Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flying Goodbye

Flying Goodbye
Set to music; not yet recorded.  

We leave the earth below
And the anxious traffic flows
A river of lights
Beyond beautiful sight

Time has made me slow  
er -- the more I leave I know
I  -- feel empty saying goodbye
Rattling inside

If I would let out all these feelings
I would be flooded
Standing still
My head above the ceiling
I wouldn't see you 
Not at all

So I just hold my breath
And say
Good bye

I love you, I love you
I ache with missing you
An empty place
You leave your trace

In my bones and through
Hidden in my spine, truly

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life on the Moon

We have a canister vacuum.  The body is heavy and attaches to a hose, which is not so heavy, which attaches to a heavy head that does all the work.  It is a brontosaurus with a huge brain and skull far too heavy for it's long spindly neck.  It would have been forced to live on bugs, ants, and anything low-growing, poor thing.  By comparison, I loved our canister vacuum in Japan, it was light, easy to use, and cleaned up the tatami mat floors to my satisfaction.   I miss it, but have to acknowledge it wouldn't have done much for our carpeting here in the states.  I know our cumbersome brontosaurus is the way to go; while it doesn't suit me, it certainly matches the rest of, well, everything stateside.

Japan felt like the moon because so many things were more petit (my notebooks, the furniture we carried home, appliances, my 7/11 lunches, Husband, me, even the handouts I made for my students were lighter-weight paper) than in the states.

My siblings and I used to scotch tape our ankles, restricting blood flow to our feet, and would gleefully spend the time (between wrapping our ankles and my mom discovering our slightly-pale-purple feet  with horror) walking with a slow and jerky gait on the couch exclaiming, "We're walking on the moon!"

I yearned desperately (excuse the redundancy) to live on the moon (or underwater) for much of my childhood.   It would be lighter to me, but not the bleeper people.  But I know I would eventually adjust.  Eventually an easy step would become normal, and my muscles would atrophy compared to the heavy life on earth.  Moving back to earth would be comparatively crushing, even my heart would find it hard to move my newly heavy blood through my heavy arteries.

Moving from the earth to the moon was easy, actually pleasant for me (physically, if not culturally).  Coming back is still hard, even four years later everything things heavier and cumbersome to me.  Life on the moon has also left a contrasting effect on Husband.  After spending 3 years spent feeling like a grizzly bear attempting tea time with elves, he sighs with contentment whenever he finds he has more than enough leg room to spare in almost any vehicle.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Lost My Heart

"Mama, Mama! Dey tooked my heart and hid it!"
It's midnight and Toddler ("Toddler" at the time--it was the night before his birthday) had finally seemed to fall asleep just 45 minutes earlier.
"Your heart?!"  Where did he learn about literal hearts? I wondered.

Toddler began to wail, "I can't find it Mama!  My heart is gone.  Dey tooked it out of my stomach and ran away wif it!"
For a moment, I tried to figure out where he had seen anything like this, or what could have inspired it, but soon I just picked him up and cuddled him in his bed.  "No, darling, your heart is right here," pulling his own little hand to his chest, "can you feel it?"
"What.  Is Dat?"  He asks with his funny pauses.
"It's your heart!  It's going ba-bump ba-bump ba-bump"
"Can I see my heart?  Can I look at it?"
"We can't see it, it's underneath your skin.  But we can feel it."
"Can I take off da skin and look at it?"
"No honey, we can leave it as it is, it will be fine."
"Can I hold my heart?  I want to hold it!"
"No, honey, it stays inside your chest."
A long pause.
"Dey tooked my heart, Mama.  Out of my chest."
"Oh sweetheart, your heart is right here, you can feel it, remember?"
"I need to hold my heart, Mama.  So it can be safe."
"Your chest will hold it and keep it safe, Honey."
And we fell asleep with my hand on his, and his hand on his heart, both our hands listening for the reassuring ba-bump ba bump.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thrice 'Round the Sun Have Sailed We Three

I had a handful of sand, an entire beach of it, really, three full years straining slowly, endlessly, beautifully through my fingers.  All I can ever seem to hold on to are a few precious grains that stick.

Cuddling Toddler on the couch.  He has fetched all the pillows in the house he could find and put them on the couch to make a nest that has just enough room for the two of us.  The TV (formerly showing the train simulation of the Keikyu line) is now off and the silence is warm. The sun is an indirect glow and there's little for the senses to note but the brightness of our smiles lighting, the sound of pillows rustling, and a strong smell of feathers.  Feathers are everywhere from wrestling the pillows.  The moment is a bird.

