Monday, February 27, 2012

Singin' Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do

Riding in a pick-up truck with the love of your life listening to the oldies sure brings back memories. Sprinkled between stories on NPR and country tunes, we found the oldies.  I like to sing along – soon I was singing "Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do." 

I remembered the young girl with her transistor radio walking to the candy store with her transistor in hand singin’  "Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.”  She prayed that someone would notice her and that they’d be together every single day.  She prayed that someday she’d live happily ever after.

It didn’t happen in Brooklyn.  No one saw her walkin’ down the street.  It was a scant nine years since she’d been  "Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do-ing" down the streets of Brooklyn.  In that time, she’d been a child bride. Dropped out of high school.  Given birth to two sons.  She’d been divorced.  She’d remarried her childhood husband.  She was beaten and abused.  She had a daughter.  She was alone again.  She was 23.

No more would she sing the diddy song.  Life was not easy.  She grooved to gospel and Jesus music.  Then one day, someone saw her walkin’ down the street.  Actually, they saw her walking through the University of Missouri Brady Commons.  Seventies music of Abba, Sir Elton, and a little disco came from the ever playing Juke Box. 

That was over 34 years ago now.  A memorial trip to where it all began seemed so complete listening and singing along to Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do.”  As the sun was setting we drove back to Nashville. We found the oldies again.  I grooved to “Under the Boardwalk” and “All You Need Is Love.”  How simple life seemed back when I sang those songs as child.   So many years, so many ups and downs, so much happiness and so much sorrow.  Life is never easy.

As we reflected on our life together, my husband said “it takes a lot of give and take…”  I agreed.  Love alone is rarely enough.  Love is a bit like mortar, it holds the bricks together when the wind blows.  Without the bricks of determination, the mortar has no purpose.

Life is not a fairy tale; there is no happy ever after.  Rather, a good marriage is a gift.  It is a gift from God.  It is a gift a man and a woman give each other through years of give and take.  I’m glad we both learned how to give and take, and to love and forgive.  That two imperfect people can come together to form a family is a miracle. I’m so thankful that after 34 years we’re still together and that’s how it’s going to stay – "singin’ Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do." 

Under a starry night we heard an oldies that we'd never heard.  We laughed as Joe Tex told us what we already knew - You gotta hold on to what you got...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Religion Is My Dog?

It was time to take the dog for a walk.  As soon as I stepped outside, I heard the neighborhood owl hooting.  Our yard is alive with critters.  We have many moles.  We often see deer in the yard and they leave their evidence all over the yard.  Then there are the birds.  So, many birds call our backyard and the surrounding area home.

I like to walk the dog.  I often find it is a time to think about the day, pray, or just think.  I had a lot churning around in my heart and mind today.  I was thinking about the odd and alarming Facebook conversation I generated today.

Today is the first day of Lent.  Today is Ash Wednesday.  Being rather new to liturgical calendars and worship, I still come to these days with a lot of thought, prayer, and seriousness.  Perhaps that is the only way to approach a holy season of fasting, penance, reflection, and service. 

I chose not to give up something but to add instead.  I decided to be more consistent in my spiritual disciplines of prayer and scripture reading.  I purposed to use this time to be positive and ask God to cultivate within me the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23:
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (The Message)
Thinking I might encourage others to reflect during this season, I posted something on Facebook.  Immediately someone felt it necessary to question Lent.  Was this just Catholic?  Why was I doing this?  It got rather ugly.  I was so sad.

As I walked around the yard, I thought about the comments.  I thought about my desire to draw close to the Lord.  I thought about the birds that seem to offer their morning and evening prayer faithfully every day.  I thought about all the passages in the Bible that talk of creation praising God.  I thought of the beautiful passage in Revelation – a rare glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 4:13):
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:   “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (TNIV)
 It made me wonder.  What religion is my dog?  What religion are the birds?  What religion is the deer hiding in the woods?  Does the mole praise God too?  Do those eagles that fly so high over my house and astound me know God?  And, that owl, is he hooting his evening praise as well?

It seems easy as I think about the beauty and the simplicity of creations praise to God.  Perhaps they are calling me to worship.  Perhaps the deer and the mole join in praise to their Creator without asking what religion are the birds.  Could it be that this is the key to a relationship with God, to just come to Him and offer your worship and praise.  Okay, I know there are times when doctrine and orthodoxy are needed but today I just want the simplicity of worship.

