Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Perfectly normal

I laughed when I saw this cartoon. So few of us would see other people's families as normal. Some of us even think our own tribes are a bit crazy. And many of us grew up in nuthouses, where the grown-ups refused to take responsibility for their character or actions.

My folks provided a stable environment. Dad left work at work, brought home a regular income, paid the bills. He also made us do Canadian Army calisthenics, built winter slides out of wood and water, and let us tunnel through the backyard when the snow drifts got deep. Mom stayed home, made sure our clothes were washed, our food was deliciously nutritious, weeded the yard and garden, and tucked us into quiet, clean beds at night. We had daily family devotions and went to church three or four times a week. We volunteered, took music lessons, and did our chores.

We had curfews, too. I was expected in by 11pm, while I was in high school. "Aw, Dad!"

"What's there to do after 11?" he countered. (He was right, as usual.)

My friend Penny shocked me when we were 18. "Your family has always been 'different,'" she said. We were sitting in the car, chatting after an evening out. "You just follow your father like sheep. My mom said, 'If those Daher kids heard their dad say, Jump, they'd ask, How high?' Your parents are control freaks."

My parents were controllers? That had never crossed my mind. Our respect for our folks was a bad thing? I was stunned. They looked out for us, loved us, and let us experience life in creative and fun ways, as well as instilling discipline and keeping an orderly household.

On the other hand, Penny didn't respect her much-older parents. She didn't mind them, either. They had a detached sort of relationship: she'd never think of discussing boyfriends, her feelings, or anything that was important to her.

In contrast, we laughed, shared our days, and argued nearly every topic of interest in our kitchen. We ate supper together every night, and we talked about whatever interested us, including what was going on in church, school, home, among friends and family. ... Of course we had our teen secrets, growing up, and trying to get away with whatever we could. We pushed the boundaries, tested our limits and the patience of our parents.

And we knew that if Dad forbade something, that was the end of it, at least if we didn't want to get punished. Or if we couldn't negotiate a better deal. The year I was 15/16,  I was grounded for parts of 4 months: for coming in 6 minutes after curfew, for sassing him or mom, and ? Can't remember what it was all about, but it was a simple, effective - well, sort-of-effective - discipline.

"Do you think this is working?" I asked Dad, the fourth time.

"Not taking away anything from me," he replied. "Working for me, I guess."

That made me chuckle, but it also made me think about my actions and their consequences. I liked going out, and missed the weekly swims, roller-skating, or other dates. I tried to mind better. Maybe it made Dad think, too. He never grounded me again.

God's family is strange too, let's face it. Viewed from inside or outside, we are dysfunctional, petty, stubborn, and hypocritical. We try to make ourselves look good by dressing up inside and out. But really - let's admit it - most of us have "issues," whether rooted in our characters, our backgrounds, or our experiences.

Around our Christian family table, it's best to be honest about life, loving, and serving, rather than coming with masks and defenses ready. We may be as nutty or individualistic as non-Christians, but we come together to be lavished with (and to extend) loving-kindness, gain knowledge of God our Father, and to comfort and care for each other. We may not always agree, but we trust God for insight and wisdom as a community - as the family of God.

I love to meet with believers who have integrity. They may not air all their grievances, dirty laundry, or wretched past with every bystander. But they speak Truth from their deeply broken humanity, in a community of faith. Forgiven, they forgive. Created, they are creative. Deeply loved, they love others the way they love God and themselves.

Oh, makes me want to go to Church, just thinking about it. Ready to join us?

Read more:
*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 transgressionsit 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
faithand 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

Monday, January 30, 2012

The perfect 100

Snowboarder Shaun White landed a perfect 100 in the Winter X Games 2012. Hardly a sports fan, I like the extraordinary accomplishments of those with determination and grit. Paul encourages the same for believers, who are reaching for the goal, the prize of following the high calling of Christ Jesus.

I can't believe my eyes, esp. watching the slo-mo. Click here, and enjoy!

Read more:
*So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and all the others who were specially gifted by the LORD and were eager to get to work. Moses gave them the materials donated by the people of Israel as sacred offerings for the completion of the sanctuary. But the people continued to bring additional gifts each morning. Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. They went to Moses and reported, 'The people have given more than enough materials to complete the job the LORD has commanded us to do!' … Their contributions were more than enough to complete the whole project. Exodus 36:2–5, 7

*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

*But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:11-12 NIV

* Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God,  that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 NIV

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simply church, well, church-ish

What a good Sunday. I went to church this morning. The pastor talked about not worrying about the future, especially in times of flux. Very appropriate. Thanks, Rex! I am so grateful for communities of faith here and there, planted in neighborhoods, sharing lives in obedience to God and exploration of what it means to follow Jesus.

I thought again about the church I'd like to lead and be part of, a place where the curious, the cautious, and the committed could explore the Bible together. Yeah, I've thought about it a lot over the past 10 years.

My ideal church probably wouldn't be very traditional. It might get a bit noisy and occasionally messy, like a big family. I like it when kids hang out with their parents in church. (That also requires less volunteers for preschool, elementary, and youth. Help with babies and toddlers? Maybe.) We probably wouldn't meet in a designated building, or if we did, we might turn things around, depending on what worked best. It would be fun to have a team that was open to many ways God could speak to us and teach us.

