Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Found

From the Anika archives: March 2008

Sometimes desperately frustrated by how far away God felt...longing and yearning for a connection to my Savior...I would close my eyes and simply beg God to show up.  At times there was silence and I would feel no answer at all.  Occasionally there would the remnant of a verse I’d almost forgotten or the briefest whisper of affirmation...the quiet knowledge that God was not as far away as I may have thought.  And every so often my pleas were answered with the vividness of reality playing out before my eyes and in my heart, with the reassurance God has been waiting for me to beg Him to show up...


I am looking. Searching.  Like a game of hide-and-seek where I am the seeker.  The sun is bright and the day beautiful.  I move deliberately, slowly, almost as if I am walking on tiptoes – trying not to make any noise as I look one way, and then the other…behind that tree, in that thicket of flowers.  I bite my bottom lip with a mischievous grin.  The look on my face screams: “You’re not hiding from me, You’re hiding for me.  You are giving me a reason to seek; I just have to keep looking.  This is just a game…” 

But time passes and the sun is not quite so high in the sky.  The flowers are tall on both sides of me and I do not have a good view of the path or expanse of land in either direction.  This no longer feels like a game; this is no longer enjoyable. My breathing quickens; the smile drops from my face.  “Where are You?  Why are You hiding for me anyway?” 

Silence.  I nearly scream into the air but there is no answer.  I begin to walk away.  My pace accelerates and my seeking becomes more of a frantic search.  The branches snap underneath of feet as I walk quickly down the path.  With a quivering voice I shout again.  “I can’t find You!”  My words reverberate off the trees but again there is no answer.   The wind blows and I shiver.  I am cold...alone...desperate.   

And so I start running.  The path is narrow, almost non-existent, and the brush catches me from all sides.  My arms and legs are becoming scratched and bruised.  I continue to run.  A fallen tree limb snags the flesh on my leg.  A branch above slams into my forehead.  While I am conscious of the pain – the blood trickling down my leg, the sudden pounding in my head - I do not have time to stop and see what caused and is causing my pain.  I no longer care.  All I know is that it hurts.  And so I keep running.  Pushing the flowers and branches out of my way, I am dying... dying to know where You are. 

Breathing heavily, I feel myself begin to give up hope.  It is too hard to continue to run; there is no use continuing to try…  And my run becomes a jog and my jog becomes a weary pant.  I am just barely moving and I cannot go on anymore.  As I slow the back of my hand reaches to brush my tousled hair out of my face.  My cheek is wet and I realize I am crying.  My walk slows further, so slow I am just barely moving, and I fall.  My attempts to move are that of a crawl and I am no longer crying, I am sobbing.  I can go no further.  And so, I stop all together.  I have nothing left to give, nothing to go on. 

I sit on the cold ground and am vaguely aware that is all but dusk as my face falls onto my scarred arms.  I bawl.  Salty tears fall into the fresh cuts on my hands and I wince as my arm brazes the raw bump on my head.  “Where are You?”  I whimper.  “You promised if I were to go looking, I would find You.  What happened?  Are you really hiding from me? I can’t see you if You’re not here…”  And my body convulses as I collapse.

And then, just then, You’re there.  Gently, tenderly, You pick me up and place my head on Your shoulder even as I am still sobbing.  You rub my back softly and whisper in my ear:  “Ssshhh... It’s alright.  Just rest.  I’ve got you.  That’s right. Lay your head on my shoulder and rest…” 

My convulsing stops and just a few sobs cause me to shake as my breathing slows.  I lift my head and look into your eyes, “I couldn’t find You…and now I’m dirty and scratched and…” I choke back more tears and am ready to again hide my eyes in Your shoulder when I see them.  There, in the corner of Your eyes, are tears of Your own.

And with Your free hand, You take Your thumb and wipe the tear out of the corner of Your eye.  Your thumb, still wet from Your tear, moves from Your eyes to mine as You use it to wipe the streams from my tear-stained cheeks.  And then I know.  While I was looking for You, You had been waiting, looking for me too.  Your hands rub over my gashes, wounds, bumps, and scars and heal my hurts. The warmness of Your touch overwhelms me.  I would be scarred again and again to be held as I am now being held.  Because in Your arms, in Your eyes, I am perfect, I am Yours, I am found.

And You kiss my forehead as it nestles into Your neck.  With feeling and emotion in Your voice you again whisper into my ear:  “Relax my daughter.  You are safe.  You have fought and you have found.  I have you and I will not let you go.  Just rest…”




Psalm 13...



Monday, July 24, 2017

Rearranging, Readjusting, Rerouting...and Whether I Give it or Not

It’s hard to believe that, as I sit and begin to type these words, it was a week ago that I endeavored to take a group of teens on a local “backyard” mission trip.   It’s hard to believe that it has already been a week since the insanity which still has me shaking my head – and yawning.

It was a trip “doomed” from the beginning…a celebration of Murphy’s Law at its finest.  If it could go wrong, it did.  Sometimes in multiple ways!

Here is the backstory with just a few of the highlights of this endeavor…
  • November: Anika gets hired as District Youth Coordinator (works with 66 churches in the district to help their youth ministries be viable).
  • Before November is up: Anika has been approached by several distinct churches about doing a “backyard” (local) mission trip as was done a few years prior.
  • By the first of the year: Anika sends out information in her bi-weekly newsletter, looking for interest.  Enough interest is garnered to proceed.
  • By the end of February: Mission Trip flier makes it into every newsletter.  Individual fliers with information are emailed to every contact.  Individual letters are mailed to every church.  Church specific emails are sent to the initially interested parties.
  • By the end of May: one church is committed with zero interest from every other church in the District 

But it was going to be good.  The one church happened to be my own.  The youth happened to be individuals I attempt to invest in on a normal basis.  Teens I thoroughly enjoy.  And their youth leader was not only on board but more excited than I was!  It was nice not to have to try to plan and execute another district event on my own. We would be a small group, but the ducks were so perfectly ordered they could have marched in an infantry!

Fast forward… amidst the insanity of starting classes back up, of trying to put in hours for my other job, of trying to invest in people (including my new nephew and his mom and dad), of trying some reasonable amount of self-care (aka: sleeping for more than a few hours at night) …suddenly the mission trip snuck up out of nowhere.  With it came instant stress.  But it was going to be fine.  Because my ducks were off in the corner doing synchronized baton routines.  Plus, I expressed with deep satisfaction, how my schedule was an accordion – plenty of room for ebb and flow, for flexibility. 

