Who to Be

Yesterday I sat outside, finished reading a book by a theologian whom I love for his work in the patristics while being staunchly Reformed and vaguely Barthian. A friend came over, chatted for awhile beneath brilliant sun at only eight in the morning; sometimes it startles me how Colorado goes from winter to summer in the course of a week. He’s married, this friend of mine, and his wife is one of my favourite women though lately between school and work and life we’ve hardly spoken more than two sentences. Squinting at me as I talked about camping, Romans and Corinthians he said to me,

“in marriage, you get to choose the kind of wife you want to be.”

I nodded, head bobbing up and down in natural agreement. It’s obvious, isn’t it? I like the sound of that, I have control to be the kind of wife and person I want to be. Today, I want to sweet and gentle and tomorrow I’ll be kind and gracious. The thought of control evokes something deep in me, a longing in my soul for consistency, foresight and independence.

This morning, I climbed into the land cruiser that still shudders while idling and I felt a surge of frustration. Home is a mess and I’ve an exam this afternoon for which I’m hardly prepared amid everything else in life. In the short lived cool of the morning I was hot and upset. Ethan asked me what was wrong, as he always does when he can sense that I’m on edge, when he reads me like an open book.

I heard those words from yesterday’s sunny conversation, “in marriage, you get to choose the kind of wife you want to be.”

Today, I wanted to be strong, sure and content. So I lied through my teeth; said everything was fine and settled into the old fabric seat of our twenty six year old car that Ethan will always call a truck. By the end of the five minute ride, I had nearly exploded.

It isn’t about me choosing and forcing myself into prescribed mold of who I want to be in marriage, in life, in work or school. My friend was right, he was wise and spoke a bit of truth over me. But like dealing with the patristic notion of deification, one needs certain nuances.

I will be content and strong and sometimes I will even be sure of myself and what life holds. But that does not come from me choosing and then creating such a state of existence within myself. It is choosing who I want to be: a woman who follows Christ, who loves him and trusts him, who gives space to the Holy Spirit to conform and restore? Or something of my own making?

The beauty of the Incarnation is that God took on flesh and saved us by uniting humanity with deity, by making holy that which was sadly warped and twisted. The beauty of justification is that we are given a new identity, declared righteous and put in right standing with God.

The question now is whether or not we choose to grow into who we already are, and submit to the will of the Holy Spirit, the one who changes us into who we, in our deepest hearts, want to be?

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WHY: Doing Life

This week I’ve been staying with two of my high school students from youth group. It’s amazing how your life disappears when two kids enter the picture. They have homework, school events, friends and youth group. There are guitar lessons, art club and exams. Not to mention emails and junk mail from colleges. They’re out the door at 645 AM after what I hardly consider to be a real breakfast and they’re home again at 235 PM with homework and hungry mouths.

Last night we learned together how to plunge an overflowed toilet.

Tonight we’re probably going out to see a movie.

It’s a wonderful life?

When their parents left, their mother said to me that she hoped I’d have some opportunities to speak into their lives. Well, last night we talked about drinking and college and I told them all the reasons that they shouldn’t drink to excess. But I have a feeling that’s not exactly what mom meant.

What does it mean to teach kids? What does it mean when their lives are so busy? Between guitar lessons and loading the car full of DJ equipment for youth group, I’m not even sure when we’ll eat dinner tomorrow night.

We pray together before they go to bed. I told them I was writing a paper about Jesus and coffee and the importance of work for the human identity and purpose. They stared at me like I’d grown two heads. But it brought up a couple of questions… what does the crema of espresso have to do with expanding the Kingdom? And why did you stop listening to Ke$ha or half a dozen other artists?

I thought how one of my other high schoolers is going for a run with me on Friday. She has questions to ask me, apparently. We’ve just become official as mentor/mentee and I’m freaking out with my own mentor because God knows I talk more than I listen; I am a Franks and Kormick by descent and there’s mistaking that when I open my mouth. I looked  at the coffee cup when she asked me, in the same shop where I found Ethan and my mentor and a new reason to live. I stared at the brown liquid, the soy foam dissolved into sweet joy. I told her the same thing that G told me years ago, before I lived with her and the family, before I learned what it meant to be at peace in the midst of chaos.

