Skies of Sorrowful, Anxious Hearts

Yesterday, when skies were finally breaking blue and the snow began to melt, the phone rang and an upset voice spoke of surgery: emergency, urgent, and no we don’t know why or what or how this could have happened when we were all getting sunburned together this weekend and the babe was crawling and laughing like little ones are meant to do.

And suddenly, things changed. The world seemed to stall and one could hardly help but wonder how everyone at the grocery seemed to go on with life as though nothing had happened, nothing out of the ordinary.

Boston has stopped, for them the world whirls round at a different pace. And all the problems of weddings and school and loans and apartments disappear into the right perspective. The world, my roommate says, is no less and no more evil than it was on Sunday. We’re just seeing it in new ways.

And so much of the soul yearns to say that God gives and God takes away and blessed be His name no matter what side of the equation we land on. But so much of the soul kicks and screams in protest that this isn’t the world we were made for, the life we were intended to have before that foolish reach in the garden.

The sky wrings its hands in sorrow and the snow falls, heavy and blowing again. Does she mourn and worry like we do? Or does she know how to better trust the one who made her and thrust stars and clouds and sun and moon into her care? We want to have open hands, to trust and pray with confidence. But the fearful knowledge of the mangled mess which we call earth and life is sometimes overwhelming, despite the streaks of light that are always shining in the darkness. The darkness has not overcome the light, but sometimes, on hands and knees, in hospital rooms and empty homes, it is hard to see the light which is Jesus, reaching back and pulling us on to the future where all things are made new and right.

The battle is not done.
Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied
 and earth and heaven won.

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Easter Monday

Yesterday we worked. We went to work, and then we went to friend’s for lunch to celebrate a resurrection we’ve heard about hundreds of times. So, how does one — after growing up in the church — make the resurrection new each year? This is always the problem for me. Easter is a holiday that I don’t dislike but I don’t love. It is full of pastels like pink and purple, frilly dresses and deviled eggs. Yesterday I wore chacos with my jeans and we went for a long walk after a lunch of lamb, parsnips and yorkshire puddings.

But yesterday was full of sweet gifts: hospitality, warmth, hope, friendship and sunshine.slane ruins

See, Jesus dies and takes all the sins of the world on him. But something else, something slightly different happens when we light the Paschal fire at church and whisper on the eve of Easter here that He has already risen there.

  
The Paschal fire at our little church burns the thanks and prayers we bring to Holy Saturday and the broken day between Friday Good and Easter Morn. And we watch life be rekindled, stand in swirling smoke that raises voices to heaven like a pleasant sound and aroma to Him. We stand with each other, huddled against the wind coming over the mountains and we are resurrected to new life already and together.

It’s something about community and the call of the church. Perhaps this comes with Pentecost in a fuller way: the Holy Spirit indwelling where he had only once rested upon momentarily. But it starts here: with Jesus come back to life, calming their hearts and restoring to them the reason they had come together to follow in the first place.

So the celebration the next day — after work that drains and saps life because the curse has not yet been stamped out — that celebratory lunch over lamb and vegetables from the hopeful ground restores community, hope for tomorrow’s work and fellowship. And these moments: watching the sunset from a warm front porch, laughing and shouting over a boardgame and cheering to new life in Christ: these are the moments that make Easter beautiful and make Monday bearable as we return to the drudge of a world that is still being redeemed.

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photo is of the ruins at Hill of Slane. Copyright belongs to Wikipedia.

Why: Laity

Last year, I wanted to take the Bibles out of pews. Have you seen that? At some churches, they have these things on the back of every pew that holds hymnals, Bibles and “get to know you cards.” Some places now have these on the back of each chair, or underneath the chair. As a kid, growing up in churches with chairs that folded up and made room for dozens of events throughout the week, with bare feet on hard cement floors and singing along to the words on an old school projector, I thought chairs or pews with built in book-holders were for the rich and old — probably because I usually saw in the churches that supported my parents which were full of old people and ostensibly rich by default (they were sending us money, weren’t they?).

