Friday, October 30, 2009

That Evil Little Serpent

I'm currently leading two bible studies, one with adults and one with teens.  I'm using The Great Adventures Timeline.

The twenty-four week adult study promises to take participants from Creation to the formation of the early Church reading only the fourteen narrative books.  The eight-week teen version does the same, but at a different level. 

We're not far into the study yet, but there is already so much food for thought.

I was thinking today about the serpent.  When we read about the serpent tempting Adam and Eve, we read with our twenty-first century eyes.  Jeff Cavins, author of The Great Adventures, paints an early world picture for us. 

The original Hebrew word is much more descriptive than the English "serpent."  In original form, the word used to describe the serpent paints a monstrous figure.  This was no mere slimly little snake.  It was a terrible and threatening beast.  Not only that, the serpent was intent on damaging the trusting relationship God had with Adam and Eve.  It's God who punishes the serpent:  "Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; On your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life" (Genesis 3:2).  God then gives us the first promise of a Redeemer:  "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel" (Genesis 3:3).  Jesus, the promised offspring, devotes His ministry to crushing the head of the Serpent.  He teaches us to do the same.

God's treatment of the disobedient Adam and Eve is that of a loving, merciful father.  He follows through with consequences for their misdeed.  He sends them into the world knowing they would live to have children and produce food from the earth.  He promises them new life through the Redeemer.  Mercy. 

As a child, I wondered why Adam and Eve couldn't tell the serpent was evil. 

As an adult, I recognize that what's evil and deceptive isn't always ugly and monstrous.

Evil, no matter what its form or how it's dressed, is the same now as it was in the beginning:  cunning, insidious, and deadly.  It twists truth, mocks beauty, and destroys love.

Our sole protection is our Redeemer.

When Compassion Returns

I heard my mom was struggling - again - with her "friend" and this time, FINALLY, I felt compassion for her. 

For the longest time, I felt nothing when I heard about her antics.  It's a relief to feel again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Days To... Baseball Week

We leave for Baseball Week on Saturday.  Two days and counting.  My bag's packed.

Joe plays baseball on a 38-and-older team in the Roy Hobbs World Series every year.  They play at least four games at the beginning of the week.  Wednesday is a free day, unless there's a hurricane.  At the end of the week they get tournament play.

Joe's been playing baseball in Fort Myers for four years.  For this fifth year, he seems most excited about bringing his new wood bat. 

It is a fine-looking bat.

I've accompanied Joe to Florida for three years.  I'm most excited this year that my favorite sports-watching chair in the whole world in coming to Florida.  Honestly.  I'll use my chair way more than Joe will use his bat.  It's worth bringing.

I'm clearly not a sports fanatic.  I was though.  Imagine being a super-fan during Les Steckle's stint as head-coach of the Minnesota Vikings.  What followed with Jerry Burns wasn't much better, in my opinion.  With each humiliating loss, I was more and more devastated.  I couldn't focus in my classes.  I had to give up sports to live life. 

I am a fan of Joe, Adam, and Jakob during whichever sport they're doing in the moment. 

And I love Baseball Week.

For me, Baseball Week is a self-indulgent week.  I'll sit in the sun on the sidelines and watch my husband do what he loves best.  There are other fans too -- wives and mothers of the other players.  I fell in love with the players and the fans during my first trip there.

There's Fan Grandma Rose who has been watching her son play baseball longer than I've been alive.  Like moms everywhere, she keeps score on a napkin, and cheers for all our "boys" when they do well.  She made a bet with my tattoo-hating husband.  Should he not get a hit the entire week, he'd get a tattoo.  Honestly, she didn't know whether to cheer or hiss when he got his hit.  I hissed while she tried to pretend she wasn't cheering.  I really wanted to see him with the pink energizer bunny tattooed on his bicep.

Then there's Fan Pat.  Pat's no longer with us; she lost a battle with cancer.  She was quieter support in the cheering section, but she came as often as she could manage.  I really only knew Pat a handful of days, but knew she was someone I would love as a friend.  Her greatest delight in the days I knew her was her husband.  When he came to talk to her between plays or after games, she smiled at him with tremendous, delicious, gracious love.  Knowing how much he loved baseball, she spent some of her last days on earth watching him play and being with him when he wasn't playing.  She was beautiful.

There's Fans Beth and Carla.  These are the only two women I know who completely understand why our husbands play baseball and how bereft they'd be if they could no longer be.  Baseball is part of what makes them men we love.  We could no more ask them not to play than ask them to stop breathing.  That doesn't mean we're not tempted, at times, to scream, "Enough is eeeee-freaking-nufffff!"  And you know what?  We each understand that about each other.

Now we have new fans.  This year my in-laws and Carla's will be there to cheer for their sons.

In between baseball we find other things to do.  We walk on the beach, daydream while touring houses listed for sale, and share meals at some of our favorite annual haunts.  It's one of the best weeks of the year.

