Archive | May 2014

Red and White Images and a Little Black Book

Mom's Memorandum Book from her teenage years

Mom’s Little Black Book from her teenage years

Yesterday morning, I decided to take out my mom’s little black book – the one where she wrote the Bible verses she memorized, week by week, when she was in high school. I looked up the verse for May 28, 1922. I wondered if she might have chosen a verse to memorize that would relate in some way to “Decoration Day” – what Memorial Day was called back in those days. Nope. Her verse was Isaiah 1:18:

Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow.

Scarlet and white. I don’t think she was thinking of “Old Glory” as she was memorizing this verse. However, I noticed that she memorized only part of the verse. I looked up the passage in the King James Bible to see the whole verse.

Come now, and let us reason together,
saith the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow,
though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.

Moms Memorandum Book - May 28 1922 croppedBack in 1922, I’m pretty sure my mom was thinking about needing to be a good girl. Her scarlet sins had been forgiven by God, and her heart was now as pure and white as snow. Red and white. That was a colorful image to keep her mind focused on God’s love for her.

In the “Introduction to Isaiah” in The Message, Eugene H. Peterson writes,

For Isaiah, words are watercolors and melodies and chisels to make truth and beauty and goodness. Or, as the case may be, hammers and swords and scalpels to unmake sin and guilt and rebellion. Isaiah does not merely convey information. He creates visions, delivers revelation, arouses belief. He is a poet in the most fundamental sense – a maker, making God present and that presence urgent. Isaiah is the supreme poet-prophet to come out of the Hebrew people.

Scarlet sins and white snow. Crimson sins and wool. Isaiah painted colorful word pictures to help us understand God’s transforming love for us.

A more contemporary poet, William Carlos Williams, painted another word picture using the same colors, red and white.

red-wheelbarrow white chickensSo much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white chickens

I first read that poem when I was in college. I liked the simplicity of the poem, and the humble image of a red wheelbarrow and white chickens. It’s a picture I’d seen in the real world – on the farm – many times. This was just the first time I’d seen it described so beautifully. So accurately and economically – just 16 words.

What images come to your mind when you hear the words RED and WHITE?

US FlagSince yesterday was Memorial Day, you may think of the stripes of the “red, white, and blue.” If you had a picnic and dressed up the table with a red and white checkered table cloth, that image may come to mind. If you’re a wine drinker, you may think about the red or white wine you enjoyed with your hamburger or barbequed chicken.

College sports fans may think of the Badgers. Gardeners may remember all the different varieties of rose bushes they have planted in their rose beds to display many shades in the red to white spectrum, from the deepest scarlet to the purest white. For those who like peppermint candy, the image of that iconic hard candy may be in your mind – and on your taste buds. Shoppers and hunters may be thinking of red and white targets.

white roseRed and white images. There are so many of them. Gilbert K. Chesterton once said,

White… is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black… God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white.

I think my mom would have agreed with Chesterton.

Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow.

For some reason, she chose to memorize that verse. I guess that will be one more image I’ll think of whenever I think RED and WHITE.

snowflake 2

 

 

UFF DA

Yesterday morning’s prayer in Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays included these lines:

Grant me the grace to look with respect
upon all I will meet this day
and upon every event I encounter.
Mindful that I am a pilgrim,
may I treat each and every one with reverence and love,
as a manifestation of you to whom I journey.

Uff daAs I read those words, the word that came to my mind was UFF DA. (For those of you who don’t know the expression, UFF DA is a Norwegian expression that is comparable to “good grief,” or “oy vey,” or “Oh no!” It’s a phrase that can stand in for any mild expletive, especially for people who like to avoid swear words.)

UFF DA came to mind because of my plans for the morning. I was going to take “Mary,” one of the three 92-year-olds we care for, to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Madison to get an official state photo ID. She has never had a driver’s license, although she did have an official Illinois photo ID from several years ago when she lived in Illinois. She may need a Wisconsin ID to vote, but more urgently, she recently discovered that she needs a Wisconsin ID to cash in her Savings Bonds. I spent about an hour online Sunday trying to figure out the requirements to get a Wisconsin ID. They’re not easy. I was anticipating a challenging time at the DMV. I wasn’t disappointed.

Mary and I walked up to the DMV clerk with all the documentation we could assemble to prove she was who she said she was – her old Illinois photo ID, her social security card, her Medicare card, and a bank statement with her current Wisconsin address on it.

