Archive for June, 2011


I’m supposed to be leaving in about three hours to camp with Shelah and Carey. Considering that I’m not packed yet, still have to take a shower, and the car is anything but loaded, I suspect that I shall not get to writing much of a blog post. That’s the way it goes sometimes, I guess. Life happens!

I am definitely looking forward to this trip. We’re headed over the Cascades to camp by the Metolius River. It’s gorgeous over there. The Metolius River is unusual in that it doesn’t start out as a little creek somewhere and grow up into river thanks to the contributions of other creeks. Nope, it pops up out of the ground as a river! Seems to be a popular spot for fly fishing and maybe some kayakers. The Metolius is also pretty close to Sisters, OR, which means trips for coffee! This should be a great trip, assuming we don’t freeze. The high is supposed to be about 70F, and the lows at night below 40!

However, I guess if I want to go on this trip, I better quit fiddle farting around with my computer and pack. Won’t be nearly so much fun if I don’t take clothing and food and all that good stuff. XD

Love, Unconditional

It’s a pretty enough morning. I can hear the birds out my window telling each other something like that while I sit here at my computer with a perfectly decent cup of coffee. For anyone who may be wondering, it is, of course, a cup of French pressed Black Butte Gold roasted by Sisters Coffee Company. I like it so much that I even sent some in a small thermos with Carey to work today for her boss. The attached note said that no one should have to drink random coffee from Safeway, which is what the lady’s husband bought instead of Sisters coffee! I figure she’ll get a chuckle out of it. She does prefer some of the medium roasts put out by Sisters Coffee, I believe.

As entertaining as talking about coffee may be, I suppose I should move on to unconditional love. A friend mentioned it a few weeks back and got me thinking about it. She said she wasn’t sure it existed. I told her I wasn’t sure about its existence, but that I was pretty sure that people who invoke it (especially in some sort of conflict) are trying to get you to suck up the consequences of their bad behavior. That wasn’t a very nice thing to say, but it has unfortunately been my experience. This made my mind start turning over a couple of things, which I thought I’d explore here. 1) What is unconditional love, particularly as demonstrated by God? And 2) if it does exist, does God’s version differ from what we see people commonly practice?

Like I said, what I’ve seen a lot of is that people who want to claim unconditional love from another person are the people who just did something rather awful to that person and want out of the consequences. In that case, unconditional love is the “Get out of jail free!” card. They’ve got free license to misbehave without having to worry about what sort of damage they might be doing. The people who are trying to practice unconditional love often seem to have trouble placing boundaries. They get stomped and trampled by people less principled or idealistic while believing they have to take it because love is unconditional. They’re busy turning that other cheek. Do either of these positional extremes sound like the love of God?

Maybe we should take a look at some definitions. Merriam-Webster says unconditional means “not conditional or limited : ABSOLUTE, UNQUALIFIED.” The thesaurus provides some interesting synonyms, too, if you care to take a look. Unconditional means pretty much what I expected. It’s without condition or limit. That’s pretty straightforward and simple, which is not to be confused with easy. It sounds a lot like Romans 8:38-39, which says that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Well, then, what is love? The dictionary has a lot to say about it, so if you want to look it up, go for it. I’d rather go back to I Corithians 13, especially since we’re talking about God’s love.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

A lot of this seems pretty straightforward to me. Patience, kindness, unselfishness, humility, honor, and so on are all things you’d expect to see in love, right? Those even seem like they might meet the conditions for unconditional. In fact, we could build a case for making unconditional love out to be just what I described earlier: it’s the get-out-of-jail-turn-the-other-cheek card. No consequences! No boundaries! Woot! Free love!

There is a massive problem with that, though. To make it work, we’d have to start with the scissors in Genesis and clip out some serious chunks of it. After we hacked up Genesis, we’d have to keep going through the rest of the Bible, too. The story of the first of men repeats its theme throughout our history.

*cue ominous music here* Dun-dun-dun!

