Friday, May 28, 2010
I didn't expect to be amazed but I'm beyond amazement, living solidly in the land of shock. As one notoriously bad with plants, the wreckage of my gardening endeavors lies behind me like a compost heap of destruction. I've managed to kill every single African Violet I have ever laid a hand on, plus a nice purply thing that was supposed to live forever and be able to start more plants off by cutting bits off, a perfectly shaped little evergreen tree that I intended to plant out but couldn't decide where to put and so it gave up, my Christmas poinsettia which someone brought it back to life while we were gone but appears again to be sick. And these are only the plants I can remember off hand.
But for some bizarre and mysterious reason, there are little tiny zinnia plants poking through, as well as spinach and radishes (I think the radishes are supposed to be indestructible but I have a hard time believing it). Now I'm filled with anxiety that rabbits will come, or blight or bugs or something. And then there's horror of the instructions on the backs of all the seed packets that say 'thin plants when established' which sounds like a perfect opportunity to ruin everything.
The things my mother planted last year are doing beautifully, of course. The pink rose is covered in waxy fragrant blooms and the larger pink thing is an array of glory. Even though I look at the label every day, I can't seem to keep the name of it in my mind. I read my fine, sensible gardening book straining and trying to dimly understand what on earth the splendid author is talking about. I've read carefully about a hanging tomato contraption but darkness veils my understanding of how it works.
It will be no surprise to you how much comfort I take from the words of Jesus, that we plant and water, but God makes seeds grow. We tear down and kill, but he binds up, heals, and gives life. We forget to water, but he, out of mercy, sometimes brings rain.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Me: "Yes I did."
A: "Well, there's one knife that's really dirty and that tells me that everything in the dishwasher is really dirty."
Me: "Put that knife in the sink. I know I ran the dishwasher. Not everything will be dirty."
A looking sly: "Well, it tells me that everything is probably dirty."
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I increasingly can't move because of the cat. After ignoring me for two weeks after our trip, he climbs up on my lap every time I sit down, puts his claw-ridden paw on my chest and stares unblinkingly at me. You can't look anywhere else, you can't go anywhere, the claws pretty well keep you motionless (I say you, but obviously I mean me. I don't think he does this to anyone else).
If he would get up, I would, of course, leap up with a cry and a song and go water all the seeds that are sitting, newly planted, in the ground, probably being eaten by all the horrible bugs Elphine carefully dug up to show me and try to make me touch. She has entered, with full force, the Moral Stage whereby she wants to know whether or not Jesus likes whatever it is we're doing. "Does Jesus want us to plant this here?"
"Does Jesus think we should be doing this today?"
"Are Muslims Christians?"
"When is the next election? Who does Jesus want to win?"
"Does Jesus like this kind of grass?"
All these questions where hurled at me in the space of a few minutes. My first instinct, of course, is always to shout, "How should I know!" But I tried to think of answers to this myriad of wondering.
But I can't move yet, howsoever hot this cat may be (hotter as he's stopped chewing off his own fur and its all grown back). So, I guess I better just read more stuff on the internet. Its God that makes the seeds grow, anyway.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Here is Kaw Lake in Oklahoma. It was so pretty in the evening and very calm after the gale force winds. We stayed far away from the water for convenience and ease of having children not fall in. Oklahoma was by far the best place to camp (cheap, water and electric at every sight, nice bathrooms, beautiful lakes, few government regulations and officious park rangers. In fact, the park people were lovely friendly both at Kaw and Lake Euphaula.) Dinner that night--hot dogs for the children, summer sausage stew with white beans, fresh rosemary and vegetables for Matt and me.
This is the culmination of Alouicious' week long birthday. I added blue food coloring to a vanilla chocolate mix (I was tired and didn't feel like making an actual cake). I added weird layers of strawberry yogurt and strawberries and blueberries. Basically it was so horribly sweet I could barely bare to eat more than one bite. He wanted 'fancy pancakes' (crepes) but, heaven be praised, I didn't have the recipe.
Here is the post office/bank at the Little House in the Prairie. It was all that we had ever hoped and dreamed.
Elphine in front of a replica of the Little House on the Prairie. It had been a few months since we had read the book but she remembered the details and knew what was supposed to be there and where it was supposed to be. Sad to see that they'd added a lot of sort of knick knacks (like fake sunflowers. Still, very exciting it was to be there and see how very very little it really is, roughly the size of my kitchen now.