"He was a little clingy today. I had a bit of trouble getting things done towards the end of the morning" said  Toddler's morning with him at work (We are blessed to be able keep him with us now and then while working when we've no days off for a while, if there are no meetings!!).  "I'm a little cleany, but a little dirty, too!" Pipes up Toddler, "I gots some dirts on me." He explains emphatically, almost defensively, as though being too clean would be bad of him.  It makes me wonder if he's noticed how much we love when he comes in the house after playing outside, covered in dirt and leaves with his pale skin turned dark brown with the sleepy earth where he's built at least 100 roads and told even more stories.  A thousand curly-blonde images float by and are gone before my mind's eye can even gasp "Oh, so darling!"

"DMP THUMP" is the sound of Toddler falling off the tall back of the couch onto the wood floor.  He lands on his feet and peeks over the couch, wondering if I'll scold him until I ask him in a calm voice (not wanting him to burst into tears) "Are you ok?"
"Yes!"  His blue eyes spark again and his smile lights and again he's off running.

Toddler had his third birthday last week.  When we finally got to wake him with a jubilant, "Happy Birthday!" He quickly sat up, opened his eyes wide and asked "Cake?  Can I have cake?" For breakfast, lunch and dinner he asked for cake.  We had ice cream cake that afternoon.  His favorite part was blowing out candles, which he did by going "FFFFFFFFFFFF" as strongly as he could, it was adorably unsuccessful.  Before he could pass out with the effort, two of his little friends he calls his "sisters" timed it right and helped blow out the candles.  For dinner,  some dear friends made cupcakes for him.  Cupcakes were quite exciting for Toddler. That night each of his toy trucks, big and small, yelled and squealed, "Cupcakes, cupcakes!" in a variety of high and low voices (all dubbed by Toddler of course) as, one at a time, Toddler helped them cross the room to the place where they apparently were served cupcakes.  "ぱくぱく!CHOMP CHOMP!  MUNCH MUNCH!" The trucks said until finally they breathed, "Ahhh, schoo,  ahhh, schoo" making the gentle sound of many trucks and cars taking an after-cupcake nap.

Toddler is no longer a Toddler, "Oh, Toddler, you're such a big boy now!"  I exclaimed, squeezing him tight.
"No, Mama!" Toddler declares, "I'm your little boy."

I'm going to go build more sand castles with Little Boy.  They all get washed away so quickly, but some images remain and those are the treasures that stick.

*Memories: Your favorite movie is "Cars" or "A Town Called Panic" and for quite a while all you wanted to watch was "Pingu."  -- About every other day we dance, when we dance we spin and spin and spin.  Then you try to crash me and I spin out of the way.  Finally I get motion sickness and lay on the floor and turn on a movie for you so you won't jump on me.  -- You love sausages and curry rice and fish sticks and peanut butter and jelly and apples and carrots cut like flowers.  You've lived for several days on frozen blueberries and cups of milk alone -- Your favorite words are "Biff" and "POW!" and "CRASH" and "BREAK!"  -- You had curly curly hair that we cut this winter, it was more traumatic for me than for you -- You're more cuddly since you turned two, than when you were an infant.  -- You generally don't like me to play instruments, although you enjoy playing guitar and piano, and some violin. -- You love to play in water -- You pray with us every night the sweetest, most beautiful prayers, now and then you thoughtfully talk to Jesus on behalf of Totoro, Nekobus and Lightning McQueen -- You don't speak much Japanese, but you generally respond correctly in English when we ask you questions in Japanese -- Pool Memories: You liked to wink at the ladies doing water aerobics because they laughed so freely when you did, the floating barbells are wheels and you are always a car, every time we're leaving the pool you do a somersault just before the lobby -- Months before your birthday you began to daily ask, "Mama, Daddy, are we free yet?" We didn't understand until we realized you were asking if you were "three yet."  I'll never forget the look in your eyes the morning we finally got to wake you up with "Happy Birthday!"

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SWBseeking SRw/SC (Note From a Uvula)

Who I wish to be is not who I am.  It is more of me and altogether less.

Freak Flag "Let your freak flag fly" is a phrase that may apply.  Problem: A lot of us have very very spongy flags and since there's always someone raining on us (mostly us) our spongy flag soaks up WAY too much weight and quickly becomes quite pitifully soggy and still (ie NOT flying).

Body. We're a part of a body but we eye the eyeballs and other more tangibly valuable members with envy, trying to be something else.  The body parts we think of as important are all feet and hands and ears, and we other 1,994 parts feel like a gaggle of appendixes.  While I'm pretty sure I'm not at all a thyroid (A uvula comes to mind for some reason... :/ ), I get the feeling there's many a thyroid dressing like a thumb.