I keep hearing the same thing - from college students, church drop-outs, and those frustrated by being spectators or strangers in their congregations. They'd love to participate in learning about God. They - and I - are hungry to hear and speak and pray God's word together. Instead of having someone tell us to read scripture, we would read it. Instead of wondering about things, we'd take time for Q&A each week. "Church" would probably include at least some of these:
  • A time of worship - sometimes a band, sometimes singing or listening to music, sometimes calling out the names and characteristics of God, sometimes sharing gratitude for who God is and what he does. Mixing up the ways we Truth-tell is important so we don't drift off. (Worship and praise is alignment with Truth - the most honest and pure way we can be, reflecting back to God all that he is and does.)
  • Scripture read aloud from the OT and NT - at least a chapter from each, prepared in advance for clarity and inflection. This would be a great way for people to participate and prepare for coming together.
  • A time of reflection - maybe a pause during 'worship,' maybe a spoken prayer, maybe a silent meditation on God's nature, his provision, his care for us, or a scripture verse. Maybe we'd read a Psalm aloud as our conversation with God.
  • A 10 minute talk on themes from the Scripture readings.
  •  10-20 minutes of participatory interaction about 3 questions = what the Scripture passage tells us about 1) God; 2) people; 3) our opportunities and responsibilities, in light of the week's passage. This part could be done in many ways - in groups of 2-50... or more. Kids, seniors, singles, marrieds, parents, new or experienced believers, and first-timers can share insights as we learn together.
  • A 10 minute Q&A, with one of the church's many "experts." In any group, and in most churches, people are continually integrating faith and work. The church I attended today has teachers, professional theologians, people in justice (cops and lawyers), scientists, realtors, etc. (Who knows more about people in sales!?) 
  • Communion. There's nothing more intimate or definitive in a community of faith than sharing the symbols of Christ's sacrifice.
  • Giving and generosity. Volunteering one's time, giving money, or sharing other resources. 
  • Serving. Giving ourselves away, however God has designed and gifted us.
  • Closing. A prayer? The story of God's personal interaction from a community member (we used to call this a testimony)? An affirmation of God's goodness or our intentions for the week?
  • Food and drink, before or after. If we meet in a public space, it would be cool to have a meal together - everyone could buy/bring their own food, but sit around to eat together. Part of giving could be bringing a few extra dollars, so the unprepared could buy a meal.

I love attending churches with great speakers, a fabulous band, and lots of options for interaction. But I think there's a place for simpler communities, without a lot of set-up and tear-down, without a big volunteer structure. A place where people come together to learn, laugh, and cry as they pray, study scripture, and worship together.

When I'm done with my dissertation, I want to find, participate in, or help create that community. It's part of my dream for the future, as I answer the question, "So what do you want to do, once you finish this degree?"

What does your ideal "ecclesia" or church look like?

Read more:
*The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. Psalm 111:10

*Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 111; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28

*The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. Psalm 121:5-6

*Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority. Jude 24-25

Moravian Prayer: God, you watch over us like a father and guide us like a mother. Your eye is always on us, ready to help us instantly. We rest in your strong hands. We worship you today, for you are faithful. Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Running the hurdles

Jump the hurdle. Pause. Run. Jump. Pause. Run. Jump.

Can you imagine an Olympic hurdler taking a break after each jump? Nope. Neither can I. Some of our dear friends from Cambridge are Olympians in scholarly research. Every day they plug away, morning to night, examining the scriptures and studying the latest findings.

I'll happily admit that I'm no Olympian. Yesterday, I safely negotiated one of the big hurdles toward a PhD, my tutorial comps. The committee allowed me an alternate to 12 hours of written exams, an oral "inquisition" defending an article summarizing the dissertation. (Inquisition was their term, and yes, it made us all laugh, and let me relax.) Once again, I'm appreciative of the scholarship of the profs at AGTS, where I'm in the Intercultural Studies program. The questions were not only thoughtful, but they pointed out flaws that are currently written into my dissertation. Lots to fix, that's for sure.

I feel like a plow-horse, let loose on a racetrack, leaping about with great joy, only to stagger past the finish line, gasping. And there are two more races to fun: completing the dissertation and defending it within the next month.

So I took a break yesterday, the Pause no Olympian would consider. My brain felt fried before and after the exam, so I thought it would be healthier going forward, to take a break. Kirsten and I strolled around Molbaks (she in the wheelchair), looking at all the beauty and surprises that plants and art can provide.

