Lost

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We walked the beach at low tide on Friday. The sun was beginning to set, and the beach was perfect; the water calm and a light breeze blowing.

We walked and we talked, at peace with all of life.

As we turned to make our way back at the end of the beach, we saw a man running. A bit farther on, a woman had stopped and was calling frantically to him. He ran up to her, put his arm around her. Her sobs carried across the sand “We need to find her, we need to call the cops. We need to do something!”

Someone was missing, and that someone was dearly loved. We were witnessing her mom and dad, desperate to find her. Suddenly the beach took on a different atmosphere. Farther up, we saw more people looking. At this point the mom was shaking with sobs. We began walking toward them, hearts sinking, wanting to offer help.

A few seconds later a cry echoed from up the beach. “We’ve found her, we have her!” A little girl was walking, surrounded by a group of people. The mom broke all records, running, running to get her girl.

We stopped and spoke to complete strangers, all of us teary, moved by the intense drama of the moment.  A lost little girl was now found. This was a happy ending. Of all the endings possible, of all the images that went through the minds of those parents, this is the one they longed for: To be reunited with their lost, little girl.

We walked back, sobered and grateful. That which was lost, was now found.

I don’t know how many of you are parents, but whether you are or aren’t, you can imagine the joy and relief of the couple on the beach. And those of us who are parents? Our fear is that our kids will be lost; lost physically, lost spiritually, lost emotionally. We long for our kids to be found; the prodigal son come home, the fatted calf killed, the feast of homecoming celebrated.

Lost – gone astray, missing the way, destroyed or ruined. The mere word brings grief.

Found – discovered, recovered, reclaimed. The grace of being found.

As we left, the sky was a glorious palette of blues, pinks, and purples. And that which was lost, was found. 

Today, may we rejoice in the found ones, and pray for the lost ones.

A Safe Sanctuary

sanctuary

The snow is blowing all around us. 8 feet of snow piled on every side. When we open the back door it piles through the doorway. No one is even bothering to shovel because there is no where to put it.

By contrast the inside of our apartment is warm and dry. Bright daylight pours through the windows. Warm blankets fall over couches, evidence of their recent use. Pillows sit haphazardly on chairs, ready to be arranged by the one who sits down.

A well-stocked refrigerator, hot drinks, plenty of fruit and vegetables — all of these are present.

We have a safe sanctuary away from cold, wet, snow, and ice. In this space we are impervious to the elements that rage on the outside. Security and safety are all here, within these walls, in this space.

I think about this, and about safety. In a moment it could all change and I know this. Safety is something of an illusion. On Sunday night I saw this yet again as I heard the news that a beloved priest was tragically killed in a car accident. He leaves behind his young wife and six children. He was driving home from his Parish when snow began to fall and suddenly with no warning driving conditions were no longer safe. Nothing could have prepared the family. Life changed in a moment for them. 

Safety – what is it? We can be in dangerous places and yet safe because we know who protects us. We can be in secure places and feel frightened. Physical safety is relative.

I think about storms that rage, whether they be physical storms or emotional storms, and how important it is to have a sanctuary, but also how having a sanctuary is a privilege. A huge privilege.

Know your safe people and cry and laugh with them. Be kind to those who aren’t safe, but don’t let them into your sanctuary.

I wrote the words above in a piece called “Dear New Mom” and as I think about safety and sanctuary, I revisit them.  Where does vulnerability fit into all of this? A heart surrounded by ice, thinking the ice prevents it from being broken, is little good to anyone. A friend reminded me of the words below by CS Lewis. She wrote them in response to my piece on connecting the head and the heart.

‘Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket of selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change, it will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.’

There is being vulnerable and then there is being safe. Can safety and vulnerability coexist?

I think they have to. Particularly at different points in our lives. Only when we feel safe can we be vulnerable. When we are in the midst of a crisis, be it a marital or other crisis, it’s difficult to be vulnerable. Because all of our safeguards are gone.

