Friday, February 13, 2015

Five-Minute Friday - When

There's something in the English language called 'the conditional'.  I'm not an expert, but it came up the other day while a friend and I were teaching our intermediate and advanced English as a Second Language classes to military spouses on post.

I would have wished for stars....   is an example of a conditional tense - this one (I think) is conditional past perfect (or past participle depending on how long ago you studied grammar...).  Using the word 'would' is a big clue.  You set up a condition with the thought of perhaps doing something, and there's an implied 'but' or 'if' -

Here's an example of the sentence that had us stumped for a bit...

"I wish I would have been watching."

See, it gets kind of confusing.  You have the present 'wish', the past 'would', the present 'have', the past 'been', and the present continuous 'watching'.  I know.  Bear with me - I'll get to the prompt.

So, the other teacher asked my advice.  She thought it wasn't a conditional tense because there were no qualifiers - the 'if', the 'but', the (here it is, folks....TA DA) 'when.'  We looked it up.  Yes, there is a good purpose for iphones!  Ends up this is a mixed present hypothetical past perfect conditional sentence with an implied 'if'.  EEK!!

Well, here's the point of this little jaunt into grammar-land.

How many times have you implied an 'if', or a 'when', or a 'but' into your life?

I will do such and such when....
I would have done such and such, if only...
This might happen, but....

See.  We live in conditionals.

Long example, short lesson.

God isn't conditional.  He Is.

We serve a mighty God who will NEVER forsake or desert us.  NEVER.  Not conditional.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Jesus said 'When'.  He didn't say If.  He didn't say but.

  When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, 
he will sit on his glorious throne.
Matthew 25:31

Our Savior doesn't imply conditionals.

That's cause for celebration, don't you think??

Linking with Kate at 5-Minute Friday

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Snow - Metaphor

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, 
whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, 
whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. 
And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

We knew, when my husband accepted this posting, that we might be in for some cold weather and snow.  Yup.  Halfway through February and the snow totals since October have topped the 90inch mark.  Thankfully not all at once, right?  At the same time, we are about to experience daytime high temperatures that won't crack zero.  Yes, negatives will be our highs.  I smile when I hear the newscasters explain the temperature in thermometer degrees and wind chill.  Those negatives we're expecting by this weekend?  Thermometer degrees.  Wind chill will be colder.  Much colder.

So, having set the stage... I just came back in after shoveling.  Again.  We only got a couple of inches of snow overnight, but when the snowplow runs by, it leaves a mound of slushy, icy, snowy mix at the foot of the driveway.  Knowing the cold that's coming, I thought it a good idea to get rid of that mound while the shovel could still get it.  By tomorrow morning it will be solid ice.  And tomorrow my husband gets home from a month-long training exercise, so I want everything to be, you know, perfect.  Perfect is not driving over an ice mogul.

And therein, lies this post.  Imagine.  I am out in the dusk of morning shoveling snow for the umpteenth time this winter.  I know it could be worse.  I could be in Boston where the snow totals for the winter are less, but the amount they're getting each day is catching them up quickly.  I could be in a more urban setting where I have to dig my car out of snow every day.  So I am, first and foremost, thankful.  I am thankful that I have the get-up-and-go to do what needs to be done.  I am thankful for warm clothes and a warm place to go when I'm done.  I am thankful for the beauty of the white blanket.

But it also causes me to think.  Call it cheesy - but I think of this snow and this shoveling as a metaphor for my Christian life.  It is cheesy; in an I'm-laughing-at-myself-come-along-on-the-journey kind of way, but bear with me.  This kind of thinking gets me through my morning chore, maybe it'll get you through something....

First - I feel like I'm shoveling the same stuff over and over.  The snowpiles by the side of the drive, by the sidewalk, by my porch and patio, by the road are getting deep.  I watch a shovel-ful of white tumble and roll from the top and sides of these winter hills.  Right back to the place I need it the least.  Isn't that what happens to us sometimes?  Don't our best intentions, our well-meaning, well-organized, well-laid-out lives sometimes come tumbling down.  Sometimes the disappointment of goals not met snowballs right to our feet.

So, what to do.  I find I have to work a little harder - take the shovel a little further - find a pile a little lower.  See, it doesn't stop me from doing what needs to be done, I just have to take a different way.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

Here I am, still shoveling, still thinking about this Christian life, and the snow is starting to fall more heavily.  It's covering all of my good work, the driveway is covered with a gauzy film of white.  But, I think, the biggest task is completed.  The good work is at least begun.   I took the snowplow leavings from the end of the driveway and deposited them across the road, on top of the much-lower-than-mine snow banks.  

