Thursday, May 29, 2008


You know what is absolutely fascinating to me? This type of person: holds a grudge for years, based on reality or not, and refuses to release people/person who has allegedly wounded them, even when they have asked for forgiveness (yes, I'm on the sidelines watching this one). But it's not simply this TYPE of person-- we all struggle with something like this at some point in our lives, I'm sure.

No, it is not just the struggle to release a grudge, but that out of that same mouth comes praise! How can that mouth both bless and curse? Can we? Can our worship be acceptable? Is it not the height of hypocrisy to blather on about how free or insightful or gifted we are in the place of worship/teaching/missions/ (insert righteous activity here) and yet walk in serious unforgiveness?

That same person scratches his or her head and wonders why the Lord will not release him/her into the fulness of the ministry they know the Lord has called them to. Hm.

Again, I know we all struggle-- but when a man or a woman falls into this trap, it becomes nearly impossible to communicate with them. I've been there-- unforgiveness is a curse and a trap and it stands between us and the Lord. He said, when you have a gift, bring it to the altar, then if something is wrong with a brother or sister, go and make things right with them and then return. Man, we have to stay current on that point. Things can really pile up-- especially when we feel justified. Feeling justified seems to be one of the most dangerous feelings ever when it comes to the subject of forgiveness....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Really, What are we so afraid of?

Of course, by now we all know that I "deal" with pain by creating "death by--" scenarios in my head. I had a close call today-- nearly had a total melt-down on the way to lunch with the English Dept. Called a friend of mine and she talked me back from the ledge-- see, I'm not totally tapped out on friends who are used to my stress-induced death-throes :) Paige and Kristen (and dear Don) indulge me for a few moments, but they know.... And Kristen has real physical woes, and Paige...well, she's a nurse practitioner and knows everything, so I'm completely screwed there. She's always sweet, but I figure, I'm calling her in a panic at 1:45 in the afternoon, right? Her hands still smell like hospital soap as she picks up her cell phone, sounding all chipper and brilliant: "Hey-- what's up?" she says into the phone. "What does it feel like to have a tumor in your forearm? Can you die from a toothache? Is it possible that one of my boobs is bigger than the other? Is that okay?" Paige listens patiently, but it occurs to me that this woman was probably elbow-deep in somebody's chest cavity a few minutes ago, or transporting a lung by helicopter from a cadaver.... Her kindness to me, to listen to me, is overwhelming. I lack perspective, I believe...

But sometimes it's just out of control. So I called Donna-- I called her for something else, but I was surprised when I all of a sudden felt tears sneaking up on me somewhere between the old jail and the former First Baptist church in old town. Seconds. All I can think of is the People magazine article about this girl whose sister had to be a surrogate for her because when she was younger she had a lump in her groin that turned out to be some completely unpronounceable tumor.

So of course, I must have that, too.

Thing is, I have had a certain irregularity, but it has been there for like 2 years. When I mentioned it to (of course) Paige this afternoon, she had to agree with me that, if it was a cancerous tumor "it probably would have killed me already, right?" Something else I accidentally read had to do with angina-- I don't know what that is except that my friend Kenny mentioned it once and I never, ever look at WebMD-- I think his grandfather had it when we were in high school?-- and it had to do with something gastrointestinal and some kind of stomach pain and that loads of people die from it and doctors miss it all the time.


So I talked with Donna for a little while and it was distracting and that was perfect. Lunch with EngDept was fun -- the whole department is a cooky blast, but my brain cranked right back into hypochondria when I got back in the car. My hormones and having cramps don't help (I'm still struggling to figure out how God felt that the hand women were dealt is fair exactly? Not sure I see where men get their share...unless it's being married to us...).

