Dear Christian

I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus, the only Son of God.  He died on the cross for my sins.  I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy.  I believe in the Bible, the inerrant word of God.  I’m a full gospel, Pentecostal, all-in believer. If that offends you, I’m sorry.  This is who I am, and in the wonderful words of Rich Mullins, “I did not make it/No, it is making me.” Full disclosure:  I don’t swing from chandeliers or bark like a dog when filled with the Spirit.  Just FYI.

That being said, I am mindful of how I share those beliefs.  Recently, an associate of mine recounted an argument in which they discussed scientific advances with an unbeliever. 

“I told him it didn’t matter that his son has a doctorate in physics and is respected in his field, or was wanted at this university and that university.  Who cares? Physics doesn’t solve man’s ills,” my compatriot said with a smug smirk.

I stood there and said nothing. Maybe physics can help, maybe it can’t. I don’t know. One college class doesn’t make me an expert. I simply couldn’t get past the offensive blanket statement.  It floored me.  The condescending, dismissing comment damaged that relationship.This “little Christ” made Christianity offensive to someone whom Jesus longs to embrace.

This, friends, is unacceptable.  We know the One who has answers, but we don’t have them all. We don’t get to pass judgment on every decision someone makes.  Our role is to share the good news, be filled with the fruits of the Spirit, and to serve.  The Bible says as we lift Jesus up, He will draw people to Himself.  We don’t draw people, and we certainly don’t win people to Jesus by hammering them with self-righteousness soliloquies.   We are to exemplify excellence by submitting our lives as we follow Christ .  That’s it. Is it easy?  No. It costs us, sometimes dearly. The Holy Spirit in us gives us the forgiveness and power to live outside of our weaknesses and poor decisions. We won’t measure up completely, but that’s what God’s love does:  it covers. It forgives.  It restores.

Just for a moment, put yourself in the shoes of a non-believer.  Maybe you can remember back to what it was like before you became a Christian.  Probably you considered yourself, as many of us did,  a “good person”. How would you want to be treated? As a complete and utter buffoon, lucky to be walking upright, or as a valued member of the human race, loved and respected as one of God’s precious children? Would a belligerent, belittling conversation with a God-worshiper make you want anything to do with that God? I know I would run away screaming.  Probably silently, but still.

For clarification purposes, this is not about “speaking the truth in love”.  We earn that privilege. The other person must trust us enough to hear our counsel. It’s not a given. Even then, we have to ensure our motivation is love, and not simply to be right. We can be right at the expense of a relationship.  While there are times we have to make tough decisions to sever toxic associations, Jesus’ prime directive has always been redeeming the connection between God and man.  We get to facilitate that.

I know I can grow in this area, too. I consider this an open letter to all my fellow believers, myself included.  Please fully receive God’s love and acceptance for yourself so you can freely give it to others.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. –
I Corinthians 13:4-7

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Thursday Good Things

I know it’s August, but I feel like counting my blessings, especially after yesterday

It’s cooler today.  You can call me a wimp if you like, but 89 degree days make me melt.  The marine layer over our little town makes me happy and grateful.  It can burn off, oh, at noon or so.  I’ll be ready for warmth by then.

The kids are getting along well.  Must be the Fruit Loops they ate.

I got an email from Runner’s World talking about how to loosen up tight hamstrings and it made me reconsider my routine.  It had some suggestions like dynamic stretches to do after a race or long run.  I discovered I’ve been stretching my hamstrings wrong. That’s why I’ve had pain in my right leg for 18+ months.  I’ve been doing static stretches, bending over at the waist, to get at the muscles.  Or I’ve sat on the floor with my legs out straight, reaching for my toes.  Neither of these stretches are bad. However, static stretches enforced the hamstring’s position of “locked long”, due to stronger quad muscles pulling the pelvis forward. Strangely, it never occurred to me that I could help myself.  It seemed I would be injured forever, until Jesus came back or some other miracle happened. But doing this particular exercise before I ran today did the trick.

This isn’t exactly the video, but you get the idea.  Wow.  What a difference!  As I ran this a.m., I realized I’d lost a certain amount of stamina over the last year plus because I couldn’t run as long with the pain.  Just a little honest assessment there. So, that’s the next hurdle to work on.  I am so happy about this I can’t even tell you.  To not have pain in my leg to some degree all day, every day,will be a huge blessing.  Running could get fun again.  Look out!

Lastly, the day doesn’t have too much to fill it up.  I’ve done chores and I have a meeting later with my fabulous writer’s group. Happy Thursday, everyone!  Or as one of my friends calls it, Friday Eve!

 

 

 

Change as a Constant, Part II

Change - Blue Button

Today, for the first time, I deliberately cooked vegan.

Hold your applause.

I have an aunt, visiting from Oregon, who just became vegan 3 weeks ago in order to lower her cholesterol.  On our Rockaway trip, she subsisted on peanuts and peanut butter sandwiches, plus watermelon for color.  Since she and her husband planned to pass through on their way back, I said I’d make something she could eat for lunch today.

I made a Mexican quinoa casserole-chili thing.   To be fair, I didn’t quite have all the ingredients (nutritional yeast) or the correct amounts. And at the end of the day, it tasted mighty fine with avocado, cilantro and real cheese on top and, I suspect, would be even better with chicken in it. I thought it was only okay.  Everyone else  seemed to like it except the kids.  The only obstacle involved with vegan and vegetarian cuisine is that the main event becomes the vegetables instead of the meat.  Kids kinda balk at that.  At least my kids do.

However, change can be good.  Trying something new opens your eyes to possibilities and new combinations. I discovered I do like quinoa, though I’m the only one in this family who does. I like testing out new recipes.   Some succeed and others fail.  But I learn something from each one.

The next big change:  Jonathon got a new job.  He’s worked at the AOC in Olympia for just over 2 years now.  A good position there, with decent pay and benefits.  This was his first experience with working in a cubicle.  He found it constrictive. The cubicles became a symbol of what the job entailed: not a lot of room to flex his intellectual muscles or improve product (software) or the training of software, despite his advanced training in the area.  For those of you who don’t know, he’s part of a group of court educators who train the court employees – including judges – on software and other things.  His group creates and implements software as well. In the end, it became a bit soul-sucking and discouraging. Other than that, it was great.

“So, what do you want in a job?” I asked one night after dinner.

He thought about it for a moment.

“I want to be a part of a company or educational institution where education is their main product.  I want that to be priority.  I  would really like to work from home. I’d like to be part of a Christian college or university. ”

See, sometimes God plants restlessness in us because he has something else for us to do.  Then, the restlessness drives us to start seeking His face for the next piece.  Meanwhile, we expressed gratefulness for what we did have:  stable income from his employment.  We started praying along those lines, Jonathon’s wish list.

Rewind to June of this year.  An instructional design position opened up at Concordia University, formerly Concordia College, down in Portland.  A Lutheran school, they needed another instructional designer to start ASAP. It met the requirements, right? In Portland – relocation required. Big sticking point. After much discussion and prayer, he turned it down.  Living in Portland amounts to 70-80% more expensive than living in Shelton.  We couldn’t afford it.

Yesterday, Jonathon got a voicemail from Concordia saying they “wanted to work with him”.  Giddy at the prospect, he called back at the appointed time.  Over the last several weeks, Concordia acquired 2 more colleges and needed someone to oversee them right away.  The dean of the college, who wanted to hire Jonathon back in June, started praying he hadn’t found another gig yet.  She specifically asked God if she could have Jonathon work for them. She called him as soon as she could to offer him this new position he could do…remotely.

Huzzah!

Prayer answered.  Restlessness put to rest.  Change, here we come.

Change as a Constant

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:7


This is where we stand today.  School starts in about a week.  Job situations are in flux.

I’ll be unemployed after next week.  The final public hearing for the shelter is scheduled for September 15.   I can hardly believe it, after working on the project for 2 years and nearly 9 months.  It will take awhile to get my head around that fact.  Meanwhile, the newly created full-time position at the city I applied for and hoped to interview for got cut in the budget reorg.  Such is life. Things change.

Zac will start his sophomore year of online schooling September 3. Eek! Ruby starts 3rd grade the same day.

I’ve done 5 loads of laundry.  The sixth load rotates in the dryer as I type. I’ve folded all I’ve washed so far.  At least clean laundry remains a regular need in the universe.

I’m filled with anticipation and a little bit of dread.  How will this new year go?  What challenges will we confront?

I don’t know.  I can’t see into the future. My personal crystal ball looks cloudy today. As the Magic 8 Ball would say :  Try again later. But know the one who makes paths in the desert. He holds the future.

 

Seagull Session

The day dawned foggy but quickly became clear and bright.  The ocean, dreaming in the August sun, turned a deep blue.  We could see all the way to the horizon line, a navy border against a faraway backdrop of clouds. The blues faded from gray to purple.  Enchanted, I had to stop and drink in the indigo potion for awhile.

ocean 1ocean 2

We drove back from the beach yesterday afternoon.  Up for an adventure, we followed 101 back to Aberdeen and then home. The ocean flashed by on the left, twinkling with thousands of sunlight-stars on its breast.  As we drove over the bridge in Astoria, I happened to notice seagulls doing this. At first, they looked like white specks against the bright blue sea, bits of flotsam held in the ocean’s palm.  Then I figured out what they were.

Photo courtesy of crystalgraphics.com

Photo courtesy of crystalgraphics.com

Several of the sea birds just bobbed in the water.  They didn’t do anything.  They basked in the sunshine and rode the swells.  They didn’t fight to swim or to float.  They didn’t need to do anything. They simply…were. They rested on the sea’s great strength, letting it support them. It looked an awful lot like trust and peace. They knew their place of safety and their place in the world.

It reminded me of how we are more than conquerors in Christ.  We sometimes feel overwhelmed by life’s waves and storms.  We flail and strive and stress. But if we can learn to use them to our advantage to advance our faith and trust, we might get somewhere new. We can harness the power of the tempest and gain stronger faith.

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. – Romans 8:37
 –

 

 

Rockaway Redux

We’ve been down in Rockaway, OR, for a family reunion-vacation.  Seventeen of us, 10 adults and 7 children, fill this lovely hilltop home. Each morning starts out foggy, the beach and Twin Rocks completely obscured by the white blanket.  At times, if you’re out running on a weekend morning, you might think the fog smells a lot like bacon. That’ll make you pick up your feet.  

If you’re out early, you might see newts sitting in the middle of the road.  Optimistic, that.

You might also see deer crossing 101 in search of the perfect early morning nibble. 

 

You might also create something playing endless games of memory and canasta, talking over old times along with new challenges, and eating great food with people you love can give you: great memories.

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The view from our house.

The view from our house.

Zac, with Ruby as photobomb

Zac, with Ruby as photobomb

Dad and Ruby, goofing around

Dad and Ruby

 

In the Long Run

Photo by jerseymomsblog.com.  This isn't me.  I hate running on beaches.  So there.

Photo by jerseymomsblog.com. This isn’t me. I hate running on beaches. So there.

I’m training for a half marathon and each week I’ve added an extra mile onto my long runs.  Can I tell you they have each been hard in their own way?  The ten-miler was tough because my brain had to get around the double digits involved.  The eleven-miler last week hit me hard because my heart wasn’t in it at the start.  Then my legs started to hurt.  A lot.  I walked a ton and ended up feeling defeated by the time I reached home. 

This pattern didn’t encourage me.  How could I recapture enjoying running long distances again?  I thought about it off and on over the week.  I knew I needed to run this morning, a Thursday, because we leave for Rockaway for a family reunion-beach vacation in about an hour.  Running 12 miles along Hwy. 101, aka the road with a teeny shoulder, fog and log trucks, didn’t appeal to me.

I talked to Jonathon about it last night. I thought there might be a mind-body connection, meaning the more I worried about it, the more the muscles seized up.

“You need to change your meta cognition,” he said.

Huh?  Dr. I., you lost me!

“You need to think about how you’re thinking,” he explained.  “When you ran long before, you didn’t focus on your legs hurting.  You didn’t care.  You got excited thinking about the distance involved and just getting there. You love being out on the road.”

I pondered this for a moment.  It’s so long ago now.  Did I?  Methinks he’s right.

“So, you can do this.  Who cares if your leg hurts?  You finished last week, even through the pain.  What’s one more mile?” He smiled his adorable smile, the one that melted my heart.  I got it.

Indeed.  This does not mean if excruciating pain or injury crops up that I will ignore it.  It does mean that aches and pains are part of running and training.  I can strengthen muscles and stretch out kinks, but pain remains. If I don’t hurt, frankly, I wonder if I’ve done enough.

This morning, I got up, did my devotionals and got caught up on the world, ate breakfast, completed my chores and went out for a 12-mile run.

As I moved along, I thought about Jonathon’s insightful assessment.  The pain came.  I let it ride.  Yes, I walked a bit.  Especially when my left calf cramped up in mile 9.  I stretched it as best I could and kept going, walking when necessary. I thought about how I’d mentally counted myself out because of this pain that has dogged me for more than a year.  What if I didn’t let it stop me?  What could I accomplish?

Do I hate walking while on a run?  Yes!  Do I get discouraged when I need to walk now?  No.  I never would have been able to say that to the old Susan. Walking doesn’t mean it’s over.  Walking is taking a break, reassessing, but still moving.  I ain’t dead yet.

And so it is in every aspect of life.  We keep parenting even when we see no visible fruit.  We keep loving and serving our spouses in the darkest times.  We took a vow and the vow binds us.  We go to work and do the best we can to honor God and our employer, though things get sketchy at times.  We may need to walk at times, change tactics and figure out a new strategy.  We may need to apologize and backtrack. Pain is part of the human experience.  It’s not the end of the story, but possibly the beginning of a new chapter.

There is hope only for the living. As they say, “It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion! – Ecclesiastes 9:4