Sunday, July 5, 2020

Jesus Take The Wheel

Alternate title: Some Things Never (Seem To) Change

Eventually, we bought four-wheelers and for a while, we spent our brief weekends traipsing through the woods. It felt like freedom.

On one of those late afternoons, somewhere in the country, I took the wheel (handlebars) and drove back and forth through a giant mud-puddle, screaming, "I can drive the [SCAT] out of this thing! I can drive the [SCAT] out of it!"


It's a wonder I didn't die that day. I never changed gears on the thing and probably had one hand in the air like the yippee-ki-ode to stupidity that it was. I couldn't drive the anything out of anything.  Although...

There was this one time at tech school... 

For context, I was nineteen. My two-year-old daughter and I were living with my mom and step-dad while I attended classes at Columbus Technical Institute. I was going to be a ... [something great.] I'd only learned to drive in the previous year and frequently visited my dad on weekends forty miles north of home.

So one Saturday, my chevy omega wouldn't crank and I had to leave it at my dad's house until he could figure it out. The next day, I borrowed my mom's car to go back to my dad's because I'd left my school books in my car. When it was time to leave, my mom's car would't crank.

Now there's some history here between my mom and dad that I suspect I don't completely know. Suffice it to say, my mom told me not to let my dad touch her car and that I'd better drive it back "right now."

So I did. I started driving that car right on back to her. Never mind that for 10 miles from my dad's house, it smoked and gurgled and lurched. I was driving that car back "Right. Now."

And then, as I was dragging the thing up a hill, parts started to fall off of the car and roll down the road behind me. There began to be roiling smoke from under the hood, such that I couldn't see to drive it if I'd wanted to. And clearly ~ I wanted to.

When the power steering went out, I finally thought it might not make it the next 30 miles and so I pulled into a driveway. You need to know that it is Super Rural between my dad's and mom's houses. There are no neighborhoods, just random gated driveways. So I got out of the car and tried the gate that was 300' feet from the house, but found it locked. When I turned back to the car, the hood was a HUGE bubble of very angry metal. I looked past it to see my baby girl in the backseat, and that's when I freaked.

I grabbed her and ran for the (literal) woods. There was a dirt road that led to another house where people let me in to use the phone. When we came back out, there was a plume of black smoke rising above the trees. When the firetrucks arrived, all that was left of my mom's cavalier station wagon was the frame and steel tire threads.

Even my books were gone!

It's ironic in a way because when my mom first bought the car ~ I think it was probably her first ever brand new vehicle ~ I must have been about twelve years old, and for some stupid reason, I didn't know what the cigarette lighter was for and so I tested it on the upholstery of the front seat. So in a way, I did sort of finish what I started.

Lord, my poor parents!

Anyhow, there's a reason I'm telling all of this. It's in hindsight that I can see I have certain personality traits that seem to withstand the test of time, despite all my efforts to mature and change. I am driven and determined ~ or ~ I am stubborn and stupid-acting. It's possibly a very fine line.

My get it done/I can do it/do it myself mentality has brought me a long way ~ or so I tell myself when I am deciding how to do a thing. In truth, it's a real wonder I've made it this far, and while I'd like to toot my own horn, tell you stories that illustrate my tenacity, it's by God's grace that I'm still here to tell anything at all.

I pray that if there's one solid shining truth that makes it through all of my stories and nonsense, it's Jesus. I'd be nowhere and nothing without him.

Monday, March 30, 2020

System Defrag/Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

For years I've been perfecting this explanation for my husband's benefit, and hope that it might help a few of you as well.

Here's my self-talk:
I have a big, smart, busy, important brain, and
It needs a lot of space to do its thing.

But in reality, my brain is more like a wild rabbit:
Hop, hop, nibble, hop, hop, twitch, hop.

It's true that I have a very busy thought-life and much to think about.
It's not true that what I have to think about is more important than anything or anybody else.
When I get up in the morning and I require however much time it is before I can speak to others, it's not that I think I'm special and/or that your need to speak at me is not special.

It's that I need to order my thoughts.

While I am sleeping, apparently my brain runs amok and I wake to find muddy tracks all across my previously neatly ordered thoughts.  It's as if my four-wheeling self stays awake all night doing donuts in the office of my administrative self.

If I do not order my thoughts at the start of the day, then who knows which of my selves may run the show for the rest of the day.  Have you ever met my pierced and tatted biker self?  No?  It's better if we keep it that way.

In all truth and seriousness, it really is better for me and for the world around me if I order my thoughts at the start of each day.  It's simple, really.  Picture a defrag:

When I look at this, I see the red as irritability/irritation.  If I must process new information before I've worked through and ordered what I already know, then I tend to feel pressed and therefore, flustered, irritated.

However, if I take the time to smooth everything out, choose my priorities, toss what's actually unimportant, then my brain is much more likely to respond like a well-oiled machine: smooth, and quick, and (more likely) accurate.

Realizing this about my own self ~ that daily quiet time is essential, not trivial ~ helps me to treat that time more intentionally and not take it for granted.

