Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lucky me!

I must be the luckiest person around! I grew up in a great family, in a loving environment that let us explore the world and find our way in it. I still adore my husband, and he seems to like me, too. Together, we encouraged the same freedom of exploration for our kids.

Life has brought so many pleasures. We raised our children with a backyard someone else mowed (NU campus), and then designed a house that suited us. After 1001 music lessons and countless pages of writing, it's effortless to think in words or on the piano keyboard. Sizing up a room and making things beautiful is like breathing. Having people over gets us excited with the possibilities of conversation, good food, and friendships.

On top of it all, we must have the most supportive friends. They share their sorrows and joys, and are not pained when we do the same with them. My work has been fulfilling, purposeful, and creative, whether working for myself (35 years) or at the university (5 years). We travel the world, meet lots of interesting people, and get to teach what we continue to learn.

Today, my heart is swelling with gratefulness to God and those around me for all these things and more. Though life is not always fun or easy (right, dear daughter?), it is rich and interesting. Underneath are the everlasting arms and a history of God's provisions, giving us confidence for the future. All good things come from him.

Yes, I must be the luckiest person around!

Read more:
*Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God." 1 Samuel 2:1-2 NIV

*Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:5-8 NIV

*But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV

*Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 NIV

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Camp memories

Today, visiting with a former coworker, I remembered the children's choir camp I led about 15 years ago. I was appointed "leader" by default when the person in charge jammed out a few weeks before camp. We had a location and a musical to learn. 85 kids. 20 parents. Where to start?

We immediately put in place permission for everyone to exchange info, and encouraged parents to come up with ideas for consideration, no matter how "silly" or "radical". We challenged them to use their gifting, experience, and talents. I clearly laid out my weaknesses. "Pick up the slack, please," I asked. "You're good at things I'll never be good at or interested in. I'm counting on you!"

The parents nodded and laid out what they preferred to do. One mother with a big heart became camp nurse and surrogate mommy. Another volunteered as our bookkeeper. One dad emerged as head of security, and another as event coordinator. I wrote everything down to make it official. Everyone chose their part in the bigger task.

During the camp, the inevitable emergencies were dealt with by parents with appropriate skills. Throughout the riotous week of fun, underneath the mood was calm, with the confidence that comes from sound planning. There was little hysteria or drama when tough decisions needed to be made. I would pull in several parents, let them decided what to do, and then they took responsibility to see it through.

At the end of the camp, the counselors gave each other tearful hugs, exclaimed that they had never worked harder, had more fun, or enjoyed themselves more at any camp. Many of the parents became close friends, and those friendships have continued. I met one of my best friends at that camp.

What was the secret of our success? Our short-term team valued each member, no matter how small or great the talent. We assumed good intentions. Everyone was invited to use their diverse skills and interests for the good of the camp and the children. We boosted each other and collaborated on difficulties. There was no one-size-fits-all, that's for sure. Sometimes a solution went one way, sometimes another. The flex and flow was amazing. And it worked!

When I stepped back from the leadership limelight to support others, people came forward who had never used their skills. Many started out shaky and unsure, and came by for reassurance: "You can do it! We've got your back!" We'd watch them gain a bit of confidence, then boldly and competently lead an activity, share an idea, or play a group prank. We applauded every success.

To wrap up the week, the counselors' entry for the weekend talent show was hilarious, and amazing. The natural choreographers laid out the plan. The group clowns hammed it up to the full. I hate acting, so they generously designed a little side part that didn't embarrass me too much. We all looked good and the kids gave us a standing ovation.

I'd forgotten how energizing it was to lead that diverse group. To give them the confidence to venture into uncharted territory. To let the experience flow past us, trusting that God would give insight and skills for every circumstance. He did not fail us.

Thanks for sharing your stories with me, Sue. It was great fun to see you again and remember a story of my own.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another day

You learn a lot by watching people. Over the past few years, I have made some good friends at the university. I admire their people skills, their good will, and their steady hard work. I love to see order emerge from my messy Excel sheets with numbers everywhere – suddenly the digits fall into line and they make sense when the accountants take charge. The proofreaders send back copy with red or green markings that make the writing clearer. The phone rings and the alum on the other line expresses appreciation for good service by the Registrar, or Enrollment, or my student assistant.

The faculty, with their love of learning and big heart for students, make the university what it is. With the inevitable administrative decisions like budgets, classroom allocations, and which programs to build or contract, not every professor can get his or her wish list filled all the time. But gradually, slowly, one step after another, the departments emerge with new offerings and majors. The persistence of passion wins out.

