Wonder Full

moon

The other night on the way home, as I was admiring the night sky (because it was a clear night!), I was struck again by the presence and uniqueness of our moon.

Have you ever really looked at the moon and thought about its being there? It is a bright beautiful ball in the sky, or a crescent, or a sliver, or it’s shape is there though not reflecting the sun (the new moon). It’s up there waxing and waning and just seemingly hanging in space–at just the right distance from earth.

What would happen on the earth if it wasn’t there? What if we didn’t have the tides it causes? Or what if its gravitation was greater or lesser than it is? What would happen to the weather? What would happen to the water cycle? What would star-gazers, lovers and poets do?

When I gaze at the night sky with moon and the stars in their places and ponder on their being there in the first place, all in order, all safely right where they belong, I am amazed–again.

And I am reminded–again, this is just one big round wonder among countless other wonders.

On a whole different level, there’s a little atomic universe, then there’s a molecular universe.

There are the systems within the cells of each living body, plants, animals and humans; then there are the separate systems within each whole that the cells combine to form.

There are plants which feed the animals which both feed the humans, then there is the symbiosis between many plants, insects and animals which depend on one another for survival.

There is the atmosphere with the perfect blend of oxygen and other gases, and then there is the water cycle which includes a natural purifying and filtering effect, and the river of my life that runs through it.

Now we are back again to the moon and the stars, and then there are the galaxies beyond the bounds of imagination.

How do all these things all manage to work at all, let alone work perfectly in harmony together and keep working?

There they all are, undeniably, happily, inter-connectedly there. Now. Present. Just like our God–the Maker of them all.

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Gender Bending

This post may or may not be what you expect, depending on how you read or understood the title. The misreading and misunderstanding of terms seems to be especially prevalent in conversations addressing gender. Maybe that’s because this is one of the places we tend to ‘live’ all the time and can never get away from. And for sure, much of the way we look at life depends on how we understand gender.

A few years ago, Christopher Yuan was invited to George Fox University to speak on the topic of homosexuality. I was not there when he spoke, but both my husband and daughter attended this event and talked about it in great detail at the dinner table that evening in our home. My husband bought Yuan’s book, “Out of a Far Country,” which I read immediately. The one thing above all that was emphasized for me by this conversation and the book was the idea that as children of the living God, we have a new identity in Him. We can and should let go of identifying ourselves – in this case by our sexual bent – for example: homosexual, monogamous, polygamous, pedophilic, transvestite, etc…; to embrace our true, living identity: son or daughter of the One true, faithful, loving, just, holy, eternal, etc… God. As we begin more and more to realize our true identity through Christ, we will then proportionately, in every area of our lives, be ‘free’ to live one day at a time as God intends for us to live; in a way that is truly loving, truly just, truly good or righteous –in God’s eyes; for the good of all and to our joy.

Through the invitation of my writing professor, Tuesday evening my husband and I attended the fall faculty lecture. Melanie Mock was the featured speaker. She was the recipient of the 2014-15 “Faculty Achievement Award for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.” Out of her research and blog she co-authored a book with Kendra Weddle Irons, entitled, “If Eve Only Knew…” (I will tell you the rest of the title in a minute).

This lecture was not at all what I expected and what Mock, the speaker, feared we might expect. What she actually addressed was the perception of gender roles for both men and women and how they are sometimes taught by many in the evangelical church—and whether or not it is with integrity that the word “Biblical” is assigned to some of these perceived roles. The one thing above all that I took away from this “lecture” or conversation was again that our identity needs to be in God, separate from the influence of cultural, especially should culture be out of line with God’s Word of truth. And of course then I would immediately ask: When has popular (any) culture ever been in line with God? And if we think it is—How are we deluding ourselves?

Too often in wanting to be open and warm-hearted Christians, we more readily than we should, assign the word “Biblical” to things in the culture with which we tend to agree, which when examined more closely are too often not actually in line with God’s overall Word or heart.

The careful, honest, kind spirit and message of the speaker allowed room for the rest of the title of her book to be redeemed for me. And anyway, what she meant by it, was not what I originally understood it to mean. The whole title of her book is, “If Eve Only Knew: Freeing Yourself from Biblical Womanhood and Becoming all God Means for You to Be.” The ‘Biblical’ in this title and her message should have quotation marks around it, as the Question and Answer facilitator pointed out. Mock’s whole intent was to encourage us as Christians to be looking to be in agreement with God rather than with culture, especially before calling things “Biblical.” Though I don’t know if I would agree with everything the speaker said, should I have the opportunity to have a more in-depth dialogue with her; I truly appreciated the overall quest and message she shared very much, and would enjoy having more conversation with her.

