Sunday, July 31, 2011

pondering perfection

So what did you do this weekend? :)

That's me on the starboard bow rafting the Ocoee River. Twenty-eight of us had a fabulous adventure weekend together. My "perfect moment"? When the guide let us hop out of the boat to float down the river a while. Once the current slowed down, I just put my hands behind my head and looked up at the sky as the water carried me slowly down. It was perfect blue, with perfect white fluffy clouds. The water was the perfect temperature. My ears were underwater, I couldn't hear a thing. I just rested there, enjoying it all, with a heart full of "Thank You".

As I look back on it now, it makes me think of this song...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

pondering brave peacemakers

women of the future hold the big revelations

From the New York Times, for those who need to read something positive and beautiful today...

Where Politics Are Complex, Simple Joys at the Beach

TEL AVIV — Skittish at first, then wide-eyed with delight, the women and girls entered the sea, smiling, splashing and then joining hands, getting knocked over by the waves, throwing back their heads and ultimately laughing with joy.

Most had never seen the sea before.

The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws.

In the grinding rut of Israeli-Palestinian relations — no negotiations, mutual recriminations, growing distance and dehumanization — the illicit trip was a rare event that joined the simplest of pleasures with the most complex of politics. It showed why coexistence here is hard, but also why there are, on both sides, people who refuse to give up on it.

“What we are doing here will not change the situation,” said Hanna Rubinstein, who traveled to Tel Aviv from Haifa to take part. “But it is one more activity to oppose the occupation. One day in the future, people will ask, like they did of the Germans: ‘Did you know?’ And I will be able to say, ‘I knew. And I acted.’ ”

Such visits began a year ago as the idea of one Israeli, and have blossomed into a small, determined movement of civil disobedience.

Ilana Hammerman, a writer, translator and editor, had been spending time in the West Bank learning Arabic when a girl there told her she was desperate to get out, even for a day. Ms. Hammerman, 66, a widow with a grown son, decided to smuggle her to the beach. The resulting trip, described in an article she wrote for the weekend magazine of the newspaper Haaretz, prompted other Israeli women to invite her to speak, and led to the creation of a group they call We Will Not Obey. It also led a right-wing organization to report her to the police, who summoned her for questioning.

In a newspaper advertisement, the group of women declared: “We cannot assent to the legality of the Law of Entry into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right. They are not permitted free movement within the occupied territories nor are they allowed into the towns and cities across the green line, where their families, their nation, and their traditions are deeply rooted.

“They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day.”

The police have questioned 28 Israeli women; their cases are pending. So far, none of the Palestinian women and girls have been caught or questioned by the police.

The beach trip last week followed a pattern: the Palestinian women went in disguise, which meant removing clothes rather than covering up. They sat in the back seats of Israeli cars driven by middle-aged Jewish women and took off headscarves and long gowns. As the cars drove through an Israeli Army checkpoint, everyone just waved.

Earlier, the Israelis had dropped off toys and equipment at the home of one of the Palestinian women, who is setting up a kindergarten. The Israelis also help the Palestinian women with medical and legal troubles.

Israel’s military, which began limiting Palestinian movement into Israel two decades ago to prevent terrorism at a time of violent uprisings, is in charge of issuing permits for Palestinian visits to Israel. About 60,000 will be issued this year, twice the number for 2010 but still a token amount for a population of 2.5 million. Ms. Hammerman views the permits as the paperwork of colonialist bureaucrats — to be resisted, not indulged. Others have attacked her for picking and choosing which laws she will and will not obey.

The Palestinian visitors came with complicated histories. In most of their families the men have been locked up at some point. For example, Manal, who had never been to the sea before, is 36, the mother of three and pregnant; five of her brothers are in Israeli prisons, and another was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife.

She brought with her an unsurprising stridency. “This is all ours,” she said in Tel Aviv. She did not go home a Zionist, but in the course of the day her views seemed to grow more textured — or less certain — as she found comfort in the company of Israeli women who said that they, too, had a home on this land.

Another visitor lives in a refugee camp with her husband and children. Her husband’s family does not approve of her visits (“ ‘How can you be with the Jews?’ they ask me. ‘Are you a collaborator?’ ”) but she did not hide the relief she felt at leaving her overcrowded camp for a day of friends and fun.

