Monday, May 26, 2008

rich man

We went to Dick's drive-in in the U-District Thursday (U being University of Washington, for those of you unfamiliar with my exotic, sophisticated, Washingtonian lingo). It wasn't optional. As far as I know, it's not possible to drive to and from SeaTac airport without making the obligatory stop at Dick's--our version of In-and-Out Burger.

Got in line. Gave our order: Two deluxe, four cheeseburgers, four fries, two tartar, three vanilla shakes, one diet Coke. And then Dave said, "Isn't that Bill Gates?"

Sure enough. Two lines over, smiling and trying not to notice that twenty heads had turned in his direction, was the founder of Microsoft. "Hi, Bill," someone near him said, as though Bill were a buddy.

"Hello," he said, still smiling.

One woman left her line and scampered over to stand behind him. Clearly, he was her buddy too. She began talking as though resuming a previously interrupted conversation.

While I strained to eavesdrop, Zac, whom we had picked up at the airport, said, "That's just wrong." I might have heard more of Bill's conversation than just the woman's "I've noticed it's really grown around there in the last ten years, haven't you?" if Zac wasn't delivering a speech about standing-in-line propriety and burger anonymity right in my ear.

"Mom, quit looking at him," he warned, right in the middle of said speech.

I really wanted to linger so I could tell you what Bill ordered, but Zac hustled me right to the car. I can tell you that Bill wore simple black pants and a modest blue jacket with thin black squares, and that his wife was waiting for him in their Volvo station wagon, two cars from ours.

I have to say, he seems like a very nice, very humble man. But while watching Bill back up their car, pull out of Dick's, and drive east on 45th Street, I thought the same thing I often think when his name or his face pops up in the news. I thought of baubles, and how quickly they will dissipate when this life is over.

Later in the day, we went to the home of a rich man, to bring him worship and communion in the last hours of his life.

We parked not far from his mobile home, and noticed as we did so that two other couples from church--Dave and Sue Kunkle, and John and Laurie Watson--were also parked near the Baileys' home. With Bible, communion elements, and guitar in hand, we walked up to the house, knocked on the door, and joined the others inside.

Bruce was lying in his hospital bed in the living room next to the sliding glass door, where he had a view of the neighboring mobile homes, and the potted plants Alberta had set on their deck. Two IV bags hung from a stand at the head of his bed. When I asked her if she rotated the bags herself, she nodded. "It's OK except when I have to lift the stand higher to get a better drip. I'm just not strong enough to do it when two bags are hanging there."

I walked to the bed and took Bruce's hand. "Hello," I said. "It's good to see you." His eyes latched with mine. He didn't speak or smile, but his grip tightened. "Your hands are nice and warm," I said.

We took seats around the bed, and prayed, and sang. First, a song of declaration.

I believe in Jesus
I believe He is the Son of God
I believe He died and rose again
I believe He paid for us all
And I believe that He's here now
Standing in our midst
Here with the power to heal now
And the grace to forgive

Then a song of adoration.

Isn't He (isn't He)
Beautiful (beautiful)
Beautiful (beautiful)
Isn't He (isn't He)
Prince of Peace
Son of God
Isn't He

After another song, and more prayer, Dave asked, "Bruce, would you like to have communion?" And Bruce said his one and only word: "Yes."

Dave read from Matthew. Alberta gave her husband a small bite of communion bread, then helped him drink the juice. Then, clustered around his bed, we laid hands on Bruce and prayed that God would ease his pain, and fill him with peace, and give him glimpses of the heaven he was about to enter. Bruce closed his eyes, and kept them closed--and sometime in early hours of Saturday morning, he opened them to Jesus.

He died a rich man--rich in the love of his wife, the love of his church family, the love of his God.

And he's a rich man still.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? ~Mark 8:36

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Friday, May 23, 2008

when love takes you in

While looking for a particular song (another by Steven Curtis Chapman), I found this long-ago favorite. This song so perfectly sums up the heart behind adoption.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

please pray

Please say a prayer for the family of Steven Curtis Chapman today (Left to right: Will Franklin, Maria, Steven, Shaoey, Mary Beth, Stevey Joy, Caleb and Emily). Yesterday morning, his youngest daughter, 5-year old Maria Sue, was struck and killed by an SUV driven by her brother.

The family has set up a video blog of Steven and Maria taken just two months ago. You can leave your condolences here.

A statement by Jim Houser, Steven's manager, reads as follows:

Maria Sue Chapman, adopted and youngest daughter to Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, was killed Wednesday night in a tragic accident in the family driveway on Wednesday evening. She was LifeFlighted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital but for only reasons God can explain she went home to Him… not to Franklin as we all so desperately wanted.

Your prayers are needed for all in the Chapman family. This is a family who has so generously loved and given to so many. Just hours before this close knit family was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman, and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman’s completion of high school. Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out 5 candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago.

If you've ever seen seen Steven in concert or really listened to the lyrics of his songs, you know how passionate this man is about God. Please pray that the presence of his Savior fills their home.

God of all comfort, please hold them close.


