Wednesday, November 30, 2005

nice surprise

I noticed today that I was getting a lot of visitors from a site I'm not familiar with. When I followed the link, I learned why. Wind Scraps has been nominated in three categories for the 2005 "Blogs of Beauty" award:

   --Best Biblical Exhortation (Does the best job of bringing biblical truth and exhorting others to walk closely with the Lord Jesus);
   --Best Encourager (Has the most encouraging blog content); and

   --Best Design - Contemporary
(The most beautiful blog of a contemporary design). Of the three, I am a finalist in that last category.

To whoever nominated my blog in those categories--thank you! I am honored. If any of you care to vote, please go to Sallie's Two Talent Living and follow her instructions.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

happy gratitude day

If you ask any woman this morning what the happiest noise on earth is, she'll tell you it's the sound of the oven door shutting just after she put put the turkey in. I never fail to sigh at that sound, which signals that "I did it."

This year, I almost didn't. My first attempt at enclosing that 24-pound bird in my Reynolds Oven Bag sent us both dancing across the kitchen floor. He didn't want to go in. Still slippery, and heavier than I was ready for, he tried his hardest to elude my grip. But I prevailed. I managed to clutch all 24-pounds while simultaneously opening the edge of the bag with one wing tip and a fervant prayer. Got him inside, adjusted him awkwardly over the four, fat onion slices I'd previously arranged on the bottom of the bag, and started oiling him up. But just after the last of the olive oil had been spread and rubbed, I pushed just a bit too hard and ripped the bottom edge of the bag. I stood for a good minute, gawking and trying to grasp the situation. I could hope the turkey juices didn't rise as high as that rip. I could pretend I hadn't noticed and just hope for the best. Or I could start over with the second Reynolds bag. It was the thought of all that potentially wasted juice that made me reach for the Reynolds box and unfold the second bag.

We danced again, that turkey and I--only this time, he was oily.

So maybe you understand now why I say that the sound of a shutting oven door is the happiest sound ever. You slump, and sigh, and wipe your brow. And before you tackle the kitchen, and wipe up all the stuffing residue--the errant bits of onion and celery and sausage and bread crumbs--you allow yourself a cup of coffee. And maybe you blog for a bit.

I'll get to the kitchen. But first, I want to say, "Happy Thanksgiving." I hope you spend this day in the presence of people who love and appreciate you, and people you thoroughly enjoy. And I hope you take a moment to realize that there's nothing good in your life that wasn't given to you. James 1:16, 17 says this: Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. That's an awesome truth. I realized just what that meant one Wednesday night this summer.

I was sitting in a holy place--one of two that I know of. Both happen to be benches. And both are holy, in my estimation, because every time I sit on one of them, I hear something from God. One of them is Dave's prayer bench (which I borrow periodically), centered in a cleared spot in the woods behind our house. The second--which is where I happened to find myself on that Wednesday night--is the bench in front of our church office.

I was sitting out there about an hour before our midweek service was to begin, and I was reading a book by Chuck Smith. He was talking about blessing, and how we sometimes errantly believe that if we just act a certain way or do a lot of God-pleasing activity, God will have to bless us. I was nodding and agreeing with Pastor Chuck, and right when my eye landed again on the word "blessing," three things happened simultaneously. The wind picked up and brushed my cheek with a warm caress; I heard the neighbor's wind chimes begin to tinkle; and the sun broke free of a lone white cloud and blanketed the lawn directly in front of my vision, lighting the grass in a brilliant, emerald path that extended from the fence straight to my bench. And I suddenly saw the truth James tried to convey. I understood in that warm, tinkly, green moment that God was blessing me, then and there. I understood that He did that all day, every day. I realized that every time I breathe deeply in delight, or return a smile, or taste a just-ripe nectarine, or gasp at the sunset, or receive love, God is the One who sent the blessing.

Scripture says that the rain falls on both the just and the unjust. The opposite is true, too. The sun shines on both those who love God and those who don't. It's stunning to me to realize that God's heart is so big and His love is so vast, that He pours blessings out even on those He knows will never turn to Him. He sends sunshine and music and good food and loving relationships and happy dreams even to those who will never turn and say, "Thank You."

