Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cama Beach State Park

We couldn't have picked a better day for an outing to Cama Beach! I met Karen at Terry's Corner on Camano Island yesterday morning and we drove south 13 miles to Cama Beach State Park. One of the state's newest parks, Cama Beach was a family fishing resort from the 1930s till 1989, when it closed.  It reopened as a state park in 2008, with its rows of upgraded cabins along the beach, a camp store, and a branch of the Seattle-based Center for Wooden Boats in the middle of the park. More recently the beautiful Cama Center Great Hall was built on the bluff above the beach. With high open-beamed ceilings and a stone fireplace, it provides a lovely space for events as well as the Cama Beach Cafe and Catering. That's where we started our adventure, enjoying a cup of coffee and a scone on the deck overlooking the cabins.

Life in the cabins and on the beach is slow and simple. We saw families gathered around their picnic tables, a lazy dog lying in the shade, and folks playing on the beach. A group of young children barely old enough to read carried GPS devices and were learning how to geocache! No private cars are allowed in the cabin area, so all supplies are shuttled down from the parking lots on the hill above the cabins. Summer reservations fill up fast, though the park is open year-round.

We poked around in the Center for Wooden Boats, where toy boat building classes are held during the summer and people can rent boats to take out on the sound. I stepped into the large boathouse and saw the beautiful boats stored there, the sliding door at the back of the building opened to the boat launch, and I felt so calm and peaceful. I remembered the joy I experienced last summer as I read The Boys in the Boat. One of these days I hope to go to the Connibear Shellhouse to see the Husky Clipper from that amazing book! For today, it just seemed so welcoming to step inside this boathouse.

Outside the sliding wooden door there was access to a boat ramp -- a set of railroad tracks that went down into the water, covered with kelp and barnacles. Inside the building was the remnant of the mechanisms (cranks and pulleys) that were used to get the boats launched. The system is clearly not in use today, but here's what it looked like years ago.

Here's another indication of the popularity of Cama Beach in years past:

After I returned home, I got an e-mail from Karen, calling me her "amiable rambling friend." She says they're hard to come by. So glad we found each other!

If you're interested in learning more about Cama Beach, click here. It includes a nice video you'll enjoy.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hymn of the Month -- Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

I grew up on this Charles Wesley hymn, sung in a rather stately way. I like this simple, beautiful new tune and the voice and accompaniment. Unfortunately, there is no information about who sings this version of the song.

As for the hymn itself, this is one of over 6000 hymns written by Charles Wesley, many composed on horseback as he traveled to evangelistic meetings. Carrying note cards with him as he traveled, he used a form of shorthand he'd devised to jot down lines that came to him, which he would transcribe when he reached his destination.

If we want the truth of scripture to fill our minds and hearts, we should study the Bible and sing the hymns. A good hymn will be true to the Word of God. It will allow us to confirm the truth for ourselves and will help us become more open to God's deeper work in our own lives. In time we will find that we are being "changed from glory into glory, till in heaven our take our place, till we cast our crowns before [Him], lost in older, love, and praise!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Did You Begin to Feel Really Alive?

Thoughts while enjoying an iced coffee at Starbucks

The other day my friend Sue said, "I wonder what kind of answers you'd get if you surveyed people and asked them, 'At what point in you life did you begin to feel really alive?' That would be interesting!"

Well, Sue, here's my answer to that question.

I loved life as a kid and always felt loved and quite alive. But I was very sensitive and took everything very seriously, especially matters of faith. My one passion was to please Jesus. When I look back at some of my favorite hymns and gospel songs (I would be true, for there are those who trust me, I would be brave, for there is much to dare... and I'll tell the world that I'm a Christian, I'm not ashamed his name to bear... pretty heavy songs for a kid!) and I remember some of the rules I made for myself, it's clear I was a bit confused about grace. Still, I loved Jesus and figured the way to show it was to do everything right. No mistakes, no poor judgements, no offending people, taking responsibility, you know, simple stuff like that.

The summer I turned 16 I went to a youth camp that rocked my world! The theme was Come Alive, and  that's just what I did. I began to see things through new lenses. I discovered that the life of faith was intended to be more a life of freedom than of heaping responsibility upon oneself. It infused me with joy and courage to step outside the rigid confines I'd set up for myself.

But I was only partway there.

It wasn't until years later that I saw another problem caused by my legalistic attitudes. That mindset had led to arrogance and self-righteousness, and it had kept me from being open and honest with the Lord and with others. I discovered that I was still living my life in my own strength, and I still wanted to do everything right, without disappointing the Lord. How else could I demonstrate to the Lord and the world that I was totally sold out to him, I reasoned, if I couldn't even keep the rules! But he showed me that he wasn't asking me to do that. He was just asking me to surrender myself to his care and to trust him.

