Monday, October 31, 2005

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

sunday joy

If you'd asked me to create a perfect Sunday, I would have tried to assemble all the ingredients that have gone into this day. But the fact is, perfect days can't be ordered, assembled or fabricated. They're gifts, and the best you can do, when you find yourself in the middle of that gift, is to look up and say "Thank you."

Before I could even reach the front door this morning, Paula (of Tony and Paula) greeted me me with a hug and a smile and grande mocha. She does that sometimes, just because she thinks I'd like a mocha during church. I like the way Paula thinks.

Once I stepped into the lobby, Mark and Taryn greeted me and handed me a bulletin. Something about those two always makes me happy. Don't ask me to explain. I've given up trying to trace it down to something understandable. I just like them a bunch.

Said hello to Tony, and Jon (of Fran and Jon), and John Watson. Hugged Elaina. Got a hug from Chris Underwood. Asked Cora about her sniffles. Had a nice conversation with Bonita, who had been a pastor's wife herself before losing her husband in a plane accident several years ago. She is a sweet, gentle woman with beautiful, soft brown eyes. She asked about my recent pastors' wife conference. "Did you have a good time?"

"I did. It was wonderful."

She smiled. "We were praying you'd be refreshed." ("We" being Bonita and her new husband of six months, John). It blessed me tremendously to think of this woman asking God to refill me. Only another pastor's wife would know how much that was needed.

After talking with Bonita, I met a new couple, saw a couple I hadn't seen in awhile, and indulged in a few quick heart-to-hearts to straighten up a few must-straighten issues. Those are private, so you'll just have to wonder.

Worship began, and as it did, every difficult moment of the past week slipped away. I loved the fact that my husband and brother-in-law (who are both crazy-good singers) were back on the worship team; loved the way Elaina and Tarri harmonized; loved the set Corey picked out; loved the words to Brett Williams' song, Hideaway:

The arms of God are open waiting
Everlasting, loving saving
Underneath me when I fall
Outstretched every time I call
The arms of God are always near
They hold me high above my fear
This is where I want to stay
My hideaway

When I feel God's arms around me
Healing, rest and peace surround me
My weakness only brings to light
The arms of God, such strength and might
The arms of God will always be
Open, waiting here for me
This is where I want to stay
My hideaway

Men: My hideaway (Women: You are my rest)
My hideaway (You are my home)
My hideaway (Safe in Your arms)
You're my hideaway (My hideaway)

When you sing words like that--words that remind you God is near and good and strong, and ready to hold you just as soon as you're ready to be held--it patches the little cracks your heart gathered through the week. It soothes your hurts and fills your lungs and clears your vision. You remember what matters--and you remember that He won't be long in coming for you.

Dave's message was wonderful. He taught on the first half of John, chapter two, and he began by pointing out that the first miracle of Jesus happened at a wedding. As Dave sees it, there's an awesome significance to that. He thinks it's to remind us that Jesus came to find a Bride. We're that Bride--all we imperfect, fumbling beings who continually fall and and are continually restored. He came for us. I was humbled anew at that thought.

Dave had so many great insights into that half-a-chapter that my Bible now contains a new series of scribbles, stars and arrows on that second page of John. I almost couldn't write fast enough to keep up with all that wisdom. Tonight I want to go back and try to decipher my notes, and ponder all those new thoughts.

After church, more fellowship happened. More hugs were exchanged. Laughter punctuated a dozen clusters of conversation. A cup of coffee was spilled on the gym floor; three people helped to clean it. Plans were made for lunch, and dinner, and paintball. A borrowed book was returned. My nephew, Nathan, ran in with a basketball. A trio of boys chased each other around our legs in a game of tag. The men stacked the chairs, Laurie and her helpers walked around offering trays of leftover muffins ("Please take these home!"). And in the end, we stragglers escorted each other to our cars.

I'll see some on Tuesday night, when we gather for women's ministry, and some Wednesday night, when we'll meet to study the book of Ruth. Four of us will meet for prayer on Thursday.

But it was still hard to say good bye. I sure do love the Bride of Christ.

I sleep, but my heart is awake; It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, "Open for me, my sister, my love, My dove, my perfect one ..." Song of Solomon 5:2 (NKJV)

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Friday, October 28, 2005

teach me

I went looking for needles a few mornings ago. Circular knitting needles. I'd come across a must-have hat online and copied the instructions. When I read that it required either circular needles or double-point needles, I'll admit to a gulp. That would mean I'd have to step out of my safe zone and enter the realm of serious knitters. I wasn't quite sure I was ready for such a graduation. But the hat was oh-so-cute. Julie Roberts had worn a clone of that hat in some movie--apparently a big selling point, since her name was even in the title of the pattern. So off I went.

When I arrived at Michael's in Lynnwood, I stood and stared at a vast offering of circular needles and felt the edge of panic stealing over me. The pattern said to get size 10.5, 16" needles, but all the ones hanging on the display were 29" long. Would the extra length matter?

