Monday, December 31, 2012

Well, I Did It!

With this last post of the year (which is, admittedly, rather a cheat), I have, in 2012, tied with my second most prolific year of posting on this blog . . . which was 2006!  66 posts of varying subject, quality, and length.  I think that I will never match my "best" year, which was the inaugural year of 2005.  Remember 2005?  When blogs were new and fascinating and all the rage?  Before the vile machinations of the Devil known as social networking came to be?  Blogs were hopping hot spots -- with even lowly folks like your humble blogstress getting lots of visitors and readers and feedback.  The constant back-and-forth really spurred me into action, which is how I managed to write 93 posts in 2005!  Don't think I'll ever see the glory days again -- which is, rather, fine by me.  I am very grateful for anyone who still swings by and reads a bit and even leaves a comment (yes, I'm thanking you, vermonster!).  But, why I post here now is pretty much all for me.  Adorable Trivialities is still a great place for me to let off steam or flesh out a pesky, irritating idea, or banish a demon or two.

So, thank you Blogger for keeping this service open and free and uncensored.  Thank you for bringing into reality G.K. Chesterton's previously impossible-sounding dream: that every man would have available to him his own public forum in which to write and publish the news and views dear to his heart.  It's been a fun eight years of writing, and I hope it lasts at least another eight!

This Will Be My Resolution: To Seize the Day!

Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite singer/songwriter is Canadian wünderkind Carolyn Arends.  And, even though she is pursuing a Master's in Theology, she still manages to write very good and thoughtful songs and essays.  She has not gone Theron Ware yet, and I pray that she manages to complete her studies unscathed by the sad disillusion that overcomes so many who grapple with the deep from these shallows.  If anyone can dissect the butterfly's wing and not destroy the beauty, it's Carolyn.  But, I'll feel better when she's achieved her goals and gets back to the business of answering Art with art.  

That said, one of her most well-known songs from the 1990's is "New Year's Day."  That song's been playing in a loop in my thoughts today, as it does every December 31.  So, while my main resolution will accord with the song's chorus (namely, to make every day New Year's Day), I still would like to offer up a list of goals for 2013.  Maybe, by penning them in such a public forum, I'll actually keep one or two this year.

1. To get my finances in better shape.  I need an overhaul in my operating system.  The time is now. 

2. To sell my car and go forward on two wheels or two feet.  I hate to drive; I'm not good at driving; and my car mostly sits and takes up 1/2 of the garage.  I could easily survive, nay, thrive without a car, and so I will.

3. Finish my first novel.  Doesn't matter if it ever gets published or even read by anyone outside of my family and friends.  I just have to finish it so that I can . . .

4. . . . Go to bicycle mechanic trade school!  I promised Jason and Flicka that I would not go until I had finished my book; but, oh how I long to learn this trade!  I have always enjoyed working with my hands -- and, knowing what I know now, wish I had gone to trade school years ago instead of college.  It's time for a second act in my life, and that act will involve fixing bikes.  Yay!

5. Plant a better vegetable garden.  My half-hearted attempts these past couple of years were lame and depressing.  This year, I want to do it right -- which means putting in a bit more effort in learning about growing veggies in the Northwest.  Thankfully, there is just the book for neophytes like me: Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades

6. Run the Seattle Half Marathon in under 2 hours.  Or, maybe, the Seattle Marathon in under 4!  My real goal is to run a marathon by the time I turn 40, so I have another year and slightly more than a half to do that.  But, who knows?  This running thing has taken off for me -- and I love setting and achieving new goals!

7. Do a triathlon.  Just a small one.  Maybe the sprint that takes place at Lake Meridian

8. Write an advanced German curriculum for Sadie.  She'll finish up Second Year Elementary German this year.  I want to introduce her to more complexity than her online course has provided.  So, I bought a couple years' worth of high school German textbooks and will develop a curriculum based off of them.  Viel Spaß mit Deutsch!

Here are a couple of things I'm looking forward to in 2013 (which I think will end up being, overall, another fairly miserable year -- not to be a gloom-and-doomer, but rather a realist):

1. Our trip to London in March!  Jason's been hoarding Hilton Honors points for years -- and now he's blowing a whole stack of them on our first family adventure off the North American continent.  We're non-revving, too, which means that, even with the crapulence of the American dollar, we ought to have a few pennies left to enjoy 10 days in the Land o' Literature.  This is Sadie's big birthday extravaganza, so we'll be heading to the Warner Bros. Studio in London to see where they filmed the Harry Potter movies.  Because he loves me, Jason is also allowing for at least one day trip outside the city to an Austen-oriented outpost.  Ought I to choose Bath or Chawton?  And how fun it will be to visit the replica Globe Theatre and get a sense of the Bard's world!

