Friday, December 11, 2015

Marginalized and ostracized

I've been quiet this week.
Thinking, meditating, praying. Resting, too.
It takes all of those things when I've been stimulated the way I was last week end. Or when we had to make a long trip with a quick turn-around. It takes so much more out of me now than it once did. I'm not complaining. It's just life at this age with these particular complicating factors.

So worth it, though.
We drove east last weekend for the memorial service of the man who was instrumental in our foundational growth as believers. I don't need to write about him, I did that the day he died (see "A Giant goes home" from November 13) so let me just say that to share that day with others whose lives were also touched by him was something I will never forget. His wife, whom I love like the mother I wish I'd had, his sons who are now dear friends (one of whom was my teenage-crush--just ask anyone; shoot, ask him!), many Young Life leaders from my high school years,people I haven't seen since those Young Life days,  many adults who knew my parents, a college roommate, and friends who have spanned all the years from then until now. It was a reunion of the best kind, a worship service in the truest sense and a memorial service worthy of the man we came to honor and the God he loved (still loves) first and best. I wouldn't have missed it and am richer for having been there.

But this week, in light of that service, in light of how Sam loved Jesus, how he taught me to love Jesus, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be an outcast, what it means to love the outcasts and marginalized. We have a unique opportunity right now to be Jesus Christ is the flesh in our country. We--those who call ourselves Christians--are meant to love. The end. Christian literally means Christ-one, or little Christ. There is great privilege in that name. Great responsibility. Those we are called to love are not those merely like us. And, if I read my gospel correctly, it's not merely with an agenda. We invite the outcast, the marginalized, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, those who are suffering IN because IN THEM we are inviting Jesus Himself. That's it. It isn't so that we can witness to them. It isn't so that we can get jewels in our crown or because we might be in the same situation some day, it's because He is in it, in them. He asks us to and we do it.

The idea that we close our borders, that we keep out a specific people group, that we say no in order to be safe, is as counter to the gospel of Jesus Christ as fear is to love. And that's the truth of it, it's fear acting, not love.
However, I've read a plethora of articles using the argument that we can't allow this to happen to Muslims because it could also happen to Christians.  This is a wrong-headed, selfish argument. We say no to something because it's wrong. THE END. God takes care of us. We do and live and practice righteousness. We practice hospitality. What becomes of us is up to HIM.

I've been quiet. I've been praying. I've been meditating on this season. Come Lord Jesus. COME.
Let me be a part of YOU coming. Let me, in the quietness of my little life, pray for hospitality. Trust Him for our safety, and LOVE those He calls me to love.

No one is left out of that.

Marginalized, ostracized,

We want to be kept safe.

I think we have it all wrong.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A true story

Those of you with weak stomachs are going to want to forego this post.
In fact, I wish I could forego my life for a while right now.
I'm telling you, there's a big YUCK factor in what I'm about to share, but an even bigger yuck factor when you realize that we have to actually LIVE here.

We have a rat in our house.
A real live rat.

Are you grossed-out yet?
I am.
Saturday night Beve was standing in our kitchen when, out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement. An ugly-furred, long-tailed rat scurried RIGHT BEHIND him across our kitchen floor, straight into the corner of the dining room, where he tried to shoo it out of our French doors but it beat a hasty retreat beneath the radiator against the wall. The next morning we checked the corners and discovered rat poop in the corner of the living room by our large bookcase.
Beve put out rat poison, a trap, and we hoped for the best.
Sunday night, my sister who unfortunately chose this week to visit, also had a face-to-face encounter with the rat when she turned on the kitchen light.
She screamed.
I would have screamed, too.

Monday morning, Beve called an exterminator.
"We don't have any appointments available until next Wednesday," the woman said.
"We have a rat in our house," Beve answered.
"I'll have someone call you back right away."
An exterminator was at our house that afternoon.
We now have professional traps in our house.
Last night Beve saw the rat ON TOP of the bookcase.

We've been sequestered in our TV room ever since and I've named it Garfunkel.
My sister said, "If you name it, you won't want to kill it."

OH yeah? Just watch me.
Me, the pacifist. Me, the almost vegetarian. Me...PLEASE, kill this Garfunkel rat and I'll dance a jig. I'll dance to Simon and Garfunkel. I'll do just about anything.
And then we're going to fumigate our entire living room. I can't imagine how many of my beautiful books I'll have to jettison. Those are my books from seminary, my collection of CS Lewis books, our photo albums.
You know, nothing important.

The rat got in through the dog-door.
That's what the exterminator showed me. Sick.
Happens when the weather gets bad quickly, like it did here.

We're not going to use the dog door any more once the rat meets its end.

Sorry, pups.

That's all I've got tonight.
No spiritual truth.

Just this.

You know, I was never afraid of rats. I saw plenty of them in India.

Pretty dang yucky.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A giant goes home

A man died today. He was an ordinary man, lived most of his life in a small town, teaching PE at an agricultural university. But he had extraordinary influence and impact on the world. Beve and I are here because of him--married, with these children and have ministry. We believe and are faithful and have faithful, believing children who do ministry because of him. A host of people could say that. The ripples from his life, his ministry, his love for Jesus spread across the world. It's remarkable and beautiful and humbling to think.
So right now, as he's breathing in the unpolluted air of heaven, and saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy," face to face with the One he loved so much, I wanted to share more publicly a post I wrote the first few weeks I had this blog (then reposted just last April). It's my way of saying, I love you, Sam. Always have, Always will. Thank you. There's not a strong enough word for what I feel when I think of how grateful I am for your impact on our lives--all our lives!

He was a long, tall Texan, as the saying goes. An athletic man who loved kids and loved Christ and had been in Jim Rayburn' first Young Life club in Texas back in the 40s. We, my contemporaries and I, were lucky, in the way that God is lucky (which isn't luck at all!) that this Texan was in our town, teaching at WSU and willing to start Young Life with some eager college students back in the 70s, about a year or so before I started high school. By the time I walked into my first YL club, there were 100 strong a night, and more on the way. They were golden years of Young Life in the Palouse, and I was in the thick of it. Thick, too, was the drawl of the Texan as I sat at his feet every chance I got to lap up what he knew of Jesus, what he knew of the life of a disciple. I drank a whole lot of milk in those early days in Young Life and Campaigners.

I'd grown up in a liberal Methodist church, memorizing the books of the Bible like any good Sunday school kid, but not really learning much about Jesus Christ. When I heard the real story of the cross and resurrection,the summer before I started high school, it was like I'd been looking for Jesus all my life--waiting for that puzzle piece to fit my life together, I just didn't know it--and I wanted in. But I wasn't in my hometown when it happened and I wasn't sure but that I might not be the only Christian in our whole town. My first Young Life meeting, a couple months later, was a revelation. This big ol' Texan stood up and started talking about the Jesus I'd just fallen head over heels in love with. I walked up to him afterwards and asked him point blank (OK, so I'm a little dim!) if he knew the Jesus I knew.

He got me plugged into Campaigners almost before I could blink (which, I have to tell you, I first thought was going to be something like the Young Republicans. Think about the name. Where did that name come from, anyway?) and there two college students took me under their wings. It's funny how, in those days, those two women seemed so old to me. I mean, they were in COLLEGE. But now, we're all just empty-nesters together. We had some times together, I'm telling you. One infamous trip up a mountain getting stuck in the snow and having to sleep--nine of us--in April. Completely unprepared for the weather, the car-sleeping, all of it. We were babies. When I think of it from my age now, I shake my head at the potential danger. But the faithfulness of God in that moment. And in what was created in that moment--all those girls--every single one of them, is my very close friend 36 years later, because of that week-end, to no small degree. That, I think, is spiritual formation.

But the Texan. To try to distill his influence on a paragraph or two might be impossible. But I remember one Young Life message with absolute clarity: a cross-talk he did as Barabas, with a giant B on an old sweatshirt. He talked about being in prison, waiting to be killed, hearing the rumbling of the crowds, hearing the swelling noise as they began to yell, and then the dawning knowledge that the crowd was screaming, "Free Barabas!" His voice shook, it actually shook as he said, " I didn't deserve it. I deserved to die. But I was freed." And he spoke of the cross, and Jesus' death from his eye-witness's view-point, as if Barabas had had to follow, had to see this man who had taken his place, the place deserved. And then the clencher--we are all Barabas. I remember that talk, in the large crowded rec room of my friend's house on State street on Sunnyside Hill in my home town my freshman year in high school as if he was standing before me right now. I tell you, I haven't heard many sermons I can quote verbatim, but that one tightens my heart every time I think of it. So profound it could be given every Good Friday, and we'd still never get it. We deserve it--we sinners--and He took our place!