And then my ducks went AWOL.  Not a single one reported for duty. 

It was a little bit of everything you could possibly imagine. 

My youth leader – my precious partner-in-crime and the reason my sanity was still in check – got sick.  I rearranged.  I readjusted.  I rerouted.  I did the last-minute shopping.  I recruited a helper for food prep. Shoot! Half of my youth even showed up in time to eat leftovers!  I mean, they weren’t much help but the spirit was there!

Storms came.  Awesome storms.  With the prospect of more awesome storms.  I rearranged.  I readjusted.  I rerouted.  We delayed leave time.  I created no less than four back up plans.  We set up camp with hardly a sprinkle.

My beloved youth leader was still fantastically sick.  My other adults weren’t available until late that night – per the duck plan.  I had a dozen kids and two vehicles and only one me to transport. I rearranged.  I readjusted.  I rerouted.  I made several calls and was about to get to my “maybe a parent can help…” list when my sister came in and saved all kinds of days (on account of her own AWOL ducks).

The magnificent thunderstorms kept us up much of the night – and cancelled the partnership we had scheduled for the Thursday.  With the help of my now present adult leaders… we rearranged, we readjusted, we rerouted.  We found a new place to invest.  We moved some of Friday to Thursday.  People who had no idea we existed were blessed. 

Friday came with a giant question mark.  I was physically and mentally incapable of rerouting one more time but we had to…because we used Friday’s projects on Thursday.  With the help of my adult leaders…we rearranged, we readjusted, we rerouted.  And then we did it again when the agenda items which shouldn’t have changed, did.  And we had some extra time for community and fun. And people who had no reason to expect anything from anyone were blessed.

And Saturday came and I gave my youth both the Friday night and Saturday morning pep talk…of how the day would go and what I needed from them and that I wanted them to remember who they were and Whose they were.  It was the guaranteed part of the schedule – set in stone, the only piece not open to the accordion.  The free family carnival came and the carnival left and maybe 50 of the 400-expected people came and we spent the day rearranging, readjusting, and rerouting… And the church we partnered with (who couldn’t have pulled anything off without my group) made plans for next year and started reworking ideas and weekends and potential with hope and excitement…

By this point I am not angry.  I am not even upset.  But I am discouraged.  I spent months and put dozens and dozens of hours into a trip I wanted to bless a group of teens and bless a community and bless God.  I was told from the get-go by my superiors that it wasn’t worth attempting and there were too many problems and it just wouldn’t work.  I had stood then with my ever-decreasing list of churches and committed youth and said, “but it is still worth it!”  And now I stood wearily with the 350 unopened prize bags I was packaging neatly into a box and saying, “so much for proving ya’ll wrong…”

I took a deep breath and tried not to get frustrated – mostly with myself.  I had been honest with my team about times where I was disappointed and even overwhelmed by the change of plans.  I desperately sought to make sure my stress didn’t affect how I interacted with them and I praised them for their willingness to go with the flow and serve with joyful hearts.  But now I was tired.  And I could do absolutely no more rerouting.  And I just didn’t know how to pray any more fervently or work any harder for an event which had seemingly nose-dived into the concrete…

And I watched my teens stand in goofy costumes waving viciously at cars passing by… If they were embarrassed, it didn’t show.  They were joyful and energetic. 

And I listened as one of my youth said “where are the people running games?  There are only like three kids here but they deserve to have a good time!”

And I questioned our “bonus youth” (the only one connected to another district church) who stood with the largest, most ridiculous smile on his face, as he informed me that this week - which he had entered into hesitantly – was one of the best of his life.

And I thought back to the fervor my teens put into serving people, (who had no idea they were going to be served!), to the joy and laughter they put into menial tasks which were never part of the plan (and seemingly less “important” than the ones scheduled) – how proud I was of them.

And I considered the fact that while there were a (very) few reminders to rally and to “step it up” in maturity, I never once had to deal with inter-group behavior because they genuinely enjoyed being together…they served in community and out of their community.

And I giggled as they all went up for children’s time at the church we visited (something they always do with the little ones at their home church) to the encouragement and delight of the congregation…

And I near teared as I watched them, without any known instruction or guidance (or adult invitation!), circle up on the church lawn, with their parents waiting in the parking lot, for their own time of prayer before parting ways. 

And I sat, alone, in a very full car in an empty parking lot, for several minutes after everyone had left.  Without warning, I cried violently for several minutes.  It was odd and out of place until I considered the fact that, for the first time in nearly a week, I didn’t have to have my brave face on for my teens and the pressure of needing to be director, leader, mentor, friend, cook, alarm clock, and liaison on a constantly rearranged, readjusted, and rerouted schedule, released in one fellow swoop.

I shook my head (but not my fist) as I drove the mile back to my parents’ house to unpack my car and get started on homework. 

You see, on Wednesday, before I would know the extent of the rearranging, readjusting, and rerouting ahead of me, I had chatted with my friend, the mom of a couple of my teens. After mutually agreeing that despite the wrinkles (thus far!) everything would be fine, I proclaimed half-heartedly and with slightly clenched teeth “God will get the glory whether I want to give it to Him or not!” 

Without the hint (but still the lingering stench) of the irony which so often characterizes my life, I started the homework I was terribly behind on.  It just so happened to include a conversation about the glory of God and how clearly in the Gospels individuals were ready to give Jesus glory for the things which they had expected from Him but how the true glory of God was manifested in the least glorifying way – a criminal’s death.  How whether the glory due God was being given or not, it was being made known. 

I taught and praised my teens.  I encouraged them to dig into their bibles, to think critically about what it meant to be on a mission in service and leadership and outreach.  I was SO proud of them SO many times for the way they took life by the horns and served with joy and hospitality and God’s love.  I thanked God multiple times for my teens.  I don’t remember thanking God for the trip.  I told my youth “do this for Jesus” and we talked about what that meant…  I thanked God for protection and provision and projects.  But I also gift-horsed them as I made sure He knew that while they were “fine”, they weren’t my ducks or my plans. 

The truth is, I didn’t want to give God the glory.  In the stress and chaos inside my head, no part of me wanted to pause and declare God’s goodness for it.  “Thanks for this change of plans, again!  I am tired and overwhelmed and at a loss for my next move and you get the glory for it all!”  I couldn’t say it without sarcasm… 

However, I was leaving out the “but”.  I love to tell my youth how often in scripture the “but of the matter is the heart of the matter”.  What comes first is important, what comes after the “but” is the heart of what is being said.  “God, you get the glory.  These were not my plans, but….”

