Today

Today has been a day of missing mom.

An older lady in my seminary class was getting ready to take a break with the rest of us. She said “Adam, I need help.” We had been sitting for a good 90 minutes and her knees needed some convincing before unbending. “As long as you guys can get me on my feet, I’ll be fine.” Me and another guy helped our classmate up. She thanked us and said “I’ve got cancer”. “Where?” “All over.” She shrugged her shoulders and said “Eh.”

Helping her to stand reminded me of the final days when we’d help Mom get from point to point in the house, the same house that she transformed from a dirty bungalow into a gorgeous estate. Hearing that she had cancer felt very different than it would have a few years ago. Back then, I’d tsk and say something mundane like “Well, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” or “you’re very strong” or “cancer rhymes with dancer”. I never actually said the last thing, but I’m sure I thought it at least once.

Today, I felt like crying for her.

I didn’t. It would have been strange for her and scary to the rest of the class. In the movies, if a big guy is crying, he’s about to 1) break every table and person in the room or 2) turn green and break every table and person in the room. I’m okay with emotions, but I’m still learning what to do with the feelings of losing my mom. Unless you’ve been there, you may not know what I’m saying.

Tonight I called my Dad and asked him the kind of question I would have normally reserved for my Mom. I learned early on that there are Mom questions, and there are Dad questions. Different categories are ok. Though I can’t be sure, I think that what he said is exactly what my Mom would have said.

This, too, reminded me of how much I miss my Mom.

I’ll never really know what she would have said to the issue I raised with Dad. I can only guess at what she might have said, based on what she’s said in the past. Oh, I’ve got a good pile of data there. She was no stranger to my big questions. Dad was spot on, just as I would have expected. It was good. It is good.

But it makes me wonder. Can people in heaven see what we’re doing? Does God keep those who’ve gone before us in the loop? Do they have reason to know or care?

Yet again, one of those questions I would have asked Mom. Even with all the classes, all the books, all the doctrines and theologies I’ve studied, I’d still want to know what she thought.

She would have said “I don’t know”.
And I would have been very satisfied with that answer.

Psalm 111:2

How amazing are the deeds of the LORD!
All who delight in him should ponder them.

Psalm 111:2 (NLT)

My mind often drifts to unfinished projects, like how the truck needs a new distributor cap or the spot in our ceiling needs to be patched up. My to do list comes to mind quite a bit. I’m good at remembering what needs to be done, and even better at putting it off for another day. Yet, I don’t remember what I’ve already accomplished — the checks that I’ve put in the boxes after getting the drain tile trenched or kicking the air conditioner hard enough that it didn’t break all summer. Remembering what’s been done is good. High five, etc. But that doesn’t fix what’s broken today. Right?

Maybe that’s why the scripture calls us to remember — to ponder — what God has done (past tense) before we start asking Him to do (future tense). We’re very “to do list” oriented in our prayers and very forgetful about the “done” list. Why would remembering the deeds of the Lord be helpful for us? Like a pastor, I’ve come up with three benefits of pondering the deeds of the Lord.

  • Remembering puts us in our place. There’s a gravitational pull toward believing that we control our context, as if we keep our own heart beating and somehow manage to keep earth spinning. God does that, not us. When we were kids and played in each others backyards, one of the overarching rules was that we remember who’s yard we’re in, because they call the shots. We’re God’s creation, existing within God’s creation. Remember Genesis? Remember God’s creation? Remember the verse that says that you have been knit together in your mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made? God made you. God made this. We’re not in your yard; we’re in His.
  • Remembering renews our passion. The days that I’m dragging are the days that I’m not remembering God’s faithfulness. I have down days; that’s the rhythm of existence. When I take the time to remember what God has done, it stirs something in me that makes me care again about the right stuff. Knowing that God calls me his kid and remembering His blessings in my life breaks down the buildup of gunk that comes from running nonstop. It shakes me up and helps get me focused on His work and plan. When I hear a song by Muse, it gets me excited about the power of music again. On a grander scale, when I recall God’s great work in rescuing us, I get excited because I’m part of His plan, and there’s work to be done.
  • Remembering tells our “worry voice” to “shut up”. Constantly thinking about the to-do list is a byproduct of my tendency to worry about the future. I’m a ramifications guy who can easily extrapolate horrendous outcomes of ignoring vital repairs. Being my wife, Emily knows exactly how to help me regain perspective as she gently pats me and says “you worry about really dumb stuff.” She’s right. It will be fine. It always has been. There’s no better way to shut down a future concern of a grand scale than to remember what God has done to overcome mountains in the past.
  • Remember this: remember. It will be to His delight. And yours.