Do we look to God and define ourselves and our potential, not by our gender, or race, or culture, or government, or family, or ‘tribe,’ or nation, or achievements, or problems, or addictions, etc… but by who and what God has promised to be and is to us? In other words are we embracing the Life God means for us to have through Christ, by His Spirit, of true peace and love and joy in the glorious freedom only He can and will give?!

Ode to Joy

I am sitting here at the computer doing homework on the one day since school began that we have as a “break” from school, which day we get off instead of Labor Day – which day we did not get “off” (How did you like that sentence!?!). (I know, Bruce, you don’t like the parenthesis, and I’m probably breaking some grammar rules in using them this way too – which rules I obviously need to learn if they do exist!). Anyway, I am not writing this to give anyone consternation (wink), nor so that you can feel sorry for me. Our teacher graciously extended the due date for our weekly blogs so we wouldn’t have to write today if we couldn’t or didn’t want to do so. Also, if you saw the view out my window and could hear the peace and quiet I am enjoying (hear the peace and quiet?!)…you would have less sympathy anyway. Not to mention, I actually enjoy writing – even if it IS part of an assignment – at this time in my life and on this day. This is a peaceful, enjoyable drift on the ever flowing river for me – for now.

And here is the drift. God gives us life. He gives us breath and all the other means for survival – which are plenty (all creation)! He give us the people in our lives and us to them. He gives us or at least allows the situations and circumstances in which we find ourselves. Then, so amazing, above all this, He gives us Himself if we will have Him, the very light and life and truth, through Christ, by His also very Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us on our way!

Then, even more amazing we find fault and look away and complain and blame and reject and ignore and deny and rationalize and minimize and so on, until there is nothing left for us but the miserable little mud puddle we are bent on playing in, while the great, wild, beautiful ocean is just on the other side of the dune (a word picture borrowed from C.S. Lewis).

Whether we remember this or not (and I am all too forgetful, myself!), how we see the things God has given us (with or without His help), and how we deal with them (with or without His help), makes all the difference in the flow and direction our lives take, one moment, on choice, one breath at a time.

I could wait until tomorrow, but I might run out of time with all the other things and appointments we have already planned. I don’t want to do it Sunday, the one day a week I get to mainly “rest” from my “work,” unless an ox is in the mire or unless I want to go really permanently crazy. I could wait until the last minute (Monday) to do this post, but then what about the school work I usually do on Monday to be prepared for this and my other classes? I could resent the opportunity of having school work in the first place? What about the fact that I love writing, and this opportunity is helping me in ways I never would have imagined to be a better writer? What about the fact that if I always did what I want, when I want, I would be a much worse character than I am? This season will pass soon enough. I can go to the beach another time, though probably not today…

Thank you, LORD, for giving me the opportunity to write this blog post, right here, right now; and for your blessings and the perspective to see them, which I am often too short-sighted to see on my own. Thank you for the great, wild, beautiful ocean. You make the journey a joy always (when I let You) – no matter where the river or the ocean current takes me!

Blind-sided for Good

cherries

The flow of the river took me to chapel this week. Chapel is a ‘requirement’ for most students enrolled at George Fox University, including older transfer students in my case. So this is where I was on Tuesday morning after a prodigious “Western Civilizations” exam. I have to be honest; I don’t generally look forward to chapel—mostly because of all the school work I already lack the time to do. Nevertheless, it’s also true that once I am there, I am glad I went. I am not sure what I was expecting this last Tuesday, but I wasn’t expecting this week’s message. It kind of blind-sided me for several reasons.

The first reason being, the speaker, Allie Vesterfelt, was introduced as a published author. Interesting. An author as a chapel speaker? Not a pastor or affiliated with some kind of ministry? Nevertheless, the aspiring writer in me perked up; I got out a piece of paper and a pen so I could take notes.

In speaking, Allie soon discloses that she did her graduate work in education (at G.F.U.). Education was my end major when I went to school so many, many years ago. Another immediate connection; I am relating closely to what she says. Where will she go with this?

