Loaner

How is a kid like library book?  Read on.

How is a kid like a library book? Read on.

Today, I swam through the rest of Judges (what a weird book!) and through Ruth.  Then, I entered I Samuel.

I’ve always liked the Samuel books.  Having God raise up a righteous judge and prophet from his conception (read I Samuel 1) all the way to adulthood is pretty cool.  You don’t get that kind of history with many Biblical figures.  Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was barren.  She prayed fervently for a son to end her disgrace.  Any baby, really, would help her not to be tortured mercilessly by her husband Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah.  She went to the house of God one day and said, in Susan-paraphrase, “Lord, help!  If you will only give me a son, I will dedicate him to serve in the temple all his life. ”

Eli, high priest, was there serving before the Lord.  He had seen her desperate vow to God.  He even accused her of drunkenness because she prayed with lips moving and no sound coming out.  Sometimes, there are no real words necessary.  She told Eli then that she was in dire straits and was not inebriated.  Eli, moved by her sincerity, pronounced a blessing on her.

God heard that prayer.  She had a son whom she named Samuel.  She kept him until he was weaned, which in that culture was somewhere between 2 and 3 years old.  How she must have been so encouraged by God’s hearing her prayer!  Samuel became a tangible reminder of God’s goodness to her, now and forever.  Then, she took him to the temple as promised. She told Eli of her prayer, now some 3 years past, and showed him the little boy that resulted from that request.  She dedicated Samuel to God.  She left him there.

As I read this passage, my eyes filled with tears.  We don’t dedicate children to God in our culture, at least not in a sense of leaving them at the altar to be raised by a group of priests and Levites.  How hard it must’ve been for Hannah!  The scripture doesn’t say she wept, but as a mom myself, I can only imagine she did anyway.  She also prayed a prayer of joy and exultation to God, who helped her triumph over the taunting Peninnah.  The Scripture also says the Lord visited her again, giving her other children.  The implication seems to be that without the Lord’s intervention, Hannah would have continued to be barren.  Every year, she made Samuel a little robe and brought it up to him, keeping a limited but conssistent contact with her miracle child. Amazing.

As my son prepares to travel to Portland for a youth conference, I think about the fact that I only get to hold him, talk to him, feed him and love him directly for a short time.  He is truly on loan to me from God.  I will miss him while he’s away.  Soon enough, he will be driving, then graduating high school and on to college and living on his own.  I can relate to Hannah a little since it took us so long to get pregnant.  Zac, and Ruby for that matter, remain to me a testament of the goodness of God in my life, now and always.

Just don’t tell Zac I cried.

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Peaceful Surrender

There’s a certain beauty in surrender.  You acknowledge that another person or situation is more than you can handle, and you give up.  You let it go.  You stop trying to solve it.  You run the white flag up the flagpole.

Giving up has a bad connotation, I know.  I’ve said it myself more than once.  But sometimes there’s simply nothing else you can do. The situation is beyond your ability. I’m not advocating walking away from anything, only putting it into someone else’s more capable hands.

We’ve taught our kids to ask for help when they need it. Ruby learned it the hard way. Ruby would struggle and whine and cry.  She would tug  and fuss at whatever toy it was and then throw it across the room.  Or she would break it somehow in a fit of frustrated temper.

“Ruby,” we would intone over and over.  “Ask for help.  We’re here for you.  We’re on the same side.”

She would sigh, scowling all the while.  Her pride didn’t want to admit she couldn’t fix the problem. Then she would pipe up, “Help!”

It took her a long time to admit she needed anyone’s help.  Chip off the old block, that one.

When our cars gave up the ghost in 2009, we had no options but to seek God’s provision. He provided 2 new cars for us. When Jonathon transitioned from being a public school teacher to a software trainer, his salary was halved.  Which would’ve been great if he was single and living in an apartment.  At that point, we were newly a family of four.  We said, “Uncle”.  Can’t pay everyone.  God, what to do?  We sold our house  without ever showing it and moved to Shelton.

Reading in the book of Judges now, the Israelites would get oppressed by the Philistines or some other heathen nation until they realized they were powerless. They had not driven out all those -ites, but made them their slaves.  The children of both nations intermarried and Jacob’s offspring took up idol worship. Remembering at last who they belonged to, they cried out to God.  Judges 10:15-16 says:  And the children of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray.”  So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord.  And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.  God raised up Jephthah, another judge, out of that humility.

