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Happy Easter

It’s Easter. Honestly, Easter has never been my favorite Christian holiday. I suppose that a holiday celebrating a man dead and now miraculously living again should be pretty exciting, but I’ve always found Christmas to be the wonder winner. After all, God gave up absolute perfection, an existence so perfect we literally cannot understand or imagine it, to live in a screwed up world with human limitations. How do we even try to comprehend that kind of love and sacrifice? Know what I mean?I dunno. Easter is cool and all that, but – man! – Christmas!

Still, favorite holiday or not, it’s still a good time to step back and do a little state of faith pondering. Something that’s been going through my head lately is a command, one that says we should “be still, and know that I am God.” That’s been enough to make to me feel some despair. Have you looked out at the world lately? American politics are highly charged and polarized with factions apparently increasingly less likely to search for widely acceptable compromises, it seems like the gap between the wealthy and the poor is ever widening, populations in many countries are getting older and sicker, our privacy is extinct, debt is everywhere, businesses are corrupt, government is ineffective and corrupt, suicide rates are rising, and we could go on and on. That sense of despair gets even worse when I consider my younger sisters or nieces and nephews. It’s not only the sense of “what sort of horrible mess are we leaving for them?” It’s also the sheer level of noise and distraction. There are lights and screens and literal racket everywhere. Where does one go for quiet? What does stillness look like in the day of the cell phone?

It’s overwhelming. It’s hard. It’s tempting to look back nostalgically upon simpler times and feel despair and fear.

I think it’s false. Not the feelings – those are real. They creep up, try to flank me, dig holes under my feet so I’m suddenly in over my head, and pull all sorts of nasty tricks. It’s an actual sensation. What’s false, I think, is the premise or the need to feel despair. When I stop and look at my own life, I know there were genuine and difficult barriers to stillness when I was younger. If people wanted to escape or find distraction, there were plenty of ways. The world absolutely had problems, such as the Cold War, serial murderers, economic recessions, AIDS, racism, drug wars, pollution, etc. It’s not like I grew up during some Golden Age.

That, plus a little knowledge of history, suggests to me that things probably haven’t been different for any Christian ever. Not ever. Nothing is new under the sun, right? There have always been legitimate barriers, truly difficult problems and real things to cause distress and worry. The history we know is full of horrible things that have happened to people and that we’ve done, to each other, to the animals around us, and to the rest of the environment. It’s not like death, the ultimate disruption, is new, either. After all, that’s the big deal about Easter, right? Jesus was dead and came back. He came back.

Somehow, throughout the ages, despite all the turmoil, noise, and disruption, Christians have found ways to be still, to move past the mess of life and into that knowledge of God. I suspect that the way is still open to us, cell phones or not, and that the resurrection of Christ plays no small role in that.

Happy Easter, folks. He is risen.

There’s a New One!

I put a post up on my family’s blog about our newest member. See the baby pictures here at Group Discount! We’re excited!


The memorial service for my maternal grandmother is today. She died a little more than a week ago, and she was my last grandparent. They are all gone now.

The loss hit me harder than I expected. It’s not just that I lost my grandmother. It’s that I’ve lost all my grandparents. An era has ended.

I can’t say I felt terribly close to my grandmother. She was my grandmother. I loved her, I respected her, and I did a lot of chores for her. Unload the dishwasher, organize the pantry, help put up wallpaper, bring in more firewood, feed the birds, weed the garden, water the plants, get the dogs water… The list goes on. Grandma – I also remember her being a bit cranky and fussing. Oh, my, yes – she fussed. I was always being told to brush the rats out of my hair, to hold still while she dug wax out of my ear, to… whatever. She couldn’t just ask. She had to fuss, fuss, fuss about it.

The negative, the things I didn’t like or found frustrating, are all too easy to recall. It’s much too easy to feel superior and think that I’m somehow better than her. After all, I can just ask. I don’t have to fuss. Snark, snark, snark.

But that’s really not fair. My grandmother, however cranky, fussy, and overly fond of the color green she may have been, still gave me a heritage worth remembering. Even those “negative” things have helped shape my perspective. Perhaps I didn’t feel a tight emotional bond with her, and maybe her presentation wasn’t always fantastic, but I did learn a lot from Grandma. Things in myself that I now value highly started with my experiences with her.

