My take on rainbows, faith and fear….

roygbivLast Sunday, on my weekly post, I was going to include the fact I’d achieved ROY.G.BIV in my closet.

Months earlier I’d complimented my husband on his new-found closet organizing, color coordinating skills.  He waved across his shirts and said, “ROYGBIV” (pronounced roy-ga-biv).  I’d never heard the term before.  red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet.   Am I the only person on the planet who did not know that ?

Anyway, due to a crazy good sale I found whilst shopping with my mom a couple of weeks ago, I added some new tops to my wardrobe and thought they looked kind of cool hanging there.

Until (gasp) I realized these tops made a rainbow.  And last Sunday, I did not want to be associated with any rainbow.  No way.  No how.  Period.

Being the thinker I am, I’ve spent considerable time mulling over my anti-rainbow gut reaction.

Obviously, it’s more than the rainbow.  It’s the ever-changing nature of our American culture.

It is change I find disturbing.

So all week I’ve observed the rainbow banner, the #Love Wins, the ugliness erupt on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue with law suits and the words bigot and intolerance bandied about on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

The back and forth within the Christian community alone is sad and disappointing.  And I don’t know what Bible is being quoted, but some of the words and actions attributed to Jesus don’t exist in anything I’ve ever read.

Me?  I’ve wanted to rant a little myself.  But I’m not a debater.  At least that’s what I tell myself while eloquently pleading a case to my bar of soap in the shower, while I drive, while watering the plants, while doing laundry and while cooking dinner.

Man!  I’ve got to get this stuff out of my head!

So how do I remain faithful to God, true to myself and meaningfully share this planet with those I don’t agree with?  I’ve got a plan for that….

1)  Preserve relationships –

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

I love my people.  I respect my people.  But all my people don’t believe the same thing I do.

I may be on the conservative side.  They may be on the liberal side.  But when we share life events, when we sit around the dinner table together, it will be with love and respect and concern for the other, as far as it depends on me.

Love is greater than being right.

And that extends to friends and friends I’ve yet to meet.  Because when rainbow flags and being right is our focus, we cannot hear anyone else.  And when we label, mock and marginalize, we do not learn.

2)  Remain in Faith –

Remain in me and I will remain in you.  For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine; and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.  John 15:4

Those actually are words Jesus said.  And they’re words I hold on to.  Ask me how I know they are true….

I’ve lived long enough and screwed up enough and been extended more grace than anyone deserves.  I know who I am, I know what I believe and in whom I believe.  And I’m standing firm.

That is not bigotry.

That is faith.

I trust Him to guide my thoughts and words and direct my steps.

3)  Punch fear in the face –

In the words of the great philosopher, Rocky Balboa –

It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

I’m not sure why.  I’ve looked back on my life to find an event that might have triggered this, but I struggle with fear.

I fear offending people.  And sometimes it’s silly stuff, like I’ll want to call one of my sons.  And then I spend an hour trying to decide if this is a good time to call, is he working, is he eating dinner with his family – – and then when I get him on the phone I start apologizing for disturbing him.  What is the deal??

I mean, this fear thing goes way back…. when Doug and I went on our first date, oh, about 47ish years ago, we stopped in Santa Cruz, California to watch the ocean.  It was getting too dark and windy to walk on the beach, so we stood on the edge of a cliff, watching the waves crash below us.  Suddenly I saw his arms raise over my head and my first thought… my first thought, people!, is…

… “he’s going to push me off the cliff”!  Who thinks stuff like that??  And by the way, he was just throwing his jacket over my shoulders.

Anyway, beyond being tossed off cliffs and making phone calls at inappropriate times… I fear being judged.  I don’t like labels.  It’s hard to undo the false perception someone paints on you.  And a label does not account for the whole of your life story.  I know this first hand… from the receiving end and the giving end.

But maybe worse than being labeled is being afraid to speak up at the right time.  Even taking points #1 and #2 into account, there are times to speak up and stand up.  And that’s why I need to get violent with fear.

I’ve noticed that intolerance word used a whole lot on both sides of the aisle.  I’m not sure how other folks define the it, but here’s my take on it…

Intolerance is a spoiled brat that has to have its way.

Intolerance succeeds by dividing and isolating individuals and groups of individuals.

Intolerance divides and isolates by using labels and ridicule.

I won’t have any part of that.  And I won’t be afraid of it either.

There will be hard times moving forward in this country I love.  And there will always be label hangers.  But you’ve got to press on anyway.

Because of love.

And love, yes I do believe LOVE WINS.  But it’s a much bigger love than the version sloganized across social media.  It’s a love that was designed for ALL of humanity.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24

Twenty Dollars Worth of Balls and a Dirt Bath

I could prattle on about my trip to the craft shop early this week, where a bin of hula hoops and brightly colored balls caught my eye.

$3.99 the sign said.