This time last year, I wanted to walk through the aisles of such churches and pluck Bibles out of those holders. I wanted to take Scripture back from uneducated laity. I called a friend — after a hermenuetics class and flipped a lid with her. I was going on about poetry or narrative, about how people misinterpret passages of Scripture that aren’t didactic (such as the 10 Commandments, those are hard to misunderstand). It’s ironic to feel this, given my belief in the “perspicuity” or understandableness of Scripture by everyone (it was a big deal to the Reformers). Eventually, of course, I got over it. I’m even work in youth group now, where kids read their Bibles and misinterpret things all the time — like it’s their whole purpose in life, these kids end up with some weird theologies, trust me.

But last night, I was reminded why we need each other — laity and seminary student.

There’s a food pantry that serves seminary students and “the needy.” E and I go every couple of weeks, it’s good food which is fantastic because sometimes food pantries resort to quantity rather than quality. There’s certain merits to that approach; but it’s nice to have fresh fruit, meat and natural peanut butter. They serve the food in a  way that is incredibly respectful to our dignity, I need this food, seriously. But I never feel I am looked down on for that need. Last night, as they pushed the buggy of groceries out to the car, I had a lovely chat with Sue and Bruce who helped us load the food in the backseat and then asked how they could pray for us in the frosty night air. E, of course, being strong and humble said he couldn’t think of anything specific. I admitted to the woman that I’m struggling to be motivated at school and then I thought I ought to chime in on Ethan’s behalf so I asked her to pray for this house that he’s finishing.

“How should we do that?” she asked me, “I always feel selfish when I pray, you know, because I’m asking for stuff. How should we pray for his house he’s working on?”

I had to think, and think fast because it was frosty cold, my feet were already tingling from the ice beneath my booths and my cheeks were chaffing in the breeze. They were loading the last groceries when I said to her, “Well, I guess it’s more the heart. I mean, we want the house to finish well, and sell well of course. But it’s that I want him to be encouraged, to know that God’s walking with him in this, to know that he’s done a good job. I want him to finish strong, giving thanks, glorifying God. Yeah, I think that’s what we pray for.”

So she did. We held hands, all four of us in that icy parking lot on the windy hill. We bowed heads and that sweet woman prayed over us: for school, for work, for the food they’d just placed in our car.

This is why scholars need laity: to be reminded why we sit in class, research seeming minutiae and scribble our fingers down to the bone.

And this is why laity need scholars: to be reminded of the who, the what, the how we worship and remain in orthodoxy.

Because without one, the other would be lost in endless tracks of unnecessary philosophy and purposeless, too high and mighty to remember what it’s all about. And without the other, the one might fall into error, forget the past, or struggle to pray.

 

As the sky turns dark…

I am finishing off a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

I have to give a shout out to the person that these cookies are for: Daniel Johnson. He’s the one with dark hair who’s not making a goofy face.* He is my computer saviour. Last week I called him when my internet browser kept pulling up chair2porn. I was yelling on the phone: “Daniel! Daniel! What’s happening? I’m on Facebook! Why is there porn? Make it stop!” He laughed, and I’m sure that he was grinning, 1400 miles away, as he explained and coached me to get the mess off my computer. (of course, my dad had to finish fixing it, there’s only so much you can do over the phone) So I’m making cookies for Daniel to say: Thank You!

In the midst of mixing the dough and adding some mystery ingredients not on my recipe, I told Jesus that I needed him to be really clear about some job opportunities that I have coming up. I interviewed at a Starbucks yetserday and I think it went well. I’ll be able to say more on Tuesday. But it’s a huge pay cut from what I’m used to. I also had replied to a family that wanted to interview me as a nanny. Both had upsides, both had downsides. In my arrogance, I assumed** that I would easily get both jobs, or at least, the nanny position. I mean, clearly, that would just come. So I asked God to make it really clear where he wanted me to be, and this (rather large) part of me wanted him to turn me down for Starbucks, because that will be early in the morning and actually be a challenge, whereas children aren’t (and it would be a paycut). Hm, yeah.

