Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Word: Graffiti

~ Spray painted on an abandoned building in town ~
May you live this day in all His abundance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bathing Suits and Living Up to Expectations

This really is going to be about the title, but it won't be what you think because I'm getting better at not living up to expectations. But I'm already getting ahead of myself.

We joined the pool on July 4th with the discounted rate because summer was half over. We haven't joined in years, but this summer we wanted the kids out of the house and active, so we did. And it worked. They now walk through the woods to the pool every day while we're at work.

They only have one swimsuit each. They wear it day after day, the same one, in public, and in front of all-important middle school friends. It's a slow social suicide for American girls at the neighborhood pool who are doing their teenage-best to fit in and feel normal. Owning a single bathing suit in America isn't normal and doesn't fit in.

I know this because I've tried to reconcile the social pressure with my own one swimsuit at the pool. I'm forty-something and don't go every day like they do, and maybe that makes me more vain and less spiritual than my girls. Who knows. Maybe that's not even the point. But I self-consciously kept my thoughts to myself, not realizing my daughters are struggling with the same social stigma. I'd be a much better mom if I were less concerned with myself, what I let show, and what I hide, and paid more attention to my children's faith struggles.

Anyway, back at the pool, there was a slow dying every day not being attended to by a preoccupied mom. One girl gets creative and begins to trade suits with friends to prolong her one swimsuit social demise. The trades are a complex web now: Autumn's bottoms, Syndey's top, her own swimsuit at Grace's house from a former trade, which means I have no idea where Grace's is. I need to make a flowchart.

Yesterday, when I saw yet another swimsuit on my girl when we headed to the pool, I asked. With a shame in her eyes that hushed her voice, she almost pleaded, "Mom, we wear the same swimsuit to the pool every single day." I recognize the shame and the sentiment, unspoken until I probed.

She feels American pressure to compete, but she also knows that we are trying to live modestly in order to use what might have been second and third swimsuits to support a ministry raising kids who think getting an apple is a treat.

In the moment of her words bravely spoken, my daughter and I are one.

We are the girl who wants to fit in and also the girl who has fed refried bean paste sandwiches to children who live at the dump. We are the American girl with a heart for the world, and we're learning that death is eminent when you follow Jesus' command to the ends of the earth. It's going to hurt. When you swim in the neighborhood pool in America and when you're in the back of a pick up truck in Guatemala. Both are the pain and the glory of the crucified life.

We girls are learning, ungracefully perhaps, that when we say no to our own extras in order to say yes to someone else's essentials, what we find is life abundant, a half-priced half-summer at the pool, and freedom from unspoken American expectations. It's a daily cross the size and weight of a single swimsuit, and one my daughters and I decide we'll gladly carry.

 "Come to Me... For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28 and 30).

~ unwrapping His promises today with Duane and company ~

Friday, July 20, 2012

What God Sees in The Dark Knight Movie Massacre

This week I read of the one standing ovation Jesus gave that we know of. It was in honor of Stephen, when he lived through—or should I say died through—an event that eerily hearkened back to a certain crucifixion that was in Jerusalem's not so distant past. Perhaps the similarities between the two events were lost on an angry people in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, there were trumped up charges before the Sanhedrin, a miscarriage of justice just outside the city, and a victim's dying cry for God's mercy toward his perpetrators.

Jesus, now at home in Heaven with newly acquired empathy for Stephen's circumstance, stood at attention and received Stephen's prayer as only the Savior can: with an answer.

Was it at that moment that Jesus penciled in on his daytimer an appointment on a certain road to Damascus and whispered, "Yes," to Stephen's dying plea?

What I've never noticed before about this passage is that Jesus saw Saul as well. Jesus saw Saul's wicked smile of approval spurring on murder. Jesus saw Stephen and Saul and saw the plight of both.

All at once, a glorified Christ, who is above time and space on a fallen Earth, can see Stephen, Saul (as he is), and the Paul that he would soon become. He would receive Stephen and redeem Saul.

The death of the first martyr was the remarkable event that began the turbulent birth of the Church. And that birth was not without the pains of labor and delivery God promised as a consequence of sin back in the Garden. Fledgling Christians must have wondered, even whispered, "Why?" That is, if they were brave enough to own and utter their doubt in that one word.