The beach trips — seven so far — have produced some tense moments. An effort to generate interest in a university library fell flat. An invitation to spend the night met with rejection by Palestinian husbands and fathers. Home-cooked Israeli food did not make a big impression. And at a predominantly Jewish beach, a policeman made everyone nervous.

So, on this latest visit, the selected beach was one in Jaffa that is frequented by Israeli Arabs. Nobody noticed the visitors.

Dinner was a surprise. Hagit Aharoni, a psychotherapist and the wife of the celebrity chef Yisrael Aharoni, is a member of the organizing group, so the beachgoers dined on the roof of the Aharonis’ home, five floors above stylish Rothschild Boulevard, where hundreds of tents are currently pitched by Israelis angry with the high cost of housing. The guests loved Mr. Aharoni’s cooking. They lighted cigarettes — something they cannot do in public at home — and put on joyous Palestinian music. As the pink sun set over the Mediterranean, they danced with their Israeli friends.

Ms. Aharoni was asked her thoughts. She replied: “For 44 years, we have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my life I have been an occupier. I don’t want to be an occupier. I am engaged in an illegal act of disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right.”

pondering the book of love

Richard Beck has once again written something that echoes my heart and experience so closely that I'd rather just have you go read him than try to express it myself. I share it not just for me, but for those I love who are experiencing similar situations. You know who you are. They may say we're dreamers, but we're not the only ones... and if you ask me, we're in pretty good company.

Read his post, then continue here, where I've shared my comment. Wrapped up in my comment is a post I'd actually written on this blog months ago titled Faith, Hope, and Love. Here is my comment (written today).

So here's the deal...
reading this scares the $hi* out of me. Seriously. Because this is exactly the trajectory I am on. I went for a silence retreat to just turn off all the questions and be with God a few months ago, and found myself walking a prayer path. before long, as I walked, I found myself reciting "faith, hope, and love" in rhythm with my steps. I got to the labyrinth and made my way to the middle ... when I got there someone before me had taken rocks and laid them on the large center stone in the shape of a heart. And that's when it was a like a bright light shone in my heart, screaming "and now abide these three: faith, hope, and love.... stop fretting over your faith. I won't lose you. You've now moved on to hope - that is good. Your faith is the root of your hope, your hope doesn't denounce your faith. Now leave from here and learn to walk in Love, for only there can you truly know Me."This was a very real experience. Mystical? I don't know. I'm not supposed to believe in such things...and yet my heart leaps at it. I'm clinging to those words for dear life, because so much around me right now is telling me this is all false.This comment is getting very long but I'll wrap with the fact that for me all this is expressed quite well in the new Death Cab for Cutie song You Are a Tourist. I feel like a tourist ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

pondering peace and happy feet

A few posts back I said that I'd been pondering the difference between keeping the peace and being a peacemaker. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers... but He did anything BUT "keep the peace". What do we do with that? How is that made tangible, practical in our own lives? When is it worth it to be divisive?

I don't have answers to this question, I'm still sitting in it myself. But I see flickers of Light all around me. I first of all see Jesus, who continually challenged the status quo in order to literally MAKE peace - reconciling the world to God. I see all the people we call heroes who practiced nonviolent protest in order to MAKE peace for those who were under the boot of oppression. And I see people who are brave enough to show the world their true selves, even though critics whisper, "Not here! Not now! Shh!"

And last night saw it during our family movie night: Happy Feet. I'd never seen Happy Feet (I know, where have I been?) I can only say that the timing was perfect. It moved me (and by that I don't just mean it got my flabby butt off the couch to dance, which it did!) Mumble was pushed by the elders to keep the peace, to not upset things, to change himself or at the very least keep-himself-to-himself, for the greater good.

But that didn't bring greater good - not for him, not for anyone.

In the end he was a peace-MAKER... simply by being himself. That required a lot of heart and courage. But never once was he selfish. Never once was it, "I'll show you - I can do and say and be whatever the hell I want, so there!" No. He loved his family and his flock (flock, right? are penguins a flock? LOL)

I have so much more to say about this but my kids need breakfast. So for now, I leave you with this... :) Enjoy, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the difference between making peace and keeping the peace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

you can listen to Sandra's New Old Hymns online here

Found a link with lyrics and a chance to listen to the songs! I plan to teach New Wonders and Can't Help Myself to the girls I'm taking rafting this weekend. But I love the entire Feast or Fallow album, would make wonderful worship music for any group. So calm, peaceful, thoughtful...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

pondering lyrics

You may have noticed that I'm a wee bit obsessed with Sandra McCracken these days. I'll venture a bet - if you like reading what I have to say, then you'll love what she has to say. Go download Feast or Fallow and Red Balloon (2 albums) as soon as you have $20 to spare. You won't regret it. Very little of her stuff is on youtube so you can't cheat - but take the plunge, pay the money - it's worth it. I've had her on "repeat" for days now and it keeps getting better.

