Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Because my heart is elsewhere...

Hello all...

Lest you spend your precious summer moments checking in on my little page here...haha!  I decided a couple of months ago that I would "officially" stop writing here.  For this season, the stories I want to listen to and tell are best heard, spoken and lived in my family, neighborhood, and work place.  With precious little time to spare (and no babies or cross-country road trips on the horizon!), I've decided I only have energy and time to pour my heart out there.  Give me a holler over email, fb, or phone though, and by all means stop by if you find yourself in southern Cal :).  Thanks for reading and your support and encouragement over the years I've deposited my thoughts here...


Thursday, March 22, 2012

God with us?

She had beautiful eyes, as blue as the sky on a perfectly clear winter day.  I bet her husband swooned over them many a time.  Her hair had just a trace of blond left among the yellow.  Her skin was incredibly dented, wrinkled, worn.  She was frustrated, feisty, tired out, 80-something years old.

She was looking for the free tax preparation, which this April happens is apparently housed on the 5th floor of the science building at the university where I teach.  After she interrupted the class across the hall, she found me in office hours and started looking for tax help.  Yesterday, during my one hour a week of solitude, it was not a very welcome interruption.

I happened to have a few quiet minutes with no students around.  Something in me clicked, and paused.  It was surreal.  Supernatural?  I listened, and noticed.  Her eyes, her skin, her labored breathing, her complaints about doctors and blood pressure medicine and coughs.  And I found myself wondering, what if this very woman was the Jesus I believe in?  Jesus on the Chemistry floor during my office hours.  Would I think her more beautiful, more important, worth taking time to listen to, talk to, and would I leave a chair out for her?  For a few minutes, she became a glimpse of my humble God, and  I stopped to make time for her.

What if I had that thought 5 minutes earlier?  Would that book salesman I just talked to seem more of a valuable person than a salesman to be annoyed with?

Driving across town on my way home then, walking around the elementary school, greeting moms and grandmas, scooping up my own dirty-faced little boys.  I glimpsed people in a way that I never have before.  Not with long hair, or strange clothes, or worn, or small, or beautiful, but each the tiniest facet in a crazy glimpse of an unfathomable God.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Conservative Christian

Nope, not writing about politics today.  OK, well, sort of.  The labels "conservative Christian voters" and "evangelical Christian voters" and all that got me thinking today.  I hear them all the time, because we do follow politics with some interest around here.  And at least this year, they kind of grate on me, because though I call myself a Christian and I've gone to church with self-identifying evangelicals my entire life, I end up feeling that I have nothing in common with the labeled groups and so many of the associated stereotypes.  And I don't really understand their voting patterns.

As for the other piece of the label, the "conservative" bit, I'm coming to appreciate others with that outlook more.  Though I tend to be more curious and progressive these days, I'm realizing that we absolutely need people who say "Wait, do we really need to change that?"  or "Wait, do we really need to get involved in that?"    Whether it's political, economic, religious, or whatever.  To my broadly stereotyping mind, conservatives (not necessarily political ones) say - let's mainly stick with how things are or were.  Libertarians let everything flex.  Liberals chase broader or newer ideas and maybe get in others' business in the process.

So what if a "conservative Christian" was just one that said "let's be more conservative in our definitions of God and Christianity and stick with the themes that God has let us in on."

God says His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  Can I stick with that instead of fitting God into this specific salvation prayer or that exact 1/20/40/60/80 year life opportunity to get it all done?  I must be getting it wrong the instant I think I have Him all figured out.

God says that He loves the whole world, and by grace we are saved.  Can I stick to that and not have a crystal clear definition of if that person or people group  is saved, or worthy, or loved?   I must be getting it wrong the second I think I have anyone's eternal destiny all figured out, including my own.

I make no claim to studying the related theology, and very well might be getting it wrong myself, but this is a kind of conservative Christianity I'm drawn by these days.

What do you think?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Big. Best. Babies.

During big and memorable times of year, like say, the holidays, it's easy for me to get caught up in stressing about doing something bigger or doing something better.

God does huge stuff.  But when He sent Jesus, he showed up as a baby.  A teeny, tiny baby, born into one family.  In one little village, in one little corner of the world, touching just the neighbors, friends and strangers that happened by.  That's big?!