The Pause not only gives time to breathe, but it gives us time to reflect on what was accomplished. I fell into bed weary, but it took a while to think about God's generosity and kindness.
  • God called me to this program, and each step along the way, has given enough strength for the day. 
  • Words of encouragement came my way before and after the test. 
  • God answered the prayers of friends and family for good rest the night before. Thanks, everyone!
  • Though I was stressed, I sensed the committee cheering me on, as well as making sure I had information in hand. 
  • My chief adviser was kind enough to call within the hour with good news, too. Thanks, Dr. Self.
I don't know what the future holds. I don't know why I found this program, 3 weeks before it opened. The degree that was offered seemed to offer little practical application, though it matched my call. It's been one step at a time, the doors opening just as I reached them, including the addition of a degree that meant an extra year of study and more academic difficulty. I have no idea what job opening would fit my qualifications, though I'm closer to knowing what I'd like to do. It's all part of an ongoing adventure in faith and practice.

That's what my whole dissertation is about, actually. The women of the study show how a call to serve, empowered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, leads us step by step. Ordinary women went to foreign countries with a vague idea of what they would do. But they ended up making huge contributions by doing unexpected jobs or attempting things they'd never dreamed of -- believing in the power of the Spirit for guidance and resources. God did amazing things through them. Miraculous things.

Where has God led you, that seemed a side path or unanticipated challenge? How does that enrich what he has called you to do today and in the future?

Read more:

"'Come, all of you who are gifted craftsmen. Construct everything that the LORD has commanded.' …

So the whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents. All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the LORD. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing. They brought to the LORD their offerings of gold—brooches, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind as a special offering to the LORD." Exodus 35:10, 20–22

*Psalm 17:1-7; Genesis 26; Matthew 9:27-38

*The Lord will send his angel before you. Genesis 24:7

*The angel said to Peter, "Fasten your belt and put on your sandals." He did so. Acts 12:8

*I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every wayin all your speaking and in all your knowledgebecause our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.1 Corinthians 1:4-9   NIV

Moravian Prayer: Faithful God, when we feel the weakest, you become our strength. You send your presence through those who come to us - sometimes angels, sometimes each other. Thank you for the nearness we feel this day through your servants. Amen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Prayers please

For those of you who pray, here's a thanks-be-to-God and a request.

1. Thanks be to God! Good news from our daughter's doctor. Her foot has healed well. She's able to start putting weight on it, after a December surgery to break and realign her foot and toe. (She has Juvenile rheumatoid arrthritis or JRA.) Tentative plans are to replace the ankle in November if needed. The realignment may have taken the pressure off the ankle so that she can walk on it a while longer.

2. Tomorrow, Wed. Jan. 25, 3-5pm Seattle time, I have a major exam to determine my competency to complete my dissertation and graduate this year. I would appreciate prayer for: 1) God's help tomorrow with clear thinking and remembering what I've studied, and 2) that I can finish this season of study in such a way that it provides resources and blessing to others.

Thanks for all who have faithfully prayed for Kirsten. Please keep it up - we are asking God to put the RA into full remission, after 15 years of suffering. How I appreciate all of you who have partnered to pray me through the classes and research. The end of this endeavor may be in sight - I'm shooting for graduation in May 2012.

Read more:
*In the congregations will I bless the Lord. Psalm 26:12 (NKJV)

*"The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don't count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you.

But the LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine." Psalm 33:16–19

*Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some. Hebrews 10:24-25

Moravian Prayer: God of fellowship in Christ, bless us in our congregations, in our sharing, in our unity in the Spirit. Call us together as the body of Christ. Save us from walking our journeys isolated from each other. Amen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday madness

After a day off, I hate Mondays. Chaos strikes! though it's always unpredictable what the extra work will entail before I can get to my studies. This week, I'm in hardcore study mode for an exam Wednesday, so I'm ready to hop to it.

Except. Nope. This morning, the dogs have pooped in their crate, so instead of sending them out to potty and getting to work, I have to clean the crate, toss the crate bedding in the laundry, and shower the dogs. I leave one animal outside while I carry the first up and wash him. Then I carry the second up for warm, soapy "punishment." Good thing they don't mind grooming, because I'm mad enough to give them a vigorous cleaning and towel-drying. They shake and run off down the hall, happy to be clean. Restart the washer. (I forgot. Dog towels get washed with dog bedding.)

A friend is bringing lunch for Kirsten, but when I go into the kitchen to grab tea and breakfast, the dirty tablecloth is still on the table from Sunday lunch, the counter is greasy, and there are assorted items lying around. Another half hour... gone.

It's so good to be under the care of the Creator of Time. Christian theology says God can redeem every part of our past, present and future. Nothing is wasted, but this morning feels pretty close.

Monday mornings remind me that not even a minute belongs to me. I relinquish the Sabbath to God, trusting him for rest. Then it's Monday again. Outa control. I think, "I wish I had worked harder on Sunday, etc." Then I tell myself, don't go there. The tablecloth may have been washed and returned to the table, the counters may have gleamed, but something would have been lost in the process. What that would be––besides a lack of unexpected chores––is unclear this morning!

I appreciate the balance of scripture, and reading the prayer below, I whisper, "Thank you God, because you are in control (I'm obviously not!) and everything will go as you have purposed. I will have time enough to pass (or fail), but it won't be because I didn't try my best."

Lord have mercy. On the challenges of your day and mine.

