When I Stumble in the Dark

because I can't walk in the dark

It’s when I’m walking in the dark that I stumble on them and curse. Small, brass pyramids – their triangular shapes piercing into my tender skin.

We had purchased several sets, one for each child. Stocking stuffers that had seemed a good idea at the time.

But in the middle of the night, in the dark I glare at the idea. Who cares about the details? All I know is they were where they were not supposed to be – the floor.

They hurt me and I’m angry.

And that’s what happens when I try to walk in the dark. I stumble and I hurt myself. It’s either a bed post or dresser corner, pair of shoes or pieces of Lego. It matters not what it is, the fact remains – I stumble and I hurt myself.

I can’t walk in the dark. I must have a light.

The spiritual lesson is not lost on me. I’m clear as to what this means. I can’t do this walk of life without a light. Even a pinpoint of light is enough to guide me and keep me safe from obstacles.

Because I can’t walk in the dark, I get hurt walking in the dark.

You, O Lord, Keep my lamp burning;

My God turns my darkness into light.

Psalm 18:28

 

I Love the City Until…..

Boston from Federal Reserve Bank Building

Last night someone broke into our car. I foolishly left the windows down – just one inch, forgot to lock the doors, and didn’t alarm the car. It was a, what do you call it? A sitting duck? Open game?

Whatever the idiom, there was nothing to prevent someone from trying to get in.

We keep little in our car. Some coins for parking meters – a city ‘must-have’, Kleenex, and Altoids. Altoids were strewn across the passenger seat. Quarters and dimes were gone, the thief randomly leaving nickles. My husband found the car this way well past midnight as he went to pick up one of our kids from the airport.

We live in the city, and I love the city. I love the bustle. I love being able to walk to get coffee, walk to get groceries, walk to the subway that takes me just three stops to my place of work in downtown Boston.

I used to sing with gusto the song “You’re the God of this City” by Chris Tomlin. I sang these words and I thought I meant them:

You’re the God of this city.You’re the King of these people. You’re the Lord of this nation. You’re the light in this darkness.You’re the hope to the hopeless. You’re the peace to the restless.

Greater things have yet to come, And greater things are still to be done in this city.

And then I’d repeat. And the second time I sang it was with even more emphasis, sometimes a tear catching in my eye.

I love the city – until the city turns on me. I love the city until I find out we were robbed and every cupboard and every door and every closet is open, the thief frantically searching for valuables.

I love this city until someone tries to steal my car. I love this city until my neighbors wake me at 2:30 in the morning, their dog bouncing a fake bone across the wooden floor.

I love this city – until I don’t love it.

I love this city when it’s good to me, when I feel safe and alive.

And when I don’t – I hate it. I hate everything about it.

My love for the city is completely conditional.

And in this early morning, as I work through how I feel, and I’m tired, and all I want is to move far away I realize how much my love for God resembles my love for the city.

I love God when He’s good to me, when I feel safe and alive.

I love God – until I don’t love Him. Until I question everything about Him and shake my fist in His Almighty face, forgetting that He is the maker of the universe, He is the God of this city.

So I sit, face to face with all my ugly, with all my fickle, conditional, capricious love.

And as I sit I know without doubt that, unlike the city, God hears my cry, listens to my anger, and continues to pour forth unconditional love on my soul.

Breathe

The morning starts with a sun-sparkled ocean and coffee, strong, sweet coffee.

The weight and frustrations of the week are wrapped up and thrown out with yesterday’s kitty litter. Only one place for them to go – to the garbage, the grey, mud splattered trash can.

The restlessness, mistakes, disagreements – thrown out.

Today is a new day, a new time, an empty chalkboard. I look out at the ocean and cup my hands open – open to life, to God, to Joy.

And I remember to Breathe

No one who ever said to God, “Thy will be done” and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy—not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at that very moment, here and now.~ Peter Kreeft on the topic of Joy

20130727-095758.jpg

When You Realize Injustice Begins in Your Heart

Freedom trail
Doesn’t he look HOT in his outfit?!

It’s sweat-dripping, sidewalk-sweating hot. A “virtual sauna-bath” says one weather site.

I shuffle through downtown and the homeless population lolls complacently. No amount of me buying people cold coffee, blueberry flavor, extra cream and sugar with a croissant on the side will take away the fact that right now I hate every one of them. Hate the lethargy. Hate the laziness. Want to scream “Get a job!”

It’s so easy to judge. 

And because I’m that way, and judging is as catchy as a virus my wandering eye finds more people to judge.

That lady, so perfectly coiffed? She’s got it easy. I just know she has central air-conditioning and ‘plays’ at her job. I bet you real money that she shops at Nordstroms and Talbots (Not the outlet) and by God – look at her gold!

And that family? Happily on vacation?….Why on earth do they have to ride the subway at seven am? Sleep-in for God’s sake!

