Tuesday, February 28, 2017

There’s some Good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.

I will call upon God, and the LORD will deliver me. God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. Psalm 55:17, 20

Our God will come and will not keep silence; before Him there is a consuming flame, and round about Him a raging storm. Psalm 50:3

The present simple tense is usually used to refer to future events that are scheduled (and outside of our control).

He is LORD God. He will deliver. He will hear. He will come. He will not keep silence.

And even my calling out is beyond my control. My aching heart cries out from the midst of brokenness and injustice. How can I not turn to Him? To whom would I go? He has the words of life.

Nathan and Kaitlin Hershberger call out on a daily basis as well, as they hold The Light tightly to their collective breast in a dark and almost helpless place, facing “the lack–or impotence–of good in the world.” Iraq is just one of those places in this world that propels us almost hopelessly to our knees.


This is what we hold on to. This is our hope: to find the hands and feet of Christ already at work around the world and partner with them–perhaps through volunteer assistance, perhaps through financial grants, but always through friendships–in the hopes that by sharing in their world and learning from them, Christ’s Kingdom, when it comes, finds a world a little less weary, a little less sick, and little more whole.

I will call out.

And He who is enthroned of old will hear me.

We will call out.

And He who is enthroned of old will hear us.

Our God will come and will not keep silence.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The sense of the whole.

Satisfy us by Your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Psalm 90:14

Friday night I picked up Ali at the airport. And as the car hit the groove of the familiar stops and turns, a wealth of memories tumbled open. So many trips back and forth to Tucson International Airport. So many smiles and hugs and stories.

And so many years ago we gathered at the bottom of the escalator holding a “Welcome to America” sign. And Ali and I sat up until two in the morning, remembering some, but certainly not all of the twisting turning moments that opened up onto unexpected vistas.

Tuesday he takes his citizenship test, and maybe the judge will swear him in right then and there.

But that was just the trickle before the thundering cataract. Last night I went to the wedding of one of my kiddos. And it was a small gathering of mostly family. And the gang of boys now men who first formed in middle school and have hung in there for some ten plus years. And me.

One by one each one of them made their way to where I was sitting and we remembered. The pebbles tossed into their lives from which ripples still spread. Who could ever guess that making a recalcitrant reader sit in the principal’s office that afternoon and read his assignment during recess would be credited with forming a lifelong love affair with books? Or me forcing writes and rewrites proved I believed in a very unhappy seventh grader? Or the Mexicali adventures. Crazy stories certainly not stacked on any of my brain’s memory shelves.

And the whole evening was a celebration of this very loving kindness of our Father. His overflowing goodness coursing even through the driest, most prickly desert passages of life.

And oh, my heart is glad. He is faithful and good.

That was yesterday’s sermon as well. That no matter our bleak immediate circumstances, our joy is founded on His faithfulness and His goodness.

And He never fails.

May I be satisfied, up and overflowing in the morning, so I shall be glad and rejoice the whole day through.  

Although not one of us has any idea of what lies beyond the curve.

In a few minutes I will be interviewing for a summer position in Erbil, Iraq, to teach Instruction to English teachers. Who knows?

Last night I swung by Home Depot during what turned out to be closing hours, but the parking lot guard ran in and grabbed a handful of paint stirrer sticks for my kiddos’ swords in the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet. Who knows?

My momma’s little cough has somehow turned into six days of pneumonia at Tucson Medical Center and maybe they will at last release her to go home today. Who knows?

He does.

For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

Is death the passage from the successive to the simultaneous–that is, from time to eternity? Shall we then understand, in its unity, the poem or mysterious episode of our existence, which till then we have spelled out phrase by phrase? Is death like the arrival of a traveller at the top of a great mountain, whence he sees spread out before him the whole configuration of the country, of which till then he had had but passing glimpses? To be able to overlook one’s own history, to divine it meaning in the general concert and in the divine plan, would be the beginning of eternal felicity. Till then we had sacrificed ourselves to the universal order, but then we should understand and appreciate the beauty of that order. We had toiled and labored under the conductor of the orchestra; and we should find ourselves become surprised and delighter hearers. We had seen nothing but our own little path in the mist; and suddenly a marvelous panorama and boundless distances would open before our dazzled eyes. Why not? –Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I pledge to protect and defend vulnerable people in the name of Jesus.

Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked. Psalm 82:4

Jesus taught us, saying: “You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for He causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.” Matthew 5:43–45

We do believe that certain basic principles can and should be the standards of order and conduct. Among these principles must be included the equal dignity of all men, acknowledgement of the solidarity for good and evil of all nations and races of the earth,respect for the plighted word,and the recognition that power of any kind, political or economic, must be coexistentive with responsibility. It is true that the proclamation and the acknowledgment of these principles does not as such solve any one single concrete political problem. Nevertheless these principles, if Christians are resolved to make them the basis of their political action, may have much effect and meaning in the present chaotic situation where all such standards are being abandoned. -Emil Bruner, 1941

So I have turned into one of those crazy frizzy-haired white ladies who has plastered her car with political bumper stickers. What's the point? Besides embarrassing friends and families alike? And ticking off the guy tailgating behind you? And maybe it will encourage me to be a hyper-considerate driver, like when I used to have one of those "half of the people who enter an abortion clinic don't come out alive" bumper stickers. I didn't want anyone to associate the pro-life movement with that little Volkswagen that turned without signaling or who cut them off at the light. That bumper sticker got me excused from jury duty. I guess it made the lawyers question my emotional or mental stability

Last Friday night I went to the Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona annual dinner, held at a small Mennonite church tucked away in a Tucson residential backwater, where they celebrated the day in and day out faithfulness of skilled, hardworking folk who send rain down on the just and unjust alike.

