Friday, May 20, 2011

baking in a storm.

It isn't always raining.
And sometimes, I don't believe it.

Clarisse is in seventh grade. A bright, beautiful girl, she's tall for her age. Just over five and a half-feet tall. Her smile comes both quickly and often, a combination that's not necessarily seen in the tumultuous stages of Junior High School.
Her family is moving, her dad took a position as one of the vice presidents at the Colorado Christian University school and they're leaving in just under a month.
It's tough moving, and it's even tougher when you're in junior high or high school. But ask Clarisse about it and she'll flash a smile and tell you honestly she's still 50/50, back and forth.
Today she made cookies. "Grammy Morgan's recipe" she explained, giving tremendous weight to the statement. Saying she was making "Grammy Morgan's recipe" was like telling some street art collector you had an original Banksy, or finding out that your son or daughter had a full ride scholarship to Harvard. Even though Grammy had passed away more than a decade ago, her legacy, stories, and recipes have lived on.

This wasn't tomorrow, next week when they'd be gone visiting a state she knew very little about, or next month when they'd officially be moved out.
Today Clarisse was beaming as she made cookies that she knew were going to be incredibly tasty.
As her positive attitude, choice to keep her head high, and carefully measured and mixed ingredients baked slowly in the oven the house began to fill with warmth and delicious smells.

Too often what's coming, the unavoidable, the upcoming difficulties or anticipated struggles alight on my shoulders and start to weigh me down before they've actually happened.
I stare intently at something and how tough it's going to be to deal with and allow it to get me "down", distract me, or take my focus away from the present.


It was thundering every few minutes outside, the rain absolutely pouring down.
But inside where Clarisse was baking, it wasn't raining. Not yet.
Taking the mixing bowls full of flour, salt, eggs, sugar and various other ingredients firmly off the counter and putting them into the sink to wash, she was entirely focused on the task at hand.
Colorado could wait, Grammy Morgan's cookies wouldn't bake themselves.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Don't ask me why, but today I started thinking about about how the stories and books I'd heard, read, seen, or had read to me in my completely overactive imagination as a child have made me realize and even un-learn some of the most basic truths growing up.
Steam shovels (or tractors) do not make great furnaces to grow old next to after a single day's hard work. In fact, to use the engine of a tractor to warm a public building would be more than irresponsible. It would almost immediately, within minutes, hospitalize every occupant in the room quite possibly killing many of the people attending the Town Hall event.
Firemen do not leave the scene of flames "too early" and it is not realistic to think that the oldest member of the fire fighting team should remain for hours upon hours to stare at a field waiting for that one ember to burst out and re-burn everything again, negating all previous valiant efforts to save the forest.
Mice, beavers, badgers, squirrels, otters and birds are not good, and stoats, weasels, snakes and foxes are not bad. Nor is it the opposite. They are neither good or bad, they're animals and none of them talk or train to fight battles against each other.
Bullies aren't conquered by solving mysteries, you call their Mothers and they lie about beating up on you then grow up to be the mayor of New York or pro wrestlers.

Lions in the zoo don't have the personality of Jesus and haven't ever met a White Witch. They have no personality at all and spend most of their day either sleeping in the sun or pacing back and forth talking about sports with each other or complaining about politics.
The flooding in the Midwest right now isn't the fault of a little boy who got bored or quit keeping his finger in a little hole in the dam because it hurt. This isn't Holland.
Parents don't usually understand if you've had a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day. You get disciplined for lashing out in anger to your sisters and if you mention Australia they smile at the reference and still ground you from playing outside after church for being incredibly disrespectful, but you still have to go to soccer practice.
Old jalopies that backfire and are driven by fat funny kids aren't that cool, nor is it cool to get kidnapped or knocked unconscious by a blow to the back of the head and wake up tied to your brother in a lighthouse while felonies are being committed.
It isn't possible to turn the air conditioner in your house down to 32 degrees so it starts snowing and makes your Mom wear gloves when she plays the piano, and if you did own a penguin, much less a dozen of them, the State would take them away, arrest you, and you'd be on the news so everyone could hate you.
The same goes for a pet alligator. A fat lady who walked down the street with one on a leash would be spending most of her future money paying off tickets, bail, court fees and PETA.
Slithertongue doesn't exist and if you try to speak it to a snake in a glass tank at the zoo they won't even give you the small victory of a blink.
Nothing in the world can make you invisible. Not even rings.
There's no point in treating your stuffed animals kindly or making sure they always face up on the bed and are arranged comfortably, because when you leave the room they won't come alive.
A cat would not sleep on top of a dog that was on top of a kid that was on top of an old lady. Ever.
Grasshoppers are not evil and ladybugs aren't little men.