2. We're getting a dog!  Sadie finally wore Jason down.  I used to be against getting a dog, too, until I started running.  Seeing all the happy people with their canine companions jogging jauntily about made me rather lonely in my solitary slogging.  So, I changed my mind first -- provided we get a pup with long enough legs to keep up with me for miles at a time.  Then Jason, realizing that everything has gone to hell anyway so why should he stave off any longer the particular ring of perdition that dog-ownership would be, at last affirmed that he, too, would not be opposed to welcoming a four-legged member into the family.  When we get back from London, we will pursue this goal seriously.

3. Spending time with my friend Flicka.  I don't know when I will spend time with her and her absolutely amazing family.  I just know that I will.  So, I'm looking forward to it. 

4. Teaching Sunday School.  Out of all the good things in my life (and there are too many to count), teaching the munchkies on Sundays is one of the very sweetest.  Here is the latest example:  In the middle of preschool worship yesterday, little Sawyer (age about 3) sidles up to me and whispers, "I was wondering if maybe you would like a hug."  I whispered back, "I always want a hug."  And so, small arms were promptly placed about my neck with a hearty squeeze.  Don't tell me that anything this world has to offer is better than hanging out with children.  Sarah Smith of Golders Green and Jesus both knew it well.

Happy 2013, everyone!  I hope that this year brings you unexpected joys and manifold blessings!  And may God help us all.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I am Jonah

Jonah is my favorite Old Testament book.  Does that surprise you?  Well, I have my reasons, and I am ready in season and out of season to give a defense of my overlooked and under-appreciated Jonah.

From Jason Davis's website
Even though it’s classified with the "prophets," Jonah is more of a straightforward narrative.  And what a rip-roaringly good tale it is! I love that Jonah starts out right away with his disobedience. That comforts me. Here is Jonah – a prophet of God. He lives in daily communication with the Most High. Yet, when God tells him to do something he doesn't want to do, Jonah runs away like a little monkey boy. Here I am – God’s daughter through Christ. I live in daily communication with the Most High through His Holy Spirit. Yet, when God tells me to do something I do not want to do, seven times out of ten, I cower and whimper and try to avoid Him. But, even I am not so foolish as to think that a sea cruise to Tarshish will get me away from the presence of the Lord. But, Jonah does – which is funny. This is a very funny book.

So, here we have Jonah, riding on a boat to Tarshish, where he has convinced himself that the Lord will never find him. We all know what happens next: God sends out a giant storm; the pagan sailors freak out, start throwing cargo overboard, and pray desperately; their gods do what they can do – which is nothing; Jonah's snoozing down in the cargo hold. The sailors rouse him with cries of "Hey, you! Get up and call on your God that He may consider us, so that we may not perish!" See, God is not only interested in getting through to Jonah, but to these sailors as well.
Jonah arises and plays it cool. The sailors decide to cast lots to see for whose cause the trouble of the storm has come upon them, and the lot falls on Jonah. He sings like a canary. "I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land!" The sailors are even more terrified. As the storm rages, they start haranguing Jonah -- "What should we do with you who have caused this calamity? Why have you done this to us?" So, Jonah tells them to toss him overboard.

 I like that the sailors do not want to do that. They try repeatedly to row toward land in order to save Jonah. They seem like decent fellows.  Finally, they give up and give in, praying that the Lord will not hold Jonah's death against them. They throw him in the sea, and the storm instantly ceases. The men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows. God uses Jonah's disobedience to draw a whole crew of pagan sailors to Him! What a good and crafty God!

Who doesn't like the next part? Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Three things stand out. First of all, God is so startling and creative. Who else would have thought of a fish? Also, He is kind.  That rascally Jonah, all grumpy and hard of heart, was running away from God and essentially giving Him the raspberry. Does God strike him down and find another prophet to do His bidding? No. God is infinitely patient with Jonah. Patient, but not without delivering a bit of comeuppance to His wayward servant. Jonah was stuck in a fish, after all. Lastly, it is significant that it was for three days. Three days, Jonah sat in that fish’s belly, breathing in the noxious fumes of decaying sea life, bathed in stomach acids, pouting and gnashing his teeth in rebellion. It took Jonah three whole days to decide that God was God and he had some repenting to do. I know I’m stubborn, but I ain’t got nothing on Jonah!

