Friday, March 28, 2008

When All Else Fails

A friend asked me why I hadn't been posting lately. The short answer - I got nothin'. Lots of drafts, nothing finished. Like soup, still simmering. La de da and you really don't want to know all the thoughts running through my brain on that one right now (actually they've kind of burrowed their way into my heart I think!)

In the interim, till I come up with something worth sharing, here's a hodgepodge of stuff - a lone flower poking it's head up through the thawing ground, just to let you know I'm still alive!

How's this for a great quote?

Earth is crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God
but only he who sees
takes off his shoes. ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My dad had quad bypass surgery last week. Although it seemed kind of sudden, looking back we can see God's perfect timing. He is doing well, thanks to my mom's wonderful care.

My dad is getting a new best friend . . . a Yorkie puppy! My mom read somewhere that people, men especially, who own a pet, have a much greater life expectancy. And voila! They're getting a dog! I just thought that was so sweet and can't wait till we're called upon to dog-sit! Here's a picture of Sir Buttons!

The other morning I awoke to a terrible surprise. My favorite morning show that I always woke up to was GONE! (That would be Gary and Beth on 92.9 FM for you 'Burghers!) Gone. Just. Like. That. I remember about 17 years ago the same thing happened . . . Dusty Rhodes hosted a great morning show on what is now WORD FM and one morning he was just gone.

Yesterday my friend went to get us coffee at lunch and ! our favorite place (Caribou Coffee) was no more. Just like that! Is it me? Reminds me of that terrible year in which my doctor, dentist and ob-gyn all quit. They were kind enough to send me letters at least. The coffee shop just closed.

On the topic of going out of business, what do you think when you see this happen? I hate to see it happen but I always think to myself - hey, at least they started something! How many of you have started your own business? Oh yeah, that reminds me - I have! (Really . . . I just need to get busy with it!)

Did you know that traditionally Easter is/was celebrated by the church as a season, not just a single day? Kind of makes sense, doesn't it? I mean one day people see Jesus hanging on the cross, his body bruised and bleeding beyond recognition. Days later he is walking amongst them, talking and eating with them. Do you think they went on living life as usual the day after the Resurrection? So why should we? Learning to view "holidays" as seasons has been a big on-going "a ha" moment for me of late.

Speaking of seasons, can I tell you how happy I am that spring has finally arrived (although she still seems a bit iffy on a 40F day in Pittsburgh)! I am convinced that the seasons, be they spring-summer-winter-fall or rainy/dry, are God's way of teaching us how to move through the seasons of our lives. We only get one chance at that, but every year God gives us a refresher course in how to adjust to transitions.

Lastly, speaking of transitions, I came across some thoughts I jotted down from our Bible study last summer that seemed worth sharing (and I apologize I can't recall the exact source). Some questions to ask yourself when you realize you're in a time of transition:
What are you grateful for?
What do you need to let go of?
What do you need to take hold of?
And who do you trust?

And to my 2 blogger friends who are still waiting in the wings . . . what are you waiting for, girls? (you know who you are!!) Come on and join the fun!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring Thing Reading Challenge

So my friend Katrina graciously hosts a wonderful reading challenge each spring and fall, with books galore to give away and a wonder way to see what others are reading. I almost didn't participate this time around. The thought of making a list and including all the links just kind of overwhelmed me. Then I remembered - I've got a list! I've been using Shelfari for several months now and it's been a great way to keep track of books I'm reading as well as those I plan to read.

So check out the list in my sidebar or hop on over if you'd like to see more stuff I plan to read. Some of these I'm just about finished with but they don't budge from the list until I've finished them, cover to cover. Our vacation falls within the Spring Reading Challenge and that's when I usually indulge in more fiction but I don't really have a list for that yet. Here's just a few notes re: my selections and I really hope Katrina doesn't disqualify me for cheating by using Shelfari!

I'm especially looking forward to Praying With the Church, by Scot McKnight, since I enjoyed The Jesus Creed by him. And he recently interviewed Nancy Ortberg on his blog about her new book, Looking for God, which piqued my interest and made the list as well. The Right to Write by Julia Cameron is one of those books I'll be reading for several months, and may never finish, but each chapter provides some writing encouragement and an exercise (I'm on #6). I expect to finish Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (my second time through and one of my favs) and Gift from the Sea within a day or so. I loved The Kite Runner, and the sequel, a Thousand Splendid Suns, promises to be even better.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Basin and the Towel

This week has been anything but a holy one for the disciples. One minute they were dreading the trip to Jerusalem, the next they were breathing a sigh of relief as they saw the crowd praising and acclaiming him as king. They could barely look ahead from one day to the next, each moment giving rise to the deafening crescendo, the death of their friend and master.

Yet in the midst of this turmoil comes a moment of respite, as Jesus calls them away to share the Passover meal together. And tucked away in this account of their last meal together comes the most tender of moments. The one who days before had been acclaimed by all as King, and who would soon bear the greatest agony ever known to man, kneels before each of them in humility and tenderly washes their feet.

