Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Illinois Autumn

Last weekend, under blue sky and 78 degrees, Shawn and I meandered through Menard's garden center, looking for the next application of lawn chemicals.

I showed him the bag I thought was right.  "Late summer/fall," it said, "Fertilizer, weed killer and winterizer."

"No," he said, "that's for autumn."

"Yes," I said. "It's autumn."

He looked at me blankly.  Apparently he had not noticed the pumpkins and mums surrounding us.

"It's the end of September," I told him.  "It will be October before this time next week."

He wiped a glisten of sweat from his brow and deposited a bag of winterizing lawn chemicals into our cart.

The leaves on the trees are still green, but the farmers are starting to harvest the corn.  The harvest is such a big deal here, a true marker of the rhythm of life.  In fact, people don't even talk about autumn, or fall.  It's "The Harvest."  Huge combines take down the stalks across miles and miles of golden corn fields.

We don't live in New York anymore.  Nor Minnesota.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Maybe some comic relief (or: how to clean up after an old dog)

Poor little Piper is 16 years old now.  He turned 16 on 09/10/2015.

I made him a hat and took a picture.  The picture is a bit blurry, but he doesn't see well anymore, and neither do I.

Now that he is 16, he stumbles some.  Many of his teeth have fallen out.  His hips and hind haunches are extremely thin, and he often walks with his tail down, slowly, as though it hurts.  He seems to have more discomfort in the evening.  In the morning he is still quite chipper and eager for his breakfast, but in the evening he limps around looking forlorn.

He also tends to have accidents in the evening, if we are not vigilant.

The other day, after the sun went down, we were tired.  Not quite at the top of my game, myself, I decided to start the long ordeal of getting ready to close down house for the night.  Evening medications for people and dogs, the last tidying of the day, brushing teeth (even Schubert's), washing and applying wrinkle cream (to the lone female in the house), etc. etc.

Honestly, sometimes I don't go to bed simply because I am too tired to get ready for bed (but that is an aside).

During the aforementioned process, Shawn walked through the kitchen and got a wet sock.

Getting a wet sock is not a happy occasion. It happens when a dog has wet on a patterned rug, and camouflaged it.  You step on it with your stockinged foot, and suddenly your sock is sadly wet.  And gross.

For this very reason, we own a Bissell Little Green Machine.  Well, we bought the Bissell when Schubert was a puppy, but it was the same reason.  It shampoos rugs, or, more accurately, it allows me to suck a vinegar solution through a soiled rug and neutralize dog urine.  We had many years when we did not need to use it.  Now we are needing to use it sometimes.

Unfortunately, it is broken.

Shawn stood, aghast, with his wet sock elevated on his foot in the air.  He was not happy.  I figured it would behoove me to overcome my late-night aching and fatigue, and do a good job cleaning up the unfortunate event.

Since I couldn't use my Bissell Little Green Machine, I assembled approximately twelve large towels.  First I put a few towels both under and over the rug, and then I did a little dance atop the pile, to soak as much liquid out of the rug as as possible.

Then, I simply mixed up a solution of water and white vinegar and poured it through the rug over yet more towels.

Finally, I used even more towels to soak the vinegar solution out of the rug.  I danced a bit more; perhaps not my most happy, enthusiastic dance.

As an epilogue, I started up a large laundry load of towels, and tented the treated rug over an empty laundry basket so it could dry.  I was done.

However, the kitchen was still a bit out of order.   I bustled about, sticking dishes into the dishwasher, sorting mail and stacking paperwork to be dealt with in the morning.

Two glasses stood on the table with small amounts of water in them.  I wasn't sure which was mine, and which was Shawn's; I thought I'd finished my drink from dinner and put my glass into the dishwasher.  I grabbed the glass that was nearly half full, wondering why there was atypically more water than usual remaining.

As I walked over to the sink, I figured I might as well drink it up.  It's always good to keep up my fluids.  Just as I tilted the glass back and knocked down a huge gulp, I caught a whiff.  It was my vinegar solution, that I'd been pouring over the rug.