No one on earth had foreknowledge that Saul would become Paul on his way to more persecution in Damascus when there was a dead Stephen beneath the stones. But Jesus did; He knew.

He is a God who sees. He's a God who stands and pays attention when innocents are slain.

He is listening to his children's prayers, and He has a ready answer to them.

Stephen's answer involved a wayward Pharisee that would become an apostle who transformed the Roman Empire and all of history. His answer and His plan was beyond anyone's wildest imagination on that sad day in Jerusalem.

Only a sovereign God can see the future, make Damascus Road appointments, and has answers for the why-questions that come in our darkest nights and on this sad day in Aurora.

Shall we ask now then, when The Darkest Knight has become a darkest night?

Let us bravely bare our sorrow and doubt to the One who knows and the One who sees. May He answer our prayers in a way that turns evil to good, that will proclaim His name to the ends of the earth in ways that are beyond our wildest imagination.

Let us ask. Jesus just might be standing at attention again with answers, ready to receive and redeem.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dedication Dilemma

This is the time when I typically dedicate a love song to my hubster who likes to leave me for the mission field every so often.

This time, before the team left American soil, there was a passport debacle that culminated in a sick 17-year-old full of Prednisone accompanying me to the U.S. State Department Passport Agency in Atlanta at 3:00 a.m. He plugged his phone into the dashboard and turned up the volume past decency at 3:00 in the morning.

It was a fun three and a half hours with my boy, who's old enough now to no longer mind me calling him a boy. He has some music that would have been torture to me -- rap, hard rock.  But he is maturing and instinctively chose songs that are enjoyable to us both. I didn't know most of them as we rocked our way to Atlanta at about 80 decibels. Adrian listens to music with every fiber of his being even without the Prednisone.

He introduced me to Andy Grammar, and his love for the streets of Los Angeles where he got his start. We watched the video with me only peeking from time to time, lifting my eyes momentarily from the road. Adrian may or may not have cried with joy for a man's fidelity to his passion and its humble beginnings enough to continue his street music even after he "made it." It was good enough to listen to again, so he hit repeat. Lyrics about ears to hear him dream were too good not to hear again.

He played some John Mayer, Anthem Lights, Maroon Five and Gravity by Sarah Bareilles, and we belted out together the ache of unrequited love with lyrics that pull at you like gravity and you fall into them. I think it was 4:40. We were going seventy down I-20 last Monday morning.

The morning before, I commented to Mike while we walked from the parking lot to the church about what a peaceful morning it had been at home getting ready. Sunday mornings before church aren't always peaceful at our house when responsibilities rush us. But that day, three kids were walking side by side twelve feet ahead of us in the morning sun, and for a minute walking beside my man watching my children I might have beamed as brightly as the sun.

It didn't last. On the way home from church, we revived our going back and forth that started Saturday about whether to get Adrian to a doctor before Monday or to wait for a smaller bill at the the doctor's office on Monday. Tuesday's mission trip was looming large, and Adrian wasn't feeling any better, our arguing only making him feel worse. How did I not see this?

He'd also tried to warn his sister's friend about something that might become another threat to her infant Christianity, which is being neglected because her mother is less than thrilled with her daughter's new found faith. It was taken the wrong way and blew up in his face. It stirred the proverbial hornets' nest and he's smarting from the sting of that too. There are tears before Sunday lunch, a mad dash to the urgent care center just after lunch, and then the discovery of an expired passport.

Some days are a pig pile and it can be hard to breathe under there.

A little birdy told me on the way to Atlanta the next morning that Mike loves Jason Derulo's Breathing and when I heard the words that were romantic and passionate with that driving beat, I asked the birdy to type the title and artist into my phone so I wouldn't forget and could dedicate it this trip.

And then this week I read some writing about women having it all -- or not -- and my thoughts went back to that article I read three weeks ago. I thought of Alicia Keyes and "If I Ain't Got You" and her take on wanting it all and really only wanting him. I thought about dedicating that.

But now that it's time for a dedication, I'm thinking more about my son, who is soon becoming a man, one I'm proud of and one I like very much. I'm thinking about his heartbreak, and his bright future, and such love for his sister's friend that he feels like her big brother too. I'm thinking about that guitar he plays and the music he writes and the microphone beside his bed and all that God might use him to say to the world someday. I'm thinking about all 6 feet of him and wondering how it's even possible to love this much.

Right now I think of how he tried to take the keys from me, insisting that he drive home, but I squeeze them tight and win the fight. You needed your rest, and you pouted for five then slept the rest of the way home. I drove, feeling alone in the car while you slept. I blared the music just like you did, but it wasn't the same without you. So this one's for you, Adrian.

I love you,

 On In Around button

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Surprise

Adrian has been to Guatemala every summer since fifth grade, save one. He's divvied out medication, carried the scriptures on his shoulders to people still unreached with the gospel, blown bubbles to occupy waiting children, prayed with families, sung songs, and given bean paste sandwiches to hungry humanity that live at the dump. Over the years, he's delivered the gospel in myriad ways.

But thosse aren't not the only things that will happen this year. Much of the rest is a surprise, and who doesn't love a surprise?  If you follow me over to Laced With Grace you can find out. I can't give it all away, of course, or it wouldn't be a surprise anymore. But there's more to the story over there, so come on, sneak on over.  And Shhhh--

Laced With Grace

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What God Can Do with What We Forget

Mike says they were our next door neighbors. I'm skeptical. I don't remember that.

I remember the long, institutional hallway with opposing doors. I remember our bunny, Sugar, hop-running the length of that hall in the evenings after work. I remember trying not to cry when I first saw the dorm room and Mike gleamed, and I didn't want to live there. I remember the tears, unrestrained now, when I closed the door for the last time on the seminary students we had been. And I remember Jim's name and familiar face when he sent the blue cyber request to be friends, but not that we were next door neighbors. I may have borrowed his milk.

We all remember only bits and pieces, never the whole.

Mike and Jim are caught up on two decades of ministerial life on Facebook in short-order, and Mike thinks he has a grasp on what the old friendship was.

And he answered, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.

Then Jim sends the picture of a worn out bible that looks like it's been through war, probably spiritual war at the very least, with an explanation, because he knows we won't remember it.

We don't.

Jim reminds us. "Mike, so great to connect with you after 20+ years! In August of 1990, while neighbors in seminary housing, you and Dawn gave this Bible to me at the time of my ordination. I have used it to lead many to faith in Jesus Christ. I have prayed for you through the years because of your message to me on the inside cover. By God's grace, I have kept the charge and am running the race that will end at our Savior's feet (Hebrews 12:1-3)."

I don't remember buying this bible for our next door neighbor whom I had since forgotten.

I do remember not being able to afford to have our car fixed for months, Mike driving downtown twice a day to get me to and from work.

I do remember looking for loose change that had slipped between the car seats hoping—no, praying—for quarters and that it would be enough to make it 'til payday. It was.

I remember the grocery budget being $70 a week and calculating at the market to not go over.

I don't remember buying a bible for our neighbor, but I imagine it was a financial sacrifice. And I imagine Mike's the one who really wanted to do it. I don't know for sure, because, well, I don't remember that either.

When we forget the ordinary things we do, they might be unforgettable to our neighbor.  

And God surely doesn't forget.

Bible Inscription: Dear Jim, God bless you on this occasion of your ordination. I know that it is a special time in your life and we pray that God will use you in every possible way. We love you, Mike and Dawn Gonzalez   8-21-90

So now I'm wondering what other surprises God has up his sleeve. And that perhaps there might be more forgotten deeds that won't burn on that Day, the one I fear just a little (and wrote about recently).

Now I wonder if I've got it all wrong about that Day. I used to imagine uncomfortable, vulnerable exposure and a glaring, inescapable spotlight. But maybe that Day is really a family reunion with lots of surprises, happiness, and reminiscing over long-forgotten memories recounted by our Father.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

Maybe my Father wants me, or you, to stop dreading that Day. Maybe He would rather us yearn for it instead.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend Word :: Friend

No longer do I call you servants,
for a servant does not know what his master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
for all things that I heard from My Father
I have made known to you (John 15:15 NKJV).

Reagan and Grace
Summer 2012

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