Children can't live in a museum and take baths in the water fountain picking up all the change everyone threw in there to pay for their future meals.
If you smoke a cigar as a child, fall off the edge of a ship and no one notices, you do not have any further adventures. You die.
Children do not go to schools in buildings with a deceitful number of floors and spend the rest of their lives attending classes and going in between levels, never going home again. If you manage to escape somewhere like that you need to skip writing the book and tell the police and CNN so that many, many adults can spend the rest of their lives in jail.
Dogs that wear party hats make people sad, not happy, and they do not drive around town.
A bunch of children that skip school to fish and swim down by a creek who end up drinking from the same tin cup that had always been down there by the creek end up in the hospital, not solving crimes.
Living in a boxcar would not mean that you had clean purple and light blue clothing each day.

to those who party hard--you know who you are.

This afternoon Jessa went to a wedding shower -- her second -- and today, for the second time in several weeks, after she pulled up to the house I walked out unsuccessfully fighting back tears.
There in the driveway sat our car that her parents have selflessly allowed us to use as our primary vehicle, full from the rear bumper to the front dashboard of gifts to encourage and start us off in our lives together.

It started out with my grandparents and hers: each couple more than fifty years ago made vows to each other and have not broken them. 
It was under that priceless heritage our parents were raised, and combined they have over fifty years of marriage as well bringing to our generation a combined total of over 250 years of covenant example.
In Christ alone is the hope found to stay true to such a mammoth commitment as marriage entails.

Today I stared at a 1990 Oldsmobile Delta '88 sedan that now held for the second time, the beginnings of a home inside. My beautiful bride-to-be came inside after the wedding shower with her eyes glowing in a blaze of joy: the women who had surrounded and affirmed her that afternoon had done far, far more than purchase dozens and dozens of our excited ideas we'd picked out carefully in an afternoon of quivering anticipation. 
This was now the second event in which a group of women strong with the presence of the Kingdom and warriors of prayer, encouragement and service gathered around my Princess to tell her what only they could.
"We love you Jessa. We as a community of women want to hurl you heavenwards in every way possible and show you that what you're doing and where you're going with all it's challenges, frustrations, fears and unknowns, is both good and ordained by the Father."
There is no substitute for something like that. 
Each and every woman, toddler, teen and college graduate that have attended her wedding showers have built into her something that can't be taken away. Those who couldn't come have sent letters or cards that serve the same purpose; they boost my Sweetheart and I into the upcoming season of changes with more confidence, more reliance, and more affirmation from the Most High.

"For James" read the hastily scrawled and unmistakably clear, direct message as only Bonnie Crafton could deliver so tastefully and classily on the mop. 
I'd honestly rather have received a broom because I don't mind sweeping, but then again I'm sure there was a grandmotherly intuition present with her when she put it back on the shelf swapping it for the mop, one of my least favorite housework tools.
I'll vacuum, dust, wash dishes, fold laundry and actually enjoy cleaning the bathroom. But mopping? It makes the least sense out of everything. Seconds later feet re-appear returning the pathogens to their now shiny workplace and fresh breeding ground.
Maybe it's because I still haven't learned that mopping in socks is a bad idea. But mop I shall.
Unless we get an apartment with every square inch of floor covered in CARPET.