Here is the first camp ground in Ohio and the only time I was unable to be cheerful. I really hate to be cold, under any circumstances, for any reason, and it was very cold. Fortunately for Matt, he had a thermal artic ready sleeping bag and so he slept beautifully. I, on the other hand, had a regular sleeping bag, a baby, and the blanket of death. Arguments ensued when Matt thought we should all awake with a song and a lark at dawn. Wacko. (Also, he had some kind of thermal hat and sweater. He clearly knew it was going to be cold but did nothing to prepare me for this eventuality. I'm still having a hard time letting go of the bitterness experienced on this occasion.)
Friday, May 21, 2010
So excited about the World Cup. Have entered into quadrennial arguments with husband about why soccer is the best sport ever. Plus, found awesome Ap for awesome phone allowing me to be completely disengaged from reality pursuing minute by minute news about all players. Cote d'Ivoire is playing!
Trying to figure out to organize my life so that I can watch soccer at 7am and 2pm every day in other locations (as we have no tv). So far I think I'll be starting every day at Crepe Heaven, and then showing up at various friend's houses in the afternoons. I know some of you think I'm kidding, in which case, you will be so disappointed when you find out I'm not.
Was given the insane and unhelpful and unfriendly gift of Amish friendship bread. Didn't realize it was the Amish equivalent of an old fashioned chain letter. Somehow ended up with Two Batches and came to the belief, mid afternoon, covered in sugar and pudding, that I was wrestling with Leviathan and there was no way I could win. Carefully packaged up 7 starter bits and drove them desperately all over town. Biding my time to be able to give an armload of batches back to the person who gave it to me.
Baby has entered new and clingy stage whereby no one is able to feed her cereal but me. Never had a clingy baby before and am now stuck holding and feeding a baby that is old enough to crawl around and eat many interesting things from the hand of many interesting people (like her father). Flattered, of course, but really.
What with the World Cup and just general homesickness, have taken it upon myself to teach the children to speak some French. Taught them how to ask to go outside and then, because I'm so funny, told them they couldn't go outside unless they asked in French. Alouicious immediately dissolved into tears (which is always what I did when my mother tried to make me speak French) and said 'I won't remember how! Why can't we speak our own language?" (which is always what I said when my mother tried to make me speak French). Had to feed him pieces of Amish friendship bread and speak soothingly to him in English till he calmed down.
Disappointed at so many invitations to 'stop using Facebook for a week' just when I've started to really use Facebook.
Not going to clean anything in the house until I actually plant out my bowl of flowers in the garden. Sick of cleaning and cleaning every day only to find that I haven't had time to garden again. So obviously the cleaning has to go. Maybe we can do it in French.
Go check out Jen!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
That being the case, I did just want to point out this. Matt and I watched as much of it as we could bear and then I had strange and unpleasant dreams. I know all the chit chat has been about there being many many fewer people there than planned for, but may the Almighty preserve me, if I had been suckered into going, I would have had to sneak out the back within just a few minutes of being there. Mid way through I was shouting, 'Just Pick Something!' Do you want to be Chinese? Then pick that. Scottish? By all means. Native American? Whatever. But pick something! There's no way that all the nations of the world are filling the pews of the Episcopal Church of So. Cal. I'm thinking, that for anyone who can manage to watch the whole thing (without skipping forward and then lying about it) and can offer the best and cleverest one liner, of sending along some kind of prize. I'm pretty sure no one would win because its so desperately unbearable to watch.
And so, as a balance of to the link above, I give you my favorite thing on youtube right now,
And now once more into the frey.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
My very earliest recollections of life do not include electric light. I'm not sure how old I was when we moved to Farakala, but we lived next to the old village, before everyone moved to the road to be more 'modern'. Our house was a horse shoe-ish circle of six mud huts with thatch, joined by small passage ways so that you could go all through the house inside or cut through the court yard from one room to another. It wasn't a particularly well built house and besides being beset by termites on every side and in every crack, it eventually melted in the rain and we were forced to move.
The new house was half way between the old village and the new and was designed in the style of a french chateau. The foundation was sturdier, the walls straighter, the thatch thicker and I was older. No longer wanting to play in a pile of sand in the courtyard, or tie kittens on my back as if they were babies, I now participated in the rhythm of life to a greater degree, or at least as much as one can on holiday from boarding school.