Surrender is at the heart of the Christian life.  We, too, hate to admit we can’t make things right.  So…we surrender our broken down lives.  We give up our habitual patterns of doing things which yield the same results:  nothing.  We drop our filthy rags for God’s righteousness.  We accept His beauty instead of our ashes.  If we only remember who we belong to, we’ll be alright.  Surrender to a loving God who has the best in mind for us at all times is a peaceful prospect.

No More Moses

I’m continuing to read the Bible through in 90 days.  I’m something like 18% done already.  Woo hoo!

I finished Joshua today and am onto Judges.

What I noticed is that at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses dies.  The transfer of power to Joshua is complete.  There is now a Levitical priesthood, the religious order, which is separated from the government of the people, headed up by Josh.

Joshua and his people, now a nation of warriors, get to complete the task of conquering the occupying nations and taking possession.

As I think back on Moses’ life, I can only marvel.  Set adrift on the Nile as tiny baby, collected by Pharoah’s daughter and raised in the Egyptian court, he arose to become a humble yet powerful leader of God’s chosen people. He and Aaron interceded for the people numerous times whenever the tribes’ complaining incited God’s wrath.  He fasted and prayed for 40 days at a time – twice!  Who else would?  Who else would be able to be in God’s presence, day and night, without sinning?  Moses was not perfect.  He had a temper (remember he broke the first set of stone tablets) and his fatal mistake at Meribah Kadesh (Num. 20:11-13) excluded him from inheriting any part of the new territory.  Yet, without Moses, where would the Israelites be?  Still wandering in the desert?  In the same way, it’s important to honor the leaders God puts over us.  They’re not perfect, either, but they will do their best.

Most of Deuteronomy is Moses telling the Israelites exactly what God wants from them in several points of the law and worship.  It’s a monologue.  To us, it might seem kind of oppressive and overbearing.  But it’s all written down for them.  Under Moses, it was a theocracy.  Moses interacted directly with God and the people did what Moses told them to do.  This seems to be part of the Israelites “growing up”, from little children in slavery, to teenagers, and eventually adults able to look after themselves in their new land.

I submit to you that Moses was a father figure to the Israelites, representing God’s holiness and mercy in the flesh. Deuteronomy 34:10 says:  But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.  I wonder if Joshua trembled in his sandals at the thought of taking up where Moses left off.

Moses died.  The children of Israel mourned him 30 days.  Moses died on Mt. Nebo, a vantage point where he could see the entire land of Canaan. He gets to see all the land God promised Jacob but never sets foot in it.   I read in a commentary footnote that in ancient times, that “to see it with your own eyes” was a symbol of acquisition by which property became legally that of the viewer (Gen. 13:14-15).  So Moses accepted ownership of the Promised Land from God on behalf of all Israel.  How gracious God is!

Here’s a perspective using today’s country borders

Simply amazing.

Running to Win

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person get the prize?  So run to win!  All athletes are disciplined in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.  So I run with purpose in every step.  I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.  Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT)

Yesterday morning’s pre-service prayer time focused on this verse.  The man leading the time talked about running the race to win.  He said people who race are in it to win it.  They compete for a prize.  They struggle and strain to beat the other participants.

Hmm.  Has he ever raced?  I mean no disrespect, yet…I never race to win.  I know, toeing the starting line, that I am not the fastest.  I am not the strongest (usually).  I am a short person with short legs.  I do not have a 44″ inseam.

But winning is not the reason I race. Placing is nice; done that a couple of times.  I race for the joy of it.  Being outside, among the trees and with other runners, is such a life analogy.  We’re going the same way.  We’re pushing ourselves to do our best. Trying to avoid puddles, potholes, blisters, stray dogs and any flying bird poop.  There’ s a camaraderie you won’t find in any other solo activity.

If you’re in a long race like a half marathon or a marathon, people crowd the sidelines.  They’re awed at what you can do.  Some have done it themselves and some only dream about running a long distance.  Or maybe they have nightmares about it.  Whatever, they’re there.  They cheer for strangers and have goofy signs that say “Run like you stole it” and “Donuts at the finish”.  Most have family or friends in the race.  They stand there in the cold and rain yelling encouragement.