I’m so busy judging that I bump into a wall. Literally.

And that’s where I belong because only a wall and the Living Breathing Spirit of God can knock some sense into me. I easily condemn injustice and brokenness in the world without recognizing where I contribute to it. Every single day in uncountable ways.

Because injustice begins in my heart. Brokenness is birthed in my soul. 

I long to see a world transformed without realizing it needs to start in this heart. The one in my body. The one that beats a slow pulse – 62 beats per minute. The only heart I have any control over.

“Transform me inside out, upside down, right side up. Show me O Lord how I contribute to the injustice and sin-brokenness of the world and then by your mercy – change me”. This is my early morning prayer

Warehouse Epiphany.

Ugly pieces of furniture are piled up in a musty warehouse. It’s hard to distinguish a dresser from a chair, a table from a nightstand. Scratched and worn, these pieces seem to languish; cast offs from a better day.

And then my husband picks one out, his eyes alight with challenge. “This piece” he says. “It will be beautiful!”.
It’s the eyes of the artist that see past the worn. The piece has good bones; can be restored to beauty and purpose.

Me? I still think it’s ugly.

But our living room is proof that he’s right. That ugly worn can be transformed to a piece that captures the eye with its charm and style. So I smile as we wedge the piece into our car.

The difference? He sees through the eyes of a creator, an artist; through eyes of his soul.

The lesson is not lost. We — sitting in Life’s warehouse feeling often ugly, scratched and worn, are seen by our Creator-artist as useful and beautiful. We have amazing potential when the artist is given room to transform.

I’m lost in the wonder of truth; this warehouse epiphany. I hold tight to what I know is a revelation from my Creator.

The ugly- worn can be transformed to beautiful-useful.

I smile as we drive home.

20130713-180147.jpg

20130713-180139.jpg

Waiting for Aslan

“WHAT an extraordinary place!” cried Lucy. “All those stone animals – and people too! It’s – it’s like a museum.”

“Hush,” said Susan, “Aslan’s doing something.”

…..Everywhere the statues were coming to life. The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing round him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colours; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, brayings, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter.” from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

****************************

On our weekend walks we pass by some amazing houses. Each one is different in color, size and style. Each one with character and charm: wrap-around front porches on some, outside spiral staircases to rooftops on others, gilded turrets on still more. They are blue, white, deep orange, and green. They have gardens and window boxes full of flowers, driveways and wide porches.

It is a treat for the eyes just to look at them.

One of the houses we aren’t able to describe. It sits down a hill closer to the ocean. Large trees block the view and it’s clear by the No Trespassing sign that strangers are not welcome. A large plot of land opposite the driveway belongs to the house as well and in recent years the land was developed. Trees were removed and the land is now sculpted with bushes, plants and flowers all artistically pre-arranged so they fit in with large rocks in the area.

But that is not enough.

This year the owners have introduced stone statues of animals.

We first saw a haughty ostrich at least 10 feet tall, its neck rising above its body.

Next we saw a proud lion on a rock.

Then we saw a lioness.

And her cubs.

They stand, poised to pounce and play. But they can’t for they have no life. They are merely stone and granite statues fashioned by a talented artist.

These stone animals remind me of the castle of the White Witch, Queen of Narnia, where “Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands” turns her enemies into stone and they sit in a large courtyard, seemingly forever trapped under a curse. Moments before they offended the queen these animals and people were fully alive with a purpose ordained by their creator. Then through the curse of this queen, they became stone.

They are waiting for Aslan.

I think of how like these stone statues I am at times. Hard. Immoveable. Lifeless. Paralyzed. Stationary. Like I’m waiting for Aslan

In Narnia Aslan is on the move and the stone statues are not beyond his reach. The breath of Aslan touches the statues and moves them from cold, grey stone to living, breathing reality full of color, movement and life. They become who they were created to be – the strength and glory of the Lion in their bearing.

I sit stationary, praying for the breath of the Spirit of God. Just one breath is enough to be fully alive.

20130710-074623.jpg

20130710-074646.jpg

20130710-074736.jpg

20130710-074758.jpg

20130710-074810.jpg

20130710-074936.jpg

RELATED ARTICLES

Unforced Rhythms

We have been in a weekend of “unforced rhythms”. We’ve had no set schedule. Some of us have woken early morning and used the ocean as our entry into the day, others have woken late and sipped coffee slowly on the couch.

I have no illusions that these times will last. I don’t think they are supposed to last. Reality creeps in no matter how much we push it aside. The bitter taste of unmet expectations is a part of every gathering at some level.

But this is no reason to not continue to strive for times where grace and peace are the order of the day. Where I am learning the “unforced rhythms of grace”.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” – Matthew 11:28,29 from The Message

How about you? Have you had moments of peace and grace? How do you keep those alive when all of life crowds in?