As the trees of the field clap their hands, the lilies grow without worry, and the sparrow knows that God’s eye is on her, they all offer thanks to the Creator.  And my dog, she shows a depth of unconditional love I’ve never experienced.  She reminds that God loves me.  I think she has a good religion.  She knows how to love.
 He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.  1 John 4:8 (AMP)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Circle of Life

Life has flow. It starts at a point and flows on to the next and the next. We speak of generations. We speak of milestones where life altering events occur. For most people, the path of life may meander and curve, but it flows in one continuous path.

My life isn't like that. My life is full of circles. Like a bad flow chart with seemingly no connections, I left one circle and jumped to the next. Very occasionally one of the circles touches another circle and a loose connection is made.

You can see these circles very clearly on Facebook. I belong to the Brooklyn Norwegian group. That group reminds me of my childhood, my dad, the streets of Brooklyn, laughter and joy, as well as sorrow and abuse. I belong to the Salem Gospel and Camp Challenge group - memories of my childhood church fill it's wall. Pictures that remind me of my heritage and memories of first learning about Jesus fill my heart as scan faces so familiar. I have friends who now sort of merge together in an odd kalediscope as they "like" and "comment" on my wall together. Each knows me from one of my circles. Each are a piece of my life. But except on a random comment, they have no connections.

Last night I revisited a circle. It was a short circle of time. It was a profound life altering circle. As I gaze at the picture of myself, sitting on the second pew behind the pastor and his wife, their daughter and soon to be husband, I try to look deeply in my face. I remember her. I remember that 17 year old girl who thought she was all grown up. I remember her hopes and her dreams.

Her husband sits on her left. Her son is held by someone on her right. She sees her future in a parsonage. She sees herself cleaning a parsonage, making a home, and ministering the gospel with her husband. She dreams of a Volkswagen van that will hold her and her husband as they travel as evangelists. She will sing. He will preach. Occasionally he will preach. Then God will call them to a church. Perhaps a small town in Missouri that only local people know. A girl from Brooklyn has already been transformed by her shrinking world and the culture of the midwest.

Little did she know that abuse would follow. I look at her and think the first slap had occurred. Nathan, her son, had already been slapped for crying. Her husband looks so kind in the picture, so angelic. He's told by people that he reminds them of Jesus.

I look at the picture again. I squint until I see my dad. Then I find my mom. They always sat in the same place. They always sat near the back. In two short years, my father would breath his last. I wouldn't know how to grieve, so I still grieve him all these years later. As I think of my own grief, I wonder about his. Was he grieving the loss of his "lille venn." Was he craving the arms of his little girl? Was he wishing he could let her ride his foot or cuddle on the green recliner? He was thrust once again to live as a foreigner. His Norwegian accent sometimes was not understood. They did it for me. They left Brooklyn in an attempt to make my life better. Within a year, I was married, then pregnant. This was not what they planned.

My eyes wandered over the picture. The circle exploded. Memories, names, laughter, good food, prayer, repentance, tears, and sorrow came together. The nursery where I rocked my son and talked to other mothers trying to appear grown up was visible. The altar was too. The old fashioned mourners bench that is so absent from our modern structures. The place where on a Sunday night you went and knelt to pray. The place you affirmed once again your devotion. The place you received pardon and joy.

As I looked at that altar bench, I saw myself putting a blue and white receiving blanket on the bench. I would lay my son on his stomach on that bench. Usually sleeping, I would pat his back as I prayed. Like Hannah I would offer him to God. I would tell God, He's Yours Lord. Use him for Your glory. Call him to ministry. Protect him. Then I would plead with God to make me a better wife, and mother, and Christian.

There has been no evangelist van in my life. There never was a parsonage to live in - instead their were houses of abuse. There was abandonment and alcoholism. There was pain and destruction. Finally, a new circle, a new life, a new husband, more children, and new hope would emerge.

As I looked at that 17 year old, I wanted to hug her. I wanted to tell her, you have no clue all the ways life is going to change. I wanted to tell her nothing you think or dream of now will come true. I want to tell her that everything will change but one thing - a lifetime later, she will still love Jesus and He makes all things work together for good.