Glands and Hormones Yay!  Once in a while, my head consumes a combination of scripture, helpful bible study, with a healthy dose of music, writing, and film (ignore the ad :/), which, all together, will remind me that weirdos can be great.  Suddenly I remember the many important, albeit infrequently discussed, parts of the body like pituitary glands, lymph nodes, and many hormones (hormones!).

SWBseeking SRw/SC (Single White Bulletin seeking serious relationship w/ Single Copier): I don't know what part of the body I am.  But part of it leaves notes like this for the church secretaries to enjoy or be weirded out by:
And another part rewrites them to be less funny and more clear:

The difference: Acknowledging God's view more and people's criticisms less.  He becomes the sole source of inspiration and approval both.  

The Simple Results: No longer restricting quirks that seem only self-gratifying (as in: most likely I'm the only one that enjoys my lame notes), writing more lame notes, make more lame videos, and publish, with zest!, the silly songs that have been sleeping for far too long.  

All to the glory of God. Again He shows His way is rarely the most predictable: Kill a giant/win a war with a sling shot; not a spear, really?  Die humiliated on a cross to save humanity, seriously?  Be uncool to be joyful in Christ, huh?  The unpredictability of His way makes His Glory and His Strength so much more visible.  Thus shall I embrace the weirdness and giggle over it with Toddler and the least until Toddler grows up to Embarrassed Teen.

More. There is so much more to this; someday this will be refined, parts moved and edited.  But not today; not even this month.    

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Robot Love (The Humans Are Dead)

Robot Love.  We love.  We want others to know we love them.  At some point we are asked for something specifically: a gift registry, a birthday wish, things we ourselves wouldn't care to give; we get a rebellious twinge at the feeling that we are being instructed how to show our devotion.  To truly show our love we want our gift to be creative, to appear as though it comes from the heart.  Sometimes, the perfect demonstration of love is as simple a sacrifice as following through with, what is to us, a meaningless  request.

Robot Sin   We had an argument the other day.  It was over chores, but the topic could have been anything.  Husband said something out loud to me that I've said a thousand times myself in action to him, "Why can't I do what I want to do for you?" he exclaimed, "You're trying to make me into this...robot!"  I responded acerbically, "If we were Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden you'd be recorded as saying, 'I ate from the tree 'cause I ain't no robot, God.' (vocalizing a poor Shaft imitation) And everyone would blame Adam for the fall of man."  We were suddenly laughing at the image:  Adam and Eve, standing leaf-clothed in the garden of Eden, talking robots and sin with God. 
It doesn't really matter who ate first; anyway, Eve would have TOTALLY fallen for the bad boy Adam. 

Robot Forgiveness  We forgave all and forgot most (except for what we think is funny and useful), and moved on:  We talked about robots and sin.

The Humans Are Dead Humanity died, humans die, man fell, because we are not robots. We have free will.  We can choose to disobey.  We seem to have forgotten, free will also means we can freely obey.  

Robot Purity.  Glorified Waste.  And yet, obedience to God (purity in general) is often portrayed as boring or dull:  Characters in dramas that live even slightly upright lives get depicted as empty-headed automatons.  Purity is treasured publicly primarily through celebrating its loss:  It is now a right of passage for starlets to claim they're going to "shed their wholesome imagenot realizing that this very routine makes purity maintained far more rare and unique; making selling it truly robotic.  Talk Shows, Dramas and magazines bolster mistakes and makes heroes out of those who simply sit in the ashes of their burned bridges, rather than rising from them.  We've forgotten the phoenix, the flames and the rising above.  We've mistakenly begun to admire the ashes of a land laid waste instead of the victory which makes them beautiful by contrast.

Which Robot?   Which is more robotic: To obey the demands of our gullet and temptation to the point of great predictability, or to obey Truth and act in love?  
The truth is, I have to rebel against my complex human programming in order to obey My Lord.  To Love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind and to Love My Neighbor as much as I seem to adore myself has proven to be against my primary code.  It is the most difficult and un-robotic (not automatic)goal I will ever strive for.

Robot Song "The Humans Are Dead" Just for laughs and because we like Flight of the Conchords (yes, there's a bit 'o swearing). 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"A Good Signpost"

"A good signpost doesn’t say, “look at me, what a great sign I am, aren’t I so clear, bold and striking!” No, a good signpost doesn’t distract or call for attention to itself, but points you to something greater. Humble leaders point people to Jesus."

Let me point you to this incredible article which you've now read a bit of:   Leading in Light of Christ's Perfection

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sunflowers' Song

Somehow, this slightly sad song was produced while I was in a very cheerful mood.  After I wrote it, someone mentioned that National Child Abuse Prevention Month which is why there are blue ribbons everywhere (in the States).  So maybe I had forgotten and wrote it subconsciously(?).  
It's primarily based on several conversations with a dearly loved friend who does amazing work with young children (there is also a little bit of the beautiful children I had the privilege of working with during my social work internship).  

