Daffodils and Uncle David

Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David.  Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  When I was about 4 or 5, Uncle David gave me a beautiful book of poetry (it had daffodils on the front and lots of pictures of beautiful flowers).  I was trying to learn to read at that point, sitting on the couch, when I asked my Mom, “What is d-o-g spelled backwards?”  She told me that was God.  I knew this was significant. 

It’s even more significant that Uncle David is thus directly tied in my little kid brain to finding out about God.  Uncle David was not on everyone’s A list.  He was, in the terms of the day, “slow” or “different” (not dumb, just not quite functioning at the mental complexity his particular decade and community preferred.  He had gotten in some pretty awful spots when someone misunderstood his assessment of different situations (think “padded room”).  Uncle David spent a good part of his later life shuttled off to a halfway house on Capital Hill in Seattle.  Some of the relatives breathed a sigh of relief, and except for coming to the island to pick blackberries and thimbleberries and huckleberries once a year so I could make him a pie, we didn’t see much of him for quite a while.

Uncle David died quietly at home.  A funeral was planned for our little community, with some folks figuring immediate family would be the only ones who showed up.  Boy, were we surprised!  From David’s delightfully diverse community, carloads of people came to our small town and filled the funeral home.  After the formal part of the service was over, someone from the back spoke up and said, “We would like to say something…..”  The minister let her come to the microphone.  One by one, a parade of people came forward to speak about how David’s simple ability to love and encourage those around him, to do practical things, to serve, to help in any way he could had blessed their lives over and over again.  We sat their dumbfounded, humbled and incredibly grateful for the profound lesson unfolding in front of us. God, in typical fashion, chose the humble of the world to teach us that his ways aren’t our ways.  That we had missed the point entirely by talking more than we listened.  That there had been much to learn from a humble man with no guile who sought to love his community.  I am grateful each Easter, especially, as I think of the lessons Uncle David gave me on living in the grace of God.

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Global Day of Prayer for Burma – March 14, 2009

The Global Day of Prayer for Burma is an annual event initiated in 1997 by Christians Concerned for Burma at the request of Burma’s democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  Next Sunday, churches around the world are urged to pray for Burma during their services.  See the following link for details:

http://www.prayforburma.org/IDX/Prayer/Day_of_Prayer/2010/GDOP%202010.pdf

For Seattle area runners/walkers, the Run for Relief (a fundraiser for relief efforts in Burma) will take place next Sunday in Gig Harbor….See following link for details:  http://www.chapelhillpc.org/our-calendars-mainmenu-17/special-events-mainmenu-131.html

Baby dedications

A couple of weeks ago, there were two baby dedications/baptisms at church, and I was surprised how spun out I got watching this.  I always love those moments, watching people make public the commitment that they will seek to raise this precious child to know God.  SO important!  But watching this from the perspective of  being brand new grandma, it impacted me at a whole new level.

The first thing I noticed this morning, was that the mom and dad and cute little bundle didn’t have any family present for this event.  There could be many reasons for that (work schedules, living in a different city or continent, family issues, not Christian….and many others), but my mind and heart contrasted that to some of the other times where we have seen the podium filling up with grandmas and grandmas who have come long distances to witness this moment.  It made me sad for the parents (whether appropriately or not), and made me take it very seriously as a member of the church who would be saying, “Yes, we stand beside you and pray for you and are so glad you are choosing to walk the path of faith as a family.”

It also took me back to when we dedicated our children, and I never realized til then, our families were not with us.  Mine wouldn’t have come (our church at the time was too “expressive” for them), and my husband’s family was not familiar with why we would be doing this in the first place.  It was our church we were counting on at that point to help us learn to do this amazing privilege of raising our kids, surviving new parenthood, and teaching them to know God.  There were some amazing “adopted” grandparents in our church who were there for me in ways I want to be there for our grandson.

This service made me rejoice, but also made me incredibly sad for those who do not choose to be part of a faith community,  and therefore, do not have this incredible resource of potentially mentoring, praying, supportive people to draw from. (Ya, I know sometimes a church is a little like granola-you get fruit in with it, but also some nuts).  If they are not in a church, it made me very conscious of how much young parents need their family to walk in faith around them, to spend time loving, giving, listening and praying….

As a grateful new mom, a long time ago, I wrote this poem for our first daughter…

“Like Hannah in the Bible promised long ago
If she could only have a child, she’d given him to the Lord.
I prayed that God would give to us a baby girl to love
And I promised we would care for her and teach her that He is good.

Lord, I give to you this child that you have given me.
Please help me mold and shape her into what she’s supposed to be.
Keep her safe throughout each day-keep her in your tender care.
No matter what may happen, let her know You’re always there.