When students leave the institution, they will take memories of dorm antics, prayers in chapel, a few “aha” moments in class that shaped their thinking, and hopefully establish a trajectory of faith to sustain them through the challenges of life. Some will also gather disappointments, bear the consequences of immature decisions, remember personality clashes with others, or leave with huge debts because they spent without getting a job that paid their way or because they were extravagant rather than frugal. Since culture teaches that we deserve to live well regardless of our income or resources, actual life can be a rude awakening, even in college.

Sometimes I wish I could take every alum back to school for a week to hang out with students and hear their desire to serve Jesus. I wish graduates would be very generous in paying the way, mentoring, or encouraging students as they struggle through the confusion and delights of being young and adventurous, bold and defiant, courageous and uncertain of the future. (The process of learning and growing up requires many mistakes. How helpful when we can remember that our errors don’t ruin us in God’s eyes.) God works with every bit of ourselves that we surrender, and guards and guides throughout our education.

At the end of another day, I’m happy to have: chatted with a kind alum visitor, accepted some 1950s textbook donations, had lunch with women colleagues, written a board meeting agenda, and filled the spaces between with pressing tasks. It was full. And it was long.

Now, peace to all who go into the night. Tomorrow will be another day to support God at work among us.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Between his shoulders

What an exciting week! My daughter continued her recovery under the watchful eye of her handyman brother. All those prayers have sustained her.

As I gave notice at work on Thursday, my heart swelled with the confidence that God is doing a new thing. Someone will happily sit at that desk to pour themselves into alumni services. Systems have been established for alumni to connect with NU, the university cares about its constituents, and it will be fun for all of us to see what happens next. Makes me smile with anticipation of good things all around!

It's a new season for me, though. I'm not sure exactly what the winds of change will blow my way. Art and writing are certainly part of the next months. There's a feeling of opening up, just a hint of the fragrance of possibility wafting on that breeze. My soul has begun to relax and lean toward toward the unseen future. I plan to enjoy wrapping up this part of my life in the next two weeks.

I peeked into my messy home office earlier. Eight stacks of biographical data on eight missionary women sit on the floor. (Wow, they lived life to the full.) Thankfully, that paper is almost done, and then I can file the research. And move on to the next project, also overdue. Thanks, profs, for grace!

How blessed we are to be part of the Body of Christ. As Head, it is his privilege to move the cells around as he pleases. As the shift occurs, it can be uncomfortable or energizing. New life flows in and out, and only God knows what is coming. He carries the one he loves between his shoulders, says the prophet. What a warm, snug place to rest as the scenery changes!

Read more:
*Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders. Deuteronomy 33:12 (one of my favorite verses)

*Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you. Psalm 119:165-168

*Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NKJV

*But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 NIV

Monday, January 18, 2010

Three books to give away! Diets, theology, and female/male conflicts

Because I've been away for several weeks, I'm behind on my book reviews. The books are supplied by their publishers. Here are three worth noting:

One Day One Way
by Chantel Hobbs
Ok, Christmas is over. Some of us ate too much. Others of us packed pounds on pounds we already needed to lose. Anyone ready to ditch the stressful scale-checking and dieting?

Hobbs writes about ways to "break your big goals into bite-sized pieces," forgiving yourself for lapses, and moving step by step and day-by-day towards a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. Complete with menus, exercises, and motivators, Hobbs' book might be just what your New Year's Resolution needs!

Dug Down Deep
by Joshua Harris
He wrote a best-selling book about not kissing before marriage, and then followed it up with a few more on dating and sex. Harris gets kudos from such theological giants as J. I. Packer and John Packer for his "humble orthodoxy." He's the senior pastor of a church on the East Coast with a Covenant perspective who believes in being "filled with the Spirit" rather than a baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation.

Though I don't agree with all of his conclusions, this easy-reading book on some basic aspects of theology are worth a few hours of your time as you think about what YOU believe. Any takers?

The Male Factor
by Shaunti Feldman
As a teen growing up during "Women's Liberation" in the 70s, I suspicious of women who shouted from every platform that males were domineering and "keeping women down." Thirty years later, I've experienced some of the differences between men and women coworkers. I've also observed how male networks and expectations work differently from women's methods of communication and leadership styles, sometimes creating an unintentional inequity for promotion and advancement, never mind ruffling feathers in a peaceful environment.

