Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White. . .Thanksgiving?

Snow started falling last night, and continued on into the morning. Not enough that school was delayed, but enough to create a winter wonderland out here in the woods.

So off the kids went to school, and off I went with my mother-in-law to do some shopping.

That's when it really started to come down. I stopped in the Harbor, looking for a magazine, and almost couldn't make it back up the hill to the freeway. Picked up mom-in-law at Fred Meyer and left for Target. Quickly it became obvious that going straight home would be the better choice. Cars littered both sides of the freeway. I could feel our tires slipping underneath us. The other side of the freeway was completely blocked by 2 big rigs unable to climb the hill out of Purdy.

We made it home, but not without some drama going up our driveway. Which proved impossible, so we went around and tried going down the other way. Creating even more drama as we slipped and slided every closer to the ditch.

And now the snow continues to fall, the temperature continues to drop, apple cider is warming in the crock pot, a fire crackles in the wood stove, supplies are laid in should the winds knock out the power tonight, the kids are outside sledding, Christmas music is playing, and Karina's in the air toward the U.S.

I believe I have much for which to be thankful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's all my fault

On Monday I was praying with a small group of pastors. We were using the Lord's Prayer as a framework for our prayer time. We were in the "Hallowed Be Your Name" section.

I was bemoaning the way our world has cheapened our understanding of God, of the loss of awe and wonder, of the abundance of "bumper-sticker God" and "Jesus nightlight God" and "plastic trinket God" and "T-shirt slogan God." And mourning the loss of the Isaiah 6, Holy Holy Holy God.

And so I prayed, "God, we need to see your power again. We need you to show up and remind us of your majesty and might. Holy Spirit, come and reveal your power to us."

And at that very moment the entire building shook as a deep rumble echoed across the water.

Yes, it was a little disconcerting. A few moments of nervous laughter. . .and I said "okay, I'm just going to shut up and let you do your thing."

And in roared a storm that socked the entire Puget Sound region, hours and hours of gale-force winds and lashing rain. All completely unexpected, unpredicted by the weather forecasters. We turned off our lights and watched the lightning show for the next hour. Then all the power went out, so we were forced to stay in the dark until the next morning.

By daylight, the destruction was pretty severe. Trees toppled, boathouses destroyed, cars smashed, branches everywhere. I heard today some people are still without power. And nobody saw it coming.

So there you go. God pummeled the entire northwest just to prove my point. And the lesson seems to be:

- Be careful what you pray for
- God listens to Dan
- We should have gotten to the "Give us this day our daily bread" part sooner. I might be driving a Porsche right about now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Part of my childhood died today

Seven or eight years ago I was driving north from Fresno, headed up the 99 toward Turlock following a day at seminary. It was dark; the sun had long set, and I was scanning around the AM radio dial, wondering what I could pick up.

A baseball game came on, clear as day. For a few seconds I assumed it was out of the Bay Area, or maybe Fresno's minor league broadcast, it was that clear. But it slowly dawned on me that I knew the voice, I recognized the players. It was a broadcast of the Seattle Mariners, bouncing down my way across the atmosphere. It was the voice of Dave Niehaus. And suddenly, I was home.

I was that kid, going to M's games with my dad, brother, and sister, back in the days when you could park 1/2 a block from the Kingdome, when maybe 8,000 people showed up for the game, when it was fun, win or lose. A ship in the corner climbed out of its hole and fired a cannon shot with every home run. The floor would be littered with peanut shells and popcorn seeds. No-names ran the bases (well, they were big names to us, just not in the bigger picture of major league baseball).

But more often than not, we had the games on in the background at home. Dave Neihaus' voice filled our home, filled our summer nights. I just took him for granted, assuming he'd always been there.

During the eight years I spent in L.A., I only paid attention to the Mariners when they were down playing the Angels, or if they made it on TV (which they did during that amazing '95 season). But when we moved to Portland I found, to my delight, that they broadcast the M's games there. Many a summer day I was outside, working in the yard, and had Dave's voice to keep me company, to connect me to home.

Then there were those nights in Turlock. Once I discovered I could get the games, I listened every chance I got. Even there, in California, I could follow my beloved Mariners as if I were right there in Seattle.

Since moving back to the Puget Sound, I'm sure I've listened to 75% of the games each season (much to Karina's consternation, mind you). We don't have TV, so I turn the games on when I'm working around the house, or chopping firewood. Or driving home from Seattle. Or driving to the YMCA. Or anyplace else I'm near a radio. I can't tell you the times the girls have whined "Do we have to listen to baseball?" But of course we do. It's Dave. It's art. It's opera. Even as low as the M's have sunk in recent years, it was just comforting to have Dave's steady description of the game.

Last year somebody gave me a bottle opener. When you open a bottle it makes an electrical connection and plays one of Dave's famous calls, the Brett Boone "Grand Salami Time!" Olivia was playing it earlier today, over and over and over again. Then, tonight, Gene told me he'd heard Dave had passed away.