But…You provided.
But…You protected.
But…You sustained.
But…conversations were had.
But...community was built.
But…people were served.
But…people were blessed.
But…a congregation was encouraged.
But…Your name was made known.
But…my teens (whether they realize it yet or not) grew in understanding of You…
But…you WILL get the glory whether I decide to give it or not…


My list of “buts” could and likely should go on.  Though this was written a week post our leave, it is being posted a week post our return.  It was originally written as a set of my own reflections.  My own way of putting into right perspective and attitude the reality of the experience.  Experiences should always be considered in light of the inherent reality of God’s goodness.   If there is anything other than my reflections here for your, that is alone for you to decide.  I do, however, pray that my life is a testament to the reality of the glory of God.  That I choose to give it all circumstances.  Whether I want to or not.   

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

BUT I'M. STILL. HUNGRY!

I was 11, maybe 12.  We were still at the Hersey Church and it was Communion Sunday. 

In the United Methodist Church, we have an “open table”.  Meaning you don’t have to be a member to take communion and anyone who professes Jesus as Savior and Lord may partake.  Parents often use this as a teaching opportunity as they walk forward with their young children.  Such was the case with young Tommy Johnson on this particular Sunday.

The Johnson family always sat in the very back row of that rather small church.  And they had about 100 kids.  Or so it seemed.  In reality they fostered many children and adopted out of the foster care system and cared for the ones otherwise “left behind”.  It is probably why they sat in the back row...to have an easy escape route.  Tommy, at the time their youngest...fostered and later adopted, was memorable.  Probably because he was only a year or so older than Gabe, my youngest brother.  That and because of one fateful Communion Sunday.

Per usual, Tommy’s parents had taken him in arm to the front for communion.  Pastor Dad leaned in with special words just for him as three (or so) year-old Tommy ate the small chunk of bread with juice.  And then began the long journey to return to the back row.

They hadn’t made it more than half way back when Tommy screamed boldly through feisty squirms. The organ music continued in the background as Tommy bellowed loudly enough for the deafest congregant to hear...

“BUT I’M. STILL HUNGRY!”

Most people looked with wide eyes; shocked out of their reverent moment if nothing else.  There were a few giggles (okay, mostly from my row of siblings).  His mom looked mortified as she quietly scolded him and moved faster down the side aisle.  The organ continued without missing a note and communion with it.  But my 11 or 12 year old brain had locked in.  Locked in to words truer than young Tommy’s mind could have possibly meant or understood.

Tommy was responding to an intrinsic need.  Hunger.  Nearing noon, that delicious crouton sized bread chunk was a reminder that lunch should be happening.  Soon.  He fought backwards and upside down trying to get back – back to where just a taste was enough to remind him of his need.  His want.  His desire.  A want and desire and need real enough to proclaim loudly and boldly about what, indeed, he was fighting for...

He had a point there.  Communion as a sacrament can be very ritualistic, even routine as a reminder of supreme importance. But broken down to its basic premise?  To have but a mere taste of Christ and to leave satisfied?  The idea is nearly preposterous.  Yet, as a body of believers we would be doing well if leaving satisfied after experiencing the reality of Christ was limited to only communion. 

It’s not.

I suppose there is some essence in which we recognize God as more than enough.  Jesus tells us that in terms of spiritual hunger and thirst – He himself is the bread of life (John 6:35). He sustains, fulfills, and is far more than we could ever ask or require.  We recognize this best at the depth of need.  But even then – we come to God empty and are thankful to be full.  Who defines “full”?  Often...we do. We’re complacent consumers. Too many of us come for just what we think we need and leave resembling not as someone even filled to the measure but rather one with superior self-control on a no-sugar diet at a Christmas cookie tasting. We claim to be full even though we are left wanting. Or maybe it’s just me.  I’m not insatiable.  I’m not longing. I think I’m satisfied but what I am is self-decidedly full even though I should still be hungry... 

When I was in Uganda the locals treated us as honored guests and they would heap food on our plates.  It was one of the first days in country and one of the few guys on our trip responded to another helping in a very American way: “No! No thank you! I am so full!”  The hostess walked away politely. And then she later came back and offered the same gentleman something else, but something more. He was so confused as he again tried to explain that he was very full.  Our professor, someone who had spent considerable time in Africa, looked at us and said “never say ‘I’m full’; instead always say ‘I am satisfied’ when you’ve had enough...” In the states to lean back with hands on stomach and pronounce ourselves “so full!” is a compliment.  In Uganda it was quite rude.  Our professor explained that to say we were full was a way of saying we wanted no more – but it was almost like saying it wasn’t very good.  Likely, in attempts to redeem themselves, the hostess would try to serve something again to make sure you left satisfied.  To be satisfied to was to have enjoyed the meal to its fullness (not ours) and to indicate that what we had was so good we required no more and no less. 

How often, under such a distinction, do we leave the presence of God decidedly satisfied when really, we are, at best, full?

To leave satisfied... A perfect compliment for a generous meal. To be perfectly filled to the measure of the fullness of all something has to offer...  I think of this often and find it fantastic for many things.  But not for God.  To be satisfied comes with a measure and limitations...

As a human I am limited.  I can go to God and find myself full.  I have reached my limit.  But I can never truly be satisfied.  To be satisfied would be to experience God in His fullness and it’s something I am incapable of... 

When I first started toying with this thought process, it felt wrong.  “Surely God satisfies!” I declared thinking of the ways in which God reveals Himself as more than enough... And then I realized what a box that put Him in. “No! No! He doesn’t and He shouldn’t!” When did I, when did we, become “okay” with being satisfied with God?  When did we think to ourselves “ah yes, of God I have had enough! Am I not blessed?” We proclaim it honestly enough and often without a hint of mal-intent.  But it is a shame.  For of God we will only scratch the surface...

At one of the camps I was at this summer there was one chorus sang every night around the fire... “Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain, that I can’t control.  I want more of you God. I want more of you God...”

The words routinely struck me: “...that I can’t contain, that I can’t control....”

The thing with fires is that they are NEVER satisfied.  A fire will burn as long as there is fuel.  In fact, the right fuel at the right time will cause it to burn bigger and brighter and bolder.  A fire that doesn’t want?  Isn’t fueled?  It’s dead.  A true fire, an alive fire burns.  Endlessly. I think of the forest fires fought out west...  Those are fires which were and could not be satisfied.  They couldn’t be contained or controlled.  The more it was fed, the more it wanted. More and more....