From Ford
At last, the old reprobate decides to call upon the Lord for deliverance. He repents and promises to fulfill his vows and be a good boy from now on. So, the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Nice! Of course, there was no hot shower and fresh set of clothes waiting for Jonah on the beach. Picture him with me, will you? Hair and beard plastered with regurgitated stomach acid and half-digested remnants of seafood; his headpiece all askew; his clothing reeking of things too nasty to contemplate. Without skipping a beat, the Lord says, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." So, stinky old Jonah trudges his way to the city and walks about it crying, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

God, whose wisdom is deeper than anything man can fathom, had a very good reason for not letting Jonah get freshened up after his gastrointestinal sojourn: the pagan people of Nineveh worshipped both the fish goddess, Nanshe, and the fish god, Dagon. They were riveted by the stench and convicted by the revelation of a God who could control so easily the mighty beasts of the sea. Jonah's humiliation was used by God as a vehicle for the Ninevites' salvation. They believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth. The king himself sat in ashes and sent out a decree commanding that everyone turn from wickedness in the hope that God would relent and turn away His fierce anger. Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

 So far so good -- a nice feel-good story with an amusing fishy twist. But, that is not the end of Jonah. And it is for the end of this book that I hold it in such esteem, because it reveals so fully the long-suffering goodness of God, and, to my discomfort, drives home my own tendency toward hardness of heart. You see, Jonah got angry with God, specifically because of His mercy toward Nineveh. There is a darkness in this that is almost too awful to contemplate, because it is too familiar: I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!

To which the Lord mildly replies: Is it right for you to be angry?

Though I don’t think I’ve ever been this extreme, there is residual hardness in my heart –though I know well my own hopeless cause outside the blood of Christ – that makes me understand Jonah’s words too well. It is a hidden, visceral understanding that I’m ashamed to acknowledge. I know it's there, and God knows it's there. And I praise God mightily when He responds to Jonah (and thus to me) with an incredulous, but gentle, "Is it right for you to be angry?"

What does our prophet do next? He goes up onto a hillside overlooking Nineveh, hoping yet to see the wrath of the Lord consume the evil city. I know God is Spirit, but I still see Him shaking His head at this; don't you? Again, though, instead of smacking Jonah down, God provides mercy. He causes a plant to grow up, shading Jonah's head from the harsh sun. Jonah takes this gift as his due, but it does not cause him to reconsider his hatred of Nineveh. I am convinced that that is the reason that God next prepares a worm to chew up the shading plant and cause it to wither. So, the wind and the sun beat down upon Jonah, nearly causing him to faint.

Jonah begins to whine again: It is better for me to die than to live! God replies, Is it right for you to be angry about the plant? The prophet, clueless as ever, avers, It is right for me to be angry, even to death! I love Jonah’s honesty in recounting to us a story that never casts him in a good light. And, even though he is wrong, wrong, wrong throughout this whole narrative, he never loses faith that he can be completely himself with God and yet still be loved by Him. Jonah keeps up the conversation, and he trusts that God will continue to abide with him.  And so, in the face of Jonah's whining and anger, God delivers His heart's cry:

You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left -- and much livestock?

The end of Jonah always makes me cry with self-awareness of how small I am in stature and spirit. I like to think that Jonah cried, too, at the piercing revelation of his own failings to mirror the great and good heart of the God he served. The narration stops abruptly after God's rebuke. And that is the last reason that I love this book. Because, that is life, isn't it? It does not consist of episodes that end tidily with an over-arching thematic denouement. All each story in a life can end with is the goodness of God proclaimed yet again, because it is the only stable element of the human condition. We are bad people learning to serve a holy, good, and wholly good God. And so, though I believe that Jonah did repent again, because he did, after all, write out this adventure for posterity, I do not know for sure how he replied to God. And, by leaving the story as he did, Jonah was telling us that what he said or did after that was not important. God's love, God's mercy, God's grace -- those were final words of this amazing tale.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Sweets of Springtime

In one of L.M. Montgomery's Emily books, Emily and her Cousin Jimmy spend time on wintry days poring over seed catalogues and planning out their garden.  I can highly recommend this activity.  While I do love winter, there is something rather sweet about gazing out on your sleeping garden -- desolate and withered -- and then turning to a gardening catalogue, whose robust, vibrant photographs of potential bounty verily drive the grey away.