20130707-093657.jpg

20130707-093733.jpg

20130707-093801.jpg

VBS Redoux….

vbs_4828cLast week I was a part of an amazing group of volunteers at our church that put on VBS (Vacation Bible School). I was the storyteller. The theme was Standing Strong. Each evening I told a different Bible story that emphasized an element of that theme.I had two helpers, together the three of us, interacted with over 80 children. We were animated. We were dramatic. We had a lot of fun.

However as I reflect back on the week I think I taught some bad theology and it’s making me really nervous and a little sick to the stomach.

Monday we reflected on the fact that God’s love helps us stand strong. Tuesday we learnt that family and friends help us stand strong. Queen Esther and her cousin, Mordecai, illustrated that particular truth. On Wednesday evening I dressed up in a wig and a moustache, pretending to be Nehemiah, whose life story still teaches that prayer helps us stand strong. The story of the death and resurrection of Jesus reinforced that trust in God helps us stand strong. And finally on Friday the eight year old king of ancient times, Josiah, showed us that the Word of God helps us stand strong.

But I don’t think it’s true.

All my life I’ve been told I need to be strong. I need to be ok. I need to muster my courage, bolster my energies and take on the world. All in God’s strength. Along the way I learned that I wasn’t really very strong but on days like that I quickly learned to fake it. I forced a bravery. I swallowed my limitations and I pretended. Imaginary strength, that I did not feel, allowed me to go through the motions, paste a smile over my grimace and do what needed to be done. On the inside I might have been wasting away, yet on the outside I looked like I was being renewed day by day.

That doesn’t sound right. How is that Standing Strong?

Children know their limitations. If they don’t know how to tie their shoes they admit it. If soccer isn’t their thing they seem to know it. If they can read really well but can’t seem to do math they understand that. How dare I stand in front of them and begin the bad brain washing? Of all the nerve, that I would put my hands on my hips, and say with a dramatic swagger that we’re to stand strong.

Here’s the truth…. we don’t need to be strong. In fact, Jesus invites the weak, the broken, the wounded. There is power in admitting our humanity. When we claim strength, we deceive ourselves. We break, we bruise, we burst. And it’s ok to not be ok. (I’m learning this slowly…)

I don’t want to be complicit in teaching the next generation that standing strong is the ticket. I want my children and their cohorts to understand, perhaps for the first time in all history, that our humanity is what draws Jesus to us. He created us! He’s crazy about us. It is so okay to be human. And being human means being weak and limited, bruised, battered, fragile and forlorn.

I want to redo VBS… I want us to get back to the Very Basic Stuff that makes the good news oh so good. I wish I could do it over again. I would tell those eager children that God’s love helps us admit our weaknesses and push into His strength. I would emphasize that we were created to live in community. Family and friends help each other. We can admit our needs and receive help and care from each other. There is strength in that! If I could do it all over again I’d still put on the goofy wig and the sticky moustache but I’d accentuate that the gift of prayer helps us push into our friendship with God, it gives us a safe place to be honest with what we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, how tired we are. We can “come to (him)….(when we are) weary and carry heavy burdens, and (he) will give us rest”.

I’d tell them that trusting in God strengthens our faith. We can trust him with our burdens because he deeply cares for us.  And finally I’d tell them God’s words do bring life and courage and joy. They do give direction and something beyond ourselves to think on. God is strong. We are weak. We learn that when we reflect on what God says.

The week since VBS ended has been a difficult one. I have felt battered and beat down. My weakness rises like bile in the back of my throat. It’s been hard to swallow. What relief there is in knowing that I don’t have to be strong.

This Very Basic Stuff is what Vacation Bible School should be about. You’re never too old to learn that you can take off your mask. You can bravely live debilitated and feeble. Vulnerability invites grace and grace smiles at fragility and whispers, “Come”!

It’s All Borrowed

stop watchI wrote a post for today. And I was passionate about the topic, and wrote fluidly and clearly.

I scheduled it to publish at 8:30 this morning. And then an hour after arriving at work a colleague came running. “You’re a nurse? Come quick, we need you.” 

I am not a clinical nurse, I’m a public health nurse/educator. But God gives grace for the moment and emergency mode went into high gear. Pulse taking, cold compresses, sitting on the ground with a woman I’d never met, waiting for the ambulance. It’s minutes that count. It’s moments that change lives.

And all of it? It’s all borrowed. These bodies, these lives – they’re borrowed, we don’t own any of it.

I stop by a colleague/friend’s desk afterwards, both of us usually gregarious at this time of day, laughing about our families and their (our) flaws. Known as the loudest in the office, we talk quietly. She was at the emergency room last night with a father-in-law. They talked options with a doctor. They talked ‘end of life’, ‘resuscitation’, ‘medication’, – it was hospital speak.

