Friday, August 31, 2007

What's News?

While watching Weather Channel coverage of Hurricane Dean, the first major hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, I paused for a heart check. The storm had just swept through the Caribbean, killing 13, and was heading for the Yucatan peninsula. The meterologists were girding for the worst: a potentially devastating swipe at Mexico with the possibility of some weakening then rejuvenation of the hurricane's force as it trajected, possibly, toward America's Gulf Coast region. As it turns out, the storm's course took it through less densely populated areas of Mexico and spared the U.S. the brunt of its force.

So, I'm sitting there watching the Weather Channel. People are dying in the Caribbean... Mexico looks to be potentially ravaged... but my interest and my heart on this story are where? On 1) Texas, 2) Florida, 3) Louisiana. The same place, I might add, that the weather forecaster keeps focusing. Why? Because he is an American reporting the story to a primary audience of other Americans, like me.

OK, I know no one currently living in the Caribbean or Mexico. I wish I could say that I know, like, hundreds of people in the Gulf Coast. I think I know maybe three. So why does my heart go pitter patter for my countrymen while I scarcely register a pulse for someone else's countrymen?

Is my nationalist heart consistent with my faith? I mean, people are people, right? So why am I more concerned... by far... with the wellbeing of strangers in Houston versus strangers in Mexico? When a plane carrying 210 people goes down over India, why does my heart hope that the manifest does not list any Americans?

God's heart for Israel and the delineation between tribes and peoples throughout the Bible gives us precedent for having certain loyalties. But does this explain or excuse a heart that runs hot and cold for people along geographical and political boundaries?

This bugs me about myself at the moment.

While I'm on the subject, what is with the news emphasis these days? Does anyone remember the floods and mud slides in Hondurus some years ago? A devastating situation that made the nightly news for many nights in a row. Just recently, we have on planet earth a massive, richter-busting earthquake that killed hundreds and injured a couple thousand in Peru. I first saw an afternoon headline about this on MSNBC.com. I returned to the internet mid-morning the next day anxious to read more about what's going on there... but found, instead, a big, old headline on LiLo (or something similarly non-newsworthy). Maybe I'm cruising the wrong news sites, but does it strike anyone else a bit odd that this story was, like, a footnote?

Just some Friday morning musings... back to the books! I'm taking Old Testament History this semester and loving it!

Hope you all have a great weekend! An interview with Evelyn Adams is coming!

Love, Sarah

On my iPod... Water Music Suite II Allegro by Handel

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Disbelief or Disconnect?

Is it really that surprising that Mother Teresa was in a 40-year funk? She was like a little wooden raft on a sea of drowning souls. I would gather, after so many years of taking in all the misery and pain around her, that suffering became more din than shrill. But was she ever, ever cut loose from the shredding tether of humanity on that austere little raft? What are we to expect, really? That slogging it out in the streets of Calcutta and living amidst cloying poverty would make for a chipper heart?

I've only read excerpts from the book of her letters that's due to be published. But nothing I've seen yet makes my jaw hit the slate. I mean, really. Who doesn't have a mask? Who hasn't wondered why prayers echo? Who hasn't looked at evil and suffering in the world and thought about something other than the goodness of God? So Mother Teresa was a little philosophical in her writings? I was reminded of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Philippians and the candor with which he expressed whether or not it would be best if he lived or died. Elsewhere, he writes generously of the ever-present joy he maintained in Christ. But this joy, it would seem, is not defined as perpetual happiness, and it allows most assuredly for windows of serious, unveiled reflection.

There's a wide divide between "disconnect" and "disbelief." I obviously haven't read the book. But the excerpts I've seen published seem to reflect the former not the latter. God has given us the ability to reason so that we might put form and structure to areas of confusion that would otherwise frustrate and shut us down. We're used to using our minds to process things... to find solutions and solve problems. To reason and contemplate and question and investigate is part of God's gifting to man. Do you think He is shocked and offended when we wrestle and grapple with aspects of our faith that have not been lit by the candle of revelation? I'm sitting here wondering if God would rather that I seriously study Him... with the exploratory mind of a student... so that I am prepared to encounter the questions of others with genuineness. Or would He rather that I stick my fingers in my ears and hum loud enough so as to drown out that which makes me dare to wonder.