Is that now how it should be with out relationship with Christ?  The more we are fed the more we should want.  More and more.  To be given just a single taste and proclaim with Tommy’s gusto: “I’m still hungry! I want more and more and more.  Beyond what I contain and what I can control.  I want more of you and refused to be satisfied...”

The Psalmist cries out over and over how he longs for God....

“As a deer pants for streams of water so my soul longs for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42)

“I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land..." (Psalm 143)

God is SO much more than who I am and what know and what I think.  And when I realize I can never truly be satisfied, I start fighting.  Backwards and upside down just trying to get back – back to where just a taste is enough to remind me of my need. My want. My desire.  A want and desire and need real enough to proclaim loudly and boldly about what or rather who it is I am fighting for...



“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will up my hands...” - Psalm 63:1-4

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bookshelves for a Fox Den

Bookshelves.

I literally day dream about bookshelves.

I was thinking black but I’m currently in love with sandalwood.  The black would be sharp but the sandalwood...that I could get to match the black/tan of my bedroom or the browns that will undoubtedly be part of my living room. I would like them tall – but not too tall. Sturdy but not expensive. I want them to be classy but practical and functional – extraordinarily so!

And then I begin to plan how my books will be placed on them.  I would love to go merely alphabetically but that is just not feasible.  I can’t split topics apart in order to put them in alphabetical order.  But to put them by topics or genre could split authors and I rather like the idea of having all of one author together in one place... It’s conflicting.

I don’t daydream about bookshelves because of a passion for interior decorating.

It’s not even because I have run out of space on some current shelves.

And, believe it or not, it’s not because I’m a book nerd.  I mean, I am but it’s not why I want shelves.

I want shelves because of what they would represent in my life.  Namely...stability. 

You see, I have boxes and boxes of books.  Several for being 28 and living in my parents’ basement.  I love to read and learn. And I do go back to previous reads and books. Not only do I go back, I struggle – truthfully – with whether I can justify rereading books and series I’ve already been through and love (and miss...I find myself missing fictional characters I haven’t spent time with in years) when there are so many books in the world and even several in my own collection which I have not yet read. 

But all of the books are in boxes. Packed and tucked away and not nearly as accessible as I would like them.  In fact, with grad school part of my life’s picture for the last year and a half, I have only had one or two classes where I didn’t open two or three boxes to pull out books I could use in reference.  I hate taking books out of boxes and having to guess where titles I know I have can be found. Even more, I hate when everything is said and done, putting it back in that box.

I want my books on a shelf.  Displayed. Accessible.  Able to be taken off and returned.  Able to be read one at a time without having to preplan which three to take out of the box and later attempt to fit back in... 

I could explain – in detail – about my attempts for bookcases and reasons for not obtaining one.  Often my space was too small for a single bookcase, (as if a single bookcase would suffice!) And where I have had space or could potentially make space...it isn’t mine.  The space that is? It is temporary.  I can’t put bookcases in temporary locations – it would make more sense to store them. If I’m storing books AND shelves? Well...now we’re just getting ridiculous!

Bookshelves can go up when they have a place to be. When I have a place to be. When I’m home.  Somehow, in my mind, bookshelves have become the symbol of “home”.

As a pastor’s kid with several moves and the inability to ever truly put down roots – roots are something I crave.  The question “Where are you from? What is your hometown?” is my least favorite question.  In the right/wrong context, it’s made me upset. “Why does it matter what my hometown is? Who cares? What is it going to do?”  The question in and of itself is simple enough: “Where did you/do you come from? What place shaped you and launched you?”  It shouldn’t be that hard.  But I don’t have an answer. “Nowhere? And everywhere?” or “Michigan?” It’s always a question and people always look at me funny and say either “that’s a state...” or “okay, but where in Michigan?”  “Well I live in... But it’s not actually where I’m from... I grew up in a few places... My parents live...  I’ll be ___ in/for a couple weeks/months...”  

The question really being asked is... “Where is home?”

And I don’t know.

If I knew...I could go buy some bookcases. 

I was trying to explain all of this to someone at the beginning of the summer.  I had just finished my two temporary part-time jobs.  I was/am job searching again.  I was being asked for the millionth time what I hoped to do; what I wanted... 

I told them I wanted bookshelves. 

That I was willing to pursue a lot of nothing – if the nothing meant not uprooting my life every six to nine months (which is basically what I’ve done consistently in the six years since graduation) – to get them. 

I said these things before an anticipated eight week hiatus from...well...everything. Jobs finished. School break. I hoped to accomplish a lot and to have the time to move on to bigger and better things.  I wanted to transition during those eight weeks...into something of the semi-permanent sort, something real.  Any extra time? I would be busy but with living instead of life.  I anticipated being able to just be. 

The joke, of course, was on me.  If I am going to start the summer by articulating a longing for book shelves and anticipating the feasibility to obtain them... of course that will mean I have the least stable summer in the books. 

I finished my spring grad class.  Went to counsel/teach at family camp.  Was roped into deaning/nursing/leading programming for a camp #2 the next week.  I turned around to go down state where I had a dentist appointment, spoke in Fort Wayne, visited friends. I made it north just in time to return to camp #1 to counsel for another camp I was roped into. I turned around the next day to head down to camp #3/week 4 to help nurse for the camp my brother/future sister-in-law/friends were leading. I went from that week to counsel for day camp during a busy week at camp #4/week 5. A weekend in Ohio. A partial week at home base with projects and appointments and then back down to camp #4 to counsel day camp in another busy week – week 6 of camp. 

Sounds like stability, right?

For a summer where my eight week plan was to find and create stability – the actuality of what it became was a huge fail. 

I am pretty sure I have spent more time in my car than I have in my own bed. 

It was...good.  I wasn’t always excited about various adventures going in but I don’t regret any of my experiences. Still...I struggled. 

I struggled because the summer I wanted stability to be my end goal, contained anything but. 

I struggled because to have a place in the world, to lay roots, and to truly feel like a place is “home” is still a great longing...

I struggled because every time I paused in the midst of the chaos and thought about how exhausting my summer on the go was becoming and how much I longed to have a spot I belonged, a spot for bookshelves...the only verse, the only one, to come to mind is the one in which is Jesus talking to people who wish to follow Him and he replies not with a “yes” or “no” or “here are the three things you need to do/know to follow me”... He speaks in a near riddle of personal narrative.