So, gradually my work piled up enough (read: people who were FINISHED with their work came to talk to me while I was trying to figure out percentages-- that's okay, Rachel. I think that's the only math we'll ever have to do) and I forgot about my latest crippling moment. This thing is getting ridiculous, but I have a sneaking suspicion that something good may come of it...more on that another time. Anyway, Caroline actually suggested a good shrink and was totally in earnest, so now I KNOW I need to get a handle on this. It's the first time in 20+ years that I have had someone tell me that I need to get my head shrunk.... I LOVED going to the counselor back in the day, but it's really something when someone suggests that you should seek therapy...

So, I was headed off to bed-- it's late and Don is ignoring me because I made the mistake of bringing Ender's Game home for him to read--when I decided to look at my friend Dana's Facebook page. I noticed that she had joined a group for her sister-in-law, Katie Reider (her brother is Robbie Reider, a worship leader with Vineyard Music), a fantastic folk musician out of Cincinnati. I clicked on it and realized that I didn't even know what a problem was. Please check out her website. This tumor in her jaw has spread to her sinus cavity, taken one of her eyes and robbed her of her voice. If you go to her site, you can read her story and help her cause by donating a dollar to hear her music. And it's worth listening to.

But here's how sick I am: I have had a toothache for almost 7 years (it's just a botched root canal and I didn't have time or dental insurance for a long time) and I'm reading about this sweet woman and suddenly, of course, I have all the symptoms.... Please. No I don't. Ridiculous. Hypochondria sucks. It is the most selfish MIND disease (why am I not mortified and terrified to have a bonafide case of THIS?). Gotta get hold of this thing.

It's funny, though, that I am not so tormented with the monsters that I know for SURE are lurking. Just the "possible" ones. Coward.

And really, what am I so afraid of? Jesus has us... in Him we live, and we move, and we have our being. We really, really do.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More Ella!

My favorite (above). Love this little brother of mine and his little bitty baby girl.


Nathan and Lucy sent more pics of Ella!! And oh my G O S H she looks like Nathan. Amazing. Did I mention that Mrs. Ingle says that babies looking exactly like their dads at birth is God's DNA test? :)

I'll have more pictures of Chandler soon, too-- we just got home from her first birthday party and she was so much fun. I had a blast feeding her, too. I LOVE her at this age. She's jabbering and laughing and flirting-- so sweet. It's amazing to think that she was JUST like Ella this time last year. Meanwhile, I grieve that Ella is so far away from us. Sigh. Pictures will do for now:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Nooma - 014 - Breathe - Pt 2

watch the one below FIRST. This is part 2.

Nooma - 014 - Breathe - Pt 1

(Rob Bell, Nooma 014)

Caroline showed this at church this morning. It was so spot-on, so what I needed to be reminded of, so in the face of the hypochondriatic panic. Breathe Him in.

It must be a tumor

So, I am starting to realize that there is something in my psyche that gets completely freaked out at the possibility of being bored. Yes, friends, school is out and today I am convinced that I have cancer again. It's honestly like clockwork.

And it's marginally funny. I'm at Borders picking out a book for most-esteemed-niece #1-- Wave by Suzy Lee (an illustration to the left here)-- and I broke into a cold sweat in the store. I have cramps-- that's all it is, and I know that I'm being blunt (I'm sorry if that's TMI!), but my point is the fact that I am so predictable!! And I have to kind of laugh, but at the same time I'm in a panic. That same panic: what if you tell yourself it's nothing when you actually DO have something wrong?

How can I manage to be fairly intelligent but believe my own untrustworthy self every time? Puh-leeze.

But lately I've been thinking about the fact that only Jesus can set us free. Only He can save us from ourselves, our minds, our temptations, our fears-- and He says, "All who are thirsty, come to me and I will give you something to drink." Staying away from Him is like hating ourselves. To deny yourself that deny myself the peace that restores's like treating myself worse than I would ever treat another person.

So what does it mean to be a friend to myself? It means giving myself every bit of what I need. Not want, but need. Going to the cross where it can all be found. Making myself sit at the feet of the one-- the only one-- who can give us sanctuary.

Hm. I need to go think.


