The Glass Darkly

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Faith for God's Vision

Oh to have the faith of Joseph . . .
Who, given "dreams" from the Lord, accepted them as God's mysterious promise . . . Who, when questioned and ridiculed by his brothers, trusted God's call . . . Who, betrayed and sitting in a prison cell -- even for many years, based his value not in himself, but in the One who saved him . . . Who, not looking for hope in his circumstances, held fast to the hope in the future fulfillment of God's vision . . . Who, because of his faith, could see God's hand and was quick to follow God's lead.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Prayer of Assurance

Gardener God,

You have planted and protected us by your faithful hand.
Send us the sap of your grace from Christ, the true Vine,
and make us blossom and bear the fruit of love
as a sign of your life in us.
Let the sweet fragrance of the shoots you have planted
give you praise forever and ever.

-- Pilgram Marpeck, 16th century Anabaptist leader

Monday, June 16, 2008

Peace by Force

Last evening Karissa gave a presentation of her semester spent in the Middle East. Thank you, Karissa, for your reflections on what you observed, namely, the Israeli-Palestinian situation. As we looked at the players involved, including the United States, and the role of Empires in that region over thousands of years, it certainly does beg the question, how are we being Christ-followers in our attitudes, responses and lack thereof, here in the 21st century? And how are we living as Christ within the current Empire?

Your presentation and personal response reminded me of a quote by Albert Einstein:

"Peace cannot be kept by force.
It can only be achieved by understanding."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Mystery of Love

I was saving this post as a thank-you to my husband for our anniversary next month, but I changed my mind as we sat as a family today at lunch. We don't usually do much for our anniversary. It comes and goes and we might go out to eat, but I realized today just how much more I appreciate our marriage with having children. My husband returned home from a week-long work-related trip in the wee hours this morning, yes, Father's Day. And today our children were very excited to take daddy out to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch. Yes, Father's Day is another one of those "Hallmark Card" days, yet, I really don't ever want to take for granted my husband's role in my life and that of our family.

Love is truly a mystery. Our wedding verse was from Proverbs, "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." I am so thankful I found someone who loves the Lord and desires to keep Him central in our marriage. I continually stand in awe of this man who, even knowing all about me, including all my
idiosyncrasies and irritating traits, still loves me and remains my best friend. After 14 years of marriage, he is still committed to finding new ways to support and encourage me and the family; and he has even gotten to the point that he throws in a surprise here or there. He is quick to forgive and is dependable. And as far as the parenting thing -- I made it clear from the start that we were going into it as partners, for I knew I could not do a good job on my own. My children would lose some wonderful nurturing without their dad. He provides stability and is a loving father. We work together on just about everything and I am glad to have someone who will give me honest feedback and input. Life would be very lonely without him.

So, this is a prayer of thanksgiving:
thanking the LORD
giving me a wonderful husband
and father of our children,
and for remaining the Central Cord
of our marriage.

Love is truly a mystery.

Happy Father's Day and thanks for 14 wonderful years of marriage!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Adaptation Reflections in Light of Incarnational Living

Adaptation is one of those abstract nouns you can't detect with your 5 senses but its reality makes life a lot easier and survival more sure for all living things. There are many indicators of adaptation which we can see and feel, but adaptation is more like a state of being than something concrete. Humans depend on it for both living processes as well as maintaining order in society and cultures. I always have been interested to see how culture demands conformity and conformity is really a form of adaptation, things you need to do to survive in a particular context.

Whenever I have moved to a new place or new experience, of course adaptation was necessary and in most cases I was unaware of my own adjustments. Perhaps I was most acutely aware of this dynamic when I moved to SE Asia, when every fiber of my being was stretched, challenged and evaluated 24/7. I knew I wanted to adapt and I did everything I could think of to help the process along in ways that were authentic. In this case, I felt adaptation was good, necessary and helpful because I wanted to relate to people in ways that were respectful, caring, relevant and, as I have been reflecting, incarnational. What I have struggled to understand in myself is why I have fought the same process upon my return to my "mother culture," the United States.

The truth is, my return is really no different if my aim is to live incarnationally. The process of adaptation focuses on the same things. I suppose, if I learned to sit and enjoy the company of, what most people around here would say are, "the least of these" (poorest of the poor in Cambodia), I guess I should learn to enjoy people here, where I am now. Afterall, this seems to be where God has plopped me -- for what reason, I still have no idea. But sometimes I think I should really get over my hang-ups and just allow myself to adapt. But there are certain areas of adaptation that have revealed things I still really struggle with personally, and maybe that is why I have been digging in my heels and looking with distain at the ways I have actually adjusted to fit in.