The kids aren’t home yet, but they will be soon. I’ll have to turn down Mumford and Sons while we do homework, all jammed into the office together. Tonight, after dinner, Ethan and I will read the daily liturgy and though it isn’t expected of them, I’ll invite the kids to join us. Ethan hasn’t been here, and I’ve missed our times of eating and reading together. This is what we do, after all, this is how we experience God, how we learn of Him, hear from Him and are challenged by the words of the fathers and the movement of the Spirit.

It’s like taking Rebekah running — where I can process and feel the glory of God in the pounding arteries beneath my skin and the bite of the cold winter wind on my face.

It’s like folding laundry with G while she told me about Jesus and peace and suffering.

We do life together. We invite people into our stories, our journeys. We walk alongside one another, holding hands, laughing and crying together and learning together along the way.

Perhaps there’s another way to teach, to speak into one another’s lives. If there is, I haven’t yet found it. But I’m no parent and so I am years away from knowing. I don’t make any claim to understanding what all this is about though I keep finding myself in the midst of it. There’s so much to learn, so much yet to find and discover. This is what I do know:

walking in the way that Jesus calls always creates reason for talking, reasons for speaking into one another’s lives as we grow into the people he has called us to be.

Community and Truth

On Sunday nights I work as a children’s ministry director of sorts. It’s a small role at a big church but it comes with difficulties and joys all its own. Last night, parents were running late and I had a few minutes alone with one of my workers to catch up. She’s recently had a baby born with a developmental disability and a propensity to health issues. It’s been a hard nine months of pregnancy and an exhausting task to have a baby, have him hospitalized for 10 days then put on oxygen and manage to keep up the holiday glamour with her two older boys. The New Year for her is one of hope but also reservation. “I fit back into my jeans!” she exclaimed last night as she arrived, and I can see that things are evening out. But there’s the note of caution – “I can’t put him to bed without oxygen, I won’t sleep if I don’t know he’s alright.”

And sometimes, there’s simply isolation as the family walks through their brave decisions – “I want doctors to stop asking me why I kept him even though I knew he’d have issues. What matters is that he’s been born and I need to know how to care for him.” she sighs and adds, “we’re trying a new pulmonary doctor next week.”

I sit in the rocking chair, holding squalling baby or squirming toddler and I listen to her. I’m often saddened by the long journey they have ahead of them, but I’m always amazed by her grim determination. She hasn’t yet found joy in the undertaking that’s been put on them. But they are determined to see through what God’s entrusted to them in his quite unsearchable providence. We’ve cried together, hugged and traversed the trials of living after the fall. I’ve prayed, on many nights, that God would give me something worthwhile to say – something encouraging and actually helpful (she’s always getting shoddy, shallow encouragement from people in her faith circles—words that mask the fear of not knowing what to say).

Last night she was explaining her anxiety, her concerns about the future of the baby still tiny and hooked up to oxygen each night as he sleeps: oblivious to the world and the sorrows around him. I rocked, back and forth, an eye on the door where we check in children for the evening service. But all my attention was  given to her as she described, in her worry, something that I suddenly realized I knew.

 I asked her, when you’re thinking, is it obsessive? Is it cyclical? Does it wind into downward spiral? She nodded slowly. I have that, I said. I get a tight feeling in my chest, it’s an anxiety issue. I live with it, day in – and day out. Mine always focuses on E, and the fears, the worries, the mounting anxious thoughts.

I told her my story, I asked, is yours like mine? She nodded, amazed, “you too?” and her eyes red rimmed eyes full of emotion.

Me too. I’m in counseling. Every week. It’s getting better, slowly but surely. Because here’s what I was told to do:

When the black thoughts start coming and the anxiety grows at an exponential rate I pull myself up to a stop and I tell myself the truth.