Sometimes adults are so irritating. Especially those adults who HATE to be disagreed with. I have one of those adults in my life. Not incredibly close, but at close enough proximity to irritate the crap out of me. It's that person who was picked on for years, right, and suddenly they get sick of it and SNAP, they become the world's meanest geek who isn't going to take it any more. Ugh. Why is that always the recipe? Why can't they snap to just plain "person with a backbone" instead of "person with a circus tent up their...." Anyway. I'm completely psyched out about having to disagree with her because she is simply not secure enough to be disagreed with and she will be angry. A N G R Y. And she has no idea. It's like the kids say: "Mrs. Swaney, [fill in the name of someone who is completely unreasonable] be trippin'."

She be trippin' indeed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Last Day...

So today was the last day of school, and I have to say that it's an entirely different experience on this side of the podium. The kids are out of their minds with excitement and full of loads of energy and sudden bursts of affection, while I am so concerned about their grades that I feel physically ill and I am actually angry with a couple of them. We can only do so much, we can only do so much-- another of the mantras of the public school teacher. I can show you food if you're starving, but I can never make you eat it. I can show you water if you're thirsty, but I can't make you drink.

And there is literally no way to bring a 60 up to passing on the last day of school. One of my co-workers experienced that conversation today. A parent actually came with her daughter-- a really good kid-- to see if there was "anything she can do to pass your class." At 2:30. After exams. 30 minutes before grades are due. So, uh... huh? Where were you a month ago? My co-worker is more than reasonable-- but that's kind of ridiculous.

You know, I see it like this: the kids and parents are our clients, so we have to do what we can to help them out, but sometimes I am blown away with the expectations-- unreasonable, unrealistic, irresponsible-- that they seem to put on the people around them (their childrens' teachers, their bosses, the mortgage lender who "tricked" them into a bad loan, etc.). And it's an unusual arena: we deal with every KIND of clientelle. My friend who is a financial planner tends to deal with a certain kind of client. My friend who is a real estate agent tends to deal with a certain kind of client. But public school teachers? "Free and public education." Everyone has a right to it. Bar none.

Anyway, I'm tired. I don't mean to sound so down on the system because I'm not-- I LOVE my job, my boss(es), my school, and my kids. I believe in public education, no matter how much many of the people I admire denigrate it (Neal Boortz, et al.). I love the fact that kids from all kinds of backgrounds can sit in my classroom and have access to the same information and opportunities. Granted, there are times when there can be serious discussions about that...

Okay, time to go breathe. Our school is being painted (YAY!!) so we had to move all of our furniture to the center of our rooms and I'm BEAT! I also HATE the way it looks when it's in transition like that-- it was so depressing to look at blank walls during 7th period. Some of my kids really wanted to help, so I let them pull stuff down and it was bad. Just like a cell block. I looked over at one of the girls who was watching and we both just shook our heads.... DEpressing.

But I should also include a very bright spot: Sweet Sydney brought me flowers!!! :) MADE my day!!! I'm going to miss that kid-- but that's one of the great things about teaching 9th grade: we get to know our kids for 3 more years. Of course, there's at least one kid I could do without knowing, but anyway... flowers! See? They smelled GREAT! Beautiful!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The One-Hit Wonder

You know, there are times when my classroom does actually feel like youth group and I have to consciously adjust my brain to stay in "public school" mode. It's so easy to just sort of fall into conversation with a group of kids when everyone is comfortable and secure, and the temperature is right and the planets are aligned and Saturn's moons are in the house of whatever.... Anyway, there are these really special, magical moments that happen and I think, How in the world can this happen every year for the next 30 years (Or 10, depending on when I win the lottery)? A certain amazing day will happen and it's impossible to figure out just how it happened, what came together so perfectly to where we all sort of looked at each other and had an "aha!" moment. There was no formula that could ever be followed again. One of my mentors, my "boss" in YWAM, used to talk about the fact that we had to really, fully live in the moments when we were praying together as a group because that exact mix of people, that precise combination of hearts and minds and spirits, would never happen again and we were called to pray and think together for such a time as this; to fully exploit right now because right now will never be again. Ever.