We had conversations about many important decisions in my life. Life decisions. Some of his advice I took, some I didn't. He tried to talk me out of going away to college. I went anyway. He was all for me marrying the Beve, of course. And was proud to do the marrying, in fact. He and his wife came to see me in the hospital when I had my first child. Turns out the only thing the Texan didn't like was that we hadn't named her after him--she had been born on HIS birthday, after all!! He was a tease that way. In the years since we moved to this town, I've been lucky to share a meal with them now and then, to have them in our home. We have never lost touch, the Texan and me. How could we? It was on the rock of his life, that my own was built. We talk of matters of faith, and matters of the heart. Outside of my father, no other man had greater influence on me for so long a time. God used him. I am who I am because of him. Thank God.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Waiting in the rainy season

It's raining.
It rains in my corner of the world during November. The sky is gray and close, the wind blows and even the dogs stand at the back door rather than run out to play in the backyard.
It takes us all some time to settle into the darkness of standard time and the coming of winter.

I have never lived in a desert climate. For all but the first year of my married life, I've lived at sea-level. Winter doesn't come with a bang here. It comes with more raindrops and a deepening darkness. Crespuscular rays of sun are about what we get. It's not quite as though we live in Alaska or Finland, but it's a gloaming. And slow in coming.

For the Psalmist, the hardest, most empty-of-God days are those in the desert. The Israelites wandered for 40 years. They had His promise, His covenant and faith. It was a hard place to be and they didn't do it well. Dry and sometimes deadly to them, that's what the desert was. Right? We know that. We understand desert metaphors in our faith. I've lived in the desert before. Felt far away from God, felt like I could neither hear nor see nor know where I was going.

But today, as I look out my rain-spattered window, I think that for us Northwesterners, a more apt metaphor might be this drenching season. The clouds cover the bay from where I write these words. The wind blows the last of the leaves from the trees, and I am cold, inside and out. Wondering if I'll be warm again. Wondering if He'll warm me with His words. Does He speak in this season?

"Be still," Jesus told the giant storm on the sea, but this isn't such a storm as that. This is just a November storm. It will rain like this until March. And I will pull my coat over my head and hide. Will God meet me in these raindrops?

These are the questions of 'desert' moments. They fit here. These are the cries of my heart when I want MORE and don't even know how to ask. My heart is troubled and I don't know what that trouble is. But I wait. Patiently, He tells me. Wait, and hope, and believe that though "Clouds and thick darkness surround Him, righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne."  Psalm 97:2

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning." Psalm 130:5-6Wai

Friday, November 6, 2015

Beautiful beyond compare

It's November. The days are darker, the nights are longer, and perhaps that's why I'm a little bit more introspective. Or maybe it's not introspective. Maybe it's just who I am burbling to the surface. It's me staring into the mirror and discovering there are wrinkles upon wrinkles on my face and the gray hairs which I expected to make my straight, fine hair more full are just gray. Just gray overtaking me. I don't know what it is, but I've been thinking about how I look. HOW I LOOK. And that's a giant leap through the looking glass back into years I'm glad to be past.
But some days here I am. And I admit to them. Here I am.

So I take out a blog post I wrote 4 years ago to remind myself of truth.
It's also Random Journal-Link-up day, so it's rather serendipitous that I'm thinking of an old post today. Rather like, "Yes, these are the words meant to be shared right now, for me, and for whomever else."
Please follow this Link to Dawn's wonderful blog to see all the other offerings.

Now, to my post, from May, 2011

A few nights ago, a friend sat in our living room staring at a wedding picture of Beve and me.  She said, "He was really good-looking.  Well, he still is, even older with gray hair."  Then she paused.  "Isn't it interesting how often really good-looking people tend to marry people so much less attractive than themselves?"
Ed note: here are a couple of pictures from our wedding day since I'm not sure which one she meant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

What it looks like to me

I've never been in a real throne room. I've never seen an actual king or queen seated on a throne with a host of people in a huge room all facing him, bowing before that majesty. But I imagine it. Shoot, I've seen plenty of movies, I've read plenty of books. My imagination is bigger than both. It reaches to the sky. To the heavens.

When I think of heaven, I think of a throne room. Don't ask me why. There are plenty of other images in scripture. Streets of gold, for instance. But that doesn't do a thing for me. In fact, it kind of turns my stomach. I don't care enough about riches to think it's all that glorious. Again, don't ask me why. A banquet? I can imagine that. I can imagine us all seated together, where there are no differences, but all are invited and the food is satisfying and the wine flows but doesn't make anyone drunk (except with love). Yes, that appeals. And we all look to the head and are sated by the presence of Who sits there, who sits with us. I love this idea.
And I love to imagine walking in a new Creation, a perfect earth, so to speak. In the mountains beautiful, unpolluted, beside rivers where I can dip my face straight into the flowing water and drink sweeter-than-life water that satisfies a thirst I didn't know I had. It tastes like joy, such rivers do. And I long for them.

But still, my first thought of heaven is a throne room.
"I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of our God than to live my whole life somewhere else." This is part of it. This verse touches on my craving, that simply to stand at the door is enough. Isn't it? And this verse reaches back into the past for me.

When I was a young believer, I went to my first concert. It was Second Chapter of Acts. Remember them? I was probably 18 years old. I don't even remember getting to that concert, held in Spokane, WA (an hour and a half north of my home town). At one point in the concert, Annie Herring talked about heaven. She said, "You know how people always say they want to ask God about this or that or something else? I think that when we get to heaven,we'll simply fall down on our knees and say, "Holy, Holy, Holy!""
I was struck still by her words. I don't remember anything else about the concert.

Clearly. I've never forgotten those words. "We'll simply fall on our knees and say, 'Holy, Holy Holy!'"It's played into what I believe about what heaven looks like. Us falling on our knees. Him, the King, before us. Yes, He's more than that. He'll lift us up because He's more than that. But I think it starts there. And I'm thankful for it..

I want to stand at the door and see that moment for people, the moment when they realize that HE is King, that they're seeing Him face-to-face for the first time rather than simply by faith. Only at the door. That's it. I'd rather be a doorkeeper in His house than to spend my life elsewhere.

What does heaven look like to you?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Being critical

When I was fourteen years old, I fell in love. That's how I always put it. It wasn't a rational, measuring all the facts decision but just that simple. I fell in love. As I grew up, I learned facts. Some people would say those facts squared with my love, others would say they contradict them completely. My sister and I have had long conversations about this very thing. I am not a fluffy kind of woman. I do not disregard my sister's point of view. She does not disregard mine out of hand either. Still, we do not meet where I find my greatest love. This is a loss for me because I love my sister and would like her to be 'in it with me', so to speak. Nevertheless, I do not love her less for not loving where I love. How could I? She's my sister.

This love I have for her colors how I love most people. I do not love them less for them not 'being in it' with me. Nor, I know, does she love me less for being in something she so completely doesn't believe. We are different. I know a lot of people who do not love where I love. And yet, I love them.

Still, this is a post about MY greatest love. See, this week I was thinking about a person with whom I struggle. I have had a difficult relationship with this man for many years. He is no longer part of our family precisely, but I was thinking about him. His son is my nephew, after all. Anyway, there are legitimate reasons for my struggle, but those are not the fundamental issue. The core issue is my own critical heart. That's the bottom line. I have sometimes felt this heart beating beneath a veneer of kindness I've shellacked across my skin to look better. It's one of my worst sins. My besetting sin, I've called it. That I look at others and instantly react, I hate this about myself. It's not worthy of the one I love. And that's what this post is about.

There are two things I know, one is that Jesus Christ--and He is who I am speaking, of course--wants to change me. When I read the gospels at 14, at 18, 20, 23,24,30,40, ever since and all the years between I knew that what He was about was changing a person from bad to good and good to better. He took away the worst and gave me a better self. That's part of the story of the cross and resurrection. My worst counts but it doesn't last, that's what He's talking about. He isn't interested in me wallowing in my worst, but in changing me into better.

I think about this. First, of course, because I am who I am, I have to wonder: if I'm like this after all these years of knowing and loving Him, how ugly would my self be if I'd never loved Him? What if I'd only had myself to try and get by with? What if I only had to pull myself up by my own boot straps every time I found myself judging others, finding someone ugly (in any old way)? Could I even do it? Or would I simply be an ugly, judgmental, nasty woman at this point? I shudder at that thought. NO, I bend my knees and praise Him, for saving me from that because I come from a line of critical spirits. It's deep and wide, and I am not far from the trunk.

