Catch a Grenade

This post brought to you today by Zac, resident boy wonder.

So, as you know, Jonathon and I watch The Voice.  We really enjoy the journey each singer goes on as they compete for a recording contract.  Some have been singing their whole lives.  Some just picked it up a few years ago.  All of them have decided it’s time to go for their dream.  That, to me, is inspiring.  Haven’t done that very often and when I have it hasn’t been so pretty.  But I wish them well.

That being said, there are certain songs that seem to capture the public – and the Voice coaches’ – imagination.  They get sung.  Currently, there’s a gal named Michelle on the show who sang a version of this song.

I like Bruno Mars.  He seems to be one of the contemporary kings of romantic songs, as opposed to the omnipresent “let’s get it on” songs.  It was in my head the other morning during breakfast, so I started warbling it.

Zac, arbiter of all things proper, was not amused.

“Don’t sing that!” he hissed, embarrassment all over his face.  Mom, you’re so uncool!

Then he went on to explain why the song was stupid.

“I mean, you can only do that once.  It’s dumb.  It will explode in your hands.  If you catch a grenade, you’re dead.  The song is meaningless because that would be the end of your love.  Why even do it?”

Observant, my boy.  Keep in mind he’s 13 and hasn’t been bitten by his first real love yet.

We had an interesting discussion about it.

I postulated that nobody knows how they will react in a life-and-death situation. You simply can’t predict if you will be in fight or flight mode.  Sure, if you have military training, you might be able to withstand the threat of imminent death.  People crazy in love will do crazy things, though.  Be assured of that.

Here’s another

It’s a passionate, crazy love Mr. Mars and Mr. Adams are talking about.  Oodles of songs over the centuries cover this topic, from the earliest minstrels.  They make women swoon.  Generally.  Not me, necessarily, but other women.  I’m not a teenager. I have a different view of love at this point in life.  I think those songs speak to protection and security, qualities women desire in a male counterpart.  I’m not overly concerned about Jonathon taking a grenade for me. I think he would do it, though; he’s that kind of man. I hope to never be in a position where an enemy of mine even *thinks* about grenades, let alone throws them.  And swords?  Uh-uh.  But water balloons?  Bring it!

I guess for me, the song might go, “I would catch up on iron-ing for ya…I would clean out the cat box for ya….I would pick up the kids for ya…” Not as lyrical, I suppose, but romantic to me.

And yet, this crazy, passionate love is how God feels about us.  We are the “apple of His eye”.  He made us.  He sent His son to die for us.  Jesus took a big risk, going to the cross.  Rejection.  Abandonment.  Ridicule.  Being misunderstood, even hatred.  He prayed three times for the cup of death to be taken from Him.

He took the grenade for us.

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God In Me

I’m certainly nothing like Mary Mary. I have yet to “write a check with a whole lot of zeros”.  Someday!

But you have to know anything good in me is from God.  Period. On my own, I jump to conclusions.  I make snap judgments.  I am stubborn.  I can be short-tempered, and not because of my physical height.  Yes, I have a good sense of humor, but I also mock. Certain seasons of my life, I made sarcasm a fine art in order to survive. I am selfish.  I can be prideful.  I covet. Insert your favorite vice here. And on and on.  Without Jesus, I will act on all these impulses – and more – continually, world without end.

I think some people who read this blog think I have it all together.  Not so, my friend.  I struggle just like everyone else.  The difference is I know I’m forgiven.  I ask for forgiveness when necessary and I extend it.  The hardest person to forgive is myself.  The Bible says if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us.  This includes ourselves!

I want to live like Jesus and be mature and perfect, but I’m not there yet.  I wish I could “unsay” certain things and undo others.  I can’t.  I can only go on and trust in Romans 8:28:  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I am learning in my advancing age (ha!) that everyone has something to teach us if we only pay attention.  I’m not always good at that, either.  I want to get on to the next thing and I miss the moment.  Call it the curse of the administrator.  I’m a work in progress.

All of this to say, be kind to yourself today.  Maybe you’ve done something recently you *really* wish you hadn’t.  Maybe you yelled at your kid for asking for a snack a mere 30 minutes after they ate breakfast.  Maybe you snapped at your spouse for something beyond their control.  No matter.  You can get and give forgiveness.  You can start over right now. If you know Jesus, you have only to ask.

Trust Fund

trust

“Do you trust me?”  I asked Ruby.