I learned that I don’t really care for the color green in all its many splendored shades. Green was Grandma’s favorite color. Her house was a riot of green. Grandma seemed to believe that if it was green, it must match, and so my eyes were assaulted by a painful confusion of lime, kelly, olive, hunter, spring, forest, and all shades of green. All green was good! This was not pleasant, but it was incredibly informative. It helped develop my eye for color and form, and that’s been useful as I’ve shot photos and created stained glass.

Grandma loved a bargain. She’d hit up thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Between her and Grandpa, they’d come home with the most incredible junk. I mean, really, junk. It was stuff that may have been worth recycling, but they were going to fix it up, and it would work just fine for ________. I can’t say I ever thought those were fun presents to receive, but I learned to see possibility, to make good use of scavenged materials. Not everything has to be new.

Coffee, particularly Black Butte Gold, is one of my favorite daily rituals. One of the reasons I drink coffee is because my grandmother did. She was always making a pot of coffee or looking for her (green) coffee mug which she’d set down somewhere. Sometimes she or Grandpa had flavored creamers to put in the coffee. Was their coffee good? My, oh, my, no – they were drinking canned, ground coffee, but I learned from them that a hot cup of coffee shared with friends and family can be a wonderful experience. I later learned, from other sources, what a good cup of coffee tastes like, but I wouldn’t have tried it if I hadn’t already learned from Grandma the habit of sharing coffee.

Long trips taken with my grandparents were well seasoned with comments from Grandma directing me to look out the window. Fuss, fuss, fuss she would until I turned my head and watched the countryside. I often preferred my current book, but she wasn’t happy until I was looking around me. It so annoyed me as a child, but it certainly helped develop my ability to observe. It also broadened my curiosity. The more I see, the more I wonder. I wouldn’t have that without Grandma.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from Grandma? It’s this recognition of seeds planted, of habit germinated, of gratitude for the beginning she helped to give me. It’s odd. In some ways, I’m the person I am because I didn’t want to be like her, and yet the truth is that I took what she offered and learned invaluable lessons.

Thanks, Grandma. I hope I always made you proud, and that you always knew I loved you.

Modesty, Expectations, and FYI

It was with interest this week I read a blog post on modesty. Perhaps you’ve seen it, FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) by a blogger named Mrs. Hall at Given Breath. The post has certainly been making the rounds. I popped onto Facebook (yeah, yeah, I know – *I* got onto Facebook) just to see what people were saying. Some were for, some against, and some in between. Myself? I didn’t like it. It bugged me, and it’s been hard to put my finger on exactly why it did. It provided a great opportunity to think, though!

On one hand, Mrs. Hall is really offering a great reminder to folks, that the world is an increasingly public place. Everything ends up on the web, the information will probably remain available for years to come, and it’s not smart to assume that a privately posted picture, comment, or anything else will remain private. It’s usually pretty easy to download, right click, screenshot, copy, paste, and repost it more publicly. Barring an apocalypse, your info *is* going to be out there for others to find. What do you want them to see? Do you think you’ll still feel that way in 10 or 15 years? Heck, how about next week?

It’s also probably a good thing to remind young ladies that some young men out there actually are reaching for purity, to maintain their own innocence and modesty.

But, man, something just didn’t sit right with me. One outstanding burr is the blocking policy. One “sexy selfie” posted, and the offender gets blocked. I know – parents want to protect their kids. Good parents want to keep them safe, and social media doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of parental control tools. But… what many do offer is some form of private messaging. Why not practice a little bit of Matthew 18:15-17? Verse 15 has what I’d consider to be the important part. It says this: “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Why not talk to them one on one, point out in a nonconfrontational manner that the photo might be a bad idea, affirm their innate worth, and give them a chance to make a different choice? Why not try to win them over? Then, if they are still posting questionable pictures, send ‘em a regretful explanation and block them. Without that outreach, blocking seems like a mini shunning from an exclusive club, and that can’t feel very good.

