A Pity Party and a Pretty Party

I have been in a bit of a pity party lately. We’re rapidly approaching the anniversary of our mid winter, mid-blizzard move here to the frozen north, and that is a difficult time for me. All of the novelty of moving has worn off. You know where to buy tuna and tires and you have a general idea of where neighborhoods and major streets lie, but information transmits so much faster than relationships, and right about now I always remember that real friendships take about three years to form. Over the last two weeks I was feeling misunderstood, and unneeded and generally lonely as activity and life in the church seemed to pass me completely by.

Turns out, a few of the ladies were planning me a surprise 40th birthday party, four months after my actual birthday, because . . . SURPRISE. It was sweet and beautiful and Bob cooked piles of bacon, and there was a TARDIS card. It was pretty perfect.

One of my favorite families moved to Colorado this summer, and as I read about their journey into a new state, a new culture and a new season of their life, I was slapped past my pity party. I have been so blessed, as all pastoral families are, to be dropped into the midst of a church family who loves us, who wants us, and who is eager to begin building those friendships. Most people move somewhere without that head start to relationship building. To say that I have been lonely is to completely deny the overwhelming love and welcome we have received here. Sure I don’t have the depth of relationship with people that two more, or six more, or seventeen more years of living and serving and praying alongside folks will give me; but I have 11 months of relationship, and a surprise party, which is more than most people get 11 months after a move.


Kissing Frogs continues

This is the continuation of an ongoing fiction work I started years ago. If you want to read from the beginning, click “Kissing Frogs so Far” on the tab above the header.

Tracey got into her car, and smiled as she saw Joey’s truck parked at the far end of the parking lot, as if it was unsure of its role there. There was a brief resistance against her efforts to put the Jaguar in first gear, which served as a reminder that she may look like she belonged, but she was just her daddy’s guest, driving his cast off vehicle. The tears trickled down her cheeks and she wiped them away, angry at herself and angry at her circumstances.

 

Joanna was still at fight club, so Tracey decided to swing by the office to get some work done before facing her oldest, dearest, and much maligned friend. The building was quiet, and the sun was shining, and all of Tracey’s good intentions still found her banging a pencil eraser against a book manuscript as she re-read the same sentence for a fourth time. As Tracey bounced down the stairs, phone in hand, she said, out of habit, “Joanna, I’m going across the street for coffee.” The empty desk didn’t answer her.

 

Tracey discarded promotional e-mails and checked off her to-do list as she ordered her low-fat, sugar free, high octane mocha.

 

“Name?”

 

“Tracey”, she answered, without looking up. They would spell it wrong. They always did.

 

*****

 

Joanna’s walk-up apartment always made Tracey feel slightly guilty. She was pretty sure she knew how much Joanna made, and she was pretty sure she could afford better, and for some reason that made Tracey feel . . .inadequate. She’d never had a name for it, but that was it. The opulence of Joanna’s simplicity made Tracey feel as if her home was compensating for a moral inferiority. She knocked anyway, and the grocery bag swung awkwardly from her elbow as she did.

 

“Come in, Tracey,” came the muffled reply from inside. Tracey steeled herself, then pushed open the solid metal door and breezed into Joanna’s little kitchen.

 

“Hi, Joanna. I brought you a steak for your bruises.” Tracey had barely set the bag down when Joanna whipped around the corner, grabbed the bag, and disappeared again.

 

“Hey. I was kidding. That’s an expensive steak.” Tracey stuttered to her friend’s disappearing back. She rounded the corner herself in to the living room to see Joanna, clutching the red meat to her face.

 

“But it was a gift, so use it as you see fit,” she trailed off, and then burst out, “Are you seriously holding that rib eye to a black eye? What happened?”

 

Joanna looked up at her oldest friend, and said, “Someone kicked a door.”

 

There was silence for a moment before Tracey responded, “You are trained in three forms of martial arts. You’re telling me you were taken out by a door?”

 

Joanna nodded, and the deep red of her exposed face was not entirely due to the red meat she was holding there. The two women looked at each other, and began to giggle. Soon neither of them could stand, they were laughing so hard.

 

When things settled down a little, Tracey took a deep breath and said what she had come to say.

 

“I’m sorry I was such a coward that I would rather alienate you than tell my boyfriend that you work for my dad.”

 

Joanna leaned back into her couch, the steak hiding her face and she said, “It’s O.K. We’re bigger than that.”

“But the thing is, we shouldn’t have to be. You don’t do these things to me, but I have been doing them to you since the ninth grade when I was too embarrassed to let anyone know I was living in your basement and you just let me walk three blocks and take a different bus. I’m sorry. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

 

Joanna laughed behind the steak.

 

“One day I will do something terrible. It is the nature of relationships. And then you’ll be the one on this side, being okay and forgiving me. Besides, I totally could have taken Faulkner.”

 

Tracey looked sideways at her friend and quipped, “Apparently not if he kicked a door.”

 

Both of the women burst out laughing again.


This is All New to Me

I grew up with snow. Despite my protestations about cold, I was born and raised a northern girl, and I have snow experience. I know how to get a truck out of a snow bank. I have been to bonfire/sledding parties. I have skated on lakes. I am not a stranger to this season we call winter.

I have never, however, experienced a first snowfall that lasted twenty-four hours and resulted in an accumulation of fourteen inches of snow until this week. It is like someone flipped a switch from “autumn” to “winter” and shouted “ready or not, here it comes.” Turns out, not ready.

This New Brunswick weather is all new to me. This is going to take some adjustment.


