Monday, August 4, 2014

Redo, Please


Dear Christa—
Jokingly, I said to the orthopedic doctor this morning, “I think I’m healed.” And he surprised me when he replied, “I think you’re right. See your x-ray? It looks good…real good.”
At first I was so happy. Happy to unsnap that brace for the last time, knowing I’d never have to pull it up again because it wouldn’t stay in place. Happy I wouldn’t have to start school tugging and yanking on that annoying thing. Happy to finally after 6 weeks to bend my knee…at least as far as it would go.
But later, I felt like I wanted a redo. A redo of summer. My body feels like summer is just beginning, yet my brain reminds me that I start back to work next Thursday.
It’s not the first time I’ve wanted a redo.
I’ve taught classes that I’ve been grateful for another chance at the next year. I’ve visited places I’ve wanted to redo and do better because I love the people I’m with and they love me.
The next time I walk to Pike Market in Seattle, I’m hoping to see more than a park bench and ice on a swollen knee.
But, mostly I’ve wanted to redo relationships.
At times relationships ebb and flow like the tide at the ocean’s shore. Sometimes they’re so close, and the next thing you know they’re distant, and I’m wondering when and how things got that way.
Maybe I was inattentive. Maybe it wasn’t me at all. Maybe I will never know.
But, unlike summer, relationships can have a redo. It isn’t easy. It takes time, and it takes focus. It takes changing priorities. It takes cooperation. And desire. And prayer. And a bunch of other stuff.  
Then, one day, it’s healed. That relationship won’t look the same under an x-ray. In life, things happen we always wish hadn’t. But, it can be strong, and it can be good. Kind of like bending a knee that hasn’t bent in six weeks.
And maybe I can even dance by the first dance of autumn.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Broken Bodies

Dear Christa,
Since breaking my patella a week ago, I’ve gained new insight and appreciation concerning Paul’s comments on the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:14-27. It’s too long to type out here, but you know the passage I’m talking about, the one where all the parts work together. And boy, is it ever true.
When one part of the body isn’t working, it makes all the other parts have to work harder and pick up jobs that aren’t theirs. It really does take 2 legs to hold up the body. Sometimes the muscles in my arms ache worse than the knee that’s fractured from supporting my weight on crutches.
Not only do the other parts have to work harder to compensate, but nothing works as well. The windows remain dirty, the freezer not defrosted, my morning walk not taken. Things I’d planned to do will not get done, not until later. Washing windows and defrosting freezers are not significant, and there will be time to do them once my knee is healed. But, what about the work of the body of Christ? What happens when broken parts hinder the whole?
A body part not working right doesn’t just have the negative effect of how it affects the others. A broken part is a broken part, and it needs to be tended to. I can’t ignore this knee. That’s impossible. It has to be cared for. If not, it won’t get better. We can’t ignore hurting Christians anymore than I could pretend this broken kneecap didn’t exist. When one is hurting, the rest must help. It is only right.
All the people of Christ are so important. There are no insignificant people. When John Donne proclaimed in Meditation 17 that “no man is an island” and that what happens to one happens to all, he was establishing the value and interconnection of every person. 
Perhaps keeping the body of Christ fit and healthy is not mostly an act of being proficient, but more an act of love. I can say that I have gained new appreciation for my knee. When it’s back in service, maybe my feet will pick themselves up a little higher. Maybe my eyes will look where the body is going instead of being distracted.
And, maybe I won’t get frustrated if I have to pick up some extra work for a hurting person. Maybe I’ll pay a little more attention of how to benefit the people around me. I hope so.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Losing Hope


Dear Christa—
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Prov. 13:12
I’ve been reading in Proverbs this summer—So much good advice, so much I haven’t followed. Sometimes I’ve felt guilty—wondered why anyone would want to read these words—wondered how they all fit together to bring us to a loving God Who redeems. Yet they do.
This morning, this verse, resonated with me. In my nearly 60 years, I’ve found it so true. When we have our heart set—when we wish for “it” (whatever that is) so badly, and it vanishes like the mist over the mountains on a Colorado summer morning—it is so discouraging.
It makes me feel isolated and lost—regardless of how much those who love me come along side. Maybe you have or do feel so down this morning. One moment the hope is there—so close you could pull it into your heart. Then—in an instant that epiphany, that phone call, that decision dissolves it before your very eyes.
Hope deferred truly does make the heart sick.
Yet, deferred means “not yet.” It doesn’t mean “not ever.”
Isn’t it wonderful the significance that one word can carry? Deferred means not yet, which gives all the more glory to the second part of the verse: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
No one can have a longing fulfilled who hasn’t had a hope deferred. 
The very waiting has purpose. 
I have seen it in my own life and others a multitude of times.
I’m learning to rest in the waiting. It’s been a long road—60 years. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the green in winter when all seemed dead and lost. Maybe I’m just numb. Yet, even so, it’s easy to lose hope.
If you’re heartsick today, lift up [your] eyes to the hills no longer covered in mist. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Ps. 121:1-2
I often think of these verses when my heart is sick. They help me to have hope when hope is deferred. And I want to remember them, too, in the day of rejoicing, because a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Monday, May 26, 2014

