Friday, December 23, 2005

What Kind of Clouds?

Earlier this week a dear friend of mine and I ate lunch together which is our weekly practice. This week she seemed especially down for some reason.

During our conversation a painful memory came to mind when she was a tiny little girl, perhaps 3 or 4. While staring at the clouds in wonder she asked her grandmother, "If you were God, Grandma, what kind of clouds would you make?"

Her grandmother's response was, "Honey! Don't ever make yourself equal with God!" Her grandmother's words still bruised when they came to mind and I could see the hurt and shame she still carried.

It just broke my heart, but then from a gentle sweet place a question came to my mind. I looked into my friend's eyes and bent forward just slightly. I asked with a big smile on my face, "If you were God, what kind of clouds would you make?" The look in her eyes was of a delighted beloved child. With a tiny shy expression, she looked at me and smiled through teary eyes. She knew that day that God delighted in her question.

I think He is still pausing to hear all her ideas.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cats in Backpacks

You know how cats love boxes and bags. Well here's a new one. They love backpacks, too. Miss Molly's at it again. What a goof!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Language with No Words

I love fall. It means the nights are cool enough where we can sit on our porch and enjoy our chiminea. The pinion pine smell....hmmm....Wonderful. The other day my neighbor said, "I can tell this weather agrees with you". This was about the 10th time he's seen us enjoy a fire.

Again tonight we spent the early evening on our porch in front of the chiminea. After my husband went inside I stayed outside and put another small log on the fire. The sun had gone down by this time, so only the light from the house, street lights, and occasional car light lit the evening. A song by Nickel Creek came on the iPod that stirred my soul, speaking to a deep place in a language with no words.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Detective Agencies

While walking my dogs today I stumbled across a piece of cardboard in the grass.
Something caught my eye so I took a closer look. It was an advertisement for a detective agency. (2 years experience. Call now! $.25 per case. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. )

It really tickled me. As I finished my walk I thought about the "make believe" games I played as a kid. The memory that stands out most is riding bikes with my sisters. We pretended we were on fast stallions racing against the wind speeding down hills. We attached a piece of string to the handle bars for reins. Go Thunder! Go! Ride like the Wind!

(I also recall that we buttoned up our sweaters and then pulled them over our heads so they looked like long flowing hair!!)

A flood of other stories came back to mind. One of my sisters setup an adoption agency. She registered the names of make-believe kids on index cards. Each card had a name and their story, and notes indicating successful adoptions.

Several years ago my nieces came to visit. They too setup a detective agency. It was pretty impressive. They sat in the truck bed parked in the driveway watching cars as they drove by recording details and license plates. In their pads of paper they dutifully recorded their observations. They had a blast and played for hours and hours.

Imagination...a wonderfully delightful thing.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dog Goggles

Visual Voice posted this on her website the other day and it just made my day. Makes me smile when I think about my dogs wearing goggles though I don't think they'd stay on for very long. Very funny and kinda sweet.
This is an exhibit in the American History Museum memorializing the first cross-country road trip in 1903. Mr. H. Nelson Jackson brought his dog along on the trek, outfitting him with goggles to protect his delicate eyes from dust and flying bug debris.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Grandma's Wedding Wish

My grandmother wrote these words to me when I got married a number of years ago. In the card she wrote,

"Keep in mind this little wedding wish which was with one of our wedding gifts and has really helped when there have been a few rough times in our 55 years together. I love you, Grandma Marie"

I love you, too, Grandma!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Together in Death

My grandmother and grandfather passed away earlier this year. Grandad died in late December and Grandma died about one month later. My grandfather was in generally good health for a 98 year old up until his last 4-6 months.

Their deaths are sweetly poetic to me. Although Grandma's health deteriorated several years earlier, I believe she clung to life so her beloved could precede her in death. They lived in their house many years beyond what was safe (in my opinion), saying that as long as they had each other they would be okay. It was next to impossible to convince them otherwise, but I guess they knew when the time was right. In their mid 90s they finally agreed they needed more assistance, so they moved from their home of 70 years.

