Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A good book

Last time I posted, I said I was the one without issues, but since then I have developed at least two, although one was resolved by a trip to the doctor this morning.

It was quite the indignity, but there you have it. It's over now, gone, snipped off with the assurance that it is 99.99% likely not to be cancer. Off to the lab with it, and all I have to do is go home and change a bandaid a few times. Whew.

Did you ever notice how true the old adage is, "It never rains, it only pours..." ?

Emotional avalanches are sweeping me away right now. What I would like, what I would truly love, would be to lose myself completely in a Really Good Book.

There is an utter dearth of Really Good Books out there. They are all about sex, first of all. Most of them are written by women. Although I would like to be an author, one of the things that seems to continually stop me is my memory of being a small girl at the Anoka Public Library, seeking a good book, and automatically putting back on the shelf anything written by a woman. I was too little to have learned this from anything other than my own experience with books. The books by men were just always better. Nowadays that is even more true, because not only are about 90% of books written by women, 99% of the books written by women are written by avid feminists. If there is anything I can't stand it's a book written by an unapologetic feminist who is acutely aware of herself in every way except the way she comes across to people who realize (not think, realize) that her position is flawed from the outset.

But this is not a post to lambaste feminists. I have many moments when I share sympathies with them, at any rate, so it would be hypocritical for me to act as though I thought I were better than they are. Many of them are very kind and real and generous and honestly trying to help each other. I just don't like their writing. Ever. I don't like rock music, either, and I recognize that this is a matter of taste, although it feels in my bones like a matter of morality.

There are some women writers I liked. I liked Lucy Maud Montgomery, Madeleine L'Engle, and particularly (and perhaps surprisingly) Maud Hart Lovelace.

I am having a terrible time reigning myself in today. I think it is because of the Tremendous Effort I am making not to think about or address certain other subjects that are bothering me, refusing to box up nicely into compartments in my subconscious. Very little of what I have written so far even reflects what is in my heart. My words above are like the flash of the camera that comes before the real flash, so that just as the picture is taken, you open your eyes and take the brunt of the piercing light directly against your retinas.

A good book is what I need. One written by a man, preferably British, ideally Christian. It should have beautiful scenes written in the English countryside, and cozy Christmases, an intricate plot with much suspense and many diverse and complicated characters and twists of events. There should be boarding schools and princesses, secrets from the past and delectable feasts. The noble characters should display their bold hearts and strength of character that spreads to strength of body, fighting battles against a seemingly invincible enemy and winning because it is simply right that they would. A really good book should have the plot of a Dickens novel, the timing and voice of C.S. Lewis and the poetic pathos of Chaim Potok. It should also have a happy ending... although, the ending must be unpredictable as well as happy.

That's all I want. I guess it's probably too much to ask.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Being overwhelmed is nothing new to me. A friend once told me, "You are the most overwhelmed person I know." That was probably fifteen or sixteen years ago, when the overwhelmedness mostly centered on small children who kept me up at night and smeared various substances all over my walls and floors during the day.

Now the small children have all grown to be bigger than I. And so have their issues.

Let me backtrack. I believe that I have some of the greatest kids on earth. They bring me joy beyond what I had dreamed possible. However, when you love deeply, you also hurt deeply when things go wrong. And you feel deeply when things are uncertain. And you just tend to worry more, even though you aren't supposed to worry, you are supposed to trust God.

There is a verse in 1 John that says, "Perfect love drives out fear." I am not exactly sure what this means. It seems like, as a mom, the more I love, the more I fear... I fear that they will experience pain and disappointment. I fear for my own potential losses. I doubt that this is what the verse is about. It probably has more to do with the love of God, although the book itself (1 John) is about how we need to exhibit God's love in our own lives. It's just something I've never understood, and something that makes me feel overwhelmed, guilty and inadequate when I worry about my kids.

And my husband. I worry about him, too. These days it seems like everybody close to me has a big need of prayer. The other night I was trying to pray and sleep, all through the night. I couldn't sleep, so I would pray. Then I would fall asleep, and wake up a bit later feeling guilty that I had not prayed through everyone's issues. That spurred me on to pray some more, which led me to fall asleep again, but by the end of the night I am pretty sure I had gotten to each one of them. I woke up in the morning and I actually felt a certain sense of peace, until I started thinking about it all again.

God is in control. God IS in control. This is the truth and besides that, He has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. It has just been hard for me to rest in that truth lately.

There was an old song that went, "It's me, it's me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer..." I am the one without a specific issue right now (except that I need a paying job, and don't really want one). But I think I might be needing as much prayer as any of us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tip of the island

Today we walked out to the easternmost tip of the island.