I received a new catalogue yesterday from a company called Burpee.  They're out of Pennsylvania.  Right smack dab on the cover was the largest tomato I have ever seen (Shown actual size! -- each tomato, they claim, weighs in at 2 lbs., 5 1/2" tall, 5" wide!  Holy moly!).  Ah, now that was a bit of exquisite torture.  Tomatoes are perhaps my favorite garden fruit.  I have been known to munch my way through several a day -- especially when they're in season; especially if I can snag a few harvested from a friend's garden.  They are one of the foods that really taste discernibly better when they are grown at home.  Alas, alack, I have no talent for growing them.  In part I blame the lingering drizzle of the PNW that covers my garden all the way up through the middle of July and then returns toward the end of September.  Tomatoes need a childhood drenched in sunshine.  Yet, my neighbor across the cul-de-sac manages to harvest enough to share every year.  He must have a sunny spot . . . or just the knack. 

I do not think I'll ever get a satisfying batch of tomatoes until I get a Grow Camp.  So, there's the dream: Sell the car; buy a Grow Camp!  Or, maybe my studly carpenter husband will build me something similar (but prettier).  He's already planning on building me a Rabbit Mansion for our buns for my next birthday (in September -- I like how he realistically gives himself a lot of time).  He's built me a compost bin and Sadie a treehouse already.  You know, as much as I love Mr. Darcy from P&P, I think I've always loved Almanzo Wilder from the Little House books a bit better -- because he built Laura a house (with an awesome pantry!!).  Something so delicious about a man who can build things.

An easy carpentry project for Jason will be to make a couple 4'X4' raised cedar beds for Sadie in the spring.  She's going to start her own little garden, into which she insists she will put a plastic flamingo.  Kitschy!  So, I think I'll have a buddy with whom to mentally devour all the gardening catalogues that come our way this winter.  Here's to knowing that spring will come, that spring will always come!  Happy garden dreaming!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Phor Phans oph Phantastes

Beware the Alderwood!
And the Alderwood Mall!
(But mostly Southcenter Mall!)
If you have read George MacDonald's faerie romance, Phantastes, you'll know what this song is all about!
The Anodos* Song
(For Flicka)
Verse 1:
Are you weary wanderer?  Are you tired and footsore?
Do you want to lay down your pack and not wander anymore?
Is the road before you lost in fog? Are your markers all unclear?
Rest assured, dear wanderer, there's a reason He's brought you here.
A great good is coming, is coming, is coming to thee, o Anodos.
May you know that good is always coming.
Though it seems like evil now, someday you'll surely bow
And confess that His good was always coming.
Verse 2:
Do you wish that you had not been placed on this path so labyrinthine --
Wanting to unhear the things you've heard and unsee the things you've seen?
Does your world feel like a grammar book, 'cuz you find your present tense?
And your past is so imperfect?  And your future does not make sense?

When the lines blur between fantasy and reality
And you search in vain for good
You're just confined by time and a limited capacity
To see things as you should
Verse 3:
So you ask me how do I know that these things I say are true?
Well, my name also was Anodos when I was a wanderer, too.
I walked wonder-filled and tempest-tossed 'til I crossed that great divide,
Just to find that I was never lost when I reached the other side.
Chorus 2:
A great good was coming, was coming, was coming to me, o Anodos.
I can say that good was always coming.
Though I called it evil then, when I saw with eyes of men,
I know now to have been good always coming.
Repeat original chorus.
UPDATE: Got all the chords!  Wrote the bridge!  Huzzah!
*Anodos = "pathless" or "ascent" in Greek -- connoting a seeker of enlightenment.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The UnChristmasy Christmas

Tree and hall are decked and resplendent in their seasonal glory.  The stockings are hung from the mantel with care.  Candy and baked goods overwhelm the kitchen table.  Sadie is beside herself with anticipation.  And I am still not really feeling Christmasy yet.  I guess that's because there is an unsettling combination of the usual and unusual in our holiday celebration this year.  Also, I've been combating a highly uncharacteristic lingering depression over the state of the world.  Pollyanna won't come out to play this Christmas.  Sigh.  But, as Bing would advise, I'll count my blessings, instead of sheep, and list out to soothe my troubled spirit the strange and commonplace of this particular Christmas season to, perhaps, convince myself, that unusual does not mean unblessed.

