Monday, November 02, 2009

Jesus and the Samaritan

One of the greatest joys of being a Dad is greeting Rachel when she first wakes up. Now I'll be the first to admit that when she wakes up in the morning, usually I am still asleep myself, or at best I'm only half awake, so there's not much joy in those moments. But when she wakes up from her afternoon nap, usually she is uncommonly still and gentle, in the mood to be held, and particularly affectionate. I cherish these moments.

Often as we're sitting together, I will ask Rachel, "How was your sleep?" and then "Did you have any dreams?"

The other day Sara and I were together with Rachel following her nap, and I asked about her dreams. She responded, "I dreamed about Jesus."

"Really?" I asked. "What was Jesus doing in your dream?"

"He was on the cross, when they hurt him," she said.

Now I'll say that this is not one of the Jesus stories we have spent a lot of time discussing... It's a little beyond a three-year-old's comprehension. Frankly, it's a little beyond this 39-year-old's comprehension. But it is a story Rachel has encountered in her children's Bible and in some of her Christian storybooks, and probably in snippets from being in worship.

"Was anyone with Jesus in your dream?" I asked.

"Yes, the Samaritan," she said.

"The Samaritan?" I asked.

"The Samaritan," she said. "He was there to help Jesus because his mother was at a meeting."

Clearly, Rachel is reading Scripture through the lens of her own experience -- and at such a young age... I'm not sure if this is good news.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Waiting... Anticipating... Praying...

Just so you know, we are in serious waiting mode here.

A baby is coming, and no one knows when.

Sara's due date was October 31st, Halloween (and what fun that would have been!), so we're just past that, but the thing is, we've been actively waiting -- on-the-edge-of-our-seats waiting -- for twelve days now, and frankly, that's getting a little old.

It was twelve days ago that Sara endured a long day of off-and-on contractions, and so when day turned to night and contractions were getting more and more intense, every 2-6 minutes (picture me with my stopwatch, timing, recording, gearing up for the big event), we kind of settled in for what we expected would be a long night that culminated with a new baby. Around 12:30 am, the contractions stopped quite suddenly, so we went to bed, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep but fully expecting the labor would continue. Wrong.

That was twelve days ago, and over these twelve days, there have been more periods of off-and-on contractions, more wake-ups in the middle of the night, more expectations... and we're still waiting...

I've been reflecting a lot over these twelve days: particularly about how few things there are in life that can't be scheduled. Seriously, very few things in life that can't be scheduled. Birth is one (save scheduled C-sections and labor inductions, of course). Death is another. I have shared the sacred journey with many families as they've cared for a spouse, parent, or sibling through the final days, and often there's a lot of waiting and preparation as God and nature take their course. Eventually there are labor pains (is it fair to call them that?), and life gives way to death and then to new life. And so it is as we anticipate this birth. We're at the starting line, waiting for the gun to fire... waiting... waiting... waiting.

Meanwhile, life continues. Waiting can't be our full-time job, and thankfully so. Our three-year-old Rachel needs the constant attention a three-year-old needs. Halloween has come and gone, complete with parties, costumes, trick-or-treating, and candy. Ministry continues (and yes, it was a bit odd participating in worship this morning with a substitute preacher, despite the fact that there's still no baby). Lots of people are praying for us, but since we've cried wolf several times over these past two weeks, the intensity of their waiting-with-us has subsided a bit. Now they just smile or laugh when a still-pregnant Sara enters the room.

And one of these days, with or without warning, the contractions are going to continue, labor will ensue, and yes, there will be a baby -- a living, breathing, demanding baby -- another human being who's going to live in this house.

Until then, I'm not missing the significance of this lesson in patience, trust, surrender to a power greater than self, and the sacredness of life.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Weather Woes

The sun is shining, and I hardly recognize it.

During the month of June, we got measurable rain 21 of 30 days. Portland had 8.56 inches. According to the weather service, the normal June rainfall is 3.28 inches. So far, July isn't looking so good either. Everyone and everything is soggy.

On Friday, during a brief break in the rain, Sara, Rachel, and I went strawberry picking -- something we like to do every June. It was so sad to walk up and down the rows of strawberry plants, seeing soggy, rotting, and molding berries lying on the ground everywhere. We did manage to pick quite a few, despite the challenging conditions, but there's no question: this year's crop is suffering.