Genesis tells us that not long after the beginning, there were these two people, Adam and Eve. They got to spend time walking around with God in the Garden of Eden. What a fellowship that must have been, to walk in the beauty with God Himself! Do you suppose they stopped to admire a butterfly’s wings, or to watch a sunset, or to appreciate the lithe muscle powering the cheetah’s stride? Life was perfect. Adam and Eve had only one restriction. They were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With a little persuasion from a serpent form named Satan, they disobeyed God. That disobedience got them tossed out of paradise, and it created a separation between Creator and created that still exists thousands of generations later! That doesn’t sound to me like God simply ignores disobedience or other bad choices. It doesn’t sound like there are no consequences. Does that mean He no longer loves us? Does that moment mark the sudden death of unconditional love or prove that unconditional love does not exist and perhaps never did?

Personally, I doubt it proves any such thing. Again, what is love? When I scroll back up to take a look, it’s patience, kindness, unselfishness, and all that. If I’m honest, I can’t say that God’s treatment of Adam and Eve was unloving, or that His love of them (His patience with them, His kindness toward them, etc.) was conditional upon their kissing His butt and being good kids. I can say that I don’t much like His actions, or that I don’t wish for something easier, but my dislike or disapproval does not mean God was unloving. To say that, I would have to ignore my friend in Hebrews 12 which says that God will discipline those whom He loves. Love that will employ discipline complicates the simplified view of unconditional love I presented above. That sort of love probably trashes the simplified perspective, actually, because it’s so simplistic that it mistakes boundary and consequence for condition and therefore believes it is unloving to apply boundaries.

It’s the sort of love, I suppose, in which children start out believing. You do what they like, and they love you. You do what they don’t like, and they think they hate you, but their belief or how they feel doesn’t mean that anything you did was not out of love toward them. That perspective is not a bad place to start. I guess it’s just not a good place to stay. Smart kids eventually learn that sometimes the things done by their parents which those kids hated were done to protect and nurture those kids. A love that will discipline, which God claims about His love, will not seem “pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb. 12:11a), but it is still love and, I think, still meets the conditions for a love that is, at the very least, unconditionally present and active.

Distraction and Perseverance

I suppose that I’ve had plenty of time today to write a post. After all, it’s really not all that time consuming to scribble out 600 – 1000 words. What I seem to lack is motivation. I keep thinking about writing, and almost immediately, I get distracted. Mostly it’s the thought, “Sheeesh, I’m tired.” I guess I did work the last couple of days, and they were fairly busy and active. If it’s not “I’m tired,” it’s something like, “My goodness, what a pretty day it is!” It has been, too. The sun has been shining, the air is fresh and sweet, the birds are chirping, and I spent a little while parked in the sunshine reading. Out on a moss covered rock, surrounded by bee-worked forget-me-nots – that was very pleasant!

I keep thinking, too, about what I need to do in the next couple of days. Tomorrow I need to do some grocery shopping, go watch Thor, and make sure I’m ready for the weekend, whatever that might entail. Guess I better figure that out. Shelah’s graduation is Saturday morning, there’s supposed to fun family stuff for a while that afternoon, and then there’s a graduation party here on Sunday. It’s kinda busy. It’s proving to be a pretty good distraction from writing a post, that’s for sure!

Still, I want to put something up. It does not have to be my best post ever. It does not have to be eloquent words of wisdom nor something so profoundly profound that your jaw drops at my insight. Nobody is brilliant all the time, and guess what? We don’t have to be.What is important is that we show up and keep trying. If I start letting myself be distracted away from regularly writing here, chances are excellent that I’ll stop posting altogether. If that happens, I certainly won’t be writing eloquent words of wisdom (at least not here!), right? Not persevering, not continuing on even when not inspired or otherwise lacking motivation, would rob me of the chance to practice, to gain new insight, to contemplate, and to do all the other things that blogging gives to me. A certain amount of consistency coupled with a willingness to occasionally produce a flop is helpful for growth.

In fact, perseverance is needful for all kinds of things in life. Sure, sometimes we get lucky and more or less spontaneously produce something brilliant, but a lot of times,  it’s a matter of practice. It’s a matter of showing up and trying, of getting up and going again after a tumble, of rewriting for the 9th time. I can’t even be particularly successful as a Christian without perseverance. Hebrews 12:1 says to run the race with perseverance. I Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love “always perseveres.” And how about this (I love this!)?

Galatians 6:9

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Perseverance = not giving up. About two verses back, Galatians mentions that we’ll be reaping what we sow. Planting good in my life and doing it diligently means that later on in life, the harvest I’ll have will also be good. That’s worth some bother, I think.