For women wondering why they aren't getting ahead in the workplace or why they can't communicate well with male coworkers, Feldman has written a revealing book about the "unwritten rule, misperceptions, and secret beliefs of men in the workplace." Who needs this book most? Tell me why so I can get a copy to you!

Singing the songs of Zion

Growing up, we sang songs in church with archaic words that no one but insiders understood: for example,
- Beulah Land - a place where all would be well, marching toward it although most of us hated the thought of dying to get there
- Zion - not Israel as a nation, but the spiritual nation of God, hopefully us
- Lowly worm - believers who had been rescued from the common sinful state of humanity
- Devotion - an attitude of worship and adoration to God, often acted out in daily life with a quick browse of scripture and a hasty morning prayer tossed to the heavens before resuming normal activity

I'm not much of a singer. But when I'm stumped, too weary to pray, too battered for concentration, I grab my old hymn book, the German one of my first 20 years, no less. Only rarely do I have to flip through the pages. I can open it almost anywhere and find words of comfort and prayer. Okay, it helps to have most of the 300 hymn numbers memorized, which I automatically did as a teen, gaining a few seconds of prep for playing the piano intro. Pentecostal song leaders "under the control of the Spirit" gave no advance warning of what they were singing because they never knew where the Spirit would lead them. There was no way the Spirit would give away his secrets for the service in advance, never mind on a Monday or Tuesday morning.

Some of the traditions of my faith journey are precious and still deeply meaningful to me. Others are cultural and hilarious, taken out of the context of our small church community. As I study missions history, I see the same breadth of practice. God works with us, accessing any hearts open to himself, tranforming families, entire societies, and moving his Church through the ages.

Broken and imperfect though we are, our hearts swell with thanks to God for his work in us. Among us. With us. The Psalmist writes:
Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. (Psalm 96:1-4 NIV)

Amen. And Amen! Allelujah! {"World without end," if you're Anglican.}

Where is that hymnbook? I'm consecrating this day to serving dem Herrn Zabaoth (the Lord of Hosts).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dizzy spell

One hour into our five-hour flight yesterday, my lip started to go numb--as though I'd gotten a dentist's needle for anesthetic. Within a few minutes, the numbness spread through my lip, up to my eye, down into my gums so I couldn't feel my teeth, down to my jaw. Without other symptoms, I approached the flight attendant and let her know what was happening. She said, "I'll look up the symptoms. We may have to land the plane if it continues. Shall I check on you?"

They say you don't know what you'll do in an emergency until it happens. In the past, my heart rate feels like it slows down and time expands. I don't start shaking until it's over, and usually don't process emotions until a few days later when I think of how bad it was... or could have been. That makes me a good companion when others are panicking or when managing events for NU.

"Check on me in 2 hours?" I suggested. My pulse and skin temperature were normal and everything else seemed to be in order. The attendant looked up the symptoms (possible indicators for stroke or hyperventilation). But when I leaned back in my seat, the numbness began to ease within the hour. Meanwhile I thought about the ramifications of living with partial paralysis from a stroke, Bells Palsy, or even death. Was I bothered? Panicked? Afraid?

It didn't take me long to think through possible ramifications. Mostly, I felt sorry for the hassle it would be for family, and the inconvenience for other passengers if it was serious. Upcoming health challenges didn't upset me very much. My heart is at peace, especially after the weeks of praying and caring for Kirsten. There doesn't seem to be much at risk in any future we might face, as long as God is present.

Suddenly there was a pop near my sinus cavity. Instantly full feeling was restored. I think the twist of my neck as I was chatting with my fellow passenger might have temporarily pinched a nerve. There were no side-effects, and it didn't happen again. The flight attendant looked very relieved.

"Don't worry about tomorrow - every day has enough "stuff" to take of," said Jesus. He was right. God has proven to be enough for each day. My insides were smiling and my heart was full of gratitude as the plane landed and I hauled the suitcase off the luggage carousel.

Read more:

*Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: "My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God”?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:27-31 NKJV

*This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV

*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:1-5 NIV

Saturday, January 16, 2010


interdigitate: \in-ter-DIJ-uh-tayt\ verb

Meaning: to become interlocked like the fingers of folded hands

Example Sentence
"The edges [of bridge expansion joints] often are shaped like combs, the teeth of one interdigitating with teeth of the other." (The Washington Post, January 14, 1998)

When a child is born, the life of this little person begins to lock into the lives of others. If the family is healthy, the love of the parents wraps itself around the infant to protect and serve, soothing his or her cries by rocking, touching, feeding, bathing.

