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Public Private News

I sat at the gate in an airport listening to my dad explain to me what “hospice” is.  As I realized what it meant for my grandmother, tears began their slow slide down my cheeks, pooling in the crevice above my lip.  My nose closed up, my face got hot and my throat suddenly felt like I had a cold.  Halting speech and a spasm-ing chest.  My seat was in a circle of other seats, and six other people sat in it too.

I noticed their careful not-noticing of my grief.  It might be a testament to the disconnection of the human experience, the fragmentation of society that these strangers appeared unmoved by my turmoil.  Or perhaps it was a moment displaying the sympathetic kindness of strangers, attempting to give me the dignity of privacy in a very public place.

I don’t know which.  I guess I get to choose how I see it, and I don’t think it matters what was actually going on in each of us.

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Real Simple thoughts

I walked through the cold California morning air to my apartment and swung open the white gate.  I didn’t check the mail yesterday, so I slid the tiny key into my little mailbox.  The metal door creaked open and stuffed in the box were coupons, a bill and a plastic-wrapped Real Simple.  Yes.  The coffee was made (thanks, Sandy).  I moved my space heater from my room and positioned it in front of my chair.  With coffee poured into a turquoise tea cup, I settled down in front of the waves of heat and opened the magazine.

At the front, there is always a picture and a quote.  This month’s said

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”

It made me thankful.  Thankful that this pursuit of being known and loved isn’t like finding a particular stone on a mountain, then taking it home and setting it on a mantle.  Thankful for the work of kneading love to make new loaves each day.  Thankful that there is more and more to taste and to discover.  It makes me think of the importance of making new memories.

I’m just really glad that life is this way–like bread and not a stone.  Being made new all the time.  That’s good news to me.

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Covenant Love

My church talks a lot about covenants, especially about the one between God and people.  In the beginning, God makes a covenant between this people Israel.  In a covenant, both parties have a responsibility.  Both parties keep the covenant.  If one party breaks the covenant, the other is free from the responsibility.  So there’s this covenant that God makes with Israel.  The covenant is this: that Israel will have a relationship with God, such an important relationship that their identity is now determined by the fact that they are God’s own people; that God will be faithful to Israel and will bless them; that Israel will be faithful to God and bless the nations.  A covenant is a beautiful thing.

But they problem is that Israel can’t keep the covenant.  Because of their unfaithfulness, God is released from His promise to be their God, to care for them, to bless them, to be in relationship with them.  But He doesn’t walk away. The whole point of Jesus is that God says to humanity, “You can’t keep the covenant.  I’m sending Jesus to be faithful in your unfaithfulness, to keep what you have broken, to bind you to me forever.”

Sometimes, especially during the holidays, I check out from God.  I peace out for a while- sometimes it’s intentional hiding, sometimes its just letting life go by.  Either way, I’ve noticed that when I want to return, I’m filled with guilt.  I’ve broken something and I can’t get over my disappointment at my failure.  Recently, I was driving and asking God what it was going to take to change this cycle in my life.  He didn’t answer that question.  He resoundingly reminded me, “I am the covenant-keeper, and you are not.”  Jesus keeps the covenant.  Because of the covenant love of the crucified son, there is no longer anything at stake in our relationship when I mess up, when I break things, when I fail.

Because of the covenant love, I am free to run to him or to hide and He remains faithful; He remains present.

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Reflections on Gifts

Gifts are on my mind.

Today, I am wearing these earrings.

Joy, my cousin, gave them to me several years ago.  I cannot wear them without thinking about her.  This is one reason that I love to be on the receiving end of gift-giving.  I love to go about my daily business with eyes alighting on things that have been given to me.  Although beautiful and useful things bring me delight in themselves, my delight is doubled by the memory of the giver.  These earrings (or scarf or garlic press or sparkle pens, to name a few recent gifts) become icons– symbols that I can see and touch, wear and use which remind me of a person.  Of Joy, and my relationship to her, of the last time we were together, of the fact that she’s moved to a new city and is undertaking a new venture in her life.  The earrings remind me of the unanswered letter on my desk.