Read more:
*We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone." Psalm 33:20–22

*You brought up my life from the Pit, O Lord my God. Jonah 2:6

*Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:15

Moravian Prayer: The Gospel is your gift, O Savior - the good news of your deliverance from despair. We are astonished that you do this for us who often fail to be faithful to you. We give you thanks throughout this day. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sweet Sunday

Sundays are my day off from studies. We headed for church this morning, talking in W's class about the nature of God as community (Trinity) among us. Ah, the sweet dance of communion with God, who points to every other member of the godhead but himself. There's no shout of "I'm the important One," but a sharing of beauty and truth and character. Only an invitation from God to us, to join the sweet pleasure of knowing and being known... and still loved.

The class is about 25 people. Some are friends, but most barely know each other, so if you've wanted to get the basics of Christian faith (whether you are a Christ-follower or curious to know what we believe), please join us. You'll be welcomed and fit right in. We meet at 9am, Cedar Park Christian Church, Bothell 98011, in the school building across from the main hall. Anyone can point you in our direction. Pour a cup of coffee or tea, grab some breakfast goodies, and c'mon in!

Rather eavesdrop online? Prefer to sleep in? Click on: Christian Thought for weekly updates or to join the conversation.

Afterwards, we picked up a few groceries for lunch, and had family and friends put their feet under our big round table (seats 11, so relatively "empty" today with 9 people.) W made Major Grey chicken with rice, and I added a few sides. Yum. We got to play with Kinsey, our first grandchild, who is 6 months old, sending her home exhausted. "She'll sleep on the way home and be ready to go," said her mom.

We love the time to visit and reconnect with others, whether at church. Tomorrow's a busy week. I have an exam Wednesday afternoon. I'd appreciate prayers, if you're willing to put it on your calendar. I'm terrified about it because it's extremely important, but feels open-ended (on tutorials, written for the dissertation). Also, I'm a newby at Skype, which is the format.

Today, I got to step away, love on God and people, and rest in God's care for us. We all need balance as the week begins. Hope you enjoyed the day, too. Blessings on you all in the opportunities and challenges of the week ahead!

Read more:
*Watchword for the Week - Trust in him at all times, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8

Jonah 3:1-5,10; Psalm 62:5-12; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

*God made human beings straightforward, but they have devised many schemes. Ecclesiastes 7:29

*Christ says, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:31-32

Moravian Prayer: You are the way, the truth and the life. We gather today to share your truth with each other. Bless us and enable us to discover insights about love and faith while we are together. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hi, my name is God

Surprise! Another quirky and wonderful find from scripture this week = how God introduces himself.

When I answer the phone, it's usually, "Hi, Rosemarie here." The kids had to say, "Hello, K... residence," and my husband answers with his full name. We're happy to exchange names when we shake hands and meet new people.

Scriptural names not only identified people by name, but described the character of the person, or the expectations and experiences of their parents. So when God introduces himself, he tells us what he's like.

God promises his servant Moses a visit. Here's the account:

Then the LORD came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out,

"Yahweh! The LORD!  The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations." Exodus 34:5–7 NLT

When God describes himself, he doesn't say, "Hey, I'm the big one around here. Tah-DAH, look at me!" He talks about his compassion and mercy, his patience, love, and integrity. He LAVISHES love, though to be just, he must punish those who refuse to live by his holy standards. (All of us have paid for the sins of others at some time or another, and God promises to give full justice. What a relief.)

I felt a strange disconnect last night, watching the first three episodes of the Mary Tyler Moore show (first time ever). The show was pretty risque, back in the day, tackling issues like the crabby, alcoholic and sexist boss, the swarmy, dumb, but handsome, news anchor, and by-the-book, gone-wrong, parenting by friends and coworkers. 

Something seemed off in the presentation, until I noticed what was making me doubt its comparison to real life. This was it: 
  • Mary's housemates popped in and out of her apartment (as did her boss, writing a drunken letter to his wife... the first evening after she started work). Apparently people didn't feel the need to lock their door against intruders in the "big city" of Minneapolis in the 1960s and 70s.
  • No one called the police to haul the boss away, or to sue him for sexist behavior. 
  • She didn't put a "do not disturb" sign on her door, but listened to the people drifting in and out of her flat. Weird. 
  • Her friend dropped her 10-year-old off with Mary, who let the child run out to the corner store for TV dinners ("Put it on my account." There's trust! Plus, I remember how awful take-out food was, and how women who cooked looked down on those who bought instant meals.)
In gaining the "freedom" to do whatever we want, regardless of morals or standards, we've lost our sense of close community and safety. Children live with multiple "parents," sometimes here or there. We drift through relationships without ever finding our heart's home. And we sure can't rely on others to follow through with work or friendships, if they find more convenient options elsewhere.

All the while, God invites us to align ourselves with his nature, rather than to abandon the Great and Good, But Difficult. He promises us his unfailing love and kindness. He introduces himself to us as the faithful One who never changes, whom we can trust without reservation. 

I'm so grateful to be secure, held through the storms of life, regardless of what others do or say. The One who made us knows how to prepare our quiet place of refuge, if we will trust and obey. I want to be someone who is trustworthy and lives with integrity, because the God who introduces himself as Yahweh is boss of me. 

