Wednesday, March 28, 2007

calvary boys

Isaac sits at his father's feet, cross-legged, playing with a yellow sportscar. To his left, his little sister lies sleeping in her car seat. To his right, just five feet of carpet separates him from Peter, who is playing the conga with his eyes closed and his head toward heaven. I can feel the pounding of Peter's hand against that taut skin from my side of the room; I know Isaac feels it through the floor.

He pushes his sports car along an unseen-to-me highway, causing it to skirt surprise obstacles, jump other cars, twirl and leap and dodge the way only 6" cars in the hand of 6-year old boys can do. Stuck at a stoplight, he uses that time to notice his sister's fluttering eyelids. He bends his head, ducks under the handle of her car seat, and kisses her cheek once, twice, three times for good measure.

I watch him and I know he's oblivious to the words we're singing:

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

Does that boy know why we gather in this room Wednesday nights and fill this space with guitar strums and congo beats and voices raised in praise? Does he know the gratitude that fuels our worship--the remembrances that lift our hands and faces toward the sky? He doesn't. Not yet. But I pray that as he sits here, Wednesday night after Wednesday night, he begins to understand that You, Jesus, are his hideaway and his rest.

Drill deeply, Lord, and plant a seed of faith.

In the very back row, another boy has taken a seat. He accepted my hug when he walked through the door, but he was careful to choose a way-back place, and take a middle seat between two empty chairs.

I've known this boy since he was small and blonde, with eyes that looked much too big for his tiny face. An enduring image I have, whenever his name crosses my mind and I latch hold, is of an afternoon the 4-year old version of himself spent at my house making kites. When we'd taped the drinking straw crossbeam in place and unfurled the tissue paper tail, he took it outside and showed me his kite-flying skills. The higher it rose, the deeper his dimples grew. As he ran circles in my fenced-in backyard, the sun broke through the evergreen boughs overhead and sprinkled light sparkles over the grass.

He's been gone a long time--long enough to venture into dark corners. He looks older tonight, and sadder, as if he knew things he wished he didn't. But he's here. He's come home.

Does he hear the words we're singing now? Does he know they offer the cleansing he's looking for?

Mine was Your only sin
Yours is my only righteousness
Mine was Your only shame
Yours is my only confidence
You took all of me; I want all of You

Mine was the pain You bore
Yours is the healing I received
Mine was the nails and thorns
Yours is my life abundantly
You took all of me; I want all of You

I'm waiting here to feel Your touch
The weight of sin it seems so much
The freedom that You offer me is You

Mine was the the victory
Yours is the blood that purchased me
Mine is a blessed way
Yours is my love eternally
You took all of me; I want all of You

Does that boy know You are the answer, Jesus? Does he know that You're the stealer of shame, the robber of regret?

Drill gently, Lord, and free his heart to remember.

"Hideaway" and "The Trade" by Brett Williams



Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Cora didn't want to go to Israel at first. She didn't quite see what all the fuss was about. I told her, "Cora, Chris is going ... and if he goes without you, you're going to miss out on sharing something wonderful. He'll try, but he'll never be able to fully describe what it means to him." In the end, she relented, but I could tell her heart wasn't in it.

And then it was. Somewhere between, "All right. I'll go." and the morning we piled our bags in the church van and headed to Sea Tac airport, Cora's heart began to burn for a land she'd never seen. Her excitement grew during the trip from Seattle to Atlanta, and during the short layover there, and all through the long flight to Tel Aviv. In the darkest hour of our flight, when our legs ached from inactivity and we found ourselves rising and stretching and congregating back in the steward's section (where we met a believing, Messianic attendant named Marwin), Cora's desire fought its way past her exhaustion and shone in her eyes.

She told me later that the tears first came when she saw on the screen that we'd crossed the Mediterranean, and she looked out her window and caught her first glimpse of the Holy Land.

She didn't stop there. Cora cried at nearly every stop along our trip. She became my blessing. My friend, who had been so reluctant, so unconvinced, so complacent about this journey, now drew it in as though it were breath.

Sometimes, now, Cora and I will look at each other across the room, and smile. And I can see in her eyes that she's thinking of Israel. She can see I'm right there with her.