Caleb leaned over to me and said "Dude. You didn't open the trunk yet."
Therein laid a big, gorgeous box with bold, confident lettering on every one of the six sides.
My grill. 
The same size and model as my Dad has.

"Call me Peggy. Do you like to cook?"
Her shock of short, perfectly tamed and domesticated white hair swam slightly in the current of her forceful words, penetrating stare that peered through thin glasses and no-spin zone attitude that gave no ground.
"Yes. That's why I picked out the 7 quart crock pot! I mean, what can't you cook in that?"
She ignored the too apparent logic, she didn't play by the rules. She didn't have to.
"7 quarts?"
You would've thought I told her I registered for a hive wasps from the way she advanced on the information with bayonet drawn.
I popped my head back in my shell and threw out a random spray of response fire that didn't come anywhere near her.
"A half a pig. Either half. You can take that crock pot and cook which ever half is the most tasty, that's why I got it."
It was over. 
"No one would ever do that, or want to do that. But I'm glad you enjoy cooking! That's good."
She conceded me that small, consolatory victory and moved on to other larger, more important battles.
"James, Peggy has done more for this family than we could ever hope to realize" Grandma Pat said as Peggy strode towards the kitchen, not changing step one bit as she snorted the compliment off immediately, which proved only so effective as I noticed she had draped across her arms the wrapped bundle of my fiancee's wedding dress she was going home to take in.
"I'll see you later then sweetie" she said to Jessa "And I'll find a way to get this dress back to you when I'm done with it."

Jessa's sister-in-law was the first home. She shut the swinging glass door behind her slowly and looked a little pale as she smiled tiredly. "Whew. Those women have more energy than I could ever imagine. I couldn't keep up with them, not even close!" 
Bob Parette, resident licensed Grandpa and Director of Transportation for All Family Members on All Continents chuckled. "Yep, those women are somethin'." 

Case closed. 

My Chinese Flower looked up at me with fiery eyes and quickly extinguished them almost completely as she put on a mock-serious face and said "why didn't you come with me?"

"Take all away. I am content to know
Such love is mine-for life is all too brief"
    -Ruth Bell Graham


To every woman and family who has poured into Jessa's and my life, thank you.
Thank you for giving us more than you realize and more than we could possibly ever put into words.
The most important part of a home is it's foundation, so thank you for investing relentlessly in ours. The many creative ways you've blessed Jessa and I will continue for a long, long time and we look forward to sharing it with many others and investing in them.

In Jeremiah 1:11 the Lord asks Jeremiah what he sees. Jeremiah responds "the branch of an almond tree" and the Lord responds in verse 12: "You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled."

As our friends and family, we are excited to offer you that place beside God, watching to see how his word is fulfilled in our lives in the upcoming weeks, months and years together.

Jeremiah 30:22  
  “‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God.’”

Okay my people, who's hungry?


Monday, May 9, 2011

in defense of marriage.

In an article on the Fox News Editorials page, Dr. Keith Ablow seconded the brusque attack of a celebrity on marriage. It was astonishing, infuriating and depressing.

             "First, the involvement of the state in marriage has been a colossal mistake. The
 granting of marriage licenses by government debases an institution which is actually the proper domain of churches, temples and other entities focused on God and Spirit." 

