Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Weather

Sitting on my patio watching storms roll in is a sweet afternoon delight.  My favorite days involve thunder and lightening and lots and lots of wind.  If Steve would let me, our bedroom window would be open about two inches each night just so I could know what was going on outside with the weather.  As a kid growing up in rural Kentucky I slept with the window open.  I could hear the chickens very early in the morning or the cows lowing in the neighbor's fields.  In the Spring, the smell of the magnolias would waft through the window.  The cooing of a dove will forever remind me of being tucked in my bed, nice and warm.  These days I can hear the whippoorwills in the middle of the night and the distant howling of the coyotes, haunting and strangely comforting.  I snuggle in just a little tighter when the wind picks up and blows in through the open window.  Pure contentment.

I found this poem years ago.  I found a kindred spirit.  The author, Steven Schreiner even kept his window open two inches as well.  For him those two inches not only let in the weather, but also hope after mourning.

The Weather
Ever since I can remember, I have been in love
with the weather, an extension of hope
or despair.  It comes to the window
in the morning, after crossing the country
all night:  the plains outside Topeka,
between the mountains of Ouray, across the flat
farms of Iowa where the corn turns a brilliant
green when you awake.  And when you sleep
and startle from some nightmare
of yourself in deep trouble, fighting your own
life, and should open a window, it comes
there too, it's already there
and walks right in as if it's been waiting
just for you.  I always hoped
the air would warm, I don't know why, with my radio
tuned to weather and my window open two inches.
The days moved by degrees in me, spring
coming around 52, then 55, and soon
summer, the tiring days, the mornings
bright as crystal.  If in your life
there was un unexplained event, losing a father or
having the wrong one, you were probably also looking out
into the frosted trees, for some extension
of yourself, some frostbitten hope, that soon
it would grow green again in the places
where the black earth steamed under you.

The Weather, from the book Too Soon to Leave by Steven Schreiner (Ridgeway Press, 1997)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Introverts in the Church

Sometimes as an introvert I feel I am swimming in a pool of sharks.  They control the water.  Don't get me wrong - I love extroverts - I live with four of them!  But my world is mostly designed for extroverts.  I struggle to find ways to function in such a way that I am not running for the nearest exit or the quietest corner of the room (or let's be honest - the nearest closet to hide!).

A few months ago my friend Brad (also an introvert!) let me borrow a book he had read.  I am only one third of the way in, but I want to share a few thoughts.
The book is Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh.  Mr. McHugh has captured an idea that I seem to have understood but never voiced.  As an introvert  I love to be alone with my thoughts.  I am energized by this.  I love quiet.  I love time for reflection.   I do love people and enjoy my time with them.  But I prefer quiet conversations and sometimes avoid group settings.  Mr. McHugh asks (for the first time to my knowledge) which of these groups the typical church culture/service is designed to appeal to.

A few quotes:
Former-evangelical-turned-Catholic-priest Thomas Howard explains a difference between Catholic practice and evangelical practice:  "Emotionally, one would have to say that evangelicalism is a much more 'up front' form of piety, and very talkative."  Whereas in some church traditions you enter a sanctuary in a spirit of reverence, in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a nonalcoholic cocktail party.  There is a chatty, mingling informality to evangelicalism, where words flow like wine."

Wow!  Now, I would have never said "nonalcoholic cocktail party," but the point he makes is an interesting one.  And for me, how can I begin to engage my heart to worship and hear the Word of God at church?  I have always felt guilty about enjoying a little quiet time before a church service, which means ignoring the room full of people.  This book has given me a new perspective.  It isn't that my way is the wrong way.  It is the way that seems more comfortable and honest and authentic to me.  And that is good!  I feel a freedom to be me and freedom to let others talk away!!  

Mr. McHugh continues  ... Sometimes our value for community life can become a substitute for relationship with God.  Psychology professor Richard Beck says that for some churches spirituality is equated with socialibility.  The mark of a progressing faith is familiarity with a growing number of people and participation in an increasing number of activities.

Again, something to think on.  Obviously, as Christ followers we are designed to be in community.  To be with other people.  But this is no substitute for a spiritual, one-on-one relationship with God.  A church that is completely focused on social activities is no better than a church solely focused on quiet reflection.   Obviously, these two above quotes are very broad in their context.  I want a church that gives glory to God and is a safe place to introduce others to Jesus.  But it is interesting to think about how the standard church service is designed to make the extrovert comfortable.  I look forward to finishing  the rest of the book.