    Fast Food

    Slate magazine has a great article* about Burger King calling it quits with the ad agency that came up with the creepy BurgerKingPlasticFace. Remember that guy? Just stood there while strange stuff happened? I had a math teacher in 7th grade that did the same thing — but at least he’s tenured now. The article talks about how the ad agency was going after younger adult males who eat fast food every day. Burger King wanted to introduce lower calorie options like oatmeal, but the agency called it girl food. I can see their point. “Diet Beer” doesn’t sell very well, in part because it doesn’t seem masculine. The commercials were aimed at their demographic. Fast forward a few years later and Burger King isn’t even Prince. And the Halloween Costume Burger King is no more, thanks be.

    Moments after reading that article on Slate, I watched an episode of Mad Men, the one where Don Draper says that advertising is all about making us feel good about what we’re already doing. When they came up with PlastiFace Burger King, their utmost desire was to sell hamburgers and to make us feel good about eating 1,900 calories of DoubleCheezeBac’n TripleBurger.

    Moments after reading the article and watching Mad Men, I went to Panera Bread to catch some dinner. Lo and behold, both principles are at work. They aim to sell me fresh, seemingly healthy food (though anyone on Atkins would call this purgatory). Also, the shellac they spray on the bakery bread is the same kind used to keep BurgerKingShellacFace in the proper shape and frightening smiley expression. When I eat at Panera, I feel like I’m making a better choice about calorie intake i.e. the principle of feeling good about what I’m doing. In reality, I’m exchanging a TripleQuadrupleBac’nBurger (1) for processed chicken, tons of bread (have you seen the “bread bowl?”) and some chips (they’re out of apples). On the surface, it looks like I’m eating healthy. In reality, I’m still eating fast food.

    Emily buys apples, oranges, grapes and carrots from our our grocer. His name is Fred(2). He sells good, non-processed food. He also sells organic bananas, which means that they are already rotted to the center. I wonder if we’ll get back to fresh food again, like in (what I call) Farmer Times. C’mon. Hipsters can’t be the only ones who get to eat granola (and smell like hemp).

    Mmm… hollowed out bread filled with cream of potato soup. Take that, Burger King.

    ——
    (1) It’s neat that a hamburger and bypass surgery can have the same name.
    (2) Fred Meijer, that is.

    Zac Transcript

    Zac (3) seems to be speaking in Haiku this morning. He speaks an odd paragraph and then pauses to collect himself for a few moments. There is no space between sentences, just between bigger chunks of ideas, represented by the (——-). I’m going to type everything he says while he finishes his breakfast. This is pure transcript, with my occasional spoken interjections to either provide response or request clarity. I want to get it recorded just in case we find out later that it’s some kind of wisdom literature.

    ——

    When Uncle Mike was little
    I was there
    And he was a skeleton who got hurt
    But the skeleton was a good guy.

    ——

    Is that your leg?
    (Yes)
    Is it good to you?

    ——

    When we go outside
    When we get sleds
    When we slide downstairs.
    That’s my favorite thing to… those are the zeros.

    ——-

    I’m not Zac. I’m jammies. Hi. I’m jammies. (Pulls jammies up over his head, then back down)
    Oh, sorry. I’m not jammies. I’m just Zac.

    ——-

    Daddy, Hi. Hi Daddy. (Hi, Zac).
    Gotta wait. I was saying Hi.
    You’re not saying what I said to you.
    Daddy, you funny.

    ——-

    You don’t be silly. You’re reading your bible.
    Your bible is about Jesus.
    You’re reading about Jesus.
    Jesus rode on a shark.

    ——–

    It was saying I was a shay.
    Look – the stairs. The steps.
    Daddy? Are those stairs that we don’t slide down?
    I’m creatures.
    There’s a creatures.
    Hi, I’m a creatures.
    I’m Tory.
    But I’m not Tory.

    ——–
    (Zac, can you eat more of your cereal?)
    Yes, I can. But it’s done.
    You don’t eat bad cereal, you eat good cereal.
    (is that bad cereal?)
    No, it’s good cereal. But it’s done.

    ——–

    He made Jesus, just like he made me.