What would your name be, if it described you? I wonder what those around would name me, too. 

Read more:
* O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your might! Deuteronomy 3:24

*Set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he
is revealed. 1 Peter 1:13

Moravian Prayer: Eternal God, your promises for our future fill us with excitement. We spend this day, tomorrow and the next day with you. You have promised to keep us for all eternity. Your glory fills our hearts. Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Temper fires banked

Moses smashed the commandments of God, the very words God had chiseled from rock with His own hand. Yikes. Now that's a temper with which I can identify!

When I was a kid, I'd throw myself on the floor in a rage, feet thrashing. I kicked the stain off my piano from the height of four-year-old toes to the pedals. Yes, I hated practicing. As I got older, my bedroom door would slam behind me. My folks would occasionally reward me for the "smash" of wood against trim with a well-placed spanking. Kindly folk, who trained me in self-control. (Thank you!)

In adulthood, the best discipline for self-control was getting married and having children. I watched friends who were screamers, berating their spouses and kids. It wasn't attractive, especially when their anger erupted in public. I indulged at home once in a while, when the volcano of frustration heated beyond holding, but I didn't like myself for it. I didn't want my temper to define our family.

Through much prayer, long walks, and lots of writing, God helped me develop a sense of resignation. Sometimes that felt like, "I'm glad we have food and shelter and healthy kids." Sometimes it was, "I'm glad it's not worse." Occasionally, I hunkered down with, "I'm stuck in my life. Like or lump it."

Sometimes, like Moses, God would make me "re-chisel the stone tablet" and write on it myself to replace his first good gift, which I had ruined during a flash of anger. I learned to bite my tongue and write write write my feelings in private, rather than blowing up the household.

God always brought peace––beyond mere resignation––when I came to him with a grateful heart. "Thank you for all your blessings! I have so much more than I deserve or could ever earn. You have given me life, breath, salvation, family, friends... everything I need and more."

Those of us born with quick tempers (oh, how nice that sounds, compared to the death flares we spew) don't have to live with the fear of losing control. We don't have to scream and rage. Those with a devastating, internal anger don't have to lock ourselves away to give others the silent treatment.

"A man with a lack of self-control is like a city with broken walls," said the wise teacher. A city without strong walls was vulnerable to attack, fair prey for bandits and roving armies.

Fortunately for us, God has promised to replace old patterns and bad habits that don't serve Him or others. He can rebuild the walls broken by hurt and frustration, if we let him.

Are we willing to give him free reign, to lift heavy stones into place, to chisel and sand with blunt and directed blows, to make the rough smooth? It's an ongoing painful process, but it frees us to be fully human, engaged in life with joy and energy. Our relationships and our own happiness depend on our obedience and submission, even when life constricts, teaching us patience and surrender.

Read more:
"Then the LORD told Moses, 'Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.' …

'You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.' Exodus 34:1, 14 NLT

*O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

*See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth, I tell you of them. Isaiah 42:9

*Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

*The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 1 John 2:8

Moravian Prayer: Merciful God, forgive us when we become distracted today by our tasks and appointments. We desire to keep you in the center of our lives, but the demands on us make that hard. We pray for your help.  

God of creating light, you were in the beginning before anything existed. You continue to create. All that you touch becomes new and sacred. Thank you for the light in us and for making us new today. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Brain fog

A brain fog is the midlife condition of losing your mind. When I heard about this as a young woman, I shrugged off complaints by those who claimed they couldn't think clearly. It was as incomprehensible as the idea of not being able to read fine print. (Hurrah for Lasik gone wrong; one eye sees far, one close, so reading glasses are mostly optional.)

Next week, I have an academic exam, to determine whether or not I am doing the work or am cheating by having someone else research and write my dissertation. Well, I'm certainly doing the studying and it's my own body in the chair, leaning over the books, typing in the words. But my brain only offers partial feedback. Someone back in there is stealing what I'm trying to learn and dumping it carelessly into a trash bin. When I read back what I knew and learned, parts seem as mysteriously new to me as watching a movie (... for the third or fourth time, feels somehow familiar, but mostly unrecognizable.)

My mind needs undisturbed concentration for academics. Each interruption costs an hour or two, by the time I wrap my thoughts back into the information. Ongoing disruptions wipe the whole project into silliness. I'm editing recent material, but most of it is pure gibberish. I'm trying to figure out what I meant. Sure, I wrote a lot of words. They just don't make sense, between, "Where are my ski gloves, Mom?" or "What do you want for lunch?" (I used to shake my head at the nonsense I wrote into student notebooks. The next week at piano lessons, I'd marvel over scales and arpeggios that wandered off with ridiculous fingering, and assignments like, "play four times when she made me practice," etc. Yeah, it was weird. The kids learned to quit talking or playing while I wrote.)

I'm watching the snow flake past my office window. The trees sulk, grey-black under the weight of white water, branches slumped and silent. Our hill is steep and icy. The slippery layer under the puffy snow is treacherous enough to walk on, but the biggest risk is avoiding the skiing cars. No clearing the brain by walking the dogs today! I feel like a fir tree, drooping and dark as the storm whirls around.