I also race to improve my own time, to get a PR.  I won’t catch the wiry gal who looks like a long-limbed Russian transplant.  She’s poetry in motion, legs churning purposefully, strides measuring the course easily.  I might even get beaten by the old guy in an ankle brace.  Hey, it’s happened!  I must press on at my pace.  I need to take my thoughts captive and believe it can be done.  I need to drink water when the aid stations turn up!  But just say no to gummy bears.

What I come back to is…did I run well?  Did I do my best?  Did I finish the race?  This Scripture feels more to my liking:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful (2 Timothy 4:7).

Isn’t that what life is all about?  Life for most of is no 100-yard dash.  We’re in it for the long haul and we can’t see where it ends.  Like running a 5k or longer, we can’t see the finish.  Maybe the finish line is right back where we started and our life will be a series of out-and-backs.  Maybe it will be a gigantic loop.  Maybe it’s a point-to-point race. We simply don’t know where or when our human life-race ends. No matter.  Have we done well?  Did we keep the faith?

Gray Skinny Jeans in Size 14

Took Zac jeans shopping today.  My son, bless his heart, is thirteen.  That means he’s a teenager.

Did he want to go shopping.  No.  He was tired, he said.  He didn’t really need new jeans, fending for himself with size 12 jeans that hug his heels and wearing shorts in all kinds of weather.  I won’t even talk about him wearing hoodies even in the snow, though he has a perfectly good, new winter jacket hanging up in his room.

Nobody wears those.  Duh, Mom.  I also won’t bring up the snow boots from last year that he wore once.

We headed out to JC Penney’s.  This, friends, is the only store that carries the brand of jeans he likes.  He won’t wear anything else, as you know.  I figured we better go together and pick them out to escape any future hassle.  Then I know for sure that he’ll wear them.

We found the boys’ section.  We found the Levis.  We found the skinniest skinny jeans known to man – or woman.  I hate skinny jeans.  They make very few post-puberty mortals look skinny.  But they look even worse in pink, or floral.  Trust me.

He picked up a gray pair in his new size, 14.  The color had changed slightly from a medium gray to a blue-gray.  But I wasn’t about to say anything.  These were the Holy Grail of jeans.  Best not mess with them or mention any possible change in their manufacturing.

Zac emerged from the dressing room in new jeans.  They were…baggy.  Baggy?!  Oh no!

“Mom, they’re kinda big,” he informed me, plucking at the legs.  And they were.  The jeans, unlike the former pairs, did not  encircle his limbs in a gentle fabric embrace. They hung in wrinkles down his legs and puddled on his shoes.  Whoa.

“Do you want to look at another type of jean?” I asked, hopefully.  I like shopping for clothes.  This time together gave us a rare opportunity to bond doing something I enjoy. I even thought maybe, just maybe, I could interest him in some sale jeans.  These were full price.  I’ve never seen them on sale.  Ever.

“No,” he responded quickly.  “I like these, even if they’re too big.”

Sigh.

He didn’t want to try on any others. He didn’t want to look at shirts, which he’s also outgrown. He only wanted the jeans, three pairs to be exact.  Which turned out to be a good thing, because there were only 3 pairs left in the entire store in his size.  Huzzah!

I had a personal gift card left over from Christmas to spend as well.  He humored me by going over the women’s section.  He could not figure out the sizing.

“Size 14?  Size 10?  Why are they sized like this?”  In his world, usually your size is closely tied to your actual age.  He is 13 and he’s wearing size 14.  But women’s sizing contains mystery and freakishly bad measuring.  I told him my size and he was even more confused.  Let’s just say I’m glad my size is not tied to my, ahem, chronological age.

But what if it was?  Would women still claim to be 29 or 39?  Would those clothes even fit, or would they sort of set off an alarm if you tried them on?  “Step away from the size 18 jeans.  You are too young to wear those.  The 12-year-old clothes are over by the toddler section.” “Warning, warning! This female is 54 years old, not 39.  This skirt will self-destruct in 5 seconds!”

Could be messy.  Could be incredibly embarrassing.

On second thought, I’ll stick with the enigmatic world of women’s clothing sizes.  Seems safer.

Go Hamster!

I’ve been going, going, going since 6 a.m. today.

I’m tired.