Me at 32

That summer, the summer I turned 32, my life changed. I've referred to it ever since as the point at which I became human. No longer needing to figure everything out for myself and live a righteous life on my own, I embarked on a journey of joy and grace like I had never known before. I'd say it was the point in my life that I began to feel really alive.

As a human I can tell you that I'm not always hilariously joy-filled, nor do I always handle things well. But maybe you already knew that. (I wouldn't have disclosed such damning information to you when I was younger!) I'm learning and growing and so grateful that the Lord is more than able to see me all the way Home.

I've been a legalist and I've been a free woman. Trust me, freedom trumps legalism, hands down!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Let There Be Singing

Widows of Burundi, singing praise to God

Our brothers and sisters in Iraq are on the run for their lives. Christians are under attack in Nigeria. Followers of Christ are being persecuted on nearly every continent of the world, many of them imprisoned, raped, or murdered for no reason other than that they are Christians.

But the suffering in the world today is not limited to Christians. At the moment, 62 countries are engaged in wars, with 555 militia-guerilla groups involved (Wars in the World website). The possibility of resolving these conflicts seems nearly hopeless. Another major issue, healthcare, offers staggering statistics. According to the website Global Issues, 21,000 children around the world die every day. Over 1000 people in West Africa have lost their lives to Ebola.

On our own streets in North America we see hatred and violence; in our schools and neighborhoods we witness intolerance and bullying. Children are snatched from their homes, people we look up to hang themselves. Addictions, mental health problems, broken relationships, poverty, innumberable social issues... everywhere around us we see the landscape littered with victims of our world's woes.

How should we respond when we see our world falling apart around us?

The scriptures tell us that we should sing. No head-in-the-sand ostrich music. No whistling in the dark. No strains of I am strong, I am invincible. We are called to sing songs of praise to the God who rules over all.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praise to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
Psalm 47:6-9
One of my favorite Old Testament stories is found in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat found himself  and the Israelite army facing the armies of three nations and he cried out to God."We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us," he prayed, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (13). The Lord responded: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's" (15). The people fell before the Lord in worship; some from their group began to praise God with loud voices. Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever." As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the [enemies] and they were defeated (21-22)

It was no talisman, this singing, no good luck charm. They did not sing in order to get something from God. Singing was their response to the faithful God of all the earth.  They praised him for the splendor of his holiness. They praised him because his love endures forever. They praised him because he is worthy. They lifted their eyes from their circumstances and hoped in God.

It was the same attitude of Paul and Silas had when they were in prison (Acts 16:16-40). It's not a place you would expect to find a prayer meeting and songfest, but we are told that about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them (23). In response, a violent earthquake shook the prison, the chains of all the prisoners were loosed and the prison doors flew open. Is that not a testimony to the power of God! When the jailer found all of the prisoners still in the jail, he was converted to Christ. I'm guessing more than one of the prisoners was too.

What should be our response to the terrible things in our world today? We should look to the God of the whole world, the God who knows what is happening and who alone can set things rights. Even in the bleakest situations, God is still God. He calls us to pray and to sing his praises.

Let us, like Jehoshaphat, pray: "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." Let us remember that the battle is the Lord. And let us sing and praise God, who is faithful.

Let there be singing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes

Alexandra Horowitz teaches psychology, animal behavior, and canine cognition at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York City. She lives in the city and is a regular walker -- just her and her dog, or with her husband or little boy. She knows the city pretty well and thought she was good at noticing things.

But she began to wonder what she might be missing on her walks. So she arranged to walk with folks with "expert eyes" to let them show her things she would never have thought to look for herself. The result is her fascinating book, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.

Among her experts were people whose passions were geology, art, typography, tiny little bugs, urban animals, how we use public spaces, microbiology and art, world travel, and sound design. And then there was her dog, oh yeah, and her 19-month-old son. She often walks with her son, but this time she let him lead the way. They did more stopping and investigating when he was in the lead that they normally do.

To read On Looking is to immerse yourself in overload. It provided more information and detail and, for me, pure delight, than a whole year's worth of Jeopardy. Each walk offered unlimited opportunities to get sidetracked, the perfect escape for trivia lovers with ADD! Whether discovering the tiny holes in leaves made by a certain kind of bug or entering a public building just because it was there and her walking partner had never been in it before, Horowitz relished the insights.

Each of her walking partners was fascinating, even apart from their expertise. The three I found most interesting were Paul Shaw, Dr Bennett Lorber, and Arlene Gordon.

Shaw's obsession is lettering. Of him Horowitz says, "Shaw is afflicted with the disorder of knowing too much -- in this case, about the design of letters. It is a disorder that makes one, as Shaw is, a formidable typographer. He is a professional letterhead. Shaw creates lettering -- and studies it, as a writer and on foot. ..This malady, this literaphilia, makes one seek, and see, letters. In a city, letters are everywhere." He noted things like the Q with its tail protruding into the O rather than out of it, and he came up with a theory about why it was made that way. His perspective on lettering gave Horowitz a whole new way to view the city's signage.