I'm glad God knows more than we do. He never goes into a brain fog or loses track of his mission. And he is able to give his children the acuity and clarity we need to do his work. Today is a day for trust and best action. The Word as a flashlight on the path, rather than a torch. Again. Lord have mercy, as we fumble for direction!

Read more:
*The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. Psalm 33:13–15 NLT

*Psalm 12; Genesis 19:30-20:18; Matthew 7:13-23

*The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he
will save us. Isaiah 33:22

*I believe; help my unbelief! Mark 9:24

Moravian Prayer: O Savior, you are Lord over our doubts and our confidence, our questions and our convictions. You are with us when our faith trembles and when your light fills our souls. Thank you for your faithfulness. Amen.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Luv, luv, luv. Luv is all you need

The Beatles expressed the core need of humans for love. They defined a very different and unsatisfying kind of love than what the Bible says we long for. Imagine...
  • being loved by someone who knows you, inside and out. And still loves you completely.
  • sharing a deep faith that lets you pray and trust together.
  • being able to rely on someone in every circumstance and during any temptation.
  • knowing your lover consistently loves you, whether you are together or apart.
  • loving someone enough to commit to them in sickness or health, in wealth or poverty, from youth to old age, without reservation.
  • being able to express love without ever hurting the other person.
  • showing love in the way the person needs to experience love, and having them perfectly demonstrate their love the way you prefer.
  • showing love by being a good person, moral in values and high standards beyond sexual purity.
  • trying to make each other proud by doing your best, no matter how hard the effort.
God's love is just like that. However, the pop band wasn't talking about that kind of commitment. They promoted the "free love" of the 60s and 70s. You could drift from affair to affair without hurting anyone, including yourself, they said.

Once in a while, I read "The Vibrant Woman," a secular blog for women 50 and older. Women write about planning their divorces, secreting away funds, and preparing to leave their partner while keeping the good life. They crow about clandestine trysts with high-school or college sweethearts––how to have "fun" while keeping the truth from their spouses or partners. Women also talk about fading looks, fears of being abandoned as they age, and having dozens of partners without every finding their "Prince Charming." They've lived in commitment-free "love" and tout it as their right.

Their words croak of unhappiness, rather than sing of fulfillment. Many speak of how they've been bruised, beaten by life. Most no longer recognize or admit the satisfaction of being true to one person for a lifetime.

I've certainly not been an ideal wife. Newly married, both of us demonstrated a lack of maturity and care for each other. But it got better as the years went by. We learned a lot.

After I'd had our fourth and last baby, I went for a physical. The doc asked if I was monogamous. I was very surprised by the question.

"Yes, but why do you ask?" I countered.

"I can tell in your body. Good for you. Many partners affect the physical body. I don't see any of the disease and sickness that women pick up, sleeping around. You wouldn't believe how obvious that is, when we do physical exams. And women who have been molested and mistreated flinch and exhibit fear when we have to touch them."

Hmmm. You learn something every visit, I guess. I'd never thought of monogamy as a protection for me physically. Yes, my husband and I committed to be faithful to each other during a time when surrounding culture said that was uncool, that it was silly to save yourself for marriage. (Mind you, our church culture forbade sex before exchanging wedding rings. And our parents would have killed us, figuratively speaking.)

Over 34 years ago, we agreed that trust and love should be ongoing actions, not just feelings. It's been hard slogging at times, but the pay-off is worth it. Prince Charming lives at our house, and he's taking good care of our daughter as she recovers from surgery and I write school papers. Lucky me. (Oh wait, doesn't luck mean no work?)

Who shows you this kind of love, and whom do you love with all your heart?

Read more:
*Psalm 11; Genesis 19:1-29; Matthew 7:1-12

*Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 1 Chronicles 29:11
*Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:7-11 

*Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Ephesians 4:15

Moravian Prayer: Lord, you are high and lifted up. Your glory fills our lives. We pray the experiences of this day will deepen our faith in you. Help us to keep our lives centered on you. Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bumper car ride

I feel like a kiddie car with worn bumper pads. Bam, against this wall. Crash, by someone on the run. Smack, didn't see that coming.

I'm writing the final chapters of the dissertation, assembling findings and implications from my study. It should be straight-ahead. I know what I'd like to communicate. But when I read what I've written, it's gibberish.

I'm not close to finished. The hard work of editing lies ahead, and sometimes that takes longer than assembling information. How I wish this were done. Bump. Smash. Zoom, here we go again.

What's whirling you around and around this year?

Read more:
*Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Psalm 71:17-18 NIV

Psalm 10:1-11; Genesis 16,17; Matthew 6:5-18

May his glory fill the whole earth. Psalm 72:19

Christ says, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation." Mark 16:15

Moravian Prayer: Thank you, Holy Spirit, for instilling in us passion and joy for the tasks of going and proclaiming. You've sent us because you love us and we go because we love you. Guide us in this mission today. Amen. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Enough already!

This second Sunday after the Epiphany, most of us have put Christmas behind us. Decorations and lights are down and packed - or thrown - away. The bills for gifts we scrambled to buy are coming due. And we may have some wonderful memories of friends and family that we pull out to treasure, via photos or online.

