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He was baptized by his cousin John and his father was so pleased.

I love this story. I love that Jesus asked John to baptize him, and I love that John didn’t want to but did anyway. I love the after-glory of the Spirit coming down as a dove and the Father’s voice echoing through the land. It’s a holy family scene like no other in scripture. The ancient heavenly equivalent of high fives and whoop whoops.

The next part of the story has always been perplexing, though. In the midst of the celebrating, Jesus leaves. He heads out into the wilderness, led there by the Spirit it says, to be alone. To fast for forty days and nights? To be tempted? What?

I’ve never been to a baptism that ended this way.

I can relate to the being-proud-of-the-son part. I remember the baptisms of each of my three boys, and I was so proud. I was happy and pleased and joy-filled because of their decisions and what those decisions represented. High five. Whoop whoop.

But not once did I think, let’s get these boys out to the wilderness right now. Let’s leave them on their own and stress them and deny their bodies nourishment and let’s let the devil have his tempting way with them, and we’ll just see what happens.

Here’s the thing. It happened anyway.

There’s the celebration of a decision, and then there’s life, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. And the boys, each of them, has the road rash to prove it. So do I. So does anyone who not only makes the commitment but lives the journey.

I don’t know why Jesus did it the way he did, but I’m glad he did. I need the example. I need the reminder. Because the temptations are real.

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One boy, stretching tall and skinny in the kitchen after a breakfast of leftovers. The pizza I’d thought we’d have for lunch, but oh well. The youngest headed downstairs to get to the shower first, before his brothers. The oldest still rubbing sleep out of his eyes, a large, bearded version of the firstborn babe he was. The new son bundled and backpacked and bussed away to school. Husband on his way to work, instructions for the boys lingering in the air after he closes the door. Check the water every hour. Make sure the trough heater is submerged.

It’s a cold November day out there.

The first week of the month is almost spent, and every day I read thanksgiving being poured out all over the internet. Thankfulness for amazing husbands or wives and wonderful children and the blessings of these or those things or people in our lives. It’s good, this month of thankful.

I’m thankful, too, for all that makes life sweet.

I’m mindful, though, of those for whom life is very hard. Those for whom a month, thirty whole days, of finding thankful is a challenge. Those for whom the admonitions to take joy in all things grow guilt rather than grace.

This is what I think. I think that sometimes life is wonderful and sometimes life is hard. And it’s not fair or equal or just. There is no balance, not really, and I don’t know why that is. I don’t know why some people seem to have more than their fair share of troubles and heartache and others seem to be especially blessed. I don’t know why some make it and others don’t. I do know it’s not always about trying harder or working longer or being more talented.

I don’t get all preachy very often, here, but when it’s hard, when I don’t understand, I go to Jesus. Because I believe this man lived – that God came from glory to be here on earth with us – had sweet times and very hard times, and this is what scripture tells me to do with that:

Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honour by the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

This man did not dance his way through suffering, he suffered his way through suffering. He endured. His joy was not in the immediate, but in the future.

I’m not a preacher, not even close. I don’t know all the doctrine or all the definitions and I hate being asked to take stands on things that people have decided are religious issues. Here’s my catechism. If you are gay, I offer love. If you are in jail, I offer love. If you have aborted or stolen or lied or had sex before you got married or told a dirty joke or took the last piece of pie – I offer love.

If you are suffering in the midst of this month of thankful, I offer love.

Not mine, you understand, but his.

It’s not about religion, not for me. It’s about breathing him in, and breathing him out. And the breathing in and out of him, always, is love.

I’m smack in the middle of a busy summer when I learn the most important lesson of all. In the midst of teaching classes and sitting in classes and company at home and running kids to camps and service projects, in the midst of all the doing there it is, right in front of me.

The most important sermon of the summer.

That nothing matters unless someone matters.

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I stand behind him, this tiny preacher, and watch him hold her hand and touch her face and look into her eyes and smile into her face. I watch her light up, lighten up, as loving attention does its work. I watch as scripture grows skin and takes breath and I wipe tears off my chin at the sight of the word come to life in all the beauty and grace of a five-year-old.

I’m thinking of the verses in the Bible, the ones from Matthew and Luke that talk about children, and that being like them is a good thing, and I’m wondering why? Because they are often unkind or undisciplined or … wait for it … immature. They haven’t spent a lot of time studying scripture, and they certainly haven’t spent much time defining their faith. I’ve never heard a child say she is a complementarian or an egalitarian, and I’ve never heard a debate in the sandbox over penal substitution atonement theory or universalism or evolutionary christianity.

Unsophisticated as they are, what I believe about children and the whole why we should be like them thing, is simply this.

They get it.

They offer forgiveness, freely and immediately and adorned with hugs and sloppy kisses.

They pray for lost kitties and big illnesses and children starving in places where they’ve never been, all with the same intensity and faith and trust.

They accept grace with joy. They say I love you. They giggle at silly things. They hold hands. They clap when they are happy.

They sing Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so … and they mean it.

They expect to be caught when they jump from high places.

They hug strangers.

They just get it, these little people.

Honestly, there are only a few things I remember from all that I’ve read or heard about God and faith and christianity these past summer weeks. But I’ll never forget the picture in my heart of a small sweet boy and the sermon he showed me.