But here's the second thing: I need Him. Every hour, I need Him. No, that's not even it. Let's be clear here. He loves me. Yes, that's the whole story, the unchanging, unflinching, WOW, story, but that story means He changes me. And desires me to give myself to Him so that change can happen. And I do. Just as I look backwards and have seen it, I look ahead and want it. I desire to be insides what I've sometimes veneered on the outside. I confess that I'm not, but ask Him for it. For a single person, and for all.

For me, it's not about judging others who do not believe what I believe but about loving those who are hard to love. I've said this many times, but Christianity has been incredibly harmful in the world. But Jesus Christ? He's never harmful. Sure, he's dangerous, but not harmful.

But that's a post for a different day.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What I've been thinking about

Tonight is a bullet point kind of night.
These are the things I've been thinking about:

  • I love autumn, but don't like Halloween. And I'm not saying I don't like it because I'm a Christian. I just don't like the whole mess of having to figure out costumes, dress up in said costumes and, more importantly, figuring out what children should wear for whatever trick-or-treating/trunk/Harvest party they have to attend. All my disinterests and insecurities marry at Halloween. I am not interested in the same kind of decorating, crafty, cutesy stuff many of the mothers around me were. And I might come up short as a mama when my children walked the  parade route in their elementary school gym. Now before you get all up in arms and defend Halloween, or costumes or point out that surely, as a quilter, I am crafty, let me admit that, with this disinterest and insecurity married in my brain, and a good helping of guilt besides, I made plenty of costumes for my children. Tinker Belle, Peter Pan, a Native American one year (after we'd been to Alaska), a princess (with fabric my sister brought back from Uzbekistan), and a beautiful black and purple cape for my son who wanted to be some kind of monster, I think. I love that cape. I mean, I am a reasonably good seamstress. I just don't like the holiday.
  • My niece has been working nights in her first clinical training in a hospital as a nurse in Turku, Finland. So she's basically in the same time zone as we are at the moment. This has been difficult for her (trying to stay awake all night--not much happens, or is supposed to happen, at night on a ward) but E and I have enjoyed talking with her through the late afternoon and evening. She's the second in the family to become a nurse. Beve's sister, Glo, was a nurse. A brilliant one, and by luck of genetics and God, M is just about the spitting image of her Auntie Glo (with a little Finnish twist to her for good measure). I love this. I love that M is following in her Auntie Glo's footsteps but also following them because they're the path laid out for HER, for M. I mean, it's not simply that it's the family business, but she came to it by way of God, but there it is, the same heart and love and interest as was in the woman whose likeness she so bears. 
  • Speaking of medical stuff, I have a physical with a new doctor tomorrow. I can't even begin to tell you what this means. Our doctor informed us late in the summer that he was leaving the practice. And it took me this long (and some searching) to find a new one--and the one I want. When I made the appointment, the scheduler said, "So you want a well adult physical?" "I guess so," I answered. It seemed too complicated to say otherwise. I'll say that tomorrow when I walk in with my cane and hand over my list of medications. Sigh. Where even to start? It takes a long time to break in a doctor. 
  • I've been working on a flannel quilt for our lodge. Let's just say it wasn't a smart choice. Or rather, I didn't approach it in a smart way. I've never made a flannel quilt before, and it's NOT like making a cotton one. Because I cut out all my fabric willy-nilly (ie, without washing it first) I have to spray-starch EVERY seam after I sew it. And, every square has EIGHT seams. Not large seams, either. We're talking about a finished square of 8" by 6.5". (That's pretty small, M). I have to make 96 squares for this quilt plus...well, let me put it this way, I've finished 80 now and have gone through a can and a half of spray starch. Needless to say, I won't be making a flannel quilt again very soon. It isn't a hard pattern, but the process is teaching me a whole lot. 
  • Every seam I sew I think about the refugees walking across the Middle East and Europe. It's a way to be with them, if that makes sense. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to leave my home without more than I could carry on my back. I can't carry very much, I know that. And then to have to walk. All that walking. So I have been praying for them. Just simply holding them up as I sew. It's what I can do. God walks with those who know Him, and those who don't. He loves those on the road who are hurting no matter what they believe. And so I pray for their walk, too. For their safe deliverance into a land that will allow them to live. 
That's it for this Sunday night. The superficial, the practical, and the heartfelt.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The call of the river

There's a Springer Spaniel sitting on my lap this morning. She's been sitting on my lap for most of the last two days. We went up to our little lodge over the weekend, where she ran and played 'fetch the ball,' and 'fling yourself into the rushing river' like she was a puppy about a quarter of her age. She's been feeling the effects of it ever since. And I woke up yesterday morning wondering why my left wrist was in so much pain...then I went outside and tried to throw a ball for my dogs. Hmmm. All that throwing I did over the weekend--for TWO dogs--caught up with me, much like I'd exercised and was sore the next day. Well, exactly like that. Maica and I are old ladies, and sore ones at that.

So she's plunked herself down in my lap until all those sore muscles go away.

But that isn't the part of her weekend I wanted to write about. It's the flinging herself into the rushing river. Jamaica is a water dog, compelled by the sound and smell to find and feel and get herself in water, any water, wherever it looks like, no matter what. But here's the thing: the water outside our cabin is the epitome of a rushing river. The rapids in it would be beyond my (or anyone's) ability to catch her. Let's see if I can give you an idea: have you ever watched the Olympic event of river kayaking? The rivers seem made up to me. I mean, how could anyone kayak down such rivers, how could they survive them? The Cascade River, just outside our cabin, looks like those rivers. If I fell in, and got out beyond a step or two, I'd be a goner. I am not exaggerating.

The same is true, I know, for my Springer Spaniel. She absolutely could not survive in this river, if she got swept off her feet. Still, Maica, races down the steep path from our cabin the moment she's released from our pick-up and before we can get to her, she's in the river. This time, she only did it once...a day. It's cold. It is a mountain river, after all. Fed from so high that it never gets warm, even in the middle of a heat-wave drought-filled, fire-ful summer. And it doesn't stop flowing fast, either.

Fortunately, Maica's very sure-footed. Also fortunately, right at the bottom of our steep hill, there's a little ell where the water is still-ish. If she simply stays there, she's okay. Unfortunately, she doesn't always stay there.  Last summer, SK had to reach out and pull with all her might when Maica lost her footing.

It scares me, how attracted my dog is to something that is so dangerous to her.
I love having the dogs up at the lodge with us. I love that they run freely and sniff all those new smells and have so much fun in the woods. They're free in a different way than here. And it's what they should be able to be.

But the siren call of the river to my Spaniel, it's frightening. And, not matter what we try (fencing off the deck, keeping her on a leash, not letting her out that way), she manages to escape and makes her way to the water.

Then I think about how many things we humans are drawn to that are dangerous to us. You could list them as easily as I can. The Bible calls them temptations. The difference between Maica and us is that we have brains with understanding. I can't sit her down on the couch and say,"I know how much you love water, but the very thing you love is dangerous here. It looks pretty but you have to leave it as something to look at. Answer with one bark if you understand me." Sounds realistic, right?

But that's what temptations are to us. Sometimes beautiful to look at, but dangerous. It would be simple for me to start listing the obvious ones right about now--drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. But I have different temptations and must admit that there are swift-moving rivers in my life as well as anyone's. There are things that are morally neutral on their own, but because of how I've used and abused them, they aren't good for me.
Let me give you an example, which may seem silly, but it isn't to me. Fabric. In the last several years as I've become increasingly proficient as quilting, I've become addicted to buying fabric. Yes, I used that word. I see a new fabric line come out from one of my favorite designers or companies, and I HAVE to have it. It doesn't matter that I have an entire room full of fabric and dozens of projects in bins, and no project in mind, I simply have to buy this new line. It's a swift-flowing river for me. No, it won't kill me but it isn't good for me.

What is it for you? What is the siren call of the river of temptation?

"I have a right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything, but I will not be mastered by anything." 1 Corinthians 6:12

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Let your imagination run wild

Back in the stone age before Beve and I were married, we lived across the sea, in a land where people wore wooden shoes to do their gardening. We wore them to ride our bikes many kilometers a day. It's hard to imagine riding a bike at all these days, let alone wearing actual wooden shoes to do so. But I was young and supple and did all kinds of athletic-ish things I wouldn't consider doing now.

We also wrote notes to each other on a daily basis. We lived in the same community but didn't get to talk as much as we wanted to. Shoot, who am I kidding? We were young and in love and wanted to talk to each other practically to the exclusion of everything else. So we wrote notes to each other first thing in the morning (him) or before we went to bed (me) or after we finished work each afternoon (both of us) and sometimes even when we were sitting right beside each other during lectures. There was always time for a sentence or two, at least. It was the pre-internet, pre-cell-phone equivalent of text messaging and emails. It kept us in constant contact.
In these notes, one of Beve's favorite phrases was, "Let your imagination run wild..." he used this about God loving me, or him loving me, or me imagining what our marriage would be like, how we would minister together, the adventures we'd have. About our life, our future relationships with others.