The usual: I'm late in getting presents sent out.  This is why God (and procrastinating and/or inundated humans, I'm convinced) created the 12 Days of Christmas.  So, my heartfelt apologies to those still awaiting their annual partridges and pear trees from Western Washington.  It is not lack of love, but lack of time that leads to my tardiness.  Who knows?  You may just find the bean in your Twelfth Night cake!

The unusual:  My parents are not coming to visit this Christmas, leaving the house (and downstairs fireplace where they sit yearly struggling to warm themselves in our deliciously chilly Northwest abode) strangely empty.

The usual: We'll be going to Christmas Eve candlelight services tonight at our wonderful church.  Golly-gee, I hope it's traditional again with Scripture and old-fashionedy Christmas hymns.  Sometimes they mix it up with more modern stuff -- and, frankly, the more modern stuff (which invariably includes the wretched "Mary Did You Know?" and insulting "Breath of Heaven" -- two of the worst modern Christian Christmas songs EVER) sucks the holy life out of Christmastide. 

The unusual: I could not find a Carolyn Arends Christmas concert anywhere, which totally bums me out.  I'll be happy when she's done with her graduate studies and gets back into the business of making glorious music.

The usual: I have made so many Butter Caramels that I don't care ever to see one again until next December.

The unusual: We have to be back at church tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM to help out with the Community Meal.  Since my folks are not out, Jason thought this would be a worthy use of our time on Christmas Day.  As Jane Austen might say: he is only too good for me.  My natural inclination on a lonely Christmas morn would be sleeping in and imbibing a whole pot of coffee, perhaps laced with whiskey.  Jason is more noble than I.

The usual: We watched Elf

The unusual: We also played over the course of several nights a new computer game called Christmas Stories: The Nutcracker.  It was excellent, and I highly recommend it!

The usual: There is a honey ham in our fridge, awaiting a thorough heating tomorrow afternoon.

The unusual: I will probably go for a 6-mile run tomorrow afternoon while that ham is heating.  Who knew that I would ever include that on a Christmas Day?

The usual: It's grey and cloudy and rainy and altogether satisfyingly gloomy to match my downbeat attitude.  Though, to be fair to my beloved Northwest clime, I do in general love the wintry wetness.  But, if you're in a mood to growl at the world, seeing shades of grey outside your window helps.

The unusual: The weather forecasters are teasing us with maybe, possibly, don't-take-it-to-the-bank-but-we're-just-saying-it-could-happen snow for Christmas Day.  That would be awesome, despite what Jason (scarred by a childhood in South Dakota) might say!

Ah, but at this moment, "O Holy Night" is pouring out of my radio (KING 98.1 FM) -- a particularly gorgeous instrumental interpretation.  And, despite my misgivings and general grouchiness, it will, indeed, be a holy night.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On the Eve of Destruction

Paging Barry McGuire . . .
The headlines of the day on my Comcast Homepage:

Iran: We Can Copy Captured U.S. Drone »

Do you see it, too?  Did you ever think it would come to this?  Oh the horror!

Crazy Iranians -- yawn.
Image: North Korean scientists work as a screen shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket being launched
Crazy North Koreans -- yawn.

And they say the doomsdayers who watch the Mayan calendar and the stars are full of baloney.  As for me? I'm staying inside on December 21 . . . under the bed . . . with my teddy bear . . .
Pope Benedict XVI pushes a button on a tablet at the Vatican on Wednesday to send a tweet from his new personal account.
OMGoodness!  The Pope at 140 characters or less! 
Why, your Holiness?  Why?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Our Great Cosmic YES!

There are two things I learned early on about prayer. The first is that we pray not to change God, but to change ourselves, so that we can be more ready for and more receptive to what God will do. The second is that God answers every prayer, but sometimes that answer is no. Recently, I have experienced the unsettling paradox of having some of the richest, most fulfilling prayer times of my life coupled with answers from my Father that were almost exclusively, "No." Loving, gentle, embracing no’s they were; but a no is a no is a no, and that can be hard. I cannot change God; but, these difficult times of prayer have changed me. And it is a good thing, indeed.

