Saturday, May 27, 2017

Updates and Reflections

Just to keep family and friends up to date, here is the progress toward our move:

1.  We have decided to sell our house here in Oregon.  A market date of early May snuck up on us a bit, but we painted the house (as much as the weather would allow), removed the covered porch, and started weeding the flower beds.  I feel like there's so much that we're neglecting, but there's also so much that we're getting done.

  • The bathroom has been painted.  
  • Half the stuff in the kitchen has been packed.
  • 2/3 of our books are in boxes.  
  • We filled another 30 yard dumpster with destruction materials. 
  • Our beige house with red trim is now a white house with blue trim.  
Of course, I have no pictures of any of this because I don't have time to download pictures.

But the people seem to like it.  When our house finally went on the market last Tuesday, we had an offer the same day, and the only reason we didn't take it was because about two dozen more people had signed up to see the house between then and Thursday.  Our last walk through was Thursday night, and we had to cut off the viewings at that point because we already had six offers in hand.

Some tips for buying in Portland.  1.  Don't bid too high.  We turned down one offer because we just didn't see how a bank would assess our house at that value.  Thank you, but be realistic.  2.  It doesn't hurt to talk to the sellers, should they be around the house when you get there.  We definitely considered the offers of faces we remembered twice.  3.  On the other hand, we did not really read any cover letters because we knew that they would not help us make an unbiased decision.

But we have accepted an offer and are eagerly anticipating going through the process of closing as sellers instead of buyers.  

2.  The housing market in Grand Rapids is such that we should probably be able to get just as much (if not more) house as we have here for about half the price, and because we bought low (as in short sale) here, we might actually have enough of a margin to pay cash.  We did not expect our housing investments to start paying off like this quite this quickly, but we'll take it.  We've got a couple of realtors and a good friend looking at houses in G.R., and we've been spending lots of time on Zillow and Trulia.  By early July, we hope to put out a few offers of our own.  


3. With houses, come neighborhoods.  With neighborhoods come schools.  And with Grand Rapids, headquarters of the Christian Reformed Church of North America, comes lots of Christian schools.  I mean lots.  We are school shopping.

4.  And with schools come jobs.  Seth will be in school full time and managing an internship as well, so he doesn't expect to work (nor should he).  Substitute teaching is, of course, always an option for me, but I'm aiming at something more steady.  A couple of part time teaching positions at private schools have opened up, and I am also looking at classified positions and just seeing what else is out there.  I don't have to work in education, but thinking of breaking into a new field or just getting a job to tide us over for a few years feels, again, weird.  I'd like to take the opportunity to sharpen some of the skills that I'm going to need when Seth's ministry comes into its own.  That is the thought that is always in the back of my mind.

5.  A lot of things are going to be staying behind when we go.  My car will find a home in a scrap yard.  Our kitchen chairs probably won't make the trip.  We've already disposed of a couch.  And there is a chance that our faithful hound, Max, might not be up to the journey.  He is 14 years old, and time (and the recent heat) are beginning to tell on him.  Breathing is getting difficult, and his joints just aren't moving the way they used to.  This is another decision we have never had to make before, and both Seth and I are uneasy about it.  He's been such a good companion for us.  How do we know when the time is right?

All this to say that we are at a month and seven days before departure for the great unknown of Grand Rapids.  God keep us, please;  we are seeking to do your will.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Star Gifts

The Atsma family "Star Gifts" from 2016 and 2017.  Boogaloo also received stars, but we never know where they end up.
These are "Star Gifts."  They are an Epiphany tradition at my church.  


Every year, between Christmas and Epiphany, the pastor and several volunteers prayerfully write different spiritual gifts and attributes on over 200 little paper stars.  Then, as the offering is collected on the Sunday of Epiphany, the members of the committee will follow behind the deacons and pass out the stars randomly.  The words are all facing down, and the congregation is instructed to just take the one on top.

Now, some of you might be thinking, "What a cute way to commemorate the Wise men."  And I grant you, there is something fun about colorful little paper stars.  But the stars are always accurate.  They are exactly what people need to receive.  I've even heard people say, "I didn't know why I received the word I got last year, but by the end of the year, I knew exactly why God had given that to me."

 Two years ago, I drew "Pardon," and anyone who knows me well knows that I have difficulty letting go of my past sins.  As I looked at that star, I understood that God wanted me to understand that I was clean.  What I was given that year was the delicate ability to pardon others (particularly political opponents on Facebook), and by the end of the year, I had a whole new appreciation for all being in this together.