This phrase, "Let your imagination run wild" has been sprinkled throughout our marriage. We've used it when we've been up against some pretty precarious cliffs. When we decided to jettison our secure life so that I could go to seminary, we used that phrase to dream of how God might meet us, in ways we could figure on our own. We've lived a life richer than our means, if that makes sense, but we've allowed our spiritual imaginations to run wild. And HE has continually been in our dreaming, prayful imaginations. To wit, We have raised three children primarily on a single income teacher's salary. The world would tell us that this isn't possible. But we 'imagined' it, and have had an extraordinary life. I have done all kinds of ministry by simply volunteering. This is wild imagination. Extraordinary.

So last night Beve and I sat at a table at a Nicaraguan restaurant and talked about our dreams for the next phase of our lives. This is fitting, if you have my kind of brain. It was a Lebanese restaurant in New Delhi, India where we sat at first talked about having a future together, about joining our imaginations and letting them run wild together. Do you see what I mean? No? Well, trust me, in my wildly imaginative brain, sitting in an off-the-beaten-gastrological-path restaurant, having such conversations makes them parallel. We marked out what we want the next season to look like, not in particulars, but in general.

No, I'm not going to tell you. It's our treasure. My imagination is running wild with possibilities.

But here's what I want you to think about this day. How do you want your ordinary life to be extraordinary? My little life looks useless, if the world measures it. But it isn't measured that way. And I am confident of my usefulness. God uses me right here in my living room, wearing my back brace, or walking around with my cane. He meets me here, and uses me. If I let my imagine run wild, I can dream of all the ways He might use me in the season ahead when Beve is retired and we get to do it together.
I can hardly wait?

So, what about you?
What do you dream?
And, Beve would want you to know, God loves you MORE than you know. Let your imagination run wild--YOU are the apple of His eye.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Housing memories

My aunt and cousin stopped by last week to bring me some apples from the family cabin on Whidbey Island. I've posted about this cabin before. But to refresh your memory (and because it's salient to this post) here are a few pictures:

 In my memory, Whidbey (which, oddly, is what we've always called our own part of the large island on which it sits) has always looked like this.  Or I should say It looks like this in the spring. Well, there's a metal roof on the cabin now that wasn't there when I was young, and I'm old enough to remember every extra building being added to the property. But the meadow, the basketball court, the apple trees, this is what they look like when I close my eyes and think of them. And when I step out of my car onto the property, when my children step out of their cars, these look approximately the way they did when my parents were first married. I have a picture of myself as a toddler walking through the meadow. Hmmm.
There, see? It's the same place. Sorry about the poor quality of the picture. I look a bit like a zombie but you aren't meant to be looking at the child anyway, but at the meadow.

So my aunt, cousin and I got to talking about Whidbey and how it looks, how it's changed over the years, and how those changes affect us. It made me think about what a difficult time we have with change, especially when it comes to something so halcyion as Whidbey has been to all of us. My cousin has been taking out all kinds of brush, nettles, and wild blackberry bushes throughout the property, and I admit, that when I first saw how open it was driving in, I felt a little sad. It wasn't the same. That was my primary objection. I simply wanted it the same as it had always been. However, I only wanted it the same in the ways I wanted it the same, if that makes sense. That is, I certainly didn't want to go back to outhouses and washing dishes without running water. I might have felt some kind of longing for a past where the well worked but I didn't want to have to haul water up that hill several times a day, called by a loud cow bell from whatever game I was playing to do so. It wasn't fun, let me tell you. And did I like all those nettles? Really? Not even a little. And those summers when my grandmother and aunts had to get up--even when it was hot--and start the big old cast iron stove to cook, I can't even imagine what that was really like for them. They baked bread, cookies, all kinds of goodies, not to mention, cooked every meal on top of raging fire that must have been difficult to regulate. Looking back, I know we lived through summers like it was a hundred years earlier. And I might have loved it as a child, or even a teen, but I also remember the day, the summer after my senior year in high school, when the lights were turned on, and the first meal cooked on the electric stove (which I think is still there, bless its heart). It was like we'd all invented light ourselves.

No, when I really think about it, I love having had that kind of childhood, but I don't want those inconveniences any more. I do love the memories. I need them. They help define my life. Not only that, they give me parameters, a chronology.

What I've realized is that those memories aren't 'housed' in  Whidbey, the place. They are actually housed within me. I don't walk in the door of that cabin and see that workhorse cast iron stove taking up space anymore, but I can see my memory. I can see it right now. I can hear the crackle of the fire and the spit of water on the top, I can hear the hard clunk of iron as my grandmother opens one of the burners with the iron stick to throw in another piece of wood, or shuffles across the kitchen in her slippers,  saying, "Watch out, hot kettle"  as she pours steaming water into the metal tub so we can wash dishes. All these memories are mine. They are houses within me.

And there is room in my brain for more memories, for newer ones. My cousin has turned our property into something of a park. Once I stopped trying to hold onto the way it had been and simply looked around, I saw it. It's beautiful. No, not simply beautiful, but stop-your-breath-in-your-tracks beautiful. There's a trail down to the bluff, from which we can see all the way across toward the Olympic mountains. The trail goes through the woods, which are overgrown and full of all those things Whidbey has had--brambles, nettles, berries, ferns, downed logs. But suddenly, a person comes out of the woods into this gorgeous park. My cousin has cleared it all, Mowed it all. It's like coming across a treasure that was not expected. My younger daughter imagines getting married there one day right at sunset. I tell you there might be no better spot.

I now have that view housed in my brain right beside the old fire pit that used to be out there carved away inside those brambles. I loved going out to that old fire pit. Our children loved that too. But this new park at the bluff, it's better. It's the same kind of luxury light and running water feel to me in this sacred family place.

And here's the thing: these memories that are housed within me, these must be shared. As much as we've shared the place over the years, so we must share the memories. Story is the way we pass memories on. My parents are gone now, so I don't have all their stories, all their memories. I want to make sure that my children, future grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins all share mine. And I share theirs. I don't want to live in this 'house' alone. I've seen how fragile memory is. We must take ours out and share them as we sit around tables, laughing, as we sing the old songs at campfires, even through shuddering tears sometimes. This was the old way of passing life along. It was the way of telling life, of reminding each other of who we are, what life is. I don't want to forget it.
Do you?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Looking in the mirror

This morning, as I stumbled down the hall, I stopped short.
This is my life. This stumbling, limping gait is my external life.
Yet inside I feel so whole. How can that be? It isn't merely that I look in the mirror and am shocked by the wriinkles on my face and the gray beginning to streak through my hair, thinking they're the mask on top of my true self. My true self feels 26 years old, newly married to a tall, straight, almost-black-haired Beve.
It's this shell that is wrong. It's a Halloween costume with scars and bumps and all these afflictions put on over my real self. I don't need that external frame (which is what I call my large back brace/belt), I don't need the cane. Only the costume does. Yes. it's just part of the costume.

Then I get to thinking about how God sees me. He doesn't see this external stuff, either. He doesn't care one iota what I look like, what my body's made of. He sees my true self. Always has. I don't know what age that is because chronological age is immaterial to Him. I am only whole in His eyes, When He looks at me, He doesn't look at this mask of age, of stumbling infirmity. He looks at my heart.
So when I look in the mirror, do I see as He sees? Can I look past both the mask of age and disability, and even the 'real' me I imagine myself to be, to who HE sees? Can I see Him in me? Do I see the made-in-His-Image self He created?

Is this the essential, true me?

Or this (I'm the one in the middle, though I'm the oldest sister) goofy, silly me?

Or this supremely, happy me?

Or this me? Letting you see what I usually keep covered to make a point.  These are all me, and not the whole me. As much as this brace is going to be my external frame for the rest of my life (though hidden by loose-fitting outer clothes), so all the things we put on are simply coverings for our true selves. And God sees through all of it. Accepts all of it. Loves us through all of it. Says, YOU are precious in my sight, no matter what you looks like on the outside. 