 As a believer, I am called to pray without ceasing.  As a frail human and constantly redeemed sinner, I fail at this calling.  However, I know there is one perfect prayer to pray whenever I cannot find the strength or will to pray anything else: Father, Thy will be done. So, I pray this as unceasingly as I can.  It is the ultimate prayer of trust; and, as hard as it is to let go of my own ideas about what God's will ought to be, it is the most freeing one I can fathom. His will is perfect; ergo, His will should be done. Something that I know is true, but sometimes have trouble believing, is Jesus' encouragement at the end of the Parable of the Persistent Friend: So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Luke 11:9-10). Ah, but these recent days have been full of asking, seeking, knocking, and no. Or have they been? In a struggle to understand that has both exhausted and edified me, I was not left unfulfilled.  For, while my specific prayers may be met with no after no, my meta-prayers have already been given a great, cosmic Yes in the person of Jesus Christ.

What in the world do I mean by meta-prayer? The prefix "meta" is Greek, and it is used to indicate a concept which is an abstraction from another concept that is used to complete or add to the latter. The Greek word can mean several things literally; my translation in affixing it to prayer would be "beyond." So, meta-prayers are the prayers that are beyond that about which we pray. That is, we may have very specific requests or issues that we bring before God when we meet Him in prayer; but, beyond what we even know we are asking and saying are our meta-prayers. These meta-prayers are the unspoken words of prayer: Are You there, Lord? Do I matter to You, Lord? Is there any purpose in this at all, Lord? Can You provide my every need, Lord? Are You really who You say You are, Lord? Can I trust You, Lord? We so rarely dare to speak these questions aloud, but they are there. And to those questions — questions we most need answered simply to exist day-to-day —— we have received our cosmic Yes.

Prayer is a gutsy and almost unfathomable thing.  We, bound by time and weighted by substance and sin, seek and engage in fellowship with the Most High. When I stop to think about it, I am always reminded of that part of Psalm 139: such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Were it not for my Yes, would I dare to come so boldly to His throne? It is because of this Yes that Paul could confidently write one of my favorite passages about prayer: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Note well, in that passage from Philippians: Paul does not say to make our requests be known to God and He will be our magical genie and give us everything we want. One need only look at lottery results or sick children in hospitals, or pain and trouble all around to know that on this side of the veil, many prayers will be answered No. But this we are guaranteed: our sincere and constant prayers will bring us His peace, which is what we need, and better – how we must believe it to be better! – than anything we want. Paul, himself, was no stranger to no. I find comfort in his words from 2 Corinthians about his struggle against a mysterious (to us) "thorn in the flesh" about which he pleaded three times for the Lord to remove. The Lord replied, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul writes in triumph that he takes "pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress for Christ's sake." Would that my own response be so filled with trust to my own replies of "no"! The weaker I am, the stronger I am in Him. Father, Thy will be done.

There are so many other biblical examples from which to take heart of mighty men and women of God who have had to face the answer "no." Job wanted to put God on trial for his sufferings; God said, "No," and then gave him a "yes" in the revelation of His glory and restoration of His servant. David wanted God to spare his illicitly-begotten son's life and fasted and prayed; God said, "No," and the boy died. But, He reaffirmed His "yes" promise to David's line in the birth of Solomon. Jeremiah, troubled and oppressed by the sin of his people and the coming wrath of his Lord, would pray without hope and receive every no he expected.  But, God said yes to the future renewal, regeneration, and return of his people, and Jeremiah clung to those promises, even as he wept.

So, when I pray for a rescue of an unrighteous, rebellious nation that bows before even darker gods than Molech, God must say, "No, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, for when they do evil, then they rejoice." But He has said to His children scattered across a wide and treacherous globe, "Yes, I will guard your hearts and minds through difficult times; be anxious for nothing. I will bless My remnant in the lands of their captivity." Father, Thy will be done.

When I prayed that an injury that would keep me from participating in an event I had long anticipated would be lifted immediately, God said repeatedly, "No. Your timing is not My timing." But, He also said, "Yes, I can heal and will heal everything in your life, even and especially the things you do not know are broken. And I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Father, Thy will be done.

And when I pray that a stubborn and unseeing earthly father will have his heart softened and humbled and come to know the living God through some spectacular Road to Damascus moment, God says, "Dearest, do you not know that this man has seen everything necessary to believe? That he has seen far more than many who came to believe?" But, He also says, "Yes, you can trust Me. It may not turn out how you thought it would; but know that I am Father to the fatherless." Father, Thy will be done.