This song sounds like she's been eaves-dropping in my prayer closet for the past several months....

Big Blue Sky (from Red Balloon)

All of the walls in the rooms of the house
Are the usual shape and size
I'm just a person who can't be for certain that I'm gonna fit inside
Oh, I've been tryin' and tryin' but it makes me tired.

So I went to the circus and pulled back the curtains
Thought maybe I'd find some room
But all of the clowns and the elephant sounds disappear like a red balloon
Oh, I wonder if I could ever tell lies from the truth.

You are the water
I am an iceberg
Under a big blue sky

All of the people are lined up and labeled
Like cans at the grocery store
But still we are waiting and watching and making and wanting and taking more.
Oh, I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

You are the water
I am an iceberg
Under a big blue sky

You are the water
I am an iceberg
Under a big blue sky

pondering peacefulness

Peace (for me) is sitting in a creek, surrounded by shade-trees, not making a sound, listening to the water, thanking the Maker, stacking rocks, and not thinking about anything. Today I taught my kids how to do this. They've always loved Montreat, but today - after literally hours of creekwalking/rock-hopping - I called them to be still. To "learn of me", if you will. And once they started, they didn't want to stop either.

Now the question: who has a place in Montreat we can house-sit for the rest of the summer? I so want to move... at least till fall.

Ah, thankful for sweet peace. And for a husband who loves these adventures, values this time, as much or more than I do.

A good day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

pondering parties

what I learned from my son's 11th birthday party...

it doesn't matter if you don't feel like you've made "friends at school". instead just be who you are. keep yourself open. you'll find yourself surrounded by love from unexpected sources.

the real treasures in life: families - families - families!

there's a lot of fun to be had in "the wrong part of town" (puh-leeeze)

parties are MUCH more fun with a variety than with 20 same-age, same-gender kids

there's great joy to be had in introducing people you love to one another, then watching them instantly & completely hit it off. kind of an affirmation, somehow.

kids don't care if it's home-made

it's okay if crowds aren't your thing

you're never too old for a pinata

"don't look before you laugh, look ugly in a photograph" (yeah that's me!)

older kids serving younger enriches both

fancy is only needed if that's who you are. some ooze that special something which makes everything they touch turn to gold. I love the gatherings/spaces/yummies that they create. but that's not me. "me" is water balloons, take out pizza, Trader Joe's bought mini-cupcakes, water bottles in a cooler, and a sparsely filled pinata. turns out being me not only makes things a lot easier for me to enjoy my PEOPLE, it's a pretty big hit with them, too. that's kinda nice to know.

so my son, who doesn't have the easiest time making friends at school spent his 11th birthday surrounded by 40(?) people who don't just LIKE him, they LOVE him.

we know it. he knows it.



stuff waiting to be written:

the difference between "keeping the peace" and being a peacemaker

strength and weakness as explained by Paul Tillich and experienced recently by me

the weight of affirmation and the idea that maybe that is true definition of "glory"

sustenance of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil vs. being fed from the tree of life

posting here for your pre-pondering pleasure, and to remind myself to bring each one to fruition in the near future. if I fail to, someone poke me!

pondering paul's conclusion

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.

So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!

For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.

May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, yes!

(Galatians 6, The Message)

Friday, July 15, 2011

pondering a best and beautiful ending

I feel like I should add a few thoughts of my own but I simply don't have any... I adore Richard Beck and am so thankful he wrote this brief, clear, truly beautiful explanation of his point of view. Because it's mine as well.

Just in case you don't bother to click and read, here are the last few paragraphs:

To state my contention clearly: The apocalyptic visions of judgment found in the New Testament are not intended to be descriptions of the end of the story. They are, simply, visions of judgment. The mistake has been to assume that this vision of judgment is a vision of the end. The result is the introduction of a radical asymmetry into the Biblical story. An asymmetry that, theologically and aesthetically, has and continues to cause a great deal of head scratching (e.g., Why would a loving God create a world where the vast majority are doomed to perdition?).