I don’t have to live this way. I don’t have to have these thoughts. I don’t have to go down that path. I don’t have to live in fear, think this way, feel this anxiety. Because the truth is my God is good and he cares and he will not let your foot slip. He watches over you and he will neither slumber nor sleep.

I looked at my friend and I admitted, it isn’t easy and I still have dark days. But you and me, girl, we’re going to live in the truth and we’re not going to be dragged into the mire that is worry and fear. Because Jesus came, he sets us free: from bondage to sin and bondage to decayed thinking.

She nodded, slowly, tearful and I’d have hugged her but at that moment a child came, to play with toys and hear stories about the One who came to set us free while his mom and dad sang in church, songs of gratefulness and praise to that same One.

This is the thing about community. We are never alone in this fight against the way our sin has so permeated our lives, our thoughts, our being. It is crouching at the door and it will come in and eat you alive if you let it. But together we’re holding the door closed and pressing on in the other direction: towards Abba, towards Jesus, towards life in the Spirit of Truth and freedom.

And this is the beauty of truth. It leads us to Him and He is always for us, always for freedom, always for our joy and glory in Him alone.

Work work work

I’m sitting on the floor of my room, fighting my way through 200 pages of Miroslav Volf and looking forward to class tomorrow which will consist of another 6 hours on the Theology of Work. I have a headache, an upset stomach, a hurting ear and a very un-vaccuumed floor. The tea in my mug disappeared in moments, that milky brown colour of black tea with soy and my computer is very nearly dead after 13 pages of typed notes during class today. Have I lately said that I love school? Because I do, it’s simply fantastic. Someday, I’ll even learn how to not be so anxious on the first day of a new class, but for now, I just love it so much I’ll endure the nerves as I walk into the unknown for the next couple of weeks while we settle back into spring semester.

As Ethan merrily set out this morning to work (yes, we’re still sharing a car, it’s easier now that he lives close and  still a nice way to start the day), I was dreading class, feeling grumpy and in general overwhelmed. We did one of those “tell us why you’re here” introductions and why the class interested us. I had about ten minutes to formulate my thoughts on why I had decided to take a class that satisfies a requirement…. When the discussion finally rounded the corner to our section I heard myself talking about the man who’d dropped me at school after a a rather frustrating drive.

My man, I said, builds houses. He owns a construction business. Some people don’t think that’s ministry, but I do and I’m not quite sure why. I just think that it is. I want to talk about theology of work because there’s more to vocation and calling than being a pastor and, after all, the Jews didn’t have pastors so why do we seem to think that’s a high and mighty thing when Jesus was a carpenter, a tradesman, a blue collar man like mine? But I want to learn about this whole idea of “theology of work” so I can better explain to the people who look at me and seem to pity us as though we’re doing something less holy by building homes for people to live in rather than preaching to an already over-educated-glassy-eyed-elite.

I didn’t finish with that snarky of a sentence because one of the two professors teaching still sort of terrifies me despite several conversations with him which have assured me of his humanity.

You see, we sometimes elevate certain “careers” or “vocations” as though God calls people to higher work than others. We fawn over people becoming pastors and denigrate those who are lawyers. But what about assuring that children are placed with the right parent after a divorce (no matter how sad the reality of divorce may be)? How is that any less important than counseling that same child as a later adult and leading them into a healthier marriage than the one they saw fall apart? How is building homes and tilling the land any less than exegeting the scriptures about the importance of the resurrection–the rebirth of life that we see each year on a farm, in nature, cultivated by man?

Those are my questions going into the course and I’m looking forward to developing my thoughts about E’s work, about my work, about how we are building the kingdom in our apartments, our conversations, our businesses and our writing. Maybe, by the end of the week, I’ll have something a bit more articulate put together; something about work being ministry no matter the field.

For now, however, I’ve got to get back to Volf so I can get started on that paper. . .