Truly, summer will be poorer without him. Baseball will be blander. The Mariners will simply stink (again). He was a connection to my past, to my family's past, to a Seattle that doesn't really exist anymore. To an innocent time when simply showing up to play was all that mattered. Wherever I went, it seemed Dave's voice brought me home again. I never met the man, but feel like I've lost a close friend. I suppose a lot of people are feeling the same way tonight.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Prayer for All Saints Sunday

Prayed at Lakebay Community Church 11/7/10

Almighty and compassionate God,
in Christ you have known the sorrow of our days.
Our losses are your losses, our pains are your pains.
Our grief is your grief.
In faith we believe that you know our tears,
that you hear our crying, that you know the
darkness stalking our dreams.
You who have known death, rejection,
pain and misery watch over us day by day.
Offer your comfort, O Lord, to those living
in the land of darkness. As you guided those who
have gone before us into your blessed home, guide
us through this dark and mysterious land.
Remember in your mercy those who have left us,
lead us into your Kingdom and grant us your peace.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

One of the things I like

is making my girls happy.

Like today, when Clara came to me and said, "Daddy, I hope you never have to become a Viking and kill people." To which I replied, "Okay then, I'll never become a Viking."

And she said "Good" and walked away with a smile.

Sometimes parenting is pretty easy.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Mary did you know - and when did you know it?

John 2. Jesus heads off with his mom to a wedding. His disciples are there with him. But the wedding planner hadn't planned very well. Long before the party is over, the wine runs out - a disaster with immense social ramifications.

But Mary has an ace up her sleeve. She's got Jesus there. "They're out of wine, Jesus," she tells him. He pushes back. "Why me? It's not my time yet." Mary isn't one to back down, however. In fact, she ignores her son's question. Turning to the servants, she tells them to "do whatever he tells you to do."

You know how the story ends. Jesus has them fill up some empty stone jugs with water; when they draw the water back out, it has been transformed into wine of the finest vintage. The day is saved, and Jesus has officially performed his first miracle.

The thing is, every time I've heard this story told, from childhood Sunday school classes on up to adult lessons and sermons, it's related with the assumption that Mary was pressuring Jesus into performing a miracle. She knew his mad miracle skills, so decided to use him in order to fix this situation. In essence, she's asking him to do something miraculous, he says he'd rather not do any miracle, but being a good mother, she pushes him into doing one anyway.

But what if that's telling the story wrong? After all, there's nothing in her initial request that implies an expectation of anything miraculous. It seems more like a mother simply saying "there's a problem, Jesus. Fix it."

By this time, Jesus had ascended to the rank of rabbi - he obviously was an intelligent man. And he had a group of disciples; he obviously had leadership skills. Regardless of his divinity, he was a man who could make decisions and deal with difficult situations.

So what if Mary herself wasn't expecting a miracle? What if she was simply proud of her intelligent son with good leadership and problem-solving skills. What if she really expected Jesus to say "Hey Peter and Andrew - they're out of wine. Could you run over to Safeway and pick up a couple of those Gallo boxes? Maybe a '95; that was a pretty good wine. Oh, and take Judas - he has the credit card."

If you read the story without making assumptions based on the end, doesn't it make more sense that Mary's request isn't for a miracle, but simply a desire for Jesus to take charge in the situation? To figure out a (human) solution? And thereby, maybe to receive a little glory in light of her wonderful son?

I think so. In fact, I think it better fits the reading of the entire gospel of John. There's a theme running through this book of Jesus showing up in unexpected ways. Of Jesus surprising people. Of Jesus baiting the hook, and then pulling people in. From the opening salvo of Jesus coming and setting up camp among us, to the woman at the well, to Nicodemus, to the sick man at the pool. . .time and again, people mistake him for a 'wise man' or 'good teacher,' and then, when least expected, he lets his divinity shine through.

Maybe there's just a little bit of humor in this story of the wedding banquet. It might be reading a bit too much into it, but imagine Mary asking Jesus to 'fix it' - she's thinking he'll use his management skills - and Jesus thinking to himself, 'You want me to fix it? I'll fix it alright, and won't you be surprised. . ."

By the way, Ben Witherington has made a pretty strong case that the gospel of John was written by none other than Lazarus. And wouldn't this have been the very lesson Lazarus learned? Jesus was a family friend, a man with whom he and his sisters had shared meals. But then one day Lazarus had the entirely shocking experience of being raised from the dead by this Jesus. I suppose that was just a little surprising, but an instant revelation into the true nature of Jesus.

And what a good lesson for all of us. How often do we look to Jesus to manage our situation, how often do we treat Jesus just like a teacher or parent or our extra-capable child, the one we expect to deal with our little problems. But Jesus' true desire is to let his divinity shine through, to surprise us with little miracles here and there - if only we have eyes to see it. Maybe we need to go back and read this story with fresh eyes, to see Mary's utter shock when, instead of managing the situation, her son does the unexpected - he creates a miracle before her very eyes. Feel her surprise, sense the dawning realization in her heart that there's a lot more going on here than she thought. Watch the awe and wonder bubble up in her heart.

And let it teach us something new about this man. Perhaps we ought not take him for granted so much.