Mom decided to have the interment service this summer when Wyoming weather isn't so bitterly cold. I'm glad she made this decision. It was a sweet moment to celebrate their lives on a warm sparking sunlit day. We remembered their lives together. I'm glad that their earthly remains were committed to the earth together. I loved them both very much.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Broken Watch Crystal

Several months ago a dropped my watch on a ceramic tile floor. The crystal cracked through the middle. Just like that and just that fast. The imagery left an impact. Several days later I wrote some thoughts in my journal. Today I reread them and they seem especially poignant given my week.

I had a difficult confrontation with a team member. This person seems to know exactly how to push my buttons. I recognized the moment I should have disengaged, but of course “I was right” and “they were wrong”. I couldn’t possibly back down and cede ground, and neither could they.

Except that when I left the conversation I felt terrible; humiliation mixed with wounded pride ~ a Molotov cocktail ~ poisonous, toxic, explosive. The more I thought about the conversation the more bitter I got. I hate admitting this, but I caught myself thinking about ways to get even ~ “even” meaning ways to exact revenge. Luckily, my conscience spoke loud enough that I backed off. My plans were a bad idea, going nowhere but sewing bad seed.

Anyway, this morning I spent some time thinking, meditating, and confessing. “What exactly is driving this vengeful attitude resembling everything except what my faith teaches?” I happened to stumble on Matthew 7:1-5, the famous “first remove the plank from your own eye, so you can have clear vision to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

After wrestling with the message for awhile, I’m coming to accept that perhaps this plank is a “critical spirit”. I hate these words. I’ve struggled my entire life with the tape, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” (Though I've come to recognize that this tape is denial and serves only to maintain a false peace.)

I think a critical spirit is something entirely different. Over the last year I’ve seen a harsh judgmental attitude develop within me; a prickliness of sorts. It comes out toward those I don’t trust, those I disagree with, and those who have hurt me in the past. It’s those people I find most difficult to love.

When I dropped my watch I felt sorrow not because of the broken watch, but something in the imagery made me sad. As soon as the watch fell from my hand I knew the crystal would break. Sadness came when I thought about the hard and unforgiving tile. I don’t want to be hard like that.

I don't want to be clean and well-kept on the outside, but hard as a rock on the inside. But it seems these days when someone accidentally (or purposefully) “crashes” into my life they find a hard reception. I don’t receive them gently. I don’t think I’m suggesting an attitude of oblivious denial, but maybe a little bit of give. I don't know. I wonder if this is part of extending mercy to people. Frederick Dale Bruner wrote the following that I really liked.

In every sense Jesus’ will is clear: “I want mercy and not sacrifice”
(Matt 9:13; 12:7), “I want the heart that overlooks foibles,
not the eagle-eyed vision that sees everything wrong."
- Frederick Dale Bruner

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
- Jesus of Nazareth

Friday, July 15, 2005

Sleeping Cats

There is something very calming for me to watch sleeping cats. As I write this entry one of my cats, Molly, is laying just above the keyboard asleep on my desk. She does this quite often when I'm working on the computer. Occasionally, she will s-t-r-e-t-c-h out and then immediately fall back asleep. I'm not really sure why I like to watch my pets sleep. Something about it brings something good to my heart.

Here is a pic of Molly fully stretched on our futon.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Favorite Appliance

I had a weird thought the other day. The question came to mind, "What is my favorite appliance?". I knew the answer immediately. My favorite is our dishwasher. You see, my sweet husband installed it 5-6 years ago. Luckily our kitchen had some extra cupboard space for we had to give up 3 large drawers. Every lost drawer was WORTH IT. It isn't an exaggeration to say every time I punch the on button, I feel grateful. Grateful to my husband and grateful to the person who invented the first dishwasher.

What an amazing appliance. Put the dirty ones in...put in the soap...close the door....punch the button...60 minutes later the dishes are sparkling clean. Simply amazing.

Thanks, doll!!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Pine Trees ~ 18 months later

About 18 month ago I posted a blog entry called Pine Trees. This is a follow-up entry that's been rolling around in my head for awhile. In the original post I talked about my sorrow at cutting out our diseased trees. I knew it had to be done, but I really didn't want to because somehow even in their diseased state they were still a comfort to me.

This metaphor spoke powerful words to my soul at the time, for I had come to a place where I was ready (and able) to deal with several painful memories (25 year old ones!!) that when remembered brought back the same emotional reaction and sorrow as when the memory was first made.

As I reflect back on those memories, today their sting is all but gone. I can remember without the painful emotions and it feels good. Some of these memories were about misunderstood grief. Some were about great loss, disappointment, and failure.