I glanced right and left, the way you do when you're lost in a foreign city and hoping for a friendly face--a face belonging to an English-speaking helper. To my left were nothing but fake evergreen trees and serene, head-moving plastic deer. To my right, though, was a woman. She had a couple of skeins of pink yarn in her cart, which made my heart leap with gladness.

"Do you knit?" I asked. Not, "Excuse me ..." or "I hate to bother you ..." Just, "Do you knit?" It sounded abrupt even to me, but she overlooked my forwardness. Maybe she heard a little panic in my voice.

"I do," she said. She wheeled her cart toward me and I saw a toddler peek out from behind. Jenny (I was to learn shortly) grinned at me and showed a third skein of pink yarn in her chubby hands.

"I want to make this hat," I began, and then launched into my explanation. The woman first told me I couldn't use the 29" needles, described what would happen if I tried, and then gave me directions to a high-end yarn shop in Mill Creek where I could find a nice offering of right-sized circular needles. But then she shifted gears. "You know, since you have to change over to double-point needles to finish off the hat anyway, you might as well use them for the whole hat and just skip the circular needles altogether." She reached over to the rack, selected a package of bamboo 10.5 double-pointed needles, and pulled out four. Then she grabbed one of the skeins of pink yarn from her cart, found one end of the yarn (a feat all on its own, let me tell you), pulled out a long length, and began to cast on to one of the bamboo needles. I watched her fingers fly, mesmerized by her swiftness.

"I've never casted on that way. How are you making it look like that?"

She slowed down and gave me an impromptu lesson. "You drop the tail end of the yarn down here ... with practice you'll learn how much to drop ... and hold both lengths of yarn between your thumb and forefinger. Then you swing your fingers up and through like this ..."

When she finished, I was staring at the most beautiful row of cast-on stitches I'd ever seen. I wanted to say "thank you" and "good bye" right then and there so I could go sit in a corner and practice casting on, but there was more to learn.

She then divided the row of stitches into three sections, loaded them each on a bamboo needle, and launched into a a complicated and frightening procedure for turning those three needles into a triangle of knitting. I used the opportunity to talk to her about picking vs. throwing (I'm a thrower; she's a picker. She converted me on the spot). The longer I watched her knitting that triangle, the more resigned I became to the fact that I probably wouldn't be sporting a Julia Roberts hat any time soon. But I appreciated the time she took with me. And I couldn't wait to go practice casting and picking.

While we stood knitting (her) and talking (me), Jenny had a party. That two-year old managed to fill an entire Michael's cart with a rainbow of yarn--skeins in every hue, every texture, every size. She also felt her mother needed six copies of the same knitting book, which she placed carefully in the front area of the cart. Her mother and I put all that yarn back while we finished our discussion. I had noted that she wore a beautiful black, red and orange scarf and commented on it. She not only told me what size needles she used and how many stitches each row contained, she walked me around the corner and showed me the exact skein she bought to make it. "You'll be done in an hour," she encouraged, before collecting Jenny and heading toward the front of the store.

"What's your name?" I called.

"Nancy," she answered.

I thanked Nancy ... and thanked God for sending me a helper when He did.

Back home, before sitting down to practice my new casting-on style, I checked my email. I had a digest waiting from one of my writing groups, and one of the posts caught my eye. The topic for that digest was "mentoring," and one of the women wrote, "I've always had to seek them out. The very women I value as mentors often don't see themselves as mentors."

I smiled when I thought about Nancy, and how she had no idea, when she left the house that day, that she'd spend twenty minutes mentoring a shaky knitter in the aisle of Michael's. But that's what she'd done. I'd sought her out, and she'd willingly shown me what she knew.

A bit later that same day, I learned that a young friend of mine wanted me to disciple her. "I've been praying about it a long time," Brittany said. "I like your perspective, I like that everything you teach centers on grace, and I want that in my life."

While Brittany spoke, I remembered the moment she entered the world. I was there with her parents, Dan and Lisa. The birth was difficult, compounded by an illness Lisa suffered that had gone unnoticed by her obstetrician. Brittany didn't breath at first. Her color was startling and unnatural. When the Apgar reading came back at only 2, the nurse called a "code blue," and the room quickly filled with white-coated people. Lisa--blissfully unaware of the drama--talked to one nurse about the pain she was feeling. Dan and I prayed. It wasn't until much later, long after the doctor and nurses had stabilized Brittany, that we let Lisa know why so many people had been in her room. By then, the room was filled with happier occupants--balloons and flowers, teddy bears and little pink outfits. By then, Brittany's two older brothers, Broc and Kam, had been in to say hello and poke at her feet. By then, we were laughing at the fact that of the six girls in the nursery, five were named Brittany. But none, I'm convinced, rivaled our Brittany.