From Genesis to Now: the Tower of Babel



Dear Christa—

I guess sometimes people can just talk too much. I suppose sometimes we just need to know when to stop.
The second year I taught (nearly 30 years ago), I had vocal nodes. What was crazy about it was that I was teaching a small kindergarten class of 6 exceptionally well behaved and precious little kids. But, the sweet little class was in a rather large room of the church, and the speech therapist decided I was speaking to the room and not the class. (And the fact that I had the “Oh, Holy Night” solo in the Christmas cantata, which was way too high for me surely exacerbated the situation.) She also uncovered an anger issue, but we’ll just let that one go for now.
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there…Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Gen. 7
Seeing the therapist was humiliating for me. Having minored in voice, I felt indignant this had happened. I wanted to do everything that I wanted to do.
Yet, the day before the first performance of the cantata, I awoke totally silent. I had no voice at all.
The result, though, was longer lasting than sessions with a speech therapist I didn’t care for, who in reality was probably quite nice: voice rest for weeks, except during the afternoons that I taught—no singing for six months and a voice that has always been weak all these many long years. So I learned to be quiet. And I learned that I am rather prideful.
So, the descendants of those who were saved in the ark became prideful. They intended to build their city and a tower to the sky. They chose themselves. They wanted to do everything they wanted to do, whether it was good or not.
I no longer teach a handful of little children, and a lingering cough has brought back old sensations in the throat that I don’t want to ignore. School was over last week, and now I really can choose to be quiet. I hope that this will be a summer I choose to listen and not babble.
Sometimes we talk too much, and sometimes we just need to stop.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Leaving the Boat


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Leaving the Boat
There’s that problem that never ends—the rift that seems to never heal. Sometimes, it seems that winter will drag on forever.
Have you ever felt like you were stuck in a dark boat on the high tide of a raging sea?
Back in our childhood Sunday school days, we learned that it rained for 40 days and 40 nights after God shut Noah, his family, and all the animals into the ark. But, it’s easy to forget just how long they stayed there—long after the rain stopped.
There must have been times the small band of people felt isolated and forgotten.
But, that was not so.
And, as weeks turned to months and months turned to a year, God was at work.
Likely, Teutonic plates were being shifted, high mountains were uplifted and continents drifted apart. Yet, Noah and his kin sat alone in what surely seemed a dark hole.
I wonder as they heard the timbers creak if they ever looked around and wished they’d taken more care in the building process. They were safe, but I doubt they always felt like it. After all, a year is a long time.
Then, one day—Genesis 8:1 tells us—“God remembered Noah.” It wasn’t that He’d forgotten him; it was just that it was finally time for him to quit sitting around. At first he sent out birds and eventually he took off the cover, and finally they all stepped out onto dry ground.
No wonder they made sacrifices first thing. It’s easy to praise God when He lifts us out of the dark. It also doesn’t take us long to forget.
A couple of days ago it snowed, but on this early Saturday morning, I hear the birds chirping outside. They have returned. Winter is ending and summer approaches.
It’s time to get out of dark and walk toward the Light.



Sunday, April 27, 2014

There Will Be Tulips


 Dear Christa—
Yesterday Jay turned on the sprinkler system. So, tonight as I sat here in quiet for the first time in a long time, the water kicked on. At first it startled me because I didn’t expect it. Then as I watched the droplets of water shower down on grass that’s trying to revive out of winter’s deep sleep, I thought of how satisfying a drink of water can be, and how often the refreshing of the soul is linked to water imagery in Scripture.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)
For all the years that I’ve lived in Colorado, I still miss the spring that never comes. A couple of weeks a go, I pushed back some mulch and scratched around in the dust, looking for a sign of the tulips we’d planted last fall. Disappointed, I figured the bulbs I’d bought on sale just weren’t any good. Then, with a single day of rain last week, suddenly they were there.
There will be tulips. It might be June, but eventually they will bob their little blooms in the air. And suddenly, it will be summer. But before then, when the sky withholds the rain, Jay will help them along in his well-watered garden.
I love flowers and gardens, and I love this verse. I think the hot, dry wind of the Southwest can sometimes suck the very life out of you, and life’s struggles can weigh us down. So, it’s good to hear the voice of the Lord in Isaiah. He will guide; He will satisfy; He will strengthen.
Winter is over, and it’s time to drink deep—deep into the Word of God. Hear Isaiah’s voice once again, settle back, take a deep breath, and find strength in His Word:
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.








Thursday, April 10, 2014

From Genesis to Now: Judgment


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Judgment
I wonder when Jesus stopped being Mary’s son and became her Lord. It did happen. There had to have been a change, slow or fast, when Mary no longer looked at Jesus as a child she bore and raised and recognized him for who is was and is—Creator God.
As children grow, we parent less and less in many ways, but this was different. Jesus never was really Mary’s. He was God, and she was just a vessel—a vessel used to bring redemption.
There came a time in history when God brought severe judgment on the earth, not just a nation or region, but the entire earth. Those who peopled the earth were mighty and strong—“heroes of old”—legends that perhaps became myth. Mighty though they were, they were not godly. They should have recognized God for God, but they did not. And then came judgment.
People don’t like to talk about judgment these days. We’d rather view Jesus as Mary’s son, a child. And it is true that Jesus did come as a child, but by the time He agonized in Gethsemane, this was no mere mortal, even in comparison to the heroes of old. This was God, very God. And all those things Mary had pondered in her heart years before surely came back to her again. This was not her son. This was her God.
And even though Jesus brought redemption, He is still a God of judgment. Power and prestige will not remove us from the eyes of God. Redeemer on one hand, judge on the other.
Mary was a vessel—a vessel who recognized her God. We should do no less.