When we let people who are not safe into the sanctuaries of our souls they tend to break things. They take those fragile pieces and treat them poorly, throwing them around, tossing out words and behaviours that shatter our safety. And when those fragile pieces break, it can take a lot of work to put them back together. Trust is broken easily, but repaired slowly.

Several years ago I heard a story about a public school in New York City that wanted to take down the fence around the school yard. I’m not sure why, perhaps they wanted children to feel more freedom. But the opposite happened: instead of more freedom, children huddled together in the middle of the play ground. They were afraid and they could not move freely. When they had the fence, they could run and play, there was safety around the perimeter and it made all the difference. The fence, instead of constricting, gave freedom.

We need fences in the sanctuaries of our souls. We are not made to be emotionally naked with everyone, everyone is not safe. But with proper fences, we have freedom to be vulnerable. 

So know your safe people, and be vulnerable with them. But keep proper fences, not walls that cannot be penetrated, but fences that allow freedom around the sanctuary of your soul.

Blogger’s note: Just a note that the first couple paragraphs of this was written in the middle of a snow storm. There are no snow storms raging around me right now, and for that, I am grateful!

On Protection in the New Year

Ocean

When I look back at parenting small children I sometimes take in a sharp breath. Not because anything tragic happened, but because tragedies could have happened, and many times over. From croup that sounded like a wounded puppy, in an isolated area with no medical help, to high fevers and salmonella, you cannot parent five children without several ‘catch your breath’ moments.

And I think about protection. And how much we want it and need it and pray for it. Protection. Preservation. Safety. Shelter. Refuge. Strength. So many words associated with protection. From the minute our babies are born we are endowed with a fierce need to protect. Our babies are the gap in our armor, the place where an enemy can send a sword and pierce us, sometimes fatally.

Protection. Protect — “[pruhtekt] to defend or guard from attack, invasion, loss, annoyance, insult, etc.;cover or shield from injury or danger.”

But babies grow up and as they grow, our ability to protect diminishes by thousands. No longer are we with them night and day. We share them with people, some worthy and others unworthy, and we let them out of our sight. We know that this is what makes a healthy adult, but it is not without fear that we release them.

If we are honest, we know that even when they are small a certain amount of danger in the form of germs is a good thing. A healthy immune system is not born of protection but of exposure.

What about us? What about me and my family in the new year? Is a certain amount of danger a good thing? Is a bit of risk necessary? Is protection from God born, not of isolation, but of exposure?

Just as we cannot protect our children from everything, we cannot protect ourselves as we go into the unknown of the year. We don’t know the paths where we will trip, the places where we will shudder under the weight of fear.

A year ago I wrote a piece on fear. In that piece I wrote this:

“While I don’t believe we are all called to go into war zones, and I believe we must exercise discernment and wisdom, particularly when we have others who we are responsible for, I do believe that no matter where we are and what we do, when we live under fear, we are using bad currency. When we make decisions based on fear, we go bankrupt.

When fear is our currency, we cannot live effectively. Whether this be around parenting, around work, or around where we are called to live, this is truth.When fear is our currency, we forget that safety is not about where we live, or work, or play.”

While thinking about protection, I picked up a Christmas present from my daughter, Annie. The book is a new one by Eula Biss titled On Immunity: An Innoculation. I loved Biss’s first book, No Man’s Land, and my daughter was quite sure I would love this one as well. Her most recent work comes from the personal experience of researching vaccinations when pregnant with her son. In the first few pages of the book, Biss recounts the familiar story of Achilles. So badly did Achilles mother, Thetis, want to protect him, that she took him by the heel and immersed his body into a river to make him invulnerable to injury. Achilles becomes a famous warrior, but as fate would have it, an arrow finds the one place where he is vulnerable and he is killed. Thus the famous story of Achilles heel.

The point is clear. There is no way we can shield ourselves from all the danger, sadness, hurt that comes our way in life; no way we can protect ourselves from the same in this new year.