The best sermon of the summer, by a long shot.

These have been the busy times of going and doing. Rushing through the days, full and frantic and they are good, these days of spending. Spending the minutes like I’m filthy rich, pulling activity after activity from bottomless pockets. Generously paying out the time in friendship and service and fun fun fun.

Last night I walked with the dog, down the dirt road behind the house and through the neighbour’s fields of peas, pods drying already in the summer sun. I laughed out loud at the pup’s crazy up-and-down bouncy run through the tall crop and I listened to the grasshoppers rustling about and I took in deep breaths of quiet.

I came home thirsty.

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I hadn’t realized how dry I’d become. I’d been getting by on a sip here and a sip there. You too, maybe?

Today I’m visiting En Gedi.

Today I’m escaping and resting … hiding and drinking deep of those things that quench thirst. A little scripture, a walk, a few words tossed up on the screen. Some music, some lunch, some rest. A conversation or two, maybe. Or maybe not. Some bread baked and some laundry folded.

Green pastures and quiet waters.

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Today I need to stop and hold out my hands and receive.

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Shirley and I meet with three or four other couples on Monday evenings to look at Scripture.  We don’t all attend the same church and we are not meeting to see how we should interpret scripture, but to see how it can help us to be better Jesus followers.

When we read 1 Peter 4:8, Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins, I was intrigued and have continued to think about what it says to me. I did peek at what the scholars say about this verse but to me it is quite simple.

If I love people whole heartedly we will both become different.

Perhaps some of my insensitivities (sins) will be covered and I will become different. If I see the person, not their short comings (sins), and love that person unconditionally, they too will become different.

A while ago Janelle wrote a blog about loving bad kids and I thought about the passage.

Janelle’s post from yesterday showed a picture of Carter sitting patiently in the pasture with a pail of oats trying to win the attention of the young donkey he got for his birthday. I wonder if the same principle doesn’t apply.

Recently I have thought about people who have few friends, folks who may be struggling with same-sex attraction and older people who can no longer be in their own homes. And I am challenged by these words from The Message,

Love each other as if your life depended on it.  Love makes up for practically anything.

Sadly, I don't have a picture of the Holy Spirit, so here is a picture of my farm, instead.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the Holy Spirit, so here is a picture of my farm, instead.

I’ve read about Him Her It … okay, I’ll go with Him. I mean, I’ve read The Shack, and some other books with names I can’t remember right now. Probably by Yancey or Lucado. Heck, I’ve even read the Bible. Still haven’t really got a clue.

The Father and the Son, these two I can grab onto, at least a bit. I have a father. I have a son. I have reference points for them.

But the Holy Spirit? Try to grab that and I come away with a handful of … what? Even the name is hard to relate to. Holy Spirit? Or worse, Holy Ghost?

Hey, I’d like you to meet my friend, Holy Spirit. It just doesn’t work like it does with God or Jesus. Maybe I’ll just start calling him Dove. Since out of all the forms he could have taken on the day Jesus was baptized, that’s the one he chose. Dove. I kinda like it.

I’d like to know him better, I really would. I’d like to understand him. Or maybe what I’d like is to know I’m being understood by him. You know? Since he’s supposed to be a mediator of sorts between God and me. And he’s been sent here to live in me and help me and all.

I googled him. There’s lots written about triune this and blah blah blah that. It really didn’t help me know him much at all.

I wish he wasn’t such a quiet, unobtrusive, low profile deity. If he’d spoken up a bit more in scripture, you know. But it seems he doesn’t like the lime light. He’s the introvert, maybe, of the trinity. The quiet one, going about his work without a lot of fanfare or fuss.

I don’t know much about him, but I think I like him a lot. Mystery is not always a bad thing.

It’s weird, but it’s kind of wonderful too.

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I’m packing up the notes and the clothes and the hairspray, laundry on the go and a list running through my head, and I have twenty minutes, barely, to sit down here and scatter a few words on the screen. And all I can think to say is … help.

I know you know what I mean. I know you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are there right now?

It’s one of those times when there is more to do than there is time to do it, but I still want to do it all well.

There are women giving up their tomorrow, their Saturday – a day of doing whatever else they could be doing – to come and hear my two friends and I share a message of story and community and women working together, and I’m feeling a little scattered.

It’s not like I haven’t shared this before. I’ve stood behind other microphones in front of other rooms full of women, but this weekend, can I say, it feels a little stale.

I’ve said these words a thousand times already, is what it feels like.

And I don’t want a bunch of women giving up their Saturday for stale.

And my husband is sick and the yard needs to be raked and there are a pile of things that will be waiting for me when I get back home on Saturday night. A busy, busy Sunday and a Monday class for which I’ve not finished my reading, and the kids have their big drama performance in Regina on Wednesday. And to borrow an expression from my UK friend, Fay, the house is a tip. And, and, and …

I know you know what I mean. I know you’ve been there, too. Maybe you are there right now?

Might I ask, if you have a minute, that you say a little prayer for me? And I will say one for you.

A prayer for fresh words, fresh life, fresh ministry.

A fresh breeze to blow away the stale. Sounds nice, yes?