Brother Dave said it this way: Some people say "We should do this again sometime," and I say, "We cain't. But we can do somethin' similar."

Anyway, that is only a small part of what I am thinking of tonight. I'm thinking of how beautiful the rain sounded as it started to pound down on our roof tonight and wondering what it sounds like in the house we nearly bought, where we would be tonight if everything had worked out. I'm thinking of the fact that Caroline has a head cold and says that she gets them every year at the end of the year because of the stress of it, and that has me worried because I do not have a cold and that must mean that I'm doing something wrong. You know, Worst Case Scenario Girl. But it's okay because I have this funny mark just under my right eye that is driving me crazy, so of course I think it must be skin cancer like Leisha had in the fall, so that should tide me over until it goes away and I decide to believe that it must be in remission....

But the big thing I'm thinking about is one of my dear friends from high school. I won't say her name here and I'll barely describe her, but the thing I'm thinking about is the fact that she has lost her mind. And I'm not even kidding. That inspired my thinking about my classroom and the nearly-youth-group vibe that happens in there because sometimes they ask me about my past (this serves several purposes for them: a) they're naturally curious, b) it kills serious time if they can get the instructor off task, c) it's fascinating, I think, for them to think of us outside those cement walls-- totally messes with their paradigm). I have nothing to hide, but I always want to avoid glamorizing any mistakes I made, and my past is my "testimony"-- Jesus can't be cut from that story.

So I'm careful. In conversation with them before or after finding out that I spent the first 5 weeks of my senior year in rehab, I discover that I really appear to have been a fairly clean-cut person and I was-- I was also a really, really good liar. I was an addict who wanted my teachers to like me and didn't want to be identified as one of "those" kids who were potheads or sloppy drunks who started fights after school. Our group of friends partied but we managed to make good grades, be liked by our teachers, and go to pretty good colleges (though I had the distinction of flunking out the first go-round). Various drugs and alcohol messed some things up for me, but Jesus bought me, redeemed me, cleaned me up and set my mind at peace again. He rescued me. That's the important part of the story, but not the most interesting to my depraved captive audience with whom I must be incredibly careful (public school). My story ends well: I'm happily married, ensconced in a rewarding career with years of world-travel and fantastic stories of the faithfulness of God under my belt. I have a nice car and am well-read. So see? We can do all the drugs we want to do right now-- we'll sew our wild oats and then work everything out later like you did.

Some of these guys really think this. They really do.

But then there's my friend from high school. I should tell you about her. She was hilarious. She was beautiful and smart and strong and, though she was a year behind me, I admired her. I admired her strength of character-- she wouldn't smoke no matter how I pushed her at parties-- and her strength of humor, even in the face of alcoholic parents who fought viciously and famously-- everyone in town knew it was bad. She nurtured everyone in her life: parents, younger sibling, friends. You name it, she took care of us. She was loud and funny and sharp. She knew what she wanted to do with her life-- she was going to be a journalist or a psychologist, and she would have been fantastic doing either thing. She drove sober when the rest of us drank. She did not permit smoking in her mother's car. She studied a little and made great grades. She was dependable. She was the life of the party. She yelled louder than anyone else at soccer games, but she was as gentle as a nurse with her special needs sister. She was simply one of the most fantastic people I have ever or will ever have had the good fortune to know.

And then she dropped acid at a party.

My friend who had been straight as an arrow, refusing to smoke pot or anything else, had begun to drink heavily in college and let her guard down. I wasn't in Georgia at the time-- I was already in YWAM and living in Oregon. I remember where I was sitting the day she called campus and told me that she had just gotten out of a mental institution. She had taken a hit of acid-- I don't know if the amount she took was too big or corrupted or what (you figure, you've got some idiot making this crud in a lab at Tech and selling to his buddies for beer money. You can't ever tell what you're going to get, right? I don't know for sure if that's where it came from-- it's been some 17 years and that's the rumor I always heard), but it sent her over the edge.