Last year, the year of the Great Michigan Decision, Seth got "Encouragement" and I got "Guidance." I thought that we should switch stars because he, as the head of the family, was obviously going to be needing the guidance.  But throughout the year, I found that comparing my gut feeling to the decisions we reached, I knew what we were going to do, especially when we had spent significant time in prayer.

So this year, when I pulled "Discipline" out of the basket, I laughed, right up in front of church with a microphone in my hand.  How appropriate.  Discipline is something that I have been asking about for a couple of months now.  It applies in so many places: discipline in writing more often, discipline in physical exercise, in time management, in accomplishing tasks instead of worrying about them, in choosing my priorities, in getting up earlier in the morning, in prayer and Bible Reading, in speaking my mind instead of willing people to guess what's bothering me and in limiting my time on social media (read Facebook).

One thing our pastor said this year brought the poignancy of the gift home to me.  He said, "This is not an assignment; this is a gift.  This is not something you need to achieve.  This is God's gift to you over the coming year, and over the coming year, we pray that you will see this trait manifest and grow as you mature in Christ and give your best back to God, as the Wise Men did."  Being a good Calvinist, I am much inclined to try to achieve what has been given to me.  But receiving discipline this year was more like that verse when Jesus said, "When you ask for something, believe that you have already received it."

In the few weeks following Epiphany, I have seen a growth of discipline.  I'm not saying that I'm a cross between Maria Kang and Elizabeth Elliot all of a sudden.  But two out of five school days, I manage to get up and read and pray, and I got in some yoga and a little aerobics.  I also had two days subbing for a P.E. teacher, which helps.  As for writing, well, this is my second blog post this year.  That's something.

On the other hand, this past weekend, the family devotional covered the parable of the Talents.  The one indisputable lesson to take away from that parable is that God expects a return on His investments.  This may not be an assignment (for which I am honestly grateful.  The last thing I need is another "to do."), and the gift was certainly free, and I asked for it and He was pleased to give it to me.  But now that I have discipline (and it's growing), I have to do something with it.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Why Common Sense is such a hard thing to find

Seth came to me the other day with the textbook of his latest class in hand and said, "Look, Love.  These authors don't approve of the common sense approach to interpreting Scripture."  (We have these conversations a lot at our house lately.)

I replied, "Of course not.  There's no such thing."  And we proceeded to discuss the idea for several minutes before he went back to studying and I went back to folding laundry.

In a society as diverse as ours -- diverse in roots, in experiences, in opinions, in goals --  common sense is a tricky thing to pin down.  Sometimes it's as simple as holding a full pitcher with two hands (sorry, Mom), and sometimes it eludes us all together.  At the end of a troubling election year and the beginning of a new administration, a lot of people are left looking around and questioning their neighbors' notions of what is and what ought to be. The ardent feelings and and high stakes on both sides have left a lot of my friends and colleagues feeling uncertain of other people's ability to assess a situation and pursue a naturally beneficial course.  "Do they really want all immigrants thrown out?  Do they really want to see all restriction on abortion struck down?  Do they really want . . .?  Where is their common sense?"  

But common sense is a tricky thing.   Based in experience, especially the experience of the community, it's that basic human wisdom that applies to ordinary circumstances.  Some confuse it with natural law by saying that if everyone applied their unalloyed human reason to a situation, everyone would come to the same conclusion, so if we aren't coming to the same conclusion, obviously, someone isn't thinking or at least not thinking in an unbiased manner.  Translated:  they're not using their common sense.  

Now, if you're at home in the kitchen, and you've got a kid carrying the lemonade to the table, then common sense will serve you just fine.  Two hands, and focus on your destination.  We all want the lemonade to get where it's going.  However, the problem with using common sense to approach almost any cosmopolitan situation is that common sense is a highly specific thing.  Common sense is what our communities have used to survive.  However, the places and circumstances that we need to survive in differ, sometimes drastically.  That's why I, living in rural Oregon, have two cars to my household, and my aunt, living in New York City, has none.    Different geographies give birth to different cultures and different approaches to basic parts of life.

On the other hand, another reason that common sense is so diverse is that it rests so close to our a priori assumptions.  Logic goes from point A to point B, a lot of "if this, then that." The "if this" is something unproven, at least if you go back far enough.  Common sense rests halfway between the "if this" and the "then that."