    ——–

    Once upon a time, Elmo was in the door.
    And he saw a megamind and Miss richie and minion.
    He saw them. And he was… and Bert saw flowers with Elmo and he talks to Elmo.
    And Elmo say “Hi” and Bert looks with him. Another Bert looks with him.
    A other Bert looks with him… Daddy, we’re all looking.

    ———

    Daddy, you be a door and I’ll be a bear pearacter (character?)
    (Ok)
    Can you sing I am Micky Mouse and say I am a deck robot?
    Say “I’m a tin tin robot?” Do what your teacher said, Daddy.
    Hi, I’m Dorie. Do do do do do do do do.
    (pokes self in eye).

    ———

    End transcript.

    Second Semester Start

    Today begins my second semester of seminary at the Anderson University School of Theology. I’ve tried this before but didn’t get as far. Back in the day (approximately 2003), I enrolled in a different seminary and made it through about 2/3 of a fall semester. This being the first day of second semester is already a new personal best. I’m glad for that.

    Last semester was comprised of two classes, one being a basic training course which equipped me to write a term paper and put definition to key theological terms; the other was a class called Constructive Theology, which, as I discovered, has nothing to do with construction.

    This semester will feature a class in Old Testament and another Constructive Theology class. That’ll do just fine. The Old Testament is a massive compendium of God’s faithfulness. I feel like I barely even know it. Construction of theology is a good idea, too.

    Here’s to another semester of challenge, growth, development, and worship.

    Tuesday Afternoon Post

    I am fully engaged with my Tuesday afternoon routine. As I do every Tuesday afternoon, I am:

    1. Working on service orders for Sunday (my primary responsibility)
    2. Working on e-mails and heads up for volunteers (which affects my primary responsibility)
    3. Reading something — today, it’s The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder. So far, so good.
    4. Listening to a record that I listen to almost every Tuesday Afternoon: “Days of Future Passed” by The Moody Blues. The album includes the song “Tuesday Afternoon” and is much warmer on vinyl.

    Here’s a thought that enters my mind while I stir on everything else: I think my ears are getting tired of hearing MP3′s. I was listening to a 196k bit rate song yesterday and could hear the cymbals going wah wah wah wah wah wah the whole time. I didn’t like it.

    Another thought: music in heaven will be perfect. We spend so much money on recording, playback, speakers, headphones, etc… in heaven, we will have 1) perfect sonic quality and 2) perfect hearing. Some glad morning…

    The Day I Went Crazy

    My lovely and patient wife Emily will testify (in a court of law, if need be) that I tend to go off the rails whenever my type A stylings are challenged by type B situations. Yesterday serves as an example. I came down with a case of Free Methodist Flu* and was physically forced to lay low for a day. I don’t lay low very well, plus, I get super light headed and out of it when I run a fever. I slept in until about 9:30am, which feels like noon to me. So I got up. By 10am, I felt weak, nauseated, and generally frustrated. Emily suggested that I lay back down and rest, to which I retorted that it was “time for the Legos” and went downstairs and built a monstrosity (which Malachi later destroyed while I took pictures). By 11:30am, I felt hungry for lunch, so I tried eating some delicious bread, cooked in a slotted appliance dedicated to toasting. I chose jam as a topping. It was then that I looked outside, bleary eyed and filthy faced, and thought about how it would be good to move those branches to the neighbor’s yard while no one was looking. At that moment, I think I saw a unicorn.
    By 1pm, I had finished watching the episode of MacGyver where he drives his Jeep through a factory. After reenacting key scenes with Lego action figures, I decided to bring my crazies back upstairs, to which Emily lovingly suggested that I lay down and get some rest. I told her about a very kind email I had gotten about how I can save 20% today on shoes, to which she lovingly suggested that I lay down and get some rest. How could I lay down with all those unicorns outside?
    By 3pm, I was walking around the house, wondering what it would be like to float. Would we wear weight belts in serious situations?
    By 4pm, I was around the kids again, which grounded me a bit. Floating would be a bad idea. The flu symptoms had subsided; the cabin fever set in like a dense fog.
    By 5pm, I was ready to go. Emily sent me out of the house (lovingly) and suggested that if I didn’t get ok, she would not be ok. I took the hint and took a drive.
    Oh.
    Trees.
    People.
    Cars.
    Activity.
    It’s ok.
    And I’m happy to feel better this morning.