Perfect Season

The air and light have changed.  It’s definitely fall.  Squirrels scurry back and forth across the road.  The gusts of wind blow down brown leaves.  The sun, no longer full of vigor, pours down its warmth but doesn’t burn.

I couldn’t resist a run today, despite my still-throbbing foot.  The air still held night’s chill as I passed under shade trees.  I thought about the relentless march of seasons.  Personally, I’d like it to be summer all year round. Sunny days, wearing shorts and T-shirts and sandals. Ahh…One of my best friends recommends San Diego.

“Perfect weather every day!” she says, quoting her dad. I believe it.

But what is perfect weather?  Sunny, with a high of 75, small puffy clouds adding texture to the endless blue of sky?

Some folks like the searing sunshine of desert summer.  They love knowing the sun will rise, and they will see it. They glory in the bold sunsets of pink, orange and gold.

Besides – “It’s a dry heat,” they tell me.

My kids would love to live somewhere that got more snow.  One year, they accumulated about 2 weeks of snow days during the school year.  Snow fell and fell and stuck around and stuck around, never melting. Temps never got above freezing.  Our power went out for one icy day. Downtown Shelton became a winter wonderland, complete with a snow mermaid and inverted snowman.

Still others seem to like our cooler, wetter climate. The handful of 90+ days we manage to have in the summer never last more than a few days at a time, overtaken by the infamous marine layer.  Rain never leaves us completely alone for long.That seamless dome of cloud creeping in from the west drops the temperature by 30 degrees.

“Wait a few minutes, it’ll change.” True enough.  And if you live here long enough, you know you have mere minutes before the preternatural twilight of 9:00 a.m. gives way to showers.

The changing season outside makes me think of the seasons of our lives.  Our kids still need us, but not to feed or bathe them.  We have no diaper genie hanging around anymore, thank God.  The baby-time is over. We won’t be raising another child. Just putting that out there. My hair, of many colors right now, is laced with some silver.  I’m getting older.  I’m due for some fun annual exams known only to those of the female persuasion.  You get my drift.

Can we enjoy the season we’re in, now?  I know so many who recall high school glory days as “the best years of their lives”.  Or their stint in the military.  Or when they lived in another city.  I always want to ask, “What about now?”  Can’t this be the best season of your life? As long as we live, we can’t stop things changing around us and in us. No season is perfect. We can cherish the memories of a past season yet live in the present. Each era has blessings of its own as well as challenges. After all, we won’t pass this way again. Every season must end, sooner or later. Make this one good.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Monday Mutterings

It’s raining.  It’s cold.  My foot hurts, the result of wearing girlie shoes on Saturday and Sunday.  Ruby claims her ear aches when she burps. Zac doesn’t want to put his clean clothes away.

In short, it’s Monday.

I’ve had coffee and *coffee* , but am still dragging.

But the show must go on. Laundry chugs away in the background.  Rex snoozes on the couch, snuggling his special wine-colored fleece blanky.  Zac finished his schoolwork by 9:00 today – a small miracle. He continues to craft the perfect birthday/Christmas list, rewriting it in layman terms for us non-techies.

Today’s bright spot came as coffee date with a good friend of mine.  We had hoped to walk, but the rain…

“How is everything?” she asked me.

Things need tweaking, definitely, I thought.  How do I sum up?  I get a little restless at home sometimes, but having more free time now that I don’t work is sorta awesome. I’m learning so much lately about loving people their way and not mine. Small acts of kindness bring life to others and set off a chain reaction.  Letting go of control lets me embrace the people around me, no strings attached.

It took me a minute. I tend to listen more than talk. I peered outside at the damp morning as I cupped my warm cup of joe.

“Things are good,” I said.

And they are. Thanks for asking.

Cloudburst

Photo by slowbuddy.coom

Photo by slowbuddy.com

I drove to Ruby’s school to pick her up, like I do every Friday.  I sat in the car and waited.

The overcast day started to clear up, and then…bam.  Rain started falling, fast and thick.  The asphalt filled with bouncing silver coins. I gazed through the front windshield, mesmerized.  Drops hit, clear concentric circles melting into each other.

