June 2012

Fifty years is a long time. No wonder, in the good old days, the fiftieth year was considered the Year of Jubilee. Fifty years of anything should be celebrated. Whether it’s birthdays, blog posts, or, you know, a marriage.

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of marriage for my mom and dad. An incredible milestone. A journey of faith and love and steadfastness. A book bulging with exciting and beautiful stories. Stories of faith and travel and moving and life-changes and raising kids and building homes and picnics and grandchildren and great joy and crushing sorrow and simple, faithful happiness. An epic. Definitely worth celebrating.

So today we are packing up the children and loading the iThings with music and we are setting out for Calgary, to be with family and friends tomorrow. We’ll be celebrating.

I even bought new clothes. I think a Jubilee deserves a new outfit.

There’s a movie, probably more than one, about an art thief who steals famous paintings and then keeps them hanging behind heavy drapes in a locked room. Shame on him for hiding the beauty away. Oh, and for stealing. That’s bad too.

Dad wrote last week about Mom’s beautiful flower gardens. He didn’t mention that he has a hand in the creating and maintaining, too, but he’s right. Mom has an eye for beauty. It’s part of her. But what struck me in his writing was how much pleasure the gardens bring other people. The golfers that pass by the ninth hole. Friends who stop in to visit. Me, when I get a chance to have a cup of coffee with them on their deck.

It’s made me think, this week, about beauty. About creativity and art and words and all the beautiful things people have inside them. And how, if these things don’t get shared somehow, they are like paintings in locked rooms. Beautiful, yes. But sad and lonely and wasted.

Today, I’m seeing the beauty around me. The lovely that is right in front of my eyes. And if I see it in you, I’ll comment on it. Because it’s all about the sharing.

A funny for your Monday …

I’m so proud!

And, the trailer for their upcoming movie (it’s only 45 seconds) …

Skullface, the trailer

Be afraid.

They are resting on the open door of the oven, the heat on low and a towel for a blankie, and the rising happens without any other help from me. The mixing and kneading and forming, the work of making the bread, is done. All there is for it now, is the resting. And the rising that the resting gives birth to, now, is out of my hands.

This morning, the bread-making is a quiet thing. The husband and boys are away to other tasks. The house is peaceful and the day is calm. The list, with its many things To Do waits quietly as well, and while the bread rests, so do I.

I take the minutes of quiet as a gift, and I spend them on myself. Quiet rest. And the rising will happen.

Shirley is a fantastic gardener. We live on a golf course and every spring as we are working in the backyard, golfers stop to chat. They tell her that her garden is the best on the golf course and that they are looking forward to seeing what it will look like this summer. This is what a small corner of the garden looked like mid summer last year.

Each spring Shirley thinks about what she wants the finished product to look like and begins to plant the flowers that will create the desired effect. As we were digging and weeding and putting in bedding plants this spring I began to think this is much like life. We need to have a picture of where we want to go, what we want to accomplish and what we want our life to look like. I think the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he said, “be imitators of me as I also am of Christ.”  In other words, create a picture of what you want to be, then work toward it.

But it is not always an easy process because what we start with is not necessarily what we want the finished product to look like. The next picture is taken of the same area a few weeks earlier in the spring.

The building blocks are there. There are some shrubs beginning to grow, some show blossoms and a few perennials have already leafed out, but before we see mid summer’s results we have to plant and weed and water and fertilize. The shrubs need to be pruned, some plants staked up, and some taken out because they don’t fit with what we want the finished product to look like.

A couple of days ago I was going over the same area for the third time and there were still weeds, and I knew that gardening and life are much the same. A lot of people think I am quite a nice person; occasionally some one says something nice about me. But when I look into my heart I realize I had better start weeding again. And I need to go back and take another look at who I really want to be.

Did you hear about this? Recently, Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts was reviewed by Tim Challies. In his review, Mr. Challies was a little bit mean. He had some problems with what he considered were some mystical aspects of the book, and his review, while not nasty, was rather cold and dismissive.

And Ann, bless her heart, responded by sending him an email inviting him to come and have dinner at her home.

Now I already love Ann, and her gracious response did not surprise me a bit. But what I really love about this story is the way her email affected Mr. Challies. He was, in fact, so affected that he apologized online for his review. He didn’t apologize for the problems he had with Ann’s book, but he did express his regret for the way he went about the sharing of his thoughts.

Looking back at my review, and perhaps even more, the process of writing it, there are at least two things that concern me. The first is that I would have said certain things differently had I known that she and I might soon be sharing a meal together. Let me give an example. Of Voskamp’s literary style I wrote, “There is clearly a kind of appeal to it so that those who don’t hate it, love it.” I ask myself, Would I have said that to a friend, that her words are hate-able, as if that could not be hurtful? Would I have said that to someone I had planned to share a meal with a few weeks later? Probably not. Why, then, would I say it at all?

The second concern is that I fear that I might have said certain things differently had I considered her an “insider,” a fellow member of whatever little circle of the Christian world I inhabit. That one may concern me even more. When writing about Voskamp’s experience in Notre Dame I asked, “What does she not understand about the gospel that her ecstasies have to happen in a place dedicated to a false gospel of salvation by grace plus works rather than a gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone?” Would I have asked it that way if Ann was someone I might be on a panel with at the next conference I attend? Probably not. I may even have assumed different things about the way she understands the gospel. And maybe I would have put more effort into discussing some of the book’s strengths and showing how they balance the weaknesses. I hope not, but I can’t deny that somewhere in my mind lurks this insider and outsider kind of thinking which somehow encourages me to extend greater courtesy to one group than another.

I did poorly here and I can see that I need to grow in my ability to critique the ideas in a book even while being kind and loving to its author. There was reason for the shame I felt when I saw that name in my inbox. I had put effort into reading the book and understanding and critiquing it, but no real effort into showing love and respect for the author. I had assumed poor motives and in arrogance and thoughtlessness had squelched useful discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses.

There is value in engaging the ideas in any book, and especially a book about this Christian life, but the desire to uphold truth has no business coming into conflict with love for another person. Truth and love are to be held together as friends, not separated as if they are enemies. In my desire to say what was true, I failed to love. I ask Ann’s forgiveness for this.

This apology impresses me. Tim Challies’ humble words make me want to stand up and clap. These words convict me, because I have been Ann, but I have also been Tim.

In this amazing time of technology, when thoughts can be thrown up on a screen and sent out into the world with a simple tap of a finger, how much do I really think about the people my words are affecting? Those I engage online are not avatars, they are flesh and blood and spirit and soul.

I need to be able to distinguish between a person and her message. I need to be able to disagree with or question a message without diminishing the messenger. Because when the line between a person and her message is blurred, the chasm opens and widens and deepens, and who wants that?

It’s hard to have a conversation, let alone a relationship, across a chasm. But across a dinner table, well, that will work.

I need to remember the story of Ann and Tim.

I confess there are times when I’ve thought that the dads got the better gig. Especially with three sons. They have so much more in common. The pride taken in a loud, long burp and such, you know. But if I were the dad, I’ve realized, I’d have to do all kinds of things that are kind-of-not-really my thing. Like this morning, when Dad had to remove a tick from Son’s ear. Definitely not my thing.

In this house of men, where so much is foreign to me and my girlness, I’ve appreciated the father Lyndon is to our boys. He’s provided them with an amazing childhood, full of space and dirt and nature and freedom. They don’t know it yet, but one day they will look back and realize what a gift their father has given them.

Happy Father’s Day, Lyndon. I love you!

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