We have stayed on the eastern tip twice. It is beautiful out there, and somewhat desolate at low tide. The wild, untamed view is rather ruined by the buildings on Ocean Isle, particularly the lone condominium hi-rise that juts up all by itself. But at the same time there is something comforting about the civilization you can see across the channel.

We walked down at low tide with the sun starting to pass behind us to the west, and the wind at our backs. Lu has pointed out (wisely) that it is safer to go to the beach in the afternoon because then if you lose track of time and stay too long, the sun is getting weaker rather than stronger, and you are less apt to burn to a crisp than you would be if you went out at 10 a.m. We left at 2:30, intending to do some shelling.

The tide pools were bath-water hot, and filled with interesting little things. We found a number of conch shells, but the ones we found all had creatures living in them, so we couldn't keep them. Walking through the tide pools reminded me of earlier trips here, and I thought how wonderful and strange it is when you come to the same place for vacation over and over, and things that were a unique, impressionable experience the first time become treasured memories of familiarity. There is something so otherworldly about expansive stretches of water-rippled sand sliced with long streams of warm salty water. It is like another world that is not very hospitable to the thirsty human on a 95 degree day in the sun.

DJ and Jon swam the channel to Ocean Isle and back. The channel was calm and waveless, a nice place to rest and cool off after the long walk. We sat in the water up to our necks and just hung out for awhile, and then I needed to head back.

I had a little trouble on my way back. The wind picked up ferociously, and I got sand in my eyes. I felt a bit frightened at one point, alone on my way back to our "camp" of an umbrella and four beach chairs. I couldn't see and my eyes began to tear something awful. I took a couple of breaks where I turned backwards and rested with my face away from the wind. Finally, I went out into the ocean and rinsed out my eyes with some salt water, which was all that was available.

Eventually, I made it back to our beach house and the air conditioning actually felt heavenly. I refreshed myself and rinsed out my eyes with cool water from the sink and a washcloth. Then I headed back to the beach to meet up with my people again.

The waves were rough and rambunctious by then, and although I tried to swim, I was too tired to stand up to them, so after a rather short period of cooling down and rinsing off (if you can call it that--more like a short period of being pummeled by violent saltwater that insisted on splashing in my face), I went back to the beach house with a bunch of the others, and we got showers and started dinner.

A shower can be one of the most heavenly things in the world. Clean and fed, we watched some TV and the kids are playing cards now. It might sound like it wasn't a very nice day, but actually it was pretty wonderful. Shawn and I even got to see the sun set over the marsh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why I love the beach....

I love the beach in August, right now, when the water is as warm as a bath, but the waves are wild and exciting.

I love getting a different beach house every time, but I like this one enough to get it again.

I love seeing the little toddlers digging intently in the sand, as if it were the most important job on earth.

I love watching a plump two-year-old prancing about in her outrageous ruffled bathing suit and floppy sun hat, lifting her knees high above her reflection across the wet sand.

I love the sight of a seven-year-old racing delightedly out of the foaming water, dragging a net on a stick behind him, reaching for his grandpa's hand with all his heart.

I love pretending not to notice the young mother photographing her baby boy who is sitting in the deep, warm moat of a sandcastle.

I love the twelve-year-old doing cartwheels on the damp, firm sand, just because she can.

I don't even mind the happy man with a beer strolling through waist high water with his friend. They smile, breathe, relax.

The sound of waves, wind chimes, pelicans and whooshing ocean breezes across the dunes fills my ears along with sand and saltwater.

I settle under the shade of our umbrella and try to read with sticky salt on my arms, but there is so much happiness all around me, I just can't concentrate. Blue sky, white clouds, gray sand, green water and every imaginable color of beach towel surround relaxing people everywhere.

Nobody cares if the kids get dirty. There is always a washing machine at the beach house. And a shower. When you get shampoo in your mouth after an afternoon in the Atlantic, it actually tastes sweet.

And when you go to sleep at night, you find yourself feeling like the waves are still rolling you back and forth. I'm so thankful that God made this place.

Monday, August 2, 2010

an exchange from facebook

My friend's status: Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

Someone named Chris: Not much of a Proverbs guy, many of them were written as a way to teach a fear of God. (ie: 1:7a: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”). I believe Jesus was attempting to teach us a different side of God (love) and am hopeful that's the one we get to meet ; )

Me: Chris, some New Testament for you: look at Hebrews 13:8 in context with Colossians 1:15-17 and Romans 5:6-11.
Jesus' purpose was to provide us with the only possible way to find peace with God... His own substitutionary death.

Chris: How about John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Me: Exactly.