“It’s all borrowed” she said. “We think we’re living better but we’re really living more. We want more this, more that – even the good times we want more of them. More house, more vacation, more money. If we were living better, we’d recognize this borrowed time, borrowed life. But we’ve confused better with more.”

A friend posts on Facebook that a bomb went off in Kabul. Across town. They are not hurt – but their friends have windows blown out of their homes, and for sure people have died.

Nothing to wake you up on Tuesday like realizing it’s all borrowed.

And I think about how careful I am when I borrow something from someone. I care for it. I use it wisely. I bring it back. I repay it.

What will I do with my life today? What will you do with your life today?

Because it’s all borrowed.

“You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore, Honor God with your bodies” 1 Corinthians 19b,20

All is Grace

All week Grace seemed hidden in heavy rain, short tempers, and the Great Unknown. All week it took faith to see that those too were moments for Grace. The question I asked of myself: “how is it that I am willing to say ‘Yes’ to my name being in the book of Life but unwilling to say ‘Yes’ to the rest of what is offered?”

And then Saturday comes with this glorious burst of sunshine and beauty that catches the heart, for all is Grace.

20130615-085234.jpg

20130615-085310.jpg

20130615-090119.jpg

20130615-090130.jpg

20130615-090150.jpg

20130615-090209.jpg

“Now We See Through a Glass Darkly”

IMG_2118

We have two side windows in our living room, and in the evening as I sit on our couch looking out these windows, I learn a bit more what it means to “see through a glass darkly”. 

I can make out shapes, I can see pockets of light shining through windows – but I can’t see comings and goings, I can’t see detail, I can’t see the colors.

And so it is with spiritual truths. I can see shapes and pockets of light, I can meditate on those. But I don’t see the detail. I don’t see the comings and goings. I don’t see the colors.

And this is my life of faith. I know there’s a house out there across the street, because I see the pockets of light. I know there’s a garden with flowers and buds – pink, white, coral colors. I know there are people and porches and cars. And I know in the Morning I will have full vision. I will see clearly what was missing in the dark – the detail and the color that I missed.

So I wait in faith of the Morning, when I shall see Face to Face.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  – 1Corinthians 13: 12

 

Early Morning Warnings

I get off the subway early. We, the early morning crowd, share a special bond. We nod to each other, though we don’t know each other’s names, places of work, or families. It’s the “We’re up with the birds” look, a “knowing” look. A “we’re up while everyone else is still asleep waiting for their alarms to ring” look.

I pass by people who I see almost everyday, say hello to Mary who sells the Boston Herald. And today Mary says to me, as she periodically does: “Watch your bag honey”. And I nod and thank her.

And so I watch my bag. Because Mary knows this area well. While I think I know it well, I’ve only been walking this route for a few years. She has lived and worked this area for many more. and she knows the various characters that live life on these streets. She knows who you can trust, and who you need to watch. She knows that poverty and homelessness does not mean you are automatically a good person who has fallen into hard times, does not mean you are automatically trustworthy. She is an astute observer of human nature and knows that the mean come in all sizes and income levels.  The sly and the underhanded, the mocking and disrespectful – these are not just categories that the middle-class and rich fall into.

It’s an interesting dilemma for me as a white privileged woman. I observe many white middle-class Americans, I read their essays on the poor and I wish they would talk to Mary. Because their subtext is that the rich are bad and the poor are good, the rich deceptive and the poor honest, the rich rude and the poor kind. But if we’re honest we know that’s not the case.

I have met wealthy people who give graciously and responsively, aware that every penny is from God. I have met poor people who would (and did) kill their last chicken to show you hospitality. I have met rich people who wear arrogance around their necks with their latest Gucci scarves, and poor who mock and yell and rant at all those who pass by.

And so Mary periodically tells me to watch my bag. She tells me who to give to and who not to give to, she tells me who to watch out for and when I should cross the street and go to the other side. And I listen – because Mary knows these streets.

Picture 188These early morning warnings teach me a couple of life lessons. One is that the worst and the best of humanity are represented in all spheres of society; the second is that in life we need our “Marys” – those people who know where we walk and can help us discern true and false, can help us walk in the ‘good’ way, the wise way.

Mary’s early morning warning made me think of one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It’s a verse that gives instruction from the prophet Jeremiah:

Stand at the crossroads and look; Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is – and walk in it.~ Jeremiah 6:16a 

So on this early morning, just as I chose to watch my bag, I will choose to ask where the good way is – and walk in it. 

*************************

When God is in the Details: Tigh Ban – The Little White House.

I am honored today to share a guest post from Wilma Brown. When I first met Wilma I was at my most unlovely, and as a house mother she showed grace on grace. I will never forget a dorm room, my tears, and Wilma’s comfort and affirmation. Because of the wonder of social media, we have been able to reconnect. Read more about Wilma at the end of this post!