So now you know what the blue ribbons mean.  And the truth is, many of us are in positions to see children closely enough to know if we should be keeping an extra eye on their situation.  For such is the kingdom of heaven.

Sunflowers' Song
See the little babies and they're walking down the street; 
Singing little lullabies to an extraordinary beat.
Oh it's true, I cry too, when I see the way they live. 
They walk through hard doors and on cold floors on baby bare feet

CHORUS Baby, baby, "Maybe," you say, "It's better this way." 
            Baby, baby, "Maybe," you say, "They should never have stayed."

Into your room they wander and you teach them how to eat, 
Or how to pay their bills and take their pills 
And to their face you'd never admit defeat.
It makes you angry, I understand; when I held your tender hand... 
It seems the hard world brought you a cold soul 
And too many wounds to mend. (chorus x2)

VERSE 3                                                                                                                                    See the little babies as they're walkin' down the street. 
Turning like sunflowers to every smiling eye they meet. 
Your heart is breaking every day. And sometimes you say you wanna run.
They bloom in hard times and in cold ground and to them you are the sun. 
They bloom through hard times and in the cold ground and to them you are the sun. 

(WHOOPS NOTE: I say "cold scround" the first time because I was thinking of singing "cold soil" or "cold ground" and combined it...heh)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do You Understand?

About 2-3 days, for 2-3 hours, Toddler attends the Day School (Day Care) located in the same building where Husband and I both work.  We've seen the Day School routine at least 100 times: morning playtime; line up for potty before lunch; then they sit in little chairs at little tables and eat lunch.  After lunch, one by one each child gets cleaned up and lays down on a mat with his or her blankie for naptime.

During pre-sleep cuddles, Toddler gave me this version of that same routine (Each "Do you understand?" was punctuated with a  firm pause; Toddler's eyes,  would turn to meet mine, shining brightly in the dark; then he'd look back to the ceiling as he resumed his story):
"We sit on our little chair.  We don't stand on da chair.  We don't run 'round da chair. We sit on the chair and den we eat our food.  Pick up...don' pick up da chair.  Sit it  down.  We eat our food and sit on da little chair.
Do you understand? ...
When the kids toot, they should got to toot in da potty.  When the kids go poo, they need to go poo to da potty.
Do you understand? ...
When da kids poo in a line, they need to whisper real quietly.
Do you understand? ...
I lay down on da mat.  I see a little girl is slipping off da....she is sleeping and da cwocodio (crocodile) is carrying us on his back.  Da cwocodio is carrying us on his back and we should whisper like dis and if  we go poo we should whisper.
Do you understand? Mom.  Mom!  Do you understand?"

Obviously, his teachers ask "Do you understand?" to kindly make sure he gets what he should be doing.   I just wonder what he responds!

-The bit about the chair has been abridged, he talked about "da little chairs" for quite a while!
-He's suddenly stopped calling us "Mommy" and "Daddy" last night.  We have no idea why!  It's a little sad.  On top of it, we cut his hair short and this time there are no curls left.  He looks so much less Toddler-ish that when says "Mom!" so assertively the full effect is that it seems he just jumped forward a full year in just 24 hours!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but the Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