She's a beautiful young woman--someone I'm proud to have such a long history with. And now that she's entering a new chapter in her life, and she's desiring a closer walk with the Lord, I feel humbled and honored that I get to share this part of her journey. I won't pretend to have all the answers she needs, but I'll sure point her to the One who does.

After all, He loves her even more than I do.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

God's paint brush

I spent this last week planning for three sessions I taught yesterday at a women's retreat, and next week I'm working to meet two editing deadlines, but I'll post something about California soon.

For now, enjoy this photo of the east side of the Carrizo plain, in the Temblor Range, about 50 miles due west of Bakersfield, California.

Courtesy of God, the first Artist ...

Photo snapper unknown


Saturday, October 01, 2005


A few afternoons ago, I observed two great examples of cooperation.

The first occurred when I took a baggie full of too-long-gone mozzarella down to the chicken coop. On the off-chance that you don't understand fowl palate like I do, let me tell you that there's nothing under the sun that chickens (and ducks) love more than cheese. I suspect they smell it the minute I remove it from the fridge, because they always have this anticipatory expression on their little chicken faces whenever I emerge from the house and walk them down a bit of cheese. You should see the way their miniscule hearts flutter under those chests as I reach my hand into that baggie and pull out that hunk of orange (or white, as was the case in this week's drama). You could hear a feather drop as they watch my fingers twist off the first bits. Their beady black eyes latch onto my arm as I rear back for the toss, then follow the trajectory of the moldy treasure as it approaches, then clears the netting and plops to earth. The ruckus that ensues reminds me of my department store security days when I'd unlock the front door, jump aside to safety, and watch women jostling each other through the double-doors, racing to the end-of-the-month clearance rack, and scrappling over just-reduced purses and scarves like we were all stranded together on a desert and the table was full of tall glasses of ice water.

The chickens are a tad more polite--but just a tad. They clucked and scratched and pecked like those shreds of mozzarella cheese might be their last meal. They made just enough frantic noise that they aroused the curiosity of our five baby chicks (hatched just this week) and drew them out from under the hen house, where they'd been hiding. They pushed their teensy toothpick feet into high gear, skittered straight over to the chaos and stared up at the faces of those grown-up chickens, slobbering over their cheesy beakfuls.

Either those chicks didn't have a clue what to do, or they were afraid to compete for cheese (which is my guess), because they all just stood to the side, watching the frenzy. Until the rooster--yes, the rooster--decided to mother them a bit. I watched him select a long strand of mozzarella, walk over to the chicks, drop it on the ground, and peck it into smaller pieces. Then he stepped back a bit and waited for them to descend upon his offering. They did--and cheese love was born right before my eyes. I could see delight filling and stiffening those five, fluffy bodies. As one, they turned and stared at the circle of hens fighting over the feast, but though they hopped in frustration, they didn't venture over. I didn't blame them. The rooster took pity again and brought them another strand. And it went like that for a good five minutes. Every once in awhile, he'd take a bite for himself, but for the most part, he fed those chicks.

While I was watching the tender scene, a movement up in the walnut tree caught my eye. Now, before I tell you what I saw, I must explain that we planted that walnut tree a good twelve years ago, and we've yet to eat a single walnut. The nuts have been coming on for the last four years, but while we wait for the big green orbs to ripen and drop, something keeps happening to them. We're quick, Dave and I. It only took three years for us to surmise that some nut-loving thief was climbing the tree and taking all our walnuts. And sure enough, when I turned my attention from the chicken yard and looked up at that movement in the tree, my gaze landed smack on a brazen squirrel. There he was--stealing my walnuts in broad daylight.

"YOU!" I yelled. I stormed over to the edge of the tree, scanned the ground for a weapon, and threw the little pebble I found straight up at the tree. Missed him by a mile, but it felt good to do something proactive. From between the leaves, I heard squirrel laughter. I amused him, apparently. To retaliate, he dropped a walnut about three inches from my head. I picked it up and scowled at the tiny squirrel tooth marks that marred the flesh. I very nearly threw it back up at him, until it occurred to me that I was holding our first-ever harvested walnut. Sure, someone else did the harvesting ... but the little gem was mine now.

I looked up at the squirrel and back down at the ground, and I saw the way things were. Apparently, his plan was to climb the tree, chew the stem end of the nut, and drop the orb to the ground, where he'd no doubt collect them later. Or so he thought. I retreated back toward the coop and perched on a hay bale. Then I spent a half hour or so listening to the sounds of our winter snack being dropped to the ground. My anger toward the squirrel lessened as I sat there, and by the time I'd gathered an enormous bowlful of green walnuts and walked back to the house, I felt almost friendly toward him.

Cooperation is a powerful unifier.

*    *    *    

Today after church, I'll be flying down to southern California to attend our annual Calvary Chapel Pastors' Wives Conference. After the conference, we (we being Fran and I) will attend Wednesday night service at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, then stop at Disneyland for Fran's first-ever visit to the Happiest Place on Earth. Miss me while I'm gone, okay?