Then her topic. She is going to speak on, “Misconceptions about What a Calling Is.” She approaches this topic by describing three things a ‘calling’ is not. She asserts a ‘calling’ is not: (1) complicated and mysterious; nor is it (2) something that happens to you someday; and finally, it is not (3) a destination, title, position, place or any other ‘end’ we might mistakenly believe we need to attain.

‘Calling’ is actually something I have been trying to figure out, again, as I am at another major transition time in my life. I’m done mom-ing and homeschooling and I have been thinking, my next step needs to be to help pay off weddings and other debts. Right? “Of course right!” (Fiddler on the Roof, for those of you who don’t quote movies like my family does). But maybe not in the way I have been imagining and holding on to.

Allie’s words both jar and resonate. I don’t even notice the fact my walk has been different than hers in regard to education, but I realize I would have disagreed with her at some point in my recent past about other things she is saying, and I am adding things in my mind I think she has left off. Yet meanwhile, what she is saying is so close to the answers God has been giving me for the last year or so of my life through prayer, scripture and circumstances (open and closed doors, just as I have requested in prayer, because I can be so obtuse) – I see I need to decide whether or not I am finally going to accept God’s leading and blessing in my life or let doubts and false expectations remain to take away my joy.

The cherry on top. In “Writing 200,” we have been studying and analyzing the writing process with a focus on different writers. As part of her final point, Allie inadvertently gives us a glimpse of her own writing process. Don’t you love how the Lord enhances His life curriculum for us if we let Him? I do!

On Sunrises

sunrise rainbow
sunrise rainbow

The other morning, I woke up and noticed the sky was sort of glowing. I thought this odd, since it was also drizzling rain. I put my face next to the window to get a better view of what was causing this strange lighting. Over a beautiful bright peach and orange glow was a full rainbow! I don’t remember ever seeing a rainbow in conjunction with a sunrise before. I was filled with awe.

Since we live in McMinnville, my husband and I get to drive to work and school every weekday. If it’s not overcast, we get to watch the sunrise for about 30 minutes on our way. The last two days especially, the sunrise has been a visual delight. Thursday the sun was sandwiched between cloud layers and like an eye between lids, it kept peeping out. Each time it did, it was a different shade of florescent gold, orange, yellow, or even pink. Meanwhile the wisps of fog here and there along the valley floor and cultivated hills were creating their own show. The fall colors were participating as well. Meanwhile, the clouds interspersed along the tops of the ridges were changing color with the sun and in relation to the other clouds. Occasionally shafts of light would beam down through fog patches to highlight some aspects of the hills and farmland. I know why they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I also know that no camera could have ever caught the continually changing panorama we got to behold.

This morning, the sunrise was again, amazing. Another perfect picture of autumn colors in a still-green rural backdrop; add all varieties of sunrise rays and colors with little patches of small and medium mist pockets all the way to Newberg. How did we ever get so blessed to live in this little piece of heaven on earth?

Even while the people of this world (including me) are busy making good and bad choices each day, God continues to be faithfully God. He is there. Sunrises are symbolic to me of a fresh NEW start, each and every day. I love the scripture, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you” (Isa. 60:1-2). What do sunrises and rivers have in common? Continual newness. I believe this is God’s favorite theme.

The River Analogy

My father grew up on a farm and was a hard worker. As a young man, he employed his wiry strength several summers by working for river guides, until eventually he became one himself. We have seen the unbelievable pictures taken of him, a buff, sun-tanned specimen of manhood. He ran the Colorado River, the Yampa, the Green and the Snake River. One summer he was the guide and cook on the Colorado River for a group of scientists who documented and took pictures of what would soon be covered by the Glenn Canyon Dam, creating Lake Powell.

In my youth, several times, my father took a large group of us from our church on 4-6 day river rafting trips. There was never any question, I always wanted to go in my dad’s boat. None of the other boats, even the bigger ones with more men, could maneuver as well to both catch the greatest thrill the rapids had to offer and to keep everyone and everything in the boat at the same time. Often, even the bigger boats would get swamped or loose people and things over-board. Never my dad’s boat – ever! Even though sometimes there were more people and there was more action on some of the other boats, I never wanted to be on another – especially going through the rapids. My dad would always scout out the bigger rapids with the other men before running them. Though it rarely happened on our trips, if the river was running in a dangerous way, he would encourage only the most skilled to navigate the boats through while the rest of us walked around. When people didn’t take his advice, they always paid a heavy price – though thankfully never in lives lost. In truth it terrified me to think of going through the rapids with anyone else; while at the same time I felt great anticipation at the prospect of going through each of the ones that we did with my dad. I have great memories of shooting mammoth waves in roller coaster fashion with him at the helm.