Going back ‘home’ after an overseas assignment is a daunting task. You have changed and so has ‘home’. It is one of those times where you are desperate to see God in the details. This post is a testimony to God in the details.

**********************

Mid- September 1978 found me on a walking/climbing holiday in North West
Scotland – the area known as Torridon.  Accompanying me on the trip was an
application form for a teaching post in the North-East of Scotland, in the Spey
valley.  I felt little enthusiasm to move there, but was conscious that I needed
to earn my living, and it seemed there was no pressing need of language teachers elsewhere, especially as the new school year had begun in August.

I can remember laboriously filling out all the details and sending it off with a
heavy heart.  I knew no one in that area, far from my old Scottish stamping
grounds and very far from Pakistan.

I received a letter asking me to go to Inverness for an interview, lost the
letter and managed to turn up a week early – those assigned to interview me were not available so I returned home.

At least I didn’t go a week late!

I did make it to the interview and duly got the job.  My heart felt somewhat
heavy.  As I write, I can feel that trepidation once again.  It had honestly
been easier to fly to Pakistan than to brave the unknown delights of the
Scottish Highlands!

English: Grantown on Spey

Then God, with His wonderful timing and sense of humour took over.  I learned
that a new rector had just been assigned to St Columba’s, Grantown-on Spey,exactly where I was going.  He and his wife were from the USA and had been in
Britain for several years.

Lovely friends offered to help me move in to a little bungalow and bought me a pressure cooker (more memories of Pakistan!)

I arrived at the school to find the Lord had brought another Christian teacher,and later learned people had prayed earnestly about that.

I went to church my first Sunday and was immediately warmed by the welcome from Douglas and Arabella – and invited to lunch!

To crown it all not many weeks later I went with my new colleague and friend to a prayer meeting in the little white house, a cottage deep in the woods near Loch Garten.  The occupants of the little white house were Major John and Mrs Diana Pott, a couple in their late 50s.  It was they who had prayed so earnestly for Christians to come to the school.

That evening I learned that they and I had something in common, besides our Christian faith – we all knew Murree.Indeed they had been married in Holy Trinity Church in the 1940s.

I still marvel at the way God cushioned my path; the way He worked out the details.

I wasn’t there very long, but the friendships made endured, and I still have and use the set of saucepans the students gave me when I left to marry John (I chose them with money collected!) and remember the remark of one of my toughest but most loyal pupils: “Not much of a present we gave you, Miss!”

After traveling the UK and the world, Wilma Brown now resides in Royal Tunbridge Wells, a large town and Borough in west Kent, England, about 40 miles south-east of central London by road. She keeps in touch with friends and her ‘kids’ and students from Pakistan through social media and more. 

Invitation to Breakfast

I love eating breakfast out at restaurants. Perhaps it’s because I rarely do it, but when I do, it’s always a vacation feel – a sense of the unexpected.

Israel, Sea of Galilee (Lake of Tiberias)

So it was with new eyes that I read the line “Come have breakfast” in the gospel of John.

The verse comes after Jesus has been crucified and has risen, appearing to different people. First he is seen by Mary, then by the disciples and finally by others. He’s on the banks of the Sea of Galilee watching the disciples fishing in a boat on the sea. They have fished the entire night and they’ve caught nothing. Their nets and stomachs are empty. But this man on the banks of the sea tells them “Just try it one more time.”

Just one more time.

So they do it. Weary, frustrated, hungry – they still try one more time. And the result does not disappoint. They catch so many fish that they can’t even bring the full net in. It’s too heavy. You can picture it – fish jumping around in the net, strong men trying with all their muscles to hold the net but they have to throw some back.

And that piece is amazing – this picture of trying one more time and filling a net.

But the compelling piece is on shore where Jesus takes the fish and fixes it for them – those hungry, weary humans. Those men who he has eaten with, walked with, stayed with for three years. He knows them. He knows their frame, he hears their hearts – and he invites them to breakfast.

“Come and have breakfast!”*

Said with full knowledge of all that the invitation means. Come rest. Come sit. Come and be filled. Come – have breakfast!

It’s an early morning here in Boston. The quiet of the city morning is broken by a raucous group of homeless who are waking to the day. Except for coffee shops and a brand new Walgreens that boasts a 24-hour day, all businesses are still closed, their steel barriers down from the day before.

And I have an invitation to breakfast from One who will give rest on a weary Monday.

Maybe you haven’t fished all night – but maybe it’s something else. Maybe your worries have kept you up to the wee hours, your mind occupied with so much that concerns. Maybe something else has kept you up all night – tears flowing because it’s safe when no one can see them. No matter – you have an invitation to breakfast from One who gives rest.