Evil Words Part 1 (Confrontation) The title doesn't rhyme, sorry. Today has been full of harsh words.  So full of hurt that it seems to reflect on, and magnify previous days that seem akin to it.  We live in a world that rarely uses sticks and stones, well, most people reading this don't, but rather uses the pen and words to inflict hurt and control.  
Until It Bleeds I've always been an unintentionally oblivious person to words, even if they did hurt.  The more oblivious, the more vicious the words rising in crescendo and frequency until I'd demonstrate the proper response: cry, hit, lash out, look ashamed.  We've all been hurt by someone with words.  We've all hurt someone like this, too, maybe not with words, but with many, many other things.  We hurt others until we're (temporarily) satisfied by their exhibition that they've felt the force of our unkindness.  
Childhood A life-long friend of mine, Bonny, knew how to hurt my feelings with words and often would.  Back then I thought it was for no apparent reason.  I wasn't perfect either, but when I was mad I was mad and it made sense in the moment: someone hit me, hurt me, took a toy; I got mad.  I was feeling cranky, evil or mean:  I acted it and did unkind things.  Bonny's emotions seemed to be more complicated than mine; when she got mad or hurt by anyone she waited, stalking for something to release her anger on.  By the time an opportunity arose, any target was useful and I was often the one available.  Sometimes it was button-pushing under her breath, more often it came in the form of a loud joke that seemed just  bit unkind to the many other listening ears around, but she knew, better than anyone, the words she was using would hurt me.
Sometimes the words took a long time to soak in, because I simply wasn't as clever as her, more frequently they hit just consciously enough to make my tummy hurt and upset me.  Sometimes I would get mad, lashing out, until I learned that others saw her as innocent and me unreasonably hot-headed.  "Rolli's so dramatic" I would hear adults and kids tossing aside my seemingly ridiculous tears.  Bonny was a ton smarter than me, socially.  I eased tummy-hurting with food (my fault; not Bonny's).
Hide It got to the point that most of the time I could sense she was in a mood and would just try to hide from her. The more people around, the more I hid: the more people, the more likely it was  Bonny might take advantage and try to publicly shame me.  We had fun together 92% of the time, don't get me wrong.  I've done awful things, certainly, but today's topic is Evil Words, not short-temperedness, selfishness, foot-in-mouth disease; and the billion other things that I've used as an excuse for hurting others. 
Confrontation  Years later, I finally got together with this friend and she did it again: purposefully ridiculed me in front of a group of people that laughed awkwardly at my expense.  We were all adults, everyone could see through the behavior now a bit.  A lot of people laughed because they didn't know what else to do, others just looked down.  I went into another room and someone wise and kind enough came to acknowledge the moment of ridicule.  That person was braver than I and forced Bonny to come speak with me.  It was like we were two children being forced to shake hands and say sorry.  We were both simply that immature about handling our emotions, really.  I felt stupid when I told her forthrightly I wouldn't put up with it anymore, but it was better than eating it down and gaining back some of that that hard-lost weight.  She admitted she didn't know why she took her anger out on me.  She apologized.  That little piece of distrust and dishonesty in our relationship began to heal.

Avoid I'm blogging about this to avoid thinking about something else.  I'm not following my own thoughts on confrontation, but often enough there is too much confrontation and we need to forget things that seem unfair and remember how beautifully unfair God's approval of us is.  Oh I am grateful I can rest in that approval.  I can't convince anyone of anything else. That knowledge should make me happy. It doesn't at all!  Simple knowledge doesn't prevent me running like a hamster, trying get that wheel to take me somewhere new: "I'll convince them.  I'll make them understand!"  It is a miserable wheel.  The Spirit of God brings me rest and confidence and peaceful joy continuously bubbling like a quiet fountain in a wood.  Happiness can make it's leave for a short time, it is as fickle as me, anyway ^_^

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flapping for Iodide

Toddler flaps his arms unproductively when he's panicking, usually over having to wait.  Most of it is cute and hilarious, even when he's screaming.  Once in a while, his flapping arms poke me in the eye, scratch my cheek, strike a nerve, and it hurts.

Most panic stories are laughable.  They create a short-lived obsession; we flap our arms.  Sometimes, eye gouging results.

The Real Fallout
A friend of ours, living in California, (Husband's former Assistant Japanese Language Teacher) posted this status: "My doctor client said their hospital wanted to send iodine pills to Japan for the people who got exposed to radiation but all were sold out even in Kansas! Hey, News media here wants to freak us out. Please calm down! There are many people who need it in Japan!!!!"

I don't know if I could say it any better.  But here's more perspective:  "People [in N.A.] are needlessly panicking, Japan is 5,000 miles away"

In other words, people anywhere in Japan are a lot closer to potential radiation exposure right now than any other location in the world.  The ridiculousness and selfishness of stocking up on these pills that you may never ever need increases exponentially by the number of miles between us and those in need of them.  Ridiculous to the 5,000th power 

I understand the desire to prepare, but the truth is, we don't know if or when something in North America will have problems, but we do know Japan is having problems.  

Iodide is not at all rare; there will be a huge overstock a year or two from now, as soon as production goes up and panic goes down, but the thing is, those in Japan in general need them right now, not in a year or two.  If you don't want, or can't give any away, at the least, don't buy until the price-gouging, stops.  That way, the Red-Cross and other groups hopefully have direct supplier contacts they can receive from that will remain inexpensive.  It's also nicer to know all our donations will help buy a bottle or two of iodine to help those from the Fukushima area, rather than just one pill.

End note: The group I would contact would be World Vision they seem to be big enough without being TOO big and having a ton of red tape (sometimes groups make giving non-money difficult (for good reasons!) but I think most groups would take these pills).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Don't Know Why

Toddler's pants legs
are almost four inches too short for him.  We bought them seven months ago, and at the time they were at his heel.  We haven't measured him yet, but I wonder, if his pants legs are this short, is it possible his upper half has grown an equal amount?  Is he eight inches taller?  It's unlikely.  But just a few inches surely makes the world look like a very different place to him: So many big walls have become just fences to look over.