Since I’m updating the grandkids’ toy box I grabbed a couple of balls, the items I went to the store for and checked out.  My ending total was much more than expected, but since there was a line-up behind me and only one checker, I decided to head out to the car and recheck my totals.

To my surprise the balls rang up as $9.99!  I walked back to the front of the store and realized the sign on the bin actually said $3.99/$9.99.  Why did I only focus on the $3.99 when I first arrived?  It was the hula hoops that were $3.99.

So I went back to the check out stand where I found my mother at the head of the line, fumbling with her debit card, with 10 people, 10 irritated people, behind her.

I went home with the balls.

And here is what twenty dollars worth of balls looks like.balls

At least they are licensed by Marvel Comics.  So there’s that… for anyone who cares.

……………

And now I could lament of my attempt to help my husband with the creation of his vegetable garden a few days back.

We thought it wise to put up some deer fencing to protect our fledgling plants because, well, we have deer.  Lots of them.

So I held the metal poles and Doug climbed the ladder to pound them in.  And there is this tool thingy he puts on top of the pole to help him pound it in.  And when you fling that tool thingy on the ground which has been freshly tilled, there is a likelihood of the thingy filling up with dirt.  Which it did.  And then it got dumped on top of me.

It wasn’t fun.

But we have a fence.

And the veggies are growing.

……………

There are any number of little things I could ramble on about today.  But I’m kind of overwhelmed by the political events of the passed week.

I ruminate and think a lot, so it takes me awhile to process events and information.  I’m not one to spout off an opinion in the heat of the moment.

Since my world view is influenced by the living Word of God, I know there will always be a divide between those who believe, those who don’t, and those who’ve made up something in between.  It’s just a bit shocking to see it played out so vividly on this page of history.

So I will leave those thoughts alone for the time being because I believe:

Time + Prayer = Something worthwhile to say.

As I close my Sunday post, I’ll share some of how our flower garden grows around here… and my belief that no matter what I see happening on this earth, good or bad, or oddly peculiar… God has it all under control.

As my grandpa told me a long time ago, “honey, it’s all going to be ok”.

one of these is not like the others…..

Early morning sun, hanging basket, summer flowers….. and that one, last strand of Christmas lights.

Christmas lights in June. Yes, we are those people!

It’s interesting how the morning shadows caused me to see that strand of lights.

And it’s interesting how a change in routine can cause you to see something that’s been taken for granted.

This week marked 20 years since a particular son graduated high school.  It also marked 20 years since the Army recruiter whisked him away to a longer than I imagined career.

And for the last 20 years, with notable exceptions (like wars and fishing trips), he has called home most every Sunday evening.

6 p.m.ish  …give or take an hour.  Or a day.

Since he lives on the other side of the country, his phone calls are a connection I treasure.  A clearing house of sorts for all things family and then some – like the treasure he scored after a round of haggling at the 2nd hand store, his new favorite fishing hole, what mischief his dogs got in to, the likelihood of deployment.  We bring him up to speed on family and his brother’s recent deployment.  We talk of books and hobbies and how we got the gravel road in front of the house oiled.  Now there’s only one inch of dust to clean every day instead of two.

We talk about hopes and dreams – his and ours.  We laugh.  And he outlines his latest ideas on life after the Army.

Two weeks ago he was home for a short visit.  Gathered around a table, his brothers, their wives, his father and I, we picked up where we left off the last time we were together.  The Sunday phone calls took on flesh and bone, real-time story telling, laughter, and hugs.

These four men who had grown up in my home, sitting around a table… it felt as though one had never left.  That he never would again.

But he did.

For one more far away deployment.

And his leaving felt as foreign and awkward as if it were the very first time.

Last Sunday I knew the phone would not ring at 6p.m.ish.  Nor did it ring tonight.  But I listen for it anyway.  And I am amazed at how that simple call, about things so ordinary, became extraordinary to me.  It had become the way to wrap up the week and move on to the next.

So tonight it feels good to write these words and share a picture.  To punctuate the week.  To move forward to tomorrow.

And maybe even to look at my small space on the internet as a new Sunday night tradition.

Star Spangled Motion

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Motion

My first view of daylight always holds our flag.

The rain and wind do their thing.

So does the flag.

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Let music swell the breeze

And ring from all the trees

Sweet freedom’s song.