*John 21:12

“Embrace the Chaos”

Lowell used to tell visitors to “Embrace the Chaos” when we lived in India. Anyone who’s ever been to India can quite quickly agree that there’s always so much going on! Just stand on a street corner in Old Delhi and try to identify all that you see and smell and hear and you’ll be hard pressed to not admit that it feels a little chaotic, a little out of control!

I guess this week I’m feeling some of that sort of chaos…but of course we’re still far from India!

When my dad comes to town we find projects for him to do. He loves to stay busy and we love to have the work done. Dad can do anything really. He works with wood, electricity, plumbing, tinkering, motors, moving parts, engines, paint! You name it, my dad can do it!

This visit we thought he and Lowell would build us a deck. The back porch has been precarious since the day we moved in. The plan was to knock it down and build a new porch with an attached deck. Being good citizens meant applying for a permit. There was some confusion about the placement of the posts and the size of the porch. The permit people took some time in approving our plan.

Meanwhile dad destroyed, at my request, our ancient box style closet in our bedroom. Our bedroom is small and it seemed to me that we should knock out the closet and put up one of those more streamlined, tidy looking, “easy to install” closet kits you see all the time on TV. But then the permit for the porch arrived. All work on the closet came to a screeching halt.

All of our closet stuff was in our son’s room. Our son was all over the living room floor. Mom and dad stayed in our room. We slept in Adelaide’s room. Adelaide slept in with Bronwynn. And we still have a guest who’s staying in Lowell’s office.

Nothing was where it should be.

Lowell went out to borrow his dad’s truck so he could load up the lumber they’d need. On the way home he discovered he had forgotten his phone. On the second attempt back toward home the old truck blew a tire. His dad had neglected to throw in the spare.

This week we’ve also had dance rehearsals and recitals. Adelaide auditioned for a specialty dance company earlier in the week as well but yesterday I got a phone call from the dance school that Adelaide hadn’t made the dance company she had auditioned for. I knew I’d have to break that news to her later in the day.

To top it all off I was scheduled to speak at a live webinar with a friend on expectations and burn out. I discovered that our headset was broken. My computer is still dead (did I mention the hard drive expired while I was away?). Thankfully I could use Connor’s new machine but it has a new fandangled version of windows on it and it seemingly does random things at odd moments. After getting kids out the door, painting two walls in our bedroom (because since the closet is down it would make sense to paint now!), and settling everyone else, I zipped over to Best Buy to purchase a new headset. With a new headset in hand, Connor’s machine, my notes, I drove through the drive through for a sandwich (I forgot to eat!) and raced to the church in search of some quiet. I couldn’t figure out how to navigate the internet but one of the pastors quickly helped me sort it out.

It was a day!

It was chaos!

And if we’d been in India Lowell would have said to embrace it!

When I was preparing to speak on the spiritual habits of Silence and Solitude for the retreat I was just at (the irony is not lost on me!) I happened upon these verses in the gospel of Mark,

“That evening after supper, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And he healed many who were ill; and cast out many demons…and in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place and was praying there”.

Talk about chaos: “And the whole city had gathered at the door!” That’s how I felt yesterday. The whole town was banging on the door of my sanity–paint buckets and stacks of stuff, daughters and dance rejections, the truck and the tires, piles of wood, piles of clothes, piles of people, electric drills and saws and hammers, broken headsets and dead computers. Mom can you take a look at this new game? Robynn can you run to the store and get? Where do you want me to put this? Mom I need you to remind me. All of it banging at the door.

How did Jesus respond? He had already had a full day….his chaos continued on into the evening, after supper, in to the night. Jesus responded to each person. He healed and ministered to the hurting, the sick, the confused, to the oppressed. He brought freedom and peace. But in the morning, knowing his own soul and his own needs, he woke early and went off on his own to pray.

When I arrived at the church, my phone buzzed with an incoming email. I paused and took the time to read it. A friend had emailed me the prayer she had prayed for me. The words for peace and rest and restoration, in the midst of the crazy, washed over me. I sat in the car alone and breathed. I shed a few tears. I let those wash over me too. There was a moment to stop and I did. I sat quietly and prayed out my own heart’s prayer: for endurance, for joy, for the capacity to embrace it all!

I survived yesterday’s chaos. Today will have its own share, I’m sure. When it’s all gathered at the door, I hope, I’ll remember to pause, breathe, pray. I think that’s the way we embrace it.

A text message I got yesterday from a friend read, “Just lean into chaos and find shalom”. That’s what happened when I sat in the car. I found a small piece of shalom.

Weeping for the Kids

Just down the road from us on Memorial Drive is a big apartment complex. It’s one of the tallest buildings in that area and is flanked on one side by the Marriott and another by a gas station. It’s steps away from RiteAid Pharmacy and Whole Foods; just across from the river.

