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Monday, June 11, 2018

How do you sum up faithfulness?

One of my favorite lines from "The Princess Bride" is when Westley's been mostly dead and is resuscitated by Miracle Max's magic pill, and Inigo is trying to bring him up to speed, Inigo says, "Let me explain ... No, there is too much. Let me sum up." That's a little bit what this Monday morning feels like. Yet throughout, there's a thread connecting so much of the last several days, and it all has to do with God's faithfulness and his eagerness to speak, to guide, to live in intimate, loving relationship with us, to provide guidance in our choices and to share delight in the intricate details. So let me sum up.

  • Last Wednesday I drove to the Cities and had lunch with my daughter Erica, a last minute stop at a delectable Mexican restaurant across the street from her work that could easily become the standard place where we meet. It's so good. We shared great conversation and the joy of being able to spontaneously connect in a loving way, with what Wendell Berry called (paraphrasing here, as my copy of "Satisfactions of the Mad Farmer" is, sadly, out of reach for the moment) the conversation of friends, lightened and cleared by all that can be assumed. What fun to share such conversations with one's children! And this was a huge theme of the last several days with both my daughters.
  • Thence to the airport, flying out to spend time in Seattle for the grand excuse of my daughter Mathea's master's degree graduation, though she launches immediately back into two more years of school to get her Ph.D. I have deep roots in the Seattle area, and I was able to schedule in a few key conversations with friends from back in the day. These are the hard conversations, since so much in my life has changed in the last couple years and each reconnection requires extensive redefinition, and no matter how well they go these conversations always take deep courage and significant mental and emotional preparation. I have things to apologize for, and I am also learning to be honest in new ways about the past, about my relationships, and about myself at new levels. The gift in all this was that in every case, these reconnections were deeply joyful, healthy conversations. Challenging at times but always loving. That is such a gift. 
  • Time with Mathea was priceless. I got to see the life she has built during grad school, including school and home and roommates and friends and favorite hangouts and so much more. Favorites include 
    • King's Hardware, a bar/restaurant in Ballard that, countercultural for Seattle, has mounted deer heads and coyote pelts on the walls and feels more like someplace you might find in northern Minnesota;
    • the opportunity to sample beet-and-goat-cheese ice cream, which is not as horrible as one might think, though I don't think it will ever replace butter pecan in my affections;
    • learning the near-vertical tangle of streets in Queen Anne that Mathea navigates like a boss; 
    • a plethora of bookstores and coffee shops and breakfast places that a bit urban for my tastes but fit her like a glove;
    • so much more. There is too much.
  • We went to see Lord Huron in concert at the Moore Theater, and I'm still processing the experience. I've been listening to them quite a lot the last few months. I have so many questions about this experience. Why is my daughter's demographic so overrepresented in the crowd at this concert? What is it about this band, their narrative lyrics, their fascination with death and relationships and dabbling in, but not really getting mesmerized by, the paranormal, their intense rock-n-roll presentation that makes it hard to understand anything if you don't already know the lyrics, their complete sensory overload of sound and lights and projection and all the technical excellence you could ever ask for, that draws young adult women and the boyfriends who were so obviously most of the males in the crowd, in tow behind the women who really wanted to see this band? That gender imbalance in the crowd -- not just numbers, but also in what I can only call the power imbalance in the crowd -- is one of the pieces of that experience I am still pondering. The concert was incredible, excellent, technically flawless. And I recognize that in some ways I am on the outside of the whole experience. And how does this obviously spiritual-but-not-religious experience connect to that kind of shift in our wider culture?
  • One of the most obvious examples of God speaking -- what you might call a burning bush moment -- was the Über ride to the concert. Turned out our driver, a great conversationalist who was deeply curious about the people he was transporting, was a burned out pastor who had made some significant mistakes in his career and was now driving and rebuilding his life, regaining a sense of himself and his call to ministry through this radically altered life. We had a great eight minute conversation and when we got out of the car, Mathea said, "Well THAT wasn't relevant at all." 
  • Our conversations over the four days I was there included a lot about the research Mathea is working on, the NT Wright book I'm currently reading (his recent biography of Paul, which is excellent), her interactions with each of the different faculty leading her organizational psych program, and the personal struggles, failures and victories each of us is experiencing these days. It was fabulous conversation, and as I told her Saturday, I long for three weeks of time to dig deep into each of those things. 
  • I've never been a big fan of commencement exercises, but it was a joy to see a little knot of us gathered together to celebrate and encourage and revel in this high water mark along the way. Sometimes public celebrations are a good thing. 
  • All through my time there, in Wright's book and in scripture (the psalms still, the late 50's and early 60's these last few days), in conversations planned and random, in quiet solitary moments and in large public gatherings, there has been, as I said, a thread of God subtly speaking his love and wisdom, cautions and encouragements. Out of that, a word that has kept recurring is "trust." Corollary to that is the theme of God's faithfulness, his relational, loving steadfastness. 
  • I got back to Minnesota late on Saturday, and arrived back at my cabin (had Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" running through my head as I drove in) and saw a doe bedded down in my front yard as though she was keeping an eye on the place in my absence. A few hours' sleep and I was immediately back into the very good grind of things here at Decision Hills. 
  • Last night I got to meet with my Life Group leaders, a group of excellent people in training to implement a model of home-based communities here. It's exciting stuff, and we spent time last night in Mark 4 where Jesus stills the storm and his disciples go from being afraid of the storm to being afraid of Jesus. The whole evening was like a perfect capstone to the entire trip, a neat chance to tie up the days of hearing God deal with my storms and refocus my attention on him. It's one of my favorite stories, and it was a joy to delve with these great leaders into the questions of how God shows up in the storms, how he speaks "Peace, be still" and what that might look like ... 
It probably doesn't come through as I describe the experiences as strongly as it was in my moment-by-moment living it, but there's such a strong sense for me over the last several days of being deeply connected to people and places, of deep, life-giving relationships, of webs of love that hold us and keep us, of God's faithfulness flowing through the invisible connections that carry us through the days. It's so good, even in the middle of the storms. 

And I will admit that I'm chuckling a bit about writing that last line as a massive thunderstorm is pummeling everything in sight. God has a sense of humor. 

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