I saw a small Hispanic woman, hood up, huddling under a black umbrella.  The water coursing down the pane obscured her features.  Her image became distorted behind the wet wavy glass. She crossed the street, hustling between passing cars.

It brought to mind this verse:  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.I Corinthians 13:12

Do we ever really see things the way they are, or does the filter of our own flesh skew the scenery?  I mean, I was looking through a (mostly) clean windshield. It made me wonder. I fumble through this reality at times because I want to choose my own. My vivid imagination takes over. I pass up truth, distracted by the shiny object. Maybe I miss the important details without the wipers of the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16) shoving the troublesome planks aside. Maybe I forget to love.

Crazy rain transitions us to fall.  Soon enough, the rain will be a constant presence.  Cloudbursts will lessen and the sky will rain with a purpose, drumming on and on. It gives me some hope. My sight can adapt to constant rain pouring down.  See, I have so much yet to learn. I pray to gain more grace and understanding, going forward. I desire more clarity.

Thanks for reading my 800th post.

Thursday Running Reverie

I headed out for a run for the first time this week. I wanted to cut back a bit after last week’s half marathon.

It paid off.  I felt springy, raring to go. Kinda like Tigger.  I chose a different route because the thought of doing my usual 4 mile out-and-back made me groan inside.

I ran through town.  A fog hung in the tops of the trees, their gold and red foliage brightening up the gloomy morning.  The air felt cool and dry, not humid like it’s been for days. I pounded downtown past the defunct car dealership.  I passed the old shelter building and glanced at the low-flowing creek beside it.  I wasn’t fooled. In another couple of months, it’ll be swollen by runoff.

On my right lay Kneeland Park.  Mature trees shade the park.  The verdant grass and empty swings called out for children.  Alas, they were all in school. I passed the hardware store with its overflowing hanging baskets. The flowers spilled over the sides of the pot and crept up the hanger’s handle.Some even grew a tail of greenery.  I powered up the hill past the tractor display, praying for friends who came to mind. Brown and yellow leaves piled up against the green chain link fence.

I ran past the Shelton overlook to the left.  From there, I peered out at Oakland Bay (not the California beauty spot), the lumberyard and marina.  Pylons stuck up out of the inky water. Today, the fuzzy fog blended right into the water, limiting visibility.  You couldn’t tell where the fog left off and the water began.  All was a gray study.

I crested the hill and smiled. I reached the turnaround. I had to laugh at myself because most of the time I ran the hills and walked the flat spots.  What’s wrong with me!? Downhill now, baby!  Have I mentioned how much I like running downhill?  It felt like flying. For a few minutes, I felt invincible. I remembered afresh why I run.

Blame it on the Rain

Photo by ae-review.org

                                                    Photo by ae-review.org

It started raining yesterday.  It fell soft at first, then it picked up.  Overall, we got about an inch of rain.  It continued all night and into this morning.  Then it stopped.  Everything dripped – trees, eaves, power lines.

It got me thinking.

Every year, it seems fall enters with a dramatic flair.  Often a storm blows in, causing a sudden drop in temperature, moving the season from growing to dying. This year, it appeared like a silvery curtain.  I have a poem about rain.  Want to hear it? You know you do.

Music in the Rain

I hear music in the rain,
Loud and soft,
Hitting my window pane.
With trills and spills
It lands and splats,
Dripping and dropping all over the lane.
It warbles.
It burbles.
It dribbles.
It gurgles.
Endless pale river flowing from the sky,
Lulls me to sleep at night,
Like a wet lullaby.

Hey, I didn’t say it was good.

Today I’m considering how fall changed everything. Because of the Fall (get it?) we need Jesus.  Once Adam and Eve ate the apple, humanity couldn’t get back into fellowship with God.  Evicted from the Garden, they had to go their own way.  Sure, God still cared and guided.  But that sweet intimacy between Maker and created, so free and easy, disappeared.

Until Jesus.

