March 2011


We really are a nerdy family. Does anyone else own all the seasons of Stargate SG-I, Atlantis, and SGU? Anyone else’s nine-year-old ask questions like, “Who do you think would win in a fight, Teal’c or  Ronon?” Can your kids identify a Genii by his uniform, or know the inside joke about the Furlings? Ya, nerdy.

So, we were all sitting around talking about Stargate the other day, and commenting on the ways the shows have developed over the years. One of the kids made the comment that SGU (the storyline is that several humans have been zapped onto an ancient space ship, which is traveling in a distant galaxy, and they are trying to get back to earth, which is, of course, a very tricky thing to do) … anyway … one of the kids made the comment that SGU is like LOST only instead on being trapped on an island the people are trapped on a spaceship. He’s right. I can picture the producers sitting around planning the new installment of the Stargate franchise, and one of them says something like, “Well, that show LOST did pretty good. Why don’t we do THAT. Only we’ll put them in space because, you know, its science fiction.”

And that discussion made me think about story, and how, since the beginning of time, it’s kind of all been the same. Different characters, different settings, but pretty much the same story, retold.

I spent most of last week working on a workshop some friends and I are preparing on story. Women and story. People and story, really. God and humanity and … THE story. It’s very cool stuff. I’m very pumped about the idea of story right now.

Its made me think about the story I’m telling with my life. Is my story confusing? boring? meaningful? Is my main character brave or timid? Is she interesting or, well, not that interesting? Is she getting anywhere? Accomplishing anything?

I recently heard a Christian speaker (whose work I mostly like) suggest that as Christians we should accept that our lives are kind of like a story by  Daniil Kharms (a russian absurdist who starved to death in prison). Here’s one of Kharms’ stories. It’s very short.

Now one day a man went to work and on the way he met another man who having bought a loaf of polish bread was heading back home where he came from. And that’s it, more or less.

What?

I think his point (the Christian speaker, I mean) was that our lives are in God’s hands and we make too much of what we want out of life. Our lives are just a miniscule speck in the grand scheme of God’s larger plan, and we should just go along for whatever ride God decides to take us on.

This bothered me when I heard it and it bothers me still. Yes, God is in control and can do whatever he wants. In fact I often pray for him to do what he wants in my life. But that doesn’t mean I expect my life to be a series of meaningless encounters with polish-bread-carrying strangers.

Living with intention is key to living a good story. I think so, anyway. I don’t know many people who I admire, Christian or otherwise, who lived their lives with absolutely no direction.

As a christian, though, I do appreciate the larger story. You know, the one about perfection, separation, reconciliation, hope. And I believe that all good stories since the beginning of time have followed this same pattern. The pattern of conflict, struggle, growth. At least, those are the stories I’m interested in.

Not, I went for a walk and came home.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the story my life is telling. And the stories other lives are telling. Everyone has stories.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of my graduation from high school. Crazy. I graduated in 1981 from Western Christian College. We had a great class. Next month I’ll attend the reunion of that class. Makes you think.

Truthfully, though, I couldn’t wait to graduate. I was just so ready to get on with it. I had big plans, beginning with Bible College and a mission trip. I had my life ahead of me. I truly loved the Lord, and I wanted to do great things with Him. I wanted my life to be, well, different. Different from what, I’m not sure I knew. But I know I felt a stirring within me to get out in the world and really live.

The thing is, thirty years later it’s still the same. Well, some things, ahem, have changed. But that stirring, that feeling of wanting to make a difference, of wanting to really live … it’s still there. It is maybe even stronger, or at least more urgent. At almost fifty years old, my life doesn’t stretch endlessly ahead of me like it did when I was seventeen. I’ve been to a lot of funerals since I graduated.

I’ve been looking at graduation gifts for my niece. Did you know that Jeremiah 29:11 can be found on almost anything now, from bookmarks to shirts to pendants to Bible covers? This verse is marketed to graduates, but I want to reclaim if for the class of  ’81.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Because the thing is, this promise was given to a people who were well into their journey. These were not fresh-faced babes just starting out, with all kinds of opportunities ahead of them. God promised this to a people who were in the midst of hard times. We’re talking seventy years of hard times. Captivity. Slavery.

So, while I love the sense of anticipation of Jeremiah 29:11, it’s the following verses that really speak to me. Because life has sometimes been difficult. I haven’t done all the things I wanted to do. I’ve made some mistakes, some poor choices. So these verses, to me, hold a mid-journey encouragement:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

He’s still there. And His plan is still His plan. And, even thirty years in, I still have a hope and a future. He is my hope and my future.

I was at a women’s retreat this weekend. The weather was cold but fine. The attendees were fewer than normal, but the fellowship was sweet. The theme was thankfulness.

What does thankfulness look like? I voice my thank yous all the time. If one of my children receives a gift, the first words out of my mouth are, “What do you say?” I encourage thankfulness in my home. My prayers often begin with Thank you, Father. But do I really live a thankful life?

Lately I’d have to say I’ve lived more curmudgeonly than thankfully. The winter has been long. And cold. And snowy. We’ve spent a small fortune in snow removal just trying to keep our yard clear. I’ve done much more complaining and whining than thanking or praising.

I had a chance to revisit a friendship this past weekend at the retreat. If you are lucky enough to know my friend Vivian Dunn, then you know what thankfulness looks like.

Vivian has spent her life serving others. She was a well-loved school teacher for many years. Her family became Jesus lovers after Vivian’s daughter attended Western Christian College. I have heard Vivian tell the story of their journey to the Lord many times, and it is always told with gratitude and amazement. Vivian loves Jesus, and her love has been expressed over the years in the many, many ways she has reached out to others. She has been “mom” to countless kids over the years, particularly kids at Western who didn’t have family nearby.

I was thrilled and inspired to catch up with Vivian on the weekend. This almost eighty-year-old woman now lives in a suite in Weyburn. Her husband died a few years ago, and while Danny’s passing was and continues to be a great sorrow in her life, Vivian has turned sadness into victory. I prayed for God to give me something to do after Danny died, she said. And he gave me immigrants. Now, from her little suite, Vivian blesses, and blesses, and blesses. Like she has done her entire life.

Her kids have received meals and encouragement in equal portions. She has found them furniture, helped them with their english, and taken them to church. She loves them and they love her.

Vivian’s life is lived in thankfulness. I love this woman, and I am encouraged and, yes, thankful for her example in my life. She lives beautifully in her gratitude for what the Lord has done for her.