Thursday, June 30, 2016

Of Fish, and Friends, and Fresh-Cut Grass: Freezing Summer Fast

Can you hear it?

Burring and whirring hums drone a scratchy constant as our backyard neighbor mows. The sound and fragrance are comforting and peaceful, one of summer's iconic pleasures. Tracing the contours of his yard, my neighbor's lawnmower rumbles and roars, releasing the sweet green scent of sliced grass. My sprinkler arcs languidly across the back yard, soaking gardens and flower beds, staining the soil and mulch a rich ebony.
Photo Credit: Flickr User Pearl Pirie, Creative Commons, cc license
On the couch, my green backpack still carries two towels, a dilapidated pair of black and white swim goggles, and Daniel's folded brown camouflage swim trunks. They smell like chlorine from last week's swim class, and we look forward to tonight's session. Crumpled kids' papers from last week's church Vacation Bible School program line his room, I know too.

"Summer is a-third over," Mark teased me this weekend, arcing an eyebrow at me.

"No, don't say that! It's just three weeks in," I said, revising and constructing my perspective.

In a season that flies by, I'm trying to freeze time, savor every moment, and live fully present.
At a graduation party this last Sunday, we sprawled on lush grass in groups, balanced bratwursts on our laps, and branched into conversations with the people around us. That Thursday morning in the hallway outside a church sanctuary where one hundred-seventy children and volunteers performed hand motions to lively worship songs, I curled up knees and leaned my head close to hear her.

"Jennifer, you have to meet Tonya," they had said, and now here we were.

Bending close to hear and reminisce, we talked about towns in West Africa, and the beauty and strength of the Liberian people, and of the atrocities of the Liberian civil war. An hour flew by, and then we exchanged business cards and hugs in the parking lot outside.
At home today, crimson cherries mound in a glass ramekin and Daniel samples a new snack: water-packed sardines.

"Mmm, I love it!"

We pause to examine a tiny fish spinal cord under the microscope, and summer marches on.

Hi friend, what has your first third of the summer been like so far? 

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

An Apology to my Twenty- and Thirty-Year Old Friends

They said it over half-price appetizers, and the taste of it went all salty in my mouth.

They spoke of feeling less than, less equal, less valuable, and pushed aside as women in the church.
Photo Credit: Flickr User, trawets1, Creative Commons, cc license
We reached across each other to taste a half-price miniature pizza, oozing white garlic sauce, chicken, and green avocados. We reached across each other to taste another's sweet barbecue chicken wings, a friend's quesadilla, and my wild rice chicken soup. We reached into each other's lives to see from another side of the table.

I dipped my bread into white rice soup and asked questions and listened.

My friends in their twenties and thirties answered. They spoke of disappointment in the church and of not feeling the freedom to ask penetrating questions of life, theology, current events, and hot topics.

An older friend at the table beside me who loves these younger friends as fiercely as I do nodded her head, and we listened and apologized for the times when our generation had gotten it wrong, or explained it poorly to them.

Girls, Jesus doesn't see women as less than. He made you strong, beautiful, compassionate, and independent. He calls you masterpieces, works of art, and he placed skills, talents, and gifts inside you on purpose to use. Wherever Jesus went in the Bible he broke stereotypes and was revolutionary, elevating women's statuses in that culture.

In New Testament Bible times, women weren't seen as reliable witnesses and their word didn't count as fully as a man's. Yet, where did Jesus first appear after his death and resurrection? To women. He saw them as valuable, reliable, equal witnesses.

In New Testament writings by Paul, Timothy, and others, women are constantly credited, named and publicly thanked throughout the ancient letters. The women were invaluable in the ministries, working alongside the male believers and even helping to finance things.

My voice trailed off, and I returned to listening for a bit.

We talked for hours, laughing, tearing up, sharing deep heart things, and loving each moment of it. These women teach me about life and relationships, and they love the people in their lives with a fierce, self-sacrificing love that humbles and floors me. 

At the end of one conversation, it hits me, and all credit goes to my peer. She said it and the words have split me through each time.

"Jesus doesn't respond how we think he will. Jesus doesn't treat us like other God-followers do, or have done." 

In looking at the Bible account of the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years, we see a women who is desperate, broke, and considered unclean, shut out from the community and the church by her quarantine status, accustomed to being shunned and set aside. Alone, miserable and desperate, she approaches Jesus and touches his robe. She is hoping for an invisible healing in the crowd because if anyone recognizes her as a bleeding woman, she will be jeered, scolded, and punished for getting close enough to contaminate them.

Robe touched. Healed instantly. Called out to come forward. Fearful terror constricts but she replies, and Jesus uses a word that only appears here once.

"Daughter..." he said intimately, and he heals her, commending her courageous faith, and publicly pronouncing her healed and clean. Restored to community, she had first been restored to the God who made her, loves her, and delights in her.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Your Cartoon Pig Card

Over a crunchy Asian salad of Napa cabbage, green lettuces, red peppers, and sugar snap peas drizzled in a fresh cilantro dressing, she handed me the card.

Grinning and arching an eyebrow at me, she waited, her wavy brown hair tucked behind an ear.
(Scanned card. Design courtesy of cards by
Inside the envelope, a white card featured pink cartoon pigs winched between red metal c-clamps. The caption inside read: "If you're happy and you know it, clamp your hams."

I laughed and smiled across the table at her.

"I would have been disappointed if you hadn't laughed," Marie said, knowing my quirky habit of laughing uncontrollably at some jokes.

Indeed as I read it aloud to other friends at the gathering, and then to each family member at home later that week, the joke grew funnier and funnier to me.

The card sits near my desk now and still makes me grin, the singsong nature of the words reverberating in my head as I read it.

What I love best about the card, though, is that my friend knows me. Knowing I like to laugh and that a joke may just push me into silent convulsing laughter, she bought it and thought of me.

This weekend I am traveling to a women's retreat where I am honored to be the keynote speaker. Their theme for the weekend is Pursued and Loved: God's Heart for You. In this last month as I have been reading and re-reading my notes for the sessions and digging into God's word, I am encountering a God who says he sees me and he hears me. Indeed he is the God who sets up extraordinary word pictures throughout time to point to his never-stopping, never-giving-up love for us.

So whether or not you have a friend who sends you pig cards, know that you are chased by the God of the Universe who loves you fiercely, un-endingly, and unconditionally. 

Pray for us this weekend, will you, friend? Thank you. :)

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