These are the roots of the river analogy I’ve been using. As you can see, I learned something else from these experiences. I learned about being able to trust an all-wise, powerful, loving Father God, because of my faithful father. It is easier to trust God to help me navigate whatever adventures He has planned for my life. I know I can enjoy all life has to offer without spiritual harm as long as I am in His boat. Nevertheless, I’d better admit that despite all I know about my Father and being in His boat, sometimes I let my focus wander to the threatening waves and grow fearful; or worse, I begin to glory in the fact that I am shooting the rapids in fine fashion, without acknowledging God at the helm and oars; and either way I forget how He told me to hang on; and I fall out of the boat in the rapids. At these times especially, I am glad for His unfailing love and grace. For usually as soon as I cry out, sometimes even before I do, though sometimes he lets me swim awhile, depending on my attitude; He will grab my hand to pull me back in. And there I am, glad to be back in the boat, once more safe and sound in the care of the Master, looking forward again to whatever He has for me; one day, one bend in the river at a time.http://www.oars.com/utah/yampariverrafting.html?source=Google-Adwords&gclid=CPGNw8ayqsgCFY9cfgodSUUD0g#2011-06-09-Yampa-502

How to Drive Your Children Crazy (please do!)

The process for driving your children crazy is really very simple. All you have to do is be a parent.

Of course this might be a little too simplistic for some to appreciate, so I will elaborate. Here are easy steps you can follow:

First the child you want to antagonize must have reached the age of two or begun to develop a mind of their own. At the first indication that they are going to hurt themselves or someone else, tell them, “no,” or stop them from doing what they intend. This is all you have to do. It doesn’t matter that they would have drowned, or been run over by a car, or decapitated the cat. They will not see things from your point of view, so you might as well accept that you have just succeeded with minimal effort to begin to drive your child crazy. They will be sure that this is your goal for the next sixteen years. I will warn you that there might be what some would call golden years of reprieve, while your child age 4 to 8 will think you are pretty amazing and this might outweigh the fact that you are trying to drive them crazy.

The second major step to annoying your child can begin when your child reaches the ‘not fair’ stage. This usually happens when they are between the ages of 8 and 10. This is when you can wrap your child around the axle by telling her, “Trust me, it IS fair that your brother who is 16 can drive the family car and you cannot”; or “the baby isn’t a candidate yet for taking out the trash.” And if for some reason these kind of unreasonable observations don’t work or you really want to zing them, tell them, “Let me tell you what’s not fair – What’s not fair is that you are tampering with my evil plan to make you utterly miserable for the rest of your life!”

The third and probably most potent way to drive your child crazy, is for them to turn 13 or 14 (when the hormones kick in). That’s it! You don’t have to do anything else at all at this stage in your child’s life. You can just set ‘driving your child crazy’ on auto-pilot. Okay, I take it back – there is more you can do. You can smile at them or sing to them in the morning before they are fully awake. Even at this stage, again, I must warn you that you may experience failure despite all your efforts, especially if your children for whatever duration or reason, becomes convinced that you really do love them, even if they don’t believe that you know what you’re talking about.

Another warning is that once your children have their own children, the secret will be out, and all your efforts will appear for what they were. Of course you can still drive your children crazy then by indicating in any way you’d like to see more of them and your grand-children.

This really is all there is to it. As you can see, it is not at all hard to drive your children crazy. I just wish more people would!

What Are You Waiting, er’ I Mean Writing For?

One of the main reasons I am in college again is to learn to be a better writer. Though I am able to recognize and appreciate good writing, I am not nearly as able to produce it. It generally requires a great deal of work and editing for me to get a ‘piece,’ or even sometimes a letter, ready for submission, or for sending, to someone. I would love for good writing to become more ‘natural’ or easy-flowing for me. I think if it were, I would look at this as one MAJOR step toward ‘success’ in writing. This aspect of writing, however, is only a means to what I feel would be a true end or true ‘success’ in writing.

