the ones on TV, but definitely one who stashes things away in corners. I love the man like crazy and I can stay this about him. He always thinks he'll need that empty peanut butter jar or the screws he took out of  old doors or light-bulbs. Oh, the light-bulbs I cleared out yesterday! The thing is, my Beve just doesn't like passing up good deals, and light-bulbs on sale constitute the epitome of good deals: a need and a value for his money. But for one thing, we just don't have the room to store them efficiently in the house at the moment. I packed them all up to put in the cellar!

But as we cleared out various parts of the house to make room for Grampie (don't look at our dining area: it's still a nightmare and will remain that way until the remodel is complete!), I got to thinking about how I'm a pack-rat too. I'm a pack-rat about fabric--and I REALLY have to go through my stash and be ruthless about it--and books and pens, even. But I'm not talking about those things.

I'm a pack-rat inside. I hold on to all kinds of things in this very human heart of mine. I hold on to how tired I am, for one thing. I let my physical condition dictate my life to no small degree. Instead of simply getting on with it, I live in it, hoard it.

This is also true about attitudes toward others. Toward Beve and his pack-ishness, for example. I look at my way as the right way always.

I remember when my babies helped me die to myself. They didn't do it purposely. They didn't rise up out of their cradles and say, "You MUST take care of my needs before your own!" Obviously. The fact of their beings made me die to myself. There is so little opportunity for self in the life of a young parent. A baby's needs swarms everything. Every waking moment, every conscious thought, even every dream in the half-baked slumber that make up those first months of new family's life. It's grueling, if one thinks of it in one way. A new parent doesn't hoard self. Can't. Just plain can't.

But one usually doesn't. Usually a parent simply dies to self because the exceptional joy of it all surpasses it all.

That's where I want to get to today. About my things, about my attitudes, about everything I hoard within. I want to die to it all because the exceptional joy ahead--of a sleeker home, a lighter load inside, a sweeter disposition--yes, a greater joy surpasses it all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A letter from my grandfather

One of the many meetings Beve has set up before Grampie moves in is with the VA, because we've been told that as a WWII vet, he should be able to get some medical attention, something he received on a regular basis in the skilled nursing facility. And an important piece of documentation for the VA is Grampie's DDN (date of discharge number). So we went searching for it through Grampie's papers last night, and discovered that what used to be very well organized files are now in complete disarray. I think back to when Grampie and his wife, just after they moved to our town, decided to purge themselves of a whole lot of paper and hired a shredder to come in. Hindsight being what it is, I wonder what they shredded if they were keeping what all these Staples receipts and the like in his Morgan Stanley Portfolio. Sigh.

This led Beve to go through OUR files. And he found a few treasures. I knew I'd put our family Christmas letters in there (I'm VERY careful to save them--I work hard at making them creative and entertaining), the studio pictures we had taken of our children. And this chache:

A whole packet of letters, pictures and v-letters from my grandfather (called Chief) written during the spring of 1943. He hadn't seen his wife or daughter in years at that point and wouldn't/couldn't for a couple more. And by his picture you can tell he wasn't a young buck who signed up after Pearl Harbor. No, my grandfather had run away and joined the navy when he was so young he had to falsify his age back in the early twenties. Then, one day several years later, he met a Kansas farm girl just out in LA for five days visiting a friend. If you believe in love at first sight, believe it of them--they surely believed it. Believed it all their married lives. Believed it enough to weather separation, war, sickness and they came out the other side, still deeply, always in love.

These letters, and others I've found like them, reveal that. But I won't just tell you, I'll let my grandfather say it himself. Just see what you think of this man with a strong voice, who should have written a book and could always tell as story:

June 7th you said you have wondered about the kind of letter you should write me--the kind I'd like. I dunno, darling. Of course I love you so doggones much that any letter from you is enjoyed. But I guess I like the newsy kind of letters that you knock out when you're not too tired. The ones that just kind of ramble along and tell me what you've done, and kind of brag on me a little bit as to show me how good I was at some things which you have to do now, and thus miss me for those reasons, too. As for being cheerful in your letters, my precious one, the same things hold now as during all the past years. When you are down in the dumps and unhappy, if it helps to unload it, why hop to it, Carol Darling. That's one thing a husband should be for--to lighten the load, even at long range. 
     However, one thing I have noticed, beloved, is that as I grow older, the loving thoughts I have for you are not so romantic as they used to be. What I mean is this--I think of you a lot, naturally, but not every minute of my waking hours. I am too busy for that. Every night, after I have smoked my last cigarette, and just be fore I turn over to go to sleep, I pray for the safety and happiness of you and Carolee. I've been doing that for years now--whenever I am away from you. When we are together, those two items are rather up to me to take care of, rather than bothering Him about it. 
     But the rest of the day, little things come up that bring my thots [thoughts] to you in a veritable flood of love and longing. A black head in my face; a button off my skivvies; sauerkraut at chow; getting sleepy in the middle of the day; a holey sock that I throw away; lighting up an old smelly pipe that you used to razz me about; nothing romantic about these thoughts or a hundred or a thousand other similar ones. And yet, they change my thoughts from whatever was in my mind and I think of you and Carolee.
     If I thought much about the more romantic side of our wonderful years of married life, of how much we mean to each other, spiritually and physically, I'm afraid it might get me down. So I veer from those ideas, and stress--no, that's not the words, 'cause it isn't a conscious will on my part--rather it just happens that I just think of you an Carolee in the common ordinary everyday things of life. But it all adds up to this. I love you both.

He was a grand man, my Chief. I wish I'd known him as an adult. 

By the way, the V-letter shown there mentions a letter he wrote to my mom, Carolee, for her birthday. I wish I could find THAT letter, because about it he says, "I'm a funny guy, beloved. Somehow I am undemonstrative about everything and everyone but you. However, in the letter to Carolee, I tried to break down and write her the kind of letter I think about writing her--but can't seem to do. She knows I love her, and needs no assurance from me, but even so, I hope she'll like my attempt at a "loving letter," which doesn't begin to express my love for her."

WOW. That's all I can say.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A new kind of risk

In 2009, I posted this post here on Word About Words:
Only after we have yielded to Him can we reflect the face of Christ."  Celtic Daily Prayer

Yielding and reflecting.  I have always had the sense of God providing/meeting us in proportion to our own risk.  If we stay near the trunk of the tree, grasping on for dear life, holding what we already have, He will meet us there, giving lightly.  But, if we step out to the edge of the branch, trust Him to hold us, or even further, yield the branch altogether, HE will grasp us, hold us provide right there.  Catch us when we jump.  And there, what will be seen of us is His glory.  The times that I have risked most have been the times when I've been most overcome by His graciousness, His power, His care.  And my response is overwhelming praise.  He shines in my face at such moments.

Beve and I have owned 4 houses in 4 towns.  And these houses--both the buying and selling--have been moments of gigantic risk for us.  We bought land out on the Olympic Penninsula on the strength of a counseling opening in the Sequim School District, months before Beve even had an interview.  And once he actually got the job, we waited for God to sell our house.  Without a realtor.  We've only ever used the Holy Spirit as our realtor, either as buyer or seller. We stood way out on a limb to trust that He was in it, that He could do exceedingly abundantly, beyond all that we asked or even thought.  And you know the end of that story:  He sold that house about a minute before Beve had to move out to Sequim by himself.  And we rejoiced, we were humbled, we worshipped at His feet when He caught us.

This scenario has played out three more times as well.  But here's the thing: it's hard every time.  We always stumble on our way to faith, we always have to step gingerly out to the end of the limb.  I remember telling Beve once that I was a small island of faith in the midst of a swirling sea of doubt.  But you know what?  We risked it anyway.  And He catches us when we jump...every time.  Maybe not exactly as we expect, but always in such a way that we know it's Him.

"To hear with your heart,
 To see with your soul,
be guided by a hand you cannot hold,
To trust in a way you cannot see..that's what Faith must be."

This little chorus is what I'm talking about.  These words play repeatedly in my head when I step away from the trunk of that tree.  Step gingerly on to the end of the branch, and trust that His holy arms will catch me when I jump.  Not seeing with my blind, human eyes, not hearing with my deaf fleshly ears, but with my soul, my heart, my faith in the one who calls me onward. Further up and further in to faith, further in to risk! The proportion sounds just about right.

This is good news for me in this season of my life.  Once again I'm tentatively releasing my grip from the trunk of the tree of life, and am clawing my way to a small limb...and I trust that He'll be there at the end, holding on to my hand.

This is an important post for me today because as during the sermon this morning (a brilliant one from Genesis about Abram) I was struck by something powerful that is happening in our life right now. Beve and I have stepped off limbs of trees so many times in our life together. Selling homes, leaving all that we had to follow what we had faith was His call. Each time the most difficult leap meant we left something safe financially for something with no visible resources. Because this has been the case for us, I think I've been under the mistaken impression that it's only when we risk financially are we edging away from the trunk of the tree. Or even more leaping from the smallest of limps into the great  blue sky of  "Please, Father God, catch us!"