The more I ponder this, the more comfort I feel. The picture I see in my mind is me, standing on the sand of a vast ocean, holding my arms forward in surrender, in humility. Like the tide of the ocean, the year will come with joy and with sorrow, it will hold things I will love and things I will hate. There will be times where I feel exposed but I will never be without his Presence.

As I was writing this, a memory came to mind of my son Joel. We had been in Cairo only 2 weeks when he slipped on the sharp edge of a bed and cut open an area right above his eye. He was two years old, screaming and bleeding profusely. Somehow we made our way to the emergency room in a hospital on the banks of the Nile, and a kind doctor took care of the wound, with tiny, precise stitches. And as I looked at those beautiful blue eyes of my son, his fear and pain so evident, I just kept on whispering “I’m here Joel. Mommy’s here.” I couldn’t protect him, but I could be present. Maybe my presence was enough. 

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” Isaiah 66:13a

For Love of Little K

For Love of Little K by Robynn

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I just spent a couple of hours catching up with my friend Kimmery. Because of the nature of the summers we’ve both had we haven’t seen each other in forever. It was fabulous to visit her in her new place, see boxes mostly unpacked, pictures already hung on the walls. She is settling in.

Kimmery is my friend. I love her deeply. She’s actually famous in our town for wearing the #4 K-State Wildcats basketball jersey when the Lady Cats were in their prime (2000-2004). Recruited from a high school in Nashville, she left her mama, her younger siblings, her community to move all the way to Kansas to play basketball.

A year ago she earned her PhD from Kansas State University in Family Studies. She’s one of the most determined, hard working women I know.  And she has heart. Dr. Newsom cares deeply: for her clients, her family and her friends. She’s loyal and long-lasting.

More importantly, Kimmery, is the mother of nearly 2 Little K. If she’s determined as a professional, she’s also devoted as a mother. She loves well, sacrificially, completely. Little K is disciplined and bright. He knows right from wrong. He can count to ten forwards and backwards. The little stinker already knows many of his ABCs.

Kimmery made coffee and gave me a tour of her place before it brewed. She offered me breakfast. She hadn’t slept well the night before and she was exhausted. It was a slow going morning for her. She was late getting to eat. I chatted away as she fixed herself an omelet and washed a bowl of grapes for Little K. I told her about our move, how the kids were settling, what I was working through in my attitude. After she sat down she shared some of the struggles she was facing with finding child care. Her daycare provider was suspended. It’s a tough story with complications and human complexities. We spoke of her mom, who’s been working hard to get her GED, but who recently found a job.

And then I asked Kimmery what she thought about what’s going on in Ferguson. She bristled some, sat up straighter, and asked me if I really wanted to know. I told her I did. I thought I did.

What followed was nearly forty-five minutes of her sharing her responses to what happened in the past ten days in Ferguson, Missouri. She nearly cried when she described what upset her the most. After Michael Brown was shot six times, two of those times in the head, he lay there in the street, uncovered, on display. His own mother a mere yard away was prevented from coming near the body of her dead baby for “investigative purposes”. Kimmery passionately pleaded with me, “Where was the ambulance? Why wasn’t he covered? Why didn’t someone call 911?” She said all she could see was pictures of dead black men and women hanging from trees, lynched and left on display, while white people stood around and watched. She told me story after story of similar things where black men and women were immediately assumed to be guilty and were mistreated simply because they were black.

Connor and I were chatting yesterday evening. He wants to go to Ferguson to join the protesters. He wants to skip school and go. In his mind this is history in the making. One person can make a difference he told me with the passion of youth. It’s an issue of civil rights. It’s not right what’s happened there.

With tears in his eyes he prophetically spoke a powerful truth, “Racism is still an issue mom. If anything it’s worse now than it’s ever been because people say it’s not an issue.”