I had always heard that just one hit could be the end for some people. Every time I did it I swore to God that if He let me come down from that high that I would be a missionary (and eventually followed through)-- I was petrified of being that one person who pulled the "bad hit." And here I was on the phone with this friend I had lost track of for about 8 months and she was telling me that it was because she'd been in the hospital working off a bad trip.

The next time I saw her, I grieved like someone had died. And that's the story I want to tell my kids when they ask about drugs. I want to tell them that she dropped out of college and went to live with some scum bag in a roach-infested apartment. That she had been arrested for beating up a family member and was currently on probation for it and that she was supposed to take these meds (I can picture her shaking the white bottle at me) but they didn't do any good so she'd stopped. "What are they for?" "Oh, they figured out that I'm bipolar." Somehow, her disorder was either exposed by this hit of LSD or was provoked by it-- not sure and neither was she. All we knew was that one day she was my lovely friend with an incredible head of hair and the most contagious laugh I had ever heard and the next she was... one of those bystanders on an episode of "Cops." We sat on plastic chairs on the pine straw bedding along her duplex "porch" and listened to the 18 wheelers fly by on the expressway and talked about books and old friends and boys.

I cried all the way home.

I tried for a season to figure out a way to be friends with this new person living inside my precious friend's mind, but it was harder than anything I had ever experienced. Part of it was the change in me-- I had become a Christian and was really different, too-- but she had become hostile and acidic in her wit. She was living with a boy we would never have even eaten lunch with in high school and talking about having his babies. I had lunch with them at Pizza Hut one day and felt like I was in a dream. I remember looking at him and hating him for what he was doing to her. Then I realized that she was an accomplice to it all. She was in love with him or something. Every time we talked on the phone, her emotions ran the gamut. A conversation that began with laughter would end with her on some pointless tirade. It was exhausting and impossible and I think it was hard for her, too. We didn't understand each other any more.

We have kept in light touch over the years since. She has developed a strained familiarity with her disorder, though I suspect that she spends more times off her medication than on, and having worked with students with the disorder I now understand why she does it, though I am no more able to make her take her meds than I was with them: it's personal. They can pick the life they want to live. Meanwhile, they alienate themselves from the people they need and their moods plummet to incredible depths of darkness when the loneliness comes crashing down.

Where is that girl I knew? Is she buried deep under the rubble of that life in there? Or is she gone for good? Has she been permanently squashed under years of building houses on sand only to watch them crash down over and over and over again...? Is she in there at all?

I find myself alternately looking for her and hiding from her. I love her but she terrifies me now. She is so clearly unstable, I do not ever know what to expect from an encounter with her. Our last conversation, many months ago, was bizarre in the extreme: she told me that she had information on a friend that I had been having lunch with a few days prior (she ran into us-- she had never met my lunch date). She said, "Watch that one, Sam. She is definitely after your husband. I can't tell you how I know, but I do. Trust me on this." She didn't know my friend, had only met my husband once, and she was fully dedicated to this delusion. It angered me and saddened me and blew my mind.

This is the story I want to tell my kids when they ask me about "druggin' days." I want to tell them that every glamorous notion they have about drugs is a lie and that they have no idea if they will be the one to buy the bad batch of LSD and end up like my friend; I want to show them my real life before and after-- cool, smart, cute girl turned serious mental case with a personal life that would bum you out if you knew all of the details. I want to make them feel how desperately sad I am to watch her unravel in bits and pieces and be unable to do one solitary thing for her. All because she got drunk at a party and let her defenses down, saying yes to a drug she had always said, "Uh, hell no" to before.

But I'm not sure how to do it in a way that wouldn't take four years to tell. Even now, it's late and I need to go to bed but I can't get her off my mind and I haven't told the story well at all-- it's sadder than this, more horrifying than what I've written. But I'm afraid she'll read this and recognize herself, though I often think that this woman doesn't even recognize her own reflection in the mirror any more.