             "A second reason marriage is a dying institution is the invention of oral contraception. Once human beings understood that they could express themselves emotionally, romantically and sexually without necessarily creating multiple families and perilously dividing their assets, the psychological pain of living without sexual passion (even by choice) was significantly intensified. And, make no mistake about it, marriage that includes cohabitation is a really tough environment in which to preserve such passion. The vast, vast majority of men and women, in fact, are no longer physically attracted to their spouses after five or ten years (that’s being kind), if they have seen one another most of that time. Human beings just are not built to desire one another once we have flossed in the same room a hundred times and shared a laundry basket for thousands of days."
               "The third reason marriage is a dying institution is because it inherently deprives men and women of the joy of being “chosen” on a daily basis. It’s natural to like the feeling of being wanted (most people thirst for it), and the fact that leaving a marriage involves “lawyering up” and suffering greatly means that most husbands and wives have to wonder whether their spouses really want to stay, or simply don’t want to go through the hassle of leaving."

                "Fourth, our collective experience with marriages failing in such great numbers is itself one of the reasons the institution is dying. No one likes being part of a group of hypocrites. The fact that millions of Americans take vows to stay in marriages for life, then leave those marriages—once, twice, maybe three times—has so trivialized and mocked those vows that many silently chuckle to themselves while listening to them. Once enough divorced parents have wept with joy at the placing of rings on the fingers of their daughters or daughters-in-law, the backbone of marriage as an institution must snap.
It’s only a matter of time now. Marriage will fade away. We should be thinking about what might replace it. We should come up with something that improves the quality of our lives and those of our children. And we should keep government out of it, if we know what’s good for us."

After writing and point-by-point destroying Dr. Ablow's editorial piece, when I was finished I closed my laptop and walked away. Several hours later I returned, opened up the screen, and deleted everything I'd written. 
Every frustration, every defense, every angry retort and trashing of his views disappeared with a single highlight and keystroke.
Below is all I had left once I'd taken me out of it.


1 Corinthians 7: 1-16

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. 

Hebrews 13:4-7

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said

Matthew 19:4-6

Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Mark 10:6-9

"But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Romans 12: 9-21

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

When it came down to it Dr. Ablow had pointed out that married couples are hypocrites, tire of each other quickly, have become unfaithful often, lose the desire for one another after only a few short years, and have re-built the marriage covenant into something that brings hopelessness and failure.
Apart from scripture, apart from Jesus and apart from following him, Dr. Ablow is right.
Marriage will, however, not fade away, nor do we need to find something to replace it. One should not replace a wayward child if they become dysfunctional and rebellious, or a parent when they become old, senile and disruptive. 
The only reason marriage ever had any meaning in the first place was because it was ordained by a sovereign God who loved mankind enough to offer him that if he wanted to not be alone any longer. Man could take up a covenant with his bride and the Father would give both husband and wife the grace to live the rest of their lives together under his promise to love and take care of them both.  
Take away the Father and what's left are two imperfect human beings with just as much struggle as those with Jesus, only they don't have hope and must create their own grace. 
In the middle of trying to graduate, plan a wedding and keep up a breakneck pace on both levels, I can tell you that right now my fiancee and I are surviving on grace and hope alone.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

my five.

What does Jesus ponder when he thinks about me? I subconsciously commit the unspeakable heresy He’s become so familiar with of making him human...and then I’m jolted by my own conscience. Often I compartmentalize him so quickly it catches me entirely off guard and without a second glace, I slip into Dr. K├╝bler-Ross’s stages of grief.
I deny that he would acknowledge me as his the way I am -- how could he ever do that? I pretend he’s happy with me because I’m doing so much better than I have before, I shove my happy Jesus face in his throne room and crack a joke and he laughs -- God loves laughing, right?

Immediately this hits me in the stomach as cowardly, lies, a cop-out. I am disgusting, an awful person for thinking that. I’m so broken, so not right, so entirely out of the whole spiritual realm all the time. I suck at being a Christian more than I’m good at it by an off-kilter ratio of about 85% to 15%, if that. Frustrated at my lack of belief, I apologize to God and tell him that I’m sure he’s angry with me just as I’m angry at myself -- after all, I deserve it, right? I’m sure instead of being the “funny guy” in the throne room, my rare appearance is more like “that guy” and the Seraphim frown at me most of the time.