But that's EXACTLY what we're doing in becoming full-time care-givers for Grampie. It won't be a financial burden. And perhaps because it won't--because it will give us a little extra income--I haven't been seeing it as the kind of leaping risk where He will meet us proportionately. But it is exactly the same thing. It's the same heart-in-our-throats, "we know You're in this but please be in this!" kind of stepping out in faith people of faith have done since Abram left Ur.

Living by faith. Stepping out by faith. Yes, He's there holding my hand. Holding Beve's hand.
I'm awed at the way these words I wrote 5 years ago have been germinating for this moment.  At least for this moment. What will come when we move Grampie home will be hard, but we will be empowered by the One who gives grace. I can hardly wait to see what He will do in and through this season in our home.


Friday, November 7, 2014

A hard one

It's Random Journal Day in my part of the blogisphere (though we've been on hiatus for a couple of months) and I've had a certain blue notebook beside my chair in wait for it. When my sisters visited a few weeks ago, we were talking about when our brother A died. The year, I mean. The date wasn't in question: he died on my daughter SK's birthday. So when we couldn't agree, I went to my journals. When all else fails, go to the journals, and the journal will settle it, at least when it comes to dates. When my family wants to know why I seem to have a better memory than they do? Perhaps journal-keeping goes a long ways in explaining that. But I have to admit my journals have large gaps, too. They weren't/aren't written with history in mind. They're a living presence, a way of keeping in touch with a living God. Oh, please check out all the other journals, too, and the great interview with Kathryn Ross! RIGHT HERE

And so I come to this journal of the late January of 2008 (yes, it wasn't so long ago that brother A died but you'll see why it feels like far longer in a moment);

It's clogging my head so there's no room for anything else. Succinctly, he was homeless but not friendless. They came out of the woodwork to tell us that: to speak of how much they care about him, enjoyed working with him, laughed with him. "He was a very private person, we heard repeatedly. If they only knew...but we've always known, haven't we? One way or another, it's always come out.
Hours later, we've gone through his meager cadre belongings and discovered the other side of him. I keep hearing a phrase from a beer commercial, "He was who we thought he was." He really was. He had one t-shirt, some dirty underwear, one pair of pants, a very thin blanket, a wet towel, a new bag of socks along with a camera, two cell-phones (both locked) with Mom and RE's phone numbers in them. And other things I don't dare repeat here. But I can't not know now.

Tomorrow I will speak as Christ's representative and on our behalf, to this group of co-workers. I will stand before all these people who wonder about us, who question why this man's family turned our backs on him. Do I explain or not that the decade's silence was a complicated thing--not merely a family turning its back? A himself made that choice, and whatever he told them was not the whole truth. Or does any of that matter? Is there a need to defend ourselves? Or is there MORE need for them to simply continue to think well of the man they knew and less well of the strangers they do not. We're the suspicious characters in this story. And maybe it's more loving to him to leave it that way.

Christ, speak through me.
I loved my brother.
Sometimes I hated him.
Sometimes I was afraid of what he might do.
I did fail him, I know, though not in the ways they think.
So, Christ, speak YOUR love, your truth, your Gospel.
Please, don't leave me to myself.
For the sake of those people who grieve,
for A's sake,
for the sake of Mom at home and Dad in heaven.
And even for me.

I was going to stop here, but you won't know the ending, will you? So...

Saturday:
Finished.
We had his memorial service; twice, actually spoke through it twice due to work schedules. It was well attended and the Universal [Studios] community clearly did love him. It's a huge thing to have one of your own die on the job. It sends shock waves through the whole pond.
So hopefully they feel comforted, more certain that A was not as alone in the world as he might have appeared. And hopefully some of their questions about our 'neglect' and apparent lack of interest in him have been answered. I'm glad I'd brought all the pictures from his baby- and childhood down so they had the board to look at, and that  we told them those simple stories of his life before they knew him. But the truth is, he was far more complex than they know. I keep thinking that this week has been like a vertical blind: twisting one way, then turning a completely different way with a different face.
     I spoke. Laying our cards on the table. Not a muscle moved as I told the facts of the nine year gap in relationship, our sense of responsibility, the difference in simply grieving him as they can and our having to live with this unfinished, broken, messy end that we can never repair. Then I spoke of God's love for A, of God having made A specifically and uniquely, and God knowing him for who he IS. And God loving him still.
     To speak these words honestly was hard. To do so twice was practically beyond my endurance. Both times as I said the words, RE and LD cried. BB, I think, is grieving too deep for tears.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tears

