Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Driving home to see family in Atlanta brought back fond memories of driving with Emmett.  Car conversations on the way to our childhood homes were some of the best conversations we had.  Growing up in the same houses for so much of our childhood made driving to see family more like a historic adventure, complete with a full cast of crazy characters and complex plot lines.  But despite the usual fun and drama of seeing family, it was the conversations we had going and coming that were truly epic.

After a couple years I began to time how long it took us to settle into these conversations.  One year when we were a little frustrated with each other it took us over an hour to settle into the comfortable communion we typically shared, marking an unpleasant record that was never repeated.  Thankfully.  On such journeys, we would speak of all things, often beginning with relational oddities in our lives and moving on to dreams, goals, plans, and prayers.  And no matter how far away from each other we felt beginning the journey, we were always caught up by the end.

Returning home is such a common theme in literature that it feels trite to talk about it.  There's a line in a song by Mumford and Sons (don't ask me which one, that was Emt's job) that goes:
It's not the long walk home that will change your heart, but the welcome you receive with the restart.
That particular line has resonated with the Romans 8 verse that has been on my heart recently:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (18)
How do we stay focused on this incomprehensible glory and the often intangible love of God when present sufferings, even the mundane sufferings, are so distracting?

We have this great, amazing home in heaven that Christ has gone to prepare for us.  Combine that promise the picture of the prodigal son's father waiting to welcome us home and throw us a party.  Think of that - a father who loves us so recklessly that he throws off all dignity to run out to meet us.  Doesn't that make your heart soar?  Yeah, for about 5 seconds before reality comes crashing in on your heartwarming daydream full of butterflies and big hair and cheesy 90s love songs.

But seriously, daydreams aside, the knowledge of how well I am loved should change me in radical ways.  And yet, radical is not always filled with blue skies and soft breezes and perfectly coiffed hair.  Truth be told, radical is often more like a dirty, sweaty rock climber clinging so desperately to the rock face that his leg muscles are spasming worse than teenagers at a rock concert.

Shortly after taking our baby daughter off life support, I asked Emmett to sing the doxology with me because I knew if I didn't praise God in that moment then I might never praise him again.  Shortly after Emmett passed we gathered in the living room, and once again I asked to sing the doxology for the same reason.  So I suppose that when I consider my present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in me, I cannot deny the depth of suffering, whether mine or others.  I can however recognize that if pain can be this acute on earth right now, then the joy of heaven with God and Jesus (and perfect hair) must be mind blowing.  And that hope keeps me clinging to the rock face, often out of sheer stubbornness, but at least I'm still clinging.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Every so often I get the chance to make a public confession of one of my guilty pleasures, and last night was one of those nights where, sitting in a room full of women, we were able to share and laugh and swear each other to secrecy.  While I won't share any other juicy tidbits, I will share my own guilty pleasure and open up the floor for mocking.

Teenage vampire romance.  Gets. me. every. time.

Yep, there it is.  Mock on.

Shortly after we were married, Emmett was in graduate school and I was in my first year of teaching.  I would come home so brain dead that Emmett would find me lying on the couch watching hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns.  Hours.  I'm pretty sure Emmett thought he was in one of those TV specials where the person you marry turns out to have another spouse or be a psycho killer or have a sixth toe.  I remember him just staring at me one day like I had three heads and asking, "where did this come from?"  But I won him over.  It wasn't long before he was watching them with me, although he always reserved the right to mock me for my guilty pleasure, which I graciously allowed him to do. But before you mock, you have to at least admit that all those other silly shows (like Glee and American Idol, etc) and sports (gasp - yes, even sports) are at least as much a pointless waste of time as my own guilty pleasure.  Then, when you can embrace your own ridiculousness, you are free to mock me as much as you'd like.  Until then - shut.  up.

My guilty pleasure has been coming and going for a couple decades, lying dormant for years, and then popping up unexpectedly again.  So the other night when I had nearly a dozen or so loads of laundry to fold (don't judge - you know you put it off, too), I was perusing Netflix, which incidentally has quite possibly the lamest streaming options ever, when I came across a TV series that shall remain nameless.  I've been watching it off and on as I do laundry or work out, and in between laughing at myself, I've tried to figure out why I like it so much.

Now is when you insert the eye roll because I'm about to get spiritually inspired by teenage vampire romance.  Yeah, you just read that line for real, but don't think that what follows in any way justifies this kind of trashy television.  It's trashy and will remain so, but I love it and most likely will continue to do so.

So here is the basic formula for teenage vampire romance.  This basic plot line has not deviated at all from when I started reading smutty vampire books at the age of 12 (way before Twilight, by the way).  Vampire boy meets human girl (oddly, never the other way around).  Boy wants to kill girl and drink her blood.  Boy tries very hard not to kill girl and drink her blood.  Emotional and physical turmoil ensues.  Inconsequential characters die and somehow no one is really concerned.  Girl must either die or become a vampire, and we all know what usually happens. It's very much like a modern sleeping beauty in a way.