Chris: Ruth I think Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4; Romans 8:32, 2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:10, and Revelation 1:5 all describe a loving god which was my main point. Proverbs was a tool used the Jewish leadership to create a fear of god. (There are numerous examples of this vengeful angry god throughout the old testament). The New Testament marks a change in our relationship with god. Instead of being saved or destroyed through what we do we are saved because of what he (Jesus) did and our belief in him.

Me: I agree with you... to a point. I completely and totally agree that we are saved not because of what we do, but because of what He has done for us.

However, I do not think the God of the Old Testament is angry or vengeful... He is full of love and always had a perfect plan for reconciling mankind to Himself. Throughout the Old Testament, He promises that one will come who will bless all nations and fix our sin problem, bringing peace to mankind. The NT tells us that He chose Jesus to be our Redeemer before He created the world (1 Peter 1:20).

God is also unchanging (see my Hebrews reference above; coupled with the Colossians reference which shows that Jesus existed even before creation, as does John 1). Malachi 3:6 says the same thing, but I am guessing that you don't like to consider the OT as a reliable source.

The main point of salvation is that we were in danger of permanent separation from God for all eternity because He is perfect and holy, and we are sinful. 1 John 4:10, which you listed above, perfectly illustrates this... we needed an atoning sacrifice, a sacrifice that would satisfy the demands of a perfect, holy God... and He provided it Himself, in Himself. Because of His great mercy and love, He did the only thing that could be done. At just the right time (Romans 5:6) He took on human flesh and spilled His own perfect blood for us, satisfying His own perfect, holy character (His wrath against sin, so to speak), and saving us from eternal damnation.

God never changed, but our position before Him changes radically when we put our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) It is only because of His incomprehensible love for us that this change in our position could be possible.

I get concerned when people want to throw out portions of the Bible based on their human sense of what is nice and what is not nice. God is very clear that we must not be prideful when we come to Him (for instance, Luke 18:15-17, as well as nearly everything Jesus said to the Pharisees).

2 Timothy 3:16 says that ALL scripture is God-breathed and useful. At the time this was written, the NT didn't even exist as a recognized set of writings, so Paul must have been referring to the Old Testament, including Proverbs.

Wow. I will totally sign off now. Sorry [for hijacking my friend's facebook].

Chris: I did not say god changed I said our relationship with him did, and there are certainly many examples of a vengeful angry God in the Old Testament which is not seen in the NT.

"God drowned all the people of the earth in a great flood, killed... everyone (men, women, children, infants, and newborns) in Sodom and Gomorrah, allowed Joshua to kill the Amalekites, and even killed individuals himself: Er, Onan, Aaron’s sons, Korah and his family with 250 others, Nadab, Abihu, and 24,000 Israelites for “committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab."

God may have always been the same and I agree with your references, however he did show a much different side of his personality in the NT. Perhaps this is because when we look at the OT in a historical way we can see how the Hebrew people changed over time.

The Word Jehovah, ” literally means “He Causes to Become.” In other words, God becomes what is needed. In the Old Testament, god demonstrates different parts of his personality than he does in the NT because they were needed at that time for that people.

When Jesus died, the old covenant died. (IE Peter said we no longer had to follow dietary restrictions and could interact with the Goyim)(That we no longer had to be segregated because the whole point is to save humanity) I don't know about you, but I like to eat shell fish(that are not from the Gulf...hehe, don't own slaves and I have many gay and lesbian friends, the OT talks about this as well. Try saying the lord's prayer, which Jesus taught us, it describes a merciful loving god.

I'm sorry my first statement statement was so troubling to you. Best of luck on your journey.

I had signed off. I did not come back at him with examples of God's lovingkindness from the OT (partially because there are too many to count, but I think of "Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness," [Lamentations 3:22-23]). Neither did I clobber him with examples of God's judgment from the NT (although the story of how God struck down Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 was burning in my head).

I did not respond, because once someone makes up his mind to worship a god of his own making, from his own imagination, there is no dissuading him. If a person thinks he can just pick and choose which scriptures he likes and ignore the others, and that it is up to his own discretion to make the judgment calls on what parts of scripture we accept and what parts we do not, there is no basis on which I can have a discussion with him.

The thing that is really bothering me, though, is this: last Sunday in church, as we went through the "worship" portion of the service (and by that, yes, I do mean the music), I was thinking about the words we were singing, and I realized that, although we did not sing anything that was untrue, there was nothing in any of the songs we sang that would challenge someone who held to the type of belief system that "Chris" holds to. God loves us. God is always there for us. God is the great healer. God makes us feel better about ourselves.

Mm hmmm. This is only half the story. Our preaching is still pretty straight-up, but if music is billed as worship, and that is where our emotions and passions are engaged, and if this music is only based on the most palatable parts of the truth... where are we heading?