I've been tearing up a lot lately.  Tearing up about things that haven't always touched my tear ducts, even when I've felt deeply emotional about them. I'm not a crier by nature, but somehow the world wrings it from me these days. I'm not talking about the huge, over-arching sadness of a world going its own way, either, the story that started in the Garden and continues to cause war and enmity and fissions from here to Kingdom come. I'm talking about the smaller stories that mark my small life, the ones I know first hand:

  • Friends who live from MRI to MRI because the brain tumor inside her head is a death sentence, and she finally told him, "I think it's time we talked to Hospice." He knows we're in it with them, but what makes me teary is how alone they both actually feel. Late at night when she falls and he must use brute strength to lift her, they feel very alone. We tell them, "Call us,Beve can lift her without breaking a sweat." But they don't. It's hard to learn to drop one's walls, to admit need. How do we learn that independence is NOT the best way to live?
  • My daughter's roommate is in leadership in a very well-known ministry. And right now, is facing pretty hard enemy opposition. I tread lightly speaking of this, because it's not mine to tell, but she ministers in love, and the enemy hates that, is agitating and undermining her ministry. It's so clear to me, but it also makes me teary to think of the pain she feels from those she serves. I keep thinking, "Greater is He who is in you, CJ, than He who is in the world!" and pray she knows it and Knows it and KNOWS it to her core. The enemy wants to rob--not from human hands--from God!
  • Speaking of SK, she got her California driver's license a couple of weeks ago and sent me a picture of it. And I cried when I saw it. What's interesting about this is that when SK moved, I felt teary, but trusted her certainty that God was in the move. I watched how He parted the waters for her. But somewhere, I suppose, I held on to the idea that she didn't really live there completely as long as she still had a Washington driver's license and ours was her permanent address. But our youngest child is a full-fledged adult with a life of her own. And it's okay that it makes a Mama a little sad. Isn't it?
  • We hope to have Grampie here by Thanksgiving. And the closer we get, the more anxious I get. Raise your hand if you're surprised by this. It's a GIANT thing we're undertaking. Once he moves in, my life especially will completely change. Beve will still go to work every day, but I will be here, won't be able to leave the house, won't be free to go anywhere for any reason if there isn't another person here. We do plan to have an CNA (Certified Nurse's Aide) here four hours each morning, but we'll see how much freedom that allows me. So I'm anxious and this anxiety can make me pretty teary. Please pray for me. For all of us.
That's all I've got at the moment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Standing at the fence

On the way back from Seattle this afternoon, Beve and I had to stop to buy some sweatpants for Grampie. That's how it started. He went one direction, straight into one of the swooshy-type athletic stores my family gets sucked into and never comes out of without at least one bright orange bag. I bypassed that and agreed to meet him at a furniture outlet where we love to buy drool over furniture, light fixtures, towels and sheets. Christmas ornaments from there hang on our tree these days; that's about the kind of price we can afford of their stock. But every now and then, if the stars align or something, and every sale is out of this world, we find something so spectacularly reasonable we buy it. The bed on which I write this came from that store, our daughter E has a beautiful linen chair in her living room from there. But usually, we just  drool.

Today was a drooling day.
But before I met up with Beve, I'd stopped at a clothing store and bought one single burgundy tunic. It was rich and pretty in color, soft in texture, and long enough to be forgiving of my generous curves. AND, the sale price meant I HAD to buy it. Didn't I? Really, didn't I? At the cash register, the young man brought out an enormous bag to put my soft little tunic in--an enormous plastic bag. But I can do without one more plastic bag in my house, let alone anywhere else, so I told him I'd just put the shirt into my small over-the-shoulder purse. It fit, but just barely. In fact, the zipper bulged when I zipped it in front of the clerk, so I just barely opened it again to stuff the receipt inside.

Then I walked out of the store, off to drool with Beve at luxuries beyond that which we need or even knew we wanted before the moment they were pointed out to us by their mere existence. Sure enough, Beve was carrying a large orange bag with a swoosh across the front. When we met at the back of the store, he was drooling over a large linen laundry basket on wheels. Beside it a linen stool in same hue had caught my eye. Both would suit our bathroom very well.  But first, as I unzipped my purse, I said, "Beve, can I put this shirt in the bag?"  He handed it over and the transaction was done. I didn't think another thing about it until...