A message from the family mathematician:  Logic goes from point A to point B using a set of premises (aka axioms, aka assumptions) and operations.  The set of premises are accepted without proof.  An example of this would be the geometry we learned in school.  What you might not know is that the geometry taught in school is called Euclidean geometry and that mathematics actual has a variety of different geometries (be glad you only had to learn one of them!)  Each of these geometries have different sets of premises, and thus are able to generate (logically) different results.

People have different experiences and motivations.  This variety in approach and experience is why newly weds have to learn to live with each other and travelers experience culture shock.  The sense we have about the common priorities (because there are common things, common desires, common rights, common necessities for living) is not as common as we assume.   The only thing common sense can tell us in situations that involve more than one background or upbringing is that there is going to be more than one approach to any given situation, and we need to be flexible.  

Take a light-hearted example from early in my marriage.  I grew up in the Yakima Valley, which is a sagebrush desert.  Because of prolific irrigation, it is the Washington fruit basket, but water is still something you use frugally there.  My mother poured the dishwater on the garden every summer and used the rinse water (still clean, of course) to mop the kitchen floor.  I learned that water is precious, and that a little extra effort to stretch out what you have is effort well spent.

One day, I was mopping the floor, and my husband, who grew up in the Willamette River Valley, one of the most well watered places on earth, finds me dipping the mop in the sink.  He stops stock still in the middle of the floor and says, "Love, why are you dipping the mop in the dishwater?"

"I'm mopping the floor," I replied.

"Why?" he asked.

"To save water," I replied.

"It's raining," he replied.  And he was right.  We live near Portland, and there was no shortage of water falling out of the sky.  He also thought I was using the dirty water, which is another quibble entirely, but the point is that he wasn't raised to save water.  Keep it clean, yes; use small quantities, not necessarily.   Because economy of water was not one of his basic premises for survival, he could take an entirely different approach to mopping the floor.

Now when we look at Scripture or at political decisions or third world crises or our teenager's angst, we need to remember that there are experiences behind those words that we don't have in common.  Some of us have never stood outside an abortion clinic and counted the women going in and then watched them coming out.  Some of us have never worked with refugees trying to make a home away from a home they will never see again. Some of us have never wondered our next utility bill would get paid, and some of us have wondered if we would even see morning.  No human being can experience everything, and so no two human beings will have all their experiences in common.  Ergo, unless it relates to gravity, and even then there are exceptions, there isn't much that is strictly common sense.  


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Atsma Family Christmas Letter -- 2016 in a nutshell

Greetings, Friends and Family, and Merry Christmas to you all.

Christmas is almost here, and once again, between the work and the shopping, the studying and the little Christmas things that come with having a child in Christian school, I can see that the Christmas cards are probably not going to go out this year. My New Year's resolution is to improve my communication habits, but until 2017 starts rolling, I'll just focus on getting a letter out.

God had been very good to us this year.  We've stayed largely healthy, learned some new skills, and made some tough decisions.  Family has gotten dearer, and purpose has gotten clearer, but mostly, life just keeps rolling along.  A lot of teaching, a lot of learning, and a lot of watching Boogaloo grow.

About this time, last year, we were halfway through a school year, Seth in Seminary, Boogaloo at Emmaus Christian School, and I as a substitute teacher on my first long term assignment, doing six weeks as a freshman math teacher.  Life was peaceful, a little stressful, and we were all happy when Christmas break rolled around, and we could all take a deep breath.  Of course, being a substitute teacher, vacation means no income, and being the conscientious type, that worried me a bit.  One of the major themes this year had been to learn to trust that yes, God will actually provide.

Spring was devoted to much the same.  Seth got certified as an emergency substitute teacher, I got work as a fill in for a maternity leave in a freshman Language Arts classroom (hot dog!), and Boogaloo's school announced that it would be moving and or closing at the end of the school year.  We loved Emmaus, and we were sorry to see it close, but we found another wonderful Christian school not much farther away.  That made four schools for Boogaloo (counting preschool) in four years, and all of this was after we left the Navy, but she seemed to take it in stride, especially since several of her friends transferred to her new school too.

This summer, we threw our hearts and souls into our little house.  We experimented with wood chip gardening with some success and were overwhelmed by pears, plus a few pumpkins and a piddling berry season.  I got so tired of canning pears that we just pureed and froze the last two weeks' worth, so if you come to visit, I will either fix you pear cobbler or pumpkin pie.  The berries are already eaten.  Seth's study schedule meant that our vacations were mostly small trips to or with family, such as painting Mom and Dad's house or hitting up a couple of baseball games with Seth's Dad and sisters, but we did find time for replacing the gutter on our carport and six windows on the back side of our house all by ourselves.  You know you live in Oregon when you have to stop working on a gutter because the rain is coming down too hard.  We managed to sneak in one camping trip at Champoeg State Park, so that is one item off the Oregon bucket list.