Today, when you hear the sounds of music or laughter (or a shutting oven door) remember the One who sent the sound. When you taste that turkey (or tofu :) and you ask for seconds of the green bean casserole ... and potatoes ... and pie ... remember the One who provided. When you look at faces across the table who are dear to you, remember Who planted you in those lives. Take a moment to remember ... and offer thanks to God--the passionate, lavish Lover of your soul.


Monday, November 21, 2005

love, love ... & more love

It's interesting that in a language as rich and complicated as English, we have only one word for love. I love God. I love my family. I love coconut shrimp. I actually hanker after coconut shrimp on a fairly regular basis, but I wouldn't jump in front of a bus for it. I'd do that for my children.

The Greeks scoffed at one-size-fits all words, especially for concepts as important as love. For that, they came up with four distinct words--storge, phileo, eros, and agape.

Storge is familial love. It's mother-love. It's the love that causes a a sibling to say to an outsider, "I can talk to my brother/sister that way ... but you'd better knock it off." It's the "you belong to me" love that binds together not only families but also nations. It's the basis for patriotism; the reason people tear up when their flag is raised at the Olympics.

Phileo is friendship love. It's why people with similar tastes or hobbies become fast friends. It's looking at another person and saying, "You're very much like me. I like that about you." We choose the people we will feel phileo love toward.

Eros love smacks us over the head. We often have little choice in this matter. It's looking at a stranger across the room and having an instantaneous "I have got to get me some of that" reaction. It's physical and/or sexual attraction. Eros is what first drew us (normally) to our spouses.

The problem with these first three loves is that they're all human, and therefore all flawed. Familial love is great as long as self doesn't rise up. But brothers often turn against brothers, and children often turn against parents, and vice versa. Familial love--at its extreme--can be racist, as people identify so closely with their own skin that all others are thought to be lesser-than. Friendship love can often turn cliquish, and even the best of friendships are at risk if people value their own preferences more than the other person. Physical attraction is a wonderful ingredient to a marriage, but abused outside of marriage, it can destroy a soul. And even in the confines of a committed relationship, it's not enough to sustain a marriage. By itself, it's a great magnet--but it's not glue.

The only perfect love is agape. That's because it's the only love that's unconditional. It's God-sourced. It's outside of us. It's the love that causes one person to value another not because they're related or similar or physically attracted to each other, but because God has empowered one heart to mend another. Agape is the only love that looks for nothing for itself, but seeks only to give.

We cannot conjure up agape love for another person. It's not possible. We can only allow ourselves to be the vessel through which God will love with that kind of unconditional, seeking love. Sometimes we think we have the means within ourselves to love like that, but we're wrong.

I'll give you an example. Before we built our new house four years ago, we were squatters. By that I mean that we found our property, plunked an older mobile home on the highest point, and squatted eleven years, waiting for the day when we could afford to build. (Actually, if truth be told, we could never have built this house had not all the laborers of our church--contractors, carpenters, framers, roofers, a tiler and an electrician--come together and said, "That's it. We're building you a house.") Back in the mobile home days, it wasn't uncommon for me to walk around squirting bleach water on the windows to kill the mold growing there. It also wasn't uncommon for me to have to empty out an entire drawer and re-wash all the utensils because a mouse had climbed into that drawer and left little "I was here" packets. Mice were my great enemy back then. They had a wide variety of entry points into the house, and it was a losing battle trying to find and eliminate them.

Before Dave was a pastor, he worked at Scott Paper Company on a rotating shift. One week he'd work days, one week swing, and one week graveyard. That schedule--which he endured for nine years--sucked the life right out of him. When not working, he was either at home sleeping, or at home trying to fall asleep. We barely saw him, and I lived in a perpetual state of pity for him. Whenever he did manage to fall asleep, I'd do whatever I could to keep him in that state. Zac was little back then, and we spent a good deal of our time whispering.

One morning, while Dave (recently home from graveyard) slept beside me, I awoke, eased myself quietly out of bed, and opened the bedroom door. Before I took a step, however, I noticed little bunches of something littering the carpet. I flipped on the light, and with all the storge-phileo-eros love I possessed, I stifled a scream. Our cat had left the remains of a mouse in a four-foot path leading right up to our bedroom door. You might have difficulty envisioning how one mouse could leave such a big trail ... I say, go with that. Don't try to envision it, or you won't eat all day. I saw mouse parts I had been happily oblivious to prior to that moment. The longest piece was some sort of intestinal tubing that had been stretched to the breaking point. And that was the pretty part.

