the greatest generation

On Friday, I interviewed a 94-year-old lady for next week’s newspaper column. I was excited about this interview because I’d heard great things about this woman, and on meeting her I was not disappointed. The article is about her involvement at our local community center, but as I asked questions we strayed into stories from her life. I confess, that’s what I really wanted to hear about.

Her story is unique and fascinating: she moved to Honolulu in the mid-1920s, back to California in the ’30s, and when her mom remarried a traveling showman they traveled the western half of the U.S. with a chimpanzee named the Duke of Wellington (part of her stepfather’s act). She married at 17 (in 1935!) and had four children. She and her husband were married 63 years before he passed away. She told me she’d written and self-published a book about her life experiences, mainly for her descendents. I expressed interest in the book and she is going to lend me a copy, which I’m excited to read.

After the interview, I expressed how much I’d enjoyed meeting her and said, “Lately I’ve been thinking how your generation understands life so much better than us, the younger ones.” I explained that I’ve been thinking about the Depression and World War II and how neither my generation nor my parents’ have had to endure that level of hardship.

She looked at me and said, “I think everyone should go through one week of the Depression.” That quote continues to echo in my mind.

I have felt an increasing awareness lately of the sense of entitlement in our culture. We mistakenly see gifts as rights. We take, take, take, and neglect to give. We are becoming less and less in tune with our bodies and spirits as we spend most of our time staring at electronic toys, immersed in the sub-par reality of the internet.

We are spoiled children. We whine when we think we’re doing without…When actually, we have no idea what it means to do without. Before they’re gone, we should talk to people who remember the Great Depression. Before they’re gone, we should talk to people who remember the sacrifices of World War II.

I’m pretty sure we’ll learn something.

the old songs still ring true…

Sometimes the old songs are the most healing. I remember listening to this years ago, yet it contains the truth I needed today. What a good God I know and love, who does not change and uses the same truth to lift me up again and again.

 

I’m swept away by the wonder of Your love
How One so great could love this one so small
And when I realize the distance between Your heart and mine
I’m amazed when You call me to Your side
I come to You
Not in my own strength
But in my weakness I embrace the One who’s strong
I come to You

To glory in Your grace
You’ve accepted me
In my frailty
So in humility
I come to You

I stand in awe at the power of Your grace
How One so great would suffer in my place
And when I realize the difference
Between Your thoughts and mine
I’m amazed when You call me to Your side

I surrender all I am
Lay my heart within Your hand
Knowing in my weakness You are strong
I come to You
Not in my own strength
But in weakness
I embrace the One so strong
I come to You
To glory in Your grace
You’ve accepted me in my frailty
So in humility

I come to You

 

(Bob Fitts, “I Come To You”)

 

My weakness becomes strength when I bring it to Him. I’m learning it again today, and will again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. I want to keep learning.

love is still a worthy cause

have you listed all the times you’ve tried
do you call on all your alibis
when somebody asks the question why are you hiding?

did you feel the pull, did you hear the call
did you take a chance and lose it all
do you fear there’s no collateral left for trying?

friend i know your heart is raw
but love is still a worthy cause
picking up and pressing on
oh love is still a worthy cause
like the touch that starts the thaw
oh, love is such a worthy cause
or the word that breaks the pause

in the midst of passing bravery
in the face of our own injuries
is the constant generosity of grace

it’s the beauty in the tales we tell
it’s the pressing on and ending well
it’s the joy that comes when we give our self away

chorus

i love because he loved me when i had nothing
i love because you loved me when i had nothing
i love because he loved me when i had nothing
i had nothing

when you count the cost and all seems lost
love is still a worthy cause
when you’re pressing on though your strength is gone
love is still a worthy cause

oh, love is still a worthy cause
oh, love is still a worthy cause
oh, love

–Sara Groves

mulling it over

I’m mulling over this quote from Connecting by Larry Crabb.

Sin is any effort to make life work without absolute dependence on God.

Thoughts?

Peterson on Freedom

I was on the verge of returning this book from a shelf in my room to its regular resting place in the living room, when I started skimming one of the early chapters and again my heart said yes, yes, yes! Here are some of my favorite quotes from a man who has easily become one of my top 5 favorite authors.

We are born into a world that shows everywhere the signs of some great primordial catastrophe. There are vast beauties and breathtaking virtues in this present age, but nothing pristine. The sign of our birth is a scar. The world into which we are born is dangerous. The parents to whom we are born are flawed. The governments under which we are reared are corrupt. Are we free to live? Or are we only allowed a meager energy and a compromised space to cope?