At one point in the conversation she pointed over to Little K, who at the time was flinging his head back and forth on the couch. He was babbling jibberish and squealing at the educational program on the tv. Kimmery, pointing at Little K, said, “How am I supposed to raise him? Knowing he has a target on his back from the moment he’s born.” That’s when I could hardly contain my sobs. I’ve known that Little K man since he was born. When he was barely two months old I watched him once a week while his mom taught class. He’s been in and out of our home ever since. At church he reaches for me. I snuggle my head into his neck and he giggles. Tears ran down my face. How can Little K be the black man shot down? But that’s Kimmery’s greatest fear. Michael Brown’s mother in an early encounter with a television camera after her son was shot, railed at the reporter, “Do you people not know how hard it was to raise him? To keep him off the streets? To get him to graduate from high school? To get him enrolled in college”. Kimmery honestly can relate to that heart breaking mother’s lament. She gets it. She faces it. She fears it.

I drove away from Kimmery’s house with my heart stuck in grief. My spirit was in convulsions as I agonized with my friend. I didn’t know how to process Kimmery’s anguish. I didn’t know how to respond, what to do, where to take it. I cried so hard I should have put the windshield wipers on. I could barely see.

And I took my heart to Jesus. I took Kimmery there too. I scooped up Little K on to my shoulder and I marched him over to Jesus too. I had no place else to go. Deep inside, where there was a very small quiet spot, I heard the whisper of a tiny verse from the ancient old letter St Paul penned to the pockets of the faithful in the community of Galatia. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus…” There is great gospel truth in that tiny line of scripture. This is what life is supposed to be like. This is why Jesus came: to eliminate the lines, to erase the boundaries. This motivates me to work toward those equalities. I take on civil justice issues. I take on the freedoms of women, I take on the immigrant’s story because these are the things Jesus took on.  He intended that his message and his love would communicate across boundaries and slowly, slowly eliminate them.

I could drive away from Kimmery’s house. Kimmery cannot. She is beautifully black and she’s raising a black son to manhood. Somehow, and I have no idea how she’ll even begin, she has to learn to live above her fears. Somehow, and again this seems impossible to me, she has to find the space to shake off suspicion and truly live. But I don’t know how she possibly can but for the remarkable peace that comes from Jesus who delights in her colour. I commend her to his care.

For the love of my Little K we have to keep talking about this stuff. It may make us flinch inside. It may stir up anger or resentment or confusion. Those of us who are white need to own that there is privilege in that. We need to see what’s happening around us. No more denial. No more overstepping or abusing our freedoms. Let’s be honest. Let’s communicate across these boundaries as well. Please, for the love of Little K.

For further reading please see this excellent article Dear White Mom

What is your response as you think of inequalities and race? 

Picture Credit: http://pixabay.com/en/shake-hand-handshake-agreement-369025/

When Fear is Your Currency [aka ‘Is it Safe?’]

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“But is it safe?”

My friend stopped drinking her Skinny Vanilla Latte ala Starbucks. She was truly concerned. It was back in late August and I had just told her about the trip I was going on to India in September. I had described what I would be doing, spoken with excitement about the place and the possibilities, but this was her spontaneous reaction.

This is the number one question that I’m asked whenever we travel. Over and over again people ask me those three powerful words: “Is it Safe?”

They say it with doubt as to whether they will trust my response. They say it with much skepticism, and I know as they voice their concern, that the one asking the question will not believe my answer.

I understand the sentiment behind it, we are all products of our upbringing and the media. Unfortunately the way the media portrays life outside the United States is never as safe; it is always ‘not safe’. If one is to believe media reports, whether it be newspapers, online news sources, or television, everything outside the United States is suspect – it is ‘not safe’.

This of course is ridiculous. And yet I know what I felt while sitting in Egypt, reading news from the United States — I was terrified. Evil people kidnapped kids in the United States! Gunmen entered elementary schools and shot innocent children. The United States was a place where the phrase ‘going postal’ became synonymous with violent attacks; a place where random shootings and gang warfare threatened you and your children.

From far away the United States was terrifying. At least, that was my perception. 