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:4-6 (NIV)

I really want to feel a sense of accomplishment.  A sense of pride.  So here's the biggest thought I have.  What if the sun came out?  What if it lit up the sky and warmed the air?  What if it came out long enough for some of these snowbanks to melt?  

I have come into the world as a light, 
so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:46 (NIV)

Wouldn't you know, I walked back into the house feeling pretty good about the last hour.  Cheesy as it may seem, I chose joy because I chose him.  You know, I really do try to keep my mind, my thoughts on him.

PS  Ok, so what I forgot to say when I walked back in the house this morning, was that while I was changing out of my shoveling clothes, the snow started coming down in that inch-an-hour-lake-effect way that it can.  By the time my daughter and I left for work, there was another two inches on the driveway and another you-know-what hump at the road.  I have since come home and shoveled again, thinking about this post and my 'lessons' from the snow.  All clear, salted (and oh! that's another thing - kind of like light....get it?  Salt and light?)  AND it's snowing again!  If I didn't know before (and I did, but that's a whole 'nother bunch of stories), I would certainly recognize that God has a GREAT sense of humor!  So, just to make sure it's clear - the 'cheesy' wasn't used in disrespect - it was my weird-sense-of-humor-laughing-at-myself-because-I-keep-seeing-relationship-in-EVERYTHING!  I honestly hope y'all are having fun along with me!

Linking with Lyl on Thought Provoking Thursday

Friday, February 6, 2015

Live By Faith

For we live by faith, not by sight. 
2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

I saw the prompt this morning, and I thought I'd best let it sit and stew a little while before attempting to say anything meaningful in this scant five minutes.  So I exercised.  Lately I've been reading Beth Moore while exercising - you know, exercise for the body, words for the heart....  And I thought about "Keep".  The poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling came to me...if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.... (You can link to the poem here)   I can't seem to memorize bible verses very well, but I have a whole bunch of first lines to poems... hmm...

And I thought about the 'keep' in this first line - I thought about the news - I thought about the horrific news reports from the Middle East.  Beheadings.  Live burnings.  Using children for unspeakable acts.  I thought about the horrific news reports from Africa.  Kidnappings.  Sex slaves.  HIV.  Ebola.  

I thought about the news agencies responding.  Confirming reports.  Making sure of the facts - but reporting the rumors anyway.

And I thought....

The very act of speaking these actions, of writing these atrocities, of putting them into our world - damages us.  Damages us in ways we may never know for generations.  I listened to a woman speaking about building schools in Sudan.  She talked about generational violence - it is built into the culture.

Friends - violence is built into OUR culture.  Slender man.  A bucket challenge joke of feces and urine thrown on a young man with autism.  A woman with intellectual disabilities tied up with a string of Christmas lights and set on fire by people she thought were friends.  50 Shades of Gray.  I recently attended a workshop on bullying in our schools.  Violence is in our culture.  

I usually don't write about events that rip my heart and tear my soul.  That literally have me on my knees sobbing.  I try very hard to choose joy.  And there are times when only through knowing that God does not forsake us and will never leave us, can I move forward.

In the study I read as I exercised, Beth said she had heard a wise friend say that following Christ with the whole heart is like walking so far out on a limb that you can only proceed by faith, because if you try to walk by sight, you will surely fall.

Friends - we have to keep our faith in Christ.

Heavenly Father, Let us not let go of our faith in the face of this world.  
Let us not let go of prayers in our schools, of loving one another even as you loved us, 
even when we were sinners.  
Let us keep your joy in our hearts, even in the midst of horror.  
Help me to keep your joy in my heart, even in the midst of horror.  
You are God.  
You are good.  
You are.
Linking with Kate for 5-Minute Friday

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Into Thy Hands

            Curio’s wings quivered, feathered plumes dancing from the inside out, shimmying and shimmering in the bright light before class.   All of the students were excited, shimmying and shimmering.  Even the voices of her fellow angels moved, rising and falling, engaged in pre-class conversation, weaving music into the atmosphere.   She could make out words and phrases:  holy and mystery, glory and praise.  She heard: in the beginning; she heard spirit of God; she heard darkness and she heard light.   Curio simply couldn’t sit still any longer.    The class syllabus said I AM.  Today was the day.  She had been looking forward to this class forever, for eons, for since always.  No, it was more than those, more than stretches of time.  More than what had been, than what was, than what was to be.  She had been looking forward to this class for the entire span of her memory.  For eternity.  

            The teacher’s entrance quieted the room, leaving only the murmur of journals opening and quills readying.  He walked slowly, in his patient way, robes brushing the desks as he passed.  Curio listened to the gentle slap of his sandals as he made his way to the front.  She remembered the scars in his feet.