Sin coats like rain. I know it sounds strange, but hear me out. It covers everything. Nothing escapes its taint. All of creation fell under the curse due to sin. Earthly life became plagued with strife and disease.  And yet, all can be reclaimed with the sacrifice of Jesus. He brings the new rain of eternal life and a new reign of righteousness. He engulfs us in His fresh rain of restoration.

Seven Basic Truths

Today, Dr. Isham brings us his thoughts on true Christianity.  Comments and dialogue encouraged.  Enjoy!
I’ve been mulling over something about modern Christianity that I’ve wanted to express for awhile. I’ve always thought that I would (possibly) deliver the idea as a sermon in my local church, but never really gotten up enough guts to outline it and prepare it. I wrote it down here so I can choose my words with care.
I dislike some facets of my particular strain of Christianity.  My particular strain seems to value purity. Don’t misunderstand me; purity is a great virtue.  But..we spend a lot of time trying to root out any evil within ourselves that we feel Jesus wants us to work on. This (sometimes) spills over into trying to root out any evil we see in others as well. We have our 12 steps to spiritual maturity. We have our list of 47 do’s and don’ts to being a better Christian. We have our music superstars and our prayer formulas. We have a long list – spoken and unspoken – of things we think we need to believe or agree in if one professes to be a Christian.
The problem  is that it excludes people. To require belief in one specific thing to be considered a Christian keeps others from the fold. I’m not talking about those who…”well…they are still a Christian, but they aren’t walking the walk.” I dislike saying someone “just isn’t interested in God’s best” or is not “going hard after God” or my all-time favorite….”lukewarm.”
Jesus summed up the law and the prophets into 2 rules. Love God and love others (Jonathon’s simplified edition).
We tend to take things to the opposite extreme. Love God using these 32 prayers and watch out for these 26 ways that the devil can enslave you and make sure not to do these 412 activities because someone somewhere will look poorly on you and think that either they can participate, too. Your example will cause them to stumble or think you don’t love Jesus…because those who love Jesus don’t do that. Or that, or that.
I know I have offended some of you, and I am sorry. I also know that this type of idea (getting rid of our formulas and criteria for what is and isn’t Christian behavior) makes a lot of people nervous. We can’t just throw the doors open and say that God loves everyone and that everyone is going to heaven. Everybody needs Christ’s salvation and cleansing work. I would agree, but the more rules you place on the work of Christ, the more people you exclude from the kingdom. It’s “us” against “them”, but the more tightly you define “us”, the fewer who qualify. Define it too tightly and the only ones that qualify to be in the “us” category end up being the ones making the rules. That, my friends, is a very lonely (and judgmental) place.
So…in the interest of throwing open the doors once again to Christianity and what it takes to be a Christian, here are the things I think all Christians need to believe. This is my “us vs. them” line. To be a Christian, you must agree with the following:
1)  There is a God –There are 2 truths in this statement. First, there is something out there we call God that has powers like a being that we would expect of a God like omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. Second, it is in present tense. He is, not He was. This statement excludes atheists and post-deists (those who believe that there was a God, but he left the building).
2)   You are not God – This statement excludes those who believe that we are gods and/or that god is in everything. God is omnipresent, but the tree is not part of God. God is separate from mankind.
3)   The Bible is the word of God – To be a Christian, you have to have some amount of trust in the book the entire faith is based on. This statement does not exclude other texts or other ways of hearing from God, nor does it endorse a specific translation of the Holy Scripture. However, if you want to know something about the nature and presence of the Christian God, the Bible is a good place to go for the answers.
4)   You have been separated from God though sin – The Bible states clearly how sin separates us from God and how that separation is both through our actions and through heredity. This particular list makes no mention of specific sins (the “do”s and “don’t”s of modern Christianity), but  sin is something you need to fully own to be considered a Christian.
5)    Jesus is the son of God – to be honest, I’m not sure how this works. God is one God but He has a son and they are one with the Holy Spirit and….huh? I know the Bible recounts the life of Jesus of Nazareth and makes a claim of his virgin birth and chronicles His years of ministry, His teachings, His death and His resurrection. Jesus claimed to be the son of God and God spoke from the heavens and said “this is my son in whom I am well-pleased”.
6)    Jesus was God’s choice for payment for our sin – See #4 for how we get sin (actions and/or heredity). Jesus had no human heredity (virgin birth…see #5) and so was a lamb without spot or blemish, which is a requirement for the forgiveness of sins.
7)   Jesus’ payment was for me – This is the “accepting Christ into our hearts” part of Christianity. You can believe all the above statements, but if you don’t receive it personally, then you still have no relationship with God. Christianity is all about the relationship with Jesus.
Yeah. That’s it. I know the blog is long, but I’ll bet a lot of you were waiting for more than that. Speaking in tongues? What about the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Why aren’t those two previous statements all in one sentence? What if we believe in evolution instead of a literalistic 6 day, 24-hour per day creation story? What if those people over there don’t agree with me on my Biblical exegesis or my eschatology?
So what?
Sin separates us from God. Jesus paid the price for reconciliation. I have accepted that reconciliation through Jesus. I now have a relationship with God. Everything above and beyond that is simply a different flavor.