You would have thought I traversed a minefield the way I picked my inches and tiptoed around those mouse parts. I did it again, an hour later, when Zac woke and I needed to extract him from his bedroom--right near the beginnings of the carnage. "What's that, Mama?" he asked.

"Look away, child. Look away," I warned.

I was still in my flannel nightgown at this point, and the house was cold. I'd been reluctant to go back in the bedroom for my robe, which would have made it tolerable. But with Zac up, I needed to take more drastic measures. I needed to go out to the woodpile and bring in an armload of wood for the stove. But my shoes were in the bedroom.

I made the trip one more time, still tiptoeing, still trying to be as quiet as I could so as to not wake Dave. He worked so hard, slept so little. His body needed that rest. He was such a good ...

As I was easing the door to our bedroom open, thinking these loving thoughts toward my dear, tired husband, I lost my balance. Don't ask me how. These things just happen, and usually at the worst possible times. In order not to fall backwards over the entire mouse carcass, I simply took one step backward ... and my heel came down right on the head of the mouse. I know that because when I lifted my foot, there was the head, stuck right to my heel. In that second, all my human love fled.

"DAVID!!! GET UP! ... GET UP, GET UP, GET UP ... NOW!!!"

So there you have it. Human love is the stuff of romance books and movies. But it's nothing but a vapor when the pressure's really on.

Just for today, don't try to love in the flesh. Instead, let God love through you, in the way that only He can.

And watch where you step.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. --1 John 3:16 (NIV)

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

whiplash, macaroons and the sacred romance

How's that for a post title?

Sometimes, when you're about to embark on an explanation of a lot of disconnected information, you have to state the obvious. So there you go.

Last Thursday, while minding my own business, I was involved in a car accident up on Hwy 9. (For those of you who don't live in the Puget Sound area, let me just say that Hwy 9 is a two-lane, 50 mph speedway that regularly hosts accidents--many of them fatal). It was a gray, rainy afternoon (my favorite) and I was stopped at an intersection waiting to turn left. A Bronco behind me was doing the same. Behind him, a transplanted Los Angeles teenager came screaming down the road. Unable to stop in time, she crashed into the back of the Bronco, which then hit me. The girl explained afterwards that because she was from L.A., she didn't realize it would be so hard to stop in the rain. Why did no one tell me it no longer rains in L.A.?

I knew I had whiplash instantly because I didn't want to let go of my neck. Not wanting to get strapped to a gurney and immobilized by the paramedics, I opted to ride to the hospital with Dave. After a brief 3 1/2 wait in the ER, a doctor confirmed what I already knew.

Darvocette, muscle relaxers, and my favorite horse linament (an analgesic ointment--it makes you snort and whinny but it's totally worth it) have taken the edge off my sore neck and back spasms, but I think it's going to take awhile--and a few trips to a physical therapist--before I can jump out of bed in the morning. The real test came this week. We'd been planning a return trip to Oregon for a free "pastor's getaway," courtesy of the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center, and while I looked forward to three nights at one of my favorite spots on the planet, I worried about sleeping on a bed not my own. And as it turned out, I had a lot of back and neck pain on this trip. But I also had some wonderful, not-to-be-missed moments.

Wednesday morning, I woke at 7:17 with a strong desire for a latte and a peek at the beach. As quietly as I could, I showered, dressed, and filled my backpack with my Bible, a pen, a notebook, my Ipod, and the book I'm currently reading, The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God (John Eldredge and Brent Curtis). I left the conference center and walked straight to the bakery, where I ordered a tall nonfat latte and a chocolate encrusted macaroon (see the pieces of my post title coming together?). With sustenance in hand, I made the long, two block pilgramage to my favorite look-out--a bench overlooking both a freshwater stream and the ocean.

I hadn't taken two bites of my macaroon when a gull landed near my feet. I don't know where he came from; there were hundreds and hundreds of gulls circling the freshwater stream and pacing the water's edge, leaving diminutive, 3-toed footprints in skinny drunken trails across the sand. But this one gull spotted me and, with the hope of a morning morsel, steered himself in for a quick hello.