Of course it was too late.  I ended up spewing vinegar water from my mouth all over the kitchen floor.

Heroically remaining calm, I got my Swiffer Wet Jet out of my broom closet (I will be eternally grateful for this broom closet), and I washed the kitchen floor.

When Shawn came through the kitchen later, he asked, "Why did you wash the kitchen floor?"

Why, indeed.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Immanuel in the details

I have always liked dimes: tiny, whimsical, silver disks.  Dimes are delicate and slippery, in a dry, whispery kind of way.  When I sort change and stack dimes, they are the rarest of the coins, never as many dimes as pennies, nickels or quarters.  Dimes seem valuable, perhaps even precious, and they spark my imagination to dream of times when currency was in coin and pure metals rather than in paper or electronic accounts.

I like copper too.  Although nobody would prefer a penny to a dime, I do love the rustic brown of copper.

When Jonathan was around six, he bought me a copper necklace.  We were at Target, just the two of us, which was a miracle of sorts, in and of itself.  We'd walked into the entrance of the store, and he must have seen me glance over at the jewelry counter.

"Do you want some jewelry, Mom?" he asked.  "Come on, I'll buy you some jewelry!"  He pulled me over toward the counter as I protested.  Who knows what was running through his head?  Of course I never buy anything like jewelry for myself, but he wanted to buy me a gift.  Of course he didn't have  a lick of money, but should I squash his generous spirit?  I finally figured we could browse for a minute or two and then move on.

However, as I sifted through the necklaces hanging on the display, I came across a different and unique one.  It was simple, yet not completely plain, tiny copper hearts linked together in a chain that had a single strand falling down from the center.  I detangled it from the necklaces around it.

"Do you like that one, Mom?" Jon asked.

"Yes," I told him, "I actually do like this."

He may have been a little disappointed that it wasn't fancier or more colorful, but all he said was, "Are you sure?" and then, "I'll buy it for you!"

Thus, the necklace was added to our shopping cart.  I thanked my debonair companion after I charged it on Discover.

It became one of my favorite necklaces.  Being brown, it matched most of what I wear.  I often traveled with it, because it was a nice, un-fussy piece to transport and use.

Then one day, after our move to Illinois in 2013, I couldn't find it.  I didn't panic.  I told myself, "It will show up."  I stopped looking and did something else.

But the next time I tried to find my necklace from Jonathan, it was still lost.  And the next time, and the next.  I searched high and low and racked my brain trying to think of where it might have slipped away to.  I thought of all the different trips we have driven on since we moved here, countless college drop-offs and pick-ups and such.  Visits to Minnesota and Missouri to see parents.  The whole Ohio wedding expedition.  To top it off, I couldn't remember the last time I'd had it.  All I knew was, I missed it.  How long had it been gone?

In the meantime, Jonathan.  Jonathan is slipping away.  I pray to the Lord from a torn and throbbing heart, begging Him to bring this wandering, wayward son safely back home.

Last May (May 2015), I hit a low point.  I was fretting over Jonathan, and I could not find my necklace.  On one particular day, I went through another search for the necklace, hoping, trying not to hope, wishing I had it, feeling bereft.  Tears running down my face, I cried out to the Lord and said, "Please, God, of course you know I'd rather have Jonathan come back to a good place than anything else.  But do I have to lose the necklace he gave me, too?  Do I have to lose something that reminds me of happier times?  It was such a good memory of what a delightful little boy he was.  If you could just please help me find the necklace, it might help me hold on to hope for him."

I cried a little bit, and then I went downstairs to prepare a lasagna for some beloved visitors we were expecting.