Monday, May 19, 2008

little hands

With that "paci" in her mouth, Amber has the power to leap walls, ward off toy-snatchers, and participate in the after-fellowship ritual of runner rolling-up.

Duncan needs no accoutrements. He brings only bare muscle and the fierceness of two-year old determination.

For months now, these two have been my escorts to and from my car on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. Duncan will not permit me to carry my own Bible. "I do it," he states in a tone that permits no discussion. When he reaches for the handle of my blue Bible cover, Amber--always at his side--pops in her power-propelling-pacifier and reaches for my purse. "I do it." And so we walk together. Flanked by my two small guards, I fear nothing.

"You're so strong!" I always tell them. "What good helpers!" Two turns into twelve overnight, and twelve-year olds are not always as quick to reach for what needs carrying. I want my voice to linger long in their memories.

So when I turned around a few Sundays ago and saw the twins kneeling beside Van, who had set his own dignity aside in the name of service and was crawling along behind a growing roll of floor runner, I gave them my usual pep talk. "Look how strong you two are! What good helpers!"

Behind her pacifier, Amber grinned. I think Duncan heard me. He was just too busy imitating Van to let me know.

Little hands grow fast. Father, cause them soon to reach for You.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

soul food

Three times today ... maybe five ... maybe a dozen, my thoughts have turned toward tonight, when we fellowship-moths will gather around the Light, and fill ourselves up with food and laughter and the Word.

Mark will arrive first, of course. He's the Spaghetti Man. And because he's wired that way, he'll have the table up, the burners lit, the water boiling, and sauce on the way in about half the time it would take the rest of us. It's the same automatic pilot he uses to juggle two windows of orders at his espresso stand while still managing to chat with dual customers and nod at the two lines of cars waiting semi-patiently for their turn.

Tera and I will mix up the Caesar salad, and cut and pile hefty chunks of soft French bread.

As others arrive, we'll hear reports about what we've all been doing in the hours we're forced forced to be apart. Josh and Nate will tell about their baseball games. Duncan and Amber, who think my name is "Danny" (and I hope they never figure out the truth), will hug me hello and bring me shoes that need tying. I'll get a hug from Pam before she heads in to set up the projector. Debbie will drift in, tired from a workday that began at 3:00 a.m., but happy to be among family. Word is, Kathy might bring more of those amazing buttercream/chocolate cupcakes from her dowtown Seattle espresso shop. We'll watch for that. The Harris duo will be there, and the Heaths, and the Ramoses, and the Watsons and Scougales. Bobby will bring his new bride, Brenda. The Kellys will be there ... and maybe the Kelleys. Sharon. Rob. A neighbor boy, who has recently started coming. Van and Bruce, Ian and Ted. And all the rest of this crazy crew. We'll chat ... and we'll wait ... and when the clock says "Eat," we'll pray, pass the styrofoam plates, and get in a long, polite line.

The food will be great, as always. (Mark has it down) The conversation will be punctuated with lots of laughter, as always. (We're a decorum-less bunch). And when it's all been said and done and eaten, we'll move ourselves from the Italian-scented room to the room filled with guitar strums, and praise, and prayer. We'll unlatch, unzip, or unsnap our Bibles, open to the Psalms, and get our second--and even better--feeding of the night.

Two hours to go. I can barely wait.

God, how You've blessed us with this lovely, loving family ... and how abundantly You feed us.



Sunday, May 11, 2008

full consent

I've returned to this poem again and again, in those sunless hours when all I need to take one more step is a reminder of the One I'm walking toward.

For You, Jesus, I'll take the barren days and rocky steps. I'll be misunderstood or betrayed or abandoned, if that means the fellowship of Your suffering. For You, Savior, I'll keep walking.

The Gift

I heard today
Of a decrepit native woman
Who walked mile after mile
Under the blistering sun
To bring a small gift of embroidery
To the missionary she deeply loved.
Hour after hour she trudged
Over rough, rugged roads
Clutching tightly her small gift.
Her weary body sagged
Her vision blurred
Her bare feet bled from the jagged rocks.

Grateful but overwhelmed,
The missionary wept.
The trembling old woman spoke softly:
"Please understand.
The walk is part of the gift."

My Lord
My commitment to You is for life.
I give myself to You unreservedly
To do with me as You please.
But may I not forget
That the tears, the fears
The strain and the pain
The sunless days
The starless nights
Are all part of the whole.
In my total commitment
I give full consent:
The walk is part of the gift.

~Ruth Harms Calkin

Photo taken by Elaina Scougale on Mount Arbel, Israel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee



Tuesday, May 06, 2008

... and when he is old ...

"Hi, Mom," I hear. A man's voice, and not my son's, comes crackling through the phone.

I scooch up higher in bed, hoping the extra few inches will land me in that elusive current of "Yes, I can hear you now." It works.

We'd spoken earlier in the day, when his father and I had walked together down a long gray strip of gray in a tunnel of sun-flecked firs. He'd sounded cranky then. Bible college has its moments.

"Sorry about earlier," he tells me now. "There's a lot of warfare down here. I didn't mean to be so crabby."

