A Trip to Pandora

Feb 2020

Today I returned to a journey I started long ago….

Meeting with others, sharing stories, talking truth…

Some people would say this is opening “Pandora’s box” –

It will let out all manner of troubles.

I’ve peeked inside this box before then shoved the lid back down tight,

Ran as fast as I could…

Tried to “unsee” what was seen.

Always figured I’d seen enough of what was in the box…

Dealt with what I saw and moved on…

(But not so fast…)

 

Troubles still arise uninvited.

Connections made to the things that crawled out of hiding long ago.

I have not outrun them as successfully as I had hoped.

(Perhaps hope was the problem?)

No one else in my gene pool had managed to outrun these things….

Some people sing “Blessed be the tie that binds….” –

In my biological family it was more like

“The chains that bind won’t go away.

You can’t escape what people say….

You’ll never belong so don’t even try…”

(But the story is not over……)

 

There is a God who saw me in my weakness,

He saw me in my trouble and loves me-one of the “least of these”.

This changes everything…I mean everything!

Trouble is not new to Him.

The Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief…

The Shepherd who searches for one lost sheep

The Master Potter who fixes broken vessels-

Restores them and makes them usable….

Hope is the answer – His name is Jesus

And He is mending my soul.

 

The Crystal Vase

Like a crystal vase smashed against the cement wall
The little girl was fractured by life’s blows.
Now hidden deep inside lie the pieces she can’t find-
The broken parts no one but Jesus knows….

Like catacombs in ancient Rome there are tunnels here…
She’s been lost in them and hiding out for years.
But she’s tired of trying to run 
She knows a change has got to come.
Believing He has seen it all and loves her still
And the emptiness is one that He can fill.

She was blinded by her tears,
Held captive to her fears,
Not sure if she should let His light shine in...
But when His love breaks through
Mended broken things become new
Reflecting once again His marvelous light….

'Cause He’s picking up the pieces of her shattered life
Cradling them gently in His nail scarred hands.
With tender love He comes to heal
Wounds she tries hard not to feel
And let her know she’s still precious in His sight –
That she will be alright.

(Written for a friend December 19, 1991. But like so many of my poems, still being worked out in my own life.  Grateful for a church community where broken people are welcome and redemption, grace, compassion, and humilty are seen as essential parts of faith…..)

Standing by your bed (poem)

Standing by your bed
Watching you breathe
Holding your hand
Preparing to grieve
As slowly your life
Is slipping away
It may be soon
Or some other day
The gift of your life
Brought me my greatest joy-
(I’m the lucky girl
That married one of your boys)
Now as you embark
On this journey unknown
That probably soon
Will carry you home
Please know you are loved
Know how much we care
Know the God who made you
Will greet you there

Yo, what’s up? (ramblings)

Not always an easy question to answer, even when it comes from a very respected, caring friend…sometimes it’s complicated. While I’ve kind of expected the question, I still don’t have an answer I’m satisfied with.

When we first moved to Seattle six years ago, I was surprised how homeless I felt until we found a church. For all of my life, a lot of my relationships and the roadmap for my life had been calibrated in relationship to whatever church community I was connected with. In the case of a small town, the dividing lines between church and community are a little blurrier than they seem to be in the city. You would see people from the church in your community all the time (they didn’t come from a 75 mile radius from a variety of different cities to get there and then disappear for the rest of the week).

I love my church. Not ’cause it’s cool, or popular or emergent or politically correct/incorrect or newsworthy or whatever. I love it ’cause I have found people there who welcomed an outsider, dreamed with me and taught me to dream bigger and walked through the past six years of trying to figure out what it means to serve God in practical ways. They didn’t ask WHY I thought doing practical things to help people in need was important-they asked how they could help! I love it because there are people there who also dream bigger dreams of what it means to live out their faith, sometimes crazy dreams and then some of them don’t just dream dreams, they actually do them! Magnificent!

But, things change. I am no longer dreaming big dreams or any other dreams. It feels really strange to not be DOING anything except working, loving the people in my life, and trying to walk with God in integrity through the encounters my very well-peopled job provides. Now I get to try to figure out how that fits with the bigger picture, and how a small person fits into a big church. I am not a big church kind of person. I have nothing to contribute in this context. I suck at small talk.

Sunday morning church (important for preaching, teaching, worshipping together, having communion, meeting people, welcoming strangers and sharing information) is only part of being the church. There is this whole other life of community that goes on in small groups, Global Presence meetings, men’s and women’s meetings, intergenerational potlucks, kids ministry…..all the things that break a big church down into more bite size pieces so you can actually get to know some people and develop relationships. If I am not going to participate in any of the other things that go on is it really viable/faithful/spiritual to just “go to church” there on Sundays? Is that enough for them or for me?

Last Sunday, I indulged my craving for encountering God in the midst of His people by going to church at a friend’s house and meeting the small community she is shepherding. It was wonderful because it was interactive, non-overwhelming and personal. I learned from the discussion of Luke as I listened to what each person brought and drew out of their own life of walking with God. It reminded me of a line from a worship song that was popular a few years ago: “Come, just as you are…hear the Spirit call. Come and see….” I left revived, grateful that the presence of God is not confined to buildings, but that He shows up wherever He’s invited. I love my church, but I need to find room in my life to be part of a community of believers at this stage of my “work in process” kind of life. Not sure how the pieces fit right now.

So, yo, not really sure what’s up, but prayerfully trying to figure it out:)

Good Life in the Midst of Bad Circumstances

At first glance it might seem a little incongruous to have a “Good Life Club” in the middle of a war zone, but the name comes from John 10:10 where Jesus promises abundant life. This project, started by our friend, Karen, gives those of us living in safety and prosperity something practical we can do to contribute to the lives of internally displaced mothers and children on the run from the Burma Army. For details of how you can help, click here

For more pictures of the Good Life Club in action….click here.  (This is  a project of Partners Relief & Development and their friends at Free Burma Rangers).  The Good Life Club packs are carried in by the relief teams going into Burma and delivered to the moms and kids who need them.

Daffodils and Uncle David

Easter always reminds me of daffodils.  Daffodils always remind me of Uncle David. 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.

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)