There are several, as Jen at Conversion Diary calls them (haven't found the post though), hard stops to a life without electricity or running water. In the morning, water has to be brought in, preferably while the day is still cool. In the afternoon, it is too hot to go anywhere or do anything. And in the evening, the twilight period, the time between full sun and complete black, is only about 20 minutes. If you haven't filled the lamps in the morning or waning afternoon, you are racing against the light to fill them enough to carry you through the evening, and to light them. Once darkness has fallen, the deep quiet and deep darkness restrict movement and work.
But it was, and is, always my favorite time of day. It was so unlike my life now. We were never organized to cook supper before dark. There are too many things to do in the daylight hours, and cooking is perfectly achievable by lamp light. We never ate anything before 7:30. And then, baths were usually had, carrying water heated on the stove across the house to the bath hut, bathing by candle light. And then there was plenty of time to read. But you wouldn't want, certainly, to undertake a major cleaning project after dark, as I generally do here (I scrubbed the fridge until 10 o'clock last night and was fairly and completely exhausted after).
Visits could be had after dark--walking out,whether the moon is a sliver or full, the stars are bright enough, practically, to provide light, carrying with you a large stick and a lantern or flash light, remembering always to look down and keep to the path.
I'm getting all weepy as I write this because I miss it so much. Honestly, one of the biggest shocks to my system on moving to the US, besides the wonder of the grocery store and the overwhelming selection of toothpaste, was the unrelenting electric light in the evening. The absence of silence, the blaring light, the constant drone of computers and refrigerator and shouting of the dishwasher, all of it combines together to be psychologically wearing.
And, in my electric life now, though I have light enough to read and pray at any hour, I don't pray at night, much. We don't, as a family, sit together in candle light and sing the phos hilaron or pray, 'be our light in the darkness and defend us from all the terrors of the night', because we already have light, and we don't remember that there are terrors. We could, but we're busy up to the point of sleep.
It is a great loss. But also, my fridge is clean.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
There is an old old story,
told in West Africa,
that god, or sky,
used to live very close to the earth.
He lived so close that you could even bump your head on him.
And god and man got on well together and were able to communicate directly.
You might be able to guess what happens next.
Woman, one day,
for no reason that any one knows,
became irritated and took her pestl
e, her stick she uses to pound grain,
and poked god very hard.
God became angry and retreated a little distance.
But woman was still irritated,
and so she lifted up her pestle and poked God again.
And he retreated even farther.
At which point woman,
with all the fury of woman,
climbed up on her roof
and lifted her pestle high
and poked God a third time.
God then became more angry than you can imagine
and retreated very far up on high,
so far that we cannot communicate with him directly anymore.
Now, to talk and be with God,
you have to go through a jinn or a spirit or even an ancestor to ask God for what you want.
Those of you who know your Bibles should be able to recognize some nuggets of truth
in this old story that tries provide an explanation for why there is evil and brokenness in the world,
how it is that we know there is a great divine ultimate being
with whom we have so little contact
but whom we long to know
and about whom we wonder and make up systems to try to approach,
elaborate systems by where we might get God's attention.
One such nugget of truth is that we,
of our own free will,
we push him away, as far away as we can.
We don't want his interference in our daily affairs,
we don't want a relationship with him until something goes wrong.
And here is the second nugget of truth.
Because we have offended God,
we can no longer approach him directly, without an intermediary.
He is so holy, he is so perfect,
that were we to come directly into his presence we would be rent,
utterly torn asunder,
At this point you may be worried that I am going to lovingly and slowly unfold the wonders of the whole of salvation history--
how it was that Adam and Eve pushed God away,
how, rather than rightfully and truly destroying them then and there
God set in motion a long and perfect plan to restore the brokenness,
to be able to come back close and speak and live and dwell with them, with us.
Don't worry, I'm skipping to the end of the story.
Today is the celebration of the culmination, the finishing, the completion of that work.
Turn, if you would, to Acts chapter one.
Jesus, you might remember,
is a particularly special and amazing person.
He has two natures
he is both fully God, completely and completely
not the sky come down to hover next to us,
but God himself as God
in his second nature,
not a sort of spirit or ghost or jinn.
Jesus laid aside the glory of heaven
to come down here and muck around with us,
to eat with us, our best meals and our worst.
He heard our high ideals and our low maligning gossip.
He heard our high hopes and cowardly longings.
He saw all that we did and said.
when the time was right,
he gave himself up to die the death allotted for us--
the sure and just punishment for our rejection of God,
our willful rebellious sin,
the fair and right punishment of that action is death.
Jesus stepped into that space,
in that moment
and became the one perfect complete atoning sacrifice for sin.