With every milestone the child weaves itself more solidly into the fabric of the family: the first smile, rolling over, crawling, cooing syllables, pulling himself up to stand, taking her first steps, the first intelligible word... The family delights itself in the progress of the child. Rather than scolding missteps or failures, they encourage, hold steading arms out to provide balance, clap their hands at successes, and always expect growth and progress.

Sometimes we forget that God is our Father. When we are born into his family through Christ, he is our Encourager. He provides the Church, a family of believers who cheers us on. He expects that we will grow up into the faith with our spiritual family. We eat together (communion and study of scriptures), confess our sins to each other and God (cleanliness), and mature through spiritual disciplines. God expects us to care for younger siblings as we grow older, as well.

God is not the harsh Father who scolds and batters us. Rather, he disciplines us for our good (Hebr. 12), and tenderly watches over us, like a hen gathering the chicks under her feathers. He is pleased when we interdigitate with his people, locking ourselves tightly into the webs of caring and divine love that serve the world around them.

Who are we interweaving our lives with? Fellow believers? Or is the world binding us to itself as we accumulate goods and assimilate the culture of the gods of this world? Who are our connections drawing in and serving this week?

Read more:
My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.

For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth. Psalm 108:1-5 NIV

*Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.

All that the Father gives me will come to me,cand whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:35-40 NIV

*Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV

Friday, January 15, 2010

Full access

It's already a year full of prayers and appeals and gratitude.
- Steve and Polly are starting a Christian adult home, a dream of theirs, and need a few more residents. They are full of hope amid the challenges of a new business that matches their love for people with helping skills. (I'd be happy to connect you if you know someone who needs care.)
- Sharon had knee surgery. Friends built a ramp so she could get in and out of the house; others have cooked and cleaned.
- Sam's in a financial mess as he continues to look for work to support his family.
- Our daughter Kirsten continues to struggle with complications from arthritis.
- Ron has disappointed his family and wonders if he can ever regain their trust.
- Both W and my mom have been ill with flu since Christmas. Thankfully they're on the mend.
- An uncle and a coworker have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
- Kara hasn't found work, and the promising leads have dried up. She writes my office asking for help. Any help.
- Haiti. Poverty and tragedy beyond comprehension.
The list is long.

Many of us blame God for difficulty when we have never bowed in wonder at his goodness or been grateful for past provisions. Even in the hardest of times, we can reflect on past and present blessings to create balance and keep equilibrium. Think about how many years of health we have enjoyed. Which church or churches taught us the scriptures and fed us spiritually? How long have we sheltered in a warm home, or had good work? Who loves us and nurtures us?

When our kids were little, we remember pausing often to thank God for their good health and sound minds. When our daughter got sick in her teens, we felt equally free to cry in anguish to God for healing. We had been grateful for good days, so abandoning ourselves to tears for the hard days was part of our ongoing friendship with God.

I don't understand much about this life of faith, but his peace and goodness will take us through all days - "good" and "bad" - when he has has full access to our heart, body, mind, and spirit.

Read more:
*May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Psalm 20:1-5 NIV

*O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:1-4 NIV

*I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 NKJV

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

She's home

It's early morning hours, especially since I'm trying to stay on Seattle time, though I'm on the east coast. Kirsten is resting upstairs after a light breakfast. Yes, she came home yesterday.

The doc was in just after noon. He scheduled a blood draw for 2pm. Would the hematocrit levels be stable? That would indicate the internal bleeding had stopped, and IVs could be discontinued. It might also mean she could go home! The young nurse, trying to see if we could go on our way, couldn't get blood at 5. But a lab technician finally came around at 5.45, just before the nursing review at shift change. Another hour or so... we waited for results - hoped, prayed, waited.

At about 7.30, the nurse pulled the IVs out, explained medications, and had Kirsten sign release papers. "You can stay another night if you like. The levels aren't normal yet, but I don't know what your normal is. The blood indicators are stable and slowly rising."

Kirsten and I looked at each other. Stay another night? Maybe not. We packed up her things, she pulled on her clothing, and wrapped herself in a coat and scarf. By then, she'd given her thank you card and a beautiful floral arrangement to the nurses, and the wheelchair was waiting.

I hurried back to the car: through three towers, down 11 storeys via elevator. (Forget the stairs, go faster! go faster! down the hallways, right, left, straight, left, almost there, there's the car, brrrr, hope I can find the entry where she is waiting.)

And there she was. An elderly volunteer helped her into the car and piled the bags into the back seat. "God bless you!" he said several times.