I resisted at first. I said hello, pulled my macaroon closer, and went back to my book. I have to tell you--even though I've just started, I'm loving this book. The authors talk a great deal about what God is after, which is a relationship of the heart. Though Pharisees and other legalists want to make our Christian walk an outward, letter-of-the-law, "check all the boxes and you'll be holy" seeking of rules and righteousness, the real thunder of love--both His for us and ours for Him--happens in the heart. From the time we first drew breath, our hearts have been aware of the "something more" that this world cannot provide. We catch quick glimpses of our heart's cry in unguarded moments, when a smell or a sound or a glance at the moon tugs at our longing and reminds us that something--Someone--is waiting for us.

While I read about that sacred romance, my gull flew away. But he returned in just a few moments. I knew it was the same gull by his markings. His chest was the color of chocolate Necco wafers, dusted over with ivory speckles. I'd noticed one larger blotch of ivory up near his neck, so when he returned, I checked again for that blotch and found it. He took me in with both eyes, one at a time, turning his head left and right with the cadence of a tennis spectator observing a particularly long rally. Those eyes got to me. I caved, and threw him a chunk of my macaroon. He made it disappear with impressive speed, even cleaning up the few errant, miniscule crumbs with dainty pecks of his 12-inch beak. I threw him another glob, and another, and another. Pretty soon, all that remained was the chocolate topping. Guess which of us ate that part?

With nothing more to offer, I went back to my book. I was reading and nodding and sighing and scribbling in my notebook with such intensity that I completely forgot my gull. A good ten minutes passed. I got to a section in the book where the authors quoted from Frederich Beuchner, who said that we should "listen to our lives," for apart from the Bible and the exposition of biblical truths in church, it is there--in our lives--that God is most apt to speak to us. Right as I finished reading that quote, I looked up and noticed that my gull was still there, still waiting on me. And oh, how I wished--in that flash of realization--that I had something more to give him. I wished I had a big bag of gull-worthy offerings: seeds and bread chunks and whatever else gulls dream about. The longing was birthed by the knowledge that the bird had been sitting at my feet for ten minutes, unmoving, waiting for me to extend my hand again. And what do you suppose my heart heard in that second? I heard my Maker say, "If you feel such longing to feed this gull, simply because he's been waiting at your feet, how strong do you suppose My desire is to feed you when I catch you waiting at My feet?"

That whisper stirred my heart. I hope there's something for you there, too. Can we feel greater compassion than God? Greater empathy? Greater love? It's not remotely possible.

I live for those snatches of realization. I'm awed to know that I'm part of a Sacred Romance, and that the One who loves me beyond reason has whispers for me today, too.

"For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will open. If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won't your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?" --Matt 7:8-11 (TLB)


Thursday, November 10, 2005


I arose early last Monday to push myself--in secret, and with the sound on the TV turned way, way low--through a "Crunch" exercise video loaned to me by Kim, a friend from church. I recognized almost immediately that a few of the pretend class attenders were actual dancers. It was so obvious. If I spent a straight month studying the moves on that first dance step, I wouldn't be able to wiggle and shimmy with that same Broadway pinache displayed by the girl in the back row. It struck me then, in a moment of stark, heart-stopping clarity: I'm never going to be a dancer. Oh, I might get up early now and then, tug the curtains closed so all the potential peek-gaps are covered, and fake my way through the Salsa and Samba and Funky whatever, but that won't make me a real dancer. No, that train passed by me somewhere in my teens or early twenties.

I dwelt on that thought long enough to add it to a growing list in my head. I reached into my brain, found the shelf entitled Never and made room for dancer right next to pro baseball player. That particular "never" had been a tough one. One afternoon, long ago, while watching a rousing game and discussing with Dave the intricacies of the squeeze play, it had struck me that I'd never round third base while the crowd roared, never scratch and spit on live TV, never smack a ball against a distant light and send sparkles of "She's amazing!" falling to the field (a la The Natural.) The fact that I can't be a pro baseball player has nothing to do with the passing of time, and everything to do with my gender. Mark my words, though: had I been born male, I would surely have moved mountains if those had stood in the way of me and my destiny.