I don’t know how many families it houses but my guess is it houses a lot — a diverse group that includes immigrants, refugees, and those who have lived in the area a long time.

Last night the 11 pm News focused on the building and the Mobil gas station beside it. Another young man from my kids’ high school was arrested in connection to the Boston bombing and he lives in this building.

This kid is also 19. This kid is also an immigrant, this time coming from Ethiopia. This kid is also an American citizen. This kid is also a kid. 

He tampered with evidence and now faces jail time for up to eight years.

And I can’t get over the fact that all of those involved who are still alive are 19 years old. I can’t wrap my head around this.

Think about the ages of the victims and the folks involved in the activity: 8 year-old, 23 year-old, 29 year-old for victims;19 year-old, 27 year-old – alleged bombers. And then another three 19 year-olds arrested last night for tampering with evidence.

My heart weeps for a generation. They were too young too die – and the others are too young to lose their lives through these horrific choices.

Never has there been more money and time put into anti-violence programs in this country. Anti-bullying campaigns have sprung up across the country. People are begging for a stop to violence, whether it be bombings, shootings, or bullies. Yet never have we seen so much sustained violent activity.

And this is only Boston – a safe and wealthy city.

My mind and heart move on to Syria where war has created an environment where children grow up too soon; where young kids sit on street corners trimming vegetables to make some hard-earned pennies, where little girls stand in bread lines, lucky if they are not raped in the process.

And so I weep for a generation that feels unfairly lost, unfairly violated, unfairly portrayed.

What can I do to change that? I’m one person! I can barely handle my stuff, let alone the stuff that, in the big scheme of things, is so much more serious.

But the sun still came up today and we are seeing our fifth day of sunshine in a row. Birds are chirping and a bright red cardinal sits in the tree that is blossoming purple down the road (Whoever said red and purple can’t go together?!) The river is alive with sail boats, the walk beside the river equally alive with people. Beauty is all around us – spring has entered with as much gusto and strength as winter ever had. During those cold days of dark, spring was moving underneath the cold and dark – change was coming.

So in the midst of this I proclaim the goodness of God, a God who cares about kids, who said “Bring the kids! Let them hear!” Who told us we too should become like children, who said “Let the little children come unto me – do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”*

A God who loves kids, who weeps for a generation, who refuses to give up but continues His redemptive work even though I can’t always see it.

In the midst of my cries to God for the kids I remember a passage – from one of my most favorite books on ever earth: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Aslan

“They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps he has already landed,” [said Beaver].

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” 

My heart overflows with irrational joy for indeed – Aslan is on the Move.

*Matthew 19:14

“How Much Did You Write?”

“How much did you write?” by Robynn

Our eleven year old Bronwynn was recently baptized. At our church the Pastor has each person prepare a statement to read or recite before he baptizes them. Often it’s the story of Jesus meeting them in the midst of their selfishness, in the middle of their agonies, in the center of their sin. The stories tell of hope and change, of God’s mercy, of His unending capacity to redeem.

It’s my favourite part of the service.

The night before the Big Baptism Day Bronwynn called her dad and I into our room. We sat on the bed and listened to her read through her testimony. She gave us permission to make one comment, one change. Her writing was so heartfelt it didn’t need much changing. I suggested substituting “Jesus” for “God” in talking about who died on the cross. Her dad suggested rearranging one sentence for the sake of clarity. But that was it. I went on to share that perhaps she might read it a tad slower but she cut me off mid sentence with exasperation, “You’ve already had your one thing mom!”

The Big Baptism Day was remarkable. There were five people who shared their encounters with Jesus. Five people got wet, well…six, if you count Pastor Steve who stood in the water with each person, and said, “I baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” before dunking them under the water.

I was surprised by the responses we got as parents to Bronwynn’s written testament. People wanted to know how much we had written.  Granted, Bronwynn and I are very similar. She looks an awful lot like I used to look at that age. She has a quick sense of humour. She’s tenderhearted and kind. She’s extremely talkative. We both like to write. But it was Bronwynn who wrote her story in her own words.

And yet, I like to think that Lowell and I had more than just “one thing” in her editing. I like to think that we’ve written some of our own values and virtues into her story. We’ve tried to live out our own God-stories in front of her. Surely some of that has been captured in Bronwynn’s soul and story too.

Others have written some of Bronwynn’s narrative too. Her siblings have provided personal plot twists. They’ve given her context for conflict. They’ve been an audience to some of her anecdotes. Bronwynn made reference to Sunday School in her story. Our children’s Pastor, Chris,  has loved her, laughed at her jokes, taken her seriously. Her Sunday school teacher, Miss Sue, week in and week out suggests re-writes, highlights character traits that the girls might add, circles attitudes that might need changing. Her grandparents see her in motion. They believe in her account. They take her to heart. Her teacher, Mr G, an astounding educator, has seen and affirmed potential in Bronwynn’s chronicles. She listens to him. Bronwynn has aunts and uncles, cousins, neighbours who’ve contributed to her story.

