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Another Mercy

When we were deciding what to name our first child, Doug and I had a funny experience where someone made a joke about a name we could use and then commented that the nickname for that name could be “Mercy”. Neither of us said anything to each other in the moment, but later we both commented to the other that we thought “Mercy” would make a really cool name.

I have known a lot of Faiths, Graces, Hopes and Joys, but I have never met another Mercy. I have enjoyed that Mercy’s name is unusual. I have enjoyed the way it makes people stop and think about the word and what it means, because it is not familiar. I have loved how her awareness of her name has so often reminded me of this central, shaping theme in our life of faith. And I have loved how she has journeyed in her own understanding of what her name represents.

As I sat in the ER on Saturday, I noticed a little news item scroll across the bottom of whatever news channel was playing in the room, and there was a word that leaped out at me: Mercy. The announcement had to do with Madonna and her pursuit of adoption of a Malawian girl whose African name translates into English as “Mercy”.

So now with the celebraddiction that dominates our culture, I expect that Mercy’s name will have lost a bit of its novelty, and now instead of a discussion about our faith with people who comment about her name, we will instead likely end up talking about Madonna.

Creative parenting

“Why does Aaron think there are dragons that live at Ronald Bog?”

“Oh, they don’t live there. They only sleep there at night.”

“Why does he think this?”

“Well, because I told him.”

“You told him that Ronald Bog is full of dragons?”

“Only at night!”

“Why did you tell him this?”

“Well, he didn’t want to leave Pioneer Club on Wednesday night and he was really starting to throw a fit about not wanting to go home so, in a very calm voice, I told him that I didn’t have to take him home; I could drop him off at Ronald Bog for the night, but he might startle the dragons who sleep there and sometimes when they get startled they sneeze out fire and…”

“I can’t believe you told him that…”

“It worked.”

I wrote a poem Friday night…

The View from the Hotel Fig

Fireflies caught and cozy in glass
On tables lounging poolside
Friday night lights drowsy beneath
Stretching arms of fluorescent checkerboards tickling heaven.

The corner absorbs me
Throat warm
A cherry in amber
Tasting this funny place that loans me a seat among Angels.

Not far the skate punks rule with baseball bats
Helicopters hang and dive like insects over the bloated light ocean
And every rough edge screams
Like infants gasping the first breath.

The music and costumes try their best to create importance here
Edges paid for, consumed and worn
Cigarettes are casually smoked and do not burn children on this side of Figueroa
Neighbors, strangers, creeping toward each other separated by price tags, papers and siren walls
The cherry tastes bottle sweet and I struggle to swallow.


Indiana Jones, Hotel Bonaventure, swimming pool, a new dress, Cicada, breakfast with celebs, late check-out, Erika actually pulling off a surprise (and Mercy keeping a secret!), and a friend who can ably manage our three children for a night making all of this possible…

Happy Anniversary to us!!!

From the beachfront

There’s nothing like a week at a lake cabin for the refreshment of one’s soul.

Aaron has added a number of new words to his ever-increasing vocabulary since being here: beach, rocks, “in it”, boat, Auntie, shark (aka Uncle Richard), Buddha (his cousin, Jordan), slippery, mud, and sand. He has loved the neighbor’s remote controlled airplane (as has his father), the duck family that visits daily, all the dogs from nearby cabins, and of course the three Snorts that were working on a cabin three lots down from us.

Mercy would live in the water if we let her. She is the first one in in the morning and usually the last one out, even on the day that was cold and quite windy. Her favorite activity by far, however, is canoe rides. Once she sees the boat she’s like a dog who has seen her leash: she shadows the person with the lifejackets and oars, and as soon as the boat is placed into the water she is guaranteed to be found climbing into it.

The kids have been introduced to S’mores and hot cocoa (neither have been big hits), and they have stayed up until previously unimaginable hours beyond their bedtimes (something the Haub parents tend to not be flexible about during the rest of the year). In other words, life has been very good.

Other highlights have included great food, lots of family, watching a snort go up a set of stairs to leave the beach, no cell service and mostly no internet, spotting a giant Tiger Muskie, playing with Laylah (my brother’s Boxer) in the water, celebrating my parent’s wedding anniversary, and seeing my kids enjoy what was such a significant part of my childhood.

There has also been a surprise addition to the family while here, one that did not involve labor or hospitals. We are now the proud owners of a lovely minivan that came to us via Portland (thank you Craigslist!). She’s cute, red, and perfect for our growing family! We have been praying every night for a van, and while this purchase did involve taking out a loan which we were hoping to somehow avoid, the price for the mileage and model is one we feel good about. So now, instead of a three hour return flight we are looking at three days on the road (any advice for those of you who have traveled with small children?)!

This is my first summer out here since my Grandma passed away this past winter (this cabin has been in her family for multiple generations now). This place is soaked in memories of her and my Grandpa, and being here has been a daily reminder of how much I loved them and how much I was loved by them over the years. I can almost sense their joy as the next generation is introduced to life at the lake, creating silly games and new memories in the same bedrooms and with the same sand toys that their mommies used so many years ago. It makes me really miss them. It makes me feel so grateful for all the things this lake cabin represents.

