A Problem: Waiting for Something to Happen

Today in class, we talk about campaigns for social change. We talk about problems we see around us. For the past few semesters, students report that they have many friends who “sit around, checking Facebook, waiting for a text.”

They want to change this. There’s something wrong and so troubling about it.

These people don’t do anything but check and wait. For what? Something. Maybe they cannot even articulate what the something is. 
A laugh? A funny video? A clever tweet? A photo? An invite? 
Meanwhile, life happens elsewhere. Beautiful, amazing, satisfying things are happening. You don’t have to wait for them. It’s now. 
I tell my students it wasn’t like this for me as a young adult. Nobody sat around, waiting with a screen in our hands. We were out there, living.
So I’m not waiting. I’m doing it.

Fresh Woodpecker Nest Photo: Welcome Spring!

My friends on the walk to school point out the fresh woodpecker excavations in the pine tree. I research the habitat of the pileated woodpeckers in our region, and the description of the nest fits perfectly.

Pileated Woodpecker Nest

We’re so excited! We’ll keep our eye on this site and hope to find baby woodpeckers soon. Spring in Centre County rewards the neighborhood children with many nests and blooms. The walk to school educates us and fills us with wonder. Welcome Spring! We’ve missed you.

PS: In case you’re wondering (I was), the woodpecker makes many attempts to get the nest just right. That’s why you see so many holes. Each one might take a month to excavate, but if it’s not right, the woodpeckers try again until they feel happy with their site. It’s not a waste, however. The other holes make wonderful residences for. . . wait for it. . . OWLS! I can see owls!

Can this day get any better?


How Not to Want More Money

As I continue to study the strongholds of appearance, affluence, and achievement, I talk to many folks who just want more money. I’ve actually only met a few people in my whole life who’ve said to me, “I have plenty of money.” Most people agonize over money; it’s all they think about. It’s a source of stress and heartache.

Money is a strange thing. I read in 1 Timothy 6 this morning that the love of money is the root of all evil. That’s a terrible thing to consider! The root of all evil? How could this be? Perhaps it’s because it symbolizes independence from God’s provision. I learn in verse 9 that those who “want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Later, Paul writes that some people, “eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

My goodness! I don’t want this at all. Temptations! Traps! Foolish and harmful desires! Ruin and destruction! Even worse, wandering from the faith and piercings with grief!

How do I avoid it? How do I protect my heart from the love of money?

Paul’s final charge to Timothy is twofold: Flee and Pursue. Flee the desire for more money and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. But how? What do I need to believe about God and money in order to do this?

The answer comes in verses 17-19. Put no hope in wealth. Put all hope in God “who richly provides all things for our enjoyment.” Instead of obsessing over becoming rich in dollar bills (which isn’t to say it’s wrong to be rich; it’s all about our focus), we’re to be “rich in good deeds and generous.” In this way, we “lay up treasure for [ourselves] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [we] may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

I need to affirm that God richly provides. I don’t need to fall in love with money. I shift my gaze and enjoy what God provides today. Can you imagine the freedom of this becoming true for us today?


On Being Asked to Deliver a Chicken to the School

As we walk to school in the lonely doom and gloom of another cold, dark morning, I snap a photo. The day feels heavy.

Then, out of nowhere, someone drives up to me and my friends to ask if we’d help her deliver a live chicken to the front office. The men grab the cage from her trunk as the chicken squawks. I grab the food pail.

The children–who seem amused by all this–watch us. One girl simply says, “Oh, yeah. That’s Vera’s chicken.” We pass off the chicken to the office staff.

We all part ways. One friend walks on to keep pace with his step goal on his pedometer. We’re all off to work. The chicken, however, seems like a portent of strange and wonderful things to come.

We’re living a curious life out here in Centre county.

A life with chicken deliveries. Now, the day seems crazy and adventurous. I’m so glad I was asked to deliver the chicken.


He Will Sustain

Today I remember that God is a Sustainer. It’s a great verb! Sustain means to strengthen, support, encourage, and carry–both mentally and physically.

As I search the scriptures for this verb, I learn that the Israelites often referred to God as the one who sustains them. And in the Psalms, I love the way the writer reiterates that the Lord sustains. In Psalm 18:35, we read that “You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.” Psalm 41 discusses how the Lord sustains us on our sickbed just as Psalm 55 reveals how we cast our cares on God “and He will sustain [us].”

God sustains the widow and fatherless, the orphan and the poor. He sends help to those in distress and uplifts them with sustenance. Ultimately, I read in Hebrews 1 that Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

We need Him! We need Him. Our circumstances might not change today; in sickness, lack of resources, loss, discouragement, anxiety, and real fear, we know that God is the sustainer. He will sustain! I think of exhausted new mothers who need to know this. I think of those out of work. I think of those with loved ones fighting cancer. I think of those in the battle of mental illness and confusion.