The reason this asymmetry is introduced into the story is, in my view, due to the fact that many readers of the New Testament lose touch with the prophetic imagination, the way the prophets described the end of the story, the events after Yahweh’s judgments. In the narrative arch of the prophetic imagination judgment and the ending of the story are distinct. They are not synonymous. After the harshest and most hellish of God’s punishments and judgments, the hesed of God is always in Israel’s future. In the prophetic imagination love wins.

In short, what I’m suggesting is that the visions of the “lake of fire” and of “God being all in all” do not have to be read against each other, where the moral asymmetry of judgment is read (as it generally is) as trumping the symmetry of the eschatological culmination on display in the Christological hymns. If we allow the narrative aesthetics of the prophets to guide our readings we find that we have two different pictures oftwo different parts of the story. Judgment followed by God reconciling “all things,” where “every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

So what is the best ending to the Christian story? Opinions will vary. And perhaps some, following Stanley Hauerwas, will wonder if best is even a theological category. So let me nominate something a bit different: the most beautiful ending, the end of the story sung about in the Christological hymns of Colossians and Philippians. If only because poets know a thing or two about beauty.

"Abba is very fond of you".~Brennan Manning

First, from the Internet Monk:

Let’s be honest. Brennan Manning isn’t an exegete or a expositor. He’s a Catholic. He’s a mystic. He’s a story-teller. He’s sloppy. He makes no attempt at neat Systematics. He quotes other writers, some of them a bit off the farm. He repeats the same ideas and stories in almost every book. He never seems to be anything other than weak and in desperate need of help from God. His prose is occasionally excessive and sometimes obscure. He can be frustrating, puzzling and disturbing.

And Brennan Manning is, for my life (and the lives of thousands of other devoted readers), simply the most indispensably authentic writer on the God of Jesus Christ I’ve ever encountered. Brennan knows Jesus and can bring you right there like no other writer of our time.

One thing I can say for every critic who finds Manning “a waste of time:” They are not longing, in the midst of the wreckage of their own souls, to hear, existentially and constantly, the assurance of God’s absolute love and affection. I can say this with some certainty, because no one can compare to the ability of Brennan Manning to stop you and embrace you with the astonishing love of God.

Yes, I do believe that. And it has made all the difference...


pondering Potter

yes, we went to the midnight showing. loved it but feeling sort of anti-climactic now.

and that's all the pondering you're going to get out of me. it's 3:03 AM.

tomorrow I'll be pondering a nap if I get the chance :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

pondering loving ourselves

Have I mentioned how much I love my Galatians Girls? I think I have but I'll say it again. I love this group!

Tonight after reading through Galatians 5 together - aloud round robin style from The Message - one of "my girls" asked a great question. We were discussing this phrase,

For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom.

She said something to the effect of, "I know there are a lot of similar passages in scripture to this one, but are there many that say much about loving your SELF? Because sometimes that's the hardest thing."

We talked about that together - good, healthy discussion. But as I drove home I had more rolling in my head, so I sent this email... and I thought I'd share it here, too.

I wanted to share that I've been thinking more on that question about whether scripture has much to say about us loving ourSELVES. And here's what came to mind...

Honestly? No. Not much I can think of. I'd love to hear others' answers.

BUT!! (a big but)

There's a TON (including Jesus' entire LIFE) about how much GOD LOVES US. And I believe therein is the key. Not mustering up love for ourselves, but BELIEVING in FAITH that our Maker and Father loves us! Loves us, is crazy about us, is literally head over heels for us. Owning that identity as His Beloved. That redemptive identity (awesome phrase!) of living loved is a beautiful and powerful thing. When you are loved well you are free to love, filled up to love...

I think this is infinitely more important than somehow trying to love ourselves, and YET, if we believe and accept His love for us, we can't help but love everything He loves. And that includes us :)

Hope this makes some amount of sense :)

Love to all of you!

ps - enjoy this version of He Loves Us :)

this song also comes to mind

would any readers of this blog care to add anything? please comment if so!

pondering Sandra McCracken

I have a new obsession. Hadn't heard of her before Sunday. Wondering now how that is possible? You friends of mine who know and love her, I have one word... HELLO??? :)

A hero, a serpent, a lost coin
Most days I could be any one
And all the time that we're wasting
Wondering whose side we are on... I don't wanna lose you

she who has been loved much has so much to give
mercy is the fragrance of the broken

check her out...