We all have masks. I know this. You do too. When you look in the mirror, I bet it's easier to see the flaws of age or whatever else you think is wrong with you, than t
o see that you are not simply beautiful, but perfect in the eyes of God.  
That's what I see when I look in this mirror. It's what I'm reminded when I have to 
put on this belt every morning. 
God loves me. 
In His eyes, 
at every age, 
I'm precious and perfect.
And I hope you're reminded too.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Talking about my novel

A short post today:
A new friend came by this afternoon. She moved to our city about 6 weeks ago when she began working with Beve. She's about our oldest daughter's age and is a lot like E, actually. Loves the outdoors, loves dogs, loves her job. But it was the loving dogs that brought her to our door this afternoon. She needed a dog fix, and we are just the place to get it. She's ready to hang with them any time. This is a huge help for us, freeing us to go out of town without worrying about our four-legged babies.
Oh, you don't think of your dogs as your babies?
 Well, okay, but they are mine.

Anyway, as she sat on the floor, letting Kincade maul her, she asked the inevitable question, "What did you used to do?" Love that question. And it led, just as inevitably, to a conversation about the years I spent writing a novel. Just a few weeks ago, Beve teasingly suggested that a beloved prof of mine, now retired, take over editing said novel. I was shocked. I thought Beve had put it as firmly out of his head as I have. Or that he'd let it go.
 I've let it go. That's how I'd put it. I haven't touched that novel in six or seven years. It's still sitting in jump drives and paper copies and my head. Several drafts of it, actually. But it's all filed away. And I almost never even talk about it, certainly not with someone new. Today, for some reason, I went through the whole thing: what it was about, the process, the pain and suffering and joy along the way, the sense of hope and hopelessness that took up residence in different rooms in me. I didn't talk about the flexible steel needed for my confidence every time I got a new edited copy back or had a conference with either editor or agent. I didn't talk about that, but it came back in spades as I spoke. I remember the sense that I was increasingly a Gumby, twisting myself into a shape a didn't recognize as I wrote to standards that would sell, rather than hold true to myself.

So I'm sitting here now, thinking about it all. Remembering. Wanting to open up a jump drive. But thinking of it kind of as a Pandora's box.
Lots and lots of people want to write books. I remember how badly I did. I wondered if I had the discipline to follow characters to the end of their journey. If I'd even know when that end actually was. I wanted to create a story from my own imagination. Wondered if I could.
And then (years ago now) I had a dream. And woke up from that dream and knew it was a story I had to tell. It wasn't much of a story, more of a scene and the family that populated it, down to their rather interesting names, which I would never have chosen if I'd been awake.

It haunted me for a long time. Several years, in fact. Finally, there was reason to write it. Writing down that first thirty pages was the simplest writing I've ever done. It had been percolating so much that it came in a single draft. And I was both thrilled and scared by that. Thrilled and scared by what it might mean.
Then the whole thing began taking on a life of its own. Those first pages got an incredible response when I read them. That first time, it was so remarkable, it still takes my breath way to remember. I've said it before, but that silence that comes before applause. That silence is the best thing. It's the moment I knew I was a writer. IT was what my writing life had been waiting for.

It wasn't publishing. I never did write to be published. It wasn't something I remember wanting. I couldn't imagine it nor did it matter. It was just the writing. The following of the story to the end: that counted. The discovering who those people were, who they became: that drove me.
In the end, that was enough.

Even today, I find it enough.
And I'll leave it there for now.
"Do you think you'll ever try to publish it?' she asked.
"Never say never," I thought, but just shrugged.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Safari From Home

I might have mentioned that our youngest daughter, SK, is in Kijabe, Kenya this year.
Oh, I didn't?
Just kidding.

Anyway, in these first two months, she's learned several important things:

  • monkeys are okay but stay away from the baboons
  • teaching elementary school students (called Titchy--as they do in the British system) means she's REALLY popular as she walks across campus
  • layering is important--it's always chilly in the morning but right warm by choir
  • these students are VERY polite
  • and deep
  • and are VERY interested in her views on everything from American politics to how many relationships she's had 
  • she's been diplomatic about one and outright refused to answer the other
  • her faith is being stretched, her reliance on God is growing as she trusts Him to meet her needs and there's great joy that she is where she's meant to be for this season.
  • she LOVES teaching!
But here's the thing: after two months there, even though she's found great community, she's missing home. This isn't surprising, I know, but she's feeling far away from her life here, from those who really know and love her. This is right when this kind of culture shock hits, she understands. She was ready for it, but couldn't stave it off. It isn't that she isn't happy there. She is. She's very glad to be where she is, she'd just like to be here, too. Doing and being and just plain WITH her 'here' community.

It's part of the reality of cross-cultural experiences. And our SK is a emotional, people-oriented person. So this is right in the middle of her make-up. Don't get me wrong, she's not sitting alone in her duplex, crying her eyes out. BY NO MEANS. She wouldn't have time for that, even if she had the hankering to do so. No, it's more of a shadow behind the present joy, if that makes sense. "If I could be two places as one time," that old romantic ballad went. Maybe that's more like it. But not even that, because she doesn't really want to be anywhere but where she is. She simply wants to be connected to those she loves.

So, what I'm asking--and that was a long way of getting to it--was for, first, your prayers for her. And secondly, that you read her blog, and maybe comment so she knows you're out there.
Oh, her blog is #safarifromhome

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Thinking about the end

Another month, another Random Journal Link-up. You really need to check out Patsy, who is the Journal-keeper featured this month. She creates beautiful art pieces as daily prayers to God. But she can explain it far better than me. So follow this LINK! By the way, I just have to give a shout out to our administrator, Dawn. Dawn, we're truly kindred spirits. There is no better color than orange in my mind, either. For those of you who don't get it, you'll have to link up to see what I mean.

For my offering today, I thought I'd reach back into the annals of this blog. Since I began keeping it in 2008, it really has functioned as something of an online journal, though it never replaced my personal journal. I've even begun to notice in the last few years that I've been writing in my personal journal with an audience in view. I don't know if you all can understand that, but it's like I turned on my public voice, even when I was in my most private moments. This has been a difficult thing to manage for me. I keep working on it. In fact, it's one of the reasons I took half the summer off from blogging. I wanted to be more authentic--to write wholly to God, with no sense that anyone was looking over my shoulder..or more importantly, about to read a public post.

So today, I choose an already posted bit of 'journal.' Indeed, it's from the first spring of my journal. Because my youngest child is in Kenya for this year (at least), I'm always thinking about her. It's funny how that is. So I thought of a day when she was a college freshman and something huge happened in her life and I wanted to get to her.

I've thought a lot about death today. I met with a medical researcher this morning and within about twenty minutes she'd told me about how her dad died a couple years ago, and I told her about my dad's death. We shared a few tears at the similarity of such loss. And I told her of the 19 year-old-student of the university where SK is also a freshman who died after being taken off life-support. On Saturday morning, the car he was a passenger in swerved into oncoming traffic, to avoid hitting a deer darting across the highway. "You're always told you should just hit the deer," SK told me when I talked to her, "but I'd have done the same thing--tried to avoid it. Anyone would." SK didn't know him well, though she'd met him a few times because he was good friends with her roommate. But still, she's been hit hard with it. They all have, SK and her friends. When I talked to SK yesterday, she and her friends were outside, laying on the grass, barely talking to each other, just looking at the sky.

Anyway, the medical researcher looked at me this morning, and said, "You really like to talk about heavy-duty things, don't you?" I kind of laughed. "I don't live in the shallows, that's for sure," I told her. So she asked me, "OK, then tell me, why did it happen? Because it just makes me so mad." And I nodded, thinking of my conversation with SK yesterday while she stared at the sky.

This is the first time the death of a contemporary has shaken my daughter's world. She's lucky that way, I guess. And she's asking the same question that medical researcher did, "Why?" He was a good kid, she told me. He loved Jesus a lot. At a prayer vigil held the night before he died, when his life was in the balance, other students had spoken of his faith, prayed fervently for the saving of his life. So she's wondering why God didn't do anything to prevent his death, why He let this boy--Dan--die.

I'm not a big fan of the question why, I told SK. There are many unanswerables in life, and SK, Dan's friends and family, the medical researcher--all of us--have run smack dab up against the most fundamental of them. We live and we die, and there's mystery in it. Until we know fully rather than seeing in a mirror dimly, we can't know. That's all there is to it. The Psalms tells us "Our times are in your hands, Lord," and in the end, we have to trust that. I know this sounds trite when I say it, and it barely helps. But I have to say there isn't help in the question of why, because on the other side of the question of why is the question of 'why not?' Why shouldn't we die? Why shouldn't we suffer? We live on this planet where there is sickness and disease and finally death, and we all have to face it, one way or another, at some point in our chronos. Dan's chronos ended, his LIFE surely did not.