Ruby looked up at me, her liquid brown eyes very serious.

She shook her head no.  Mommy, I want to do it my way.  You don’t have my best interests in mind.  I have to protect myself.

Ouch.

Ruby’s dilemma was very small, to me.  She didn’t want to go upstairs by herself.  She hates being up there alone, even in the daytime.  She used to have nightmares about an enormous beetle coming in her window.  That beetle would have to be 20 feet tall, but whatever. He might find fitting into her window a tight squeeze.   To each her own nightmare.  Some leftover fear lingers.  We’ve prayed, talked, cajoled, even bribed.  Nothing truly sticks or changes her outlook on The Spooky Upstairs.

She doesn’t trust us.  She doesn’t believe that the simple act of going up and down the stairs, ugly red carpet and all, will turn out to be a non-event.  Nobody here but us chickens.  Her pajamas reside in her drawer, unarmed. Her trust is low in this area.  Call it the negative by-product of an abundant imagination.

But don’t we treat God the same way? Our crises in relationships, finances, careers, health – are nothing to Him.  He created the world.  He breathed life into people.  He is love, all the time looking out for us.  Yet something in us refuses to yield.  A small kernel of stubbornness remains.  “You can’t possibly fix this, God.  I will do it myself.”  “Okay, Lord, I know just what to say.  Now, bless me as I go…” And we fail.  Then we wonder why God didn’t intervene.

Our trust fund is low.  Contrary to the old American saying, God doesn’t help those who help themselves.  Otherwise, He would be blessing the bank robbers.  He helps those who trust in him and wait on His direction or provision.

Sometimes, He makes us go “upstairs”.  We get to confront the thing we feared the most, meeting it head-on in direct combat.  We will defeat it if we do it in His power and not our own.  Other times, we wait.  We don’t move forward until some instruction comes our way. Still other times, He fights our battles for us and we never have to do a thing.  He dissipates the rotten circumstances and changes people’s hearts for us.  I like those the best.

We will try to continue to encourage Ruby to head up the stairs without protest.  Jesus has already defeated the Great Beetle, along with all her other fears.  He can be trusted.

Healthy Divorce?

This morning in my devotional time, I read about healthy children coming from healthy homes.

Hmm.

Already I’m skeptical.  This particular devotional writer has had some great insights on how to Draw Near, the title of the 365-day series.   He talked about how the children of divorce have a lot of heartbreak to overcome, how they need a safe harbor and an “anchor of godly parents who love him, each other, and their God.”  Hmm again.  I don’t disagree, but “healthy” is an ambiguous term.

He says:  Hosea, the heartbroken prophet who personally knew the ravages of sin in his home, says:  They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).  For many years our society has de-emphasized the importance of permanence in marriage, and now the reaping time has come.  Safety in our streets starts in the home where children receive a godly upbringing, not in increased police protection.  And our restless society will wax worse because we have willingly embraced trial marriages and polygamous behavior.

Hmm.  As a kid whose parents did divorce – and there are millions of us – I  take umbrage at this.  I don’t think most people entering into marriage consider it “trial”.  They want it to work.  But they may lack the tools or understanding of its mechanics.  There is a cynicism buried in the writer, a bias that comes out at times to bite those who have not walked the path perfectly.  I dislike it immensely.

In addition, Hosea married a prostitute because God asked him to.  He knew what he was getting.  I doubt he would have pursued such a woman otherwise.

The writer goes on to say:  Malachi speaks roughly to faithless Israel.  He clearly calls them to repentance and tells them why they have no happiness, peace or prosperity:  Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.  But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one?  He seeks godly offspring.  Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth (Malachi 2:14-16). 

I don’t disagree with God’s indictment of Israel.  But the instances of divorce, taken in the context of the book, represent how Israel has broken covenant with God.  This, friends, is why God doesn’t speak to his people again for 400 years!  It wasn’t necessarily because of the divorce in the lives of the people, though that was a catalyst.  It represented the broken relationship between God and His chosen people. The book of Malachi also covers the lack of tithing, offering unworthy sacrifices, intermarrying with other heathen nations, and general disobedience to the Lord’s commands.

Yes, divorce causes a cascade of evil.  Malachi 2:16 says “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel.  “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  But original sin did not originate with divorce.  Adam and Eve wanted to be their own gods.  “I’m the boss of me!”

There are so many things going wrong in our society today.  It’s unfair and wrong to point the finger at one group of people for all of our country’s ills.  Healthy people take responsibility for their part in problems.  Let’s talk about drug abuse and alcoholism and incest.  Let’s talk about rape. Let’s talk about domestic violence and child abuse. Let’s talk about bribery, lying, adultery and stealing.  There are plenty of commandments to go around to bash everyone.  All of these choices stem from people wanting to do their own thing, and hurting others out of their own pain.  But let’s not pin it all on divorce.  It’s a symptom, not a cause.

Washington Dreaming

It’s time.

Jonathon and I are in that season again.  Time to clear out the old and think of where we’re headed next.

Our house doesn't look like this.  Usually.

Our house doesn’t look like this. Usually.

We started out today by rearranging the living room.  Or rather, Jonathon and Ruby did, doing periodic large furniture lifting with Zac as cohort.  I had coffee with a friend (slacker!) and when I returned, the rebirth was in full swing.  He mocked it up last night, complete with graph paper to make it scale, and transferred to a 3-D computer program for people like me, who are spatially challenged.  Who are you calling a frustrated architect?!

For background:  our living room is shaped like a T-square.  I would say an “L” but I believe both sides are pretty equal in length.  Jonathon had been bugging me wanting to do it for years but I wasn’t into it.  I liked where the dining room table was, far away from the kitchen.  I could sit there with Lucky and type to my heart’s content in a room with little clutter to distract the eye.  It was quieter, too.  Currently, we’re on the lookout for a wee desk.

Now, our dining room table is right against the wall adjacent to the kitchen. It makes sense for serving food. He centered our black leather couch, a gift from my brother and sister-in-law, across from the gas fireplace.  The fireplace is the new focal point of the room.  We might even use it more!  We have ample seating in the room and it opens up the space nicely.  We could actually have a party or a group that meets regularly in our home.  More on that at a later date.

As Jonathon moved rugs and furniture around, he found Nerf darts, Legos, a dead baby mouse, and a wad of cat hair nearly smothering the air intake.  Gross!  The floors desperately needed mopping (which he did) and surfaces needed the ministrations of a  dust rag. The room looks amazing now, all of our donated and Craigslist furniture seems more…deliberate.

But there’s more.  I feel that God is asking us to move on to the next thing.  Our church is in a time of transition, with our worship pastors going out to plant a church in Oregon.  My brother and sister-in-law will take over as worship pastors.  My brother will take over as director of the childcare our church runs.  We will work with him on the worship stuff, along with a couple others.  I just feel like there’s even more.

Oh, and there is.  The shelter got their funding and we are set to break ground before May is out.  I have 2 meetings scheduled this week to go over CDBG procedures and figure out exactly what our role as subrecipient, and my part specifically, will be.  It’s getting exciting.

I’ve also decided to participate in this.

This is another “run at least 1 mile every day” deal, only this goes from Memorial Day to Independence Day. Anybody with me? I’ll be the one wearing clothes.   I started today, in the pouring rain.  I put on my old shoes from 2010 and got to it. Those are the shoes that helped me run 3 half marathons, back to back to back. I needed a little mojo.  My toes were soaked within seconds.  My legs took a few minutes.  I need to get back into it.  I would like to run a half marathon in the fall.  However, that means my back-hip-leg-foot combo has to be 100%.  I need to do some more research on that.  Lately, hitting mile 4 has been tough.  But I’m dreaming of more.  And for me, if I don’t pick a race, I won’t push myself enough.

Last but not least, I need to be writing more.  I’ve said that before but it’s coming to the forefront again.  I can’t dodge it anymore.

A little change is good.  Perspectives get altered when transition occurs.  You start to evaluate where you are and think about where you’ve been, where the old meets the new in a reconfigured combination.  The last 6 years for us have been the hardest ever, frankly.  Everything has been shaken – parenting, finances, our marriage, identities, all of it.  But some amazingly good things have come out of the struggles.  I hold onto those.  We are stronger because of what we learned and especially the show of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

So let the rain pour down.  Oh – the yard needs work, too.  We’ve gotten almost 2 inches in the last 10 days.  What will grow?  Let’s wait and see.

Close Encounter in the Checkout Line

Today, I went food shopping.  It was payday and we were low on everything.  Disclaimer:  I hate shopping.  Okay, well not hate, exactly, but I’m a “get in and get out” kind of gal.  I dislike browsing.  I have a list.  I might deviate from it a bit, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the store.  I feel different about clothes shopping, of course.  I am a girl!