WHY: the book of common prayer

It’s funny, you know, being a seminary student. People expect you to know the Bible and have something worth saying. They think we spend hours pouring over the text, reading it in Greek and Hebrew, studying the Vulgate and duetero-canonical books always hoping to glean something new, something brilliant, something the world is in desperate need of hearing.

But it isn’t true. In the past year I’ve read the entire Bible and that’s a fact. But after reading five books of the Bible for an exam, I don’t turn around read it for fun. I read about the Bible for fun, I don’t read the text itself as a way to enjoy my afternoons away from class and campus.

CommonPrayerCover

I heard about a Farmer’s Wife whose family reads the Bible together after every meal and I thought, aloud to Ethan and the rest of my Colorado-family, that it was the most brilliant idea I’d heard in a long time. So the next night, after dinner, Ethan tugged his worn out Bible from the reading shelf of his room and thumbed through to Isaiah 52 where he started to read Messianic prophecies and songs of the Servant.
The next night he read Romans; when he got home he found a book by a radical in Pennsylvania and calledme after I’d climbed into my lofted bed. He read the night liturgy written for the day of Advent and together we said Amen. It was a beautiful moment. But it was hard and it was conflicting in my soul. The prayer was about lifting up the oppressed and sheltering the hurt, the hungry, etc.

I lived in the inner city and I fed the hungry. We give of ourselves though we haven’t much money, we try to buy generously for others, we donate and give to causes. I have housed so many people and I am grateful for the shelter He’s provided for us to help others. We dress and live life simply so we can live frugally and give away.

But I’m also accruing debt going to school. Someday, after the PhD, what if it’s not the city but a farm? What if there are home-schooled children under foot and a mudroom full of tools, boots, jackets and rifles hung
kids at rodeohigh on the wall? What if I don’t feel called to the poor, but to the broken rich–suffocated by their wealth and possessions? What if I am called to the country, to the rural, to open fields and running water where the sky meets the horizon long before it sees sky scrapers and homeless? What of that life?

But there is more than that. There is my selfishness, my greed. E wants a big house so we can house families–two or three at a time–so we can bless those coming home from the mission field, those who need time away from their churches, give them rest, comfort and a slower pace if only for a day or for weeks.

Me, I think of extra mud on my floor and beds to be made, sheets to change, food to be bought and cooked. When will I do my writing? When will I research?

Ethan thinks of giving without thought and I think of saving for a rainy day when I’ll provide for myself and forget to rely on God. He gives time and I retain it, cloistering myself in the library, away from anyone who might distract from my all consuming obsession to learn.

Scripture, for this reason makes me uncomfortable,  nervous and frustrated.

I like my  life.

I like my dreams.

What if Scripture calls me to give them up? What if my dream isn’t the one He’ll reveal? Or what if my dream is His calling but it’s to be laced with sacrifices of time, cleanliness, money and sleep? Do I want to follow that? My heart, when Ethan read the scripture and prayers was that I don’t want it. I want to be left alone, unchallenged, I to follow my own desires.

And this, I realized, is the greatest irony of being in seminary: learning to teach the things I’m so afraid to accept for myself. Scripture, good, beautiful, strong and convicting is not something I enjoy reading but it something for which my soul yearns as I am slowly growing into who I already am in Christ.

Absorbing

Just when things appear to calm down in Gaza it looks like problems are growing in Egypt. Ending Hosni Mubarak’s reign two years ago has plunged the country into turmoil that always straightens out temporarily before falling into strife again. Now it looks like they might be headed for Sharia law in sweeping reforms planned for the constitution. I have friends in the Middle East and they have not been affected by the violence in either of these troubled countries but they are certainly aware of the precarious position they hold: as foreigners, as women, as Christians. As I’ve been thinking about the various situations, I keep coming back to something a professor said rather recently.

