Monday, May 30, 2011

What Blew Away?

Tornadoes blow many things away...

Signs and trees...

Utility poles and wires...

Houses and restaurants...

Churches and schools...

Cars and sadly, sometimes people.

But tonight as I joined in an interfaith prayer service we were reminded that tornadoes also blow away the lines that divide us.

I am living in a community that is no longer divided by theology or denomination or longer divided by political view or race or economic situation.

Suddenly...and for the past eight days...we have been united. We have lived together in ways we don't always live because of everything that blew away with the storm.

It will be interesting to see how we rebuild...what walls go up and what walls we might choose to keep down.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Glimpsing Normal

The surgery center called today. Our three-year-old's surgery (which was scheduled for this past Wednesday but cancelled due to the tornado) has now been rescheduled for Wednesday, June 1.

I didn't expect it to be that soon. I'm not sure I'm ready for it to be that soon...not because I'm not ready for him to have it, but because I'm not sure I'm ready to be that unavailable to the people I serve, so many of whom were directly impacted by the tornado.

At the same time, when they told me that the doctor could do it on Wednesday, I felt like we had to take that spot. After all, there are inevitably people who would like surgery rescheduled but can't because they are just trying to find a place to live or replace a car or desperately still searching for loved ones. I feel like since we can do it then, we really need to.

So, on Wednesday he will have tubes in and aednoids out.

And in that act, we will get a glimpse of normal again.

Little by little it will happen. While honoring the horrific loss. While mourning and hurting with others who mourn and hurt. Little by little we will do those normal, routine things of life.

We will again discover something we used to call bedtime.

We will again begin an exercise routine.

We will again have set days of the month to pay bills.

We will again do laundry before running out of underwear.

We will again visit people simply to check in, not to discover if they are alive and their homes are standing.

We will again (some months from now) worship in our church building.

We will again drive down the street without pointing out each fallen tree or downed house.

These things will happen...even if today we only glimpse them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Keeping On...

If you watch television for more than about 10 minutes...even, as I understand it, if you are halfway around the have now heard of our fair city and the tornado which struck last night.

So, what are we doing around here?

The three-year-old is...dancing while eating breakfast (that's likely to happen when the mommy absentmindedly says yes to candy for breakfast) and routinely making happy messes.

The five-year-old is...asking questions and wondering and just wanting to go into town and see his school and church and town (which I've not yet let him do). He's having conversations like this: "If the know where was that...with the really big waves...(Japan)...yes, Japan...if the earthquake there caused damage this big (picture hands held about 12 inches apart), how big is the tornado damage here?" (To which our dear friend, closing his hands to a few inches, said gently...about this big).

The mommy is...on the phone a lot. But when she's between calls she is fighting through imaginary shields with her all powerful kisses while children laugh and wiggle. She is doing her best at answering questions with words that speak of faith, hope and compassion while knowing they are as much for her as for her children. She is searching for members of her congregation which means many hours away from the children but being sure to kiss them goodbye and hello. She is celebrating each time that someone else is discovered okay (many of whom have been pulled from the rubble they used to call home) and working hard to give attention to toy car crashes and the need to stop and listen to her children. She is being thankful for loving friends who are taking care of her children while she is trying to take care of others.

Mostly in the midst of this bit of our journey we are just keeping on in the best ways we know how. And we are appreciating your prayers and care.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Big Enough

This has made it's way into the back seat of my car...

And at some level I am excited. I have to admit that...after all, I am the one who purchased it. And it's hard not to be excited. The five-year-old has been anticipating it for a long time.

And who can blame him? The law says you can ride in one of these when you are four. However, it also says you have to be forty pounds and that has been his problem. What it means is that for the last year and a half (yes, he's officially five and a half as of this week) rarely a day has passed without him getting on the scale.

"Mom, I'm 38.2!" he'd say as he came back to the table to eat another helping of dinner.

We've gone through this routine day after day for the last three pounds and 18 months. Just the last few weeks he's consistently been 39 pounds +. And finally the day came when he got on the scale and saw 40.0 and 40.2! (We had told him he had to be 40 pounds twice before moving into a booster seat) You can imagine his joy.

So, last night I took out the car seat and replaced it with the above pictured "safety device." And I told the five-year-old that I had a surprise for him that he would see today.