If I don’t quit thinking about how Jesus sees me right about now, the slip into bargaining is seamless. He loves me even though he knows me, I am guilty of being an awful it must be somewhere in the middle. He is happy with me that I made the decision to follow him and give my life to him, but he is not content with where I’m at. He has things for me to work on -- there are so many ways I could be a better Christian. If I seek him then he’ll answer my prayers and actions and soon I’ll be back where I should be. Not a bad deal.

Why do I even try. It becomes madness; my conscience creates this vile subterfuge of a dialogue between me and an identical voice to mine that plays God and I try and converse my way out of this completely messy room. I know I should change these areas of my life, but I don’t think I can, and he can see that, so why even try? Why do I wonder what he thinks of me, he sees EVERYTHING. Even my innermost being. What is that anyway, an “innermost being”? Is that like your colon or something? Whatever it is it’s bad, and here’s where I eventually either stop conversing with him and just walk away or just stand, wallowing up to my waist in the mud I’ve created.
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression...these things wash over me and my heart acts as if there’s no coal to touch my lips and I’ll never be pure...ever. The first four stages of grief are where I so often think my relationship with Christ is at, it makes me feel gross every time I face that fact.

God created humanity; you, me, us, all of us, to mirror him. He is complex, has more dimensions to his flawless character and personality than we could ever imagine; he feels and is many, many things (Psalm 30:5). He is also constant, unchanging, unmoving and his promises hold true to me no matter what I’ve done (Numbers 23:19 ). Yes, there are consequences for my mistakes, my shortfalls and my altogether-too-often decision to sin. But the blood of the Lamb that his son willingly gave me is what has saved me from not just the world and what it can/has done to me, but also myself.
One through four, I so often cycle through the first stages of grief in my relationship with him. But the whole time I’ve done and continue to do that, Jesus never stops being


One - Deuteronomy 4:31
“For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.”

Two - Nehemiah 9:17
“They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them[...] but you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.”

Three - Deuteronomy 10:17
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

Four - 2 Samuel 22:32-34
“For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.”

Five - John 6:37
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

More of Jesus’ character:
Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
Psalm 145: 8-9 “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”
Joshua 1:8-9 “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
Psalm 30:5 “Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God
has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his
people, his treasured possession.”
Often when someone finds out I'm a medic or studying to be a nurse and aspire to be a physician someday the first reaction -- one might say it's borderline impulsive -- is a question. "How do you handle all that blood and stuff? Doesn't that just gross you out? What about all that vomit, when people throw up?"
Here is my answer.

Yes it's no less than absolutely horrifying to take off the bandage of a patient that has stage IV sacral decubitus, or measure body fluids of someone who is coming out from an alcohol-induced coma. I've been thrown up and bled on quite a few times, but it isn't about the smells, the sights, or the horror of it all. If it was about the situations medical personnel deal with then every sick, twisted person and anyone who loves gory, graphic vile depictions of humanity in pain would work at a hospital.
It's about the patient. Someone who works on cars has come to terms with the fact they'll go home covered in grease, oil and dirt that has been on the undercarriage of a vehicle for sometimes decades. Nurses know that in order to provide a living, breathing human being refuge from whatever they're experiencing, sometimes it requires that they get a little dirty.

My job and that of all medics, nurses and physicians will never be to administer Vicodin, suture a wound or perform a palate surgery. A hospital with no people in it is a...medical supply store. It has to be about the patient first, then what needs to be done can be done and if it's in my scope of practice I'll do it.
There are times I've gagged in front of a patient, and there will be more I'm sure. But the moment it becomes about how something bothers me, how gross or awful it is or how I don't want to deal with it I've just lost sight of everything. The patient is everything, it's about them.

Not everyone in the world is made to be in medical care, but anyone can provide it if needed.
It requires the very little knowledge or experience but a lot of will power to put pressure on a huge cut that's bleeding, or sit someone up who's vomiting while they're lying down.