However, the biggest event of the summer was deciding that Seth's ministry would be most benefited by switching from George Fox to Calvin Theological Seminary and deciding that the best way to make that happen would be to pick the whole family up and move to Michigan at  the end of the current school year.  That makes five schools in five years for Boo, but wouldn't you know it, her most pressing concern is whether or not Michigan will have snow next Christmas.  (Oregon made a stalwart attempt at a white Christmas this year, but alas, it was not to be.)  Our pastor and his wife encouraged us to move to a setting where both Seth and I could receive support and development in becoming a ministry team, which is what we hope to do, and developing ministry connections.  And so, at the end of the summer, we began planning out a year of transition.

Boogaloo started third grade in a third-fourth-fifth mixed age classroom at Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School this year.  She loves her teacher, and we have seen her blossom  through interacting with kids who are older than she is, but she's a little stubborn about answering all the questions on a paper.  If you've proved you know how to do it, why should you have to prove it again, right?   At home, she is reading the "How to Train Your Dragon" series relentlessly, building detailed Lego structures, begging to go play with friends, and watching "Simon's Cat." She steadfastly refuses to learn to ride a bike and resists getting new clothes or cleaning her room.

 I have been substitute teaching nearly full time, and I continue to marvel at people who can work full time and still squeeze the rest of life in.  If there is one thing God is teaching me, it's that cleanliness is not necessarily next to godliness, and if I choose to take a bath instead of fold laundry, the result is minor inconvenience in the morning, not peril of the soul.  And yet our lives are pretty full.  I play flute in church once a month (twice a month in the Christmas season), and both Seth and I coach Boogaloo in her homework and volunteer at her school. I hope to pick up my writing skills a bit this coming year.

Seth is a full time student and part time substitute teacher, and between being extremely popular among high school math teachers and coaching 5th and 6th grade boys basketball at Boogaloo's school, he rarely gets a whole week to himself to learn his Greek and history.  He is planning a list of house projects to begin when the rain stops and enjoying the opportunity to pick the brains of experienced pastors, the saints, and sometimes God himself.  We have rediscovered the joy of board games and regularly meet with friends to engage in a few hours of play.

The Lord has really shared a lot of new ideas with us concerning Seth's ministry.  There is a new wrinkle developing in the treatment of returning veterans that goes along with PTSD: the concept of moral injury, which is the scar on the soul that comes from doing something ignoble, however noble the cause.   Seth's dream is to build a community for returning combat veterans to give them a structured place to deal with the moral and spiritual as well as psychological scars from their experiences.  That's a long way from here, and it's a lot to contemplate, but two things we have seen over the past year.

1.  God provides.

2.  God doesn't feel obligated to honor your plans, or your feelings for that matter.

In the meantime, we prepare.  Seth and I send our greetings.  Find a way to use this holiday as a time of rest as well as joy.  Boogaloo says, "Merry Christmas."

With love,
the Atsma Family.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#shownomercy

Blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy.  Matthew 5: 7

I have made enemies in the last two months, or rather, some have made enemies of me.

We have moths.  Plural. Plurality of plural.  An infestation.   And I hate them.  They came from the fruit trees, and they have been everywhere.  I thought ants were bad (and they can be), but these guys fluttered out when I open cupboard doors, silverware drawers, closet spaces, computer cases and compost bins.  They've been hanging out on our "big screen," aka a white sheet with a curtain rod run through the hem, and spotting our walls, door frames and living room drapes.  I've found them in the towels, the sheets, and the shower.  (#mottephobia) They land in my sink at night, and I find them there, twitching spasmodically in the last vestiges of the dishwater when I got up to make breakfast (#tinyzombieswithwings)

There are two reasons that moths are worse than ants in my book, at least on this scale.  The first is that ants can serve a purpose.  Sure, they might get into the sugar bowl, but they also clean up the counters (#greencleaning).  I have left sticky glasses on the counter overnight and gotten up in the morning to find the residue all but gone thanks to a crew of tiny movers who are more than happy to recycle my trash (#sixleggedenvironmentalists).  Every now and then they'd get in the way of my food prep, and I'd have to wipe a hundred of them away to their doom, but for the most part we could live in a slightly imbalanced symbiotic coexistence.  Moths seem to exist only to reproduce in my kitchen, and they were doing it in my rice container  (#insectindecency, #getaroom).