"I can't get over how many people say that here," Kirsten exclaimed. "It's really nice. You wouldn't hear that in Seattle." True.

The drive home together seemed to fly by, after over a week and 450 miles of solitary commuting back and forth to hospital. By the time the bed was stripped and remade, chamomile tea and rice cereal placed on the night table, devotions done with Kirsten and her roommate, back massage, and we'd settled into bed, it was midnight. Sweet sleep.

This morning, she's held down a light repast. I'll head to the pharmacy soon. They had closed minutes before I arrived last night. The smoker from the next condo is coughing on his porch, but I think there's time for a quick nap before the day kicks into high gear.

To all of you who are praying, thank you. Please keep Kirsten's full recovery in your prayers this week. She continues to heal, and we are asking God for a complete reprieve from the arthritis. "Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven," we prayed this morning as she got a foot massage. Amen.

Read more:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A week

It has been a week. Last Sunday at the airport I was told there were no seats on either flight to my daughter's place. But the seats - even aisle seats, which I prefer - opened up and I arrived in NC on time. Kirsten was in bad shape, and she had a very rough patch that has only now begun to ease. The days went by with reports an uncle's cancer, a friend's trauma, my mom's bronchitis, and constant pain and nausea for Kirsten between.

I read an essay on God's use of evil for good the day before I came. The author maintained that there were two kinds of evil: natural evil (hurricanes, tsunamis, illness, genetic defects, etc.) and moral evil. "While God uses natural evil to bring about his purposes and form his nature in us, he has nothing to do with moral evil. He waits to cover the repentant sinner with his blood."

During the week of K's hospital stay, we have experienced the care of staff. We've known the tenderness of family love amid the natural evils of our fallen world's aches and disasters. News broadcasts showed unexpected snow and storms, the nurses rushed by in the corridors to treat the patients, and my daughter lay in bed trying to swallow a little baby food. Yet in and around us was a broad swath of peace and quiet.

Underneath the flurry of bad news has been the sheltering cloud of God's Presence. The prayers of friends have carried us through. As Kirsten and I prayed our evening good-bye tonight, we recognized God's peace and his provisions. No matter what the crisis, what the challenges, or what the future holds, we can entrust ourselves to him. He knows the future and will never leave us or forsake us. We know that because he has cared for us in the past.

Take heart and take courage, whatever your challenge. During these days, God is in control. We have lived through the week, and will again see the salvation of our God in the days to come.

Read more:
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:1-3 NKJV

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.

And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians1:3-7 NIV

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Galatians 2:20-21 NIV

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What I learned today

We are not alone. I learned that again today. Family called, prayed, and friends dropped by with talk and comfort.

There are 240 stairs (12 flights) from the cafeteria to Kirsten's floor. They are easier to go down than up, but moving feels good either way.

The chairs that look so comfy and bouncy in a hospital room are useless because they have narrow arms. I-phones and notes fall right off them onto the floor. Plus, these don't lean back. They must be easy to clean. (Otherwise, why choose them?)

When the shower hose reaches to the sink, you don't have to wash your hair in the shower. Kirsten got all scrubby. Thanks to a stint as a maid and years as a mom, it was possible to whip off the old sheets and redo her bedding while she dressed in a clean gown. Man, those robes are ugly. She's cute, even with purple dye in her hair.

A Christian hospital that sets out to have a 5/5 patient satisfaction gives incredible care. "Mom, the nurses come when I ring! They are so nice, and really care about me." Thanks to the whole team at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital.

UCB radio streams a live hour of commercial-free worship from 7-8pm, Eastern time. What a pleasure.

Hospital food is dangerous. The supper special today: friend catfish, macaroni and cheese (Velveeta style), and southern greens - fried in bacon grease. "Ma'am, you sure?" from the server. I'm sure. Kill me now. I'm hungry.

I love to read scripture aloud. K and I are reading through Luke in the Phillips translation (from the 1950s). It is wonderfully clear and readable. It feels like nothing is missing from the story, and like nothing is added, but like Luke is talking right to us about our caring Lord.

We can pray all day long and God never gets tired of listening. When the pain got very severe, Kirsten was soothed by lying on her stomach, getting a back rub, and our urgent prayers aloud. Thanks to her siblings, who called to pray for her today.

It didn't snow on my trip home. Thanks be to God. I was dreading a 25 mile drive through the hills on the freeway, with predicted snow and ice. God answers small prayers as well as large.