Got an email back right after I pulled the last batch out of the oven. Yep. They already filled that nanny position.

At least it was clear. I mean, it was very clear. No. We filled the position. Thanks for your interest. Good luck. Signature. Can’t get much clearer than that. But I sat down in the rocking chair, on top of my purse that glitters with mirrors when the sky isn’t grey and stormy, and I was quite disappointed. But it was clear said a small voice. Yeah, I know, I said back, but it wasn’t the clear that I wanted.

Ah, Matt Chandler is onto something–and so are all the new reformed pastors. My wicked heart! My fickle heart! I asked and even when I received I was ungrateful! Ah me, what a sinner. My fickle fickle heart.

I can’t even eat my sorrows away in chocolate chips, because the cookies have been promised away.

 

*The other is Robb Willett, who is pretty awesome in his own right. But he’s in China which makes it a long distance call, and really, I talk to Robb about scottish drinking songs and awkward jokes–not computer issues. It’s far too sensible a topic for our friendship.

**once again, when you assume, you what? oh yeah, make an “ass” of “u” and “me”

No WAY. Colorado: You are FULL of Surprises

Like the sunsets that are beautiful thanks to the fires raging across the California countryside.

Or like the time that I almost got hit on the highway last night. That’s right little red car, maybe you shouldn’t tailgate. Mmhm.

Or like the fact that I have entirely missed summer and you are sailing straight on into the time of falling leaves and crisp mornings. Bring on the cold!

Or, better yet, like the church I just visited. And the girl I met from Alabama and how she wants to be my friend.

Or the way that being with Caitlin was wonderful–even on my grumpy days.

Or, perhaps best of all, that my “childhood” friend is now engaged! Oh Colorado, is there nothing you can’t produce? Is there no miracle too great? (Not that it’s a miracle, I just can’t believe we are growing up. Sara! You can’t be engaged! Who will I giggle with about boys? We can’t sleep in the same bed in your parent’s basement! There will be someone else in that bed! Eeeek!)

Barely two weeks ago I was flying in after being awake for approximately 26 hours. Criminal Minds was playing loudly in my headphones to keep me awake. I was asking the stewardess for coffee every fifteen minutes and using that itty bitty lavatory every twenty minutes. But I was awake when that pilot cheerfully announced our descent over the speakers. I buckled my seatbelt with two fumbling hands and shoved open that window. I haven’t had a window seat this whole trip, I thought. I’m going to see at least one dang city from the air before I land in it. Thank you very much.

It was chilly and rainy the night I landed. It was like Moscow in Denver. We came down from the cloud cover, wispy and clinging to the wings of the plane that I sat over. And there was Denver in the distance. It glowed gently through the moisture that hung in the unusually damp air. For a moment, I forgot where I was, what language they were speaking on the television, and the baggy sweatpants of hte girl next to me. For a moment, I thought the plane had taken a turn back to the North East or entirely overshot our planned destination.

There was a tower that looked like St. Basil’s through the mist, a little cluster of oddly shaped roofs that sat glowing, red, green, amber and white. A bright red eye blinked at our plane as we tilted towards the west looking down to the ground running fast below our wings. A power plant? Sleeping away the night before belching tons of grey smoke into the morning air? The mountains were no where to be seen, everything looked flat. A highway of lonely cars glimmered like the river just outside the Kremlin wall. In the misty night, with my face pressed against the cold plastic window, I had a glimpse of Russia in my home.