Peter speaks for all of them when he asks Jesus what he’s doing. And Jesus assures him that, although they can't possibly understand it now, someday they will. The disciples squirm in discomfort as they watch and wait their turn. Why was their master humiliating himself like this, performing a task reserved for the lowliest of servants? I imagine him as he approached each of them, looking up at them with gentle eyes and whispering words of assurance, perhaps sharing a memory or two. “I love you. I care about you. I know you’re afraid of what lies ahead. I understand. And I’m here for you.”

In this time of great uncertainty about their future, perhaps Jesus was saying, "This is how you'll be able to go on. Be in community with one another. Be there for each other. When it comes to serving your brother, nothing is beneath you. Quit worrying about your place in the pack. It's not about you; it's about each other."

I think Michael Card, in his song The Basin and the Towel, captures the essence and beauty of this night:

In an upstairs room
A parable is just about to come alive
And while they bicker about who's best
With a painful glance He'll silently rise
Their Savior Servant must show them how
Through the will of the water
And the tenderness of the towel

In any ordinary place
On any ordinary day
The parable can live again
When one will kneel and one will yield
Our Savior Servant must show us how
Through the will of the water
And the tenderness of the towel

And the space between ourselves sometimes
Is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the servant's bow
We take up the basin and the towel

And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility to take the vow
That day after day we must take up
The basin and the towel

(c)1994 Birdwing Music (a div. of the Sparrow Corporation) (ASCAP)
From Poiema by Michael Card

Sunday, March 16, 2008

She's Changing My Life

Dark brown hair. Deep brown eyes that seem to peer back into my own. I picked her because she's the same age as my oldest niece but the similarities I think stop there. I look at her picture daily and am reminded how different her life is from mine. It puts my life in perspective. I could wish for her to have a life like mine, a privileged American living the dream, but is that what she really needs? Actually is it even what I need?

I’m reminded how we live in such a disposable society and how likely it is that she thrives on what others dispose of, including some of our disposable income, my few monthly dollars that go towards child sponsorship. Her clothes are most likely hand-me-downs or even cast offs. Her shoes – geez, I wonder if she even owns a pair and if they fit well and how far she has to walk each day and if she’s ever ridden in a car. I’m sure she doesn’t fret about rising gas prices like I do, but no doubt they affect her life in the long run. I can’t help thinking about her whenever I go to purchase a cup of coffee, wondering if she even had clean water to drink that day – and enough of it, with 4 or 5 siblings.

I think about all that goes into a mealtime for me - the preparation and decision making. I have choices and how often do I choose less than the best? Chances are she doesn't have many choices when it comes to eating. It is merely life-sustaining, if it is that at all. I have the luxury of time and space to think and dream. I wonder if she has any dreams for her life, beyond just surviving until the next day, in a country plagues by AIDS and hunger. I so take Jesus for granted, along with the multiple Bibles I own but often neglect, and I wonder if she’s ever heard his name and what he means to her.

At the end of the day, we’re not so very different, she and I. We both need a living breathing relationship with God our creator. And we’re both loved and cared for by our awesome God. We're connected by people at World Vision who make it possible for those of us who have way more than we'll ever need to share with those who have way less than they really need. Oh yes, I give a few dollars a month (really, about the cost of a daily cup of coffee - which I can still afford) towards her sponsorship, in hopes that she will thrive and that her community will grow into a self-sustaining entity. But she has already given me so much more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Waiting Game

I always thought of myself as a pretty patient person. But lately I've come to realize that being passive (something I've been lovingly accused of) about something does not necessarily constitute patience in waiting. I think waiting is actually more active than it is passive. It implies a sense of prayerful expectation, doesn't it? Was Jacob waiting when he wrestled with the angel at the brook? Was Noah waiting while he built the ark?

What does waiting look like for you? What are you waiting for? And how do you know when the answer comes? (most likely just questions to be answered within your heart!) (and a p.s. in response to Becky's comment below - isn't the answer sometimes more than just something we "get"? Seems like sometimes it comes in the form of just clarity or direction or renewed hope.)

In the meantime, I'm returning to my own little waiting game! Leaving you with some lyrics that have blessed me in recent days:

When I am tired You bring me comfort
(I will wait; I will wait for You)
When I am weak You give me strength
(I will wait; I will wait for You)
When I can't walk You give me wings like an eagle
(I will wait; I will wait for You)
When I'm alone You bring me peace
(I will wait)
I will wait for Your mercy
I will wait for Your plan to unfold
I will wait for Your mercies are new every morning
When I am wounded You heal my broken bones
(I will wait; I will wait for You)
And when I sing You fill my heart with joy
(I will wait; I will wait for You)
And when I fear the unknown You give me peace
(I will wait; I will wait for You)
And when I call, You always answer me
(I will wait)
We wait for You like watchmen wait for morning
We wait for You like creation waits for spring
We wait for You knowing sometimes without warning
You reveal Your plan in ways that maybe we don't understand
Aaron Shust (Whispered and Shouted)

God, the one and only—
I'll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
so why not?
He's solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
I'm set for life. Psalm 62:5-6 (The Message)