Monday, September 29, 2014

When the sun doesn’t shine…

Yesterday was a glorious day…not just that it was Sunday, but the sun lit up the red and orange and yellow leaves glowing from within contrasting with the almost fluorescent green. In fact, at one point, I told my husband it almost looked like some of the trees were hand painted and decorated for fall.  And I guess they were, God painted and dressed for fall.
But today, well, today is warm, but the sunshine is nowhere to be found.  I  do know it is shining, but on the other side of the grey cloud cover, and though I know better, I confess to feeling kind of ‘sat on,’ wrapped in a grey muffler, the joy kind of melted into the wet grass.  Do you know what I mean?  I think most of us feel that way at one time or another, and we can cave into the misery, that place where our minds seem to enjoy wallowing in self-pity, working at thinking up things to feel sorry for ourselves over. Funny how as miserable as all that is, there is a perverseness about us that wants to stay there, being useless and helpless.

Or, we can own the truth that the sunshine and blue sky is just the other side of the cloud cover.  We can own the reality that God, Who loves us and has plans for our good and not evil, is right here, in the grey with us, his hand extended, inviting us into his Sonlight.  There in the presence of the love of God, we can finally see clearly.  We are loved!  We are equipped to do whatever God calls us to do!  He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He has sifted everything that comes into our lives, allowing only the challenges that we can, with His help, endure and better yet, overcome. 
Isn’t it kind of sad, the power we give to a cloud made up of tiny droplets of water, power to make us forget all that we have in Christ.  I confess, I sat here trying to escape this malaise, and it was only as I rehearsed truth that the door began to open. 

The bottom line: we can wallow or we can walk with the Savior.  It’s really our choice; can you see his hand extended toward you, pulling you through the shadow into the light.

photo from

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Love Can Get Messy

Last night the Trustees honored BBC employees for years of service, from five years to fifty.  Yes, for those who know BBC, Dr. Loescher has served there for fifty years.  And my Jim was honored for 25 years of ministry at BBC, both men motivated by a love first for God and then for students.

As I reflected on last night, it came to me how true these words I read in an article this morning were: “Love Can Get Messy.” We’d like to think that love is all good, filled with understanding, sharing, and kindness, but if you think that is all, you are in for a let-down.  Sometimes love is messy, and you have to do or say hard things, things people don’t want to hear or do.  However, if you really love someone, you will ask the hard questions and warn them of consequences of certain choices, knowing all the while that they may question your love.
The article I referred to is, How We Misunderstand ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ written by Suzanne Munganga at  She says that “we often find it easier to ignore the sin altogether and confuse blind acceptance with genuine love.” And that’s where real love gets messy.

I worked with Dr. Loescher and then with Matt Pollock for a total of 20 years in Student Development. My husband and I have been in vocational ministry since 1975, so I can tell you that where we lived and worked, not just at BBC, but definitely at BBC, there was a lot of messy love, a lot of conversations with students where we had to say things they did not like, or ask questions that they did not like, but that we did so because we cared about them. I can tell you this, we did it even though we knew that conversation might bring pain to them and us – because they would confuse us with the message; we loved them enough to take the risk.
So I guess my challenge today is from something I learned a long time ago, care enough to take the risk. That doesn’t mean we are not responsible to think carefully about how we would have this conversation, about choosing the right place and the right words.  Munganga puts it this way, “Grace in this situation is also realizing that we are all sinful—no one person more sinful than the other—and in that, we should be coming from a place of love, rather than judgment or condescension.”  And we must understand that no matter how thoughtful we are and how loving we think we are, we will still risk rejection.  BUT, if our love for the people around us is more than words, we will want to take the risk.  It is evidence of real love!

We live in a world that is so filled with the message of acceptance, of not judging, that everyone has a right to do their thing, that our kids may easily come to believe that message, first that “to each, his own” is OK, then to believe that it is wrong to think otherwise.  This week a young woman went missing after a night of hard drinking.  I heard a discussion between newswomen that young women must know how to defend themselves against attackers, but what was missing was that she would not have been vulnerable had she not been engaged in a “night of hard drinking,” their words, not mine. Have people become so fearful of sounding judgmental that they cannot say the obvious, if she had not been drinking so heavily, she would not have been such an easy target.
I am not, in any way, saying she deserved what she got.  I am saying, we need to tell the truth, there is a flip side to “partying,” and we need to love our kids enough to tell them the truth, whether they want to hear it or not.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I read that article, attended that dessert and heard that news piece in the last 24 hours, so there it is: Risk messy love for those God brings into your lives.  It’s better than wishing you had.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rare Bird, her son died!