Indeed, when we moved from Cairo, Egypt with 26 suitcases and a cat, living temporarily in a small apartment near Capital Hill in Washington D.C, I was beyond afraid. The neighborhood was known as a high crime area. We had left a middle eastern city of 16 million people where I felt safe and at home. Now I had five children, aged one to eleven, and felt I couldn’t go outside for fear of being mugged or hurt.

Robynn in her post “Lessons from Kansas on Living with Storms” makes a profound point: the storm you have is better than the one you don’t. One of the readers of that post gave this illustration: “a few years ago we met a group of Floridians who had just returned from a trip to Northern Iraq. It was a year with a lot of hurricanes in FL. While in Iraq, a dear Iraqi man asked them sincerely, “Florida??–isn’t it dangerous to live there??!!” It is a matter of perspective!”

While I don’t believe we are all called to go into war zones, and I believe we must exercise discernment and wisdom, particularly when we have others who we are responsible for, I do believe that no matter where we are and what we do, when we live under fear, we are using bad currency. When we make decisions based on fear, we go bankrupt.

When fear is our currency, we cannot live effectively. Whether this be around parenting, around work, or around where we are called to live, this is truth. When fear is our currency, we forget that safety is not about where we live, or work, or play.

Safety is about knowing where our security lies, what we’re called to do, and who we’re called to be.

Allison Krauss, the bluegrass-country singer, has a song that speaks to me around safety, reminding me that it’s faith, not fear, that should be my currency. It’s these words that have come to me at times when fear creeps in and threatens to own me, to run my life, and it’s these words I offer to us today:I’d rather be in the palm of your hand, though rich or poor I may be. Faith can see right through the circumstance, see the forest in spite of the trees. Your grace provides for me.” 

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gingerbread muffinsAnd today’s muffins look incredible! Here are Dark Chocolate Gingerbread Muffins for #Muffin Monday. Stacy says this: “Before I left Dubai, I baked this week’s muffin but I was definitely channeling cold weather and the coming of Christmas.  I made gingerbread batter to which I added melted semi-sweet chocolate for an even richer muffin.” Thanks again Stacy for giving us so many creative choices.   

Image credit: raywoo / 123RF Stock Photo

Coming Out of the Tunnel

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As we come out of the subway tunnel, the early morning sun reflects off the Charles River. Beautiful, bright, full of hope.

While in the tunnel all is dark around us; we’re cocooned in a train seeing nothing but the darkness outside. But all that changes as we come out of the tunnel.

I walk the well-known path toward my office, facing east. The sun now shines so brightly off a building that I have to avert my eyes – it’s blinding in its intensity.

The tunnel of terror is presumably over for victims of both the mall siege in Nairobi as well as the victims in the Peshawar bombing attack on a church.

The darkness is exposed to light and light will prevail.

But there are still tunnels to go through. Tunnels of healing; tunnels of anger so thick you think you’ll never feel peace again; tunnels of despair; tunnels of revenge; tunnels of feeling you will never be safe again. Ever.

Psalm 130 in the Old Testament is part of a group of Psalms called the Songs of Ascent. These are believed to be songs sung by worshipers on the road to Jerusalem. Many of these Psalms give words that describe what it is to be in the depths of despair, followed by what it is to hope.

So for all those today who are in the tunnels, whether by your own hand, or the hand of another, here is Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

Grand Marnier Orange MuffinsMuffin Monday: Today from Stacy at Food Lust, People Love we have Grand Marnier Orange Muffins. She added Grand Marnier along with orange and zest. Click on the picture or above to get the recipe and Enjoy!

 

*Image credit: moggara12 / 123RF Stock Photo

A Dream Becomes a Reality and I Become Afraid

I like to communicate. A lot.

I love speaking and leading workshops – in fact, it’s my favorite part of my job as a public health nurse. Hand me a topic and a microphone and I’ll have at it with pleasure. (In a way this blog feels a bit like a microphone but I digress)

I do all my speaking in a non-religious context. While I’ve gone across the country to speak on culturally responsive health care or patient navigation and community health workers, I am never asked to speak about faith. Ever.