I began to realize that it was all the moody vampire brooding over trying not to kill people that resonated with my soul.  Yeah, I'm probably a closet Emo.  Move on.  I find that I am drawn to this archetype when I'm feeling unusually besieged by sin and constantly aware of my struggle to resist my sinful nature.

Because, truthfully, when I sin I am killing other people.  Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 that "because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold."  As I struggle deeply with sins of the heart, I am realizing that I am completely unaware of how each decision I make to follow Christ or not unknowingly pushes others a little closer or a little further from Christ.  That scares me.  Not that I claim any guilt or responsibility for another person's decisions, as we will each stand before Christ for our own choices, but I often neglect or ignore the influence of the Spirit at work in me, to my own shame and disgrace.

I came across the word besieged in Lamentations 3 this morning, and it bounced around my soul a while before taking root.  My soul feels something spiritually akin to what the starving people of Jerusalem must have physically felt when they were being besieged by the Babylonians in Jeremiah's time.  I do not claim to have experienced anything even remotely as intense as Jeremiah, but I feel the flaming arrows of sin and temptation coming at me swift and straight most days.  Temptation is aimed with uncanny knowledge of my weaknesses, as if I have betrayed my own self to my enemy.  So this passage in Lamentations 3: 21-26 was a good reminder this morning:

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness. 
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him; 
it is good to wait quietly 
for the salvation of the LORD. 

Sometimes it is good to wait quietly because right now I'm pretty sure if I move, one of those arrows is going to pierce me right through.

Friday, December 2, 2011

"kick me"

Lately I've been wondering why people believe in God.  Don't misunderstand me, I'm not having a crisis of faith here, but I am learning to read the Bible with eyes wide open.  You hear a lot about God's blessing, but it comes at a pretty steep price.  I mean, take Abraham.  Sure God promises to bless the earth through him, but then he wanders around apart from his family, afraid of nearly everyone he runs into, trying to fumble his way through what God wants him to do, and still God withholds his son for decades.  That is a lot of extra time on your hands to wonder what in the world God is up to.  And yeah, Joseph gets to rule Egypt, but what about the lonely years in slavery and prison before hand.  Now don't try to gloss over it and say that Joseph knew God was with him and that made it all okay.  Because it didn't, and it doesn't.  Joseph was human, and though he was most certainly better than I am at being human, he was in an Egyptian prison with lovely things like lice and starvation and filth.  Or pick a prophet, any prophet really, and you end up with a lonely old man who is fleeing from a crazy queen or sinking in muck at the bottom of a well for telling people to be nice and reasonable.  And let's not even get started on Job, who was picked on because God loved him so much.  Seriously, I think it's pretty much a miracle that after reading the Bible any of us are still willing to sign up for this gig.  Jesus wasn't kidding when he said that just as a king should count the cost of going to war, you should consider what you're getting into before following him.  Some days I feel like getting baptized was like having a "kick me" sign permanently attached to my back.

So I've been memorizing Romans 8, which is not going nearly as well as I'd hoped.  But I was reading ahead (proving, of course, my obscene slowness, or perhaps laziness) when I came across this little gem in verse 18:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Being somewhat naturally contrary, I promptly disagreed.  It's not a good idea, by the way, to disagree with scripture.  So I did what any self-respecting Christian would do, and I immediately told God that this verse didn't make any sense.  I can sort of wrap my mind around the present sufferings part, although I'd be happy to understand that part less.  But the "glory that will be revealed in us?"  I mean, what?  From context clues, I can deduce that this glory is so awesome that it eclipses the so called "present sufferings," but I have yet to fully, or, hey, even somewhat, understand that glory.

And don't go getting all pseudo-spiritual on me and tell me if only I loved Jesus more or trusted him more, then I'd have happy, glowing butterflies in my soul and speak in the tongues of those ridiculous motivational posters that say things like, "determination" and have a picture of an ant lifting a volkswagen.  I'll just want to slap you.  Because life is hard and full of lice and muck and boils and crazy old women who want you dead.

I love the answers God gives to prophets like Habakkuk and Job, men who stand up and point out that this world and God's plan don't make a single iota of sense.  I love that God never says that things are okay, as we like to tell each other, because God knows that things aren't okay.  I love that not only does he not give them some pat answer, but often he doesn't answer their complaint at all, except to say that he is God and he is operating his rescue plan because we messed up big time.

Christ came to rescue us and begin the revelation of God's glory in us, and it is so mind-blowingly awesome that my mind shuts down.  Literally, shuts down.  So I've been praying to see the glory that will be revealed in us.  I have no idea what it means to ask that of God, but since he never really answered the questions the prophets were asking, I figure he'll tell me whatever he wants.  And I still won't get it, just like Habakkuk and Job, I'll stand there dumbfounded, but maybe, just maybe, a little less blind than before.