Her story isn't over-- my hope is that she will live. That something will happen. That she'll come out of her trance. She is currently hiding from everyone, so there's no helping right now. But my permanent and honest testimony is always this: It's Jesus. It's Jesus. He's the only way out. He was my only way out. He can be hers. Oh, Jesus Jesus. Hold her tightly to You tonight and whisper deliverance to her ears. Save her tormented heart...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More ELLA pictures!!

Ella and Marley-- he seems to be studying her to decide whether or not she is a snack or what...
Little gorgeous.
Her imitation of Bill Cosby.
My Bubba is now a Papa.

Mom and Dad-- gorgeous.

Sleeping beauty.
Grandfather. Beauty.
Look at this woman-- she is beautiful.
And again... beautiful little girl.

I just had to post that last one twice... :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Super Chicken - 13-The Zipper

Okay, generally, I hate cartoons. But Super Chicken... my absolute favorite cartoon. It's, well, fabulous. Honestly.

One of the comments under this clip was "Fred was always a retard." Ha! Fred was my favorite. He's kind of, well, again, fabulous. The whole thing is sort of trippy and clever. Unfortunately, I'm no reviewer like my friend Chuck. I just love this cartoon...

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Look at this beautiful child!! She is truly stunning-- more pictures to come-- some even with her eyes open!! These pictures here are from when she was about an hour old!! :)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Baby, baby!!

My newest niece is here!! Her name is Ella and I'm sure she is stunning--- I haven't seen her yet, but she's OURS, so... she must be stunning. I can't wait to see her. I will post pictures as soon as I can, and I need to update pictures of Chandler, too-- she seems to get more beautiful and funny and sweet every time we see her...

Oh my gosh. We have two nieces. I am blessed beyond measure.


Excuses, excuses...

Okay, so I have to post an edited version of a wall post I saw between two professors. Now, it should be noted that I honestly respect these two professors, but it's just hilarious how grown-ups feel the need to defend their love of Facebook or Myspace. I can completely relate: when my little buttheaded students howl with laughter when they find out I have a Facebook account and I just stare at them-- there is NO value in reminding them that you had a Facebook account when they were in 4th grade and that THEY are exchanging wall messages (read: ridiculous drama) with people they see in class every day, while I have reconnected with loads of friends who live all over the world and whom I haven't seen in YEARS. But even then, see? I have to note that I was a world traveler, you know, and THAT's why I use Facebook.... Herewith, a professor who is "studying" Facebook...

Professor [#1], it's COOl that we are facebook friends.I'm very interested in facebook in terms of a language and communication interface. Remind me whenever (?) we have lunch or tea about Enlightenment France/cafe society/facebook 21st century associations. ciao! Professor [#2]

I just love that-- and Prof. 2 probably has some brilliant insights into it, too. Hm.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


You know, I've heard air described as "dripping" with fragrance, but until the last few days I don't think I have experienced it this way-- the weather down south has been amazing, honestly. Warm, not humid, clear-- until tonight, it hasn't been throat wrenching humid or dry, and tonight the atmosphere is packed with rain (though Alabama and Mississippi hogged the good stuff, I see on the news). The wind has been nicely stirring the air to keep us from the oh-so-dependable oppressive humidity, and my yard is blossoming honeysuckle and oak. Grass, trees, flowers-- you can smell it all in the close, green lushness of my back yard. It's like a symphony of fragrances, pulling at my memory like little fingers, reminding me of Peggy Lane and my little house in the back yard and my parents and my father's fire department pager, for some reason.

I remember the first time I tasted a Fresca. My mother was in her bed, reading a book before going to sleep and drinking an ice cold drink from a blue (was it blue? Maybe it was green) can. I don't know why I was back there, but I remember that the windows in their bedroom-- in our whole house-- were open and the sweet summer air was pouring through the windows. She only let me have a taste of the drink and I remember that it frizzied in my nose and it was sweet and tart and I liked it-- it was unlike anything I had ever tasted-- but I never asked for it again. I remember standing beside my parents' bed with the cold can in my hand and the breeze from the window and it makes me long for being a little girl and my mom and dad in the back room and my crazy little sleep-walking brother.