I've made it a policy to commit a donation of "stuff" each time we get called by charity pickups. I often try to find things the night before. Supposedly, we're supposed to have things at the curb by 7am. Since we have a long driveway, there's no way I'm lugging a bag or bags to the street the night before ... or that early in the morning. Either W drops it off on his way to work, or I'll take it up when the dogs and I go walking. A little each time helps keep the house from overflowing. (I haven't braved the basement yet. Be forewarned, those who store their things below.)

The stores, filled with treasures and trash for the holidays, have marked down their stock. Many of us are shopping 75%-reduction sales, browsing for something that might not yet be in our house, kitchen, garage, or bedroom. I take longer to buy things, and generally avoid the stores. My house is full.

Ok, I admit I found the coolest ceiling laundry rack that can lower one rod at a time. It would save me from having to rescue toppled laundry. (The folding rack sitting on our washer-dryer gradually moves to tip everything onto the floor. I'm still debating that purchase. Will it make life easier, better? Support a small business?)

W refilled counter-top containers with flour and sugar from big storage bags this week. "How blessed we are not to worry where the rice, the flour, the food comes from," he remarked, scooping out food into the canisters. We talked about abundance, and how we take it all for granted. We think God owes us this "easy" life, where food, water, and shelter are part of our daily lives. We are his debtors, not he ours. I'm asking God for a grateful heart, and to know when enough is enough.

Earlier this month, a friend asked, "What one word would you choose for 2012?" Immediately, "GRATITUDE" popped into my mind. I resisted adopting it for a few days, in a funk over a series of disappointments. But the word keeps knocking at my heart. Truly, each of us has much for which to thank God. I'm reflecting on a few:
  • Life
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Church
  • Breath of heaven, holding us together
  • Nearness of God, thinking of us by day and night
  • Forgiveness, given and received
  • Abundant provisions
  • Work, though it may come and go in seasons
  • Sunshine and shadow
  • Ministry and being ministered to
  • The treasured Word, come to be among us, written on our hearts
  • The Scriptures, the revelation of God to us (how few of us value it, or feast on its riches)
  • Home and household
And - so much more. What's on your list?
I  hope you fall asleep and wake praising God for his tender mercies and the grace he lavishes on us!

Read more: 
*Second Sunday after the Epiphany: Watchword for the Week - How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Psalm 139:17

*1 Samuel 3:1-10,(11-20); Psalm 139:1-6,13-18; 1 Corinthians 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

*Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you. Isaiah 5:8

*For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Mark 8:36

Moravian Prayer: Giving God, you have created all that exists, but our greed compels us to covet things you have given to others. Have mercy on us for our sin of wanting more. Help us to find joy in our own gifts. Amen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Need a night out? Ticket announcement for "Tartuffe"

We love Taproot Theatre. We trust their directors and artists to choose uplifting, informative, and entertaining plays. Don't miss the next offering - a funny and enlightening look at life, from a French POV. Here are the details:

Taproot Theatre begins its 2012 season with Molière’s Tartuffe

Follies & fools, charlatans & scoundrels take the stage on February 1

SEATTLE – December 29, 2011 – Taproot Theatre kicks off the 2012 season with Molière’s hilariously clever satire, Tartuffe. Moliere’s comic masterpiece brings us a con artist extraordinaire who oozes piety and charm.  Will Tartuffe’s hypocrisy be discovered before Organ’s household is turned on its head? Enjoy lightning-quick wit, star-crossed lovers, a badgering grandma and a plot that could be ripped from today’s headlines – or a Saturday night comedy show.  Associate Artistic Director Karen Lund directs Tartuffe which opens February 3 and runs through March 3, with previews on February 1 and 2.

Tartuffe scandalized many of Molière’s contemporaries and was banned in 1664. Molière himself believed that, “As the duty of comedy is to correct men by amusing them, I believed that in my occupation I could do nothing better than attack the vices of my age by making them ridiculous…” and in his first appeal to the King wrote that, “since hypocrisy is, without doubt, one of the most common, the most harmful, and the most dangerous of these, I thought, Sire, that I would render no small service to all the honorable men of your kingdom if I were to make a comedy that would discredit the hypocrites and present all the artificial gestures that these worthy folk display…”

“The more I read it, the more modern it feels,” director Karen Lund said about this powerful story of grace and hopes the audience will, “take a kernel of truth about life” while falling in love with the stylized absurdity that comes to life on stage through various forms of comedy—the hilarity of physical slapstick to Richard Wilbur’s smart translation of Molière’s play on words. Wilbur’s version stays true to Molière’s rhyming verse, writing the entire play in rhyming couplets.

The production features a talented cast of Charissa Adams, Don Brady, Ryan Childers, Solomon Davis, Nathan Jeffrey, William Hamer, Frank Lawler, Ruth McRee, Jesse Notehelfer and Josh Smyth. The production team includes scenic and sound designer Mark Lund, costume designer Sarah Burch Gordon and lighting designer Roberta Russell. Anne L. Hitt serves as stage manager and David Anthony Lewis as dramaturg.