Tonight when we got home, and that shirt is NOWHERE to be found. Not in the bag, the car, my purse, our overnight bags, or back in the store (I called). Then I sat and tried to remember the real sequence of events, and what else was going on.
And then I remembered a couple who were also right by the laundry basket and linen stool. Their attention was aimed at the oatmeal-hued cloth covered bed frame, but I remembered that the woman stared at me when I took my shirt out of the bag, because I had a fleeting thought that it did look a bit funny, a bit like I was taking a stolen article of clothing from my small shoulder bag, a bit like I had shop-lifted rather than simply eschewed a plastic bag. Appearances can be deceiving.
Then...
while we WERE buying to laundry basket (I know, I know, just drooling, right? ), I sat down and waited, holding the sack. But a stack of dishes caught my eye. Because Beve was RIGHT there, I thought it safe to leave the bag. Apparently I was wrong. I only turned my back for a single minute, and don't know for certain what happened, but I do know that the same couple sat down on a couch quite near me. I do know that I turned my back--it was a sack, for Pete's sack, not the crown jewels.

And you know too, don't you?
I am not accusing them because I don't know for sure.
I told Beve, it's possible that whoever took that shirt had the very best instinct in mind. They saw me move it, felt I'd done wrong and was trying to right that wrong.
I pray they need it, actually, that they didn't steal it because they felt even as I did: that they just wanted a new shirt. I pray that they needed it, or needed a gift for someone. I pray that good will come from what they did, even if it's a small thing to them.
Whatever the case, I pray whoever took that burgundy tunic enjoys it.
And...I hope to stop wishing for that moment back when I decided to move it from my purse to Steve's shopping bag--for mere convenience's sake.
Sigh.

But all this was just the first act of our afternoon. From there, we decided we wanted to drive past the high school which was recently in the news because a despondent young man didn't have enough to look down the road of his life past that moment and find hope. I live with a young (though a decade older than this one) man who get who that feels. I do not. However, my not knowing is no excuse for not caring though.

The town of Marysville cares. That's written on every street corner where red and white ribbons flutter in the breeze, on every sign, on trees and restaurant windows. That steadfast, "We love you; we ARE you!" is the backbone for healing at such a time as this. While the world's attention span is the length of a news cycle and another school shooting barely skims the surface of all the pain  that settled at its door the moment that hope-empty teenage boy invited his friends to their regular table in the school cafeteria then opened fire on them.

Marysville, Washington for those of you who don't come from these parts, is a quaint little town. It's patently NOT Seattle, thank-you very much, even if you can almost see it from here. We have more than a passing acquaintance with the place because our close friends pastor a church mere blocks from the high school where the school shooting took place. Our pastor friend has been sadly--but certainly mantle-called--intimately the aftermath of the shooting because of his work he does a a chaplain with the police dept. He told Beve he did more chaplain work in the first few hours after the shooting than he's done in five years with the department. I don't know the details of that work. It's not mine to tell if I did know it. But I do know that what God has done in my friend JM in the last years of his life has more than prepared him for such a time as this, perhaps for just such a time as this, sad as that truth is.

Our moment grieving with the community took us to the chain-link fence in front of Marysville Pilchuk High School. There have been pictures of this fence on the news in the last ten days but it's difficult to comprehend what I mean by it if you haven't seen it. You know the little memorials that spring up along roads where a person has been killed? That's what this is. Magnified by an entire region...and beyond. It's about a quarter mile long, covered with roses and other flowers, letters, pictures and emails. Balloons drift overhead on wobbly ribbons. Candles edge the bottom. There's a sawhorse barrier blocking people from parking too close, giving the grieving community space to walk beside the fence. We stood next to parents with small children, an older woman carrying a bouquet of golden roses (with orange tips), A man carefully squashed his cigarette with his toe at the stoplight before entering the fenced area.

Yes, that fence has become a sacred space, it seems to be. As I walked along it, reading words from friends, children, families of the victims, strangers, other high schools, older alumni, victims of other shootings, tears streamed down my face.
Of course.
You can't be there without crying.
And you can't be there without praying.
Those are the first two things.
But I also learned a giant truth about love.
The victims's appeared prominently, of course.
But...so did the one who was so hurting he caused the pain.
Right beside them there was his name.
Over and over, there was his name.
That got to me.

