All posts by erika

Crucible

A few weeks back I posted a quotation from Joanne Heim, a woman I have never met in person, but whose blog I have enjoyed reading this past year. She and her husband attended Whitworth while Doug was there, and I found her blog because of a profile in Whitworth’s alumni magazine that featured her writing. Last week, Joanne suffered a major stroke and I join the thousands who are lifting her and her family up in prayer. Her husband, Toben, has been writing updates and reflections on her blog, and he said something last night that I found very much worth repeating:

Audrey came to visit her mom and we were walking down the hall at the ICU she said “Dad, this sort of feels normal.” And she’s right, but it’s also so bizarre. How can something so messed up feel normal? I have only one answer that makes sense to me: a peace that comes from God that passes all understanding.  That’s all it can be. This may seem like over-spiritualization to some. I’ve had one conversation in which I articulated these thoughts only to have that person say, “But how are you really?” Like somehow these are just words that as a believer I am supposed to say, but that I don’t really mean.

But Joanne’s stroke is the crucible in which what I have articulated all my life as a believer is tested. Do I believe in a peace that passes all understanding? Do I believe that God’s provision is enough for today? Do I believe that God’s glory can shine through in the darkest of times? Do I trust? Do I have faith? Is God really even there?

October 22nd

Ten years ago they took you
Past the place where any of us could reach you,
We could not pull you back to where you belonged
With us

I never saw the blood-covered seats
Or met the girl they murdered beside you
But I saw your shoes
And paid for the flowers
And sat for hours in that funeral hall

I kissed your tight cheek
As cold as your smile was warm
before they took it
Thieves and killers wearing courage
like a bad Halloween costume

My kids know your name
They know stories about you
You smile down on them from our refrigerator
My Elijah William, he’s three
His smile and charm remind me of yours

Ten years later
My heart’s hands still hold you
Tightly, fiercely like a mother
Grieving, like a mother
Who should never have to bury her child

Jamar, you knew the Jesus I preached about
And I know that same Jesus loved you
My son, Aaron, caught me crying today
And said with confidence:
“But Mommy, he will be alive again on the New Earth”

May it be so.

Quotation of the Week

Years ago, the Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote one of my favorite biblical articles titled, “The Costly Loss of Lament.” In it he says the reason that we can lament is that when God created a covenant with us, God made us partners. Both sides have responsibilities and things they must uphold. Without lament, our interaction with God is reduced only to praise and celebration. God is then surrounded by yes-men and yes-women. The contemporary Church is one that has lost the discipline of lament and it has hurt us. What happens then if life is not praise-worthy or events that cause us turmoil should not be celebrated? Should we celebrate cancer? Should we praise earthquakes? Without lament we have no way of being honest before God when bad things happen. And the God we see in the Bible wants us to be honest.

From Tyler Watson

A little afternoon eschatology from the four-year-old

“Mommy, do you know Molly has a new, big, three-hole puncher?”

“Yes, Aaron, I saw that.”

“Mommy, when I become a baby again and get bigger and have to learn how to poop in the potty again, will you buy me a three-hole punch like Molly’s as a prize?”

“Sure, Aaron, I’ll do that. But I don’t think you can become a baby again!”

“Mommy, of course I can. When the new earth comes and I am born again.”

Quotation of the Week

This ‘heresy’ has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a “vampire Christian.” One in effect says to Jesus: “I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.” But can we really imagine that this is an approach that Jesus finds acceptable?

From “Why Bother With Discipleship” by Dallas Willard (HT Leah Klug)

My time is more valuable than this…

“Life’s too short to clean your own home.”

The words on the brochure accompanied a sweet, domestic shot of a mother and daughter cuddled on the couch in front of a laptop and a father and son playing together. Inside the shiny brochure were package and pricing options for hiring a national company to come and do your dirty work.

It was ironic that I found this while doing a major sort/clean of stacks of papers that had accumulated in and around our kitchen and eating area. We spent our holiday weekend in deep cleaning mode: we are preparing to welcome a new addition to our family and needed to reconfigure our downstairs rooms. If anyone could read this brochure as gospel, good news, it would be us.

Life is too short…that declaration screams a set of assumptions about what is “worth” our time, nowadays.