I was particularly drawn to Dr Lorber. He "specializes in diagnosing and studying anaerobic infections, but I had come to walk with him because of his side interest in the physical exam." Lorber is a noticer, a fine skill for a physician. As part of his job he teaches medical students how to take a patient's history and do a physical exam, helping them to truly see the patients for who they are. Walking with Horowitz, he pointed out symptoms he saw in others that would indicate this diagnosis or that. I must say, since I was young I have looked for this quality in doctors. (Sad to say, I haven't found one who profoundly met my expectation. It was from reading an article in the Readers Digest when I was a kid, one of their "My Most Unforgettable Character" stories, about just such a doctor that made me think this was not a rare quality in a physician.  Though I have googled that article to see who this amazing doctor was, I have not found him. Horowitz does talk about Dr Joseph Bell, the real-life doctor on whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his Sherlock Holmes character. Just to come across Dr Bell's name was worth the read of On Looking, but it was, indeed, just one of the reasons I liked the book.) Well, that quality in a doctor is not at all common, as life has taught me, but Dr Lorber is another real-life doctor who does this gift. Through observing an odd gait, an asymmetrical body alignment, a person's handshake, even their smell, Lorber is able to diagnose people's medical conditions. Harowitz says, "It is not only the diagnosis that I valued; it is the way that knowledge oriented [his] looking -- an ability to 'see what [he] sees,' as it were." And isn't that a skill that each of us desire to develop?

In her eighties, Arlene Gordon has spent the last half of her life without sight, but that has not stopped her from traveling the world. She views her many travel experiences with the eyes of her companions and returns home with as real a story to tell as those who actually experienced the trip visually. As the two walked the block around Gordon's apartment, she showed Horowitz how to see with her ears and sense of feel. The sound is different under an awning, she demonstrated, than it is in the open, and a slight bump into the front of a building orients her to the lay of the land. The world opens up when you begin to experience it with all your senses.

I would love to have had someone like Alexandra Horowitz in that 7th grade Creativity class that I taught.

So in On Looking you have a curious author, anxious to see in new ways, a number of experts who add color to the story and stimulate the author (and the reader) to be more observant, and all kinds of trivia that is not available in a single volume any place else on earth. Now, that's fascinating!

Not everybody, however, will want to read this. Of the handful of people whose reading habits I know very well, at least one will say, "TMI" (Too Much Information). And two will say "Too many words." As a matter of fact, among my handful, I can only think of one who likely would be drawn to the book. If you are one with little patience for reading a book written from a decidedly evolutionary perspective, I suppose this book would not hold much interest for you. Though her perspective is not my own, I read the book for the wonders it held, not the worldview. And I found it to be a very worthy read.

Okay, are you ready to take a short walk with the author? It just may make you want to reconsider how you look at the world around you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Our Sunday

We attended Newport Covenant Church yesterday. Our friend Jerry Piger, a pianist and songwriter, told us that his co-writer, Lisa Peretti, would be in town and would sing at the service. We have Lisa's CD and were anxious to hear her in person.

The service was very good. The pastor, a guest preacher, spoke about worship. He shared a couple of quotes: "Worship is our glad response to the immense grace of the Triune God" (Marva Dawn), and "The glory of God is a man [or woman] fully alive" (Iranaeus). He encouraged us to bring the authentic, deepest part of ourselves to God, who not only accepts us when we bring our real selves to him; he seeks out those who do!

Lisa Peretti sang His Eye is on the Sparrow. It's a song I love, and I have never heard it sung any better. By the way she sang it, I knew that it was not just a song to Lisa. It was truth. (See the lyrics here)

Lisa and Jerry have worked together for several years. She's living in London now, but is back home visiting family this month. I wanted to share this video with you that she and Jerry made two years ago. (Listen carefully and you'll hear strains of His Eye is on the Sparrow!) Though she is in London, they continue to work together. They make a great team, and we loved getting to spend part of the day with them.

We went to lunch with Jerry and his wife Shirley (my babysitter from long ago!), Lisa, and another couple from the church. If you are ever in Newcastle, which is a part of Bellevue, I recommend Yea's Wok, a Chinese restaurant. The food was delicious and the staff friendly and efficient.

After lunch Tom and I went to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. It was 91 degrees in Bellevue when we were there, but the lovely trees and plants provided shade and the water features helped us feel a bit cooler. If you haven't been to this lovely park, you ought to take a walk through it. Here are just a  couple of photos from our visit.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Help Iraqi Christians

By now you surely know that Christians have been expelled from Mosul, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Threatened to convert, pay a fee, or die, most of the Christians of Mosul fled the city. Still, as they fled, many were robbed, raped, or killed.

