mystery in progress

Church is about as normal as it can be for now. We’ve gone from posting and holding weekly services online, to three hours of continual 15 minute time slots for groups of ten and under, to three services with a group no more than 50, to two services that can hold 75 or under. We still have to call a scheduling company to sign up for whichever service we’re going to. Though not required, we are still being encouraged to wear masks, and most do. We’re not shaking hands or having Sunday School or Bible class.

We are supposed to start singing again next week. I’ve kind of zoned in and out with all the church stuff and changes. At first I was admittedly just happy to stay home and in my pajamas Sunday morning, not missing any of the church pomp and circumstance. I did make everyone dress up for Easter service, to give my daughter a chance to still wear the dress my mother-in-law had bought for her, and also feeling like we should obviously make some kind of special effort toward and acknowledgement of the day.

At some point I started to wonder if in fact I did need to start caring about the church stuff more, not only regarding the state governmental regulations against it, but my continued not being bothered by not going. After the first initial back to church weirdness, I’ve generally been fine and even glad to start going again. Two of the kids forgot their masks this morning, which caused me to quiet-laugh quite hard in the back pew when I looked over and saw them wearing not their usual masks, but wearing the over-sized spare ones that live in the van. I can only blame myself for not making the mask announcement until we were already halfway there.

I’ve been purposeful in avoiding making moral connections to the mask with my kids. I don’t tell them its to protect and show love to our neighbors or to obey our government. One reason is because I am not at all interested in training them to become proficient in judging other people’s behaviors. The 4th commandment in the Lutheran understanding, in its most direct and purified form, is to honor your father and your mother. They wear the masks because that is what their parents, in this unique and continually changing and being navigated situation, are telling them to do right now.

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All joking and serious commandment-talking aside, I’ve been keeping busy with summer stuff, while still keeping an interested eye on the news and a listening ear to other people’s stories. Several weeks ago I was supposed to get together with three high school friends. The friend who was hosting cancelled at the last minute because she’d been notified she’d come into contact with someone who’d come into contact with someone who’d tested positive with the virus and didn’t feel comfortable with possibly exposing us. She was going to get tested and self-quarantine, so we rescheduled.

The rescheduled time was cancelled again, because another friend who works in a hospital said her exposure to virus cases had increased at work. She didn’t feel comfortable getting together and possibly exposing everyone, so we cancelled again. Being interested in the clinical details of things, I asked for more specifics as to what she was seeing. She said it was mostly post-covid patients who were still having symptoms. When the other friend was asked about how her test results turned out, she said she’d never actually received any results and was told that her test had been lost.

The weirdness and general sense of uncertainty continues. So far schools here are scheduled to start in person, though the high school starting date has been moved to the end of August. One of the grade schools plans to have plexi-glass shields on each side of the student desks, which surprised me. I’ve not been too focused on getting things ready for school yet here, but I’ve picked up the usual fresh sets of crayons and packs of colored #2 pencils for the kids. I continue to be in prayer for our country and leaders, my friends and my family, and all being affected, red or blue, big or small.

second thoughts

“So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”
~1 Kings 18:20-21~

This world is not enough for me, friends. By saying that I know I risk sounding ungrateful, but this is just the simple, sometimes painful truth.

It came to me recently that pretty much every dissatisfaction I’ve ever had comes from a NEED to worship GOD with every ounce of my being.

Everywhere I look the world is flawed and imperfect. No person, no experience, no place and no thing is perfect enough to satisfy this need.

And yet here we must live until the day we die and then we finally meet the Lord. I was wondering too lately if the nearly universal human fear of death is really just a subconscious fear of having to stand before God. A perfect God demands perfection, and we, as imperfect, do not measure up.

But in Jesus we have all the perfection we need, and in Him there is nothing in this world left to fear. As rightly thankful as we are for what we have now, what we have been promised, what we who are in Christ now eagerly await, is a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

first thoughts

When 9/11 happened I was in Seward, Nebraska. My now-husband and I were sitting in chapel one morning when in the prayers the chaplain prayed for all the people in New York City. That short morning service is where I first heard that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed.

The first thing I did when chapel was over was go back to my dorm room and email my dad. Essentially I wanted to know, “Dad, is this true?” We used to live in New York, and one year over Christmas, my paternal grandparents had taken me, my sisters, and cousin on a day trip to New York City. We saw Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty, but the most impressionable thing about the city for me had been driving through the street past the Trade Center towers. From the left back passenger window of my grandparents’ car, you didn’t look out to see the buildings, you looked up. They were so tall you had to squish your face up against the window glass to see the tops. I remember thinking, “Wow! These are the same buildings that were on the news not that long ago for being bombed.”