            “What is eternity?”  His eyes found hers and Curio knew that he was reading her mind.  How did he always know her thinking?  She watched him write, as he sometimes did, in the air, with his hand.  And the word Eternity came to life before them, slowly spinning, entwining light and color into a moving sculpture of ethereal beauty.  The class sighed in appreciation.

            “Eternity is not like a river of time.”  He stood contemplating that spinning word, winding on itself, shuffling, changing shape and color.

            “It is not a point.  It is not a place.  It cannot be encompassed, or held.  It cannot be kissed or caressed.”   His voice was as gentle as the creases in his face.  As soft as the scars on his brow.  The word expanded and took on substance, yet it remained weightless like flame on a candle. 

            Her friend, Destiny, reached, stretching to touch the letters.  And the word danced away from her finger, and resumed its spinning on the tip of Curio’s poised quill.  Curio turned to Wonder, giggling at the unexpected visit.  Holding her quill up, she stood to show the class.  Again, the collective sigh, like a breeze, drifted through the room. 

            .........Y..... H.....W..... H........

            Whisper soft, the un-word sliced through the sigh, cutting the breeze like lightening.  It was a breath; it was a rumble; it was quiet thunder.  It surrounded the room, enfolding and comforting; it was peace and it was strength.  It was mystery.  It was eternity.

Curio opened eyes she hadn’t closed.  A sense of loss filled her heart.  A sense of yearning, of wanting to become, to be, to live in that breath.  The moment was gone, as was the word from the tip of her quill. 

            She looked to the Master, knowing that he had taken the word.  He winked at her.

            Then he drew his hand across the void again.  “Eternity is to time, as infinity is to space,” he explained.  He had placed a new device in the space above the class.  It, too, spun and shimmered like a gossamer thread, looping upon itself once, then twice.  Never-ending, never beginning.  Created from the tip of his finger. 

          ......... Y..... H.....W..... H........

            This time, the un-word became – Curio felt the touch of it, like the brush of a kiss.  She heard voice, a voice of promise, a voice of love, a voice of hope.  Her teacher raised his arms, embraced by the voice, sleeves falling, draping at his elbows, more scars visible crisscrossing his limbs.  And she could see the symbol, the symbol of infinity through the holes in his hands.

            Time and space.  In his hands.  Through his hands.  Around and in and through.  Ever present.  There was no loss.  There was no lonely.  Because her teacher had paid.  He had redeemed.  Forever and always.  Curio’s tears slid from her face, wetting the parchment of the journal before her.  It was enough. 

Because she knew the rest.  She knew the cost.  How her teacher had suffered.  She saw the undeserved scars proclaiming undeserved pain.  She remembered how he had died.  She heard his words with new ears.  Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit.  Into the hands that held eternity.  Into the arms of infinity.  Into his father's hands.  And now she knew this face of God.  The infinite.  The eternal.  The great I Am.  She knew that YHWH and her teacher were one and the same. 

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
John 1:1-2

Linking with Jennifer and Kristin

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Many Faces of Snow

I woke to snow falling this morning.  Again.  Flakes were almost indiscernible in the gray before light, calling to mind a mist or fog.  Tiny drops falling fast and straight.  Tiny snow, barely knitting together a blanket to cover the old, ice-capped drifts, the old accumulation.  But as the grayness slid to morning, the snow mist changed.  From fast falling to gentle swirling, from drops to flakes,  And the blanket grew deeper, covering more, softening edges and muffling the world.

Last week, there were domed caps of ice, like skullcaps, on the hills and mounds outside my window.  I have never lived in a place that stays frozen for so long, where the snow doesn’t melt between fallings. 

Yesterday was the coldest day of the year, so far.  New snow had fallen during the darkness of night and in the frigid sunlight, it lay like a diamond veil over the landscape.  An unsullied bride, a sparkling treasure, crisp and white and clean.

Today, more snow.  And wind.  Arctic temperatures, the news reports. 

There is beauty in this landscape.  Harsh and tender.  My thoughts wander from what I see to what is, from literal to figurative.  I don’t love the snow, but I am fascinated by what I learn from it.

Snow covers.  It makes new.  It softens rough edges.  It redeems the brown landscape of winter, it awakens beauty.  I understand this.  Jesus Christ is snow.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Wind sculpts.  Like a potter with clay.  It drives the snow into drifts, deep places and shelters.  It tears the snow from the ground, leaving ragged scars of dirt and broken grass.  It creates swirled landscapes of ridges and dunes, terrible and beautiful.  I understand this, too.  God is wind.

Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

I woke to snow falling this morning.  Again.  It is well with my soul.

Linking with Naomi and Kelly, and Jen