Sin is the fact of separation from God’s presence and purposes, experienced variously as restriction, limitation, inadequacy and weakness. Every interruption of the will or impulse or desire interferes with freedom. And the interruptions are endless. Life lived under these conditions cannot be called free, even though there will always be unforced and spontaneous moments that preserve a sense of the possibilities of freedom. Sensitive and thoughtful persons are often acutely aware of enslavement. Paul’s explosive “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24) is archetypal.

The rescue is not from the world, and not from limitations or boundaries, but from sin, that which separates us from God and his purposed creation and destined redemption. And the rescue is God’s work. Nothing else will do for a beginning. If there is no rescue from sin, there is no point in talking about freedom at all.

Remembering the Joseph story, we realize that no pit or prison is inaccessible to the freeing, delivering, rescuing power of God, and that freedom, once established even in one person, extends itself into political and social relationships and cultural movements.

We never develop the freedoms of maturity and wholeness and strength on our own, but always through the shared life of others in the faith.

Fear is a normal response to the chaos around us, the threat of being overcome by hostile forces or of being ineffective or hurt or thwarted or fated to poor and mean and scrubby lives…

It takes a certain bold courage to receive freedom. The free life is a strenuous life. Living in freedom is demanding and sometimes painful. If security is our highest priority, we will not want to live free.

Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light

the healing process

Last Wednesday, as I was walking down a hill outside my parents’ house, I stepped in a hole. My ankle gave way and my foot turned inward. I heard a crack and a few pops as my foot twisted and I fell to the ground. Ouch.

As I continue to recover from what turned out to be a sprained ankle, I think about the healing process. First there’s the moment of injury – immediate pain and panic. I couldn’t stand up. My parents were both nearby, so they supported me as I hopped through the door and sat down.

As my foot swelled to the size of a tangerine (well, half a tangerine), we assessed the situation. What to do? Call the doctor or go straight to the emergency room? My dad said call the doctor. My doc wasn’t in, but the one on call asked me a few questions and then said to stay off the foot, ice it, take ibuprofen, and come in the next day for an x-ray.

The x-ray showed nothing was broken.

“You have strong bones,” my doctor said.

I’m glad. It means my foot didn’t need a cast or a boot. But my foot still had to heal, and my doc told me how best to help it through the process. Rest, ice, compress, elevate. I’ve done it all in the past few days, including a day where I tried to put weight on it too soon (bad idea) and made it swell up again.

Today the swelling went down considerably and my foot turned all kinds of colors. Green, blue, purple, yellow. It looks horrible and yet strangely beautiful. Those bright colors are visible signs of the healing process taking place beneath the surface.

My ankle’s trauma, injury, and healing mirror what happens in our hearts when a crisis arises. There might be a sudden onset, an immediate initial pain and panic, swelling and throbbing. An assessment of the situation, consultation with others, and decisions about how to deal with aftermath. Then we walk through the process of healing, and emotional healing looks a lot like physical healing. Swelling makes it uncomfortable for a while, so that you can’t stop thinking of the pain and the problem. Then the swelling subsides and it’s still a tender area, but healing is on its way.

Just as I can’t see what is going on beneath the surface of my ankle’s skin, I can’t discern the way God heals my heart. It’s a slow process and requires patience, but the waiting time turns my heart to the Lord. My helplessness to change the situation translates to a deeper dependence on the One who gives me life. I stop – and remember that every moment, every breath is a gift of grace.

And He is the source. I’m awed by a God who loves life, who creates and sustains and restores life…He is the one who heals me, body and mind and spirit alike.

“I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

 

priorities

Last night I was driving home with the full moon watching over me. Its gaze was soft and the clouds cleared around it as I drove, so that I could see it clearly.

The night sky is very mysterious. Something about its vastness, and my tininess by comparison, often draws my ear closer to the whisper of God’s voice and sometimes, I hear him speak.

Last night as I thought of a thousand circumstances from my life and the lives of those around me, of sadness and sickness and hope and doubt and joy and pain and love, I heard him say, “My priorities are not your priorities.”

I don’t know about you, but for me there is a constant, nagging voice telling me what I want from life. It taunts me when my desires seem just beyond my reach or when life presents complications in the process of getting from point A to point B. It tells me “you’re wasting your time” or “you aren’t ____ enough” (fill in the blank with any number of items). It tells me to forge ahead in my own strength, to vie for control of every situation, to manipulate to make things happen. Or it tells me to give up, walk away, have done with pursuing any goals.

What if this whole back-and-forth struggle is a mere distraction? What if I am missing the point?

Maybe I am. God’s priority is always, always to restore people to right relationship with him and to each other. That’s the plan. Anything that twists or distracts from those priorities is a bunny-trail, not always bad in itself, but something that can keep me from the main point.

I belong to him and he delights in me. If I could fully absorb those facts, I think every insecurity and anxiety would disappear.

There is so much I don’t understand, and never will until I am face-to-face with God.

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