Bush’s Dog Salute, Obama’s Coffee Salute and 783 Million People without Access to Clean Water

I wish I had the skills to post the photo of Bush saluting as he bent over to hold the dog in his arms next to the photo of Obama saluting with the coffee in his hand. Much ado about nothing. I know, respect is important; but stuff happens when you’re a busy president stepping out of a helicopter. BTW, people are being slaughtered in Iraq, there’s sex trafficking in the US, 783 million people do not have access to clean water, my friend’s son lives with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy…

There’s been much written, debated on talk shows, and discussed over family meals about the negative consequences of communicating via the internet. I’ve been contemplating whether I’m part of the problem. Granted, my blog readership is a whopping 15 or so people, however it takes a lot of little rain drops to cause a storm.

I believe that life isn’t just about the “major” stories. We are all a product of the cumulative experiences in our life. It benefits us as individuals to take note of how our past life events inform our current identity, personality, and our emotional and spiritual welfare. But I’m concerned that mass media, and the internet in particular, is allowing us to become a people that majors in the minors.

The “coffee cup salute” is a highly caffeinated example. I’m weary. Just plain out exhausted by all of the nit-picking. There are a whole lot of circumstances to be concerned about in our troubled world. How my president saluted the marines outside of his helicopter on one particular day is not an event that will bring me to my knees in prayer. Good gravy! Is this worth our time and tempers?


Two Pear Trees (Or, “Out on a Limb”)

You should have seen the 2 trees in our side yard. When I bought them I was told they were good trees for a small yard. Yes, well, good for maybe 5 years. We’ve gone about 9 years and they are enormous. Until today they reached high above our 2-story house and had an un-neighborly reach into our neighbor’s side walk way. Winds would announce our neglect by banging the branches against their house. I know – that’s just rude.

We’d lop off a branch here and there but it was an inadequate attempt to fight a dragon with a kid’s play sword. So a couple of weeks ago we tried to lop off more than a few branches and ended up with sore necks and the realization that to stop the trees from hitting our house and our neighbors house was going to take hitting our bank account.

The arborist gave us two choices. The practical, save us in the long run choice of removing the trees; and the sentimental, buy us a couple more years option of cutting them way back and topping them way down. We weren’t up to parting with them yet so we made the sentimental choice.

The arborist and his team came early this morning. You should see the 2 trees in our side yard now. They can’t really be the same trees. They’re kind of pathetic. So is there a lesson to learn about letting go and moving on? Or is the lesson that sometimes you’ve got to change your expectations?

The arborist goes with the former and says we’ll be shocked next year when we see how much they grow back.   He’s the expert so when it comes to trees I should concede. However, I think I’ll go with the latter since that fits our choice, and after shelling out the bucks I need a little optimism here!

We all have expectations. Whether we’re a type A, who plans short and long term goals, or a go-with-the-flow type C, our surprise about the way the wind blows in our lives is proof that we all have expectations.

My fruitless pears are delightful, deciduous trees that let me experience autumn in spite of living in Southern California. I expected they would be my ode to seasons. Bare in the winter, richly green and shade giving in the spring and summer and colorful in the fall. All of that has been true (weather permitting). I did not expect them to be overpowering, neighbor offending and expensive. I didn’t even give a thought to how the wind would effect them. I expected I’d have to maintain them as they grew. I did not expect they’d grow beyond the ability to maintain in our little yard and I would one day have to give them up.

My false expectations have proven to go far beyond my relationships with trees. Life is not a series of neat decisions of what relationships I choose to enter into. Relationships are not neat, controllable and guaranteed for a lifetime. I’m not comfortable with this truth. The Holy Spirit has been kindly telling me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The Holy Spirit is compared to wind. You don’t know what direction he’s coming from but you hear him and you know his power. We just couldn’t ignore what the wind was doing to our trees. I don’t want to ignore what the Holy Spirit is doing in my relationships.

Excuse me as I beat this metaphor with every limb. I want to listen for the Holy Spirit and allow him to move me, in and through and out of relationships. My false expectations can cause an offensive, perhaps dangerous, break or some unwanted shade at a great cost. It’s a good thing to delight in the different seasons. It’s madness to want to control them.

I Just Gave the Holy Spirit a National Park Ranger’s Hat

I’ve been trying to coin a new phrase: “the two-third’s-life crisis”. Somehow it doesn’t ring like “mid-life crisis”. But I was too busy to have a mid-life crisis. I had my children in my 30’s so I was still raising them at the supposed mid-life point.

Also, I think it’s more appropriate to have a life crisis when your joints have all agreed to rebel in concert and your metabolism slaps you in the face for messing around with it for too many years. In some ways, however, it’s disingenuous to label this point in my life as a crisis. Because I’m experiencing more freedom than I have in a few decades. An empty nest, menopause and the luxury to choose unemployment are sign posts I’m on the freedom trail. But please keep in mind, my darn joints make it tougher to hike that trial. Yes I know, “waa, waa, waa, poor, poor pitiful me”. Get out the mini violins.