We ground to a halt. The blue lights of the runway welcomed us to the ground, albeit a bumpy landing that rocked the plane from side to side as the tires squealed. It was smoother than the take off from Moscow. When the center crease of the ceiling creaked and I thought for sure the plane would split in half, with me in the center row. I could see it in my mind’s eye, the two halves snapping and flying apart before crashing down to the unforgiving ground below. (1) Compared to such a traumatizingly morbid thought process, our landing was like jumping onto a feather mattress (albeit surprisingly bouncy). We taxied through the empty airport and up to our gate. In the light of the terminal and gangplank being lowered to our aircraft door, I could see ice on the wing below me. Ice. Shouldn’t I have left that behind? Shouldn’t it be hot here? Hot and sunny and painfully dry?

And then I remembered.

I have been gone all summer long.

And I am not going back to Seattle in September.

I am a grown up.

And I have to figure out my life now.

I was overwhelmed. (2)

But a quiet voice said that Colorado would be good to me, the sun will stay though the heat is moving on. Something will turn out. Something always turns up. What do the Amish say? Way will open. He’s out there, you know. I don’t even think I know what that really means. But he is. And someday, we’ll look back on this and laugh. How could we have doubted? How could we have been unsure? Because he always comes through. Shall this be any different? All things work together. Even though they usually don’t work together quite in the way we had planned.

and oh my gosh. Sara Huston is engaged. And it blows. My. Mind.

(1) though Daniel swears a few people have escaped such incidents as have a parachute not deploy, I doubt I would be so lucky.

(2) Job. Car. Insurance. Cell Phone. Housing. Church. Friends. there is soooo much that must come together. But Taylor assures me it will. : )

Privyet!

I am in Russia!

I have been here for two days now. Yesterday we got to the hotel and then went to our interpreter’s house for desert and tea. I have a delightful post about my plane flight and meeting Victor and Svetlana. But that’s on my computer, which, as usual, is dead. Not sure how we’ll charge it, since it’s being grumpy.

Today we met with three directors from various orphanages/homes. It went well, although I must admit I had a hard time focusing when the director would be talking with Svetlana. It’s exhausting not understanding much of what is going on.

We also went to a children’s home today and played with the kids for just over an hour. It was great fun, though difficult as I can’t say anything to the kids. Conversations go like this:

Ever: Sara…… (lots of Russian in high pitched boy’s voice)

Sara: da?

Ever: Da.

Sara: da, da, da

followed by lots of laughter.

There was a good deal of pinching from some of the little boys who apparently don’t understand inappropriate touching yet. When I was yelling “nyet!nyet!” and running away, one of the teachers finally came up and snapped at them. I sat down, so as to protect myself and then was mobbed by children who wanted to sit on my lap. I had three on my legs at one point, all kind of shoving each other. And there were girls playing with my hair, boys trying to give me sunflower seeds straight from the flower, and more kids spitting the sunflower seed husks…. Jim shouted from across the yard (three time before I heard) “Sara, should I send some more kids your way?” Why not…. David came out finally after playing with Sasha who had a brain tumor and is now severely disabled (mostly blind, kind of deaf, etc).  He asked if I need help at one point when I was carrying two kids and one was pinching me. “Niyet–err–no,” I said and put them both on the ground. Holding hands we pranced off to play with some rusty climbing frame.

It’s great fun. Tomorrow we’re going to a “village” that has adopted or fostered several orphans as a community. It’s about a 4 hour drive…. woohoo for sleeping! I am sleepy so much the last two days. Call it the 10 hour jet lag, or the fact that I am trying to pay attention to a language I don’t know. Of course, with Russian drivers, the ability to sleep may be somewhat questionable. Yesterday we played this game that David calls “Pretending the Shoulder is Part of the Road.” I think we won, because we didn’t run into any pedestrians and we passed the bus that was bothering our driver. We also enjoy playing the “run through gaps in traffic to middle of the road, then wait for another gap” game. It’s one of my favorites, it’s even more high stakes than Mexico!

anyway. I should give David back his computer. I don’t know when/if I’ll be able to update again. We’re at a coffee shop right now, which is kind of Seattle-ish, and doesn’t do lattes correctly. 🙂 But they’re trying.

prayer requests: clarity from God, peace, safety, patience with language barrier, energy

love to all.