So God, in love looked down on us and brought you to our lives.
I’ve thanked Him everyday since then.  I’ll thank Him all my life.
I pray that you will know Him too as your shepherd and your friend,
Because, little one, Jesus loves you, with a love that will not end.”

*******************************************************************

PS  It also made me very grateful that even though the church I grew up in had some very toxic people running rampant over the lives of children, God’s Word can still take root in a young life willing to trust Him.  A child hearing that God loves them, has a plan for their life, and has a purpose bigger than the valley full of shadows they may live in, can still believe and find hope even when life is hard.  (Yes, circumstances for that child need to change, but God is unchanging).

Sometimes I don’t like God

It was a shock last week, to admit to myself, that there’s times I don’t really like God.  Our C-Group (community group) was reading a bunch of passages out of Jeremiah as part of our One Year Through the Bible thing, and I was starting to get bummed.  As a Christian, I’ve always known I’m supposed to love, honor, fear, reverence, worship, obey and respect God.  But I had to admit, reading some of the verses about the times God said and declared awful catastrophes for all kinds of people-it seemed so random and unfair! Where’s the justice in all that?  Still, I was pondering this with a little a bit of emotional distance left….until Wednesday.

Tuesday morning, our beautiful little new grandson, Austin, made his entrance into the world.  Strawberry blond, crying, wiggling….all those cute little newborn things.  I was privileged to be there to watch the miracle of new life as he made his entrance and to rejoice that even with all the unexplainable ##*#* going on in the world, God still seems to be in favor of life.  Things were good, and the gratitude level was high, even though there was this nagging question about whether or not it was blasphemy to admit I had some issues with Jeremiah.

Wednesday morning at 4:40 a.m., our daughter called to say their  precious little guy had just been airlifted to a city hospital in severe respiratory distress.  My voice and my words told her we’d be there as soon as we could catch a ferry to pick her up and bring her over to the little man (her husband drove ahead to meet the chopper but she had to wait for the doctor’s to come in and release her).  My heart, however, did a quick trip back to Jeremiah and the God who isn’t always very nice and prayed (begged) with all sincerity, that He would be the nice, kind, loving, life-giving God this time to this one little family who has waited and longed to meet this precious little guy we’ve all already loved for nine months and one day.

Pulling my head and my heart out of maternal/infant mortality statistics I’ve read and focusing on what was instinctual, needed and helpful, my inventory of my available faith level at that point was on empty.  So, I texted some people I knew would wake up, see their messages and pray.  Then we got out of here and went to be with the Mommy.

At the hospital, while we waited for doctors to show up, get out of meetings, and get Mommy on her way, I used Facebook to put the word out to pray. People who don’t even know our daughter and her truly wonderful husband responded and there were prayers going up for this little man, and people sending words of encouragement and hope.  Thank you!!!!!

As much as I would like to pretend that I was full of faith and knew God was gonna make things Ok, I wasn’t and I didn’t.  I was AFRAID that maybe, like so many other people in so many other places who live with loss and disaster each day that has no explanation, that this little family might have to experience that because God was doing something else.  Gratefully, my fears did not materialize and Austin’s doing much much much much better….

Lesson learned:

  1. There are times when your tank is empty, and that’s when the prayers of others who aren’t on empty can help carry you, if you just ask.
  2. The community of  faith will respond if asked and their prayers may touch God’s heart, and keep yours from breaking.
  3. Pray.  Ask others to pray.  Pray some more.
  4. You don’t have to go through it alone….ask for help!  Others can believe even when you can’t.
  5. Don’t forget to give thanks, regularly, privately, publicly and every other way as a matter of habit and discipline.
  6. Maybe, for now, I’m gonna focus on gratitude, and quit reading the Jeremiah sections (one of our amazing friends-a spiritually wise lady I really respect, said there was a time in her life where she couldn’t do a bunch of Psalms at once-they were too violent, and the priest just told her to pick a different reading….God bless him!)

To the two or three people who might read this, thank you.  To all those who prayed for Austin and his family, THANK YOU SO SOSOSOSOSOSOSO MUCH!

Maybe there are times when the fear of God takes precedence over the love of God….and maybe whether or not I LIKE Him is irrelevant?

(PS  I printed out the six pages of comments and prayers ya’all put on Facebook for Austin and his family and gave it to his Mommy and Daddy for his baby book)

Reality Check–Cyber Psalm 15

Our friend, Dan, had a heart attack this week.  Scary.  So that made it doubly cool to get a perspective challenging email from him this morning with this Cyber Psalm from a blog he likes by David Ker, a Wcliffe Bible Translator in Mozambique.   

Cyber-Psalm 15

 NOVEMBER 23, 2007                                                                   by David Ker

What would heaven be like

if books of theology 
were written by children not men?