Warfare. Like migrating birds and winds and well-wishes, warfare honors no borders. Its arms are long and unhindered, its claws hungry for flesh.

We swap war stories for a minute. And then my boy begins ministering. "Read Psalms 7, Mom. The whole thing." Without the benefit of his Bible, he quotes words that pierce and burrow, soothe and heal.

This is the child who once doubted. This is the boy I've dreamed giant dreams for, prayed mountainous prayers over.

"I'll be praying for you, Mom," he says, after we've spent the better part of an hour talking about God, and His goodness, our worship of Him, and the new work He's doing in our midst.

"Goodnight, honey," I tell them all ... the man he is this moment, the man he'll be tomorrow, and the boy still there--the boy who would fall asleep to my half-whispered songs.

Beautiful, beautiful
Jesus is beautiful
And Jesus makes beautiful things of my life

Carefully watching me
Causing my eyes to see
That Jesus makes beautiful things of my life

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Monday, May 05, 2008

beauty in shadows

The seed I gave, if transferred to the One who is Light, would have taken root where it belonged--in the heart of the recipient; the heart He and I both love. But the seed was not transferred to God. While I watched, helpless, the god of shadows wooed open the hand that held it, took the hopeful kernel, and planted it in a seedbed of gall and resentment. And overnight, the seed grew into a bitter tree.

The twisting branches of this black canopy have covered me in darkness. The one whose hand caused this cares little, or none at all, that this shadow has fallen not just on me, but on all we love in common. Such is the way of bitterness.

But God's light always shines brightest in the dark places. I've been visited in this grove.

"I love you," several told me. Such vastness spoken in just the barest of syllables. "I know your character," said others. One held me tightly, unable to speak, but I could feel her heartbeat. And when we pulled apart, I looked past her tears and saw all the words locked away. I know you. I trust you.

"Can I pray with you?" a stranger asked me. She knew nothing, and she knew everything. "Father," she began, "would You strengthen my sister ...." Then the woman who doesn't know me proved that the Spirit within her does.

God sent His comfort through the tears of a close brother, the tight hug of another, knowing smiles, a hand on my shoulder, penned affection. And He sent flowers to brighten my darkness.

"Do you know how much I love you?" said the first card, attached to the first vase holding one single, perfect carnation. Addressed to my husband and me, it was signed, "Your Father."

Ten minutes later, the same florist knocked on our door. In her hand, she held another vase holding another perfect carnation. "Do you know how much I love you? ~Your Father."

Ten minutes more, and another knock brought the same florist, and the same offering. "Do you know how much I love you? ~Your Father."

Then at last, her knock brought a big bouquet of loveliness. Deep purple, the color of His royalty ... and bright yellow daisies and lilies, to remind me of the sunlight beyond these shadows. Brilliant fuchsia mums and zinnias, that spoke of coming joy. Tender, peach-blush roses, that reminded me I am His bride.

The last card told us that He knows, He sees, and He has a plan.

Beauty in shadows. Light in the darkness. And a love that knows only truth.

How grateful I am to be His.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

book review: skizzer

I love books that hold my attention from the get-go and that I can read in a day. Skizzer, the debut novel by author A.J. Kiesling, is just such a book.

From time to time I get offers to review books, and honestly, I don't say yes all that often. But it was A. J. Kiesling's bio that changed my answer from no to yes:

A.J. (Angie) Kiesling grew up loving trees and words--trees because they formed the natural backdrop and playground for her childhood years in rural North Carolina, and words because they captivated her from as far back as she can remember. When she wasn't romping through the woods with her siblings, she might be found with her nose in a book--or lost among the shelves at the local library.

I related to every bit of that ... except that my woods were in Washington, not North Carolina. And when I found out that the location of her mystery was set partly in England (where I'm headed for the first time this fall), I was even more anxious to read the book.

I liked the author's easy style and her descriptions. She's great at filling in the blanks in such a way that you find yourself right there in the scene, hearing the approach of footsteps or smelling the mustiness of old books in a office long used by scribes. The storyline was compelling, and though in places I couldn't suspend my disbelief, it didn't mar my enjoyment. The book held me until the end.

About Skizzer: After receiving news of her sister Becca's abrupt disappearance, Claire Trowling must piece together the shadowy remnants of a past she's long forgotten in order to find her. A cryptic note scrawled in Becca's handwriting leaves more questions than it answers. When a stack of mysterious letters bound by a rare necklace is found, Claire races to discover the secrets that hold her family captive. Suspenseful and full of intrigue, Skizzer takes you on a transcontinental hunt for answers, weaving seamlessly between the distant past of childhood and the urgency of the present.

"This debut novel from Kiesling is a quick and engaging read with plot revelations meted out skillfully enough to keep the pages turning.... [The book has] an adventurous story, a compelling protagonist and thoughtful musings on the real meaning of sisterhood." -Publishers Weekly

And as always, there's a contest ....

Win a gift certificate for $40 to the restaurant of your choice by clicking over to the blog tour post and leave a comment answering this question:

What's the Most Important Thing You've Ever Lost and Then Found?

A.J. Kiesling will select the winning response based on originality and sizzle.