About a month ago Ethan and I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at a DU (a university in Denver) where a partnership between their seminary and undergraduate program hosted Hector Avalos, a professor and philosopher (if one can use that term rather broadly). Avalos spoke regarding his book Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. I do not have the time to give a summary of his book/discussion except to say that he suggests religion creates scarce resources by designating who is “in” or “out” and who can interpret the word of God or lay claim to authority. While the book is, apparently, about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Professor Avalos made a more specific attack against Christianity as he gave a sweeping overview of Biblical texts and persons, ending by calling Jesus Christ the most hateful person who has ever lived.

Dr. Richard Hess was on a panel of two speakers who were given about ten minutes to respond to Prof Avalos. The first speaker, whose name I do not recall, posed a few questions and ambiguities in Avalos’ argument. Dr. Hess, on the other hand, had a fully outlined response that included explanations of those texts which Avalos had reinterpreted outside context (both linguistically, culturally and canonically) as well as an alternative view.

Hess admitted that often in her history the church has responded to various things through violence, just as Avalos claimed. This, however, is perhaps what Jesus called his people to, according to Hess. Instead, he shared two stories of Christians that he believed exemplified the call of Jesus. The first was of a man during WW2 in a concentration camp who was but into a barracks with ten other men and left to starve. He led the men in mass each day, prayers and singing as they died off, one by one. Instead of the usual fighting among those imprisoned, Fr Martin brought them to their eventual end with peace and hope. In the end, he was the last to die and willingly accepted death at the hands of the Nazis. The second story was of two Amish girls in Lancaster, PA. When their school was invaded by an armed gunman, two young Amish girls asked to be killed first in an attempt to delay the man from executing the others and provide a chance for them to escape. Dr. Hess choked up during this story as Lancaster is his hometown and the story was close to his heart.

This, he said, was the alternative to religious violence: absorbing evil.

Jesus, on the cross did not condemn his killers or promise retribution. Instead, he looked down, begged the Father to forgive them and then died for the sins of those inflicting his death. Instead of causing violence and evil, Dr. Hess pointed to this ultimate example of accepting and absorbing evil into ourselves.

As we watch the Middle East in turmoil, I wonder what our part is in the midst of this? I think we stand for the oppressed, the ones who cannot stand for themselves. I think we do that by forgiving those who hurt us, by speaking out on behalf of the broken, and then instead of reacting in like manner, we take in the violence, the evil, the sin and we put it to death by refusing to return an eye for an eye.

I don’t live in Gaza or Egypt, and it may seem easy for me to say that behind the walls of my apartment, where Christmas lights glow merrily and Ethan’s iPod plays banjo music at my side. But I don’t think my distance makes it any less true.

Small Talk and Weather

It’s snowing on the blog, because it’s Christmas time! I hope you enjoy the snow like me, because it’s going to sweep across the screen and fall down for about a month.

Speaking of weather, which is one of the most boring and obvious topics of discussion in human conversation, I had to talk a lot about it yesterday. It’s that great, time wasting small talk topic that I have begun to encounter more and more in life. It’s especially easy to call into play right now, because Colorado is experiencing a bizarre-San-Diego-like-December. So, when there’s that awkward gap in conversation I keep throwing out, “can you believe this weather? I mean, weird! I’m wearing scarves in protest; but you know, Ethan is loving the fact that he can still wear shorts.” I’ve become quite proficient with rambling about the sun, the dry patches on the lawn [that I don’t have] and the drought. Lately, it’s a skill come in handy as I continue to find myself in settings where there’s nothing else to converse about.

You might be wondering where I keep being forced into use of my weathering skills and deflecting deeper conversational topics. I haven’t traveled, seen distant relatives or attended any major events full of strangers with tired hands and distracted eyes. No, the sad thing is, I keep having small talk like this at a church where I serve (though I no longer attend).

Ethan and I left service yesterday after both of us had worked an exhausting three hours with very cranky and upset children. We had wandered into the sanctuary and chatted with a few people we might have once considered our community. But the thing that pervaded all the talk about jobs, relationships and Christmas was the weather.

