What is it about the Olympics? I’m pretty sure that I would watch a staring contest if there were Olympic medals up for grabs. If there was an opportunity to be a commentator for the ‘watching the paint dry’ competition, I would be first in line. There’s something specially captivating about the Olympics.

I’m drawn in from the opening ceremonies – way the host nation tells its story and welcomes the world, culminating in the lighting of the torch and declaring the games to be open. I’m a sucker for metaphor, story, and tradition. Needless to say, I am all in. The parade of nations gets me choked up, watching the joy on hopeful faces as they represent their nation and heritage. I also appreciate the geography lesson that inevitably accompanies the parade. I’m embarrassed to say, I rely a little too much on maps and Wikipedia to fill in some blanks.

As the games begin, I cheer for my country and the athletes who represent me – us. I marvel at their discipline and focus; their years-long drive to be at that particular place and time. Patriotism practically explodes within me as the U.S. faces off against the Russians. When the Russian athletes step up to compete I hear the heavy chords Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, and see the film reels of the Soviet Army marching through Red Square, and feel the cold and desolation of Siberia, and I want to come out victorious over all that I was told about the Communists as I was growing up. Every time the National Anthem is played during a medal ceremony I want to jump up and sing in my own special, off-key-and-full-of-pride-tears-welling-up-inside voice. And in my mind, I see visions of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and all good things American. The soundtrack to the Olympics is the National Anthem I call my own.

Then it happens…

After the commercial break the camera focuses on the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia ever to represent her country on the Olympic stage as she stretches and prepares to take her mark. Immediately I know two things: she doesn’t have a chance of competing against the others in her field, and I want her to win more than I want anything else at that moment. I have never heard the Saudi national anthem, but I would REALLY like to hear it played to honor her, and her gold medal.

Then I hear the story of Kirani James, and how he’s the favorite to medal – the first ever medal for Grenada. I see the faces of the Grenadians and hear the stories of its people.

I hear the cheers rising for the “Sculling Sloth” Hamadou Djibo Issaka, the Nigerian rower who finishes dead last in his race, because he’s only been practicing for three months in a small fishing boat. He rows proudly as he gets to represent his country. I would like to hear his national anthem, too….

Soon I realize that my patriotism hasn’t waned, but my heart has opened to the human stories that emerge much larger than the results of the competition. I am a human fan. The anthems begin to recede into the background and the groanings of the human spirit raise their melodious and sometimes discordant strains over the steady beat of human endurance. Little by little we become much more alike than we are different, slowly edging toward becoming one human family.

Then all too soon the games are over and we all go back home to our own country, our own culture, our own anthems until we gather again under the light of the Olympic torch.

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Posted by: ruraleclectic | August 1, 2012

Thirsty for Living Water

I’m stuck. Really stuck.

It’s time to ‘go to press’ with the newsletter and I’ve got nothing. And by nothing, what I mean is nothing. No ideas, no inspiration. I feel like even if a good idea jumped onto my computer screen I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’m not depressed, worried, or anxious about anything. In fact, I would say that things are hitting on all cylinders these days.

Is it possible that the part of my heart and soul where creativity is birthed might be thirsty? Hmmm…something to consider, perhaps. I wouldn’t be surprised – everything looks thirsty these days. Even though I put water on my garden, it doesn’t seem to matter. Except for the weeds – they look healthy as can be.

I am finally able to distinguish among the flowers that I would like to see grow and the weeds that I would prefer not to grow. Flowers have a thirst that’s not easily or adequately filled with something less than what God gives – they need living water. This fact is never clearer than when the living water becomes scarce. Substitutes do not suffice, they leave the hopeful flowers wanting and thirsty.

How many times have I tried to fill my heart with something less than what God gives? Have you? It doesn’t suffice, does it? Even the prettiest pair of shoes, the highest horsepower machine or the latest software isn’t sufficient to occupy the Jesus-shaped place within us. Even Devon knows he can’t put a circle shaped piece through a star-shaped hole. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the mark of Christian maturity – to cease trying to put worldly shaped things into a Jesus-shaped space, and then reflexively turn to Jesus for living water.

Join me for a cup? See you Sunday…..

Posted by: ruraleclectic | July 31, 2012

Devon’s Story

In a little town, in a little house, lives a little boy named Devon. Devon lives with his Mommy and Daddy in the little house in the little town. He has a big brother who lives in another little house in another little town.

Daddy works in a big building in a big town. Mommy works in a small church in the small town, and in a big church in another small town.

Each day, Mommy and Daddy go to work, and Devon goes to play and learn at a big house in the small town. He used to go to another small house, but bigger than his, in the small town. He has a lot of friends at the small house that’s bigger than his. Then there were too many kids, so now he goes to the big house in the small town. He has friends there, too!

Sometimes he rides his tricycle to the big house. Sometimes he walks.