Above all, I desire to be used of God, through His Spirit AND writing well, to encourage others in their walk with God or in their walk toward God. My own thoughts or opinions or feelings are not worth much in and of themselves unless they in some way point individuals towards the truth of God’s loving kindness and goodness towards them and toward all human kind and creation. God, or rather a false image of Him, has always gotten bad press in this world. It began in a garden, with a woman believing a serpent more than God. People still disbelieve God’s integrity, love and goodness. I would like to be a voice to help counter-balance this by sharing with a ‘new’ perspective who He ‘really’ is and has been to me and to many I love, and how He has ‘really’ blessed us and worked in our ‘real’ lives in ‘real’ ways.

So the journey to better writing begins, today with more practice in writing. A blog is good discipline, requiring that I write more often and regularly and thoughtfully. So for today, I will consider it a ‘success’ in writing that I have posted yet one more, hopefully readable, post on this blog.

What’s NOT New?

Each day this week, I have known even before dragging my sleep-deprived body out of the warm bed, I will be putting my boat into the river above rapids still – this rougher section of the river has not ended yet. Though I know a little of what’s ahead for the day, as things proceed, I continue alive in the awareness of my reliance on the help and the grace of God.

The homestead issue is much closer to being resolved (some relief); the spider bite is healed (thank you, God!); our son is already fully absorbed in college life, but he has still given us some glimpses of himself here and there anyway (joy!); our daughter and granddaughter leave our home today for Portland then early in the AM for New York City (big heart-tugs); The temp. job is over (for now); I’m still getting situated in regard to this ‘school’ thing, trying to balance it with my already existing ‘life’ thing (!); we are in love with our new Chinese friends/daughters (they are ‘stuck’ with us for good); with others helping, the exchange student living with us is registered for school and classes and attending McMinnville high school (a major hurdle behind us). So these are the things that are NOT new now, right? But what about the currents and whirlpools and even rocks they have brought into the stream of things?

For example: with our daughter and granddaughter leaving..

..comes a flow of others to see them before they leave, ALL our children and some friends taking breaks from their ‘other’ lives to be ‘home’ with them for a minute. Home is the hub.

..homestead issues and homework and other pressing or non-pressing ‘things’ end up in the back-eddies and keep getting left behind.

..there are some thrills with this ride as ALL our children and some dear friends are ‘flowing through’ (did I mention this already!?!); people are being hugged and loved and fed and seen and heard. Though things are crazy I know I wouldn’t take my boat out to walk around this rapid for ANYTHING! I know all too soon it will be over. Though I admit I do look forward to more peace and regularity in my life eventually, I wouldn’t change a thing here!

..even while a rock approaches. It looks daunting to even try to keep in touch over the miles and time sufficient to ease the unease of separation from these loved ones.

Meanwhile, school and all the other ‘old’ things and more continue in the midst of all this, to be in the mix of all this, each causing ‘new’ things to continue to come into my life; all making up part of the thrill and the turbulence and the danger of these rapids. All together creating the absolute need to hold firm to the boat and to trust the Master of it.

An audience with the King

Pretty much all of my life I have kept a diary or journal, as I mentioned in an earlier blog. Initially I simply liked to write in order to get my thoughts and feelings out where I could look at them and/or to get them sorted out a little. As I got older, I imagined that I was keeping a kind of record for posterity. Our church and family were interested in genealogy, for reasons I won’t go into here, and we appreciated the few journals which remained from our pioneer ancestors very much. We were encouraged to keep our own journals. Besides letters addressed to specific individuals, my first ‘real’ (smile), imagined audience was my ‘posterity.’

Over the years I would occasionally go back and read some of my past journal entries. I was increasingly embarrassed by the pure self-centeredness and the lack of content in my writing. Even after the life-changing experience of my conversion to Christ, most of my journaling still wasn’t something I wanted anyone else reading. After my husband and I actually began to have progeny, this became even more true.

I can’t remember the exact turning point in my journal writing. It was after we as a family had finalized our exodus out of the L.D.S. religion and were in fellowship with people who held Bible studies. It was through several Bible study books which also required journaling I learned about a ‘new and improved’ audience. I began to write to the LORD, in praise and gratitude and to encourage the church or body of Christ. This new ‘audience’ has made all the difference in my writing. I wouldn’t be nearly as embarrassed were someone to read these journals. The only embarrassment might be that I still write informally and don’t often consider my grammar or sentence structure when writing directly from my heart onto paper in this way. If in some imaginary future era ‘the church’ or my children ever wanted to publish these journals, they would have their work cut out for them to make them ‘legible,’ but at least some of the content might be of worth to some real audience or individual.