Last Day!

Today is my last day in Europe. I have woken up late every morning since being in England. I must be catching up on hours and hours of lost sleep since France. I guess it’s not too surprising, the last few days in France I was running on about 4 hours of sleep each night. But I feel a bit sorry to have wasted a few morning hours by sleeping when I could have been breakfasting with Betherina.

My time here has been lovely. Yesterday we walked around town for a bit, then bought some lunch at Sainsbury’s and came home to eat. Jonathan called to let Beth know that the new tele was here, would we be home to help him carry it up the stairs? Well of course, she answered, Shakespearean plays can’t take more than a couple hours. So they got off the phone and we rushed to St. Augustine’s Abbey to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We sat at the top of the hill, munching on pretzels, dried fruit and fresh plump grapes. Behind the little booth stage stood the humble ruins of the old Abbey. King Henry VIII had it torn down during his “reformation.” It was sad to look at the brick arches and low crumbling walls as the players went about their performance. But climbing around the stones afterwards was also inspiring. This is where St. Augustine lived, in an Abbey built for him by one of hte first converts in England. It felt sad to see so much destruction wreaked by the King in his ridiculous desire to break from Rome. But at the same time, it was amazing to see the legacy of stones that twere laid in the 6th century and still stand as a testament to the work of many saints.

Today we are going to the seaside. I’m not sure if that means the Channel or the Atlantic. Probably the Channel since I can hear seagulls from my sofa bed in the early morning hours, and the bus we’ll take doesn’t go far. It’s lovely outside, a slight chill in the air, but the sun is warm and bright. I love being here with Beth. It feels like old times, even when Jonathan is around. Tonight we’re getting pub food so I can “feel English.” I can practically taste the fish and chips already. And then we’ll probably come home to watch more House and Black Adder. Could life get better?

*I ordered Kosher food on the Chunnel because I have been forced to eat a lot of pig products on this trip and as my mother will testify, I abhorr pig (except for very burnt bacon and occasionally sausage). I thought that Kosher was the safest way to avoid such an unfortunate meal. And it was the way to go!

*please pray for safe travel tomorrow and that I am alert. I have to catch a train to London at 645am!

*please also pray for health between now and my trip to Russia. Probably due to lack of sleep I may have a cold coming on and that wouldn’t make ministry very easy in the next few weeks.

Well I guess that Prayer Works

because Eric isn’t dead after having a bull trample him. last night we went to an event in Uzes where they stand in a ringith a bull, try to put rings on his horns, play soccer with the bull running around, and then sometimes they just taunt the beast until he chases them. Then they jump over the fence and stand in the runway around the ring. or they lay down in the pool of water at the center of the ring–becuase bulls don’t like water.

usually.

they also don’t usually jump over the fence.

but last night they did both. They jumped in the water and stomped a couple kids pretty good as well as head butted them. But the most dramatic one was when the bull went after Eric and followed him over the fence. And then kocked him down when Eric couldn’t climb the concrete wall fast enough. And then stepped on him before he somehow managed to scramble away, or someone pushed the bull onwards. But he jumped up, ran back into that rign and made 13 euros for his “bravery”.

I haven’t sworn so much in a very long time. But I was jumping up with the rest of our group, screaming Oh my God, oh my God, when we saw that bull chase him over th fence and take him down. But he’s okay, so all our prayers at devotions for the safety of the group have been heard.

So here’s another one. My “ex” Anthony is sick. He’s lost 20 pounds in a month and has no idea why. He’s going to the doctor today and that’s all I know. Please please pray for him. I’m kind of freaking out. First my mum, now Anthony. But it’s okay, irght? Because Eric is suntanning by the pool and he hardly has a few scratches. So if Jesus put angles around him, surely he can take care of Anthony too.