Eight Feet
is the estimation of how much Japan moved, at least part of it, due to the earthquake.  It wasn't until the last friend emailed to say she was safe, alone and terrified, but safe, that I felt shook to my core.  The aftermath is terrible.  I have watched not much. I have watched enough to drive me to my knees whenever I can't be distracted.  Eight feet and the world unveils her face to show what she's been all this time: So much more unsteady than we like to think; our lives so small and delicate.  God becomes so much bigger in our eyes. A dear friend posted of Psalm 103:13-18 on Facebook.  I am thankful she did.

And, somehow in all this, we went to church and led worship.  We helped build a new playground. (well...toddler and I mostly played in the huge mound of sand)  And the knowledge that I was distracted is unbearable to my heart.  But my head knows it's better to pray and do something good. There are so many who are deeply living this tragedy, in need of rest, in need of someone to serve them.  For me to be so selfishly dramatic that I exhibit the same response as those immersed in this tragedy, well, is simply foolish.

While I want to jump on a plane and dream of giving away the flesh of my body and marrow of my bones to help (yes, I am that dramatic).  All I can do is pray with every fiber of my being.  It's all many of us can do.  We can also give to organizations that are mobilized to help.

I Don't Know Why
things happen like this. This song has been running through my head, even though the images might not match perfectly, the theme is still a comfort.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Immaculate...Whaat? & Ash Wednesday

On the phone with my mom:
"Mom, you HAVE to try these cinnamon rolls you get in the fridge section at the store.  They're AMAZING" I gushed.
"Really?" My Mom said, "What's the name of the company so I can find them?"
"Ummm...let me think.  Oh yeah, it's Immaculate Conception" And I feel the sudden urge to pause...and rewind.
Mom, "... ..." Silence.  After several, very silent, moments, she says "I really don't like that name.  Are they trying to be offensive?"
Me, "Huh.  That really is a ...weird name.  I didn't...notice 'til now."

Of course I didn't notice the controversial name, because the actual company name is an uncontroversial "Immaculate Baking Company."  My sister, who was visiting at the time of this awkward phone conversation, went to the fridge, found a container and corrected my (much too common) slip of the tongue.  We laughed until our eyes teared.

Ash Wednesday.
I was raised in a variety of Evangelically Free, Assemblies of God and a couple of other Non-Denominational churches.  We moved a few times when I was young.  Mom was raised Catholic (but is not at all Catholic) Dad was raised Methodist (but would not call himself Methodist).  There could be a lot of history to discuss, but I won't get into it.  I grew up knowing a comparably fair lot of the bible, but not many church traditions.  I had never seen Ashes on someone's head until college.  
"What is that?" I asked my friend who had ashes on his head.  
"Why didn't you get ashes?" He asked, knowing I was Christian. 
"What?"  I didn't get it, "What does it mean?"  
"It's Ash Wednesday!" He said.  "The first day of Lent" 
"What is Lent?" 
"It's the 40 days before Easter [minus the Sundays]" said he.  "We get ashes on our head to remind us to repent.  To Dust we return."  
"Oh....really?" I said.
"You're hilarious.  You've gotta be joking." He said

Raised in Christ since birth, heartfelt follower since 15, I had no idea about any of this season of the Christian church.  But, you must remember, there actually is no literal place in scripture that mentions Ash Wednesday.  For a bible-bound girl, my ignorance is understandable.  I could see the sense in celebrating the  40 days before Easter; it made even more sense to me to celebrate it daily, (hourly, minutely) as I had been taught.  I never felt like I had lost out even a bit by not celebrating these seasons, because I could be penitent when my heart acknowledged sin and joyful at the instant redemption any day.  It's like a continual ecstatic and sobering season of celebration.  

Ten Years Later 
Husband now works for an LCMC (formerly ELCA) body of Christ that we love being a part of. He was born in the the WELS and raised in the (WI version of) LCMS. (I am laughing now, all I can exclaim is "Oh, the ACRONYMS!") In spite of my position as wife of someone working for a Lent-celebrating church, I still don't feel I know enough, in detail or experience, to really talk about Ash Wednesday and Lent.  A lot of people who've celebrated Lent for years also don't know the details I feel burdened to know when celebrating a religious rite. This comparison doesn't make me feel knowledgable enough, but it makes me brave enough to try and get some ashes on my forehead, too.