God has given Christians the capacity to trust... wholeheartedly... in the humanity and divinity of Christ. He has also given us minds to reason and hearts to feel. It will be interesting to see if Mother Teresa's letters reflect the agnosticism that some in the media claim to see... or will we, instead, meet a spirit of pathos that roamed the quiet spaces of a humble vessel that could only hold so many.

On my iPod... Easy to be Hard by Three Dog Night

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back to School 2007/8!

Lots of joy this morning bumping into school pals... missed some of you (catch you at pick up?)... but happily encountered Evelyn, Andrew, Jean, Kim, Sonia, Carrie, Rich, Anne, Susan, Melissa, Tracy (back from CA, yea!), Angela, Christine, caught a glimpse of Lenette... parallel parked this morning (yes, I did!) leaving just enough space for Loretta to squeeze in (did I mention I parallel parked?)... got the boys out the door with nary a hint of Smucker's Blueberry Syrup on their white polo shirts (or toothpaste on their chins)... found every single missing sneaker in under three minutes (a record!)... adorned Ruthy in her Camp Adams bandana in anticipation of the fans... only left one out of three required book covers in the hallway leading to the garage (Ahem, John? Are you missing something?)... and so looking forward to re-connecting with everyone I didn't see this morning.

OK... I am off to Starbuck's with the gift card that Todd gave me for back to school! Is that sweet, or what?

I pick-up at 11:00... so I'd best be off! Hope you have a great day!

Love,

Sarah

Monday, August 27, 2007

When Fine Is Not So Fine... Or Maybe It Is!


Several months after Daniel was born, Todd and I had a formal outing. I ditched my sweet-potato-dotted mommy duds for the occasion and slipped into a pretty black velvet dress. I curled my hair, applied lots of mascara and eye liner, and opted for a dark shade of lipstick. The look was very "un-me" but different enough to stop Todd in his tracks, I thought. I stepped into the foyer all painted and fluffed and announced dramatically: "Well? How do I look?"

There was a moment of silence as I tilted my head ever so slightly in anticipation of the string of adjectives which would most assuredly pour forth. Stunning! Magnificent! Wowee! Zowee! Hubba Hubba! What would he say, I wondered excitedly!

Then out it flopped: "You look fine."

Fine? Did he say that I look fine? That's what he said! I've just spent an hour of my life transforming myself from Mother Earth to Hot Mama and all I get is a fine?

My eyes narrowed like a pouncing salamander (they do pounce, don't they?) and I began to breathe fast and shallow. My Scottish anscestors would no doubt have been somewhat proud of my acidic reply: "Fine," I seethed, "That's what you tell a burn victim!" At that, I turned on my non-sensible heels and left Todd standing there no doubt wondering why I had just combusted over this very nice thing he just said.

The Facts: Words mean different things to different people.

The word "fine" to Todd might mean "I'm over the moon with respect to feelings I can scarcely contain!" (or something like that). While the word "fine" to me means something between doom and desolation. Bland, lifeless, mediocore, boring, stale, a barely breathing dog on the side of the road. That's what "fine" means to me.

So with this bit of history, I nearly fell on the floor laughing as I read about a similar incident in the book, Getting Along with Almost Anybody, by Florence and Marita Littauer. One of the contributors to this book recounted the time she had slaved in the kitchen preparing a special multi-course breakfast for her husband. Anticipating a heap of accolades and praise, she said "Well? How does it taste?"

To which her husband replied: "Fine."

Ouch.

My Monday morning group read Getting Along and we met to talk about it last week. Several of us found it extremely helpful as we reflect on all of our relationships. The book covers a lot of ground... marriage, re-marriage, children, friendships, employment, education, doctors, finance, ministry... if it's a relationship arena, it's probably addressed in this book.

There's a personality inventory (similar to the golden retriever, otter, lion, beaver assessment you may be familiar with) at the end of the book which is extremely helpful. Todd and I took the profile and also completed one for each of our children, which has proved very insightful. And it's written from the Christian perspective. Check it out! It just might explain some things that have left you wondering all these years!