Monday, July 11, 2011

pondering words

This is how much of a geek I really am. I think about stuff like this while I'm mowing the lawn. Which, by the way, is one of my very favorite things to do. Gets me outdoors. Gets the sweat going so that I know I've really DONE something. And gives me a chance to drown out all other noise and be alone with my thoughts. Which is usually music (anything from Mumford and Sons to Lady Gaga to Gungor) but tonight my thoughts got moving along a particular path: words.

I won't look up chapter and verse right now because frankly I don't feel like it (gonna down this Woodchuck Hard Cider: Summer - which is AMAZINGLY quenching by the way - YUM, then take a bath). Just jotting my thoughts down, not doing that hard-work-research tonight. That'll be for another time.


All this started with Mumford and Sons in my earbuds singing, "Can you kneel before the King and say I'm clean?" (white blank page)

That got me to thinking about Isaiah before God in Heaven, saying "I am a man of unclean lips" and the angel laying a hot coal (or something) on his mouth. Funny to me that the thing he'd be most concerned about is his lips, and how purifying those made him okay to be in the presence of God. Hmm....

Then I thought about how weird it is in Revelation that the "sword" comes out of Jesus' mouth. Anyone but me and my friend Bill think maybe that could be a metaphor for words rather than a sci-fi-worthy image of a blood bath?

Then I thought about James (and I'm pretty sure Solomon or whoever wrote those particular Proverbs, too) said that the power of life and death are in the tongue, and that it would be easier to tame a wild mustang than the tongue (paraphrase mine).

And then I thought again about Jesus, this time how He said that if we don't confess Him with our mouth that He won't remember us to His Father (or something close to that).

And then I thought about how He said, "From the heart the mouth speaks".

I could go on and on ...

There's something much more powerful and relevant going on than whether or not I say "dammit", in these verses. To reduce such scripture to something as menial as cussing or even gossiping is a gross exercise in missing the point, I'm guessing.

So I wonder what that point is?

Does it have anything to do with the verse that teaches us, "Anyone who says Christ is Lord does so by the power of the Holy Spirit?" and if so, how does that inform our reading of the promise that "Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord?"

hmm.... I wonder.

pondering perseverance

This is the latest article I've written for Autism Asperger's Digest - it will be printed in the October issue, but I'm sharing it here early because, frankly, not may people read my blog :) If you are interested in learning about Autism/Asperger's, I highly recommend this periodical. I write "The Sweet Spot" column (parent's point of view) in each issue, but I find ALL the articles helpful/informative.

and with that, enjoy :)

Got Character?

It was unusually hot the morning our family participated in the Run Too Overcome 5K (an annual event that raises funds and awareness for the exceptional children’s departments of our local schools). My husband, our four children, and I had made an eager start, but we’d barely reached the 1K mark when Luke (our oldest, who has Asperger’s Syndrome) hit the wall. It wasn’t physical exhaustion; Luke has grown used to long hikes and bike rides with the family. But several factors combined to make this an especially intolerable experience. To begin with, it was Saturday morning - his day “off.” It was hot. And we were aimlessly (from his point of view) walking through town on roads meant for cars, in the middle of a great visual sea of people. This might have been tolerable, but there was no motivation, no purpose that had been well communicated to him. And so, with no end in sight, he lay down on the pavement and refused to move. In some ways, he was unable to move. He was done.

Over an hour later my husband and other three children, who had finished long before, stood with the crowd of people waiting at the finish line. Luke and I held hands as we made our way toward them, keeping a slow but steady pace. I can’t recall precisely what transpired in the interim, but at some point along the way Luke experienced a tipping point where he decided he could do this after all. And so, he did. I let go of his hand and jogged in, which made him the absolute last person to finish the event. He walked under the checkered flag, completely unimpressed by the cheers of the crowd, and – without the slightest pause- walked straight to the car.

A fun morning? Not exactly. But the point is, he did it.