It's hard to say this to a 19-year-old who's hurting, with friends who are grieving a big loss. Death is hard, and I'm not trying to sound cold when I write this way. Shoot, I've done plenty of my own grieving. I know, I know how it hurts. And the death of a healthy 19-year-old is certainly harder to understand and accept than the death of a 66-year-old, even one in such good health, he hadn't even retired yet. But we even put ailing 90-year-olds on church prayer trees. We can't bear to let anyone go--we have to have our white-knuckled-grips pried off the lives of our loved ones, no matter how old and ready for their home-going they might be. I'm telling you when I see that, sometimes I think, there are only two options when it comes to death: now or later. It's not a matter of either or. Not for me is living until I'm old and infirmed--I want to go home sooner than that. Really I do. Some days I can hardly wait, to tell the truth.

But this is not about me. It's about a young man who seemed to have his life ahead of him. Apparently, though, he lived his whole life. It sounds like he lived it well--lived it for Christ. And in the end, isn't that what we most want to have said about us? Not a quantity of days, but a quality? Not the length, but the depth and breadth of them? Isn't it? And in the end--whenever that is--don't we want to go with the Lord, too thankful to be sad?

Don't get me wrong. Grieve long and hard. I'm a believer in grief. Lean into it, I say. Pour your heart into it. Learn, as someone once told me about my dad, 'to live in the presence of his absence.' Take as long as you need to learn what that means. There's no time frame for grief, no matter what a calendar says. Sit shiva as long as you need, SK and friends. And hold onto the quality of days.

Friday, October 2, 2015

My take on it

My oldest child works as a Digital Producer for TV station in Seattle. This is a job of the age. My father, who died in 1997, wouldn't have known what 'Digital Producer' meant. The internet was in its infancy when my father died. Sure, we'd been emailed with my sister when she lived in Uzbekistan in 1993-94, but those first few emails read something like this, "Just checking to see if this works." And we were shocked to discover that they DID work. We could be in contact, even though we were across the world from each other.

Still, the notion that every bit of information we might need would be contained in phones, that we'd be talking to each other via instant messages, pictures, short word-bites called "Twitter," and the ubiquitous feed of Facebook was beyond most of our imaginations. But here is E, working as a journalist in that field, feeding a demanding public that hungers for instant information.
The first week she was a full-time employee, she worked through the night, right from her bed, covering the chase (and capture) of the Boston Marathon bombers. She's covered bridge collapses and landslides, and...too many school shootings. Right here in our region, since E started her job, there have been three school shootings.

Three. Two in our state, and one yesterday in Roseburg, Oregon.
But there was also a huge difference for E yesterday. After working all day in media, she left for her new, other job. It was her second day teaching as an adjunct professor in the journalism department at Seattle University. She told me last night that she felt incredibly teary walking into that class, and not because she was nervous. It hit her personally what it must have felt like for those students and teachers to be going about their business yesterday morning, expecting to learn or teach or study. And with the sound of shots in the air that changed.

I have worked hard to not share my political beliefs here on this blog. They don't matter too much in the long run. Whether you and I belong to the same political party doesn't matter to God. It really doesn't. There are NO republicans and democrats in heaven, nor are there any in scripture. I could tell you why I believe what I believe, but it doesn't matter. Really.
Except, today It does. Somehow, in the last 24 hours, I can't help feeling like I have to say something.
You see, my husband is a counselor at a high school. My brother teaches at a different one. My sister-in-law just retired from teaching. My sister and daughter and step-sister-in-law work at universities. More friends than I can count on all my fingers and toes are teachers. And I'm tired of  the idea that we can't do any better than we're doing about school shootings. It seems ridiculous to me that more can't be done. Really. It's like all those who work to teach our kids, or ARE our kids are like sitting ducks. Or playing Russian Roulette.
Yes, more has to be done. Our constitution says we have the right to bear arms, but the context of those words was completely different than our complex world. They were written by those who lived in a wilderness where there was no standing army nor even true police force. Men (no women, of course) were expected to protect themselves. As those words were written, the young country was gearing up to fight the Revolutionary War. In fact, as the Declaration of Independence was war-time decree, the Constitution was a War-Time promise. And a call to arms. And arms were obviously necessary to that call. Like, "This is what you'll get if you join us in this new enterprise, in this new fight!" It's universal and far-reaching but it's also local--meant first for those who first read it.
Thomas Jefferson couldn't have envisioned the country we live in today. And, from where I sit, it's hard to imagine that he or John Adams or Patrick Henry even (who cried, "Give me liberty of give me death") would have been gratified to see what we've become at the hands of that decree. That liberty, allowing people to shoot up schools? Really? People who drive in cars (cars?) and shoot out their windows because they're mad? Who believes that those intelligent men thought THESE were freedoms covered by the constitution? I don't.
"Guns don't kill, people do." I read this all the time, particularly after a school shooting. I find it an alarming argument. A gun is an inanimate object. It cannot shoot itself. It takes a human to load it, cock and, usually, pull the trigger. So yes, a gun cannot shoot itself. HOWEVER, by definition, these school shootings are done by guns AND humans. The combination of human and gun. And any regulation we EVER make about any thing is for humans, in the end. It's the combination. Guns cannot regulate themselves, just like they cannot load themselves. HUMANS must do that. Again, it's the combination--the symbiotic relationship, so to speak, between  people and guns--that must change if we have any hope of stopping this violence.
"It's only people with mental illness," I also hear. So let me be blunt. I have a son with mental illness. He says, "I shouldn't be allowed to own a gun." He has no interest in owning a gun, thank God. And he's stable right now. But I've seen him angry. I've seen what that anger and depression and impulsive behavior can look like together. Many people with mental illness are smart, and not as wise as my son. They could buy a gun easily enough (obviously, the myriad school shootings in just this last year confirm that). It wouldn't take anything more than it would take my son.
No, only real change in the regulations can protect these people as well as the people they might harm. Stricter gun laws, stricter regulations on the kind of guns allowed, stricter everything.

I am not against guns across the board. Let me be clear about that. I have farmers and ranchers in my family too. I understand quite well why they need guns in their life. They use them. Sometimes animals have to be put down, sometimes varmints get into the crop or barn or whatever. And they're hunters who eat what they hunt--just like all of our ancestors did. I appreciate these men and women and their lives so much. I love their choices and have no problems with any who use guns for such purposes.
I simply want to see guns more regulated, so that it's harder for anyone to get their hands on them.

Can't we figure out a way to fix this mess before one more school suffers what Umqua Community College is suffering right now?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The beauty of stress

That's a strange title, isn't it?
The beauty of stress. We don't think about stress as being beautiful very often. Last year, when our life was measured out in adult diapers and "Butt Cream" (yes, there is such a thing), I didn't look into the mirror and think, "Wow, you're looking more and more beautiful, woman." I saw more lines, more gray hairs, more that measured tiredness, worry and "We're in over our heads!"

We always think that stress is NOT a pretty thing. And that it's not good for us. It'd downright dangerous to us.

This isn't a post to tell you otherwise. Not in the long run, I mean. Stress is deadly. Too much stress is dangerous to health. Right

I took this picture this morning from right in front of our little lodge on the Cascade River. The sun was so bright on the water, and even the turning needles and leaves had a glowing hue to them. It was a wonderful moment, a moment that only comes in autumn when such things happen.
But if you look closely, and if you know your trees, you'll notice that there's actually something wrong with the beauty of this moment.

These are cedar trees. Cedar trees are evergreen. EVER-GREEN. They aren't EVER supposed to look this way. But up in the North Cascades this year, all the cedars have begun to look this way, to one extent or another. It's beautiful from a distance. I won't pretend otherwise. It looks as beautiful as every other tree does as it loses its leaves (or needles, as the larch does). But it's all wrong. The mighty, luscious-smelling cedars, in all their glorious orange array, reveal better than any other plant just how bad the drought has been in our woods. They are stressed to the point of doing what all deciduous trees do--they're going to shed their needles. 
Hopefully, that's all they'll do. 
The strongest of them will come back. The big, strong, queens of the forest will return to stand beside King Doug (the Douglas Fir is CLEARLY the king of our woods here). But the more spindly ones, the tall teenagers? What about them? What about this tree in my photo that stands beyond our deck as sentinel over the river? There's more orange on it than green now. Is this its glorious dying moment?

I hope not.

And here's the other thing, the ironically sad other thing: right below the reach of the roots of this orange-needled cedar is that Cascade river. You know, that ice-cold, clear mountain river NEVER stopped flowing fast and deep all summer long? Sure, it dropped a bit, but it was always too deep and fast for anyone to mess around with. Too fast for us to let our water-magnet puppy get near without a leash, for example. Maica could be swept away for good in the river that runs outside our cabin, no doubt about it. 
There is water near our cedars...just not near enough.

All this makes me think about the trees, the drought (even though it rained plenty up there this weekend, HALLELUJAH!!!) and all the changes that are happening to our earth. 