The Lord carries you.


For the Tired

I’m learning that sleep isn’t the most important thing or the crucial component for peace and happiness. I used to get so mad if I didn’t sleep well. 

Being tired just ruined me.

As I age, great sleep comes and goes with fluctuating hormones. As my children age, I stay up later and wake earlier. As I travel more and stay in hotels, I don’t sleep well. 
This morning, God comforts me with the thought that “sleepless nights” might be part of my calling right now. Can the Lord  sustain me even in this
Yes! It’s another way to grow and trust. 

The Best Way You Know How

Today I hear a great speaker, Jada Edwards, who reminds the audience that “no one can tell your story better than you.” She encourages us to tell our stories “the best way we know how.”

In whatever way, by whatever means, tell it. Don’t worry about sounding smart, getting it right, or being the best. It will be the best, because nobody can tell it like you can. 
So tell it the best say you know how. Maybe it will come in a way nobody has thought of yet. 

I Don’t Like Manicures One Bit

Sometimes when I speak before large audiences, especially in the south, I think, “I should really get a manicure. I should really do my nails.”

I grew up with a mother who had a fresh manicure every week. She was actually a hand model in her younger years. A hand model! I come from beautiful hand genes!

But I simply detest having nail polish on my nails. I keep them short, unpolished, and boring. Too long, and they make annoying clicking sounds on the keyboard when I write. Too bright and shiny, and I have no choice but to start picking at them.

So no manicure for me.

I realize that my lack of nail polish represents something of a signature style. It’s a little act of differentiation, uniqueness, and personal preference that asserts my individuality. This is a good thing. I remember this when one daughter wants to wear the same leggings and t-shirt every single day or when the other daughter needs a little clutter to feel comfortable in her room.

Allowing–indeed celebrating–difference is part of motherhood, friendship, and personal growth.

When God knit me together, He knew I’d dislike nail polish even though I come from great nail genes. I’m OK with this, finally.

What’s something that gives you your signature style that’s totally different from your mom?


Power and Maturity: 2 Comments on 1 Corinthians

This morning I begin to study Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. I’m struck by two things:

First, Paul reminds his readers in 1 Corinthians 2 that his message and preaching were “not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that [our] faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

The power of God’s Spirit goes beyond all human intellect or persuasive wording. It’s a humbling reminder and a joyous assurance that God’s work does not depend on our rhetorical tools, no matter how wonderful.

Secondly, I note that Paul claims in the 3rd chapter that two marks of immaturity or “worldliness” are jealousy and quarreling. When I think about the most mature people I know, they rarely, if ever, quarrel with others, and they don’t live in jealously. As I look at my own children, I know that their jealousy and quarreling come along with their immaturity; older, wiser women leave these childish ways behind by the power of God’s spirit. They live in peace as they rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. They live in contentment.

Power and maturity: I love studying Paul’s letters.


A Day Come and Gone

Sometimes I scroll through blog posts from all the years past on this very day. I like to see what I was thinking and learning about. I like to look for patterns and growth.

On this day in 2011, I was so worried about our friend in Japan. The tsunami that hit Japan had us sick inside. Almost three years have come and gone, but this day stays in my mind.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On Watching the News of the Tsunami in Japan

As I grade papers today, I want to ignore the background buzz and flicker of a news channel showing footage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  I watch someone’s home burst into flames and float away.  I watch a cargo ship turn over on its side as simply as a man changing positions in his sleep.  From an aerial vantage point, it seems like someone has poured buckets of black paint over the farmland.   I want to turn away from this news and this reality. 

I see a minivan turn circles in the water like a silver leaf.

Not until the voice behind the footage reminds me that I’m watching a wall of water moving at 500 mph do I suddenly imagine the noise, the wind, and the smell of it.  I look at that minivan and think of a family going about their day.  It’s not a leaf.  It’s a family in a vehicle. 

Just this morning, my youngest daughter hears the radio announce that an earthquake has hit Japan.  Tears well up and she says, “Mama, Aki is in Japan.”  

We leave for school and go about the day with that tsunami in the background of our minds.  I force it to the forefront–choosing to remember, choosing to pray.  It’s too easy to forget.  It’s too easy not to hear that background story of a country in crisis. 

I force myself to write about it.  But I don’t want to think about it.  It’s not happening here.  It’s over there

I go back to grading.  A student has written an analysis of W.H. Auden’s poem, “Musee des Beaux Arts.”   Auden writes about how, in the face of widespread human suffering, “everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster” because we have “somewhere to get to.” 

I don’t want to turn away.  I’m in this, and for me, being in this means I write.  That keeps it in the foreground.  That’s keeps me from turning away today.

I write and pray for Japan today, and that’s how I’m choosing to live with flair.    

Journal:  How can I stay “in this” today?  Is it important to do this?