“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” (Luke 9:58)

The cost of following Jesus means be willing to leave everything else behind. It means wandering into uncertain waters and unguaranteed futures.

It’s forced me to ask myself the hard question(s): “What if God calls you to be without a den, without a nest, without a place to lay your head? What if this summer of bouncing from place to place is somehow representative of the reality in the midst of the longing? What if you are being asked to be a houseplant...shallow roots but portable? What if you’ll never have a reason to buy a bookshelf? What then?”

Then I guess my books stay in their growing number of boxes. 

Which is a hard realization to swallow.  The job search is discouraging.  The road ahead is foggy at best.  I want to answer a call to follow in the same way those who wished to follow Jesus answered. “Okay. I’ll be right there. BUT, FIRST...” (see the surrounding verses of Luke 9)

I don’t know where God is taking me. I want to be faithful in following even if it means I never get a fox den or perfect sandalwood bookshelves.  When it comes to the “treasure” I think I want...Matthew 6:33 reminds me to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added as well...” If God is my first longing either He will satisfy the other or re-direct them and re-orient them to what He wants them to be.

And in the meantime?  In the meantime I wait. I wait and hold to the passages and promises which speak to being faithful in the places I find myself and trusting in a story bigger than the one I could write for myself.  I’m reminded to be content – content in all and through all and regardless. (Philippians 4)

Regardless of whether or not I ever get my bookshelves.


But if I don't...I'm legit going to need a couple more boxes. The floor in my room is starting to look like a thrift store stock room... Just saying. 



Sunday, July 3, 2016

"I Ate This Pickle For You!"

We had narrowly made it through an incredibly demanding week of camp; escaping within an inch of our lives – or so it felt!  With enough collective sleep on board to almost spell our names (a very mild exaggeration), I suggested lunch in town.  With a shrug and a collective “why not?”... we drove into a tourist town on a holiday weekend to eat lunch at a trademark restaurant. (We were tired and our judgment was perhaps a little...flawed...don’t judge us).

As we sat down at our table I turned to the two individuals who had kept me sane and alive all week (not even a mild exaggeration) and said “I have a very important question!”  I don’t know if my face was serious or if they were still in camp mode but both responded with a very direct “what do you need?” kind of answer. 

“Pickles. Fried pickles.  Do you like them? Do you eat them?  I really enjoy them and they are good here but they only come in like a million of them so if I am going to justify getting them then people have to eat them with me...”

Keli sort of chuckled and said she would commit to one or two. 

Laura’s responded with “Umm...We sell them at work but I’ve never tried them. I don’t really like pickles very much.  So I’m only good for one.”

It was all I needed to confirm my appetizer order.  It wasn’t until later that I realized the absurdity of this conversation.  I don’t remember the exact context in which it arose – large parts of the day, including the drive home, are rather a blur – but somehow it occurred to me/us that I had purchased fried pickles because Laura agreed to eat one – even though she doesn’t enjoy pickles.  Though she said it wasn’t too bad – she intentionally ate a pickle, when she knew she normally wouldn’t – because I said I need people to commit to eating them with me. 

“I ate this pickle for you!” became the humorously stated reality.  We laughed.  A lot actually. Small things seem very funny in the context of sleep deprivation.  “It’ll be the name of the book you write about this week” I proclaimed through chuckles. “I Ate This Pickle for You! Subtitle: And other things I did against my better judgment for Anika Kasper, A Memoir”.  We laughed more I’m pretty sure.

It was honest.  There was more than a little bit of truth in the reality of the absolute absurdity. “I don’t like pickles – so of course I’ll eat a pickle for you!”  She did it for me. 

Not that such a fact was surprising.  A week of camp planned on the fly while serving at another camp, accomplished by a very small team on very little sleep...Laura was a God send.  I asked how comfortable she would be as my left-hand woman*. And she ended up saying “yes” every time I asked if she’d be willing to do something...leading crafts everyday for all of our campers, even when we had already discussed the fact she really really didn’t want to and I wouldn’t make her (being a character in the skit), and before I could really ask and/or with little to no warning (entertaining with silly camp songs while I looked for a misplaced cabin).  It was a thing. 

Laura loves Jesus, loves kids, and loves camp – but she ate proverbial pickles for me all week.      

I realized I had been too.  But, though this will sound a little terrible, I did it for God. I did it for the things I felt like He was asking me to do...

I was asked to organize, program, and lead a week of camp on 72 hours notice.  I didn’t want to.  But I am too passionate about the power of camp and in the end that’s why I agreed.  I couldn’t stand the idea of 25 kids showing up at camp and having an experience where they couldn’t see Jesus on the mountaintop, let alone not be able to go to camp at all.  I ate a pickle.

We didn’t hardly have a staff.  Let alone a nurse (until Keli came in and saved the day!).  It was up to me.  I didn’t want to.  I especially didn’t want to get up at 2am (and sometimes also 4 or 5am...) to do a glucose check on one of our campers.  A first-time medically needy camper who repeated daily how this was the “best week of his life!” and on Friday night, when we all but ready to collapse, declared he “never wanted to leave”.  So I ate a pickle.

A group of boys insisted on pranking.  It was severely affecting a cabin of little girls. I didn’t want to have to routinely discipline a whole cabin...but it is important to me that camp is a place of safety – even felt safety.  So I ate a pickle.

Firebowl was delayed 30 minutes one night because of a conversation which needed to happen with boy with a heck of story.  His answers made me think, I felt a nudge.  I audibly told God “no” five times as I walked to light the fire.  I didn’t want to share any part of my story – not this week.  But with the conversation still burning and the nudge still nudging, I shared just a piece.  A very small piece.  And I was so mad at God for that one – but I ate a pickle anyway. 


The list could go on – don’t worry, it won’t.  If you look at it, however, this whole week was nearly as absurd as Laura eating a fried pickle so I could.  But I did...  I wanted to look God dead in the eye as I drove home and state “I ate this pickle for You!”  He didn’t apologize.  Instead there was this sense in which the answer was “Good.”

When working with children my most oft stated phrase is “Safety first is my number two rule!”  It’s typically yelled after children running with their shoes untied or attempting some group lift into a tree or something.  Sometimes the kids catch that the phrase doesn’t necessarily make sense.  “So then what’s your number one rule?”  “Jesus” I say. “Jesus is my number one rule.  Jesus doesn’t always ask you to do safe things.  But once it checks out through Jesus...then safety first should be your next agenda”.