And he was surprised and least I think that's what, "AWESOME!" means.

But then I put him in and showed him how to buckle up and all I could think was...

Is he really big enough for this?

Technically, by law, he is. But suddenly he seems so small and so big all at the same time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Too Much

Am I the only one who gets overwhelmed by the "too much" of this world?

Just walk down the cereal aisle in your local grocery store. Have you ever counted the varieties of cereal? I have contemplated it but for fear of my reaction have decided not to take an actual count. I'm convinced Cheerios alone has more varieties than I'd need in my lifetime.

And that's just one simple example.

Cable packages offer more and more and more channels.

Put a keyword into your search engine and voila, more websites are available at the click of your mouse than you could ever read.

Even at the age of my children - just 3 and 5 - there are opportunities for athletic teams, art classes, interest groups, playdates, etc. My three year old can't even write his name, but his schedule can be filled with something different each night.

And, so as not to pretend that this is something outside of my life that I just observe...come to my house...look in my closet or my children's toy box and see the "too much" of our life.

Today after meeting an old friend and a newer friend for coffee (seminary being the connecting point for the three of us) I found myself driving away overwhelmed by the idea of keeping up with people from each place in which my life has been located.

See, perhaps the most difficult thing for me isn't just that there is so much, but that there is so much that seems worth my time. Although I like to use the cereal aisle as an example, it really doesn't overwhelm me so much, it just illustrates the point. What overwhelms me are all the good causes, real needs, valuable people, important things that are asking for my time and that all too often I'm trying to give my time to.

I am remind of the times when people crowded around Jesus wanting his help and he had to say, "It's time to move on." I admire that. I wonder how he did it. I wonder if I can.

Whether it's saying goodbye to that sweater I never wear anymore but have great memories of or putting off letting my children get overcommitted or saying no to one more meeting or allowing a friendship to be a piece of history...I wonder how to know when it's time to walk away and where to find the courage.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dream of This?

I doubt I'm alone when I say that I dream...

As a mother I dream of being better. I dream of taking more time for my children and having more energy. I dream of being more patient, more loving, more kind...all the things I try to teach them (sometimes in the "do as I say, not as I do" model of education).

As a pastor I dream of being better. I dream of actually getting to all those wonderful ideas which lie in stacks and sit on lists on my desk. I dream of actually visiting all those wonderful people who would benefit from some extra attention, a meaningful conversation, a loving touch. I dream of shepherding the people I serve in such a way that our little community is recognizable not just as a church but as a community of God's children.

As a wife I dream of being better. I dream of actually having energy left over at the end of the day for my husband. I dream of remembering to talk to him about the million little things I want to talk to him about over the course of the day. I dream of more time for us.

As a homeowner I dream of being better. I dream of having a cleaner house. I dream of not having piles on the table, on the counter, on the dresser...even just for a week or two. I dream of wanting to plant flowers and nurture a garden of delicious foods.

As a person I dream of being better. I dream of being kinder to strangers. I dream of continuing my education and pursuing another degree. I dream of becoming more active in my community and in my world. I dream of making a commitment to bring justice to those who it is so often taken from.

I dream. And I think there is a place for dreaming. I never want to be so content that I am unwilling or unable to become better.

And yet...sometimes I wonder how much my dreaming takes me away from where I am.

What would happen if I began to dream instead of imperfect life with a struggle to balance my roles and imperfect life where nothing is as neat and orderly as I imperfect life where I love and am loved. What if I allowed my life to be my dream?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God Loves You

(At the church I serve we publish a devotion each week based on the scripture from Sunday's worship. These devotions are provided in order to encourage people to remain connected with the scripture throughout the week. I'm going to start publishing these here on my blog with hopes that they might be helpful to you, too.)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:7-11

Picture the best love you've ever known. Perhaps it was love shared with your spouse, your child, your parent. There are many stated reasons we love others and many ways to show that love, but this scripture reminds us of something we often forget: we are able to love - able to know the joy of loving - because God loved us first.

Even though we talk about God's love...even when we believe in God's love...there is another reality we live with: often we aren't sure how lovable we are. Often we know that there are reasons we don't deserve love. Often we wonder if God could really love us that much. But, look again at what the scripture above reminds us of: God loves us first and not because we loved God, not because we are perfect, not because we deserve it, but simply because loving us is God's nature - it's who God is.