For me, this works best at the very start of the day for what I think is an obvious reason.  However, there are times throughout the day when I know that my thoughts are becoming jumbled ~ a natural response to tension ~ and when I can, I simply step away momentarily.  In other words, I've learned to say, "I'll be right back.  I'm just going to think about this quietly for a minute." 

It's not always possible, of course, but using my relationship with my husband as an example, it's difference-making when it can be practiced.  His natural reaction is to dive right into whatever needs an answer, and often enough, I do my best to go with him into that.  But we've both realized that if it's necessary to have a solitary interlude before making a decision, the outcome is almost always better than if we'd worked against our own selves.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

If History Teaches

If you've been around the church circuit for at least a minute, then you've likely heard or discussed the idea that the Old Testament is foretelling of the New Testament.  In other words, much of what's written in the pre-Jesus books of the Bible are telling us that He's coming.

More than just a few of those earliest stories are easily read as future-telling, and Abraham's story is no exception.

Genesis 22 has always been one of the most perplexing (though promising) chapters that I've ever read.  I have, in fact, completely avoided it at times, unable to fathom the sacrifice that God asked of the father of many nations.

If you are familiar enough with Biblical history, then you can't help but see the story of Jesus’s crucifixion in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

“Take your son, your only son…” Genesis 22:2 OT

“He gave his one and only Son…” John 3:16 NT

As I've been recently re-reading Genesis with a small group, I have been stricken by so much more than just that most obvious comparison.

Check it:

“Abraham got up and loaded his donkey.” Genesis 22:3

“Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it…” John 12:14

“[Abraham] took with him two of his servants…” Genesis 22:3

“Two rebels were crucified with him…” Matthew 27:38

“Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders…” Genesis 22:6

“Carrying his own cross, he went [to the hill on which He was crucified…]” John 19:17

Each of these accounts stand alone as huge implications of God's merciful, immeasurable love for us, even if viewed through the haze of a terrifying reality. Apart from evidence that supports my belief, there must be something to learn in the then-and-now of these stories.

Nearer the beginning of Abraham's story, God said, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you."  And Abraham went.  He left it all behind and went with not much more than God's promise to provide.  

Part of the promise was that Abraham would eventually have "many descendants."  Years and years and years would pass.  A baby was born outside of Abraham's marriage to Sarah, apart from God's will and promise.  More years would pass before the birth of Isaac, the child that God foretold.

Isaac was the hope fulfilled, the certainty of many nations yet to come.  And then God called Abraham to give him up.

When Abraham left his home, he gave up his past life to God.
When he took Isaac up the mountain, he also gave his future.1

Each time, even as he had no idea what might happen, what kind of reality would unfold, he acted in complete faith in the one who did know.  

Sacrifice in the simplest terms means to give something up.  The best definitions of sacrifice ~ in my opinion ~ include that something is given up for the sake of something better.

Whether I mean to be or not, I am a student of patterns and repetitions.  When the same or similar things happen over and over again, I notice.  The best patterns ~ in my opinion ~ draw our attention to something greater than the pattern itself.

Whether I'm reviewing Biblical history, world history, or my personal history, I can observe that even through the haze of a sometimes terrifying reality, God is demonstrating a merciful, immeasurable love for us.

Whatever it is for you ~ a hurtful past, a difficult now, an uncertain future ~ I pray that you will give it all to God.  Even without knowing what might happen, I pray you know that there is no better reality than his love for you.

1 A paraphrase of something Jen Wilkin said in our study, God Of Covenant

Friday, January 31, 2020

I'm Not Laughing You're Laughing

Have you ever been that kid?
The one in the back row, 

Putting on a one-kid show.
One is the loneliest number.
It says polly-tickle.
Your mom goes to college.
Those are "jokes."

And finally, the teacher has had enough and calls you out.

Mrs. Parish, please come to the front of the classroom, and
Prove that [ cos(x) - sin(x) ][ cos(2x) - sin(2x) ] = cos(x) - sin(3x)
Here's a highlight from my life.
One time when I was about 15 years old, I came home from some thing

~ pretty sure the thing was just me and some 
parents watching their kid have a good time ~

And I was just on fire.
Like, I came home funny.
Jokes like I hadn't told since my "drunk Harry" routine in the third grade. 
Am I making any sense?
I'm saying that when I got home that night, I launched into my version of a comedy routine that was good enough to make my mom laugh a pretty good minute...
And then ask me if I was high.
"High on life," I squealed, and I feel like I'd never heard anybody else say that at that point in my life, but I can't really be sure about that part.
I just know I was funny.
And I wasn't high.
And I liked it a lot.

If you don't know or remember the story of Isaac, this and this should get you close.
Read it or not,
know this:

Sarah said, "I didn't laugh."
And the LORD said, "No, but you did laugh."

     And the LORD said, "No, but you did laugh."

          And the LORD said, "No, but you did laugh."

I've read that story countless times, but having read it again recently, I can't stop laughing (to myself!) about that one little part.

No, but you did.