On Sundays, Devon goes to the small church in the small town with Mommy and Daddy. He plays in the little playroom. Then he goes with Mommy to the big church in the other small town, and he plays in the purple playroom.

On special days, he goes to play at Grandma M’s. She lives in a bigger house in a bigger town. Grandma and Grandpa E also live in a bigger house in a bigger town. It’s fun to go there, too!

Devon has aunts and uncles that love to come and see him and play with him. Sometimes he goes to see them, too.

So many people love Devon. At home in his small house in the small town, at the big house in the small town, or at the small church in the small town, the big church in the other small town, or with Grandmas and Grandpa, aunts and uncles and cousins, and friends, Devon is surrounded by people who love him.

Devon loves all the people in his life, so much! He also likes to ride on the train and see cranes and bulldozers and dump trucks. He likes to play with his friends, too. Sometimes Devon gets to go and look at cars with Daddy and snuggle up and read books with Mommy.

And every night Mommy and Daddy tuck Devon into his big bed in the small house in the small town, because they love him. He loves Mommy and Daddy. He loves Jesus. And Jesus loves Devon.

Posted by: ruraleclectic | July 30, 2012

All Tangled Up

I preached on Ephesians 3: 14-21 Sunday. It’s a beautiful passage. I hate to admit that I often hastily read through much of Scripture, not taking the time to linger and let the richness and beauty of the words sink in, much like I often hastily rush through a meal and don’t savor the intricacies of the flavors. Ephesians is a letter to be savored, read slowly and purposefully, allowing the depth of the imagery to fill all the spaces in one’s heart and imagination.

Three years ago, I had a miscarriage. I had finally conceived late in life and felt so blessed to be carrying a child. I was devastated. It was then, that a friend in ministry sent me a note with only the following: Ephesians 3: 14-21. I was intrigued, so I reached for my Bible and for the first time, truly savored these words from Paul:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”

These are healing words. Living words. More than anything else, these words healed me. They made me alive once again.

So, as I prepared for this sermon, these words held the distant echo of that experience. My heart was full. I would be reading these words aloud and proclaiming the graciousness found within them to the saints that enveloped me and loved me through my past grief. The imagery of redwood trees was a predominant theme. Redwood trees grow to be so tall and majestic, but their roots are shallow. For this reason a redwood tree cannot stand on its own. But a forest of redwood trees get their shallow roots all tangled up together and can stand collectively for thousands of years.

Sounds a lot like the church to me. Sounds like family, too. We are blessed with each other and stuck with each other. But the more tangled up we get, the stronger we will be.

Posted by: ruraleclectic | July 7, 2012

Hot Blessings

 

The air conditioner broke. The projected heat index is 110 degrees. But I’m not upset. I’m not angry.

Just hot.

And so very, very thankful.

We’re not wealthy people, but we do have the ability to replace our air conditioner. So many do not. Many live and work in this kind of heat day in ad day out.

We have food on our table every day, a sturdy house to live in, and the ability to make it cool or warm. We have a loving marriage, are surrounded by loving and generous family and friends. We have the most adorable, curly-haired two-year-old running through the house.

Thank you, God, for such incredible blessings.

I guess we are pretty wealthy after all.

Posted by: ruraleclectic | June 26, 2012

Corny Bean Counter

“Don’t you wish you lived here, where the mountains are so inspiring?”

No, I don’t. I love to visit the mountains and the beach, the Las Vegas Strip, and Disney World, but I am grateful to live among the endless acres of corn and beans.

Their growth tells a fabulous story. Every January, the ground is so frozen that it feels like cement; impenetrable. Very soon the ice and snow lose their battle with spring and slowly retreat. The winter-hardened earth gives way to small green declarations of life pushing their way through the soil, stretching and yawning, proclaiming again that life always wins.

In the time it takes to blink three times, the previously grey, devoid landscape is dressed in a deep green miracle. After a few more blinks, the green fades, the leaves droop, and the stalks struggle to stand under the weight of their grain. Very soon, the green landscape becomes yellow and amber, then brown. An abundant harvest, beginning from the tiniest green speck, ships all over the world.

Then the darkness comes, the heat moves south for the winter, and the grey descends once more.

Even the coldest cold cannot hold back the spring. Once again, a little green sprout peeks through the softening soil…

Posted by: ruraleclectic | June 18, 2012

Sticking my toes in the water….

Okay….I did it.

I have signed up and created a blog. (Big sigh…..)

I promised myself a few years ago that I would always have something creative in my life. After having broken that promise time and again, it’s time to dig in.

I used to write. I used to create powerful and transforming images, thoughts, and ideas with words, but I have strayed from that medium. So, here I am, with hands quivering over the keyboard, sticking a toe back in the water.

The water looks so refreshing, I had forgotten about the chaos that lies beneath the surface, the churning, rolling water that pulls me, teases me, challenges me, confronts me…revives me.

Okay….one toe in and I am still standing. I’m not quite ready to dive in just yet, but next time I may just wade in a little further.

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