I was thinking today about the way my entire childhood seems to have been crammed full of Jesus. Jesus and the back yard. Most of my memories from childhood center around church and my parents' crazy new-Christian friends; hippies for Jesus, trying to clean up their lives, staying at church and talking about the Lord for hours while all of their children (all different ages) played in the grass in front of whatever building we were in. I see the trees in those yards, bent half with gorgeous leaves perfect for slapping against our palms, making loud snapping sounds. I see fences draped with vines of honeysuckle, pulling them to us and dragging them to the yard-- I always wanted vines of white ones, for some reason-- sitting in the cool grass, carefully pulling the stems out of the middle from the bottom, tipping it to our tongues to catch the tiny drop of sweet nectar there (why is there no honeysuckle juice drink?). We would chew on tiny "bananna" weeds, tangy and tart like the clover cows chewed, and we would drink water from the hose in the back yard, laced with that perfectly clean warmed rubber smell-- the water coming out hot as blazes at first, slowly turning so cold it made your head hurt.

How is it that I have all of those memories at once? How is it that all of those memories dance through my mind and leave that old tugging, longing, in my heart? I love the southland, love the white beauty of exploding crepe myrtles and country roses in the yard, and am so excited that this is the season for picnics and films on the lawn and lightning bugs and the joy of being alive for a reason.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Could it be?

Is it happening again? Oh Jesus, is revival really breaking out again? Is what is happening at Morningstar and in Florida real? Oh, Lord, how I long for those days-- the beauty of those hours laughing and weeping before You in Salem.... let it be, Lord. It looks completely insane-- it looks just like you, Lord... :)

Check it out here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Something I'm thinking about


Also, forgiving others.

I'm not really the kind of person who holds grudges-- I'm sort of forgetful that way. I get over things pretty quickly, though there are some things that stick in my craw (competition, "not enough room for the both of us"-ism, etc.). But last week, my mom and dad and Don and I were having one of those fabulous conversations my family is so good at-- sitting around the dinner table, everyone is finished eating, and the subject of grace or predestination or the rapture or leadership comes up and we're there for four more hours. This time we were talking about the Lord's prayer and that one line, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," came up (which also happened to be the subject of the sermons at CFUMC the next day). Seems that there was some debate in one of Mom's bible studies about that tricky word, "as."

I'm going to go into it a bit more later (because I really do need to clean my house this morning), but here is the sticking point: did Jesus mean "forgive us our debts the way we forgive our debtors"? Hm. Can't be-- I might be, as I've mentioned, fairly sanguine, but I'm still pretty crappy at being really good at forgiving. I'm human. Or does it mean, "forgive us our debts AS [when, at the same time] we forgive our debtors"? Because these two things carry different implications. The latter suggests that WHEN we forgive others, THEN we will be forgiven.

And this makes good sense to me.

Do you remember the story Jesus told about the man who owed a certain amount large amount of money to another man, so he was jailed? He cried out for mercy and the guy he owed money to released him and forgave the debt. And what did the released man do? He went and found someone who owed him money (a much smaller sum), "grabbed him by the neck" and demanded that he pay that debt immediately. When he could not, the released fellow threw this guy into jail. The first guy heard about all of this, went to the man he had released from jail and threw him back in because he had not been merciful. He said, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (Matthew 18:35).

Seems fairly clear to me.

And scary. That if we do not forgive-- and that doesn't mean, "I forgive you. You jerk"-- and completely release the offender from his debt (aigh!!!), we cannot be forgiven.

We forfeit forgiveness.

Now, whenever we see a "so that" or an "if then" verse, there is a corollary. I'll continue with this thinking later... until then, I'm going to listen to Keith Green and clean...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Should On Yourself

I don't remember when I heard this story-- it was so long ago, I can't remember if it was from someone on my DTS outreach or someone else's, but it seems like maybe I heard it from someone else.... Anyway, there had been a speaker talking about the fact that the Lord doesn't hold our mistakes against us and that we should learn to forgive ourselves and get past the things we are beating ourselves up over-- past mistakes, missed opportunities, etc. "Don't 'should' on yourself," was the line that so stuck with the guy who was telling the story.