I’d list all my activities, but that would really put both of us to sleep.  Suffice it to say this was a day for errands and such.  I did get a massage today from a gal who used to attend our church.  She was excellent!  My back feels a little better.  She encouraged me to keep stretching, and stretch more, because the lack of it is probably the reason I got injured.  I didn’t stretch enough.

Gulp.  That was me, swallowing the last remaining hubris from completing 900 miles last year.  Surprisingly, it *does* taste like chicken.

I like the idea of massages – but I like to choose who gives ’em to me.  Did I mention I suck at relaxing?  Yeah. Can’t turn off the brain.  For example, during the massage, I recognized an acoustic guitar version of a classical song playing in the background and I’m trying to puzzle out what it is.  Kinderszenen?  Gah!  I’m the hamster on the wheel, turning, turning, until the wheel breaks. Like my back hurting.

This gal was strong and pointed out my scar tissue as she went along – in my shoulders, arms, legs and back.  She rubbed it in a (very painful) way in order to break it up.  I felt like I was on fire.  I figured most of the scar tissue was from kettlebells and the rest from running.

“How do you get scar tissue?” I asked her.  So much for being quiet!

“It’s caused when muscles get torn down and built back up again.  Well, it’s from overworking a muscle, or doing too much too soon, or resting and then doing a lot…”

Stretching has never been on my radar as super important.  But I’m not getting any younger.  Things don’t “spring back” the way they used to – my strength, energy, muscles, mind.  I must be kinder to myself.  I need to make the time to lengthen the muscle while it’s warm.

With other skills, we need to stretch, too.  Studies show that was we age, we need to keep our minds sharp.  We can do crosswords or sudoku (help!).  Trying new activities engages different parts of the brain and we meet new people sometimes, too, widening or stretching our circle of acquaintances.  The process for building up a muscle involves tearing down and building back up. This timeout from running feels very much like a tearing down of sorts.  I will strengthen myself as many ways as I can in the interim so I can be built back up.

House Calls

 

mormons on foot

The day before yesterday, I got a visit from some Mormons.  Latter Day Saints.  You get the idea.

It’s not the first time they’ve visited.  Of course, sometimes I get them mixed up with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but you don’t  need to know that.

Two young men, at the most 21 years old, stood at my door.  Walking around in the damp, freezing fog takes dedication.  Wearing a tie in Shelton outside of a church or a  performance of some kind pretty much labels you as an undertaker or a missionary.

Elder #1, who was young enough to be my son, greeted me.  He was shorter, only a little taller than me.  He had blue eyes and freckles. Perhaps he was the “elder” elder of the two.

He could tell by my face that I was uninterested.  It put him off.

“We’re from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”, he started off.  As if I couldn’t tell by the name tags.

“Hello”, I said.

‘So…have you heard of us?”

Why yes!  Yes, I have.

“Have you been visited before?”

Yes on that, too!  It’s been awhile, but yes.  Several times in fact.

“Do you…” he paused, trying to read my face as if I were a human Magic 8 ball.  “Attend church somewhere?”

Yep!  Three for three.  I told him we got to Gateway, across the railroad tracks.  People seem to understand that sort of direction.  I’m all about landmarks.

“You’re welcome to visit,” I said, encouragingly, putting the shoe on the other foot.

“Well, okay.”  He didn’t seem interested.  Pity.

“We’re Spirit-filled Christians”, I tried to explain.  He obviously had no idea what I was talking about.  Christianese, meet Mormonese.

“But thanks!” I finished, trying to be nice.

“Oh.  Is there anything we can do for you today?” he queried.

Now that, my blogisphere buddies, is a conundrum. They could…wash my windows.  Or teach me the macarena.  Oh!  I know.  They could read some of the classics I’ve been too busy or uninterested in reading for myself, then report back – Silas Marner, Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, anything by Jules Verne.

But it didn’t seem fair to tie up such nice young men with my paltry chores.

“No”, I replied.

And we wished each other well as they continued on to make the rounds in the neighborhood.  I have to admit a certain amount of respect for them as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I  have friends who are Mormon, after all.  I don’t share their beliefs; yet they still proselytize door-to-door in this day and age, putting up with people’s ridicule and bad attitudes.  I know I don’t do that!  I’m sure, in this community filled with retired folks, they get asked to do heinous tasks the elderly simply can’t do themselves.  That mien of servanthood is admirable.

Jonathon says I should have invited them in to debate politics. Maybe next time.