On my iPod... Mystery Achievement by The Pretenders

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Love is...


1 Corinthians 13 tells us this...

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.


It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Coming Next Week... Evelyn Adams on photography

(Photo by mscaprikell; see http://www.flickr.com/people/mscaprikell/ for restrictions.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some Recent Pics

Going 'round in Dollywood at Pigeon Forge, TN (The Six Flags experience with "How Great Thou Art" blaring from the sound system!)

Scene from our deck in Pigeon Forge, TN. Great Smokey Mountains in the background.

The cabin way up high (Pigeon Forge, TN)


Rangers fans on 8.23.07!


More Rangers fans!

Pic shot from atop the Washington Monument.


Sunset over the Great Smokey Mountains

Boys at the foot of the Washington Monument (cool pic, Todd!)



The lawn crew in Vienna, VA

Bungee jumping in Wintergreen, VA


A sad walk along The Wall.

The blogging trail blazers! My pretty sister-in-law and niece & awesome "Uncle P." (Anybody have any good group pics? Ours didn't turn out too well.)

Me showcasing my athleticism (it only took me eight tries on this one). "Hang in there, John! I think I can do this one inside of five minutes!"


The cousins!

Now, this is interesting: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is offering courses for women this fall on sewing and cooking. Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, August 24, 2007

For Planning Purposes


My parents watch Charles Stanley on Sunday mornings and I caught one of his sermons on our recent trip to Virginia. I wasn't taking notes and, unfortunately, didn't capture the Scripture periscope (a thump on the head to the seminary student...). But there were a couple take-aways that have stuck with me.

  • Be specific in our appeals to God

  • Prepare for what it is that we seek

Stanley said God appreciates our attempts to move beyond generalities to be descriptive and pointed in our prayer requests. We should also be mindful of the fact that God expects us to do our part in preparing to receive what we desire. (I would just add here that this doesn't mean that preparation in and of itself will cinch whatever it is that we want... God is not a genie.)

For example...

I want to remain cancer-free. I pray for this. But if I'm ignoring certain dietary and lifestyle influences that may have an impact on my health, what am I telling God? That I don't want it bad enough to do my part.

I want to reach people for Christ through the written word. I pray for impact and effectiveness. But if I'm sitting around snarfing down a daily diet of Jerry Springer and General Hospital... when I could be studying theology or trying to develop better communication skills... what am I telling God? That I don't want it bad enough to do my part.

I want my children to be healthy, contented, compassionate, resilient, God-centered adults. I pray for this. But if I put them in front of trash TV and raise them to believe that the world revolves around them, what am I telling God? Again, that I don't want it bad enough to do my part.

Questions: What do you want? Are you praying in generalities or specifics? What are you doing today to prepare to receive what it is that you desire?

On top of my reading stack: Night by Elle Wiesel. Not for the young or overly sensitive. A powerfully penned, kick-in-the-gut recounting of a boy's encounter with the Holocaust. Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and writes with heart-wrenching authority.

(Photo by Joey~!!; see http://flickr.com/photos/tequilarose/249662247/ for restrictions.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

On Seasons and Home


Annette Bening and Warren Beatty were flying their lear jet somewhere and, perhaps on a lark, decided to touch down for an unscheduled visit to Annette's original family home. The celebrity couple crash landed into the new owner's evening and were received warmly. The couple walked through halls of memories that brought tears to the eyes of the middle-aged actress. This story made a small, short-lived headline some years ago.

The headline coincided with my own trip to Colorado Springs where I spent a couple impactful years as a child. The move away from Colorado to Virginia was one of life's major traumas for me. In many ways, I remained for years in a state of arrested development, missing everything from the mountains to the wildflowers to my first-ever crush. Nothing in Virginia, I thought, could ever compare to the towering white-capped Rocky Mountains... the thrill of finding the first lavender anemone of Spring... the linen-fresh smell of mountain air... and sweet, childish memories of Todd Taylor. Misty reflections from time past.

With Annette Benning and idyllic dreamscapes in my mind, my heart raced and my hands shook as I knocked on the door of my childhood home in Colorado Springs... some thirty years removed from the time I once lived there. Oh, please be home, I hoped! A few seconds passed and a woman opened the front door but allowed a screen to stand between us.