Here’s why I’ve been entertaining the thought that I’m in a two-third’s-life crisis.

You somehow forget about freedom when you set out on your adult life journey. That journey starts out with some basic goals. For me it was to graduate from college and get a job to support myself. Well within a few years of graduating from college the job I stumbled into by the grace of God, had me making enough money to worry about taxes. My boss strongly advised I get myself a mortgage for the appropriate write-offs. The mortgage tied me to my job. The job tied me to a path that was not on the freedom trail.

I had two other goals in my 20’s. To be married and have children. The path to that goal was longer than I had envisioned. I didn’t meet my husband until a month before I was 29. But there’s a definite upside to that because my 20’s are when I started to learn to leave the trail map production to God. He had the appropriate drone to check out the terrain. I did not.

Back to my newfound freedom. Change is often what starts a crisis. Two-thirds into the average life span I sometimes feel I’m experiencing an overloaded backpack of change. Which trail should I set out on in this phase of my life? How can I set out anywhere with this heavy backpack? I suppose I can lighten it by finally dumping the control thing-a-majiggy out of it. And, it might be helpful if I took my kids, parents and friends out of the backpack. They didn’t ask me to carry them.

Another helpful thing would be if I set down the binoculars and asked the questions that should be asked daily whether you’re on a familiar trail or venturing onto a new trail. What would you have me do today Lord? Who can I love today Lord?

Those questions calm me down. They change my state of mind from crisis mode to living a privileged life. Those questions assume my life has purpose and really exciting trails to discover. Those questions assume I have a fabulous identity. Those questions assume I live for and because I have a loving God who is my guide.

I’m not saying I shouldn’t have goals beyond today. I’m just saying setting out to discover new goals shouldn’t put me in crisis mode. Feeling the stress of a crisis makes feeling the comfort of an ever present, all knowing, loving guide, pretty impossible. Today I’m picturing the Holy Spirit with a park ranger hat and that makes me smile. So long, to my silly two-third’s-life crisis. Hello, to spending time being silly with my Guide.

Abandoning Sorrow and Replacing it with the Wedding Feast

I’ve been choosing sorrow over joy a lot lately. It grew with ISIS. Really. That stark reminder of evil took center stage in what is true about life. It opened the door to other negative truths in my smaller story: a loved one with a mental illness, a friend plagued by cancer and endless chemo treatments, someone else I care about living in the denial and hell of addiction, friends who have lost their children, strained relationships…and then back to the world stage with Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Russia…

To move toward joy has taken a collision of joy with sorrow. Life pours on us beautiful joy and deep sorrow. This whole fabulous ice bucket challenge has thrown some ice water on me. Each person who posts a video as ice water is being dumped on him or her seems joyful. The fun of participating in something bigger than ones self, combined with the novelty of doing something silly, transforms each video posted, into a small party. And yet the cause that has brought each person individually and collectively into this current rage known as the ice bucket challenge, is the goal of eradicating one of the most horrific diseases on the planet. A collision of joy with sorrow.

I attended a particularly joyful wedding last week. Yes, the average wedding deserves the adjective joyful but this wedding, oh my, this wedding.

The vows written by this couple were transcendent. Transcend: to go beyond limit, surpass something, be independent of the world. This couple so identifies with Christ that the words of their hearts’ pledge to one another were independent of the world and dependent on a God who is beautiful, wild, trustworthy, and worth celebrating for eternity.

The setting was gorgeous. The ceremony took place on a green expanse of grass with a forest of pine trees as the backdrop. The reception took place behind this expanse of grass on a deck built off of a barn and overlooking a pasture. Three horses occupied the pasture. Yes three. For those of you who know God, three is a beautiful number: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At one glorious point during the reception one of the horses decided to celebrate with us. She ran, full speed, along the fence that separated us and then as she turned to go back through the meadow to the other two horses, she threw herself into the air. We all hooted and hollered and threw our arms up with joy. It would have made a great scene in a movie. But it wasn’t a movie. It was real life.

We ate our wedding feast and then we danced. First, as is the custom, the bride and groom danced alone. Their dance was done joyfully, seductively, coyly, and with abandon. And then, the great company of witnesses joined them on the dance floor. And on every face I saw overwhelming joy. We had all abandoned the sorrows of this world and succumbed to joy.

I’m into definitions today. A few definitions of “Abandon” as a verb:

  • renounce something
  • leave somebody behind
  • leave place because of danger
  • halt something in progress
  • give in to emotion

And a definition of “Abandon” as a noun:

  • lack of restraint

That’s what I need to get my joy back – a life of abandon. I renounce that sorrow is the truest thing in my life. I leave the story Satan’s trying to write for me behind. I will not sit in the dangerous place called sorrow. By the power of He who is in me, I am able to halt, stand and resist, the lies of hopelessness. I give in to God, the source of the emotions of joy and love and hope. I abandon myself to my God who has promised me that in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. With you, God, I want to lack restraint.