Now, the previous day I had driven into town to Aldi, to buy ingredients for the lasagna.  I was sure I had everything; I'd made a list.  I'm usually pretty organized in this type of situation, but for whatever reason, when I got all my fixings out on the counter, I was short one can of tomato paste.  Although annoyed at myself, I've been working on positive self-talk and learning to say, "It will be okay."  So, as I examined the situation, I decided that the sensible thing would be to run over to the local IGA and buy a can of tomato paste, instead of driving all the way back to town for Aldi.

In my head, "It will be okay," was trying, but the other voice was pretty upset: "Do you know that tomato paste is 39 cents at Aldi, and it is fully 99 cents at IGA?  That's more than twice as much!"  But it was only one can, and the 60 cent difference was significantly less than the cost of gas to get all the way to Aldi.  I soldiered on.

In IGA, I actually found a can of tomato paste marked down on sale to 59 cents, and I felt the smile of God on me.  He was being merciful, and I appreciated it. It was graduation weekend for our local high school, so although IGA is usually a sleepy little joint, the registers were humming under lines of people buying cakes and balloons.  I took my one tiny can of tomato paste and stood in line at the service desk, where there were fewer customers.

As I waited for the person in front of me to finish, it occurred to me that it would be insane to put the charge on my credit card, so I began rifling through my billfold for cash.  I didn't have any dollars, but I figured I probably had some change.  However, as I poked through the change compartment of my wallet, I found that there were no quarters to be found.  Pennies, a few nickels, an old dog tag, a lost button.  I poked my finger around, searching, and began to turn up dimes.  I found two or three, then continued to dig . . . four . . . five . . . I only needed one more.

I swished the tip of my index finger through the contents again (they were getting a bit sparser with five dimes removed), and then, just as I turned up the last dime that I needed--yes, miraculously, I scrounged up exactly six dimes--just then, I noticed something in the crevice of the seam at the bottom of the compartment.

My necklace.

I quickly scooped the sixth dime into my left hand with the other dimes, and then carefully lifted the necklace out from beneath a smattering of dusty pennies, heart pounding, eyes stinging.  I stood there blinking, trying to breathe, incredulous, trying to think.  Then I realized that the cashier was waiting to serve me.  I handed her the can of tomato paste. She put it into a bag and asked for sixty cents.  I gave her my six dimes and walked out of the store, heart fluttering, whispering, "Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Jesus."

The sun spilled bright over the asphalt parking lot, illuminating the lines of the parking spot next to my car.  Looking down, I saw a glint of silver.  I bent over, and it was a dime, on the ground.  A few few inches away was another one.  When does one ever find dimes on the ground, and two, no less?  I scooped them up and slipped them into my coin purse, but it wasn't until later that I figured it out.  Those two dimes were the difference between the 59 cent can of tomato paste I'd just purchased at IGA and the 39 cent can I had neglected to buy at Aldi the previous day.

Only God.

Only God could affect my planning so that on the very day I cried out to Him, I would be short a single can of tomato paste, so that I would go to IGA to buy just that one item, so that I would comb through my change looking for a way to pay without a credit card, so that I would get to the bottom of my coin keeper as He placed one dime at a time before me until I had exactly enough to pay for my purchase, and then lead me to find my long-lost necklace.  Only God would top it off by refunding me the difference in the price I would have paid for the tomato paste at the store where I meant to buy it.  On top of everything else, God gives back the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).  He has, He does, and He will.

God is so good, so overflowing with graciousness, so intimately connected to us, so able to handle everything, from the universal to the minuscule.   I felt His presence powerfully that day, His love, His kindness, His grace, His reassurance of His faithfulness.  God with me.  Immanuel.  Love.  I can trust Him.

I wear this necklace often these days.  I do not wear it always, for that would be superstitious; but I wear it often, to remind me of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.  Now it is a symbol of two wonderful memories: when I first got it, and when it was restored to me.