The other thing I love about this is that I don’t have to start out all kinds of wonderful. God seems to be very generous when it comes to handing me seeds to plant. It’s good, because new gardeners and farmers make mistakes in their planting. Planting or sowing isn’t merely a matter of throwing handfuls of seeds onto the ground and hoping for the best. Some seeds must be planted deeper than others. Some need more space while some are good with crowding. Some need more water or more sun or more acid or more alkalinity. The production of a really beautiful, vibrant, fruitful harvest will probably be the end result of lots of mistakes and failures as the new gardener learns and becomes an experienced gardener. The gardener who achieves fruitfulness will be the one who persevered. “Doing good” seems much the same.

I honestly think that it’s one of the most amazing things that God does for us. He helps us to learn and grow. It’s not easy, and I don’t always like Him for it, but, oh, how good it feels when I realize that, thanks to all the seeds and opportunities given to me by God, I’ve got this down, whatever this might be. It lends me confidence, in myself, in the process, and, most especially, in God.

This would be my ramble for the week. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Pain is a Pain

I know, I know – Captain Obvious here, right? Everybody knows that pain is painful. Pain hurts. I do know that. I was thinking more along the lines of how pain hurts more than my body or my feelings. That’s bad enough, but unfortunately that’s not all it is limited to affecting.

See, I had a bunch of days off in a row this week, and I had all kinds of great ideas about what to do with that time. I have a blog post half written that this is not which I wanted to finish and post. I was going to get cracking on my cabinet/island thing that I’ve been building. I was definitely going to my sister’s high school graduation, woohoo! It was going to be a great week.

Monday evening, enter headache. It wasn’t a big deal, just a faint hint that was still vaguely present on Tuesday morning. By lunch on Tuesday, I was in pain. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t tell you how much I hurt. The nausea was a pretty good clue, though, that I was feeling crappy. So was the sensitivity to light, noise, and scent – blech. I really don’t think I was seeing too straight, and my eyes looked funny. I can’t tell you exactly what made them look funny, other than they looked tight and sick. The pupil didn’t seem to be quite right, either. I spent about 24 hours too miserable to know how miserable I was.

After that, the headache started winding down. By yesterday evening, I was feeling almost normal. If I hadn’t been so tired from the stupid headache, I would have pulled the almost out and let the normal stand on its own.

This was painful. I hurt so much that I was immobilized, and it cost me. I got almost nothing done this week other than what I had to do. I also missed my sister’s graduation. That hurt a lot. I really wanted to be there.

I guess what interests me about this is that I think my perspective on pain is changing. I used to believe that pain was just pain. It was intended to communicate that something was wrong, and I either needed to fix what was wrong or somehow get through it. I suppose I still believe that, but I’m learning something new about pain. Sometimes I can’t push through or fix it, and the pain will stop me. It’s very rude of pain to have and exercise that much power. I find it annoying, but I suppose I don’t really like being limited. Maybe there’s something there I should be learning, too. 😛

In the past few years, I’ve had a somewhat crabby knee and back. Physical therapy helped my knee a lot, and my back seems to mostly be troublesome when I’ve managed to aggravate my knee. Guess what? I don’t do as much as I used to do. I don’t lift as much, I don’t walk as much, and – goodness me! – I don’t even drive as much. Getting stuck in a car for a long period of time when my back or knee is grumbling can be – I bet you’ll guess this right – very painful.

It’s not limited to physical pain, either. Last year, my roommate’s sister was coming to visit. Of course we wanted to clean things up. Part of what that meant for me was going through old paperwork to save and trash things appropriately. That didn’t go so well. I got started just fine. I managed to get several piles going, and then I stopped. I got stuck! Carey came to see how I was doing, and there I was, sitting on the floor, surrounded by small piles of paper, hardly moving. I kept finding things like letters from my grandmother, who had died about a year before, and the grief with all its pain kept rolling over me. She, very graciously, had me stop and let me simply hurt and miss my grandmother.

I don’t know that I have anything more profound than these observations for now. Pain, both physical and emotional, has the capacity to sometimes immobilize people. Now that I’ve noticed and experienced that, what am I going to do with it?What role does faith play? Is this another one of those lessons on waiting with which God likes to, um, bless me? Hmm…