He could do this, you remember,
because he was perfect in his humanity,
and in his divinity he was strong enough to bear the sin of any and everyone who puts their trust in him.
We tend to stop there. Praise God, Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Its the right answer to every question asked in church. Jesus died.
But that was only part one of three.
The dying was important,
but if Jesus had only died we wouldn't all be here this morning.
The second part was that he rose up, he is risen, he is alive.
Death couldn't hold on to him, it wasn't strong enough to destroy.
On the contrary, Jesus destroyed death.
Sure, we die,
but not forever.
He destroyed death for ever.
Anyone who trusts in Jesus, hopes in Jesus, loves Jesus,
that person is not bound by death.
That person is alive forever in him, both spiritually
spiritually we shouldn't ever be dead, or dying,
spiritually we should be maturing and getting stronger and less broken and less dead every moment,
but also physically.
Your body will die,
but on the last day
your body will be raised up,
just like Jesus here, in this text.
Same body but new, better, glorious, complete,
not in pain,
not showing the signs of 5 babies and counting,
talk about broken.
That was the second part,
The third part right there in your text.
As he was talking to them,
he was raised up on a cloud and removed from their sight,
and two men in white said, get it together, obviously your plans are not his plans.
He is not going to be King of Israel,
he already is King of the Whole World
and you have a lot of work to do for him,
as his brother,s his friends, his body, the sign of his presence on earth.
Now, many of you might think,
what's the difference between Clé retreating up into the sky out of anger,
and Jesus disappearing in a cloud,
abandoning, for all its looks,
his friends to a life of hard work and suffering
I mean, look around, if this isn't suffering, I don't know what is.
Is it the same thing? No.
Clearly no. It is not abandonment, nor retreat. Jesus' Ascension into heaven is,
at the very least,
three vitally important things for us.
Obviously more, so many more that I wish we had time to talk about.
First, Jesus ascends to heaven, not just goes up in the air but spiritually ascends into heaven, to sit,
that means that the work is done, you sit down when you've completed something
Jesus accomplished the salvation of all who believe and hope in him,
he conquered death,
therefore he sat down
at the right hand of the Father. He ascends to heaven to rule and direct the church which is his own body.
Ephesians 1 verse 20 "and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, above every name for ever and in every age and place and time
verse 22 and put all things under his feat and made him head over the all things for the church
In other words, Jesus, from the right hand of the Father, is directing and moving the church through the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work of spreading the Kingdom of God, of filling up the earth with the good news and the love of Jesus.
Second, he ascended and sits at the right hand of God the Father
so that He might reconcile all things to the Father
Colossians 1:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
As the Accuser accuses and tries to destroy you,
Jesus is there,
at the right hand of God,
giving you to the Father
if you are found in him,
you are covered with his blood,
you are clean
you are therefore reconciled,
Jesus is reconciling you.
Do you feel awful when you sin?
Do you feel God's call to do something difficult and unpleasant?
That work is being done by Jesus
through the Holy Spirit
in the presence of the Father.
Which brings us to third and most strange thing that Jesus does.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So far from retreating from us,
in Ascending into heaven,
Jesus draws us up into heaven with him to the very throne of God,
the presence of the Father, to live with him there.
Now, I know its sort of hard to see that this is the case.
When I am drifting around my house,
shouting at my children to stop dithering and Pick Up,
you would probably not think,
she is here,
but she is also in heaven with Jesus at the right hand of God
enjoying his perfect love and grace and mercy,
reveling in his holy and life giving will,
but it would, in fact, be the case.
Now, we don't often revel in the presence of God
and enjoy him
and live as though this were true,
which is sad, because it is.
We can live this way.
I've been trying to lately.
There are a whole lot of places in Scripture where we are commanded not to worry,
or be anxious,
places where we are commanded not to be angry,
where we are commanded to love everybody,
especially those who are difficult to love.
We don't do any of those things but that the Holy Spirit lives in us and does them in us,
but we also do them because we are spiritually in heaven with Jesus
when you whisper, 'O please God, help me' that prayer is spoken to God the Father
Its not a shout into the void.
for heaven's sake,
wouldn't you pray?
Why wouldn't you live cheerfully and joyfully
with confidence and contentment?
We are not abandoned. God has not retreated from our sin and trouble.
He has come to save us,
to redeem us,
and to draw us up into his presence.
Draw near to the Glory of God.
Approach his throne with confidence.
Let your heart be rend open before him.
Give him the desires of your heart.