My bed is comfy. Kirsten's room is filled with quirky art and interesting objects. My daughter has the same love of beautiful things that I do. It pleases my heart. Makes me think maybe it wasn't a total waste to have the kids' help in moving furniture and accessories around when they were young.

Thanks, Joni, for finding a great car for Kirsten a few years ago. It runs smoothly, lights the road well, and has been an answered prayer in reliability.

When our heart is full, we wake praying and fall asleep worshiping throughout the night. God is as close as the breath in and out, speaking to us in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

I think that's it. Time to sleep and wake in the watchful care of our Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The care of Jesus

I'm sitting in a hospital room while my daughter is napping off pain between vomiting blood. We're here again. One more episode in a young adult life that is full of pain and pauses between pain.

When our daughter was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 16, we were relieved. Treatable, we thought. We knew the name of the joint swelling. We read madly, researched medical texts and folk legends, and asked a lot of people a lot of questions.

After a year of spiritual advisers, prayers for healing, and thousands of dollars of alternative therapy with an MD, she had lost her hip. Her first hip replacement was done at Children's Hospital.

The staff was caring and kind, but one asked, "What took you so long?" A rude intake doctor at Children's who predicted misery with conventional meds, the comments of Christian health professionals about the toxic drugs used to treat RA, fervent prayers for healing, and waiting for God to heal... those had delayed traditional medical intervention. We still don't know if that year kept her off dangerous drugs for her good. She might have lost her hip sooner with traditional meds. We don't know much about anything in this life of faith and illness, it turns out.

After that first replacement, I was deep-down, soul angry for a few years. I'd wake up in the mornings marveling that the docs had not said, "Oh, there is nothing to be seen. She has been healed!" instead of "The joint replacement went off perfectly." I didn't want a new platinum joint. I expected Jesus to heal the old one. I was truly disappointed. Lack of faith was not an issue. Understanding the ways of God was.

This time around, when there are lesions inside K's bowels as well as over her skin, I am feeling resigned rather than resentful. Resigned to a Healer who shows up in caring Presence rather than a physical touch. It's not that we don't ask for physical healing, along with many of our dear friends and prayer partners. Our family has no doubt that God has already paid for healing through Christ. We know it would take one kindly Word to make this disappear forever. We continue to plead with God for a miracle or a medical treatment to put this dread disease into remission.

In the years between, here is what we know for sure:
1. God is enough. When the boat is sinking in the deep sea, a word from Christ soothes the storm enough for survival.

2. Presence is preserving. Knowing God is near and that his people are praying brings the stamina we need to walk through each valley. When we are near our home, we love short visits from friends. Even FB comments are heartening.

3. The future is uncertain. This kind of see-sawing between excruciating pain and bearable pain makes heaven seem very sweet. Some day God promised a world without pain or sorrow. "No more tears." We long for that day, while enjoying the beauty of this world and its opportunities for ministry and life to the fullest measure.

4. Each of us has the unique temperament needed
for the situation. God knows how to use our personalities and training. My husband tenderly affirms our daughter, shedding tears while giving her emotional support and spiritual counsel. I am rational, strong, and unemotional in crises, so I do most of the care-giving when she needs hands-on help. I'll cry later, alone. Neither of us parents has chosen this way of dealing with the grief of seeing our daughter's pain and watching the years steal away a 'normal' life as a young adult.

5. It's not over until it's over. Until we die, we have hope. God's love comforts us, his peace surrounds us, and his foreknowledge filters anything that would overwhelm us.

Thanks be to God. That's what we know for sure.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year 2010

God doesn't care about dates. I know that. But humans like to measure time and seasons, and so I'm thrilled to turn the calendar leaf to 2010. A new year. A new decade. So many possibilities! So many opportunities!

The surge of energy means buying ink for new art projects. Two terrariums graced the holiday tables: a few tiny plants under glass = visual bliss that's fading with low light in the rooms. Time to refresh them? I found a new hair color, thanks to Sally's Beauty Supply and a daughter's help. I've been living other people's lives (from the 1900s-1950s), reading and writing madly on two papers - one submitted, one still in rough notes.

Best of all, underneath are the everlasting arms. As we face a year without our dear Miriam, with new health challenges for Kirsten, with deadlines for studies, new classes to prep, and always life to be lived... I met an alum who manages the Daniel Smith Store in Bellevue today and had tea with another who is becoming well-known worldwide as a pastel artist and art blogger. Who else will cross our paths? Can't wait to meet you!

God is good. All the time. Always in the storm with us, sometimes calming the storm around us.

What are you looking forward to in 2010? Comments and links welcome!