Now, I’ll admit, Colorado is experiencing some odd weather this year. But that’s not the reason everyone continues to fall back on the topic.

It’s because we don’t know what else to talk about.

This seems a bit wrong–a church community where I’ve attended for about six years should include a bit more depth, shouldn’t it? I think I ought to know people and can rightfully expect them to know me in return. Can we discuss my anxiety issues that are finally coming under control? What about our financial burdens: school, car problems, worn out clothes that can no longer be patched? Should we mention that E has moved four times in less than a year and that the instability is really hard? We don’t talk about those things, and I’m not entirely sure why. Certainly, I don’t want to hold this congregation separately from the rest my life experiences and point an accusing finger. But Ethan and I have really struggled to get below the surface with people.

It isn’t just a problem at the church. I have a friend who shared that this happens in his family often and he finally confronted everyone about it a few weeks ago. A student in my youthgroup recently told me they experience something similar every week that we meet.

Which is why I am wondering: why is it so hard to get beyond the weather and other small talk–in our churches, our families, everywhere? What can we do to change that?

WHY: leaning left

I mentioned yesterday that I am in the final crunch before exam week and Christmas break. For that reason, I have not been able to research the Supreme Court’s decision on the Sebellius case and the health care laws. While I’m cautious about a number of things on both sides of the health care plan, I have certainly benefited from the system thus far and have some tentative hopes for it. That being said, I also have a number of concerns for not only religious reasons but economics as well.

I read an interesting article recently* and appreciated the moderate stance taken by the author, David Opderbeck. I also appreciated something he said which finally put to words the conviction I’ve been feeling regarding my theology about the health care system…

 

I wonder when “individual freedom” became the sine qua non for Christian social ethics about health care? It seems to me that Christians of all people should be willing to sacrifice some of their “individual freedom” in order to ensure that everyone, particularly “the least of these,” has access to health care.  In scriptural and Christian theological terms, true “freedom” is not libertarian license, but rather is the full participation of a person in God’s self-giving love.  And true “freedom” is never about isolated individuals – as God is a Triune community, so we as human beings can only be truly “free” in community.

Of course, even if we agree that Christians should be willing to give up some “individual freedom” to facilitate health care for others – or, perhaps better, that Christian freedom means moving beyond selfishness —  the question remains whether such care should be provided through government, through private associations, through Churches, through families, and so on.  There is a long and tangled tradition of Christian political theology on all of these questions – and, at least in my opinion, there is no simple right answer.

Finally! Someone was able to express much more eloquently than I can my concern with how many politically conservative Christians approach this issue. My struggle over the past few months has been discerning what Jesus calls us to in serving selflessly and giving to those among us who are in need–and how that plays into allowing the government to take control of health care to provide more access to care and medicine.

But I also wonder what the role is of the church–why have we not done more to help those among us find medical care, why do we so easily abdicate responsibility to the government (or why do we allow the need for government to play that role) instead of demonstrating the love of Christ by caring for people ourselves? The food pantry I attend has medical services during the evening session. I think that’s fantastic–while I’ve not taken the church up on that free service–I’ve watched many other individuals and families utilize that. Should there be other churches offering similar things? Could we use our benevolence funds for that? Perhaps if we did more we wouldn’t need the government to take such a large role in the health care system?

Or, as we watch the government take on that role, how should we react about our money being redirected? Especially as Christians, shouldn’t we remember that the money was never “ours” in the first place rather than grumbling as it’s taken away in taxes that provide medical care for the neighbours down the street? I don’t have a clear answer on this. I’m still processing all of it (and I of course have several reservations on what those dollars pay for in medical care–a la abortions). There are a lot of considerations here, and the Bible doesn’t speak very clearly on this issue…so we have to do a lot of formulating on our own based on some Biblical texts and based on our knowledge of the character of God (who we are to emulate) and the call or mission of the church…That’s a lot of thinking and theological development on this massive issue that is going to consume the country over the next several months and years.