And it also makes me think about stress and me. 
Do I bear my stress with beauty? Do I let it color me with bright orange (which IS my favorite color)? Or do I simply let it overwhelm me, weary and even crush me? Might I have to shed a few needles--or pieces of myself in the surviving of the stresses of my life? Not jettisoning the stress, but jettisoning of myself. That's a different thing.

These are questions I have to ask because I can't pretend to live a stress-free life. Some people talk about getting rid of stress. I think stress might be part of the human condition. So it's MORE about how our roots handle stress. That's it, of course. Do we have deep roots in the one who feeds our souls with living water and gives life to our souls? When the stress comes, we are able to withstand because we're strong enough, sturdy enough and deep enough. IN HIM. Not on our own, but in Him.
OUR river runs through us. That's the glorious difference between dying from stress and living with it. We who are in Christ have streams of living water running through us.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Going up the river

I have approximately ten minutes to write this blog post.
Why I waited until I only had ten minutes left in this afternoon, I surely don't know.
It sounds like something Beve would do.
Whoops, don't tell him I said that.

We're on our way up to the Lodge for the weekend.
It's my annual "Sisters" weekend with those two women who shared parents with me. Bathtubs, and dresses dolls and crayons. And along the way we became friends. Now we have yearly 'sister' weekends. This year, Beve is taking me up to the Lodge where they'll join me tomorrow morning.
We invited our dear aunt to come this year as well.
Our aunt has recently reclaimed her life after being care-taker for her husband for many years. She made the difficult decision to place him in a group home in June because the care became too arduous. He has dementia, you see.
Yes, again dementia has struck in my family. My aunt and I have commiserated a great deal over the last several years. And her care for her husband has been spectacular. However, it was wearing her out. She wasn't sleeping because HE wasn't sleeping, and she had to watch his every move.

The last time I talked her her, even her voice sounded younger.
When I asked if she wanted to come up to our lodge with us, she was thrilled. She has her own cabin, of course, our beloved Whidbey Island cabin. But she loves rivers, and happy to have us include her.

So off we go.
Beve's chomping at the bit.

See you Monday. Until then, enjoy our lovely river view.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Haunted Conversations

My life is made up of quiet days. In the last week, with this pesky sprained ankle, I've been even less mobile than usual. I'm used to this. I'm used to this rhythm of not hearing my own voice for hours at a time (except when I'm talking to the dogs). And I'm okay with my quiet life. I'm content in it. I like it.

But even in this quiet life, even in this extra quiet week in this quiet life, I'm awed--yes, that's the word--with the kind of conversations that come when I'm not looking. I had a couple of conversations this week that have held my attention long after the echoes left the room. A person I've known for many years finally opened up about marriage, about her faith, her hopes, her trust in God within that marriage. It was a down and dirty conversation, without artifice or the kind of phrases I'm used to in conversations with this person. I felt privileged to listen to this person, to be present to the processing with them of some difficult things. They were sweet hours we spent together. Holy hours. The decision this person has come to isn't the popular decision in our culture, but it's definitely a godly one. Prayed over, cried over, worshiped over, and lived out in faith. I am awed by this. Impressed. It's haunted me as a Christ-haunted kind of conversation. He was present in it, and I know--I KNOW--He's in the faithfulness of this friend.

Today another friend stopped by. This is a man Beve and I have been having frequent Sunday afternoon conversations with for the last 3 years. Three years It's hard to believe it's been so long. Three years ago this month, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor and told she only had months to live. She has lived three years. There was a honeymoon stage of about 14 months when she able to move fairly well, but since then, it's been hard. Just plain hard living. So our friend comes over for conversation. We are the safe place where he can be completely honest about how hard it is to be the care-giver, to be living out the "in sickness" part of the marriage vows. He tells us of the worst moments, the things he doesn't want to tell his kids: the way he's done in by 7 pm, the middle of the night trying to lift her, moods and moods that shift on a dime, the disintegration of all that makes her her, the way he feels ambivalent at times about her life and feels terrible that he feels  ambivalent.  She's a mere shadow of herself now. She has a single working limb, only a spattering of coherent language, but the strongest of wills that she's always had. He lets it all out in our kitchen while we drink tea because none of us drinks anything stronger. Our hearts ache together. He tells us he used to imagine--when this started--all the people who had it worse, but he can't remember them anymore. We tell him we love him, that we learn from him, that we are better at loving each other because how he loves his wife.

In a way, these Sunday conversations are also God-haunted. This man is not a person who shares our faith. I am always--ALWAYS!!--conscious of all the people I learn from who do know share my faith. I don't have a corner on the market on how to love. I don't pretend to. This man, this beautifully grieving, loving man teaches me. And I learn. I recognize that our moments together are sacred. He feels it too. He gets a babysitter for his wife now so he can have these conversations. He needs them that much. We always ask him what we can do for him as he's leaving and he tells us, "This. This is what you can do. This what I need from you." Bearing each others' burdens is not merely for those IN the church, it's for all who are grieving, hurting.

So in my quiet life, I feel honored that there are these conversations.
Help me be awake to notice them.
Are there sacred conversations in your life? Do you know what I mean by God-haunted? He's behind every word, behind the words, and the silences.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A bird in the house

A bird flew into our house today, straight in through the back door as if it was following Kincade who'd just come in from the back yard. Don't ask me what kind of bird it was, I'm no birder. It was small, not large and black like a crow, no red-breast like a robin, and wasn't a blue jay either. And it was too pretty to be a starling. I almost wondered if if was someone's pet that had gotten loose, with its pretty coloring. 
It flew through the kitchen around our dining table, into that window then made a loop into the living room where I was reading, right into our large picture window, which faces west. When it hit glass, it flew into the north picture window, then, then the north east picture window, then back. Around and around, until it finally landed between my houseplants and the window to the north.
This wasn't our first bird-in-the-house incident. 
For those of you who don't know, we once lived with these two large labs. Jackson's in back. He was the alpha male half-lab, half-white German Shepherd who graced us with his presence for about twelve years. Jemima's the pure-bred yellow lab sitting in front. She was my Beanie. Back in the days of these two 100lb labs, a bird had the misfortune of taking a left turn into our house. These two innocent-looking pups might have been napping a moment before, but they became pure bird-dog in half a flash. It was instant chaos. Barking, flapping, panic. And I flew myself, trying to shoo the bird out the sliding door before the dogs could catch it. In the days of these pooches, we saw many flights across our yard as they chased birds up trees, squirrels across fences. We were even brought an occasional 'treat' by them. They were so proud.

Today, however, was NOT that day.
And these are NOT those dogs (this picture was taken when Kincade was still a pup, which is why his head isn't dwarfing Maica's). Yes, the bird this time escaped unharmed, but it was NEVER in any danger from these dogs. When Maica, the Springer, noticed the bird, she instantly leapt into my lap and sat quivering, afraid for her life. She'd have climbed onto my head if she could have. Kincade, on the other hand, thought a new friend had come to play. He bounced up and began following the flight of the bird, his tail wagging. It was like watching him chase his tail (which he's also been known to do). He didn't make a single sound or act like he was interested in hunting the bird, he was simply curious. When the bird settled on the window sill, Kincade stuck his head between a couple of potted plants and stared. I'd called J to come help release the bird from captivity. When he walked into the room, he said, "Where's the bird?" 
"Look at Kincade," I told him. Our big galoot was completely still but for a wagging tail.
Come to think of it, he was working pretty hard being a good bird dog, doing his darnedest to keep an eye on it without letting it get away. 
Maica, on the other hand, complete fail being a hunting dog. She'd be terrified.

It's interesting to think of their nature, though. I always learn so much. The timid, the tender, the tough and the strong. Those are our dogs. 
But that's also what I learn about myself when I'm faced with unexpected experiences. How do I react? Do I become the alpha dog, creating panic in my wake, stirring up frenzy? Do I climb into a corner in fear? Or am I curious? Do I follow where the experience leads me? Am I open to what flies through my door? To what GOD brings into my life?
How do you react when new things come?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Books and Libraries

Okay, so I might have stayed up a little late last night.
I had a book to finish.
These things happen.
You know how it goes.
You readers, I mean.
Those of you who aren't readers, who aren't night people? I don't know what it's like to live in your world. I don't know what it's like to nod off at 8pm or fall instantly to sleep, or be able to shut off your brain like shutting off a light or the bathroom faucet.
And I don't know what it's like to spring out of bed when my eyes first begin to flicker. I don't know what it's like to not have to claw my way out of sleep like I've been in a deep, dark cave for the last several hours, covered with rocks and dirt. I don't know what it's like to feel like life is as bright as the morning sun and so am I.
Don't talk to me in the morning.
But if you want a conversation, I'll have it with you at midnight.