God builds our faith in little things, so that we will know that we can trust Him in big things.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
    like poplar trees by flowing streams.
Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
    others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
    and will take the name Israel.
Isaiah 44:3-5 (NIV)

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling 
and to present you before his glorious presence 
without fault and with great joy—
to the only God our Savior 
be glory, majesty, power and authority, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
before all ages, now and forevermore! 
Jude 1:24-25 (NIV)

(My apologies to those who read the condensed version of this story on my Instagram last May.  The shorter one is probably much better.  Also, I am sorry about the coinage in the billfold picture above.  Yes, there are quarters in there.  That photo was taken today, and does not accurately reflect what the contents of my billfold were last May.)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Good things

Last spring, I planted a few pink impatiens in the garden terrace outside my kitchen sink window.  Impatiens always seem to hit their fullest glory in September, when they aren't really suitable anymore and I ought to be pulling them out.  That's why they fit me so well, and I do not pull them out until after a hard frost wilts them.  There is something just a little bit rebellious about sporting pastel flowers in the autumn.  (I am not big on rebelling against authority, but I sometimes get a rush out of flouting social norms.)

Creation has been delighting me lately.  Yesterday, while walking with a friend in her neighborhood, we crossed paths with a couple of sweet, round-cheeked, sun-tanned, soft-spoken and smiley midwestern children--perfect, a big brother and a little sister--and their dog.  At first I thought it was a dog something like ours, small and fluffy.  But after talking with the children for a bit, and petting the precious thing, we learned that it was a 14-week-old puppy, a Goldendoodle.  (That's a cross between a Golden retriever and a poodle--they're doing this these days to make certain popular breeds, like Goldens, less prone to shedding and also hypoallergenic for those who love dogs but have allergies.  It doesn't hurt to cross the Golden temperment with the poodle intelligence, either.)

This dog was just a bundle of gentle puppy love, melting into my hands as I rubbed her ears and her chin, then flopping over flat on her back for belly rubs, loose and limber as only a puppy can be.  She looked deep into my eyes as I dog-talked her, and I could read her thoughts, "You are a nice lady and you love dogs, and I am a dog and I love you because you love me, and I would like to be with you forever because, because, because just so much nice love!"  My heart longed to take her home, and she started trying to follow me.  I think the kids got a trifle nervous.  No worries. I tore myself away.  God made the dogs, and the dogs are a joy.

The day before, God did a different miracle for us.

Shawn and I try to walk quite often in the evening, but he works late and the days are getting shorter.  We can drive over to the park (rather than cutting through the park access in our neighbor's yard at twilight), but the trail gets downright murky by the time we reach the end of the path and turn around to come back.  Let me tell you, I get the creeps when, in the dark of night, we walk into a grove of trees and enter the tunnel-like part of the path with its umbrella of leafy branches above us and its thicket of underbrush stretching off into unknown blackness on both sides, while the cicadas shriek.  I never know what is hiding just out of sight, maybe a wolf or a coyote, or even a rabid racoon.  We often see bats gliding about in the night sky.

On Wednesday, the day of the miracle, I had a tiring day.  For one thing, I went to work, and I went earlier than usual because at the end of the day I had to drive over to the hospital and see a doctor.  On my drive across town to the hospital, I chose an injudicious route, clogged with stoplights and college students, which of course made me late, which of course made me stressed, especially since I was the last appointment of the day.  Upon my arrival, the receptionist kindly checked me in, even though I showed up two minutes after my appointment time rather than fifteen minutes before as per the instructions.  The good news is that the doctor didn't do any procedures to me, so ultimately it makes no sense that I was as pathologically tired as I was when I finally got home.

Yes, upon arriving home, I first took my dogs out, because that is important for our floors.  After that, I turned to meeting some of my own needs, which involved eating a snack, regardless of Shawn's schedule and the timing of supper, because I was famished.  After the snack, I collapsed on the sectional in front of HGTV and lay motionless until Shawn arrived home.

Usually we eat dinner before we walk, but on Wednesday I had eaten a snack, and Shawn had eaten a hearty lunch at work, late in the day.  We decided to go for our walk before dinner, a very uncharacteristic move.  The significant upshot is that we were walking with a lot more daylight than usual.