And it doesn't matter how those folks that live in tattered broken crunched cracked ​rusty rotted old trailers got there. It is about equal dignity of all men, no matter what. We are Christ followers who follow the One who forgave those spitters and mockers even in the moment when they had not even the slightest inclination towards understanding. 

On my way out of the happiest celebration of the year, I mean how often does one get to see Dustin Schaber do the Julia Child thing, I noticed the stacks of bumper stickers on the same little table by the door with bulletins and announcement flyers. 

Support Sacred Oak Flats. That is where the Apaches are fighting a multinational copper mining industry from destroying their sacred lands. Hmmmm. I betcha my Apache student with the kind respectfulness permeating everything he does would appreciate me voicing my support for his tribe. I reached over to pick it up when I noticed the Black Lives Matter sticker. Yep. And while All Lives Matter, there are some strongholds in our country that just don't live like they believe that in real life. Stop Deportations. I know some of my kids don't know if mom or dad will make it home this evening. Or mom or dad didn't make it home. I love my Muslim neighbor. And mixed in with the blaring headlines these days there have been sweetness, like this morning a Muslim community was raising funds to restore a vandalized Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

And in my belly I decided I don't want to be unobtrusive. I want to speak up for those without a voice, for those who sometimes live in the quiet shadows, away from the push and shove of political or economic power. 

And maybe it is a little goofy, even if the stickers are nice and straight with balanced whitespace. But maybe it will cheer a voiceless a bit. Make someone feel seen and noticed. Something to do with proclamation and affirmation of these basic principles, that really doesn't solve one single concrete problem. 

Except at least I will be very careful to use my turn signal and wave ahead someone who wants to merge ahead in my lane. 

Which is a good thing. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My heart shall become your heart.

“So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple without giving up all that he owns.” -Jesus

He stilled the storm to a whisper and quieted the waves of the sea. Then they were glad because of the calm and He brought them to the harbor they were bound for. Psalm 107:30

The Lord is my shepherd and nothing is wanting to me. In green pastures He has settled me. THE SHORT BREVIARY

And the thing is, He is my green pastures.

He is my harbor that I was bound for.

That is the point of all.

Giving up all, lest we be lured by some lie from the enemy that anything else satisfies or offers real comfort.

Pouring out every last drop, so that He might fill me up.

Yep, like a happy horse returning to his warm stable, my thoughts gallop back to Lewis, as he delineates the promise and delight of “all.”

“Give me all of you. I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want you, all of you. I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to kill it. No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out. Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them all over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self---in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.” –C. S. Lewis

Friday, February 17, 2017

And one of the passages this morning was Jesus noticing the widow's mites...and I think that is all I have to offer today.

You strengthen me more and more; You enfold me and comfort me. Psalm 71:21

Bless our God, you peoples make the voice of His praise to be heard; Who holds our souls in life, and will not allow our feet to slip. Psalm 66:7

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

My friend Facebook reminded me yesterday that seven years ago today I got down to the bottom of both of my TO DO lists for the first time in months, well except for the stack of descriptive essays waiting to be graded.

There is nothing new under the sun. I still have stacks of TKM essays to keep grading and grading because I can’t seem to get a thesis statement out of any of my eighth graders, much less support, support, conclusion. And I long to make really meaningful comments on the Journey Poems because some of the kids wept in class as they read them aloud. But around and around we go. Today is Culture Day so I will be making the classroom arounds of Sweden, Costa Rica and China with my homeroom all day long and I was warned that we don’t even get a bathroom break. But tomorrow, tomorrow I have deep hopes of digging my way to the bottom. And one of my crazy brilliant but totally off-task kiddos yesterday reconstructed all of my google.classrooms that had gotten swallowed up in cyberspace, so that is good. We also inadvertently found some glitch in my glitch-ridden grading program that brought his 59% up to a 91% by just answering five questions out of the textbook. And I let it ride. Grades with comments are due Tuesday morning. I have to write unique comments for each of my students in each subject even if I teach them three times a day. And they have to be unique from the comments that I made just before Christmas break, and I wonder how much unique I have rattling around in my weary brain. Next week I am going to take a deep breath and plunge into the world of Romeo and Juliet once again.  And Newton. Do I have the energy to drape my classroom with rollercoasters made out of foam pipe insulation? Or should we just drop eggs in parachutes off of the multipurpose room? And Civics. I have two and a half months to prepare the kiddos to pass the civics test required of all who want to become United States citizens.

But Everette just woke up for a moment and asked me to snuggle with her just a little bit more, so I left my candlelit table and curled up with her on the floor and she clutched my ear, and all is quiet. And I snuggled in His enfolding and comfort, quietly and at rest.

He is my strength.

And love.

Today dear LORD God, strengthen me with Your love, for without love, all of my works are but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

And the Monday night ladies were reading Ann Voskamp who was reminding us that we can’t be filled unless we are empty.

Let me dump out all of me, so that I may be filled with You.