Book Review: Songs of a Suffering King by J.V. Fesko

Ask most Christians if they have read the Psalms, they will answer, “Of course.” Many will even claim it to be their favorite book of the Bible, or a place of refuge in emotional struggle. Often if pressed, however, the truth revealed is that we have certain favorite Psalms to which we turn, repeatedly, but the book in its entirety is a mystery to us. One of the interesting things to remember about Psalms is that the order in which the psalms appear, and the headings of authorship and timing are all inspired. While God certainly intend that we read and sing individual psalms, he also intended that they be encountered in a specific order, and as a complete unit.

J.V. Fesko makes this point in Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8, and then walks through the first eight Psalms in an effort to encourage our further exploration of this wonderful book. Fesko operates on two theological premises. The first is that all of the psalms are about Christ and the second is that the psalms should not only be read, but also sung. In light of the second, he includes a metrical version of the Psalm in the study at the end of each chapter which he has selected from a variety of available Psalters. Having been introduced fairly recently to the practice of metrical Psalter singing, I think this idea of singing a psalm after having studied it would be a great way to re-introduce the practice to a contemporary church who has lost it.

Fesko’s studies of the psalms in question are both Christocentric, and rooted in the history from which the Psalm written. This is not a study of the form of Hebrew poetry or the literary qualities of the passages. These are moving exegetical studies that show us that the Psalms aren’t the biblical equivalent of pulling a security blanket over our heads.

I reviewed Fesko’s work  Christ and the Desert Tabernacle two years ago, and having now read this one, I am eager to read more of his books. He has the rare gift of being both pastoral and academic and he manages to help us find Christ in parts of scripture we don’t believe he can be found.

I received no compensation for this post. I was provided a paperback edition for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one.


Book Review: Biblical Portraits of Creation by Walter C. Kaiser

I am behind on my book reviews. Apologies all around.

First up is Biblical Portraits of Creation: Celebrating the Maker of Heaven and Earth by Walter C. Kaiser. The study of creation is a controversial one and as is the case in controversy we are tempted to become polarized and tilt against the straw men of our perceived enemy rather than seek after truth. Walter Kaiser’s book cuts past that and goes straight to the source of truth: scripture.Biblical Portraits of Creation is an academic study of the whole of scripture. Kaiser digs deep into the text of not only Genesis 1 and 2, but also of wisdom literature, the prophets, and the New Testament to lay out a comprehensive study of what the entire counsel of scripture has to say about Creation. This is not a devotional, nor will you find any elaborate theories of dinosaurs, or diagrams of earth strata. Biblical Portraits of Creation instead explains how the Genesis creation account is foundational to and an interconnected part of the rest of scripture. It is designed, however, to be a study and each chapter ends with questions designed to aid in that pursuit.

Jonathan has been preaching through Genesis in our evening service, and he has said, repeatedly, if you get Genesis, you get the rest of the Bible. Kaiser’s study would be an excellent choice for a Sunday School class, or a small group who want to begin to see how that statement is true and want a chance to dig out the truth through some deep study of their own.

I received no compensation for this post. I was provided an electronic copy for the purpose of review. I was not required to provide a positive one.


Kissing Frogs Continues

This is the continuation of an ongoing fiction work I started years ago. If you want to read from the beginning, click “Kissing Frogs so Far” on the tab above the header.

Maybe, just maybe, he would one day have a single conversation with Tracey in which they did not both misunderstand each other and have a hackle raising competition. Maybe. But not today.

Joey’s spine was still tingling with the sensation that had run across it at the thought of being fired. The bill collectors had only just quit calling. He was beginning to check his mail without dread. He could not lose this job now. He was also having a hard time shaking the idea that he was going to be losing his job.

“Well, have a seat. Don’t just stand there kicking those boots. Did you get enough to eat? I told Joanna to make sure you were comfortable.”

Joey slid into the booth, while mumbling something inane about hollandaise sauce and better than mama’s biscuits. Edward laughed and leaned back, crossing his arms across his chest.

“Well, I was doing everything in my power to make you comfortable coming into this conversation, and then my daughter knocked it all apart.” He chuckled again. “The story of my life, I suppose, and hers too. OK. Let’s cut to the heart of the discussion because you’re sitting over there hearing nothing at all and hoping desperately not to hear one of the many euphemisms people use for fired.”

Joey smiled weakly, and nodded.

“You’re not fired. Does that help?”

Joey smiled more weakly and shook his head. Edward put his elbows on the table, and said, “O.K. Let’s start over.”


Some Reflections on Providential Provision

Tonight, for the first time in my life, I served a meal in which not a single ingredient (unless you count the salt and pepper) was purchased in a store. We had roasted potatoes and carrots from our garden, corn from the Budd’s garden and one of “our” chickens. I hesitate to entirely claim those chickens, as Owen and Aimee put in most of the hard labor to raise them; nevertheless, they have never seen the inside of a grocery store. For dessert we had watermelon, also from the Budds. You’ve heard of the 100 mile diet? Tonight we had the 10 mile meal.

When we lived in St. Louis, I shopped at ALDI to make the food stamps stretch as far as they could. I have no idea where that food was farmed or grown, but we thanked the Lord for it all the same. In that place and situation we were trying to be the best stewards of the provision the Lord had granted us, and we are trying to do the same thing here.

Tonight as we prayed “give us today our daily bread” with the children, the Lord brought to mind all the ways in which His provision of daily food has changed over the years. The details of the daily bread has been different in every place, but the principle of dependence upon the Lord has remained.  The way the Lord provides, and the decisions we make about how to use that provision, is not only different from person to person, but from circumstance to circumstance; however, it is always, and only, the Lord who provides.

For that provision, in whatever form it comes, may we be forever grateful.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 297 other followers