Who’s to say how much Lowell and I, as her parents wrote? Now that I think of it I suspect we did write a fair amount of it, but Bronwynn wrote it down, every bit of it, in her own words.

Oh…except we were allowed one change each!

Here’s what Bronwynn shared:

I’ll start out by telling you the most important part of my testimony. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me.  A few months ago I was thinking about dying on the cross and I went over the list of people I cared about and made another list of people I would die for. Unfortunately none of you made the cut. The list is still sitting there, in some random notebook, empty. Though you might want to know that I did make another list of people I would possibly get unconscious for. A few of you did make that list –but only family so too bad for the others. But that doesn’t really matter. What really matters is that on that day I realized the love God must have. I believed before that day but that’s the day that really changed thing. That night I asked God to come in my heart  because I realized I had never done that either.

I like that I don’t have to impress God. Even though sometimes I feel I have to impress others I know I don’t have to impress God. But there are other things I like too, like how I can talk to him and tell him everything.

I think of God like my imaginary friend but more than 500 times stronger and more than 500 times wiser and more than 500 times more powerful and more than 500 times more perfect. And not imaginary. But like my imaginary friend God is always there for me. He’s someone I can talk to and someone I can trust.

I talk to God a lot. Sometimes about random things, like, “please don’t put me in a group with that person” and a 1/3 of the time I ‘m in a group with that person. I talk to God thanking him or I ask him for help with problems. I know God is there by the little things he does like when I’m fighting with a friend and my mind is concentrating on winning the argument a random verse that I haven’t looked at for a while or the bottom line from weeks’ past Sunday’s school lessons pops in to my head.

I do wish I could see God face to face or talk to him and know he will respond –but I guess that’s a factor I’m going to have to work around.

I’m not perfect. Sometimes I doubt God or I think the Bible is (just) an amazingly written novel. I join in on the gossip and I treat others unfairly. I cheat in monopoly and I always want my way. I’m not perfect and I never will be. I have a long way to go to even be close to perfect. But I am forgiven.  I’m here to say that I want God to teach me and to guide me through the rough times that lay ahead. I want God to lead me no matter what happens. I want him to use me in whatever way he wants to. I want to be baptized because of this.*

*Truth be told—I did add some punctuation and some capital letters when I borrowed her writing for the blog. But I guess that’s what Moms….I mean Editors do!

And Change Will Come…..

Today’s beautiful post comes from my nephew, Tim. I am honored that he penned these words and sent them to me, giving me permission to post them. And I also love that Tim affectionately calls me “Aunt M”. 

20130117-071604.jpgIt is late April, and I look out my window at giant snowflakes, floating down from above. The snow remains deep on the ground, and the air is frigid. The thermometer has not risen above 45 degrees in almost six months. I knew when I moved to Northern Wisconsin that the winters would be long, and the meteorologist on TV assures me that this winter is longer than usual. He says  that spring is just around the corner, with its flowers and tree blossoms and singing birds. But I have trouble believing it. The snow just keeps coming. The cold doesn’t seem to break.

I struggle to trust that change will ever come.

My spirits are also brought low by the events of the last few weeks. Bombs at the Boston Marathon. A doctor in Philadelphia is accused of murdering newborn babies. China is picking up the pieces and burying bodies after a severe earthquake. A fertilizer factory explodes in Texas. Tornadoes. Floods. Poison in the mail. Politicians unable to agree on how to keep weapons of war off of our streets and away from our schools. Nuclear apocalypse could hit East Asia at any moment.

The world I see resembles my local weather. It is gray, cold, and chaotic. It is not how it ought to be. And I see little evidence that change will ever come.

At moments like this I am thankful for wisdom greater than myself. For the meteorologist on television assures me that we will soon experience a change in the weather. There is a great pattern at work involving the movement of our planet and energy from the sun. This pattern all but guarantees a warming of the ground and the atmosphere. The snow will turn to rain, the soil will loosen up, and the trees will begin to feel something stir in their toes. Before I know it these woods that I love will again be green, bright, and fragrant. It is simply the way of things, and though my heart may doubt, it will come to pass. Change will come.

So it is with God. Though I doubt the capacity of this world to change, and though I despair at the suffering and evil that is manifest all around, I cannot doubt the character of my God. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” (Isaiah 40:28). He is good, and His justice is assured. He will make this world right, as inevitably as winter turns to spring.

In the meantime, He wants us to help Him bring about the change. There are widows and orphans in need of help, trees to plant, and wounds to bind. And for today, there is at least some snow that still needs to be shoveled. But not for long. Not for long.

For Change Will Come. 

******************************