It was a September hurricane that filled the ditches beside the sidewalk, and in the still warm rain the day after the worst, we splashed in the muddy water despite warnings not to take our shoes off.  It was the normal thing to do, and kids, still innocent of all the possibilities that dance around the edges of parental warnings are determined to get as close to danger as they can, not even recognizing it is danger.
Something like that happened to Jack Donaldson, twelve- year- old son of Anna.  It was something like that because no one ever knew exactly what happened, only that he was swept away in a rush of water during a late summer and windless but heavy rain storm.  A still warm day, five children play in the rain, only four of them coming home.  Sometime later Jack’s body is found in a culvert, and it would be cliché to say, and the nightmare began, but it is true.

The Donaldsons were the perfect family, the kind we dream about having when we are in the dreaming stage: one son, one daughter, father and mother in love, Christian school and church-going model family doing it all right.  And we wonder how a good God could snatch a sweet boy from his good family, but death does, and somehow that family has to find enough breath and faith to live all the days that follow.
Anna documents the journey honestly, using the kind of language only grief permits, and all the words and stages that you have read about in textbooks come alive as you watch her and her family try to come to terms with the horror visited on them.

Listen to Anna as she tells you that “Grief is my work right now, and I’m afraid to skirt it or run away from it, because I surely don’t want to be stuck in this place forever.  Everything I’ve heard tells me that if I try to stuff it down, deny it, or rush through it, I’m just going to have to deal with it later and then it will be worse.” (103) And later “Around this same time, I hear the terms collateral damage and secondary losses in some of the grief books I read and realize they give a name to the wider gulf between my friends and me as well as the many other losses we discover after losing Jack.” (178)

For several years, my husband and I led a grief recovery group in our church, and watched God heal broken people.  Oh, the pain never goes all away, but over time the wounds can heal, especially when the one grieving finds people who will listen without judgment, who understand in some small way. 

Near the end of the book Anna tells of a group of women she met with monthly, a club she never wanted to, they never wanted to, belong to, of women who lost a child.  She writes it this way, “I’m not sure how sharing the broken, hurting pieces of our lives helps us, but it does. Rather than wallowing in despair, this group of scrappy women cheers each other on, determined to find a way to live the lives we have now.  And in sharing our loss we somehow gain.  That is the mystery of a community of grievers.” (186)
So who should read this book – we all should.  Donaldson shows a path through to those who might face this pain one day.  However, she also shows the rest of us what happens behind closed doors and equips us to better come alongside and offer informed support.  Too often, well-meaning people say “Just give me a call, if there’s anything I can do,” but the sufferer does not even have the energy to lift up the phone if they could identify something they need.  And well-meaning people, too often, give the grieving a few weeks, before expecting things to be “back the way they were.”  And they ever really will be.

I want to say, “Suck it up and read the book,” because I know some people avoid anything that might hurt, and I know that sounds rather harsh and uncouth, but it’s not a bad idea.  And then talk about what you have learned with other people…and Jack’s death and Anna’s pain might in some small way be redeemed.

Monday, September 15, 2014

It just got to me!! starting with Miley Cyrus!

Did you ever have something that bothered you, but you thought it was just you, so you talked yourself out of saying anything about it out loud? Well, I did, and I almost passed on it this time again, until I felt like God was telling me to just sit down and write it out.  So here I am.
OK, the first thing that I want to write about is all these pictures with people sticking their tongues out.   Several months ago you could not escape photos of Miley Cyrus and her tongue, and I think most people would have said that it was over the top, all about sex and being sexy and not for any kind of right motives except to sexually arouse the viewer. The problem is we are more influenced by the media that we would like to think.