Eating pickles is making safety first my number two rule. 

I, me, what I want, what I think I need – the thing which is otherwise first on my agenda – it should always come second to whatever it looks like, whatever it means, to be found in obedience to what God’s asked me to do.

Part of me thinks every believer ought to be able to have a book entitled “I Ate This Pickle for You! And other things I did because God asked me to...”  It can’t and shouldn’t be a hubris book of personal accolades but instead a testimony of faithfulness. God’s faithfulness to you and God’s faithfulness through you.  Your faithfulness in service to God in places where it was asked of you whether it was a choice you would have made or not. Places where God said “whom shall I send?” And though maybe you knew you’re the last person you wanted to volunteer...you say “here I am, send me”. 

“I ate this pickle for You!” ... it’s the statement screamed at God when it feels as if you are eating the pickle which seems far too big for you and you’re in over your head.

“I ate this pickle for You...” It’s the whimpered words of desperation when you’re eating the pickle feeling all alone and wishing God would just show up, seeing as it was something He asked you to do...

“I ate this pickle for You.”  It’s a declaration of offering when you successfully finish something far beyond your power or your control or energy or strength or ability – when people want to congratulate you and exalt you for everything you’ve accomplished.  When you know it had nothing to do with you and so you give it back. “This I did for You alone, take it and use it for Your glory and honor, that Your will may be accomplished in me and through me...”


John 3:30 finds itself in the midst of a testimony by John the Baptist.  His followers are worried because, (I find this terribly funny), people are going to Jesus to be baptized instead of to John.  He responds that his job, the work he does, it is only to make way for Jesus.  He was eating pickles so Christ could be known.  And his attitude ends the conversation as to why “He must increase and I must decrease”.  It has to be more about making God known than his own popularity, ego, or aspiration. 

In the end... “I ate this pickle for you” was an act of humility and service and friendship on Laura’s part.  Though goofy, she was willing to leave her place of comfort and desire so the goals of another could be accomplished. It’s the same with us and God.  God calls us to respond not necessarily out of our comfort or desire but out our service and love for Him.  We need to be willing to risk ourselves for the sake of the one who put the entirety of Himself on the line for us. 

If Jesus really is my “number one rule” then more often than I do I need to be able to respond with a life which proclaims “I ate this pickle for you”...






*I’m left handed and routinely automatically turn to the left, when making a reference, looking for a volunteer, etc.  It’s a thing.


To avoid inevitable confusion...the pickle is a metaphor and I would dare say there will be very few circumstances in which the literal consumption of a pickle will be an act of bold, self-sacrificing obedience for God.  Unless of course you’re my brother-in-law...for if he ever eats a pickle, that’s exactly what it will be!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lent: Not Forfeit but Formation...

As a pastor’s kid, I was acutely aware of the church calendar...especially as it related to Advent and Lent. (aka: the times of the year I was going to see my dad the least...) But it’s never left.  So, its one of those things I anticipate still to this day.  I’ve been gearing up for Lent, in some ways, since Christmas. 

Lent officially begins today (Ash Wednesday) in protestant churches and it’s been an extra piece of contemplation for me in the last few weeks.  Much like Advent, is a time of reflection and preparation and so I’ve been preparing to prepare (the idea of “preparing to prepare” makes me giggle a little) for a while now.  Preparing in the last few years have including thinking considerably more about the root and purpose of Lent. 

With an opinion from just about anybody and everybody...I realized that sometimes the most important part of learning about something (or someone for that matter!) includes learning about what it isn’t...

So, what isn’t Lent?  Lent isn’t self mutilation.  It’s not about personal flogging until you are spiritually ready. It isn’t about self deprivation or abuse.  And that gets confusing...because isn’t self deprivation and abuse the point of a Lenten fast or sacrifice? Culture certainly says so!

But it’s not.  Lent isn’t a sacrifice.

I had several conversations during Lent last year (and especially the year before...it’s what got me contemplating to begin with) which caught me by surprise.  Some more than others... 

As a believer, it makes sense that Lent would mean something to me but most have friends and family members and acquaintances without a faith to speak of who will declare their Lenten sacrifices. I will undoubtedly have multiple notifications of facebook status updates reading things like “won’t be back for 40 days! PM for my number to text or call instead” or “don’t know what I’ll do with Mt. Dew ‘til Easter but here it goes!”  A conversation with a Lent-practicing but non-believing friend included the insightful and profound explanation “it’s just what you do”. 

Cultural fasting...interesting but not totally surprising. 

What was surprising were the multiple convos with believers – including a pastor and another who talked to their pastor and another who had the message preached from the pulpit from their pastor...who believed Lenten fasting wasn’t biblical.  Their responses were almost identical: “It’s misguided!  To believe you could sacrifice for 40 days as a part of sharing in Christ’s sacrifice is ludicrous!  I don’t fast because such a mindset is to grossly undercut the sacrifice Christ made.” 

The basic tenants I don’t disagree with...but it does show a gross misunderstanding of Lent.  We are told by Paul several times to share in the sufferings of Christ...most often connected to persecution for the sake of the gospel...but even those he personally cast aside as being meaningless in light of Jesus.  It seems entirely unlikely that Early Church Fathers would have supported a “40 day trial run” of sharing in Christ’s suffering.  And in fact they didn’t.  Why? Because Lent isn’t a sacrifice.  Sacrifice, or rather, fasting is a part of Lent... But it is also not the purpose.   

The purpose of lent isn’t forfeiting things...it’s about spiritual formation.

But, Lent also isn’t about a purge which makes one somehow holier and therefore “good-enough” for Easter...(which is another thing I’ve heard about Lent).  As if yesterday, happily known by believer and unbeliever alike as “Fat Tuesday” could empty us of all of our wrong and forty days of holiness could some how win us God’s favor.  This makes God out to be a domineering vending machine...Like if we push the right buttons, God’s favor will be unleashed instead of the gift given out of pure grace.  Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died...meaning at the height of humanity’s shortcomings, we were offered redemption.  Forty days is never going to be long enough to repay or earn salvation...because a lifetime won’t be.  It’s the height of the beauty of grace.

So what is lent?  Well “Lent” oft refers to “40” in its root in many languages but literally is an anglo saxon word meaning “spring”.  Lent is about life.  And furthermore true life that is available through Christ. 