As we entered the grove of trees for the first time, outward bound, I looked up into the sky where we often see bats late at night, and I saw silhouettes of winged creatures darting among the tree limbs.  Upon closer inspection, we realized that we were looking at monarch butterflies.  We walked a bit further and saw more.  "So many butterflies!" I commented to Shawn.  The air was thick with them, like a cheesy special effect in a movie, except this was for real.

We arrived at the end of the trail and turned around to go back.  On the return we noticed more and more butterflies. Our foliage is still green, but we saw a number of tree branches that had so many monarch butterflies settled on them, they looked as though they were dripping with autumn leaves.  About halfway back to our car, we came upon a branch that was lower than the rest, so we gained a much better view of the butterflies and their beautiful fluttering wings.  We just stood and stared for a long time, wondrous that we were seeing this sight, the butterfly migration that had not been in town the day before, and would not be around again the day after.

How inexplicable is it that on the one day of the year when we decided to go for a walk before dinner instead of after, on that one day, that one time, God arranged for the butterfly migration to be there?  Inexplicable except for grace.

God often shows His love in ways that are specially tailored to minister to each one of us, if only we will notice.  Glorious thunderstroms, golden corn and soybeans almost ripe for harvest, sunshine, trees, flowers and puppies, even butterflies.

God is so good, He's so good to me.

(This is just Schubert, not the Goldendoodle, but Schubert is a miracle, himself.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Groaning for home

And we believers also groan, even though 
we have the Holy Spirit within us  
as a foretaste of future glory, 
for we long for our bodies 
to be released from sin and suffering. 
We, too, wait with eager hope 
for the day when God will give us 
our full rights as his adopted children,  
including the new bodies he has promised us.
~Romans 8:23, NLT

I quoted that verse a few days ago.

Do you know what is jumping out at me?  This verse says that we groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit in us.

" . . . we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of glory . . ."

Life is hard.  Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble, but that we should take heart, because He has overcome the world (see John 16:33).

Sometimes the contemporary church gets all going about how much great fun it is to be a Christian and "worship" with all their contemporary, swinging beats, and feel good, relevant, part of a great movement full of cool, savvy people who know how to love as nobody has ever loved in the past.  If you aren't having fun for Jesus, they suggest, then you aren't really a Christian, because Christians don't go around with pickle puckers on their faces.

That isn't the point.

If you are a real Christian, you will have joy, but you might not be happy.  Real Christians don't live in a world that looks like a manufactured stage covered with colored lights, drumsets and fog from a fog machine in the wings.  Real Christians don't dance a frenzied game of manufactured euphoria.  Real Christians know true joy, because they learn to find joy even in the midst of suffering.

Christianity is not just one more escape from the sorrows of life by turning up the volume and waving your hands in the air and saying, "Yeah, Jesus is so cool, and He doesn't ever get anybody down, so why are you, like, on everybody's case?"

The thing about Jesus, I think, is that He was real.  Painfully, profoundly exposed.  He wore a covering of flesh to protect us from the glory of God, but He put on no masks.  He wasn't afraid to be unpopular.  He befriended people who could never do anything for Him, people who couldn't boost Him to the next rung of the ladder because they weren't even at the worksite where the ladder was leaning.  Jesus never told anybody, "Hey, come follow me, and we will be so cool, and we will have fun in the sun and show those old serious, stodgy people that the Kingdom of God would come alive if they would just loosen up!"  Jesus never talked like that.  Jesus never even defended His own perfect self.  He went to the cross.  He gave up His life.

Jesus said that foxes have holes to sleep in, and birds have nests, but He had nowhere to lay His head.

Jesus said that His followers should deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him.

Jesus said that the blessed ones are the poor in spirit, the meek, the mourners, the peacemakers, the persecuted (see Matthew 5).  These are the ones who will be children of God and inherit the earth.  Not the rock stars.  I am pretty sure that Jesus is not enamored with the prototypical rock star personality.