The second reason is that sugar ants don't flap frantically around my face when I disturb them.  They just wander dazedly for a moment and then do their best to get back on track.  Moths go on the attack.  They go right for the eyes.  They bounce off my cheeks.  They get under my hair and run into my neck (#hitchcockremake?, #nightofthelivingflutterbugs).  It's kind of creepy.

But really, making rice for dinner and noticing that some of my rice kernels were a little longer and smoother and bumpier and had heads on one end (#itsalive) put me in place that I've never been before.  Finding moth larvae climbing around the edge of the tupperware where I keep my rice and finding some of the rice kernels strung together in tiny little moth cocoons was the last straw.  I later figured out that the moths were laying eggs in the 25 lb. bag of rice that I use to fill the tupperware [#buyingbulkisusuallyagoodthing], which is why the moths were sticking around so long and in such great numbers, but that didn't really affect my state of mind at the moment.  Tupperware works against ants.  My last defense had failed.  I went on definitive search and destroy (#psychowithaspatula).

I poured all the rice in the house into a big pan and stuck it in the oven at 200*.   And when the larvae started to climb out and try to escape even as they shriveled (#dantesinferno),  I shut the door on the squirming rice and grabbed a fly swatter.  I went Rambo style through the house, intentionally hunting down every moth, combing every inch of wall and ceiling space, slapping every one down with a vengeance maybe two or three at a time (#7withoneblow).

But the vengeance didn't last very long.  The reason I had left the oven was because the larvae looked so pathetic trying to escape their doom that I was scared I would have second thoughts and take them out  (#larvakiller). And moths, especially tiny ones, are just pathetic creatures.  They're kind of stupid.  I could slap one off the wall, and another one, literally three inches away, would not even move (#fliesrulemothsdrool).  And yes, the second one was alive because when I swatted it in its turn, it fluttered on the floor with one broken wing sticking up awkwardly from its body, shuddering helplessly and looking frantically for a direction of escape.  I had to remind myself to go in for the kill.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I am having a spiritual conundrum over killing the insectine invaders of my house.  They are, after all, delicate living creatures with a certain beauty that has been splattered all over my walls (#mothpocalypse).  And so help me, when they look that pathetic, and I am raising my arm for the second swing, I sometimes question the state of my soul (#housekeeperfromhell?).  Why am I taking the presence of this creature so personally, and who am I to destroy it?  At the same time, as my fury begins to wane, it gets harder to kill each and every one of them.  I find myself wanting to spare maybe one out of the ten on the wall, which would be totally counterproductive.  I have had to push myself to swat that last moth instead of just declaring myself the victor and walking away, leaving just one among the carcasses of the dead.  All of which shows a depressing amount of wishy-washyness on my part (#needasnoopy).

In short, I've gotten tangled up in on of the minute crises that  come with being the lords of creation (#firstworldproblems).  Maintaining order has conflicted with life and beauty, and I've had to make decisions about what lives and what dies.   Honestly, I don't like this part of the job. Maybe I'm just not competitive enough, but I feel like a big bully, especially now that their numbers are waning.  After all, we brought them into the house with our search for free fruit (#knowyourbargains), and they were just doing what moths do.  They don't really deserve to die, but they can't be allowed to live (#speakerforthedead).

And I'll keep going as long as I have to.

Friday, August 19, 2016

News.

So, big news. 

We're moving to Michigan in about a year. 

Michigan because Calvin Theological Seminary is in Grand Rapids, and Seth just transferred his studies to Calvin.  Moving because studying at Calvin will be the most efficient way for him to finish his studies and get ordained as a chaplain.   In about a year because moving there at the end of this year would have been crazy, and a year should give us the time to transfer the pertinent parts of our lives, like teaching certificates and bank accounts. 

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  This is the fourth time I've rewritten this blog post as I try to diagnose my feelings. 

I've got no issue with Michigan in itself.  The one time I was there, it was a little bit cloudy, a little bit sunny.  No mountains in the distance, but a nice hilly landscape in places.  Snow will be nice.  I remember how to drive on snow, and right now, the only use our toboggan gets is as a swimming pool for Boogaloo's toys. 