(Whether we do or don't do Ash Wednesday and Lent, salvation is in Christ (keep it simple: John 3:16)  That is what is important!  As far as I understand, the seasonal motions we go through are to help remind us to take time out to remember something important:  Any more meaning put to such acts would implicate that we are starting to trust more in our deeds than in Christ Alone! In this case, Lent, repentance: Repent and rejoice in salvation every moment, as well as when celebrating this season that can help us remember! 

Back to Immaculate Baking Co.
Anyway (blah blah blah), this Lent I thought I'd try to follow religious rites I had never done before.  I will give up those scones and cinnamon rolls by Immaculate Baking Co..  Seems little?  Not when my weekly diet is composed of 25% of those amazing treats: Two (almost) every day=400 calories= 25% of my current 1,600 calories a day consumed. Every time I can't have one, it'll be an extra reminder that God provides all I need, and has often provided things that I don't really need, like a daily ration of cinnamon rolls.

Notes : 
*I've known of and experienced fasting before but never primarily because it was a church season/time of year.
*Today: Going without my daily cinnamon roll was much harder than I thought.  I've only been eating them daily for about 3 weeks and have, apparently, grown quickly accustomed to my new diet.  There wasn't an hour that went by today when I didn't think about 'em.  So far, it is  a useful tool.  A small fast will be a useful tool far beyond the boundaries of Lent, I'm sure.  

*Additional Notes: 
(1)I remember!  Somewhere, in an airport or something, I had seen this nearly identical logo on an individually wrapped cookie. The companies are related, but the label was explained at the time.  Immaculate Consumption a pun, yes, that holds meaning: Eating clean food. 
(2) My family isn't Catholic & thus,  does not ascribe to the dogma of Mary's sinlessness prior to giving birth to Jesus.  My Mom actually didn't like my impromptu title partly because it was (would be) a flippant title with the sole intent of pushing boundaries--boundaries should be pushed with meaning, not simply because of a greedy need for irreverence--even though it wasn't her own beliefs.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011


The powerful Texas sun is shining down.  We are busy, fingernails quite black, planting flowers in places they might not get mowed down.  We are a family of black thumbs!  But we do love flowers and playing outside in the dirt with a stick (Toddler's roll in gardening).  

After an unusually long time in the brilliant (often relentless) Texas sun I meander into our little garden shed to find some seeds and gardeny stuff.  Oh, the sudden darkness!  I cannot see!  I turn on the dim light and there is no helping it, I am blind.  It is so awfully dark my eyes ache. I close them, open them.  I can see just fine.  There is plenty of light to see with.

There are no lights on in the house, the blinds are shut, alarm clocks with lit displays must be covered over. (Actually, that species of alarm clock has been long extinct in our corner of the world.) Lights at night drive me crazy!  Little lights: Stereos, alarm clocks, phones, or, cursed blindingly bright night lights in the bathroom that light up the entire hallway as well as our bedroom. Little lights at night burn through my eyelids and beam into my retinae.  Little lights make the room obnoxiously bright as day.

All the lights in the house are on.  One by one, Toddler and I turn them off.  We did not plan our route well. The light to his room is on, but we are far away in the kitchen, standing by the last light switch to be turned off.  There is a minefield of tables and couches and chairs and blocks to be stepped on in our journey to Toddler's room.  I flip the switch off, it's pitch black.  "Whew!" I exclaim. The light goes back on. I look to see if Toddler is startled, not in the least. "You ready?" I ask.  "Go toward the light ok?"  Taking a last look to plan our route to avoid pre-bedtime bruises and tears, I flick the switch and we travel our happy little journey in the dark, hand in hand.  When we get to his room, the light is momentarily blinding.  

His Light
Day. I enter from glorious worship--study, a beautiful time of silence and prayer, a moment of song-- into the mundane routine of diapers and dishes. The contrast is wrenching and vast.  I feel suddenly forsaken, beneath an eclipse of routine so thick I am overcome. "Where are You, God?" I ask,  "Where did heaven go?"  In a pause and a prayer He is still there. There is plenty of light.

Night. In a time of darkness and anguish I am weaker, more susceptible to sin, true. But, I excuse sin during dark times as though it is an accident, like stubbing my toe in the dark.  His light is brighter than that oh-so-annoying nightlight in the darkness.  His Light cannot be covered or unplugged.  I shut my eyes and say "Leave me be." His light is so bright it burns into my soul and I remain without excuse: All my sin is willful.

Traveling. "Hold my hand, it will be dark for you." He says.  "Here is the light, a moment of holiness and ease. Keep your eyes open, read, listen. It will be dark soon, but only for a little while. I will not leave you. Hold my hand. Keep your eyes on me."  Even the darkest times hold such precious, happy moments of trust.  I am His child.