Yes, Jesus took on the pharisees and religious leaders, but he did not do this because they were too serious. He did it because they were full of pride.  He wasn't against them because they were too determined to obey the will of God; He was against them because they used their own man-made rules to exploit the very people they were supposed to love and care for.  He was not opposed to their authority because authority is bad; He was opposed to the way they pridefully positioned themselves to usurp the radiant authority of God Himself.

The pharisees were all about themselves and they built themselves up through appearances.  Jesus is about stripping away the masks, the costumes and the trappings of success, stripping all that away and showing the pure, powerful grace of God in all its glory.

Satan wants you to think you can have it all right now: power, prestige, popularity and fun.

True Christianity is about humility and hope.

Humility means that we understand that it's not all about us.  We understand that there is a God, and He has an eternal, universal, unthwartable plan.  He is God, and it is His plan.  We are not God, and it is not our plan.  We can try to fight against it, but if we have humility, we understand the utter folly and futility of fighting.

Humility cannot stand without hope.

Our hope is in the goodness and grace of God.  He has an eternal, universal, unthwartable plan.  Jesus has made peace with God for us by dying as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice, absorbing the wrath of God that humanity deserved, absorbing that fearsome wrath so that we could be saved, and not only saved, but endowed with Jesus' own righteousness.  This is mind boggling.  Think about it.  This is our hope.  We have peace with God, and we will someday be released from this weary, troubling world.

This is our hope: To one day be taken home to a place where there are no more tears, no more disappointments or danger, no more fear, no more illness, no more death.  Home, forever, with the ones we love, under the umbrella of love and protection of the One we love best, safe and warm and filled to the measure with everything that is beautiful and good.  At peace.  At rest.  At home.

We might groan a little until we get there.  That's okay.  It means we believe.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Words of hope

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness . . .
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
 (From the hymn, On Christ the Solid Rock, by Edward Mote)

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
 (From the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness)

Behold, God is my helper;
 the Lord is the upholder of my life.
     ~Psalm 54:4 (ESV)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The holy and the obscene

Sometimes I wonder whether there is a fine line between holiness and obscenity.

Maybe, even, it is in the handling of the thing, the same thing appearing holy when handled with  reverence, but obscene when handled crudely.

A holy thing is different, private, secret, set apart.  You know when something holy happens in your presence, because you feel as though you should not be there.

A mother pulling her newborn baby, covered in birth, against the skin of her chest.

Two people together, realizing that they love each other.

An egg hatching.

A soul leaving a body.

The inconsolable sobbing of one who has been bereaved.

We don't really know what the word holiness means.  Maybe it means pure or perfect.  Maybe it means spiritual, or different from the physical.   Maybe it means indescribably beautiful and good.

I think holiness is connected to the idea of fire, purification, brightness.  Pure, precious, molten metal.

God is holy, and I think it is the thing we least understand about Him, the characteristic He owns that makes Him most unlike us.

Yet, He wants to share His holiness with us and form us into holy people.  He says, "Be holy, as I am holy."  We do not know what this means.

I think of the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place, that cubic space in the deepest bowels of the tabernacle where the beautiful presence of the Lord dwelt, hidden.


If you read about the tabernacle, it is astonishing to think about how all the beautiful fabrics and embroidery, the gold clasps, the gold embossed ark with the gold cherubim on top, the solid gold Mercy Seat, all were hidden deep out of sight.  The tabernacle was covered with layers of curtains, finally ending with an outer layer of some sort of leathery hides.  Only a few priests were allowed to go inside and see any of the treasures within the tabernacle.  Only the High Priest ever passed the last curtain into the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year.

This is a great mystery to me: that God should reveal the directions for the design of His dwelling, but that it should, in the end, be covered up.  God did not choose, at that time, to display the objects that symbolized His beauty or His glory.