Perseverance. The more I get to know people on the spectrum I’m convinced they know more of the true meaning of this word than do any of us. They endure so much we can’t even imagine. My son now tolerates many things that used to send him into a panic. Does that mean these things don’t bother him anymore? Not necessarily. Adults on the spectrum explain it's less accurate to say they are no longer sensitive to such stimuli; rather, they’ve learned to cope. I admire that so much!

I remember listening to Aspie Stephen Shore, a well-known writer and autism advocate, speak once. He explained the frustration of being "high functioning" because, as he put it, people tend to forget and assume you're “just like them.” Then, when you do have a problem of some sort, they become disappointed or annoyed. It is easy to forget that people on the spectrum expend a lot of mental energy tolerating a million different assaults upon their sensory systems and social boundaries. I’m starting to see this reality in Luke's life. He’s almost a teenager now. When he was in kindergarten it didn’t take a rocket scientist to notice, “Something is different with this one.” But now? Well, now it’s less obvious that he processes the world differently, which is what we all wanted for him. But in some ways that makes his life all that much harder.

I’m grateful there are people in Luke’s life who do “get it.” Surprisingly (or not?), those people have been his peers. I say “or not” because I’m coming to appreciate that when you take time to inform kids and answer their honest curiosities about autism, they most often respond with compassion, understanding, and tolerance. Last fall I’d had the pleasure of talking to Luke’s classmates the first week of school, to give them insight into the challenges Asperger's Syndrome presented for Luke. In the months that passed they came to appreciate Luke’s positive attitude and sense of humor, while also growing acutely aware of his quirks and challenges. He hadn’t had a perfect year. Some days were harder than others, like the morning he told his classroom teacher that he needed to talk to the principal. She allowed it, and so Luke walked in “like a man” (as the principal later described to me), cleared his throat and announced, “I want to be fired. I want you to fire me from school.” Of course it took everything in the principal’s power to keep a straight face and convince him, “I can’t fire you Luke, I need you here, man.” Luke sighed, thanked him for his time, and went back to class.

As the year came to a close the class was asked to vote for one student who would receive the character award for perseverance. They chose Luke! Then it was time to choose a grade-level representative from all the classroom winners. Again, they chose Luke. Finally the entire school had to choose one student who would represent them for the character trait of perseverance. They chose Luke!

Perseverance. Yes, he’d earned this honor.

Were we proud? I’m not ashamed to admit that we told everyone! No spelling-bee-winner’s parents could have been prouder. Academic achievements have their place, but perseverance is a character quality crucial to living a life of success and satisfaction. There is so much about this world full of people and noises and smells and changes and expectations that Luke is going to have to push through if he’s to stay engaged and find his way. Some days he will want to check out (don’t we all at times?). But when he feels that way he can look back to fifth grade and remember, “I wanted to check out then, too, but I didn’t, and my peers acknowledged that.” Oh yes, we are proud!

Now Luke has a T-shirt that says, “Got character? I do!” What’s fun for me (insert sarcasm here) is when he wears it out in public on those not-so-good days when he displays anything BUT good character. In those moments, that T-shirt is a good reminder for me to persevere. It reminds me to focus on what is true: that whatever difficult moment we're facing right now, such moments are becoming less and less frequent. It reminds me that this moment is likely the culmination of a million tiny frustrations to which I can't begin to relate. And sure, Luke will have to deal with the consequences of his choices, but the more important question is will I, his mom, his safe place, remember to “get it” and practice some perseverance of my own? Will I take deep, intentional breaths and walk through this difficult moment with my character intact, or will I check out - throwing my hands in the air and spewing hurtful words? If I’m to expect perseverance from him, I have to model it, myself. Needful reminders, indeed.

Luke recently had his fifth grade graduation. It was a surreal experience. I’d had so many concerns for the year, yet here we were: the last day. Fifth grade has had its ups (Luke became a regular superstar among the second graders for his “Stellaluna” performance) and its downs (he just had to know how the fire alarm worked!) But, as far as anyone knows, he didn’t climb on the roof of the school one time! When his name was called at graduation he walked across the stage, gave his teacher a high-five, and the entire fifth grade burst into applause. I was, of course, a blubbering mess of tears.

He’d done it. He persevered!

Yeah … he’s got character, all right.

pondering two trees

As I've said often this summer, I don't feel that I have as much time for uninterrupted pondering... or at least for framing my ponderings into anything worth publishing, even on an imperfect blog.