Psalm 119:105-112
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for 
         my path.
I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that 
I will follow your 
         righteous laws.
I have suffered much, preserve my life, O LORD, according to 
        your word.
Accept, O LORD, the willing praise of my mouth and teach me 
          your laws.
Though I constantly 
take my life in my hands, 
        I will not forget your law.
The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Love Wins & Abba in Heaven.

Covers and Commercials.
Rob Bell's upcoming book, "Love Wins" is already a hot topic, even though it isn't even on sale yet (March 29th is the release date).  The source of the buzz: A commercial (half way down this page) and the description of the book by the publisher.

By the cover and commercial it seems the book could go down a couple different paths.  Truly, covers and commercials are meant to entice people to read them, right?  You can't judge a book by it's cover!  The adage remains.

Problem 1: Wordies
However, from this description (Bell seems to be claiming hell is temporary and, eventually, empty) as well as this one by The Tenth Leper, it seems Rob Bell (or at least his writing) has hit Problem 1: Getting used to answering questions to the point you being to think you can answer ALL of them in your own power. Don't get me wrong, I love questions and I LOVE discussions and debate!  Even if I get shut down, debate is refreshing, like a sudden icy shower, or, like when Toddler (only 5 months old here) dumps a glass of iced coffee on you when you least expect it:                                                

Answering questions from a position of authority (especially a book you can't talk back to!),  must always be dependent on Christ, God, the Holy Spirit Luke 12:11-12 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Humility/weakness/utter dependence on God's Grace will help us: 2Cor12:9"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."

It must be ridiculously difficult not to lose balance when you're set before mankind as a great teacher, as Rob Bell is.  But that's what verses, like the ones above, are for. That's why Paul wrote 1Cor13:12”For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  That chapter is all about love, and it wins (literally! EVERYTHING without it is "dust" and "clanging" etc.) and yet, in the end Paul confesses he doesn't understand it all, but that God knows him fully.

"i dunno."
In other words it's ok to say "I don't know." Better yet--in regard to hell--to say, "I trust God knows that person more than I could ever judge." That's right, by that conviction I myself admit: I do not know if Hitler is in hell or Mother Theresa is in heaven. (Do you?) I must rest in God's knowledge.  I am sure of His love and my salvation through Him.  I am thankful! He is Holy!  I don't want to even play judge and jury: I couldn't bear the burden of being God, that's why He IS God.

So far this post is very broad, and much more about "answering questions" than about Rob Bell's book.  It's because I haven't read it, but was inspired by the topic to discuss how we are free in Christ to trust in God and say, "I dunno."

Personal Relationship
There is, so far, one pointed quote which requires discussion. 
           From this post (quoted from The Tenth Leper)  
      "What he does positively state is that the phrase “personal 
      relationship” appears nowhere in Scripture. ”Nowhere in the 
      Hebrew scriptures, nowhere in the New Testament.  Jesus 
      never used the phrase.  Paul didn’t use it.  Nor did John, Peter, 
      James, or the woman who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.”
      (p.10)  (And yes, you read that last sentence right.) " 

I don't want to assume why it was necessary for Rob Bell to set this stage in the first chapter of his book. It is one thing not up for debate.  We have a personal relationship with Christ. 
1) It is obvious we have a relationship with God when Christ mentions over and over God as Father, and not just His Father (Matt.6, Luke.11. any Gospel anywhere, really).  
2) It's obvious we're to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father when Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy that the greatest command is to Matt 22:37 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  That's more relationship effort required than what we put into our marriages on a daily basis! Admit it! And it's ok to admit it, we are to love God first, it helps us love others better.  1John4:19 "We love because He first loved us"
3) How can a personal relationship not exist when Christ lives in us? 1John 4:13-16, 19 "We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us....We love because he first loved us." 
4) Our very personal relationship with God is most obvious when Christ taught us to pray and told us to call God "Abba" or "Daddy." What an intimate relationship there is between child and father! 
                                          Daddies Protect 

                                          Daddies Adore

                                    ...and so much more...

4 final notes: 
1There's much much more to this topic, but it's covered on The Tenth Leper.  
2Heaven and Hell are so much more than what's just implied when we say them, I'm trying to keep it simple.  I've enough "wordies" issues of my own.
3It's possible Rob Bell brings up the specific lack of the phrase "personal relationship" with Christ(/God/Holy Spirit)" in order to disassemble the current fundamentals for salvation.  But so far, I haven't seen that argument raised (it seems to have been, but it hasn't, yet).  My current point: a personal relationship is established!  It is more than obvious!  And it is a lovely thing to talk about, anyway!  
4 Videos on blogger are annoying, if the posted video gets in the way of the text, refresh the page.