Another thing I thought about was how I wouldn’t want somebody talking to or treating my little sisters that way. By “that way,” I don’t mean Mrs. Hall or anything she wrote specifically. Modesty is a big deal in a lot of Christian circles. I mean I don’t want them feeling confused or ashamed or hurt or guilty because they were given the idea that they’re somehow wrong, bad, or responsible for some young man’s struggle with lust.

Here’s something else. This attitude that the female needs to dress more modestly (however modesty happens to be defined by that person) in order to protect males from their own lustful hearts – it stinks. To high heaven, it stinks. Practically speaking, I don’t think it works. All it does is set up scapegoats. Emotionally speaking? Now, I haven’t ran into trouble (that I know of) regarding my state of dress or undress. What I do have, though, is a background of childhood abuse, and this issue does push some of those buttons. Part of what I learned living in an abusive situation was to try to modify my own behavior to help change my father’s behavior. I learned that he was dangerous to provoke, and I learned to try to make sure I wasn’t provocative. It didn’t work all that well. I was never able to control my dad’s behavior by changing mine. That’s not my responsibility, and I’d say the same is true for modesty issues.

Furthermore, there’s an old story that reminds me a lot of the idea that women have a responsibility to protect men. I get the stumbling block argument, I really do. I’ve certainly heard it enough (and agree to a limited extent), but what I’ve not heard mentioned too frequently in modesty discussions is this other story. It should be. As far as I know, it’s the first recognition of nakedness in the whole Bible! I’m talking about Adam and Eve, of course. Maybe you know the story. If not, here’s a link to Genesis 3, and I’ll give you a summary.

Eve, encouraged by the crafty serpent, ignored God’s command and ate fruit from a forbidden tree. She also shared it with Adam. Upon consumption, they were suddenly aware and ashamed of their nakedness, made coverings, and hid. When they eventually, shamefacedly, appeared before God, He asked for an account. Look at Adam’s answer. He said, ““The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” God’s response, some few verses later? He said this:

“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

   through painful toil you will eat food from it

   all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

   and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow

   you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

   since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

   and to dust you will return.”

Boy, that doesn’t sound like fun, doesn’t it? I’d like to point out a couple of quick things. The first is what Adam said is still heard today, I think. It’s somewhat different. In the case of modesty, it might sound like, “That girl You put here with me – she put skimpily clad pictures of herself on Facebook, and I checked ‘em out!” The second, sobering observation? It didn’t seem to matter to God that Adam didn’t directly pick the fruit for himself but rather took what was offered by Eve.

Think about that, huh?

There’s one more thing I don’t quite understand about Christian modesty teachings and that inclination to expect females to protect males. Maybe I just missed it, but I don’t remember any place recorded where Jesus demanded that a woman cover herself in order to preserve His purity. Seemed to me that Jesus saw people as people (even if they were lousy Samaritans!) and modeled for us relationships filled with forgiveness, provision, grace, and love.

***Disclaimer: I’m not trying to pick on Mrs. Hall whatsoever. Her post and position, a position not uncommon in the circles in which I grew up, provided food for thought. I also am not a fan of females trying to tempt males. After munching on the forbidden fruit, Eve didn’t make out so well, either, ladies.***

Back From Vacation

Several years ago, Shelah, Carey, and I started dreaming. We wanted to take an East Coast trip to see some of the sights and visit Carey’s family. Our original plan was to drive, but as time went by, plans changed. What we actually did was fly to Raleigh, N.C., and we included Stephers. From there, we rented a car (a red Prius, sometimes known as Red Devilspawn and most lately as Shuttle Pod Prius) and drove to Greensboro, N.C., to hang out with Carey’s family. We put about 1,100 miles on that Prius, because we went to Boone, N.C., and we also drove it from N.C. to Charleston, S.C. and then down to Orlando, Florida, where we happily exchanged it for Disney’s Magical Express. We spent six nights at Disney’s All Star Music Resort and had a lot of fun at the parks during the day. When that was over, we were happy to board Magical Express and catch a flight back to the Pacific NW. It was a great trip in so many, many ways, but we love living here in Oregon. It was good to come home.

(Here, it cools off at night! How awesome is that!)

I’ve got some other thoughts, but I think I will write them into some additional posts.