I long for that land. As our friend, Dave Perkins, says, "Once you get that sand in your sandals, you can never get it out." I can feel the sand even now, and I'm counting the days until our next trip.

I've a longing for another place, too. In unlooked-for moments, my heart responds to a sound my ears miss. I turn and look up past the clouds, and I know where I belong. And someday, I'll leave this place, where all is weight and worry and regret. Someday, I'll cross that wide sea and catch my first glimpse of the One I long for most. And though I've read there's no crying there, I've a feeling that when I hold those hands for the first time and I see for myself the love written in His wounds, I'll wash them in my tears.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

how i spent the last hour

I bumped into the bookshelf next to my bed awhile ago. It set off a chain reaction that stole an hour of my life.

The bump caused a noise ... a noise that sounded suspiciously like one of my double-point needles rolling off the edge of the bookcase, hitting the wall, and bouncing to the carpet. The suspicion seemed confirmed when I picked up the fingerless gloves I'd been working on a few nights ago. Just minutes shy of finishing the project, I'd run out of Debbie Bliss's sagey cashmerino and had to set the glove aside. I really, really don't like when that happens. I'm going to have to shell out another $8.95 for two feet of yarn. But I really, really like these fingerless gloves, so that's exactly what I'm going to do the next time I'm in Everett.

Surveying the glove, I saw the three size 7 bamboo dp needles, but not the fourth. And so, detective that I am, I surmised that I had indeed bumped the fourth needle off the shelf. Easy enough, right? I first leaned the bookcase over as far as I dared, reached down as far as I could (which squished my face into the stack of books now leaning precariously on the top shelf, and made a grasping motion toward the carpet. What I pulled up was an archeologist's delight. What sort of people lived in this bedroom? Who slept on this side of the bed? Apparently one who used a lot of tissue, ate Altoid gum and Ricola cough drops, and had at least on one occasion attempted to string beads. My second grasping attempt felt more hopeful, but the woody stick object I found in my claw was a pencil and not the size 7 dp needle.

I wasn't daunted. This time, mustering all the energy I possess, I heaved the near corner of the bookcase to the left. This motion (which I had performed in near darkness, as the bedroom light had not been on ... what was I thinking?) caused a reaction on the back bottom shelf. In the dim light, I saw a long, bamboo-colored object roll off my Tony Little weight-lifting book--which had been collecting dust on the bottom of the bookcase--and scurry under the edge of the wall trim. One tiny edge peeked out, so I squished my face into the books again and reached down to snag it. But something happened between the formation of my plan and the actual movement of my hand--I missed, but managed to push the stick right under the trim.

Now I'm mad. I paid 75 cents for those four dp needles at the Good Will. I was proud of that purchase, because I knew that a set of bamboo dp needles would run me $7-$9 anywhere else. And no wall trim was going to rob me of that fourth needle.

I wised up and turned on the bedroom light, then got my little flashlight from my secret, private, mom-toolbox (you'll find two kinds of screwdrivers, a hammer, a Stanley tape measurer, and a thing of scotch tape in there--all items that disappear with alarming frequency if I put them out in plain view). Dropping to the floor, I reached for the needle. And then I found myself chasing the needle from one end of the wall to the other, in an oh-so-fun game of "see if you can find me under the trim without ripping your fingers on hidden nails."

I could feel it under there, dashing left and right while I tried to pin it down. Grabbing a pencil from my nightstand, I began probing. When I felt that I'd isolated the edge of the needle, I tried reaching my finger under the other edge. And there it was--but it wouldn't be captured. Every time I thought I had a good fingertip-grasp on it, it scurried further under the carpet. And we're not talking about a large work area here. We're talking about a space not quite comfortable for the average woman's finger. I might emerge bruised, but I was determined to emerge with that needle.

I brought my toolbox closer to the work area and grabbed the two screwdrivers. The Phillips was worthless for grasping, but it might serve as a roadblock for that slickery little bugger. Shoving it under the predetermined left edge of the runaway needle, I then jammed the regular screwdriver under the right edge and began swinging its paddle-ish edge back and forth, hoping to persuade the needle to come out of hiding.