Officially? The “encyclopedia” version would say something like:
Traditionally, in the protestant church (I make this distinction because Catholic and Orthodox traditions have some different practices), Lent is the 40 days - sans Sundays - leading up to Easter.  Sundays are left out as each is supposed to represent a mini Easter and therefore be a day of celebration.  The 40 days are symbolic to the 40 days Jesus spent being tempted in the wilderness before he was made ready for ministry.  In the same way Lent is supposed to represent our own temptation in a spiritual wilderness, a state of fasting and simplicity in preparation. 

As it has been since the beginning...original Lenten practices dating back to the time of the Nicean creed so 300’s AD...the overall purpose is literally spiritual formation.  In that we allow ourselves to be formed by the Spirit for His purposes.  Every part of Lent, including fasting, is in hopes of taking our attention off of ourselves and our desires and putting them on Christ.  I don’t know if there is a better verse than Hebrews 12:2  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...the maker and perfector of our faith”.

Furthermore, while we think of Lent as being a time of fasting (which we’ve already discussed – it’s not in and of itself)...it is actually six things: fasting, praying, almsgiving, thankfulness, service, and scriptural reflection.  Fasting, praying, and almsgiving were considered noncompromiseable in the early church and the fasts, especially, were very strict. 

While I didn’t find any research on it, my guess is that fasting stuck out as the height of Lenten practices because it is most unlike the other five and most unlike day to day.  Many see Lenten fasting as an act of penitence...an act of repentance.  And in many ways it is. 

True fasting isn’t about what or how the sacrifice is made but what takes its spot.  Not forfeit but formation.  Fix your eyes on Jesus... 

Choosing to fast should not be based on what others decide or don’t decide to do or their motives behind it.  It shouldn’t be a whim, a diet plan, or easy.  Me giving up dairy for Lent because I’m lactose intolerant is like my mother giving up peppermint...because she hates it and therefore will never have to worry about failing.  I think choosing to fast should come with the fear of failing. Fasting should be hard...in such a way that it will force us to place dependence in some area of our lives back where it already belongs – on Christ.  The act of “missing it” will force thought to go to the commitment, force one to think of Lent, cause one to think of the preparation to acknowledge Christ’s gift to us and accept that grace fresh and anew day after day after day.  Fasting isn’t suffering – it’s finding ourselves empty and so able to be filled by Christ. 

I have been challenged (and would also challenge you) to also look at the other five tenants of Lent: praying, almsgiving, thankfulness, service, and scriptural reflection.  I think it gives us room and opportunity to be creative. I once read a quick post which split each of the six into weeks: one a week for each of the six weeks of Lent.  Maybe this is worth emulating and so finding ways to incorporate them all little bits at a time.  Or perhaps a couple could be chosen to focus on for forty days.  After all, studies show it takes between 21 and 30 days to create a habit.  Make Lent about thankfulness and service (fore example) and it might be enough to make a life about them...

So make Lent about fasting and finding yourself with palms up looking to receive what God puts in to empty hands. 

Make Lent also about prayer: make time in your days to pray, incorporate it into the things you do and the thoughts you conjure as you go about the day. 

Make Lent about scripture...be intentional in seeking God through His word, allow His word to challenge and convict and to comfort and to guide. 

Make Lent about giving...use the unique gifts God has given you to serve others and therefore to honor him...giving doesn’t always have to be monetary. 

Make Lent about service...think critically about how your actions value others and follow a Philippians 2 model of humility and service to make that value known and true. 

And make Lent about thanksgiving...thank God for his grace and his goodness...intentionally seek out and thank someone who has expressed God’s goodness to you.   

(Check out what Jesus has to say about how to go about practicing these tenants years before Lent would be considered in Matthew 6:1-21...)
 

And in all...put God first.  Make it about Him and not about you or about what others think.  And if you fail or miss a day or forget...start again.  My experience tells me God’s grace often waits at about the same place I fell.  Regardless of what Lent means to you or what you decide to commit to in Lent...put your treasure somewhere your heart will follow... 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Laundered Rags, Really?

My mom washes rags.

Like “cleaned the whole kitchen and then wiped up a mild mudslide” rags.

We’re not talking expensive or meaningful rags.  These aren’t sham-wow’s or those things that can absorb a whole bucket of water (wait, are those sham-wows??) or the ones that polish the stains off of silver and re-varnish wood tables.

These are old socks...which sprouted holes and were filleted to serve a new purpose.
These are the remnants of t-shirts...the fronts of which were turned into a t-shirt quilt...
These are towels...which covered you – sort of – (if you were open to unfortunate peep shows), that were cut into squares.
These are (unfortunately) underwear from, well, no one wants to know.  Admittedly this is no longer really true but oft was when I was a child.  It doesn’t seem so long ago we retired the “rag” with the Mickey Mouse print...

I should also note that we have no shortage of rags.  We could clean up several mild mudslides. They aren’t a rare commodity...

And my mom, she uses them. She abuses them.  Like when you find one, you don’t question where all it’s been.  It could be an X-file episode with a warning label.

And afterwards? She washes them.

Takes ‘em, tosses ‘em in with a load of whites, bleaches the snot out of that poor rag (which vaguely remembers being a sock in some previous life), and it shows up somewhere else a few days later.  Faithful rags...
  
You wanna know what I do with rags?

I commit them to a task. I take one rag (typically one the 19 formed from some t-shirt) and I give it a mission. Say “the bathroom”.  I grab my cleaner.  And then I wipe down the counter and the sink. Then I wipe out the bathtub. Then, after scrubbing out the inside of the toilet with a brush, I wipe down the rest of it with my rag. 

And after? When this rag has spent its last repurposed moment with a bleach laden toilet bowl?

I throw it away.  I throw it. Away. I throw it. In the garbage. With tissues and hairballs and dental floss. And then I take the trash out of the bathroom.

Call me crazy, (it’s been done before...you wouldn’t be the first nor would you be the last), but no part of me wants to take that rag which has seen the nastiness of potentially all nastiness and just toss it in with some towels and socks and whatever. I can’t do it.
  
Now, I come from a very proud Dutch heritage.  I can claim with some degree of certainty that in this melting pot called America that I am 100% Dutch*.  If you know someone this Dutch you probably know a few things about my kindred.  The Dutch are notoriously stubborn and notoriously proud... “you can always tell a Dutchman but you can’t tell him much!”...and notoriously frugal... “have you ever heard how copper wire was invented? Two Dutchmen fighting over a penny!” (But for real...where did you think the phrase “going Dutch” came from?)