What do you think?

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*I know I’ve recently been citing Scot McKnight quite often as well as those who guest-post on his blog. He’s just had a plethora of worthy things to consider lately.

Holiday Week Mondays

It’s Monday in the office and despite the fact that two of my coworkers were here around 730am, you can tell that none of us want to be here. My eyes won’t stop watering, Lisa practically limps to and from the printer as if her feet are deadened to the world with sleepy Monday blues and Jessica came in half an hour later than normal. We have a lot to do. I’ve a project to finish before the end of the month, the advent devotional should be coming out, there’s an appeal to be written and mailed and a lunch to plan, and a thousand envelopes to stuff. But the boss is on a flight back from Chicago and no one wants to be here.

One of my high school girls is working on Thursday–all day. I told her I’d come visit between my first Turkey Trot and dinner with friends. She’s at a retail store that is open all day Thursday and all night into Black Friday. I was in shock when she told me about it and then I almost cried. What’s wrong, America? Why are we working on holidays to allow people to get more in debt with stuff they don’t need? My girl should be with her family, eating too much food and reminiscing about holidays past or running a turkey trot with the youth group; not at work selling clothes and shoes.

In something I recently edited a writer noted that we should be working for “kingdom change” in our every day lives as parents, employees, leaders, couples and students. It’s a rough Monday. It’s 10am and the most monumental thing I’ve done is update a single website and turn in my time sheet. It’s a holiday week and no one wants to be here–I’d rather be buying sweet potatoes, baking biscotti and enjoying a run or some OT work. What would it be like to work on the most momentous of family holidays?

I’ve been wondering, if I was the manager at that store, would I buy everyone lunch? Invite them over for a late night Turkey Dinner? Would I tell them all to call in sick, so I could lock the doors and apologize to the corporation for apparent widespread illness? Would that be the kingdom, breaking in, standing against the status quo and authority? Would I refuse to schedule anyone at all and take the hit for believing that family and rest are more important than profit? Would that be counter-cultural and civilly disobedient in a way that Jesus might have appreciated: to value people more than money?

I don’t know that I have such courage but….it’s something worth pondering.

In the meantime, I’ll be picking up my high schooler for her half hour lunch and buying her something to eat to make the day a bit tolerable.

WHY: my mentor

CJ is my mentor, both literally (for school) and honestly (she is God’s heart to me). I wish I could number all the reasons why she’s a gift from God in the wake of G&J moving south.

Yesterday, at our weekly “meeting” which is usually a walk or a lounge in a new coffee shop, I told her all the things i have to do for next week: two papers, a presentation and a devotional for my office (sort of). I also work at a conference this weekend for high school girls. And next weekend I have the Fall Retreat for my own youth group…. Needless to say, I was expressing some stress.

We talked about E and all my consistent emotional confusion there (some day I will explain this more fully). I said I was so busy and preoccupied with school that I didn’t mind the fact that he was stuck in the mountains though I did want to see him in a distant sort of way.

And then she asked what I was going to write for the Christmas Devotional that goes out to staff, board members, donors, alumni, etc. I recited a couple of basic ideas: kingdom, Mary, in breaking of God’s reality to ours, advent as waiting, maybe something about my high school girls. She looked at me with the half grin that always says she’s going to call bull on something I’ve said. And with her one cheek puckered up into her bright blue eyes, she said through the lower half of her sideways smile,

“can I just be honest and say, all those things are easy? too easy.”

“well, I’ve thought about writing something more personal but I don’t know how to narrow it down. I don’t know how to write about my own stuff.”

She leaned forward and said, with hands clasped together in anticipation, “what does Jesus coming mean to you?”

I didn’t even have to push down the normal backlash against such postmodern language. The answer came immediately. My eyes welled up with tears as I sort of shrugged and said, “hope. hope that things will… get better. that someday I’ll be whole again. and lots of stuff. but hope.”

CJ settled back into her chair with a nod.

“then that’s what you write about.”