Last year a player announced it would be his last year.  His wife was tired of being a baseball widow. 

How could a wife steal her husband's greatest joy?

Monday, October 26, 2009

I had dinner with a friend who is in the midst of a struggle for contentment.  While we were talking, she exclaimed, "Do you have ANY friends who aren't struggling??"

The answer is no, I don't.

People struggle.

My husband and I have struggled, and we'll struggle again.

We struggle because we're both passionate and we both love.  And what we love is each other.

Sometimes people on the outside look at us and think they understand what makes us tick or what defines our boundaries.  The reality is no one can tell us what works for us except us.

There was a woman once who wanted nothing more than to have Joe in her life.  I recognized her longing from the beginning and finally advised him to befriend her.  I thought if she understood who he was and what he wanted, she would realize he's exactly where he wants to be.  "She'll learn something," I said, "and be a better person because of it." 

It wasn't a friend she wanted.  She wanted it all. She wanted him as confidant.  She wanted him as father.  She wanted him as lover.  She did strange things to convince him to need her.   She tried to make him a liar and conniver, two things sure to disgust him. 

Example?  She once walked him through the process of changing his passwords.  The email or text said, "I would like to send you private messages and here's how you can do it!"  He texted me, asking, "Why would she want this?"  He never changed his password.  He never had anything to hide.

The very characteristics that made her want him were the same ones that made me believe in him.  He's true.  He's committed.  He's honorable.

When we struggle or hurt each other, I always remember what Joe's mom said to me long, long ago.  "His love is true and abiding.  Trust in it."  Joe and I may speak different love languages, but I believe and rest in the depth of his commitment.


Hope is so fragile.

I have so many, many friends who struggle for just a smiggen of hope.

They wish people would give them something to make them feel better about themselves.

I'll say this once.  There is NOTHING that will make you feel better about yourself until you find peace with yourself.

Spend your hope wishing for more hope.

Enough said.

God bless.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ten Things I Won't Do

I won't forget when remembering will guide future choice.

I won't stop speaking the truth though sometimes it's easier to say nothing.

I won't stop learning even when I'd rather not know.

I won't pretend when it's important to be authentic.

I won't stop listening even when my friends wish they could stop talking.

I won't wander off the narrow path even when wandering feels good.

I won't ever relive the last year, even though I learned.

I won't ever settle for second when first is achievable.

I won't focus more on the process than the result.

I won't stop loving, even when loving hurts more than anything else.

There might be more, but ten seems like a good place to stop.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Self-Discovery #1,308

I can't write and read at the same time.

Right now I'm reading.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Eat This Soup

Last night was busy.  I drove Jakob's football trip (yay! they defeated an undefeated team!  woot woot!).  I kept in touch with Adam's soccer game via text messaging (Adam allowed more goals in this game than in any other, but he also stopped more than his fair share -- remember, my boy is ranked FIRST in the STATE! and it's okay for  me to say so, because I worked SO VERY HARD to say positive things to him in the early soccer days when he SUCKED big time!). 

When we finally returned from my bus driving job,  I had just enough time to take Jake home and return to the office for practice with SALT.  At the end of practice, we SALTINES spent a little time laughing at our history (we've had some SERIOUS bloopers).  Though I consider practice work -- albeit the LORD's work -- last night was the most fun we've had in a Very Long Time.

Hanging over my head -- and NOT in a bad way -- was today.  Today I need to have a pot of soup to give to a friend.  I had the ingredients at home and in my car.  I just needed to be home to work some magic.

I started my soup at 11:55 pm. 

Starting entailed cleaning the kitchen.  I live with lots of boys -- not only mine, but the ones they connect with.  I also live with a darling daughter who loves to bake.  I am not a baker, and have never discovered the MESSINESS of flour until this darling daughter showed me.  Seriously, her treats are worth the mess.  Still -- do the math! -- I had to start by cleaning.

Then I turned on the burner and placed my beloved and well-seasoned cast-iron skillet on the burner.  I poured in a little EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (EVOO to Rachel Ray fans).  As the oil heated, I cut potatoes and tossed them in the oil.  Adding a little butter, I cut the rest of the veggies:  a few more potatoes and some carrots, onions, zucchini, and mushrooms.

With each layer of vegetables, I add my own unique, creative, and HEARTFELT prayer.  Read:

Potatoes:  Each person who will eat this soup is conscious of her weight and well-being.  Consider her needs and help her know how very much You (AND i) love her and want her to love You AND herself.

Carrots:  Each person who will eat this soup is an amazing and talented wife or mother or daughter.  Help her be strong and steadfast in her role and give her the glimmer of a hint about how much those around her love her.

Onions:  Each person who will eat this soup has many, many, MANY layers of being.  Help her while considering all her strengths:  She is wife.  She is mother.  She is daughter.  She is friend.  She is employer.  She is employee.  She is beloved.  Help her be thankful of her many, many layers.