Anyway, as I cruised the aisles, I ran into a couple of gals I knew.  We chatted about our kids and the weather and this and that.  I always expect to find someone I know when I go shopping now.  Never like that in Portland, as I have mentioned before.

I finished my list with a few extras (hellooo, bacon!) and went to get in line.  I was directed to a gal I’ll call Joan.  Not her real name, of course, but trying to protect her identity.  The last time I went through the line she told me her son had just died.    He was only 19.  Now, I have written before about how people just spill stuff to me.  I was in my late 20s when I really noticed it.  Must be something about my face.  Or maybe it’s my hair.  People reveal to me, unprompted, their deep, dark secrets.  I have often wondered about this and maybe there’s a reason to this apparent madness.

Joan and I greeted each other.  I asked how she was doing. Joan had, in her unremembered past, confided another secret to me.  But this blog isn’t about it.

“Fine”, she replied.

I had to call her on that.  I reminded her gently that the last time we were in line together, her son had passed.  I told her I had been thinking about her.

“I think about him every day”, she said.  “I go to his cross and put flowers on his grave.”

My heart broke.  What if it happened to Zac?!

She went on to tell me her remaining younger son, all of 14 years old, had been busted at school for possession of marijuana.  Never smoked it before, never been in trouble before.  The school went all A-Team on her, immediately suspending him for 45 days, trying to get him arrested and on and on.  She got mad.  He didn’t even have enough for one joint in his possession.

“Mom”, he confided, “I just wanted to feel numb.”

He isn’t a bad kid.  He’s a hurting kid.  Big difference.  She told me of going to bat for him in the way that she could.  I asked her if she had an advoate.  She said she hadn’t thought about that.  Then, because the Holy Spirit had been sitting on me during our entire conversation, I asked her the big question.

“Can I pray for you?”

Joan blinked at me.

“What?”

I repeated my question.  She agreed.  I could offer nothing else.  I  had no good answers, no solutions to what must be a deep, dull ache in her heart at the loss of her boy.

I grabbed her rough hand and said a quick prayer.  Nobody was in line behind me.  Divine orchestration, that.  I prayed for comfort and wisdom, two of God’s sweetest gifts in time of despair.  Psalm 34:18 says The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.  I know He heard me.

She went on as if nothing had happened.  She said she desperately wanted to make sure her second son knew he wasn’t a bad kid.  I assured her she was a good mom.

“You know, my oldest used to be down on me all the time.  But the last year and a half before he died, he had turned around.  He knew I was a good mom and I loved him.”

I’m sure he remembers, with love.

Lessons from an Elf

This morning was partly sunny, with  herds of clouds slowing starting to congregate and cover the blue dome.  The air was clean and crisp,with temps hovering in the 40s.  I should know. I went running with my new shoes.  Well, I wore them.  They are an early birthday present from  my dad.  They performed admirably.  I’m sure I’m running faster.

It’s raining now.  A lot.  This spring the weather has been the epitome of unpredictable.  One minute sunny, the next windy, then rainy, then back to sun.  Maybe a smattering of hail for good measure.  Kinda reminds me of this movie.

A man on the naughty list, Walter, discovers he had a son he never knew about:  Buddy.  Buddy (Will Ferrell) was raised at the North Pole, when he mistakenly crawled into Santa’s bag one Christmas Eve. He did his best to become a full-on elf, but at over 6′, he stuck out.  A lot.  And he stunk at reaching his toy-making quota every day. He kept a good attitude throughout, but he struggled with his place in the world.  Papa Elf, who raised him, finally told him the truth and advised him to head south and find his biological father.

And Buddy did!  But his dad was freaked out by Buddy’s adult innocence and bizarre behavior.  Social skills were lacking.  Walter got frustrated with Buddy’s seeming ability to misinterpret even the most basic instructions.  Don’t even get me started on the 4 Elf food groups.

But over time, the seemingly random and awkward appearance of an hitherto unknown family member brought  joy to Walter and his family.  Buddy had things to teach the cynical New Yorker and his other son, Michael. He had a place in the family after all.  Buddy had a childlike heart and a faith in people most of us have lost.

I think the things that knock us for a loop end up being serendipity.  We can’t just write them off as random events.  Through them, we learn about life, each other and others.  We come out the better for it. Maybe even with our furniture intact.