Waiting in Line 4The clerk said, “Do you have a birth certificate?”

I said, “No, but her Illinois photo ID card shows her date of birth.”

“But Illinois doesn’t have the same standards for guaranteeing authenticity that Wisconsin has,” she replied.

I put my arm around Mary and said with a smile, “I can vouch for the fact that she was born – she’s here.”

The clerk responded, also with a smile, “For any first-time Wisconsin ID to be issued, a certified birth certificate is required.”

I said, “It sounds like elder discrimination to me. What do you think, Mary?” We were all still smiling.

Mary replied, “I’ve never had to show a birth certificate before.”

“Could we talk with a supervisor who might be able to waive this requirement since we have proof of her age on an official government ID from Illinois?” I asked.

“We never make exceptions on the birth certificate requirement. I can give you information about how to get a birth certificate. What state were you born in?”

“Illinois,” was Mary’s response.

I asked Mary, “Do you want to make a scene?” She had a concerned look on her face. “We can do that,” I said to her, grinning.

Before Mary could respond, the clerk said, “I don’t think you look like people who will make a scene.”

So then I said to Mary, “Well, I guess we won’t get your ID today. You must not have prayed hard enough.” Mary prays a lot. I was sure she had prayed about getting her ID card.

“I didn’t pray at all for this. I thought we’d just walk up, show the paperwork, and get the ID. I don’t understand why there’s a problem.”

Unfortunately, being as prepared as we could be and being as pleasant to the clerk as we could be were not enough. I’ll continue to help Mary jump through all the hoops to get her ID so she can cash in her Savings Bonds, and maybe even vote. Uff da. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. As soon as we got home, I went online to read the requirements for getting a birth certificate from Illinois. That won’t be easy either. Uff da again.

A few years ago, Mim created a life mission statement – To nurture and respect, advocate for, and provide hospitality for those who are vulnerable. Today I took on the role of advocate for Mary.

Uff da. I think I’m going to have to keep praying the Planetary Pilgrim’s prayer before and after every interaction I have with Wisconsin and Illinois employees as I try to help Mary jump through all the hoops.

Grant me the grace to look with respect
upon all I will meet this day
and upon every event I encounter.

Uff da mug

An Odd Memory from 1961

One morning last week, as I was trying to concentrate on my devotional readings for the day, an odd memory popped into my mind, totally out of the blue.

cream cartonMy mom was buying groceries at the IGA on Main Street in Cambridge. The check-out clerk was a high school student, an older sister of one of my friends. My mom said to the clerk, “Is there any way I can know for sure that this carton of whipping cream is good? The last carton I bought here was sour?” (This was before the days of “use by …” dates.) The clerk seemed concerned and puzzled. She shook the carton and looked at it carefully. Then she opened it up and held it up to her nose and sniffed it. “It smells good to me.” Then she handed it over to my mom to sniff. My mom was surprised and a little upset that she had actually opened up the carton. Now how would she get the carton home without it spilling? But she didn’t say anything, other than “Okay.”

That’s it. That’s the memory. I can’t even remember for sure if I was actually there at the IGA with my mom, or if she just told me about the incident when she got home. Either way, the memory was vivid. In 1961 I was a 13-year-old. The incident seems pretty insignificant. But one morning last week, the memory was keeping me from thinking about anything else. I had a very hard time concentrating on my devotional readings. Odd.

As I’ve mentioned before, this year I’m beginning my devotional time every morning by reading one of my favorite Sarah Young reflections, which starts out with Jesus saying to me, “Sit quietly in my presence while I bless you. Make your mind like a still pool of water, ready to receive whatever thoughts I drop into it.” [Jesus Calling ©2004 Sarah Young]

Was this memory a thought that Jesus actually dropped into my mind? Or was it just a weird distraction? I don’t recall ever thinking about this incident since it happened 53 years ago. The memory certainly came “out of the blue.”

I’m still thinking about what the significance of this story might be? Maybe it’s a reminder to pray for my friend’s sister – someone I haven’t seen or thought about in a long time – not since she came to Cambridge for her father’s funeral a few years ago. Maybe it’s an encouragement to consider the most obvious solutions to problems I’m facing today, even if not everyone approves of what I consider to be the obvious solutions. Or, maybe it’s the reverse, to consider the far-reaching implications of what might appear to be an obvious solution to a problem. Maybe it’s a prompt for me to write this post to remind you of odd memories that would be good for you to think about today.