Following Tartuffe, Taproot Theatre presents Freud’s Last Session, running March 21 through April 21 (opening on March 23).

By Molière, translated into English verse by Richard Wilbur
Directed by Karen Lund

WHEN: February 1-March 3
Wed.-Thurs. 7:30 pm
Fri.-Sat. 8 pm
Sat. matinees 2 pm

Dates to note:
Feb. 1 & 2@7:30 pm
Opening Feb. 3@8 pm
Pay What You Can: Feb. 8@7:30 pm
Senior Matinee: Feb. 15@2 pm
Student Matinee: Feb. 7@10 am
Post-play Discussions:
Wed. nights, excluding preview

WHERE: Taproot Theatre Company
204 North 85th Street
Seattle, WA 98103

TICKETS: Tickets available online at www.taproottheatre.org/buy-tickets/ and through Taproot Theatre’s box office, in person or by phone at 206.781.9707. Ticket range: 
  • $22-37, depending on the performance. 
  • $5 senior/student discount off regular priced tickets (excludes previews). 
  • $15 tickets are available for ages 25 and under. Tickets for the senior matinee are $20. 
  • Discounts are available for parties of 8 or more through Group Sales; call 206.781.9708. Tickets for the pay-what-you-can performance are available day of show at the box office only; contact the box office for details.

ABOUT:  Molière’s comic masterpiece brings us the imposter Tartuffe, a con artist extraordinaire who oozes piety and charm.  Will his hypocrisy be discovered before Orgon’s household is turned on its head? This famous farce is a cautionary tale told with lightning-quick wit, complete with star-crossed lovers, a badgering grandma and a plot that could be ripped from the headlines – or a Saturday night comedy show.

Taproot Theatre Company is a professional, non‐profit theatre company with a multi‐faceted production program. Founded in 1976, Taproot Theatre serves the Pacific Northwest with Mainstage Productions, Touring Productions and the Acting Studio. Taproot exists to create theatre that explores the beauty and questions of life while bringing hope to our search for meaning. Taproot Theatre Company is a member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG), Theatre Puget Sound (TPS), and the Greenwood‐Phinney Chamber of Commerce.

Thanks to our opening night sponsor, The Upper Crust. Support for Taproot Theatre’s 2012 Mainstage season is generously provided by The Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, ArtsFund, 4Culture, Fales Foundation Trust and Nesholm Family Foundation.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Squinting through the details

"What would I do without Mom?" I keep thinking. My fridge is clean, the indoor plants are trimmed, and the conservatory sparkles. W's gone to a computer convention, so my mother came to help for the week.

By the time we have our morning walk and a light breakfast, it's 10am. It takes me a while to settle into studies. Sometimes my brain doesn't cooperate for an hour after I plunk myself on the office chair. The dogs keep me from freezing to the seat during the day: they want to get up every hour or two, which helps move me from the spot.

I skipped my walk this morning, though Mom has taken her walking sticks and headed out the door. It's 10am. Kirsten had a rough night: the memory foam mattress grabbed her, sank her into its trough, and held her until her neck and back seized up. Mom and I wrestled the padding, mattress, egg crate foam, and sheets off the base of the bed.

Up. Down. Up. Down. Kirsten tries out our experiments for comfort. A 5" thick, firm foam pad from atop the entry closet seems to be the ticket. Covered with an IKEA (folding bed) foam mattress, a doubled feather quilt, and bedding (with a medium-sized towel folded "just so" at the crease in the IKEA mattress), and a just-the-right-height-folded-body-pillow to extend the foot end, Kirsten is resting. "I hate feeling like the Princess and the Pea," she sighs and tries to get a snooze to make up for a sleepless night. "What Prince could want such a person?" We laugh and remind her that the prince of the fairytale actually sought out his princess.

It's a big day: Kirsten plans to go out for lunch and shopping with her s-i-l Melissa. The wheelchair's ready to glide down the ramp, built from the door to the ground (yay, W!) The women will take our SUV, and if her morning nap helps, K will have a fine day out. Grandma asked to watch Kinsey.Oh, that child is in for a treat!

Between all the chaos and changes in the household, I sent off a tutorial last night and am almost done with an article this morning. I'm planning to pack up and head for the library when Mom returns from her walk. "Focus, just focus," I remind myself. (Yeah, and while you do that, remember the girls will have the car. You're not going anywhere.)

This morning's turmoil proves again how life is neither straightforward nor neat. Though the goal may be clear, the journey defies definition.

God's Word is a light on our path, says Psalm 119. However, it's a torch for the next place to plant our feet on a steep hill climb, not a searchlight on a broad flat road. How does scripture inform your steps today?

Read more:
*“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9 NIV

* Psalm 9:1-10; Genesis 12:10-13:18; Matthew 5:27-42

*The Lord said to Gideon, "Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die." Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace. Judges 6:23-24

*Christ says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Faithful God, we depend on your promises. When we open our eyes in the morning, we look for you throughout the day. When we close our eyes in the evening, we trust in you while we sleep. Amen.