The thought of leaving friends and family for two years is not appealing, and moving will put Boogaloo in her fifth school in five years, due mostly to circumstances beyond our control.  I was beginning to get a reputation as an awesome substitute teacher, and I'm going to have to build that up all over again,  but hey, God has provided this far.  Maybe this pending move is the reason I didn't get any interviews this summer.  God wants to keep us flexible. 

No, the real question is one of anticipation, realization, and release.  We anticipated building a certain kind of life here, a permanent home where we built a little refuge in an herbal wonderland and taught ourselves the joys of developing what God has given us.  We have just begun making friends outside of church and seeing progress in our yard.  We haven't even started on half our plans for the house.  Just as we are starting to realize what we anticipated, we are being called to box it up and put it away, maybe even sell it for the kingdom.  We have no certainty that God will bring us back to Oregon, even though our plans and fondest hopes picture us here indefinitely. 

So we are embarking on a year of tidying up.  New gutters and windows on the house.  Painting the house.  (After all, the yard is almost where we want it.)  Sorting and throwing out/ giving away stuff we don't need or don't want to store for a couple of years.  Finding ways to make an ergonomic computer desk without spending $3000.  Generally, at this time next year, or probably a little earlier, we'd like to be in a place where we can go where we need to go. 

And that's probably why I'm excited, ambivalent, and nervous, all at the same time. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What's in the middle?

"This is how love heals
the very heart of you,
letting Himself bleed
into the middle of your wounds."

I don't usually like videos in church, especially if they are orchestrated or acted instead of documentary.  They often feel manipulative.

But this past Sunday was a little different.  The worship team sang "This is How Love Wins" by Steven Curtis Chapman, and it's hard to resist a Chapman song, especially with a video of the Crucifixion behind it.

I started asking myself, "What is the middle of my wound?" And the answer wasn't too far away.   I'm still hurting from our Navy experience.  Not that our Navy experience was remarkably bad.  If anything, I think we had the easiest of all lots:  three months in, three months out, email almost constantly.  That's much better than eight months of absence or 18 months.  But I still find that even four years after leaving Navy life behind, the memory of our Navy years, in spite of all the good friends and golden moments, has always caused a deep ache in my chest, an emptiness or hollowness that made me feel like I was collapsing inwards.

Seth says it makes sense.  If you're continually using spiritual muscles, they'll get sore and exhausted just like physical muscles, and during our Navy years, I was doing a lot of heavy lifting.  (So was Seth, just to be clear.  In military couples, both partners are doing a lot of heavy lifting; it's just they don't have someone on the other end to balance the load.)

The question of loneliness has come up again because we've hit a dilemma.  Half of this dilemma involves being separated from Seth while he pursues his MDiv at a school in Michigan, namely Calvin Theological Seminary.  He would be there; we would be here.  We've decided against that, but for several weeks in the decision making process, it seemed like the best option.  Calvin is far and away the most efficient option time and money wise.

Terms were about three months.  Can you see why I was feeling Navyish at the moment?

I am very proud of Seth for pursuing this degree and this dream. But the psychological and spiritual effects of separation are not something to be dismissed lightly.  Seth said that he will not sign up at Calvin without my approval, and by approval, he means that I can feel good about it, not just buckle down, cover my head, throw my shoulder against the wind, and get through it.  And I was thinking, listening, and meditating, but it was hard to get close enough  to the issue to hear what God has to say.

I think those muscles are still sore.

If I were to say, "Stay here," would that have been a lack of faith?  If I had said, "Go ahead," would I be needlessly masochistic?  Was I refusing to be weak where it was okay to be weak? Was I failing to be strong when the strength would have been provided?

I don't want to lift that load anymore. 

So we were sitting in church Sunday morning. The video played; the worship team sang.

Hmmm.  "The middle of your wounds."  What are the middle of my wounds?

Lord, what haven't I turned over to you?

Who can I forgive?  Seth had to go.  The Navy has to exist.  I can't forgive them because they haven't really done anything wrong.  That's the state of the world today.  There are some crazy people out there with whole countries at their commands.

Forgive the whole world . . . for being the sort of place . . . where a husband and father needs to leave his wife and child for three to eighteen months at a time. . . . Forgive all the petty people who think they have a right to rule their neighbors, who think that they and they alone understand the good, who demand the right to wield the power of life, death, and damnation.  Forgive the chaos, and let it go.  

Lord, I forgive the chaos.  I relinquish the demand that they make things right because you will make all things right.  I forgive the crazy people, the unfeeling people, the people who are deceived and the people who are deceiving.  Please have mercy on their souls. 

In Jesus' Name,

Amen.