Right after that, it seemed to me a rash of selfies flooded facebook with Christians sticking their tongues out.  Honestly, I don’t find any picture of anyone much out of infancy cute with their tongue out.  And I am not sure that adults, even teenagers, sticking their tongues out do it to be cute.  Isn’t it more like there is some underlying, or not so underlying, desire to be seen as sexy? To be thought of as sexy? My problem is that I can’t find it anywhere in the Bible that we are to be just generally seen as sexy….aren’t we supposed to be godly, reflecting His image, not some perverted kind of our own image.
That takes me to my second pet peeve: Christians posting things about their hot boyfriend or husband or girlfriend.  Of all the things we should share about our loved one, I just can’t see how sharing on facebook that we see them as hot is a good thing. Isn't that one of those things we tell them in private? Do we really want the world to know that the best we can do is to say that he or she is sexually attractive – so much so that this is the way we want the rest of the world to see them.  Are we bragging and competing about hotness?  Do we really want the rest of the world to think of him or her as a sexual being before they think of this person as a godly one?

Maybe I am over the hill, but I just can’t see it as a good thing, to stimulate others into thoughts of a sexual nature when the world is doing such a good job at it!  I always thought we were to stimulate others to good works.
End of today’s pet peeves/ concerns…you don’t have to agree….these are just my thoughts on something that bothered me till I had to say something about it.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Back from the shore - but not really!

Back from vacation, and before I forget it, go in September if you can – the beach and the boardwalk much quieter, the hotels cheaper, and the water just as warm.

We stayed off the end of the boardwalk at Wildwood this time, a first for us and our motel, the Sea Gull was perfect for us.  Water baby that I am, I must have spent an hour a day in the pool there, and the cozy room was perfect, complete with an efficiency kitchen – for lunch some days, for supper others.  We do love an early breakfast seaside, listening to the sea gulls and the waves washing the shore clean for a new day.
We also answered the call back to Ocean City one day, the first place we vacationed on the shore and where we spent hours with the grands now grown-ups.  Would you humor me if I share the poem birthed after our return trip this year?

I smelled a smell
I smelled a smell as we
leaned into the climb up the
ramp to the boardwalk,
a sour smell, a urine smell,
and I wondered why someone
would do something like that on the
edge of God’s best work.

And then this new memory-in-
the-making connects with an
old one and it comes back
from all those years ago when
we dragged chairs and picnic
baskets and herded grandchildren
as they discovered this wonder
for the first time.

I dug a hole back then in the sand
and dropped in a jelly fish all
clear and jiggly along with a silvery
minnow and a crab as much
of a child as mine peering in and then
daring each other to touch it.

I smeared pasty lotion over their
silky skins and prayed it would protect
them and their parents would let me
do this again, savoring the splashing
waves, chasing them in and back out,
dancing with abandon just because
I could, because they could.

In a flash those memories filed themselves
away replaced by the day a child went missing
and some anonymous announcer asked
vacationers who were not listening
to be on the lookout for a three-year-old
girl with flaxen hair, (my words, not theirs)
they said blonde but a wee childy of three has
flaxen hair, and she is riding a pink bike and
we decide we might have seen her and

 Jim tells me to sit and he piles towels and chairs
all around me and this grandfather of another
goes looking for someone else’s grandchild.
I pray and watch up and down the boardwalk
and wonder at the blank faces passing me
by as if there are not panicky parents a few
steps away and after a half an hour I drag out
my notebook and begin to write because that
is all I can do  and then I see him, four pages later,
walking back to me, the fear gone from his
forehead and he says they have her, and I know
I will never forget this hour, so I remember again.

Sea birds screaming, dive bomb a saltine
dropped by a child and I hear his mother
warn him to throw it away and not to
feed the birds and I see the child
count the cost of disobedience and
reluctantly he lifts the door of the
garbage can and throws the cracker
into the darkness.
Not everything is worth a “No,” and it
appears, the boy has learned this lesson.

We scuffle our feet out of our sandals
and head to the water’s edge where
waves scatter shells, white and black and
red and birds skitter into the foam snatching
dinner before the waves wash it back
and I look for shells unbroken to pile in
a dish in my bathroom to remind me of
mornings by the sea for the days when
I start my morning by the woods.

I know I will find no real treasure, only
shards of shells that will open links of
memory, and for a few seconds when I lift the
dish to my nose I will smell salty breezes
and hear the scree of angry sea gulls and the
thrumming beat of a boat engine pulling
along some brave soul in the sky, and
then in the corners of the memory I will
smell the sweetness of a day meant only
to feel pleasure.