Today the city to which many of them have fled, Qaragosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq, has fallen to ISIS. They are even beheading children.

This video shows a Chaldean-American whose roots are in Iraq, Mark Arabo, explaining to CNN's Jonathan Mann why this is considered a genocide. If you haven't seen it, please do so. And then I ask you to do three things:

1. Pray. These are our brothers and sisters, and they are in extremely trying circumstances. Pray that the Lord will protect them, that he will give them strength and courage, that he will stop the atrocities. Pray for peace in Iraq. These things seem impossible, I know. But I also know that God is able to do much more than we can ask or imagine, according to his mighty power that is at work with us [his people]. To him be glory in the church and in Christi Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph 3:20-21).

2. Change your profile picture. The Arabic letter N -- see symbol above -- stands for Nisrani (Nazarene, i.e. Christian). ISIS has painted this letter on the homes of Mosul Christians who have left the city. Intended as a derisive sign, it is being adopted by Christians around the world who stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Will you also adopt it as your profile picture on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media?

3. Write to your senators and representatives. Ask them to take a stand for them and do all they can to support efforts in Congress to stop this horrendous crime agains these people who are fleeing for their lives.

Sources: MSN NewsCNN, Barnabasaid

Friday, August 1, 2014

How to Pray for Your Pastor

Do you remember the story of Moses, recorded in Exodus 17:8-13, when Joshua went to battle against the Amalekites? Moses promised to stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hands. The battle began, with Joshua's men fighting Amalek's army. As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Joshua would start winning the battle, but when he became tired and lowered his hands Amalek would start winning. Seeing the situation,  Aaron and Hur had Moses sit on a large stone and each of them held up one of Moses' hands, helping him remain steady until sunset, enabling Joshua to win the battle.

I was reminded of the story this week as I read a chapter on intercession in A 12-Month Guide to Better Prayer. Author George Whitfield says, "We need also to pray for those whom 'the Holy Spirit has made...overseers, to shepherd the church of God'" (Acts 20:28).

How often do we really pray for our pastors, I wonder. How often do I?

It's easy to fall into the attitude that our pastors, as our spiritual leaders, have a direct line to God and don't really need our prayers. In fact, they may need it more than others! Here are ten ways you can pray for your pastors, a very inconclusive list, but a beginning. I encourage you to spend time each week lifting your pastors to the Lord. Ask him for insight into how you can pray. If the Lord is directing your prayers, you can be sure he is planning on answering them!

Pray for their hearts -- Pray that they will be open to God, that they will seek him and respond to him. Ask the Lord to reveal any sin in their lives, hidden or otherwise, and any blind spots they may have. Might they walk in humility and obedience before the Lord, leaving room for no root of bitterness, jealousy, or any other sin to take hold.

Pray for their minds -- Ask the Lord to grant them wisdom and discernment. Pray that they will seek godly counsel and spend time daily in the Word. May they fill their minds with truth. Pray also that they guard their minds from things that can draw them into sin and even addictions.

Pray for their spirits -- Pray that they will have confidence in God, will rest in him, and experience freedom to live in the joy and the strength of the Lord.

Pray for their bodies -- Pray that they will rest, be refreshed, and practice good habits that honor the Lord and build them up.

Pray for their relationships -- Whether married or single, we can pray that our pastors will honor the Lord in the affairs of the heart. Ask the Lord to give them strong marriages, noted for integrity, genuine love, and mutual respect. Pray that their children will pursue the Lord and the pastors will love their children and parent them well. Pray that the church will love its pastors and support them. And in their fellowship with other pastors may they love and honor one another, pursing the Lord together and developing strong, healthy friendships.

Pray for their zeal -- May their hearts "be broken by the things that break the heart of God." (Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision.) Pray that they will have compassion on the poor, the stranger, the alien, the oppressed, and on those abused and ignored. Pray that they will seek the lost and spur on the church to do the same. Ask the Lord to give them a heart for missions and opportunities to experience first hand God's work around the world. Ask the Lord to help them be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading in the life of the church.

Pray for their calling -- Pray that they will honor the Lord in all things and will fulfill the role the Lord has called them to, by His grace. And pray that they will be allowed to serve where and how the Lord calls and leads them.

Pray for their faithfulness -- Pray that, like Paul, they will "press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [them]." Might they "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [them] heavenward in Christ Jesus." Pray that they "will live up to what they have already attained." (Phil 4:12,14,16)

Pray for their total dependence on God -- Pray that the Lord would prepare those he would call, that he would, indeed call them and equip them, and that they would rely on him for grace and strength to do what God alone can do through our pastors.