Love in action, where it's hardest.
I know this isn't simple.
And I know there are hundreds of other secondary victims, of course.
Every student who was terrified.
And all the parents who are still worried about sending their children to school.
But for a moment,
let's stand at the fence in silence,
and love where it's hardest.
Love those who seek to destroy.
That's what I learned yesterday.
Those who hurt along side with those who have been hurt.
And loving both together.

It's called forgiveness.
And we're called to it.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Compelled again

We're down in Seattle at daughter E's place. We celebrated a birthday last night with a friend of hers who has become a friend of ours. That's how life works. Our children bring people home so enjoyable we want to know them for ourselves. We had a great time in the big city,  even though the music was loud and the pub was crowded and we were decidedly out of our depth. Every time I turned around it looked like people were about to kiss. Instead they were actually simply trying to hear each other speak. Then we had a long serpentine walk to a Thai restaurant where we found quiet company with a company of nine who hadn't shared a table before but quickly became friends. It was lovely and sweet mixed with the hot spice of the Thai food.

But I'm tired this morning and was having trouble posting on my iPad (call me a techno-dummy!). Therefore, here's a re-post from 2009 that is worth re-reading, even for me...compelling reading, actually (if you'll excuse my pun).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are surrounded by people who look at belief as something we make up, a way to make life make sense, comfort in trials, a crutch. They look around this planet and somehow see it as a cosmic twist of fate. The range of diversity in the created world—from the snow-capped mountains of my region to the savannahs of Africa, the rolling hills of my hometown to the jungles of the Amazon to the wide oceans—all just happened. And the diversity in the living breathing population on the earth—mammals, reptiles, even insects—simply evolved without a higher power breathing life into them. And above all, with dominion over all, the creation of human beings with the ability to reason, communicate, be in relationships, love was only the result of that same cosmic bang that started the whole ball rolling, so to speak. The decision to believe is, after all, merely that—a personal choice and not a particularly smart one.

But I look around this world and see the fingerprints of God all over it. It’s too much, too big, too spectacular to be other than designed by Someone. Planned and ordered in such a way that we can inhabit it, breathe in it, subdue and, unfortunately, wreck havoc on it.

And I believe—I know—that there is more, much more to this life than I have even begun to apprehend. And that starts, abides, ends with the One who breathed life into this world, and me breathing my first breath. But beyond simply believing in some Higher Power with maybe an indifferent view of it all, once He set the globe to spinning on its axis, is the foundational understanding that He has a vested interest in us, an intimate interest, revealed fully in the man who walked the dusty roads of Galilee 2000 years ago.

Right in the center of the gospels—in Matthew 16, Mark 8, Luke 9—is the profound moment when Jesus asks the disciples what others believe about Him, those outside the few who have seen and heard all that He’s done. These are not like those who I’ve just mentioned who, if they think anything at all, they think Jesus was a good man with even great teachings, but nothing more. No, these were religious people with some understanding of scripture. “John the Baptist,” the disciples tell Him, “Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” And there are religions in this world who still believe such things about Him—Islam, for one.

But then He asks exactly what ultimately must be asked of every human being, “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” And Peter, the impetuous, the one who tried walking on the sea, who was convinced (and mistaken) that he’d never forsake Jesus, says (just as Martha does, just as the enemy and his demons know), “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” One can hear the intake of the other disciples at these wondered at, but now spoken, words. And even hear the silence that is better than applause from Jesus, before He answers, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

Initiated by God was Peter’s great confession, the way faith always is. Those people who think we decide something ourselves? They’re wrong, dead wrong. It has always felt to me—and confirmed here—like my faith didn’t begin with me. It began with a whisper of my name, a drawing me to something—Someone—bigger and more true than myself. Sure, some people say no--we have that choice--but I couldn't. It was like He grabbed me around the heart, and I was compelled to follow.

At another point in the story, when many have turned back from following Jesus, He asks, “Will you also leave me?” And Peter answers, “Where would we go? You have the Words of eternal life.” Exactly! Where would I go? Who else has not only the Words, but Life itself to offer? And after Peter’s denial, after his reinstatement on the beach when Jesus calls him again to “follow me,” Peter is empowered by the Holy Spirit and tells a skeptical panel of ill-wishers, “We can’t help speaking of what we have seen or heard.” And this is how it feels to me. I was introduced to a Man who was God and I belong to Him. I can’t help speaking of Him, I can’t help loving Him. “The love of Christ compels me."