Make a list of the things about yourself that are not lovable. Make a list of the reasons God shouldn't give you the time of day. Now tear up that list! Throw it away! God doesn't care! God loves you!

Spend time with that reality this week. Be grateful for God's love.

And, remember, it's not just about you. As you spend more time resting in God's you realize more and more how loved you how it increases your ability to love others.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Taking it Seriously...but Not Literally

There's a story my grandpa tells about his childhood. I've heard it all my life. Although I don't remember all the details of how he tells it, it is a story that has captured the attention of our family.

The story's climax comes as my grandpa (then just a boy) has fallen in a hole in a tree where he discovered some young bear cubs. Before he had a chance to get out, he looks up to discover the mama bear returning to her young. As she eased her way back into their habitat, grandpa knew he had only one chance to get out. Pulling his pocket knife out (every good country boy had a posket knife!), in one single moment he both grabbed hold of her tail with one hand while sticking her in the rear with the knife he held in the other hand. She yowled and leapt from the hole, bringing with her my grandpa who quickly ran home.

Ask anyone in my family, they know the is part of our family fabric. And we all believe it. But trust me when I say this is a story that we take seriously, not literally. I'm in no way convinced that my grandpa had an actual encounter with an actual bear. But I do know that the story represents his childhood - a time of adventure, regular encounters with nature, discoveries about himself and the world around him.

It's funny to me how easily people can accept the Truth in stories, especially family stories or our own stories, even when we know they are not factually true, while often struggling to do this with scripture.

Somewhere in recent centuries a phenomenon has arisen in which people have begun to insist that the Bible be taken literally. What's interesting to me is that if you know much about early, storytelling cultures, you know that stories were often told for Truth (notice the capital "T") not for truth (when I use a small "t" that indicates provable, fact). It is doubtful that those who wrote down the stories and letters that have become our Bible thought they were writing history (and they certainly didn't think they were writing scripture). Instead, they likely thought they were recording stories of the community of faith, stories to guide future generations as they sought to live faithfully, stories to remind people of God's faithfulness and encourage their own faithfulness.

It's also interesting to me that the idea of truth (provable fact) is really a development of science, not religion. It's really something that in the big picture of humanity is a new idea - only around for the last several generations.

Obviously, I'm an advocate of taking the Bible seriously while not taking it literally (thanks to Marcus Borg for this phrase and a new friend for recently reminding me of it). I'm an advocate of seeking the Truth - the big picture message about God - rather than arguing over the truth - things like whether Noah actually built an ark to those measurements.

The Bible is an amazing book. Unfortunately it's also been used as a destructive weapon. All I know is that when I read it seeking truth I meet a loving God who cannot give up on humanity because we are part of God's own self. I meet a God who longs for us and remains faithful to us against some incredibly difficult odds (often of our own invention). I meet a God who chooses us time and time again and who hopes that we will choose in return.

While you're thinking about these things...take a look at Rachel Held Evans' rules of engagement for having conversation about the Bible. She makes some really good points!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Heavy Heart

I awoke this morning with a heavy heart. During some moment last night while I was drifting to sleep I opened my eyes to see the headline "Osama bin Laden Dead" scroll across the television screen. I usually don't turn on the television in the morning (except for cartoons) but did first thing to see if it were really true.

I spend countless moments every day redirecting my children from violent or hurtful responses to responses that ask accountability while being kind and compassionate. I work to help teach my three and five year olds that even when someone else hurts us, we don't have to hurt back. I work to teach them that violence does not require a violent response.

And yet today I wake up and hear some (not all, mind you) people rejoicing at a violent death. And as a nation rejoices I wonder how to teach my children appropriate responses to the hurts we endure.

My reaction has nothing to do with who is right or who is wrong. It has nothing to do with taking sides. It just simply has to do with my heart which cannot rejoice in the death of anyone. My heart which realizes some rejoiced in the death of Jesus. My heart which regardless of a person's actions can't forget that everyone is a child or a spouse or a parent or a friend of someone else who loves him or her. My heart which is heavy today as I feel that the road to teaching my children peace just got steeper.