"Yes," she snapped, impatiently.

"I'm sorry to bother you without any notice," I began, "but my Dad built this house a long time ago. I spent years here as a child. I'm living in Texas now and just visiting. I wondered if it would be OK if I took some pictures of the outside of the house... and the garden area."

The woman, who appeared to be about my age, looked me up and down, obviously trying to assess whether or not I was telling the truth or trying to scam her, then grudgingly allowed, "Whatever." Then she slammed the wooden door shut.

This was not how it played out for Annette and Warren, that's for sure. Annette left with the peace that her sanctum of childhood was no doubt still bathed in warmth. I was left standing on the doorstep of the place I'd yeared to be for 30 years feeling as if someone had just stomped on and junked my first green-and-gold diary.

I stepped out on the driveway and with tears in my eyes saw, for the first time, perhaps, what the house really looked like, now that the halo of good vibes had burned away. The redwood wrap-around deck had been replaced by wood that had grayed and was now rotting in spots. The trees were wild and overgrown. It was a scene of abandon and neglect.

I cut across the lawn to the side of the house where my father had built a magnificent garden out of hand-picked rocks. He had used variant ground cover and small flowering plants as a kind of mortar between the rocks and it had been his pride and joy. The wall was now a mass of weeds all but obscuring the rocks.

"This is so sad," I cried to Todd as we drove off, leaving a bundle of my most precious memories in a pile of rubble on someone's chilly doorstep.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us this: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecc 3:1)

Where there were once interesting rocks and thriving plants, today my father's garden in Colorado Springs is overrun with weeds. There is none of the vibrance and beauty that once caused people who passed to stop and admire the creative adaptation of nature.

We spent a few days with my 82-year-old parents in Virginia recently. My Dad had taken his love of nature from Colorado to Virginia where he built a new garden of rocks and plants which he has lovingly tended all these years. My heart occupied a prominent spot in my throat when I saw that now this garden, too, is covered in weeds. Not because of a lack of caring, certainly. But at 82 years of age, Dad simply can't do what he did as a younger man.

I was struck as I stared at my father's garden in Virginia by this sense that there can be different reasons for the same outcome. A young homeowner in Colorado and a garden in decay. An elderly homeowner in Virginia and a garden in decay. Purely speculative on my part, but perhaps one garden lacks caring or commitment and the other lacks ability. But both decline.

I got down on my knees in Virginia and ripped out every weed I encountered. I was determined that those rocks my Dad had found and placed on that bank as a younger man would not be hidden and obscured. Those rocks meant something to him. And at that moment, I'm about certain that they meant even more to me.

I had a melancholy around all of this, it's true. But I found amazing comfort and God's peace in the knowledge that all of our seasons, even winter, are milestones along the path to something greater. That our transitions are part of the grand design. From Spring to Summer and Fall to Winter... the seasons of a life fully lived mark the path heading home.

Check It Out: Next time you visit D.C., stop by the National Gallery of Art and view Thomas Cole's "Voyages of Life" paintings on permanent display there. It's a beautiful and spiritual depiction of the journey of life.

On my iPod... Thing of Beauty by Hothouse Flowers (again!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm Back!

Howdy, Friends! I'm back from a wonderful visit with family on the East Coast (Todd's and mine). Our travels took us to Wintergreen and Vienna, Virginia, Washington, DC, and the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee (our rental property was near the end of a narrow, squiggly, one-lane mountain road with heart-pounding vertical drop-offs... it was bite-the-nails exciting and what a view!).

We had the whole house painted while we were gone. Painters did an incredible job, but everything's been pulled out of cabinets and drawers and closets and we have a monster re-organization and clean-up job. The boys and I resume school next week and I'd really like to have the house back to some semblance of normal by then. So I'm still off the blog for a few more days. But I'll be back with some new stuff soon. Hope you're all enjoying the last few days of summer break! Love, Sarah

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Adios, Me!

I'm taking a break, my friends. Will catch you at a later date! Peace and lots of love to you all! Sarah