Now, I did use the word “frugal” and not the similar but different word “stingy”.  I suppose I can’t speak for all of us, but I have found most to be extraordinarily generous and giving...but where there is a penny to be saved? There is definitely a penny to be earned!  You use things until they die and then you repurpose them and use it again!  We routinely washed Ziploc bags and left them open to dry overnight when I was young.  When we had to rebuild part of grandpa’s greenhouses after a tornado? We salvaged and drilled back in many old screws.  And cool whip containers? Oh...don’t get me started on cool whip containers! 

Making rags out of old socks is a given. (It is practically genetic!)  And washing them is merely the natural outsourcing of the “use it till it’s dead!” lifestyle.

I am a stubborn, proud, (and pretty frugal!) Dutch woman.  I try to do too much on my own. I do things people tell me I can’t do just to prove to them I can.  I don’t back down from something I believe in.  I am a thrifty shopper and a champion budgeter.  However, I do not and will not wash rags.  It will not happen. Ever.

This long narrative?
First...I love stories.  And story telling. I’ve come to accept this and I find no reason to apologize.
Second...when switching out the laundry I found three of the afore mentioned washed rags (and promptly shook my head with deep sigh)
Third...I was reading the other day in Isaiah.  Specifically Isaiah 64.  Specifically verse 6.  “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags...”

Filthy rags.
Mudslide rags.
Toilet rags.

Actually pretty literally.  Forgive the “oh gross!” factor (if you feel like you need the warning) but most biblical scholars will point to the connection of “ceremonial un-cleanliness”; those who translate out of the original Hebrew (which I can’t do so I take their word for it) assert its literal translation is “menstrual rag”. 

Menstrual being "a woman’s period".  Rag being “thing to sop up said period”.

This poem given in Isaiah 64 speaking of God’s greatness and humanity’s, (specifically God’s chosen people, Israel – to whom we have been grafted in), depravity creates a staggering contrast. Here is God – before whom the mountains tremble and twigs blaze and water boils and nations quake and then there are His people. His people whose most righteous acts, the best of who we are, are menstrual rags.  Used tampons.  Soiled maxi pad (or “Always with Wings” – take your pick). 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been called some pretty terrible things in my life.  Creative, terrible things even (not all bullies are as stupid as they look!). But I don’t recall ever being called a dirty tampon.  I’m a chick.  I’ve been around this block more than a few times and explained the “magic of womanhood” to more than a few terrified sixth graders. Still, there is something incredibly disgusting about being called a dirty tampon. 

Culture has come a long way in normalizing this very normal occurrence (I used to say things to my campers like “the good news is...only like 40 or 50 more years!”).  And when I say “a long way” I am saying that what I view as both normal and pretty fantastically gross was the height of insult in Isaiah. 

Ya wanna know why? Blood.

Blood was ceremonially unclean.  According the Levitcal law (Check out Leviticus 15), anyone who touched a woman on her period was unclean.  Anything she sat on or touched was unclean.  Anyone who touched something she touched was unclean.  And after the bleeding stopped? Count off seven days...then you can be clean.  Cleanliness was far more than a social issue.  It was a God issue.  Being unclean kept people away from God. Clearly this oversimplifies the bigger picture but it gives an idea of what’s going on in Isaiah. 

Isaiah is literally saying: “what you think is getting you closer to God is doing the exact opposite, it’s revolting.” And, as Isaiah continues, their fate is sealed...shrivel like a leaf, swept away by sin, made to waste away... 

Those toilet rags were as good as mine...trashed!

There was this moment of self-triumph when I thought I had biblical evidence for my rag disposal...
It was short lived.

Short lived because if this is reality, it is also my fate.  Or should be...

Except the book of Isaiah, much like the narrative of scripture as a whole, is about more than Israel’s shortcomings. It’s about God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s grace, God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful people, God’s salvation for an unworthy people. 

Ultimately God does what only my mom has dared to do since – He washes those rags.  1 John promises that God cleanses from the unrighteousness. He makes clean what before was the epitome of unrighteousness.  He takes toilet rags – something no one should go near even if they wanted to, something without Christ He had to be separate from – and washes them. Repurposes again and again and again...Repurposes for His purposes...


Lent is approaching and so this reality brings me ever closer to my knees – and on more than one occasion – to tears.  I can see myself as a dirty rag.  I know the height of my unworthiness...and putting up next to God’s righteousness?  The distance separating is staggering. But so is His love for me.  I have a sense of what God’s redeeming from...

My brain took it a step further though.  It always does. 

See...I realize I am a washed a redeemed dirty rag (I don’t mean to be a heretic, I’m aware Jesus was Jewish, I just think He would make a good Dutch man...just staying).  But I am also the one who all too easily throws away dirty rags.  One mission, remember?  Sometimes I think I do that with people too...

I see where God has washed and redeemed me...but I forget He is always and still in the process of redeeming. 

Not just me but others.  Not just the others I like...but especially the ones I don’t.  Especially the ones who make me angry. Who hurt me.  Who, worse, hurt those who are important to me.  The ones who do stupid things and make bad decisions and I shake my fist at the pictures on the news. The ones who endanger the world, the innocent, the defenseless. The ones that make me growl as I mentally curse the parents of students whom I love but I know aren’t the parents they need to be (as their kids tell me through tears and hugs and nonchalant “yeah the police were at my house again...” comments). 

Jesus and I have been talking a lot about forgiveness in the last year.  I’ve had to come to this point of realization where I know forgiveness is important and necessary for those who have wronged me but I forget that a) I have to forgive those people who haven’t directly wronged me but whom I still hold accountable and that b) forgiveness is oft WAY bigger than me – I have to give it and them to God to forgive and c) God forgives those who acknowledge sin (flashback to 1 John...) AND d) God is in the practice of washing dirty rags.  God is in the practice of redeeming the ones I am ready to throw away... 

The moral of the story? I could take some lessons from my mom.  Maybe wash a dirty rag from time to time...  If for no other reason than maybe it would remind me to be more like Jesus.  To be more dedicated to the process of redemption...






*I’m secretly compelled by and terrified of those Ancestry.com commercials where the one guy finds out he’s not German.  I think it would be fascinating to have my DNA tested but am afraid that it is going to reveal that somewhere way way back there was a single lonely strain of Russian or something and so I’m only 98% Dutch.  I want to know...but I don’t want to know.  I want to live in my pureblood pride as long as I can...