Twenty minutes went by. Sweat formed on my upper lip. Twice I caught myself grinding my teeth in frustration. And then, when I felt an urge to launch something fragile and expensive against a far wall, I went into a contractor's rage. Picking up the non-Phillips screwdriver, I raised it over my head in a homicidal pose and brought it down with all my might against the edge of the wall trim. Let it dissolve into splinters ... I no longer cared. Dave could come home to a gaping, outdoors-revealing hole in the sheetrock--it mattered not to me. I was getting that needle.

Between the screwdriver and the hammer tip, I managed to pry about ten feet of wall trim several inches from its normal position. Feeling victorious and smug and a whole lot of "I am woman; hear me roar," I peered down at the exposed gap and prepared to retrieve my prize. But what was this? Why was my bamboo needle suddenly the color of a number 2 pencil?

Because it WAS a number 2 pencil!!!

It can't be I muttered, as I ran my finger over and over the channel I'd opened.

I spent another five minutes in just that way--trying to find the phantom needle. Finally, feeling quite dazed and startled, I banged the wall trim almost in place, put my tools back in my secret box, threw the tissues and the lint-covered Altoid gum and the sticky Ricola drop in the garbage, and heaved the bookcase back into position. And then I threw myself onto the bed and stared at the fought-for number 2 pencil.

One whole hour of my life ... wasted. And I still don't know what happened to that fourth needle.

I suppose it could be worse. I suppose that instead of an hour, I could be out there living a wasted life, fighting and scrambling and plotting my way to a worthless end. It's food for thought, though. How right and good to spend our days preparing ourselves for God. And how sad it is when lives are spent in pursuit of fame, and youth, and money ... and number 2 pencils.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

home again

We've been home for a week now. I realize that makes me late in posting, but I've spent this week trying to convince my body that we've swapped time zones. I can now say that I'm an expert at recognizing the difference between 2 a.m. moonlight and 4 a.m. moonlight, and the shadows each casts on my backyard landscape. When morning comes, I'm lucky if I can match my socks. During daylight hours, I feel successful if I can string appropriate sentence parts in the correct order, or remember my full name, or keep my car between the lines on my way into town. So blogging has had to wait.

I came home with a pocketful of shekels and a head full of memories. There's much to share. So much, in fact, that it's daunting. With all those memories clamoring for release, how do you choose? I want to tell you about our dinner with our friends, and about the children we saw in the Old City, and about the beauty of Caesarea. I want to tell you what it feels like to wade in the Mediterranean, and the Jordan, and Gideon's Spring. I want to tell you dozens and dozens of things, but I'm so rich with material that I feel paralyzed.

I think I'll start by comparing this trip with our last. The first time we went to this amazing country, we (we being Dave, me, and Denise, a close friend from church who had gone through a devastating loss and needed to put her thoughts on something beautiful) joined a group from Calvary Chapel Oceanside. We were three in a sea of 45 strangers. They didn't stay strangers long, mind you, but there at the beginning, we were a quiet threesome. Everything we saw was brand new to our collective six eyes, so there was no "Oh, you're going to love this!" or "Just wait till we get to such and such!"

This trip, however, was littered with those phrases. For me, the joy of this trip was standing at the doorway to the hippodome at Caesarea and watching as one by one, my beloved church family turned the corner and stared at the long row of beach-hugging ruins. Their gasps filled me with delight, for I knew the emotions accelerating their heartbeats. I couldn't help but clap with anticipation when we pulled down the driveway of our first kibbutz, and I knew they'd soon be standing on the shores of the Galilee. When they waded into the Jordan for their baptisms, I could feel the coolness of the water from my perch on the rocks above, where I waited with a collection of cameras. When I cried at the garden tomb this time, it was because of their tears.

There's something wonderful about having traversed a path and then getting to watch others maneuver the same trail. It's one of the great joys of aging, actually. I don't know why our culture fights it so. To look back and remember, and spur on those who come after you, is a reward, a bonus, a satisfaction that can't be earned any other way. You have to walk those steps first to understand how they feel under another's foot. You have to climb that mountain to remember the ache in another's body. And you have to scan the valley yourself to really know the awe another climber experiences when he or she drinks in their first glimpse.

What an adventure we're all on ... and how good it is to turn to one another now and then, and grin in shared delight.

* * *

Photo taken at En Gedi. Shown: Dave, me, and my sister, Tarri