I've come to realize that forgiveness is such a big part of dealing with painful memories and beginning to "have life more abundantly" and "to have it to the full" (John 10:10b). I struggled with the concept of forgiveness for many years (and still do at times) because it never made sense to me. If I forgave the person, then somehow it felt like I was saying everything was "okay" and that the offense was no longer wrong.

Some years back I heard a teaching that began my trek toward genuine forgiveness. The gentleman spoke on the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. This was a revolutionary concept for me. For in my mind they were one and the same thing ~ intermingled and intertwined. The cloudy murky concept slowing (!!) began to change.

Forgiveness is a singular activity. It is something I do within me, and I don't need the other person to participate in the process for me to forgive. Reconciliation is a bilateral process, requiring the participation of both parties. For there to be genuine reconciliation, I need to forgive and the other person needs to show godly sorrow over what he or she has done...reconciliation is optional and depends on the attitude of the offender. (p. 46 - Real Solutions for Forgiving the Unforgivable - David Stoop)

I began to grasp the idea that releasing others from their debt (forgiving their debt) actually released me from my own death grip (which incidentally I didn't realize I was bound until I was free). I was able to genuinely say, "God I forgive xx for the debt they owe me. They no longer owe me anything. I release them from whatever debt I hoped they would pay."

"To 'for-give' is, in the English language, an extended, expanded, strengthened form of the verb to give. By intensifying the verb we speak of giving at its deepest level, of self-giving, of giving forth and giving up deeply held parts of the self." We give up the right to revenge, to perfection, to justice, and instead we give forth to ourselves - or to the other person - freedom from the past and an openness toward the future. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves and others. (p. 19 - David Stoop)
Yes, it was a gift I gave myself. In letting go and "cutting out the diseased trees" this area is now open and free. I'm now ready to receive the planting of something new and something healthy.

* * *

By the way, this spring my husband and I planted an Oklahoma redbud in place of one of our pine trees. Our new redbud looks healthy and strong and even survived those fierce winds we had several week ago. The tree bent over almost to a 90 degree angle, but it straightened right up when the winds subsided. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Equality and Equal Standing

Here is my first installment on church memories, which influenced me for good and calling me to live out Jesus’ commands.

During the Christmas Eve service back in December I noticed that all the acolytes were female. Tears welled up as I remembered the times I, too, served as an acolyte back in the 1970s. My oldest sister was the first female acolyte at my church. I followed in her footsteps several years later along with my middle sister. (For those unfamiliar with the liturgical worship service, acolytes assist the priest as they prepare the sacraments for Holy Communion. Acolytes also light the sanctuary candles, carry the financial offerings from the people to the priest, and present the crucifix during the processional.)

Anyway, as I watched those young ladies during the Christmas Eve service I was gratified to see females continuing to perform this service at the Lord's Table. I am grateful to have been raised in a church that allowed women to serve right beside men. From a relatively young age I saw the verse written by Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” lived out in practice. Galations 3:26-29

I married a man with courage and insight to question cultural teachings passed down through the generations regarding out-of-balance gender roles. I’m grateful for this. His intellect and adept logic keep me on my toes, yet he listens to me and learns from me as I do from him…equality and equal standing.

My mother and father also influenced my thinking regarding gender equality (probably more than they realize) though they would not describe themselves as feminists. Dad and I often discussed politics, economics, and religion. He encouraged me to pursue a career of my choice and erected no barriers based on my gender.

My mom taught me that Jesus was the first women’s liberator. Her comment now makes sense in retrospect as this was in the 70s during the modern feminist movement. Jesus’ respect of women was radical during the first century. He loved his women followers just as he did his male followers. He welcomed women into his midst, called them to follow him, touched them, conversed with them, healed them, ate with them, visited their homes, and received gifts from them. He also trusted a woman to be a reliable witness of his resurrection during a time when women were considered unreliable witnesses and easily deceived.

Doesn’t it seem that Jesus restored women’s dignity? He telegraphed a value statement, i.e. communicated value to them by his actions. He invited them to be at “his table” by eating with them, speaking to them, listening to them.

Respecting the value of both men and women and abolishing barriers that prevent each from fulfilling their life's mission seems a worthy cause and a foundational principle worth choosing.