Values and language are big ones. To adapt anywhere, one must catch the lingo, the interests, and the patterns and preferences of communication. One must learn the taboos and the hierarchy of power to know to whom it is ok to say what and when. It is a tricky process of building trust and then acknowledging that trust can be lost at any moment when you mess up and don't get it right.

Some cultures are more forgiving than others. Some will laugh at you and enjoy your tries (like in Cambodia). Some will turn their nose up and give you a "shame on you" look. I learned to laugh a lot in Cambodia for I felt no judgment -- everyone laughed at each other for mistakes and fopas. One thing hard about adapting in the U.S. is people do not like to laugh -- neither at themselves nor at funny things we all attempt. There is a false-pride screen everyone holds up to hide shame.

Maybe that is one reason I have despised re-adaptation here in the U.S. I am not re-adapting to being a real person. I suppose in all cases of re-adaptation we force ourselves into doing things we are not accustomed to. But adaptation is usually behavior-focused. We still remain ourselves inside. And our past experiences and upbringing and mother-culture and mother-tongue accents remain a part of who we are. When I adapted to living in Cambodia, I was still accepted for being me - all those parts of me. No matter how much I would "screw up" in my adaptation, I could still acknowledge those parts of me that were different.

So maybe what I have hated about re-adaptation now is that I sometimes feel I can't really be me. I can't always feel comfortable exposing those parts of me that have made me who I am. Conformity sometimes feels so strong a force. And when I see myself conforming, at times, I despise myself. I catch myself reflecting the false-ness, superiority and image people insist on maintaining. There are people I associate with who try so hard to look perfect, it makes me know in my heart that I don't fit in. I am not perfect and I am ashamed at the ways I falsely try to be "perfect" just so I can talk to people I really like . . . afraid that if I don't put on the right look or say the right things, they won't want to talk to me.

I have slowly met people who are willing to be real. And as I purposefully refuse to put up a screen, I have found that others are more willing to be real and let down theirs. But the truth is, it is really hard to live incarnationally with screens that hide parts of ourselves. This is perplexing to me -- why do people live like this? It is also probably my biggest hang-up with the institutional church too. I really don't think the institutional church can ever be truly incarnational, for the institution, by its very nature is a screen, opposing the ethos of incarnation and grassroots.

Love cannot be felt through an institution. Love requires hands and feet and people. People at all levels need those who are willing to live incarnationally, relating as real people to extend the love of Christ and draw others into the Body. But the challenges of pushing through false-pride and screens that hide our vulnerabilities and common human struggles has been discouraging for me at times. I know I don't want to adapt to those types of coping mechanisms, for they are not life-giving and empowering. And I really think they are the biggest obstacles to our ability to express the Gospel of hope, love and peace.

Our Renters

If you look closely, you will see one of our little renters perched on the piece of tree stuck in the fence.

I've been watching with interest this bird house we put in our back yard. My sister-in-law made it out of a squash and it still contains the dried innards. I doubted we would get any renters since we have 3 children disturbing the peace back there each day. But sure enough, a couple weeks ago I caught a couple making their home there and the last couple days have watched them work together to chase the squirrels away and complain bitterly when the children got close by in their tree house. Suspecting some new additions, I hid behind the tree and caught the evidence "on tape."

How precious to watch family life in this way.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Summer Break and Catching UP

Oh my goodness! I nearly forgot my log-in info for my blog. I have had little to no interest in blogging the last few weeks -- too many other things demanding my attention. And I apologize I had comment enabling on the whole time - forgot to turn it off. I think I'm back on track now. . . though I'm not too sure how much longer my computer will live. It's been having some major problems lately to the point I nearly lost my final project for my class yesterday. Yes there were tears -- and lots of prayers till an hour later I was able to coax the thing to reboot long enough to print it out. It's twitching and doing strange things right now too, but so far, I'm still online.

I've been struggling again lately with feeling depressed and unfocused. I wondered if/when I could kick myself out of it . . . hoping it was just a busy thing and summer/school break would be the sunshine I nee
ded. Now summer is officially here -- I can say it and I can feel it!!!! Nothing cheers me more than just sitting outside watching the birds flit around, squirrels intently digging for food and flowers spreading their beautiful colors toward the sky.

My kids are out of school now and I just finished my 4-week summer class last night. What a relief till -- after a chaotic morning today trying to adjust to having them run around making messes all over the place and my baby refusing to take a nap, I finally realized that if I'm actually going to survive and even enjoy this summer, some organization has got to happen. I'm not good at messes and chaos. So I sat down with my kids and agreed upon a summer schedule so they are happy and clear and so I'm not driven crazy with aimless days where I get nothing done.

And because of that I am actually enjoying a quiet hour now catching up on various blogs and writing. I think at this stage of my life, this is important therapy for me.

So to all of you who are embarking on your summer - enjoy the sunshine!