Truth be told – this is hard for me. I long to communicate my faith across boundaries and barriers and I’ve long prayed for opportunities. But they have not come and I have slowly realized that it’s okay. Very few people who are regularly asked to speak in faith circles have the speaking opportunities that I have in my professional role, the opportunities to connect with people from a broad spectrum of beliefs and world views, and I need to continue to embrace these opportunities doing them as well as I know how.

But in the spring, the seed of an opportunity came and, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to move out in faith and see what happened.

Let me explain. For about four years now I’ve been involved in the Alpha program at a church in a nearby town. Robynn has written before about Alpha, but to recap – Alpha is a program to introduce people to Christianity. It is based on a lot of listening and an environment that values questions, even and especially the hard ones. A church in Goa, India asked the church here to send a team to teach them how to do the Alpha program. A ‘train the trainer’ if you will. The trip would involve going to India and introducing the Alpha program through live demonstration talks and discussion.

20130829-074331.jpgSo I applied and was accepted to be a part of this team. The visa is stamped into my passport, tickets are purchased and I’m going. Tomorrow.

I didn’t know when I applied what I would end up doing, I didn’t know if I would end up working on the sidelines or speaking. It turns out that I will be speaking along with a few others. The leader has asked me to do two talks – One is “How can we be sure of our faith?” and the other is a practical talk on presenting the Alpha program.

But here’s the deal: Now that this dream of communicating faith,communicating what I believe to be the most important thing in the world, is a reality – I have lost my words. I sit down to prepare my talks and fear creeps up like a figurative hives rash and suddenly I’m itching and red and so uncomfortable. My breath starts coming faster and I realize I am panicking. What is this about?! I can do an interesting talk about a vacuum cleaner if you ask me, make people want to buy that sleek, expensive Dyson. In fact, they’ll be lining up for back orders.

But this, this most precious, beautiful story of a faith and how to be sure of it and how it matters….tongue tied, fingers paralyzed, mind spinning.

I always thought I’d be ready for a dream becoming a reality. But here I am, confessing before all that along with the dream becoming a reality is a fear. A fear of inadequacy, a fear that I will not communicate clearly, a fear that I will not do this amazing topic justice. A fear that deep down I am an impostor, uniquely unqualified.

In the middle of this I looked back on a blog post I wrote a year ago. It’s called “And Failure Comes on Like a Virus” and I said this:

…truth is that I join the “march of the unqualified”, that group of people I read about who were inadequate, who failed. The King who stayed home from battle and slept with another man’s wife; the prophet who ran from the call of God and ended up in the belly of a whale; the man raised in the Pharaoh’s household who said ‘I can’t do it! I can’t speak! Let my brother speak for me’; the woman who said ‘Let’s trick your dad into thinking you are your brother so that you can get the birthright’.*

All these, uniquely unqualified, somehow survived the virus of failure, and were met by God, were used by God.”

The panic slowly dissolves in what is overwhelming Grace. This fear? It’s grace in disguise – the best thing that could have happened to me. It places me solidly at the mercy of God. It brings me to my knees (literally) and I beg God to give me words, words that bring glory to God.

I have no idea how this will go, but I know a couple of things:

  1. God is so much bigger than my words
  2. I am so much smaller than his Work.
  3. Over all of this – the visas, the plane ride, the funding, the preparation – is a blanket of Grace that reminds me God is in the business of using the unqualified.

And there you have it.

Readers – I’m not sure how much I’ll be writing from Goa – I hope to do a few updates so stay tuned and thank you for tuning in to my fears and his Grace.

When the Sh*t hits the fan!

mythbusters.jpg

We love to watch the show, MythBusters. On MythBusters  Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman and their team use the scientific method to prove or disprove movie stunts, YouTube videos, rumours, myths, news stories, idioms or even their own personal curiosities. They tackle seemingly impossible hypotheses to see if there is any truth in them at all. My personal favourites are their attempts to test idioms.  In season 9, episode 3 they tested the plausibility of the English expression, “When the shit hits the fan”! A series of ridiculous experiments revealed something quite unexpected and it certainly made me laugh and gave me pause to think.