I think that to be holy as God is holy means that we live reverently, understanding the proper handling of holy things.  To be holy means to know when to be serious, careful, gentle, when to catch our breath and close our mouths. 

Laughter is, on the whole, a very good thing.  Yet, everyone knows that there are times when one should not laugh, or, if laughter does come, that it must be the laughter of joy and not the laughter of silly goofiness or cruel derision.

In holiness, there is a sense of great worth that supersedes all the treasures of earth.  It is a sense of worth that quietly, steadfastly replaces pride with a deep and abiding confidence.

When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn in two from top to bottom, opening up the Holy of Holies, the forbidden, secret place.  This is also a great mystery.

Jesus, who carried the very essence of the holiness of God, hidden, in a human body that covered His essence like the skin hides covered the tabernacle, Jesus died.  And His death tore away the separation between God and man, between the holy and and the earthly.

When we mishandle the truth about His holiness, it becomes obscene indeed.  It is utterly obscene to think that flawed, stinking, gassy, lusting, cheating, selfish, stupid human beings would be given the opportunity to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and then despise and guffaw at Him in their prideful ignorance and self-centered blindness.

Yet, He loves His own so much that He is willing to endure any humiliation to save us.  In His perfect holiness, He does not fear the degradation of sin.  Sin cannot mar Him.  It can obscure how people are able to see Him, but it cannot touch the essence of who He is.

He is holy, and when we fail to grasp this, we are obscene.  The more holy something is, the more obscene it is when someone trashes it.  We should not crush baby birds beneath the soles of our shoes.  We should not allow little girls to be captured and sold as sex slaves.  And we should not refuse to honor the glorious God who created the Universe and sent His only Son to redeem us from the curse of sin.

I didn't mean to write this.  I was thinking about attributes of God.  Lately He has been showing me how He is my source of hope, my healer and my help.  That's what I meant to write about, but I was trying to think about what I'd written before about God's attributes that begin with H.  I remembered writing about holiness, and I started thinking about it, and then I wrote this, for it is simply what came out.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

What I learned in August

We spent the bulk of August at the beach in North Carolina.

Only two weeks, really,
but when you figure that they were the middle two weeks,
and we spent the first week getting ready to go,
and the last week unpacking and recovering,
August was consumed by vacation.

Vacation is good.
We were able to disengage from the normal routine.
Now that our kids are older and don't live at home,
it was an incredible blessing to spend time with them.

I learned how to play some new games --
Dominion and Carcasonne, for instance.
The brain, she can still grind into gear for fun.

I'm not sure whether it counts for learning,
but I saw my first shooting stars
and my first baby sea turtles.

I am becoming sensitive to proper adverb placement,
realizing that misplaced adverbs are epidemic.
I knew not to split an infinitive (although I mess up sometimes),
but I am becoming very particular about how adverbs are placed
within sentences that have compound verbs.  It's tricky.

Clearly, I am loosening up about the use of passive voice.

I learned some things I'm not sure I wanted to know --
and some things I'm sure I didn't want to know --
about how digestive issues are handled during a triathlon,
and lab results that don't bode well for the progression of my lupus,
and unsavory details about bad life decisions someone is making.

It is an exercise of faith each day
to trust that God is working to shape me
through every experience He brings my way.

Feeling crushed is good for me;
it turns my eyes to God for help.

Experiencing beauty is also good for me;
it fills my heart with gratitude and hope.

I am learning a great deal about hope.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
~Proverbs 13:12, NLT

And we believers also groan, even though 
we have the Holy Spirit within us  
as a foretaste of future glory, 
for we long for our bodies 
to be released from sin and suffering. 
We, too, wait with eager hope 
for the day when God will give us 
our full rights as his adopted children,  
including the new bodies he has promised us.
~Romans 8:23, NLT

I pray that God, the source of hope, 
will fill you completely with joy and peace 
because you trust in him. 
Then you will overflow with confident hope 
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13, NLT