Yesterday we spent the Fourth of July at the rustic camp on Center Pond that's been a center of family summer fun since my grandparents bought it when my Mom was a teenager. It rained the entire time. Once in a while, there would be a little teaser -- a brief glimpse of lighter gray on the horizon, and someone would say, "I think it's starting to break across the lake" -- just in time for the next wave of torrential rain. My brother and sister and I used to spend lots and lots of time at Camp when we were growing up, including the Fourth of July most years. I don't ever remember a Fourth quite as bleak as this one.

And yes, it looks like still more rain in the forecast for the week ahead, with maybe, just maybe, a change in weather patterns for the end of the week.

For most of us, it's just a nuisance or maybe a minor inconvenience. It seems important to pray, though, people for whom too much rain can mean floods and great loss, for farmers who are finding their crops are rotting in the fields, and for all who depend on outside work for their livelihood.

Meanwhile, let's pray also for those who are in places of drought, whose lives are equally impacted.

If it's okay with you, I think while I'm offering this prayer, I'm going to head back outside, while there's still a glimpse of blue and that bright round orb is still up in the sky.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I enjoy Annual Conference

  • reconnecting with old friends, spending quality time with some of the people whose company I enjoy most, and meeting new people
  • celebrating some of the transformative ministries that make New England such a cool place to serve
  • growing through learning experiences, like this year's inspiring teaching by Adam Hamilton
  • enjoying worship I don't have to lead
  • checking out all the titles at Cokesbury... and resisting the temptation to overspend
  • being part of the celebration as new pastors are commissioned and ordained
  • getting my fuel tank refilled and remembering why I do what I do
  • sleeping in a really uncomfortable dorm room bed and eating overcooked cafeteria food (not so much)
  • seeing what crazy cross-dressing thing John Blackadar is going to do next

How about you?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

On this Mother's Day, I can truly say that two of the greatest blessings in my life are these two people pictured above: my wife, Sara, who is a fantastic mother; and our daughter, Rachel.

We took this photo last week at a park in our neighborhood. Next year when the tulips are in bloom, there will be an additional person in the family photo: the little one whose cells are multiplying every day in Sara's womb, who will make his or her appearance this fall, when the grass is more brown than green and the tulips have been replaced by pumpkins and cornstalks.

Today I'm giving thanks to God for the gift of mothers!

Friday, May 08, 2009


Sara is now in her 15th week of this pregnancy, and it's starting to hit me, in little waves, that we're bringing another human being into the world. Not only that, but this human being is going to live with us... be part of our family... require frequent diaper changes... wake us up somewhat regularly in the middle of the night... and eventually require food and clothing and another car seat and my time and attention.

Whenever this hits me, I find myself asking the rather somber question, "Am I ready for this?" Last time around I was blissfully ignorant about all the ways parenthood would change my world. This time I know enough to be scared.

I also know we will be incredibly blessed, and despite the waves of panic when I think about the fact that we're about to double the number of children under our roof, mostly I'm excited.

One thing will be very different this time around: we're doing a home birth. Yes, that's right: this baby is going to be born in this very house where we live. When Sara first suggested the idea, I had a little panic attack on the spot. "You want to do what?" I asked, eyes wide, mind racing. In retrospect, I can see that was a silly reaction, especially since my fears had little to do with the big things, like whether a home birth would put Sara or the baby in danger. I've learned, thanks to Sara's coaching, that birth is really not so much a medical event as it is a natural human event, and that only in the past 50 years or so -- the blink of an eye in the scope of human history -- and only in the most industrialized countries, has childbirth been medicalized, resulting in huge increases in the numbers of interventions. That knowledge, plus the awareness that we live literally within two miles of two outstanding hospitals, made me almost immediately comfortable with the medical concerns. Mostly, though, my fear had to do with the much larger questions like, Who's going to answer the phone when it rings? Will I be able to separate myself from the dirty dishes in the sink? Where will we get food if there's no cafeteria? And who's going to wash the sheets when this is all said and done?

Once I got past those big questions, the idea of a home birth is a pretty special thing, especially since Sara is feeling 100% confident that this is the right thing for her. And really, she's doing all the work... The least I can do is be supportive.

So today, Robin, one of the two midwives with whom we're sharing this journey, came for our third or fourth visit. After all the questions and the pee-in-a-cup thing and the blood pressure check, we got to hear the baby's heartbeat. It was strong and loud -- 150 beats per minute -- healthy. Wow.

This baby is really coming.