According to the online urban dictionary “shit hits the fan” when ‘things get chaotic or uncontrollable’ or it’s ‘the point at which an already unstable situation devolves into utter chaos’.

Our family has a long-standing attachment to the word ‘shit’—I know it’s shocking but true! My mom and dad never permitted us to use swear words or foul speech when I was growing up. The word ‘fart’ was even off-limits. In our home we passed gas. At the very worst we “tooted” or “cut the cheese”.

We never farted. That was crude and crass and completely unacceptable.

The only exception was the word “shit”…and that only if we said it with a Pakistani accent. Something about that combination made my dad start to shake. The little lines around his eyes would start up first and eventually his convictions would melt off his face into complete laughter. It never failed. Dad would laugh and mom would say his name, “Gary!” with as much as sternness as she could muster as if dad himself had used the offending language!

Later when Lowell and I moved to India we had other opportunities to use the word. In our experience in North India, shit is the expletive of choice for anyone who speaks any amount of English. It’s not really a cuss word. Shit is used to denote poop, plain and simple. The ancient place we rented on the banks of the Ganges River provided ample opportunity to use the word. Frequently the sewage backed up on our bathroom floor. Using the word was a way to secretly let off some frustration but it was also a way to communicate to our landlady what was going on! She understood that word.

The word shit isn’t just used to talk about sewer– it has a variety of uses in India. It was a word that sympathized. When I told our landlady that my dad had been in the church that was attacked by terrorists in Islamabad in 2002, her first response, with her hand quickly coming to touch my arm and her face contorting in sadness and sympathy was, Ah shit!”  When I told her that Lowell had dengue fever, I got the same face with the same concern and the same word of choice, Ah shit!” When I told her something funny that had happened in the market she would laugh and say, “Oh shit!” When I showed her the bathroom floor where the sewage had backed up she’d groan and appropriately exclaim, “Oh shit!”

So you can imagine my intrigue and my amusement with the episode on MythBusters where they try to prove the validity to that interesting expression, “when the shit hits the fan”!

The funny thing is after Jamie and Adam had gone to the work of creating their own blue simulated poo, making a testing site, setting up a fan and then throwing the blue poo into the fan, not much happened. It was so anti-climactic! The blue poo just sort of hit the fan’s protective grate and then fell with a disappointing thud to the ground. They made some changes. They made their blue poo more gooey, they increased the size of the fan, they removed the grate. Eventually they were not disappointed. The blue goo flew! The anticipated results were finally actualized.

It made me stop and think.

Sometimes we expect our stresses and our strains to be far more grand and far-reaching than they are. Our imaginations move into our fears and we become anxious and over-wrought. We dream up horrors and hells and we allow them to paralyze our souls. These fears keep us awake at night. They force us to the edge of our calm. We live in dread of the “shit hitting the fan”.

But what if the shit just sort of plonks against the grate and nothing much happens? What if our worst fears are never actually realized? Or when they are realized we see it wasn’t as we thought it would be? Perhaps we’re stronger than we thought we’d be. Perhaps God was more Present than we thought He’d be. Perhaps our support structures held more than we thought they would.

I think about all the time I’ve spent dreading, fearing, and imagining the worst. (I’ve written about some of them: Better Widow than a Wife, When Fear Proves Love). I’ve spent hours blowing up my anxieties, like balloons for a funeral. I’ve wasted more hours trying to think up ways to protect myself from those same dreaded outcomes.

Like Jamie, on Mythbusters, I’ve donned perfect protective gear to safeguard against the flying poop.  More often than not, it never hits.

I’m not entirely sure what the answer is. I do want to live more fully in my now, in my here. Hopefully the pathetic results of Adam and Jamie’s test will remain with me and tutor me. What they worst feared didn’t actually happen! Jesus didn’t use the expression, “when the shit hits the fan”, but he did teach on imagined future dreads.  He wanted us to live today!

                So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.