Saturday, October 29, 2011

Speaking of Weather

The weather has long been standard chit-chat conversation, a relatively safe topic for talking when nobody knows what to talk about -- or when everybody knows what needs to be talked about but refuses to do so.

That's what I keep thinking of when I visit The Weather Channel and see this:

As if conversations about the weather were not already adequately safe in their relational shallowness, this sounds to me like an invitation to superficial interaction through the anonymity of the internet.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moving Grace

We have friends who moved to Washington this past summer. By the time we showed up at their place to help pack their moving truck, Angela had packed most of their possessions, printed clear labels for all the boxes (and even non-boxes!), and sorted them according to final destination. It was a wonder to behold.

I thought of that image this morning as I opened a box which still bears markings from our own move thirteen years ago. Our move from apartment to house happened very quickly. In fact, I think it was less than a month from when we started touring houses to the day we moved into one. It was also the first time we'd made a move like this, from one established home to another, as two functioning adults. In addition to being much less organized than our friends, we were also clearly inexperienced at such things.

We had scheduled the day and finalized arrangements on both ends of the move, then found the moving truck was available for just four hours, including an hour of driving time. Four hours! That's not much time. If we'd had everything boxed and organized and ready to go like Angela, it would have been difficult but maybe somewhere in the realm of possible.

But we didn't.

It would have been hopeless, except that we were part of a small group of young adults that met each week in the home of friends, and Kevin and Pat mobilized the group. That wonderful bunch of folks converged at our apartment.

My clearest memory of that crazy day was when Kevin and Pat showed up. Mis-matched boxes were piled somewhat randomly throughout the apartment. There were still sections of stuff not yet packed. The whole place was a picture of disorder. Pat looked around for a few moments, assessing the situation, then quietly took a deep breath and spoke. I don't remember what she said then, but I do remember clearly what she didn't say.
     She didn't say "Ugh."
     She didn't say "This is impossible."
     She didn't say "Why haven't you finished packing yet?"
Instead, her words communicated kindness and joy, choosing to offer grace by celebrating the occasion rather than focusing on the decidedly sub-optimal situation.

Several in the group started working together to move furniture. Others carried boxes and other smaller items. Some took on the cleaning as new areas of walls and floors were revealed in the process. We moved efficiently. We worked together. We talked through the process and made adjustments as needed. Amazingly, four hours later, all of our stuff was in our new home and the truck was back to the rental place on schedule. It was a wonder to behold.

That was a stressful day, and I'm pretty motivated to not move like that again. But I have good memories, too, of friends who showed up for us, who loved and accepted and celebrated with us. I am grateful for that day of grace.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

(A great song by Sandra Boynton)

I love this song -- lots of truth in a fun little tune that still manages to paint a picture of something pretty serious. And the busy busy busyness is something I have to be pretty intentional about managing. My time and energy can't keep up with all the things that draw my attention. It is important that I not allow too much activity to crowd out what really matters.

My busy busy busy tendencies are on the list of reasons I don't want to deal with my hair. The whole routine of wash-condition-dry-style is pretty simple, but still bothersome. I've got other things to do, after all, and stuff like hair can feel like a persistent intrusion in the day.

Oddly enough, a bottle of conditioner offers a gentle correction:
"Work into clean, wet hair. Use the next 2 minutes and 45 seconds to think deep thoughts about your day. Rinse with warm water, then cool water, then go."

Waiting is inevitable;
being cranky about it is optional.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Life In the Fish

Maybe it's just a Protestant thing, but I've met a lot of people who talk about having a "life verse" -- a brief, memorable portion of scripture that holds particular meaning for them. As it turns out, one of my favorite Bible stories is that of Jonah, and one of the verses which has significantly influenced me is Jonah 1:17:

"But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah,
and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights."

It's not one of the standard life-verse-type quotes, I suppose. But I love it, and here's why...

First, Jonah's predicament was messy and smelly and weird.  His rescue included being eaten alive by a great fish, for pity's sake -- clearly nonstandard. I've never been inside a fish, but I've been in messy and unusual situations, wondering how it would turn out. I can relate a little to Jonah here.