But I've been thinking a lot lately about the two trees in the Garden of Eden. About how we live out of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - a tree was never meant for us. I've been wondering what it would have been like to have lived simply from the tree of life.

I'm convinced that our need to judge subsets of people as groups of "sinners" and our pharisee-like need to separate ourselves with clearly defined boundaries is all tied back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Even our obsession with end times and sorting out who will be in and out, I believe, is the fruit of this tree, fruit we were not created for. A tree who represents our current reality, yes, but not our goal, not what our hearts pound for, not what Jesus came to plant the first-fruits of within us.

Now, the tree of life? How is that different? I'm not completely sure, but I have some ideas... I think it's about dependence on the source. About all of us in this together. About trusting the heart of our Maker no matter who whispers lies about Him into our ears. About all of everything being very good.

What's fun for me is that I'm not the only one who has been thinking about this. Check out The Sarcastic Lutheran's latest sermon. Good stuff, as always. Then, who could go wrong with Bonhoeffer and Ents? Not her, that's for sure.

Two trees.

By His grace, may we choose the fruit of Life and offer it to those around us.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

pondering a slow heart

U2's In a Little While

Mumford and Sons' Nothing is Written (untitled as of yet, amazing song that I hope is on their new album)

both songs speak of a slow heart...

When I do doxosoma I understand what they mean. This prayer exercise (once, sometimes twice a day) is becoming a crucial part of my day. Intentional, good breathing. A slow heartbeat.

Peace, on purpose.
Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
Bow my head
Keep my heart slow

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

pondering predestination

"So what do you do with the whole predestination thing?"

I love questions like this. I especially enjoyed getting to share my thoughts on this topic with the Galatians girls tonight, because the issue vexed me for many years. Why? Frankly, because it's in scripture. It's undeniable. Now, limited atonement? Not there. You can argue with me till you're blue in the face, won't do a bit of good (my former pastors tried that, by the way). It's. Not. There. But predestination? Unconditional election? Yep. It's in there. You may not like it, but it's there. Plain as day. All over the place.

Not only that, experience proves it's true. Mine does. Bet yours does too. How noble are you, exactly? Did you just wake up one day and decide to make the good choice, the right choice, to believe? Have you ever wondered why it's so natural for you to have faith, while others can't seem to muster it up? What's that about? Are you any better than anyone else? Am I?

Scripture says no. And my experience definitely says no.

So ... what?

This question vexed me to no end. Because the God shown to me in Jesus doesn't just have compassion on some. He looks at the multitudes and weeps. He teaches me to love not only my friends but my enemies. He forgives the very people who kill Him. And He didn't shed His blood for a select few.

THAT JESUS said that He came to show us the Father. Same essence - same being - same heart.

And yet, are we to believe that the Father only chooses a remnant? That He's content with some saved, while the rest "get what's coming to them". Isaiah says that He will see the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Does a remnant satisfy Him? Because it doesn't me.

So, what about predestination? Keep in mind, I hold my views loosely and humbly. Like the Indigo Girls, "every 5 years or so I look back on my life and have a good laugh". God only knows how I'll answer this question five years from now.

But today, I can say this...

I believe scripture teaches that we are elected to serve. Chosen to bless. Predestined to good works.

Of Abraham, in Genesis, God says I choose you and through you all nations of the earth shall be blessed.

Chosen to be a blessing.

Jesus, of His disciples, says, You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit. (later defined by Paul as love, joy, peace, etc)

Chosen to be a blessing.

Paul says in Romans that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.

Chosen to be a blessing.

And in his letter to the Ephesians he speaks of how we are chosen and predestined, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I could go on....

Chosen to be a blessing.

Elected to serve.

Predestined to shine a light.

To be HIM in this world.

Not a light calling, I might add. To whom much is given much is required (also scripture - Jesus, in fact). Maybe there's a reason our eyes are opened and it has a lot more to do with here and now than mansions in the sky with our names on them. Maybe we're elected because we have work to do. Maybe we're supposed to imitate Christ. Maybe that is and always has been the point.

I believe God's got a big ole story going on that I can't begin to wrap my head around, but one thing has become pretty plain: He wakes some people up to His Spirit. He does.


To be a taste of heaven on earth right now to everyone around us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
II Cor 5:17-21

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

John 13:12-17