And if there's a good book that needs finishing, a book with only a hundred more pages to it, I'll set my mind and eyes to it without a problem...except that once the book is finally finished, it's likely I'm still living among the people within its pages well after I closed it and turned off my light. This is what happened last night. 2 am rolled past and there I was rolling around, too. 4:30 am happened by and I noticed Beve get up (too early a start even for him today), and I was still dwelling in that other land. Finally I drifted off.
I got about 4 hours sleep.

And that's just not enough.
For anyone.
So here I am, my own tired, ugly self, wondering why I do this.
Wondering why books are such magnets to me.
But also wondering why other people DON'T read.
Yes, I wonder that.

I grew up reading. My mother was a reader. She took us weekly to the library. We came home with piles of books that we each finished in that week. And it seems like we were always looking for an errant library book that one of us had read at night and let slip beside our beds for a couple weeks. this pattern was repeated with my own children. Yes, weekly. From before they could read thenselves we went to the library (I mean, I had to read, after all) where they picked out picture books and chapter books for me to read to them at night before bed. And though we had a specific basket where we kept all library books, we were always looking for errant library books: under beds, behind couches, in their closets, places they could have left them, and places it seemed impossible that books could have been left at all. Too often I had to pay little fines, just like my mother had before me. But I have never begrudged libraries of their fines.

In fact, I believe that Libraries may be the best free thing we get in the United States. Yes, we pay for them with our taxes. But on a weekly basis, on a 'this is how it seems' basis, the public library is at the top of my list of my favorite, free things.

So it keeps me from sleeping now and then?
It's worth it.

But today, I also think it'll be the cause of me needing a nap.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Call me Clutz

So I got a little dizzy Saturday. That isn't to say I am a dizzy-headed person by any means. And I'm not going to cast aspersions on people with certain hued hair. I know plenty of blondes who are so smart they could think circles around you and me and the rest of the world. We use stereotypes too often, I think. I use them myself, I admit.

Nevertheless, I got so dizzy, in the actual room-spinning way, that I had to lie down for an hour or three, close my eyes and hope everything settled back to where it was supposed to be when I opened them again.
And what do you know, by the time I opened my green/gray/blue/who-knows-what color-they'll-be-today eyes, the closet, the window, the dresser and bed had all taken up residence in their sedentary locations, exactly I expected them to be. Phew. So I got up, walked a little, still felt okay, if not quite perfect, and thought I'd go get our mail.
How I wish I could take back that thought. I wished it about ten seconds after I opened our back door, actually. That's when one leg (my bad left one) mis-judged, and the other skipped a step completely and I ended up in a heap on the floor of our carport, with a badly sprained right right ankle. I sat there a moment, trying to gauge whether I could possibly pot any weight on it, decided against it, and called out to our friend who was (thankfully) sitting in the room just inside the back door. He helped me up and half carried me to the couch where I sat until further notice.

In fact, I might still be sitting there if not for two things: Beve's strong arms (for ablutions, etc) and his determination that he  get the crutches from the basement (always handy to have a spare pair of crutches around, don't you think?) and, secondly, my sudden memory that I still had the boot from when I broke this same foot a couple of years ago. So yesterday I crawled around on my hands and knees through my closet until I found that boot, and now am mobile again. Tada!

Who needs to go to a doctor when you have every bit of equipment necessary in your own home?
Just kidding, sort of! Seriously, though, because Beve is an athlete, he has seen more than his fair share of sprains, so he could tell it WAS a sprain and NOT a break, and knew exactly what to do for it (ice, meds, elevation, repeat). It's a lovely color, if you like dark purple, lovely size, if you like puffiness,and I only wish I had a better story.

But here's the thing I've been thinking about:
Once again, my body betrays me. This won't be the last time. Wasn't the first. Some folks I know (and love, even in my own family) shake their heads when they hear the latest calamity to befall me. "It's always something with you," they say with a chuckle. And I suppose to them it is rather amusing. But to me it isn't a laughing matter. To me, my broken-ness is where God meets me. It isn't easy and sometimes it's a deep, hard struggle. However, I am convinced that I wouldn't be who I, that's not the way to put it: HE wouldn't be who HE is in me, if my body wasn't weak, if there wasn't a certain clutziness and definite brokenness to this shell in which He has to dwell. I have hope in Him, lean on Him in direct proportion perhaps to my on inability to lean on my own self. And that's a grace I am grateful for. I've said it before, By faith I say, I wouldn't have it any other way. Honestly, sometimes it's a struggle to say these words but I do say them and mean them with all the hope that is in me. All the hope that is IN HIM.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A friend's story

An old friend's been visiting this week. I've known this man since elementary school. He was a student in one of the first 4th grade classes my mother taught when she went back to teaching. I was also in 4th grade that year, at a school across town from where Mom taught, but I was well aware of her students. I'd helped prepare their classroom, spent many weekend days in their empty room, and often looked at their names on the bulletin and chalk boards. In the spring, Mom put on the play Tom Sawyer, and I was in the audience as my future friends and graduating classmates performed. Yes, I knew them. A couple of years later, all four elementary schools were herded into one middle school, and our odyssey together began in earnest.

So this man who is visiting wasn't quite a friend in elementary school. He wasn't even quite a friend in middle school when we were crammed together with 200 of our classmates. I knew who he was, I'm sure he knew my name as well. It wasn't until high school that we became friends. This week we were trying to determine just when we began to be friends and we couldn't really name a particular moment. Junior year, maybe?

But we were friends. And he was friends with Beve as well. We all went to Young Life, Campaigners, all kinds of Bible studies and activities. He was  (still is) a kind-hearted, sweet man, who laughs easily, cares greatly about people, and wants to be liked. Loves to be in on the action. He's a gentleman. He was raised by his mother to be so, and he has it down to an art. Yes, he's a courtly gentleman, my friend is.

About midway through college, this friend married. He was the very first of our large circle to marry and it came as something of a surprise to most--if not all--of us. I'd been living away from home for a year, so had missed this relationship building, but so had most people, apparently.

That's all back-story.

Or sideways story.
Or something.
This man has been a faithful follower of Jesus for a long time. He worked hard at his walk, wanted desperately to be the man he believed he was supposed to be.

The man the church told him he had to be.

Yes, I said that.

I've been trying to figure out how to write this story, how to tell it without slathering it with the love I have for this man. I mean, I have loved him for so long, have KNOWN him for so long. Really known...
that even when he finally had to leave his marriage (or was forced to) in the bitterest of ways, due to his own actions, which he's repented of again and again, I loved him. Even when he admitted to himself once and for all--in front of God and everyone--who he is, who he's always been, I loved him.

No, let's call it what it is, he came out of the closet.
My friend is gay.
That's what he admitted.
And the church he'd been attending for years, the church in front of which he repented and confessed and asked for prayer, shunned him. What happened to him in our hometown became a public tragedy. I'm not telling you anything the newspaper didn't report at the time. It was awful. Just plain awful. I don't have a recipe for how the church should react but I know it wasn't that. It must start and end with love. And definitely not cause Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome as it did in my friend, who is the most earnest of men.

He asked me the other day what I believe about him being homosexual, I told him there was no way he'd chosen it. I personally have never seen anyone try harder NOT to choose it. His sexuality, which had been as plain to all of us who knew him way-back-when, was the last thing he would have chosen. To be ostracized, tormented from without and within, to feel worthless and wrong just for being, to want to die because he couldn't control his feelings no matter how often he prayed? Who would choose this? And, to be honest, my mother knew he was gay when he was in 4th grade. No, his sexual orientation is part of his DNA.

I don't believe sexuality is wrong.
The end.
We are born a certain way.
We cannot do anything about that.
However, promiscuity is wrong.
There's a huge difference between sexuality and promiscuity. I am heterosexual, but my being so neither governs my every thought, nor allows me any liberty. I am not free to have indiscriminate sex.
Nor is anyone else. My friend, who is closer to Christ right now than he's ever been (and it's a holy, beautiful story!), lives a celibate life. He could say exactly the same statement I just said about his own sexuality. We have much in common, my old friend and I, though he took a very circuitous route to get here. A long, hard, sometimes excruciatingly painful route of his own making. He owns his sins along the way. He owns the failures he made that cost him his marriage, and damaged other relationships.
But this I know, my friend is redeemed and loved and my brother. In God's eyes, he is in exactly the same position I am in. Loved and saved by the amazing Grace of Jesus Christ.

He's told Beve and me this week that this is the best season of his life. He is free and whole and full.

What more could we want for anyone?