Zucchini:  Each person who will eat this soup is a surprising, refreshing, and BELOVED flavor to someone. Help her recognize her own ability to surprise and refresh those around her.

Mushrooms:  Each person who will eat this soup is of the earth and THANKFUL for the earth.  Help her share her love and dedication to Mother Earth with others.

There are other ingredients in soup.  My ingredients change with each pot, so I cannot name them here.  All I can say is that my prayers are heartfelt, my ingredients are ALWAYS fresh, and my consumers are always beloved.

I might mention something else:  the soup is incredible. 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Warriors At War

Ideas brew in the back of my mind. Whatever blew back there recently refused settle into coherence for a Very Long Time.

It felt something like being in the midst of a brewing storm.  Fiercly swirling clouds gathering to obscure a clear view of the heavens.  Gusts of cold, biting wind cutting through layers of fabric.  Sharp stinging pelts rain.

I've been thinking about secrets and circles of friends and friends outside the circle.  I've been thinking about Grace and love and faith.  I've been thinking about drama and lying and hurting.

Then I read a post at  My friend Amber - who doesn't know she's my friend, but feeds my spirit every time she posts a thought -- wrote this about friendship when it applies to women:

"It's not that we don't know enough girls.  It's too often that we don't know many girls we want to let in on our dirt - or worse yet, we don't want in on their dirt."

And my storm cleared. 

Revelation feels glorious.

I have friends.  In the last two years, the best of them have been warrior women.  They've battled for my spirit and my heart and my soul.  They've appreciated my mind, admired my generosity, and tickled my funny bone.  My warriors know who they are; I don't have to name them.

For a long time, I thought ugliness was meant to be private and secrets were meant to be kept.  I kept my personal business to myself, but talked to others endlessly without saying much of anything.  We daughters of addicts learn at a young age to keep secrets.

My secret-keeping habit worsened dramatically after our '97 bus accident.  Insurance lawyers thought they had a good case to defend and explicitly warned us to never say anything about the facts and circumstances of the accident or they could decline to insure us.  I took the warning to heart:  the most I ever said to anyone about the bus accident was "we feel really bad" -- and no one ever would have guessed what passed through my mind or the physiological response in my body.

My blogger friend Amber shared her deepest secret on her blog.  Her writing leaves me breathless at times, and this was one of those times.  This young woman embodies courage.  A commentor -- also breathless -- wrote about how she read Amber's confession and how bound together are secrets and sin:  "really, the devil is playing such a dangerous game with us and sin. the hope given in sin confessed, forgiven, and shared in our stories is powerful beyond any of that ugly stuff we drown in."

Ahhhhh, yes.

Here's my truth -- or as much as I'm interested in sharing -- I couldn't cope.  Not with the pain of my mother's addicition or with my grief after our bus accident or with my own failings and the darkness in my life.  My spirit lay near death, my heart was empty, and my soul cowered.

I remember sitting in the corner on the floor in the storage room two days after the bus accident in the perfect tornado drill pose, hiding.  Though I stood up and walked through the days, part of me stayed hidden in that corner on the floor for years.

Still, I wasn't driven to my knees.  I refused to submit my will and trust.  I refused to accept Grace.

And then it happened.

I accidentally engaged in Real Talk. 

I was a little crafty.  I only confessed truths in pieces and parts.  I was afraid if I dumped the wheelbarrow of messiness I was pushing at any one person's feet, she would turn away in disgust.

I talked about things my mother did.  By the time I spoke her secret story, I could say the words matter-of-factly.  Still, the story shocks.  Those I told inevitable confirmed my truth by sharing what they'd observed about my mom.  Affirmation.

I shared my grief -- still raw and aching.  I said out loud the words I most detest hearing:  "It's not fair that kids died while in our care!  It's not fair... it's not fair... it's not fair."  And my friends sobbed with me.  Empathy.

I named my sin and repented -- real repentance isn't easy.  I bled -- not for myself, but for those I hurt.  Will I ever share those failings publically?  Some I have already.  Others may bubble forth.  The rest I'm not sure I should share.  They're don't belong only to me.  Forgiveness.

And I learned to trust.

And those I trust... they trust me in return.  They trust me enough to share their own messiness with sure knowledge that I would never turn away from them in disgust.

This is Grace.  I'm sure of it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thermometer of Love

Back in the day, Joe and I practiced Natural Family Planning.
It was awesome. I took my temperature every morning. I could tell where I was at in my cycle every day.
We chose when we would have children. We chose when we would concieve Adam. We chose when we would concieve Jake. We chose to have boys.
Man! Was it exhilarating when we found out we were right!
I learned that my body is more amazing than I ever could have imagined. All the chemistry and biology required to make life ignites. When it does, it's a miracle.
Eventually my doctor said each pregnancy would be more difficult to bear and more physically challenging. And my confessor said that physical love is a critical and important part of marriage.
Joe made choices to protect me and our existing sons.
I believe in him and the choices he made.