Always with us

In discussions regarding economics, poverty and the like, people will call upon the words of Jesus that proclaim that the poor will always be among us. Many people have a sense that, well, inequality is just a result of the nature and function of social and economic systems, and they are certainly right. I have as much of a sense from scripture, however, that we as Christ-followers are called to witness to an alternative of this in our respective communities. Dr. Rah made the point well in his sermon on Sunday when he said that typically Christians are actually BEHIND the culture in caring for and responding to issues of economic justice and race, rather than visionaries setting a new standard, by the power of the Spirit that is in us. (But that is another post, entirely!)

The thing I have been realizing this week is that Jesus’ words speak to me of another reality. The needy that are among us are not “quick-fixes”, and how rare it is that a need is met for an individual or family that is not followed by yet another need and then another. And this is where “life together” with people who have not had access to education, racial privilege, stable families, quality health-care, etc. can really become draining. Most of us are willing and even eager to intervene in a situation of critical need and give help that can make a difference. Helping to pay for first and last month rent for a homeless family so that they can get into their own place, or giving someone in need of transportation our used car, are examples of the kind of generosity that can feel pretty satisfying and mostly easy. It is the second and third and tenth request for assistance that can make you want to stop answering your phone or front door.

It’s funny, though. Our invitation to generosity is not occasional. It is not reduced to our tax-deductible charitable gifts that we make in December. It is daily and weekly and sacrificial and self-denying, and it goes against every message our culture gives us concerning how we should think about ourselves. And while we should of course love people in ways that work against damaging forces of dependency, we should not chafe at the continual stream of need that is brought to our feet. We dare not, like the early disciples Ananais and Sapphira, decide that it really isn’t required of us to bring all of our excess to the table ready to share.

Fuller podcasts

I was just reading Brad Boydston’s blog and I learned that Fuller Seminary is now making chapel services and other campus programs available online through iTunes. I wrote a post a few days ago where I mentioned an outstanding lecture by Chap Clark on youth and family ministry, and I thought it was worth noting that that lecture is just one of many great things now available as a free download.


My friend, Tyler Watson, linked to a phenomenal story last week of a ninety-seven year old woman who was being honored by Poland’s Parliament for her role in rescuing thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust. As I read her story, I was struck by the raw courage demonstrated by this woman in her lifetime, and also by her humility in seeing her actions not as worthy of glory but simply worthy of her humanity: “Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in a letter read by Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler as a baby.

So often today I hear people talk about how great our world’s problems are, how deeply the rivers of injustice flow, and yet so many of us sit by and do relatively nothing. We see the photos of Angelina Jolie in Darfur or we listen to Bono speak out about AIDS, and while our hearts resonate with their work, we keep our distance from actual hands-on involvement. The problems are too far away, too complex, and we are already overscheduled with our own life-commitments. We may wish that there were more that we could do, but what can we honestly expect of ourselves? We have homes to remodel, jobs to do, churches to plant, degrees to complete, children to raise…and the list goes on. And so we are left with our goodwill and maybe some prayer.

I remember sitting in a South African township in the home of a man who had spent more than twenty years in prison with Nelson Mandela. They were close friends, and this quiet, kind man was a strong leader in his community. My best friend and I were staying a few nights with him and his wife as part of a study tour with our University, and one evening after dinner we were ushered into the living room where a crowd of young male leaders in the township gathered around us. For the next three hours, these young men pressed us with questions about why the U.S. had not done more to dismantle Apartheid in their nation. We were there in the months leading up to the first free election in that country, and though tides were certainly changing and the end of Apartheid was in sight, for these men who had lost family and friends to prisons and murder and who had suffered the indignities of the Apartheid system, the questions burned with relevance.

Julie and I sat, stunned and largely ignorant. We later referred to it as our inquisition. And I remember our gracious host, sitting quietly in the corner watching with a slow smile on his face. He knew that what we were hearing and experiencing was good for us, and he was investing in our development as leaders just as he was with his own township youth. I am grateful that he cared that much about us.

As I read the story of ninety-seven year old Irena Sendler, I have to wonder where we are being called to enter the raging rivers of injustice in our world? The article states that Irena wrote the names of every child rescued on little slips of paper that she buried in glass jars in a nearby yard so that she could later help parents locate their children. I cannot shake that image: a yard filled with little glass jars, each holding the name of a child spared. Risking all, this woman claimed a shared humanity with those she did not have to see or acknowledge. So must we.

give thanks

I hope it is true that many of you who are reading this have been wondering where Erika has gone off to. And I do hope and sincerely believe that many of you were moved in your spirit to pray for Erika and our family perhaps because you found the absence of her writing to be of concern. As I write this, we are hopefully past the worst. Erika was hospitalized yesterday, and she was operated on this morning with success. She is currently recovering and doing as well as is to be expected.

Please continue to pray for Erika and our family. I am writing this post at her behest directly because her thoughts were turned toward letting all of you, her extended community, know what has occurred. We give thanks for God’s great faithfulness to Erika over these past several days. We give thanks for those who—with stomach-flued children, other appointments or expectations of these days activities, obstacles to overcome and daily living to cope with, responsibilities and jobs that may have required the inclusion, input or contribution of Erika or myself—have made every arrangement, every effort, every decision with Erika and our family in mind. We give thanks for our church community who has prayed for and supported us in so many ways. We give thanks to you, our broader community for your prayers and thoughts.

Thank you,


The time is always ripe…

“I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: ‘All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.’ Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail