ReThinking Lent – Day 7: Wonder

Every day, I wonder. I wonder what the guy in the car next to me on the GW Parkway was doing this morning as he was snapping his fingers in front of his heater vents (is this some sort of “clapper” method of turning your car heater on)? I wonder why on earth people decided to build their house in that particular spot. I wonder why people spit in public. I wonder why some people smell like mothballs. I wonder what babies think when we stick our faces within inches of theirs and speak a strange language in a high pitched voice. I wonder why my dog barks to be let out at 6am on weekends but not on weekdays. I wonder if the Broncos would have beat the 49’ers in the Superbowl. And, I wonder why Opening Day of baseball season isn’t a national holiday.

These are everyday wonders — curiosities, if you will. There are bigger wonders, too. I put these on my “questions I have for God when I get to Heaven” list. This list is comprised mostly of the “Why are things not fair” and the “I don’t understand” variety. Why was *my* child born with a heart defect? And, why did *their* child die having the same surgery that saved my child’s life? Why do we have to suffer so as we get old? Why do teenagers talk back? And of course the “What on earth does (insert scripture verse here) actually mean? And just today, I found out that somebody we knew passed away last week. It made me wonder if I was always as kind to him as I should have been. The truth is that when I actually do have the opportunity to ask God these questions, the answers likely won’t matter anymore.

And, then there is the wonder of God’s creation.

I remember being in 9th grade and having these mind-blowing discussions with a friend of mine about the universe and how it never ends. We would go round and round about how it *has* to end. Nothing goes on forever. But, it does! And, I can’t wrap my mind around it. Just like I can’t wrap my mind around God. Regardless of whether you believe that God created the world in 6 days or over a period of millions of years (file this question in the second category above)….He created it! And, it’s amazing.

When my son was born and we discovered he had a heart defect, the NICU doctor said to me that he was always the MOST amazed when a baby was born completely healthy. He explained that my baby’s heart was beating before I even knew I was pregnant. And, it already had the defect. We don’t know why — it just didn’t form correctly for one reason or another. But, it is an example of how things must go EXACTLY right — perfectly, really — in order for a baby to be born with no defect.

Another thing that brings me great wonder is the changing of the seasons….particularly spring. We see life begin to burst forth where things seemed so dead. The birds instinctively know that its time to fly north. The earth has made another trip around the sun…just as it was designed to do…and the cycle of life begins again. It takes my breath away when I think about it.

It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.

~Jeremiah 10:12-13

ReThinking Lent – Day 5: Settle

This word settle….it has a negative connotation to me. As in, settling for something…accepting things as they are even though you long for something different. But as I thought and prayed about it, I began to look at it differently.

You see, I’ve always been somewhat of a gypsy. I get restless easy. It’s hard for me to “settle” into a routine without getting bored. In our 20 years of marriage, I bet we’ve had at least 15 addresses we’ve lived in 5 states and have considered living in a couple of more. Once our son started school, we made a conscious effort to settle down a little more and we did stay in the same community for nearly 9 years–although not the same house– and not the same church.

And now here we are in the DC area. We spent a lot of time figuring out where we were going to live…because we want to stay put until Jake has graduated from high school. We spent a lot of time “church shopping” and even went through the painful process of finding a place that we thought we would be for a long time and then having that not be the case.

We’ve been here nearly three years and it occurs to me that we have “settled”…In a good way. And the way that I know its God’s plan and not mine is that none of it is what I would have chosen. But it’s home and we are settled and happy.

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ReThinking Lent – Day 3: See

I think it’s easy to find beauty in God’s creation. We need only look toward the sky when the sun rises or sets to see what an artist our God is.

In fact, it is easy to rejoice in and praise God when we see something that is physically beautiful. And as I considered the topic of “seeing” today, I realized that we need to look beyond what we find beautiful and see the world as God sees it. And that can have some troubling implications.

When we think this way, we have to consider that God sees beauty in people and things that we don’t. It also means that we have to see beyond the beautiful things of the world and see how we have destroyed them.

I believe that God is present, everywhere throughout His amazing creation. I also believe that God has created us to care for and steward that creation. And that requires us to see the things that are broken and to be intentional about bringing beauty and restoration in those places. It is a clear and tangible way that we can display the gospel of Jesus in our communities.

In this picture, its easy for our eyes to be drawn to the sky and the clouds and the magnificent bridge. But look closer and you see the graffiti that lines the canal. A clear juxtaposition of the beauty and the brokenness of our world.

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ReThinking Lent Day 2: Return

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.  -Luke 4:1-2

Yesterday, I looked ahead at today’s Lenten photo so that I could begin thinking about what I might take a photo of.  Return.  Immediately a couple of photos that I have already taken popped into my head, but I really want these to be intentional.  And, I’m resolved not to look at anyone else’s photos until I have taken mine so I’m not influenced.  I want this to be completely Spirit led.

I had the privilege of attending the most beautiful Ash Wednesday service I’ve ever experienced.  To be fair, I have not attended very many, but this one left me awe-struck.

We were given small pieces of paper on which to write something that we wanted to let go….a sin, a hurt…anything we wanted Jesus to take away.  Then, we placed it in a bowl with dried palm fronds from the previous years Palm Sunday service and burned it.  The pastors then added baptismal water and created ash from the palm.  I’ve been through the ritual of having the ashes imposed on my forehead before, but there was something so powerful about seeing the ashes created from the hurt on those pieces of paper.

Diptic

Remember that from dust you have come and to dust you shall return.
-Genesis 3:19
Repent, and believe the Gospel.
-Mark 1:15

Rethinking Lent

I’ve never really been an “observer” of Lent — for a lot of reasons.  First and foremost, I am not Catholic and did not grow up in this tradition.  Secondly, I have had mixed feelings about the idea of giving something up for Lent.  I’ve had people describe it to me as joining in Jesus’ suffering…which I categorically reject.  In my not-so-humble opinion, there is NOTHING we could do for one day or forty that would even begin to mirror what Jesus went through in those 40 days leading up to the crucifixion.  Then there are those that don’t really know why they give something up…they just do because that’s what they are supposed to do.  That’s what I call “religion” and I tend to categorically reject that as well.  Finally, I have this annoying habit of being judgmental about what people give up.  I’m not proud of it — I’m just being real.

And, then my 13 year old started asking questions and I had to really start thinking about my answers because they are incredibly important.  We do some of our best talking in the car and this morning, as we were driving to a doctor’s appointment, I was able to address some of his questions and correct some of the thinking that he had (which he inevitably picked up from listening to me jabber on about it over the years).  I basically told him that the reasons people give something up are many — and they are not for us to judge.  I gave him the following example:

Let’s say that somebody is going to give up Diet Coke for Lent.  The point is not that the Diet Coke withdrawl represents anything close to the suffering that Jesus endured.  The point is that whenever that person thinks about Diet Coke or longs for a Diet Coke that it is a reminder to them of what Jesus did.  And, that should send us to prayer and thanksgiving.  Instead of equating with Jesus journey in the desert, it is a way for us to continuously be in tune with Jesus’ journey in the desert.

I saw a light start to go off as he considered this.  And, it made aware of my need to repent for the ways in which I have not shown enough reverence for this time in our Christian calender.  Yes it’s true that Jesus’death and resurrection gives me the freedom not to actively participate in the “religious” rituals.  But, the cross is the reason I am a Christian and I am convicted that it deserves more than I have given it over the years.

I went on to explain that some people choose to add something to their daily lives during this time — again so that we are constantly aware of why we celebrate Easter.   And, I gave him some ideas of things that he might consider doing during this time as well.  And, I shared with him one of the ways in which I plan to observe Lent this year.  And, as you might expect, it is a bit unconventional.  But, I’m joining in with a community of like-minded people in this endeavor.

I love that this will incorporate something I’m passionate about — photography.  And, that it allows for creativity, which God gave us.  It will be fun and interesting to see how other people express themselves in these photos.  I might even add a few of my own in because I have this issue with taking Sundays off.  I get why it is a “rule” in Lenten observances, but I don’t understand it.  Jesus didn’t get a day off — why should we?  Don’t try to convince me….just bear with me on it.  I might come around.

Here is Day One:  Who am I?

I’m a Wife.  Mother.  Lover.  Friend.  Aunt.  Foster Mother.  Comforter. Confidante.  Wearer of color.  Beach lover.  Follower of Jesus (you don’t know this, but I’m at church in the bottom right photo).  These are just a few things that make up who I am.

As I look at these photos, I see so many imperfections.  And, really…what is the point of today’s photo?  It sort of strikes me as prideful at first.  And, then it occurred to me that the descriptions I gave above are how I see myself.  They don’t represent my identity in Christ (entirely).  How humbling that Jesus does not see the imperfections that I do and that He accepts me as I am.  He made me the way I am, so why am I so critical of God’s creation?

And just like that, I find myself praising God and being worshipful.  And that is the point.

Life and Death

My mother’s cousin died last night. He was my cousin too, but I guess I always considered him an uncle. His father was my great uncle — he and my grandfather were brothers. There were 10 boys total, so the family was big. And, I realize that the way I’m describing him makes it sound like we are somewhat distant relatives. But, we weren’t. We were a big family in a small town. And, Lloyd…that was his name….always made me feel particularly special. It’s almost like he “got” me. I always felt particularly close to his two children when we were growing up, too.

There’s a big long story, as there always is, but suffice it to say that I’m just sad. I’m sad for my cousin’s loss. I’m sad for my mother, who was very close to him. I’m sad that every time a Wallace passes away, a piece of our family history dies. I’m sad because the last time I saw Lloyd, I was taken aback by how bad he seemed. But, even though that’s my last memory of him, when I close my eyes and think of him right this moment, I see his smiling eyes. And I’m grateful for that.

My faith is such that I do not believe we were created to die. We were not created to understand death. It’s why we grieve so. It’s why we ask “why?”, in my opinion.

I don’t even know what the point of this post is. I wish I had something poignant to say. I wish I could make some brilliant observation about this being the eve of the season of Lent. But I can’t. I’m just sad.

I guess mostly, I just had words I needed to get out. I want people to know that the world lost a good man last night. He wasn’t perfect. But he was important to the people who loved him. He leaves a wonderful legacy in my cousin and her children. And, even though I only saw him about once a year when I am in Colorado for a viait, I will miss him.

Life and death. They are somehow sweetly and beautifully mixed, but I don’t know how.
~Gloria Swanson

Turning ashes into beauty at Crestline Elementary School

Monday morning, I saw a status on my Facebook feed that said something about a tragedy at Crestline Elementary in Vancouver.  I didn’t have time to look up what had happened, but it nagged at me all morning…Crestline Elementary…Crestline Elementary.  Why do I feel like it sounds familiar?

Later that day, I realized why.  My dear friend’s children attend school there.  We were just with them at Christmas and she was raving about how much they loved the school and how her children were flourishing there.

I felt as if I’d been kicked in the stomach.

Heidi has written a blog post about what they have lost and how you can help.  She has a way with words that I can only hope for, so I’ll send you to her blog for all of the details.  There are so many things that they need — and there are ways you can help that don’t cost money — or at the very least, the only cost will be a postage stamp.

What We Have Lost

The words that hit me as I was reading her entry for the 100th time were these:

I pray that God will take our ashes and turn them to beauty.  I pray that he will use this terrible event and bring about his goodness.  I pray the kingdom of God will be present and evident as rebuilding, renewal and redemption begin.  And I pray that these children are safe, loved and have a place they feel at home.

I found myself humming the tune to a song whose lyrics come from Psalm 30:  Mourning into Dancing by Ron Kenoly.  I pray that the children and families of Crestline Elementary will be be dancing with joy on the other side of this tragedy.  And, with parents like Heidi and the amazing administration, teachers and staff at the school, I have no doubt that they will.