And, in dealing with the frustration, confusion, and heartache of no, I hope that I never forget from what broken and bloody and beautiful circumstances my cosmic Yes has come.  For, in that Garden so long ago, sweat and blood dripping from His brow, Jesus prayed a fervent prayer: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. That cup — a cup of scorn and mocking and torture and death — the very heart of the darkness of sin to be drunk by the source of all Light . . . at that moment, not even our very God incarnate could countenance the horror. But, our Lord and Savior continued, Father, Thy will be done. And when His will was done over those unspeakable hours on the cross, the Father looked upon His Son — can you not see the sorrow and pain and endless love in His eyes even now across the millennia?  and said, "No."

And that silent, deep, terrible No became our joyous, cosmic, eternal Yes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Life is a Curious Thing

There is really no such thing as a dull life, you know.  Each person lives an adventure of unimaginable proportions, if only he would wake up enough to relish it.  Things are constantly moving, changing, happening!  Yes, even -- and maybe especially -- in the 'burbs.  The suburbs are the closest thing nowadays to those quiet English villages where tragedy and comedy lay together uneasily under the seeming calm surface, waiting only for an eye keen enough and a hand sure enough to bring them to life on paper.  Jane Austen knew well that 3 or 4 families in a country village is the very thing to explore and mine for all the drama, pathos, hilarity, and complexity of the human experience.  These villages and suburbs are places where you actually know your neighbors; where folks are settled longer than a one-year lease; where pets and kids and falling leaves blur property lines and vex calm tempers; where malcontent simmers constantly with occasional amusing bubblings over into rage.  Here we are all together, the village or modern suburb says, and we must learn to live with each other. Yes, this we must do, even when our kids get drunk and drive their cars onto neighbors' lawns and then abandon the vehicles without so much as a howdy-do to the surprised and confounded homeowner.

OK, not my kid.  She's only nine -- and I hope and pray she will never make such a series of bad decisions that would lead to her driving while intoxicated, missing a left turn onto a road, careening her Thunderbird coupe over a 3-foot-tall bush into someone's front yard, making an deeply-grooved tire-tread arc on the lawn, and then, for a grand finale, smashing the driver's side headlight into that unfortunate neighbor's tree.  And, should she be so ridiculously misguided as to perpetuate this reckless scenario, I do hope that she would never be so craven as to exit said vehicle post haste and skedaddle her way home on foot without any sort of attempt to let the homeowner know what outrage has come to pass in his front yard.

As you may have guessed, this is -- as close as I can reconstruct -- an actual event that took place Monday night in this hotbed of human frailty and absurdity known as the suburbs.  What I know is this: sometime between 6:15 PM, when Sadie and I walked home after missing our bus to her dance class and crossed our front lawn to get to our front door and 6:45 PM, when Sadie and I pulled out of the garage to drive to dance class instead, some idiot crashed his (formerly very nice) car into our front yard.  And it was completely in our front yard -- none of this half on the street or sidewalk nonsense for our ambitious drunk driver.  Our front yard is completely lined with bushes and trees, so he somehow jumped a bush (taking with him a good chunk of its foliage) and nicked an ornamental plum tree on his way in, then came to his ignominious stop with his car's front end firmly lodged into another ornamental plum before his poltroonish exit, stage right.  And he never even rang our doorbell to see if anyone was home.

(Now, you may ask, as the policeman did, how it was that I managed not to hear this extravagant exercise in dastardly driving, since I was home the entire time.  Well, I did hear a screeching of tires while I was gathering laundry sometime close to 6:30 PM; but, our house is situated on a particularly ill-planned intersection with several blind spots, so the screeching of tires is a common enough occurrence that I thought nothing of this particular instance.  Plus, Sadie was listening to her Narnia audiobooks rather loudly, so that also impaired my ability to hear whatever mischief was afoot --awheel? -- outside.)

So, instead of dance class, we had a very interesting evening with police and security and a tow truck driver and a poor, haggard-looking old man to whom the car belonged.  Every problem he has had with his extremely troubled and troublesome son was written on his face.  Apparently, this was not the first time police had come knocking on his door.  And so, there you have it: comedy and tragedy, inseparable, inexhaustible, in secula.  That's the 'burbs for you.