Do you have any thoughts about this? About my odd memory? Or, about any odd memories that have popped into your mind – out of the blue?

"Out of the blue ... "

“Out of the blue … “

 

 

Surpassed in Giving

My niece Michelle and her kids

My niece Michelle with her 4 kids and a couple friends enjoying the day together

On Sunday I read the best story about generosity I’ve ever read. It was written by my niece, Michelle Kornelsen Hauge on her blog, www.strategicparenting.us. I asked her if I could share her story on my blog, and she agreed. If you would like to be added to Michelle’s email list to get regular notifications of her blog posts, you can email her at wedinparadise@hotmail.com.

Michelle and her husband Kerry have adopted four children and have cared for many more foster children. They take their role as parents very seriously, and are trying to share what they are learning about parenting on their blog. Michelle home-schools the kids, and she also helps Kerry in their three home-based businesses – Jim’s Country Fireplace, Paradise Pond Shop, and Paradise Park (where they host outdoor weddings in their beautifully landscaped back yard).

I’m not a parent, but I find something new to think about every week when I read Michelle’s blog. This week, the theme is generosity. I’ve always thought that my mom was the most generous person I’ve ever known. After reading this post, I think Michelle and Kerry’s kids may have Mom beat.

Michelles kids

The kids playing in their back yard.

 Surpassed in Giving

by Michelle Kornelsen Hauge  (from http://www.strategicparenting.us/)

It’s humbling to be surpassed by your kids. But good.

Michelles vanWe’ve been putzing with the process of selling our old minivan, unsure of how much to ask for it. We finally came to an amount and posted it on Craig’s List, along with an honest description of its many problems.

A week passed, with a few low offers.

Tuesday, just as we began hosting an evening meeting, a man arrived who wanted to buy it now, for a third less than we’d asked. We agreed, quickly re-iterated what needed fixing, signed the title and took his payment. It wasn’t much for a van, but it would pay some bills. In the rush, he drove off with only an ignition key.

Wednesday evening, he began calling and leaving phone messages. By the time I arrived and picked up, he was frantic. His mechanic had the van on a hoist, and was pointing out the problems. They were just as we had described for him the night before. I reminded him of this.

“But I thought they were just little fixes when you said it.” A torrent of frustrations poured across the phone line, intensity building by the minute.

My response was defensive, not compassionate.

I finally cut in, saying that if he wanted to return it, he’d have to come back tomorrow when Kerry was home.

As I washed the dinner dishes, my mind continued the argument.

“You won’t get a van that cheap that doesn’t need repairs … not unless someone gives you one.”

The word stuck in my heart like a burr.

“Give?

“Is that You, God?”

If it was, I decided, Kerry would think it was.

He did. If we gave the man his money back, Kerry reasoned, he could use it for the needed repairs. Kerry never flinches when it comes to giving.

We’ve given old cars away before, but never to angry strangers. This was a stretch for me.

We decided to pull the kids into the process.

The next morning, before the man was due to arrive, we focused our prayer time on his family. Part of his rantings had included a long list of their needs, so we had a starting point.

In the process of praying, the kids decided they wanted to give too. They painstakingly wrote up encouraging scriptures, such as Isaiah 41:10 –

Michelles kids Bible encouragement

Then they raided their money envelopes. Some took out every cent they had. Some chose a generous portion. Pockets were stuffed with readied gifts.

We expected him at 9:00. It came and went. We began math … and finished it. Spelling. Reading. Language lessons. Lunch. The day was long and pregnant with anticipation. We knew he’d come; we still had the keys.

Eleven hours later, as we were preparing for bed, the shout rang out: “He’s here!” The kids scrambled around, digging through the laundry to find their gifts, then dashed outside in their pajamas.

By the time I arrived on the scene, the kids were being embraced. Kerry pulled me off to the side and said, “He’s happy tonight. His mechanic was able to fix everything, and his father-in-law paid for it all.” We had three seconds to decide: What now?

We didn’t give him his money back.

The kids basked that evening in the after-glow of their generosity.

Kerry and I considered what to do.

We eventually determined that the money’s God’s. The next day we decided where to give it. Today the hand-off will take place.

We admire the carefree abandon of our kids’ giving. It seems to somehow surpass the caution of our own. Balance is needed, but this may be one way a small child will lead us.

Michelle - hands-full-of-money50

Time for a new blog? “Strategic Childhood” may be in order.