Second, Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights. That's a long time. A long, dark, mucky time. It was an in-between time, one of waiting and uncertainty and unpleasantness. He didn't know what would happen, or when. He waited, wondered, prayed, pondered, complained, hoped, promised, and waited some more. Again, other than the fish part, Jonah's story is familiar.

And in all this, I keep going back to where it says "the Lord provided." Jonah was in pretty deep, and he'd even gotten himself into that situation. But God didn't leave him there. This being an unusual circumstance, God brought some extra creativity to it. In the midst of all the messy unknowns, and even in Jonah's rebellion, God was still at work. And like He was with Jonah, I trust that God is persistently engaged in my world today, too.

I'll stop short of claiming Jonah 1:17 (or any other) as "my life verse," but I do love the story and the very clear picture it paints of in-between times. It's a keeper.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted..." (Ephesians 3:16-17)

Tim was reading recently and I was listening pretty well until he got to the rooted word. Then I had a "Squirrel!" moment. What is it about being rooted that suddenly captured my mind and my heart in this familiar passage? I sat and pondered...

  • Roots reach down into the soil, obtaining what is needed for growth. They are often invisible beneath the surface and decidedly un-flashy, but roots provide for a healthy, happy plant.
  • Roots hold tight to the soil, providing stability. When well rooted, even very tall, very heavy trees can stand firm through powerful storms.
  • And roots establish a place. With firm roots, a plant has a home, its own little place in the world. It stays relationally connected to others while remaining its own distinct self.

Yeah, that was it -- nurture, stability, and space. I smiled. It was a contented moment.

Then I realized that Tim had stopped reading by this time and conversation had begun around me. I hadn't heard much beyond rooted and it seemed like maybe I should, so I returned to the passage and tried to catch up...

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love..."

I stopped again at these glorious words. Established, grounded, built on a foundation -- of what? Of love, affection, good will. I smiled again, envisioning my feet planted firmly in this kind of soil, recognizing the nurture and stability and sense of place.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints..."

Power? This is not the squishy-soft, cheap love-substitutes so often portrayed in modern American culture. This is seriously joyful, thoroughly relational, wonderfully committed, genuine, life-changing love.

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge..."

I tend to think of power in terms of climbing mountains and battling enemies and stuff like that, but Paul's words steered my thoughts differently. Power to comprehend love? Again, this is clearly a different kind of love, and so much more thorough.

"-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

It is easy enough to talk about God's love, but to really grasp it -- to recognize and respond beyond the intellectual level, to trust and rest in it, to allow myself to be transformed in the process -- that is a lot more challenging. I read a description of God recently as the One who looks fully into our lives, every little nook and cranny, and does not look away. There is something beautiful in this picture, and difficult, too.

Whatever is inside of us, God is completely willing and able to recognize both the wonderful parts and the ugly bits, and to fully engage. Submitting to such honest examination takes a lot of guts -- a lot of power. This power comes from being rooted in love, trusting God's grace to fill us so thoroughly with His good character, bringing light to the dark corners.

I never did catch up to the conversation around me that day. But God captured my heart, and rooted me more strongly again in His love, and I am grateful.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


During a retreat this past week in Cascade, Idaho, I woke one morning when it was still very early and very dark. I walked slowly down the path toward the lodge, staring up at the vast sky filled with stars.

A hot cup of freshly prepared tea in hand, I stood on the deck of the lodge for about an hour as a dim light began to glow over the mountains, the stars faded, the sky filled slowly with color, and the fog lifted. By the time breakfast began, the air was bright and a beautiful day was well underway.

Reliable sources tell me the sun rises in Cascade around 7:40 a.m. this time of year. When I left the cottage early that morning, I did so with full confidence in the coming daylight. I was content to wait, trusting it would come at the expected time.

Sometimes it is more difficult to wait, especially when the outcome is unknown and the timing, too. In such times, the night can seem awfully long.

Still I am reminded that, even in the midst of dark times, the sun always rises eventually, and I am grateful for that hope.