I was reminded of two things I read recently that I think address some of these assumptions about our time. The first was from a minister discussing how well members of the clergy take care of themselves, and she wrote quite pointedly about how the basic acts of preparing and eating food have become expendable in our daily schedule: “And you know what you’re supposed to do for self-care, but you just don’t have time to do it because your schedule is so stupid that it’s a big special deal to do something like cook a meal…”

The second was from a college professor who has small children who wrote a great reflection on how what is right before us, our real life, can be the last thing we want to embrace, choosing instead whatever set of ideals and distractions seem so much more appealing:

The breakfast dishes (the ones that have to be done by hand) gave me opportunity to practice awareness – when you’re doing the dishes, just do the dishes. But, many of us say, it’s impossible with young children (“it” being growth, progress, enlightenment, meditation, awareness, focus, and so on)! I spent nine minutes washing the dishes and was interrupted at least six times to settle a conflict, wipe a bum, admire what someone did in the potty, find a battery, comfort an owie, and help get a shirt on. I saw anger arise – “Hey kids – get the hell out of my way so I can practice serenity!!”

But it wasn’t the kids that were interrupting – it was my mental formations. On top of all I already have to do, how do I manage to add worries (I’m mismanaging my career), ruminations (I should have picked a different major years ago), plans (need to buy steel cut oats and milk), regrets (I’ve doomed the children by not signing them up for swimming lessons this summer), and judgments (what kind of human being wants applause for going in the potty?).

I was trying to do the ideal dishes – the ones that need to be done in a sunny kitchen in a quiet house.  It’s true, I can’t do those dishes, but I can do the dishes I have – the ones in this messy, loud house where there’s always a child’s needs squeezed between the bowl I’m washing now and the knife I reach for next.

Both of these women speak of a gospel that differs from the good news announced by the national housecleaning company. As I gently unpacked the remaining pieces of my Grandma’s everyday dishes this past weekend and set them out on the dining room table, I thought: is life not sometimes found exactly in the act of sifting flour, spooning ingredients together, setting a pretty table, and scrubbing the dishes after it’s all over? What does it say about us when those acts become obsolete or a luxury or something to be “free of” in our daily lives?

Last night I clicked on a friend’s blog and read a gripping entry where she described how a beautiful, laid-back day with friends turned into her worst-case scenario with her special-needs son involving extensive poop clean-up and later a bed full of vomit. I was struck by a realization: when we believe that life is too short for time-consuming tasks, mundane chores, and messes, this has consequences that reach for beyond our housekeeping. The “life is too short for this task” list can become a “life is too short for this person and the work it requires to love and welcome and care for them” list, and woe to us when that becomes our ideal. Because there will always be someone to hire to spare us from doing it ourselves.

Quotation of the Week

What can a parent do then?

Get “radical,” Dean says.

She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips. A parent’s radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says.

But it’s not enough to be radical — parents must explain “this is how Christians live,” she says.”If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”

From Kenda Creasy’s new book, Almost Christian, via CNN

Life at the lake

We just returned from ten days at our family’s lake cabin near Spokane, Washington. We lived in our swimsuits while we were there, and as always when I am in the sun a number of freckles made their jolly appearance all over me. One night as I changed Elijah out of his swimsuit and into clothes before dinner, he pressed one of my freckles and told me: “Mommy, I take my freckles off.”

“Really?” I asked. “When do you take them off, Elijah?”

“At night.”

“Where do you put them?”

“On the floor.”

Seems as good a place to keep them as any!

Seafair theology

I was tucking Elijah in last night and this happens to be the time of day when we have some of our sweetest moments of conversation. Perhaps it is the simple absence of larger, louder siblings or it is an effective sleep-avoidance ploy: I don’t really care. It is precious and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Last night during our cuddle, Elijah asked me some ridiculous question that I barely understood and I gave that age-old cop-out: “You’ll have ask God when you get to heaven.”

“Mommy, can I ask Jesus?”

“Yes, of course, Elijah. You can ask Jesus.”

“And who is the other one?”

“The Holy Spirit, Elijah.”

After a pause, Elijah continued: “Could Jesus be the mommy?”

“Sure, Elijah,” I said.

“And who would be the friends?”

“Maybe the angels could be the friends, Elijah.”

“Yeah, the blue ones.”