Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blogger Reflects on Motherhood

Carol Fruge is a friend from Dallas Seminary and she's launched a new blog. I love her original poem about the "unflappable mother" here. Lots of wisdom for those of us with young children.

I also stumbled upon a quote worth pondering this morning... More people fail from lack of encouragement than anything else.

And to all the mothers I've encountered this week who feel like they are running out of fuel with about sixteen laps to go: Sometimes "sufficient" or "not this year" or "no" is truly the best answer.

Question: Who have you encouraged today?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Juggling Perspective

End-of-the-school-year madness for 3rd, 4th and 6th grade is converging with little league baseball tournaments times three which is converging with a mess in my house that would tax an OSHA inspector which is converging with a laundry pile so high it would kill a Sherpa. It all hit a fever pitch yesterday when I realized that I needed to feed 49 kids world's best sugar cookies and ran out of dough at cookie number 44...

So this morning I was boohoohooing to a friend how I'm dropping more balls that I'm catching. To which she replied: "But aren't you glad for the balls you get to catch?"

Ahhhh.... I feel so much better.

Question: What are you grateful for today?

Photo by Mathias L; see here for restrictions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

On Fame and Dying

We were going around the dinner table a while back with the question: "Who among the living would you most like to meet and spend time with?" The boys were forthcoming with baseball heroes and famous authors. I can't honestly recall who Todd mentioned, but it seems he had someone in mind. But I remember struggling to identify anyone apart from people I already admire and know. Chalk it up to cancer, I guess. Something happens with respect to the way you look at people and time. You get focused with bull's eye precision on what and who matters most. For me it's family and friends.

This week, though, I realize there's one celebrity I wish I could meet: Farrah. Her fight for life and her unmasked journey toward death has me gripped. It's the lack of vanity now over her appearance, I guess, that makes her story so different on the surface, anyway. I caught the last 45 minutes of her documentary last night and also watched a bit of a talk show afterwards that featured some "experts" questioning her motives. She and her friends stated her motive pretty clearly in the documentary, I thought: to help others. Personally, I choose to believe it. Because I know how cancer helps define one's purpose, sometimes in an instant. When you're engulfed in suffering and hope is ebbing, don't you think it's natural to want to glean something, anything good from the journey? Though it was somber and depressing in parts, Farrah's story felt to me, anyway, like a soft blanket of empathy... something I pray that the "experts" will never have to wear.

Beneath the surface of Farrah's story, I wonder if the legacy she will leave goes beyond that of one's fight for life. Is there something for all of us to learn about the roller-coaster trajectory of celebrity and our own role in perpetuating a truly appalling cycle? What they do to themselves. What we do to them. There's a diseased downside to fame. When people rise and then soar and then cling to and cloy at heights before consumers change their appetites and spit them out.

Pop culture gives me the chills this week. The whole supply chain is seriously whacked. Where you have media outlets chasing falling stars like cannibals, just looking for a bit of fat on a thigh or a pedestal-smashing personal weakness. And the consumers who buy the trash at the check-outs who perpetuate this cycle. And the celebrities, themselves. In the end, would they, themselves, call it blessing or curse?

You could argue that a public figure with a hand-held camera has invited such scrutiny. The tabloids will no doubt run with "exclusives" on law suits and restraining orders and underbelly angles of this sad, sad story in days and weeks to come.

So, Farrah has invited us in. And there's something important about her story. Something sad. Something redemptive. Maybe. Something beyond how to die. I really think so.

Photo from Today entertainment. Article is here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fear Not... Always?

My dog, Ruthy, is a golden retriever who, not surprisingly, likes to retrieve things. This is charming until the retrieved item doesn't get returned and it happens to be something like your second set of running shoes and you're down to two left feet or date-night shoes for the daily power walk. That's where I found myself this morning. Two left shoes and a these kind-of-hurt-my-feet-but-are-simply-too-cute-to-throw-out pair of pink and gray fabric flats. Without a good option, I started rooting through the boys' shoe bin. Just so happens, Colin has a newish pair of comfy-looking black tennis shoes that are just my size. So I slipped those buggers on my feet and off Ruthy and I dashed for our morning sniff-about. About a quarter of a mile into the walk, however, I realized that my feet were killing me. You see, my son's cushy-looking shoes have these big metal shoelace holes that kind of dig into the top of your feet. The appearance of roomy comfort was merely an illusion. After two miles, I felt like a little bound-foot Geisha. This catapulted me to things spiritual.

Do You Really Know How Those Shoes Feel?

For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (NET Bible)

I saw recently where someone used 2 Timothy 1:7 to encourage group participation in something at the peak of the swine flu scare. This reminded me of the many times I've heard good-intentioned Christians blast the suffering with this same "God did not give us a Spirit of fear..." admonition. To what end? Like this is going to make someone suddenly drop whatever the fear is like a pan that's about to host a grease fire? I have never, ever heard anyone who's suffering say "Oh, gee, that makes be feel a whole lot better." Quite the contrary, it usually makes whoever is anxious all the more fretful because now the fear is wedded to in-their-face aspects of weakness and sin.

Have You Tried Those Shoes?

I have a dear friend who gets violently sick when she passes accident scenes on the highway. For me, it's relationship stuff that makes me ill. If you tell me about how your little heart has been broken, a piece of my heart will break with you. This sensitivity has allowed me, in my own mind, to feel as if I really know what you're going through. But just like I didn't know my son's shoes were foot crushers until I walked in them, I can't necessarily understand what you're feeling unless I, too, have been there. I can give you, hopefully, counsel based upon Scripture. But I can't begin to really get your situation or feel your pain until I have lived it. So, I need to be careful using verses like 2 Timothy 1:7 to counsel the anxious or the suffering, especially if I'm not able to authentically empathize.

Some Context

The apostle Paul is the author of 2 Timothy. It's an epistle or letter from Paul to his "apostolic representative" (NIV Study Bible) or younger assistant who's been tasked with a special ministry to the church of Ephesus on Paul's behalf as he languishes in prison. In the NIV translation as well as many others the word "fear" is replaced with the word "timidity." Other references to Timothy in Scripture (1 Cor 15:10-11; 1 Ti 4:12) suggest he is both young and, perhaps, lacking in some degree of confidence. So Paul writes verse 7 to remind him of the power He has in God (2 Ti 1-8:). Some translations also capitalize the "S" in "spirit" while others feature a lowercase letter. (I just spent 10 minutes trying to explain why this is significant, but my post-semester brain is not cooperating... if you re-read it, you'll see!)

What this verse doesn't say, is that fear is an unnatural human emotion. Some fear in this fallen world is in fact a good thing. I might think the giant fuzzy panda at the zoo looks cute and cuddly, but my fear keeps me from hopping the fence and trying to give it a hug. Beyond the obvious health consequences of drugs and alcohol, it's the let down of inhibitions and protective fears which lead to risky, harmful behaviors.

So, you might say, yeah, but we're supposed to trust God and if we really trust God, we won't have any fear. I'm inclined to say that so long as I have the inheritance of Adam, I will always have some degree of fear over something. It's the post-Garden funk of our broken humanity.

The Remedy

When I confront situations that are fearful, I am reminded to pray. I recognize my frail status apart from God and turn to Him for rescue. And I don't imagine for a second that in this vulnerable moment that God is saying tsk tsk and registering divine disgust over my fear. Quite the contrary, I believe He is probably happy that I phoned home.

Pic by Jacob Earl; click here for restrictions.