Let mortal tongues awake;

Let all that breathe partake;

Let rocks their silence break,

The sound prolong.

~~~ from America – My Country, Tis of Thee

The Daily Post, photo challenge

Snow Balls in April

A spindly, pot-bound plant caught my eye.  It sat in the garden, likely for years, waiting to be planted.  It was barely alive.

So we prepared the soil, added fertilizer and put its roots down deep.  I watered and weeded and waited.  For three years.

This April its first blossoms appeared.

I hoped the plant would grow.  I did what I could to help it grow.  But I couldn’t see the magic happening beneath the ground.

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On those days when I feel like a pot-bound plant… dry and thirsty and waiting… these blooms remind me that God is at work.

He cultivates my heart, because I invited Him in.

He pulls the weeds of fear, because I asked Him to.

He helps me wait as purpose grows, with good food and water from His Word.

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How He is a Bridge

I fell big time for one of those videos that floats around Facebook.

A little boy and a little girl stand on a ledge, or perhaps it’s a very high sidewalk.  There is a large gap the girl is afraid to cross.  Without hesitation the boy straddles the gap, lowers himself down and becomes a human bridge.  And in the cutest way ever, she scrambles over.

I got misty eyed because I’m sappy that way.  And if the video wasn’t enough already, the song Bridge Over Troubled Water played in the background.

Immediately people sprang to mind who have been a bridge in my life.  Folks who came along at just the right time with just the right word or just the right resource.  A parent who loves with no strings attached.  A son who forgives.  A grandfather whose light still shines on the bridge he crossed from sinner to redeemed.

I thought of how we serve as a bridge from time to time – walk a friend thru a struggle, step up to see a difficult project thru, bring up a child, care for an aging parent.

You lay your self down, give part of yourself up, all in the hope that another is helped, loved, found.

It’s not easy.  You have questions.  Will I get thru this?  Will this make a difference?  Will there be anything left of me?

And the hardest part… you don’t always get to know the answers.

A few years back the husband and I took a trip to Washington, D.C.  We love to tour historic sites and this time it was the Battle of Antietam.

We spent several hours in Sharpsburg, Maryland.  We toured the memorials on the cornfields where so much of the battle took place.  Then we went to Burnside’s Bridge.  Men quite literally laid down their lives on that bridge.  Perhaps some wondered if they would survive the day or if their presence would make any difference to a fractured nation.  Far too many did not live to know.

Lately I’ve been studying the four gospels of the New Testament, learning more about the bridge I love the most… Jesus.  He is described in many ways, but I like to think of him as the bridge from this problematic world to eternity.

I’ve been on the bridge a long time.

Thankfully, I’ve not had to lay down my life in the way of a soldier.  I’m not scrambling over it in the cute way of the girl in the video.  I’m not even remotely graceful in my crossing.

I’m just plodding.  With mistakes and questions and wondering.  Not so unlike Jesus’ early followers.

And the main thing I’m learning, actually the thing I know for sure – it’s all okay.

I don’t need to be perfect.  It’s okay to wonder.  And I don’t need the answers.

I just need the bridge.

1c Witness Tree

The Words We Leave Behind

Yesterday I retrieved a new voicemail from my phone.  Because I’m one of those people who often saves voice messages, and because the 21 day time limit had elapsed, it was necessary to cycle thru all saved messages to get the new one.

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Normally, without listening, I just press 9 to save and move on.  For some reason, I listened to each one.

There are several from my sons.  All four of them.  I used to have a saved message from April 2007, just prior to one son’s military deployment.  It was accidentally deleted last year and I cried a little bit about that.  He was sweet enough to leave a new message just before he boarded a plane for his 2014 deployment.  Another son lives on the other side of the country and two live only an hour and a half away… yet I’ve been known to pull out my phone and listen.  Just because.  I may hear grown-up, manly voices, but in my heart I see little ones who used to sit around my dinner table.

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Dating back a couple of years, is the voice message from a sheriff’s deputy.  My mother-in-law, who suffered from dementia, had managed to call the 911 operator and report she’d been abandoned and needed help.  She called a second time to tell them she was being held against her will.  All of this before breakfast!  When I came downstairs, she waved me into her room to talk to the “nice man on the phone”.  She had “no idea what he wants”. 

There are many details from that morning which I’ll leave out, but by the end of it I was pretty sure I was having a stroke.  The deputy called back later in the day to  1) clarify the incorrect street address I’d given him in my befuddled state,  2) to assure me everything was ok on his end, he understood,   3) to see if everything was ok on my end.  Nice guy.  Not sure why I keep that message.  Maybe to remind me I am stronger than I thought I was then.  The memory is kind of funny now.  Sad and funny.

The last three messages on my phone are from my aunt.  She died in the fall of 2013.  As they played back, it felt like she was sitting right next to me.  I’m glad I didn’t have to talk back… because of the giant lump in my throat.  She was a big part of my life, for all my life.

Her messages generally had three parts – – something funny she couldn’t wait to tell, something about me she was grateful for and how much she loved me.  The last message, just a few weeks before she died, was weak.  Some words were slurred.  But still she managed to share her good humor, her gratitude, her love… one more time.

Words.

I love to read them and write them.  I stumble some when I have to speak them.  I’m continually amazed how they can be equally hurtful and healing.  And I will always be a student of them.

But for today, I am grateful for these few recorded words… for the healing, the hope, the love.