And what if sermons were delivered by the poor. 


And devotional books were written by the hungry. 


And hymns were composed by the sick and the old.

The Sermon on the Mount requires no interpretation, 


unless you are fat and happy.

If our hope of heaven were colored 


with children’s crayons and felt tip markers.

And our theology of hell were tempered 


by the dying breath of those who suffer.

The hair-splitting and hand-wringing 


of over-educated men in ivory towers 


goes largely unnoticed by grandmothers in their kitchens 


and office workers in their cubicles.

They go on putting silly magnets on their fridge 


And trading forwarded e-mails about heaven. 


Two thousand years of systematic theology 


Disturbs them not a bit!

God is honored and praised  

Hoped for and prayed to 


By myriads who never learned Greek.

Their revelation is not a scroll  

But a hope vaguely imprinted 


On a soul made by God.

The sick and the blind and the poor  

Receive Jesus with gladness. 


The Gospels require no spiritualized application.

Feed us, friend Jesus. 
  

Our stomachs are empty.


You are the one our hearts hope for.

Heal us who are sick. 
    

We ache and we suffer.

Save us in death. 
    

We are dying in darkness. 


Savior Jesus, our hope at life’s end.

Love Is…

Yesterday had parts that were hard, and parts that were really beautiful.  The beautiful part was making it down to Karen Church in Kent and being able to be there for the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of a couple who have poured their lives into loving God, their family, their community and seems like most other people who cross their path. 

People from Oregon, Vancouver, the Seattle area, and maybe some others gathered to honor their lives and their relationship.  It was pretty neat to see this 70+ year old gentleman talk about how it had always been his hope to get to celebrate this moment with a community of his countrymen, but since he had brought his family here in the 70’s, that had seemed pretty unlikely.  Wish I knew the language and could have gotten the whole story, but I could catch the essence of how much he loves his wife (and vice versa), and the strength of their love and faith which has brought them through many challenges. 

Hearing him read 1st Corinthians 13 makes it very fresh in my mind today, and I read it with new respect for what is possible if you spend your life trying to live out love…..

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8Love never fails…”

Fishers of men…

I’m really glad Jesus hung out with fishermen and chose them on purpose(especially since I’m married to one).  Fishing is not necessarily a real cerebral kind of thing-not  theologically complex, and nowdays not always even politically correct.  However, it’s a very real, tangible, practical and ” in this world while still being part of the other one” kind of thing. 

Fishermen spend a LOT of time and energy (and money) and care getting their nets ready.  Certain kinds of nets fish best in certain waters for certain kinds/sizes of fish….nowdays there’s lots of rules to all this Jesus and the guys probably didn’t have to deal with:)  For the past several months we’ve had a garage full of cork line (corks spaced on a line every so many inches), weed line (I think it helps keep weeds from getting in the net?), lead line (holds the net down so the fish can swim into it and get stuck) and several piles of net.  All of this had to be hung (put together) into the appropriate configuration.   A lot of work and several days later it is now loaded into the holds on the boat. 

Why so much work on the net?  It’s all about how fish look at it.  Is it the right color to go with the water they’re in?  Does it ripple right in the water so it’s not conspicuous-does it seem like it naturally belongs there?  The net is really important ’cause it’s a tool to catch the fish, and fishing is definitely about the fish-not the fisherman. 

But as I was watching the final stages of this operation, I thought about Jesus calling some fishermen to be “fishers of men” and follow Him.  And I thought about how if the net doesn’t look “natural” in the water, fish run away from it.  Nobody likes to think of themselves as a fish someone is trying to catch, but some of the evangelism schemes I grew up hearing sure seemed like nets I would have (did!) run from. Lots of hype, pressure, glitz etc.  Nowdays we’re more politically correct and sensitive, but I guess I’m coming to the thought that God knows what fish are made of.  He knows what we are made of, and it’s OK to reach people in ways that are natural-not contrived. 

There are people in my life that I deeply want to see know God’s love.   I don’t know how God makes that happen.  But I think I see some parallels: the need for boyancy (corks), depth (lead line), keeping the weeds out of my life (weed line),  and hanging in the water in a way that is natural-not contrived.  You can learn a lot from fishermen. 

Standing here beside the ocean

Staring at the sea

Wondering how the God who made all this

Could still choose me

And yet, I hear your voice, Lord,

Even as in days of old

Promising a harvest-

More than my net can hold.

 “Cast your net into the water

Put your trust in Me.

Diverse fish in diverse places-

Trust Me and you’ll see.

It ain’t over yet, My child.

The best is still to come.

As I always have,

I still hang out with fishermen.”

 (From a dream, 8/3/01)