I tucked the exercise CD safely out of sight, showered, and accepted Dave's invitation to run errands with him. Somewhere after breakfast, a stop at the co-op and a run to the post office, we ended up at the Oso lumber yard out near Arlington. After hunting and pecking up in the rafters, the clerk agreed to let us leave with two flimsy, hardly-worth-the-effort tin pipe clamps if we agreed to leave $20 on the counter. Do I have to tell you that I heard about that $20 all the way home? Anyway, while still standing in the lumber yard, my mind drifted as if often does and I began thinking about all it had taken to establish a lumber yard business on that particular stretch of land. They'd had to pave the whole parcel, and enclose the yard itself in cyclone fencing. They'd had to erect a large metal building . . . and buy a fleet of forklifts . . . and slap together enough shelving to hold all the over-priced tin accessories. And then it hit me: I'm never going to own a lumber yard.

We went to Starbucks. That's what you do when you realize your life is passing before your eyes. Of course, Dave didn't know that was the driving force behind my espresso thirst, but I did. And standing in line, staring at the girl who had just taken my order, I realized I probably wasn't going to ever stand behind a counter myself and scribble on a pristine cup, "tall-2 pump peppermint, 2 pump mocha-1 1/2 inch steamed Breve Americano" in secret Starbucks code, either.

It's odd to spend a day accumulating "nevers." It puts you in a pensive mood. But fortunately, enough Little Mary Sunshine lurked in my being that I found a way to turn those "nevers" around. No, I will never be a dancer, a pro baseball player, a lumberyard owner or a barista. But I'm a pastor's wife. I'm a mother. I'm a writer, and an editor, and a teacher, and a friend. And I suppose you could do worse with a life than to spend it trying to be the best pastor's wife-mother-writer-editor-teacher-friend you can be. So I will Cha-Cha in the mornings and admire the real dancers. I will continue to cheer the Mariners (and don't you DARE say a word against my boys) and try my best not to covet all that fun. I will buy my overpriced pieces of metal from the Oso lumberyard and not make under-my-breath comments about how I wouldn't dare fleece my own customers that way. I will rattle off my complicated order to the barista at Starbucks and ooh and ahh at her ability to catch it all.

And I'll play the roles I've been given--with every ounce of energy I possess.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord--not for men. --Colossians 3:23



Monday, November 07, 2005

so big

Zac edged out his dad finally. His newly measured 6'2" passed Dave by a mere inch, but that discovered inch threw Zac's shoulders back and filled his lungs and sent a rush of "maybe I can" running through his blood.

"Hey, Dad--let's arm wrestle."

Dave just laughed at first, but Zac pestered him into agreement. They pushed back the runner and cleared the dishes from the end of the table (we’d just finished dinner . . . beef stroganoff, in case you'd like to know) and propped their arms on top. “Put your other arm right here, by my elbow, so it doesn’t slip,” Zac instructed, sounding very much like a 6'2" arm wrestling expert.

Dave is the most easy-going person I know. He didn't point out that he'd been arm wrestling for twice as many years as the tall boy had lived. Instead, he followed Zac's instructions. “Ready?” he asked.

Zac started laughing—a nervous laugh, one to match the look in his eyes. “Are you watching, Mom?” he asked.

“No. I don’t want to see. I’ll cry no matter which one of you wins.” But I did watch. How could I not?

“Ready . . . go!” Zac said. And in the span of a blink, his arm hit the table. “Hey!” he protested.

“Were you trying?” Dave asked, laughing.

Zac ignored his question and propped his startled arm back up. “Let’s do it again.”

Again those two arms locked into position on the table. Again I saw that look in Zac’s eye as he stared at his foe--half hope, half trepidation.

“Ready . . . go!” And once again, Zac’s arm hit the table.

“Were you trying?” Dave asked again.

“Of course I was trying!” Zac laughed, but he was shaking his head as he did so. “I’m never going to be as strong as you, Dad.”

That’s all I wanted to hear. Just the acknowledgment that his dad is an ox. I watched him watching himself in the living room mirror, admiring his extra inch. “You’ll get him someday, Hon,” I said.

He grinned and turned and attacked the stairs, taking them two at a time up to his room.

That’s really all he wanted to hear.

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