The most important discussion on ANY church culture should include the reason that we have church in the first place:  to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  God created man.  Man revolted and chose to defy God - to sin against God.  God's justice demanded payment for that sin.  He graciously sent Jesus, His perfect Son, to live a perfect life.  Jesus died on the cross as a payment for the penalty of our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  This is the Gospel.  This is why we gather as a church.  This church is a community of people who have been redeemed and called to live life together - introverts and extroverts alike!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Love You

For as long as I can remember I have been looking for a new word for love.  We use that word so flippantly anymore. I love lots of things.  (Funny - Steve talked about love in his message on Sunday!) I love Steve.  I love my children.  I love the ocean.  I love hay bales.  I love my dogs.  Those are all different, right?  So why don't we have different words?

I have been bugging Steve to invent a word that describes how I love him.  One that conveys just what I mean when I say "I love you".   He's Mr. English Major.  He should be able to come up with one.  But he's got nothin'.

What's a girl to do?  There's my favorite word - fidelity.  But that's not a verb.  There's adore and cherish and value... Nope, not it.

So how's this for a solution?  I have chosen places that are important to me.  Each of these words speaks a different idea of love to my heart and soul.

I KENTUCKY you.  We have history.  We belong.  We have a common place and community and work.  Love.

I NORTHERN IRELAND you.  We have adventures together.  We have a future together.  We look forward to what's next.  Love.

I CALIFORNIA you.  We have beauty and fun and family together.  We have the ocean and relatives and sunshine.  Love.

I ANZA BORREGO you.  I will go anywhere with you - even there.  Love.

I YOSEMITE you.  You take my breath away.  Love.

They may sound funny, but these words work.  They convey exactly what I want to say.  After 23 years of marriage we have lots of those words!   I am sure you have some, too.  Try one out on the one you love.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Legacy

The Lord graciously blessed me with parents who love each other.  They have loved each other for many, many Valentine's Days.  True fidelity.  That is an old fashioned word, but one of my favorite words.   It means loyalty, faithfulness in a relationship, constancy, steadfastness, and true-heartedness.  For 46 years my parents have acted out fidelity.  My sisters and I had a living, breathing marriage tutorial right before our very eyes.  I have watched and learned.  Not that their relationship (or mine) is perfect.  But I have seen them seek to honor God and each other as they walk through this crazy thing we call life.  See how young and in love they were oh, so long ago.

Thanks Mom and Dad for loving each other - and me! 

And while I am thinking on it, I never got to see my grandparents together.  My grandfather died way too young.  But I have heard stories!  I like to think that my parents also had a great example to observe as well.  Check this photo out!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Favorite Valentine Thought from Hafiz

The Beautiful One whom I adore
Has pitched His royal tent inside of you,
So I will always lean my heart
As close to your soul
As I can.   

Hafiz is one of my favorite poets.  From the poem "The Woman I Love", as collected in the book "The Subject Tonight Is Love" (Translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Kathy Keller Article: Dangers of "Faking It" In Ministry

Today I came across a great article that I want to share with you.  My friend Joel has a blog ( and he posted a link to author Kathy Keller's recent article on the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website (she is the wife of pastor and author Tim Keller).  I want you to read her article. (Many thanks, Joel!)

The article is entitled "The Dangers of 'Faking It' In Ministry.  Find it here.

Wow - this is such a good warning and encouragement, not just to people in official ministry positions but to all of us who are following Jesus and walking in community with others.

The day will come when you have to deliver a sermon, or counsel someone in need, or listen to a heartsick soul, and you will be in no fit condition to do it. Your prayer life may have been missing, or you have an unreconciled relationship that needs attention, or any number of things may have interrupted your communion with God and your rejoicing in the Gospel. (I knew a woman who claimed she had taken “maternity leave” from her relationship with God…) When that day arrives, you will have two choices: sit down, at whatever expense of time and ruination to your schedule, and get right with God. Then, and only then, attempt to minister in his name.
What you will be tempted to do, and what most of us do actually do, is to say “I don’t have the time to get back into fellowship with God before this sermon/lesson/counseling session/pastoral appointment. But I know what needs to be said or done, so I’ll just do it (even though my heart is cold) and I’ll get straightened out with God AFTERWARDS.” And, if you’re unlucky, you’ll get away with it. The talk gets delivered and is even praised. The person you meet with professes gratitude and seems to be helped. The meeting runs smoothly. So you do it again. And again. And again.

Please, please read what else she has to say.  You will be encouraged to be honest in your struggles.  Honest with yourself, God, and others.  
And yes, check out Joel's blog, too! (Click here.)