It was such a new and radical concept, it made a huge impact on the way he was living his life. That's one of the multiple beautiful things about outreach (for those unfamiliar, that's a 6 to 12 week mission trip that follows the lecture phase (12 weeks) in a Discipleship Training School in Youth With A Mission): practical application of...everything. You get an opportunity to take this new, scrubbed-clean life out into the world, an opportunity to serve your butt off in any capacity needed, an opportunity to humble yourself (multiple opps for that)-- opportunities to really put feet to the teachings you've just spent all those weeks gorging yourself on. Done right, it's one of the most important times in any individual's life who has ever done a DTS. Jesus meets you. You meet Him. It's awe-ful and awful and wonderful.

So anyway, the thing about outreach in the late 80's/early 90's was total lack of communication with home. Total. No email, bad-news long distance bills, no internet anything. Primarily, we faxed immediate stuff and the leaders might make one laaaaate night call back to the base once a week-- maybe. When you were gone, you were gone.

But this one guy found a phone (sort of like a group of my friends on my DTS-- we found a payphone outside a hospital in Cancun) and called home, all excited about what the Lord was doing and about how the Lord was revealing Himself to him all over again with that "don't should on yourself" teaching-- but the connection was not so great. Over and over, he repeated this profound thing and his mother, aghast, was trying desperately to understand him. "Don't WHAT on yourself?" "Should, Mom-- SHOULD"-- but it only got worse with each repeated attempt. You can imagine what she thought he was saying.

I don't remember how he straightened it out-- seems like he was able to explain himself in a postcard he sent home, but I always thought the story was funny-- and kind of profound. You know the excitement you feel when the Lord reveals some new thing to you? When suddenly a verse in James comes ALIVE and your heart pounds because you can taste the truth in it and you feel so strongly the presence of the Lord? If you're like me, you can barely stand to sit with it-- you have to go tell someone right that instant. And being sanguine, my expectation is that my announcement-- sharing this amazing revelation-- will be met with the same level of intense excitement that I am feeling. Yippee, Samantha-- and we dance around the room waving our hands and shrieking with laughter over the goodness of the Lord. But somehow, when the words that were revealed to my heart come tumbling out of my lips, something gets lost in the translation. I'm met with, "Wow, that's really neat... [pause] What are you doing for lunch?"

Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.

And it's a little deflating. Suddenly, the excitement gets pushed down in the disappointment that others don't see it like you do. They don't feel it like you did.

But then, lately I've been thinking about that. About my tendancy to just run straight to teaching something new that the Lord has shown me-- I mean, I'm a teacher. It's almost always my first instinct to tell someone else something new, what to do, how to do it, etc. But I think that the Lord wants us to hold onto it sometimes-- like Mary, hiding it in our hearts. Letting it soak into us privately. Letting it cure. Grape juice is good, but it has to sit hidden in barrels before it becomes wine. The juice-- the revelation-- matures, expands, takes on richer texture, when its allowed to sit in our hearts for a while.

So many times, I've run to tell someone when I feel that the Lord has shown me something neat, and lately it's not the fear of being let down by the response of people that has encouraged me to keep things inside-- it's this sense that He wants to ferment something in me. In all of us. That He's cooking something inside of our spirits and wants us to wait, let Him bring wisdom with maturity, and then give us opportunities to share His beautiful words and ideas. I think of all the times He has shown me something and I have gone off in a fit of excitement (pride that He spoke to me? How icky and ironic-- but how immature and typical, too) to tell everyone and I missed the deeper thing that came with waiting. I should have sat still longer.

I want Him to revisit me with those thoughts and ideas. I want another chance to let them grow in my heart.

But He's good, right? So I'm going to take a lesson from that long-lost DTSer and not "should" on myself.