Cavalier Address Book

clackamas cavaliers

I found a flier in the mail this morning.

“Attention, Clackamas High School Alumni! We need your most current information for the new book we’re publishing.”

Skeptical, I looked it over.  Scams come in all shapes and sizes.  Some even come in the mail.

I scanned the card and found my maiden name and the year I graduated.  Copacetic so far.  The lower right hand corner contained an ID number.  Curious, I called the number.  I punched in my ID number as requested.

I could hear the background noise of what sounded like a cube farm filled with operators taking calls.

“Hello, may I have your ID number please?” a pleasant man on the other end asked.

I gave it to him.  Why on earth do I have to give it twice?!

“Well, Susan, we just want to be sure we have your correct information in our book.  Is your address still the same?”

I assured him it was.  But our phone number had changed. Once he’d added my spouse and children’s names, on to small talk.

“Living in Shelton, do you make it down for the reunions often?”

“Yes, I do.” As far as I know, I’ve been to all 2 of them.

“And what is your profession?”

“I’m not working right now.”

I gasped a little inside. What did I do?! I realized I could have said a thousand things – mother, wife, administrator, homemaker, writer, artist, runner, world without end.

Years ago, it would have been important to me to have great accomplishments to brag about. Like…”I’m an astronaut, thanks.” Or “I run a Fortune 500 company in the Bay Area. Small hobby.”  Even “I founded a new religion based on Velcro.”  Anything to make me stand out from the crowd would work.

But it hardly seemed to matter now. I don’t need the validation anymore.

Then the call got serious.

“Susan, we sell these special books with graduate information from 1958 to 2014, for only 2 payments of $44.99.  The hardback book, which people are ordering as an heirloom copy, prints in January.  Would you like to secure yours today?”

What? Oh.

I resurfaced to the present from memories of football games and ornery orange lockers. Now, it was a regular sales call. Why would I care about every graduating class in the history of CHS, anyway?  And since when do phone books or address books (even specialized ones) count as heirloom properties?  Don’t people move or change their phone numbers, or even their jobs, in their lifetimes? We sure do.

“No, thanks.”

The operator offered a softcover edition listing the two years before me, my graduation year, and two years after me.  So, a five-year window.  That sounded more reasonable.  Those were my friends, my Cavalier comrades.  It sounded like a yearbook of sorts, only containing current information.

“Susan, did you know in the 3 weeks since we mailed those reply cards, we’ve gotten 5000 replies?”

I believe it. Belonging to something is important. I think about my boy, Zac.  He’s putting in time in an online high school.  He rolls out of bed and downstairs to log in, his version of daily attendance. He’ll never attend homecoming.  He won’t sweat it out asking some girl to the winter formal. He has no concept of basketball state championships, biology lab partners or a designated outdoor smoking area. The thought of all he’s missing makes me sad.

But all these things live on in my memory, with no danger of becoming obsolete. The smiles they bring me come free of charge.