God does the best stuff.  But He knows that we don't.  Maybe that's why He gives us babies, children, little opportunities for redemption.  One child taken too soon, two to redeem and replace.  A little child, a new opportunity for grandparents and parents to love better or love like they weren't.  Little ones with so many needs that if you blow it once, a chance for redemption is probably just seconds away.

My little ones, they are straight from God, precious gifts, and a visible reminder of the little Child of God sent so many, many years ago.  Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Getting what I don't deserve

What if this is God’s message? Not a message that starts by pounding you over the head with guilt, but a message that catches you when you least deserve it and pours out love to win you? Maybe it’s obvious to the rest of you, but I didn’t grow up hearing that message, and the possibility of it has been eating at me for months now.

Two months of my salary was taken, and we were fuming. It was a small offense, I came to realize later, compared to losing all your belongings, having your body or mind taken from you, losing a child. But still, these words hit my previously “enemy-less” world with a thud.

"If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. Live generously.” (Jesus, Mt. 5:41-42)

If my wallet was stolen, I’d hardly think to chase the offender and hand him my husband’s wallet too. But it would mess with his mind for sure, and probably mine too. Jesus and his Father do this sort of thing over and over. There is justice, but there is way more grace. I never noticed, I never understood. I started to, and after a few months I sent a big flower bouquet instead of a lawyer.

I glimpse this again as John and I marked 10 years of marriage and again as we live near extended family for the first time. You blow me away when you do my dishes in spite of me snapping at you. You come to my house and clean up my messes, even though all I do at your house is make messes. We see each other’s crap because we see each other every day and there is no glossing over it. We are sometimes even hurt by it, and we either let the resentment and irritation build or give an unmerited double helping of love instead.

Every time I receive love instead of what I deserve, it stops me in my tracks, makes me consider grace and mercy, and points me to a loving God. When I give one person what they don’t deserve, I start seeing everyone around me a little differently, start being gentler with them.

My lost $2000 is pocket change. Being forgiven 70x7 times by you, more notable. Forgiving a murderer? Giving them a second chance?!? This stuff starts to shake me up. It’s radical. It’s different. I want to know more about the God that would inspire this insanity, the God who catches our attention by giving us what we don’t deserve, the God who tells us to give others what they don’t deserve.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I need you...

It's easy to wish that we could be there for each other more often, lived closer, were the best friend that got the call. At least for me...

But by definition "best" sort of implies one top dog, and if we were all each others best friends, well, it just wouldn't work out. Growing a little older, sending Christmas cards to the trail of states we've left behind, I'm appreciating more and more the tapestry of people that make my life happen, that make my life happy. I need each and every one of you, and I hope you'll stick around for a good many years.

I need you so that I have friends to stay with when I visit Fargo. Or Lincoln. Or Grand Rapids.

I need you to cheer me up when you smile and say a kind word as I parade my family around the grocery store.

I need you to talk about not going to church, so that years later I have a companion when I'm going to church less.

I need you to go out for drinks in the backyard or downtown suburbia, even if we just met, so we feel less lonely.

I need you to hold a family sing-a-long every year so that when I move back to town, I'm enveloped with a sense of my own family belonging to a larger one.

I need you to pick my daughter up from school so that I can go to work.

I need you to send me a birthday card every single year.

I need you to need me.

I need you to be an old friend so that whenever we meet up again, I don't have to explain my entire family history.

I need you to compete against in a friendly game. It's not everyone's cup of tea, you know!

I need you to be dependably by my side every single day.

I need you to have issues. So I know that my screaming child or depressed day or mistake are normal. And we can lift each other up with understanding when need be.

I need you to give me a big hug.

I need you to chat with while walking up or down the hill to school every day.

Now that I've started, this list could really go on for a very long time. So if I've missed you in these first few thoughts, don't even start to think that I don't need you.

Because I absolutely do.

Christmas splurge?

Live happens in neatly packaged (stressful!) semesters around here. One just ended, so I'm going to see if I can in indulge in putting a few of my scattered thoughts to "paper" here this break...