I was with a group of ladies recently, watching a video lesson about this story.  It's all very serious and the speaker was very informative.  At right about the part where teacher lady was explaining the reason that Sarah laughed, a friend from a couple of tables over sent me a text that made me snicker out loud.  I texted back, and just like that, we were a two-kid show.

Back to Sarah in Genesis 18:15.  It had only been a minute earlier when God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham laughed.  My smaller group of ladies met after the video and discussed the reasons that Abraham and Sarah responded the way they did to God's promise.  In any case, both of them laughed about what God was telling them, and God said,
Please come to the front of the classroom, and prove...
If you're really and truly reading this story in Genesis, it's pretty easy to see how disappointed Sarah might have been about her circumstances, to see that she was living with some real grief.  And it's not hard for me to read "Sarah laughed" through all kinds of lenses, reaching all kinds of conclusions about why she did it.

Have you ever been that kid?    

Sarah eventually had a baby and you know what that baby's name means?

He laughs.

I've been thinking about goals, 
Which is essentially asking
Who I want to be.
I want to be that kid.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Fight Club

That title won't make sense.

I've practiced editing my words (read: whittled away) until there's little left to sharpen.

This happened:

Customer:  I'm wondering if you'll take less for this.
Me:  No, that's a great, fair price.
Customer:  I know it is, but I want to get it for a kid whose mom died.

People everywhere are angry.
I'm finding it easier and easier to understand why.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I Give Up

Having served with my church's thrift shop ministry for as long as I have, I've learned some things about giving things up.

Sometimes it's easy.
Sometimes it's other people's stuff, and
There's no struggle at all in
Letting it go.

Sometimes it's crushing.
Sometimes you've been holding it for so long that
You can hardly tell where you end and
It begins.

This time of year,
Whether the reason is spring cleaning or
The season of Lent,
People are giving up their things.

I'm not an expert in any field, but
I'm always aiming to learn,
Always hoping to be teachable, and
I have asked to be taught a new thing.

Church folk ask one another:
What are you giving up for Lent?
I don't know if this is a correct answer, but
I am giving up my life.

Do with it
what you will.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Salt and Shadow

Sometime recently, I was sitting in the shop kitchen with a couple of compadres1 when one of them said, 

"Sugar:  I eat too much, I'm good for a minute, but the downer that follows is way down."

And joking, I said, 

"When I go to the doctor, they call that manic depressive."

"Joking," I said.

I don't think they call it that anymore, even in good fun,
And you don't need to know my medical history, anyway.

But as long as we're on the subject, 
let's talk about extremes for just a minute.

Pattern recognition is a peculiar hobby of mine ~ I've recently realized ~ and one of the patterns that's recently caught my attention is my own system of a down.

I'm UP
and then

I'm way down.

The cogs that turn this wheel are many and weird,
And also, not what this is about.

more (on that) later.

It seems that I am either going to talk way, way too much,
Or I'm not going to talk at all.

My system of extremes.
My tic and toc.

In that light, be it known that this season has been one of the downest that I've had in a very, very long time.
So much that even if I'd wanted to talk, I've known better than to put some of this out there into the ether.

But the Ether already knows.

I've been living(ish) for Jesus
don't freak.  he told me to be true.
for most of my life.

As I now also work for Jesus, 
every single thing that I say 
may be, 
should be, 
will be 
by the everlasting light.
by the Everlasting Light.

And that holds me up to a high standard, which is
Good and bad.
Encouraging and exhausting.

So, as I've spent this season trying to say zero 
stupid, or 
embarrassing words, 
I've turned completely in on myself.

I've talked (only) to myself until I'm blue in the face!

My deeply intentional words to people in grief are that 
you must not 
under any circumstances 
or for any real or perceived reason
go radio silent.

So thank Jesus for the radio!

When I cannot or will not say words, the radio (often) says them for me ~ and I'm not sure I'd even know where I've been this season were it not for my playlist, which I've maintained in (mostly) silence.  

So as I emerge now from the desert 
~ (Lord, I pray) ~ 
here is the path I've taken:

some of these have bad or difficult or triggering words.
as with everything else I say, listen at your own risk.

"I am early in my story, but I believe 
I will stretch out into eternity, 
and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, 
these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road, 
walking toward me. Years ago, 
He was a swinging speck in the distance; 
now He is close enough I can hear His singing. 
Soon I will see the lines on His face." 
Donald Miller

Swimmin Time
Coping Mechanism
Robert Creeley

dam’s broke,
head’s a

"I've been told there is a power in the blood
Is it enough to carry me back 
from where I am to where I was?"
Everything Now
No Hard Feelings
I Will Survive
Not Waving but Drowning
Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

As I drafted all of this out this morning
~ not realizing that's what I was doing ~
I had a vision of the woman washing Jesus's feet with her tears.2
And then I saw my own face, my own tears.
And I felt his hand on top of my head
And I felt in my hurting heart
How much he loves me
In spite of all my extremes.
My salt and my shadow.

And that's all I have to say about that.

1 this happens a lot, and I just had one of my really great ideas!
1a and also, why do I keep saying, "compadres"?
Forgiven Much