We just celebrated Christmas, and under my family’s tree were many boxes with bows and tiny tags naming their recipient.  There are many voices who cry against the materialism of our society and dismiss the practice of Christmas gift-giving as the invention of the toy makers.  At best, it is an ingenious marketing ploy to which we have all blindly fallen prey.  At worst, it is a sad attempt to prove our love buying our relative’s affections.  Certainly, such opinions have a point, but it seems like a pretty one-sided perspective to me.

I don’t want a Christmas that is about the packages under a tree, but neither can I escape the memory that the first Christmas was all about a gift.  So to demean and vilify the gift-giving practice, I think, is to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Gifts can’t be all bad.

The great divine initiative that God took to include us in His family through Jesus Christ is often proclaimed in Scripture as “the free gift of God.”  Before the toy-makers ever schemed, His hand was extended in loving-kindness, not to purchase our affection but to offer us something we couldn’t get on our own– fullness of life.

In the same way that I can’t wear these earrings without thinking of Joy, I can’t live by grace or walk in freedom without remembering Abba, His tenderness and His great love.  To receive gifts is to be human.

 

P.S.

I’m going to take a systems leap…


Premise One:  Without examination and reflection (or the direct intent of preservation), all things degenerate.  It’s the natural process of an aging, decaying world.

Premise Two:  To receive gifts is to be human.

Conclusion:  A blanket censure on gift-giving (whether birthdays, valentines, christmas, etc) is an anxious reaction.  There is a discrepancy (and therefore conflict, and therefore anxiety) between the way things/we are and the way things/we ought to be.  We are aware of this to some degree on a subconscious level.  We can’t handle the anxiety, so gifts get triangulated in and are scapegoated.

Not sure I can support that, just processing through some new lenses.

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The Day After

I’m pretty much an ink snob.  I only like to use uniball vision fine tip black ink pens.  But over the course of my years, my snobbery has taken different forms.  It began in junior high with the help and co-snobbery of my friend Lauren.  (Lauren also hated to see mess-ups on a piece of paper.  She would write an entire note–because what else were we writing in junior high?–mess up at the bottom, dramatically tear the whole sheet out of her spiral notebook, crumple it up and throw it over her shoulder, then begin again.  Interestingly, Lauren didn’t end up on the stage.  She’s a kindergarten teacher, which, I suppose, is a stage of another sort.  But I digress.)

Remember sparkle gel pens?

Remember sparkle gel pens.
Remember sparkle gel pens!

Hm, punctuation.  In junior high, all the girls had a variety of pastel-colored gel pens, which also sparkled.  They were metallic.  And they were fabulous.  (As a side note, the silver and gold pens never worked.  Why was that?)  These pens took schools across mid-America by such a storm that teachers had to make special announcements about them:  “Do NOT use pink or yellow gel pens on your homework.  I cannot read it and you will get an incomplete.”  Some even mentioned the pens, indirectly of course, in their syllabi:  All coursework must be done in BLUE or BLACK ink ONLY!  We all knew Mrs. Seventh Grade English didn’t want to read about whether the lady or the tiger came out of the door in our metallic green glo pen.  Lame!

I haven’t thought about those gel pens in a long time.  I’m pretty sure I have a box full of notes all folded to look like origami puzzles under my bed… I wonder if I could still read those sparkle-full notes, who saw what in the hallway after sixth period.

Well, on this twenty-sixth day of December in the year of our Lord two thousand and eleven, I find myself the happy owner once again of six metallic gel pens.  I have pink, reddish pink, gold, yellowish gold, green and light pink.  I just wrote my to-do list with green.

I don’t have any insights or epiphanies about these pens.  I just wanted to voice my thoughts.  Do you remember sparkle gel pens?  What was your favorite color?

P.S. I’m pretty much an ink snob now.  I only like the use black uniball vision fine tip pens.

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