My dad emailed me back and said that yes, it was true that the buildings were gone. He hasn’t always been right about things, but he’s always had a way of seeing the world that I value. When all the shut-downs began happening in March, my dad was not the first person I called. It took a day or so before I got to calling him, and when I did, the first thing I asked was, “Dad, what do you think?” His first thought was, “Wow, we just left normal.”

Besides the obvious and horrific tragedy of the aftermath in the streets and grand scale loss of human life, what shocked me most about 9/11 was was the speed at which the World Trade Center skyscrapers went from being two of the tallest buildings in the world to being nothing at all. They didn’t just fall or topple over. They were on fire for a while and then disintegrated in seconds. Driving by in a car the sky would look very different now.

My mind keeps going back to the earliest shut down days when massive American entities were toppling at once. The speed at which it happened made it seem like you were watching idols falling down in slow motion. The NBA, all college campuses, Disneyworld. Seeing something that striking strikes the fear of God into a person, at least that’s what it does for me.

I’ve got so many more pressing thoughts about this, friends.

If possible I will try to write again later.

love and worship

In grade school we learned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Similar to the original food pyramid picture, we saw a bright colorful picture of a pyramid divided into levels, outlining the innermost design of a human.

  1. Physiological needs-air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, exercise, warmth, sleep
  2. Safety needs-security and order, predictability and control, freedom from fear
  3. Love and belonging-friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, affiliating and being part of a group
  4. Esteem needs-esteem for oneself and esteem from others
  5. Self-actualization needs-seeking personal growth and peak experiences, becoming all of who you were meant to be

When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Jesus underwent a time of temptation by Satan. Jesus ate nothing for the forty days he was out there, and when the forty days were ended, the Bible says he was hungry.

Maslow called the first four levels “deficiency needs”. “Deficiency needs arise due to deprivation and are said to motivate people when they are unmet. Also, the motivation to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer the duration they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food, the more hungry they will become” (simplypsycology.org).

The first thing Satan tempts Jesus with is food. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread,” Satan says. The devil offers Jesus bread alone to feed his hunger, but Jesus, even his hungry state, knows that bread alone is not going to save him. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

It’s like the devil leans a ladder against the hierarchy of needs, and in his temptations, begins to climb. Depending on what gospel you read, the next thing that happens is Satan takes Jesus into Jerusalem and up to the highest point of the temple. Satan tells Jesus to throw himself down. If Jesus wants to play by the Bible rules, fine, so the devil quotes some verses about the angels saying, “He will command his angels concerning you” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone”.

Mark’s gospel says angels ministered to Jesus during his wilderness temptation. Jesus didn’t “fall” for Satan this time either. Instead Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’.”

No doubt the devil knows Jesus’s position as the Son of God gives Jesus a special kind of power and authority. Invoking the strength of his unique Trinitarian existence of love and belonging, two times Satan says, “If you are the Son of God”. Jesus’ position as the Son of God means something.

Satan takes Jesus to a very high mountain showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He tells Jesus, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Revelation 13 talks about a beast that appears rising out of the sea, and the dragon, who is called the devil and Satan, gives the beast his power and his throne and great authority. The whole world marvels as they follow the beast. They worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying,

“Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

Jesus tells the devil, “Be gone, Satan!” For it is written

‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
~Revelation 5:13-14~

middle of things

We’ve reached the point of summer where the kids spend much of their time playing downstairs and I spend a lot of my time working upstairs. As much as I believe in the many years long process of teachings kids to do things for themselves, I sometimes just enjoy the simple solitude of folding laundry, the pleasure of doing something small for someone else.

This doesn’t feel like a time to kick back and relax. I’ve been trying to do something future-oriented every day, be it fertilizing the squash, stocking the medicine cabinet, buying fleece to make the kids blankets for Christmas. Right now JoAnn fabrics is open. With the recent news of California shutting back down, I’m not going to count on it being open sometime later.

Today I’m trying my hand at canning milk. I watched a Youtube video last night, and in this day and age, that’s you’re education and the rest is up to your own effort, trial, and error. Canning sessions do become teachable moments, and one son is affectionately called “my canning buddy”. My daughter also joins to help as she does in many other things around here.

The kids have piano lessons again today, which means I’ll be making another trip to the store. The boys and I never did find a tire tube last week. The bikes were sold out and only a few tubes remained in a size we didn’t need. When I checked out Target later over the weekend, they too were sold out of bikes and most tire tubes. I ordered some online so I wouldn’t forget.