Thursday, May 29, 2008

being with vs. doing for

John and I ate lunch together today. Often, I give him lunch and later fix my own, but today I made almond butter sandwiches for both of us. It was pleasant eating lunch with him, even though we didn't say much and we sometimes didn't understand what the other one said.

More and more, John is becoming the companion I'd imagined our child would be. See, I knew that having a child would involve a lot of doing for him, but I pictured it more as someone to be with. I find I am a much happier mother when the being-with to doing-for ratio reaches a certain level. I'm sure that is partly because of my own selfishness, but I think that any relationship needs to have a balance between being-with and doing-for.

It surprised me that I had trouble with the high doing-for component of motherhood because in seminary, I came to see that the doing-for part of ministry was easier for me than the being-with part. That is, it was reassuring to know that I was needed, that I had something to give. Peer relationships sometimes were more difficult than being, for example, the church intern teaching Sunday School. I had to learn that I was a person in need of change helping others in need of change (to paraphrase the title of the book our small group is doing now), not a professional people-fixer, exercising my craft like a repairman fixes clocks.

We show love both by spending time with other people and by meeting their needs -- both are essential to intimate relationships. Our relationship with God, too, needs to have both components: not simply asking God to meet our needs, or doing good work for him, but also being his companion.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A sixth sense?

Yesterday, Michael was sitting at the kitchen table, with John in his lap. Michael got up and sat John down in the chair, and John said "Ow" for no apparent reason.

Michael and I wondered what had happened. Then Michael burned himself on the toaster oven. "Ow," he said.

"John, I guess you have a prophetic gift to foretell pain," Michael said. "'I see ouchies.'"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who me, dignified?

What does the word "dignified" make you think of?

I think of someone who is too formal, perhaps trying to hide the fact that they are offended, or drunk, to humorous effect. Someone who is taking him/herself too seriously.

Or I think of the Proverbs 31 woman -- you know, "she is clothed with strength and dignity."

I've heard from a number of women that the Proverbs 31 woman makes them want to throw up. Not very dignified a response, I guess, but perhaps that's the point.

I'm probably not alone in not making an effort to be dignified. It just doesn't occur to me. I like it when people are real, authentic, honest, open about their flaws. I try to do the same. Dignity seems like formal dress -- people used to wear it regularly, but it just makes us uncomfortable in these casual days.

But the Bible has reminded me lately that dignity is good.

Paul says that overseers are to employ "all dignity" in the home; deacons and their wives "must be dignified" (1 Tim 3). Older men are to be "dignified," and Paul encourages Titus "to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned" (Titus 2:2, 7).

Of course, these are church leaders. What about the rest of us?

Paul also says to pray "for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Tim. 2:2). I take the "we" to include all Christians.

The dictionary helped me see the applicability of dignity to the average Christian: "The state of being worthy or honorable; elevation of mind or character; true worth; excellence" (Webster's Unabridged). We are worthy not because of our own inherent value -- we know our flaws too well to think that -- but because God has deemed us worthy, made us worthy to be his children through the death of Jesus.

If I don't act dignified, then am I giving honor to God who has elevated me from my natural state? I'm not talking about being pompous or superior, of course. I'm not sure, to be honest, what it means, in practice, to be dignified. I suspect, though, that it would require me not to deprecate myself. Or others, for that matter.

Because -- if we don't realize that we are worthy of dignity, then will we treat others with dignity? Our spouses -- worthy of honor. Our children -- worthy of honor.

Especially, will we show our leaders the respect they deserve because of their office? Our culture has become so casual, so egalitarian. That's not necessarily bad -- but it makes it more difficult, more unnatural-feeling, for us to give respect to those in authority.

Paul tells us that leaders should be dignified, and we should pray for them so that our lives can be dignified. I wish I had more insight into living a dignified life, but this is a start.

Do you have any thoughts about being dignified? If so, please comment. Thanks.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It Could Have Been Worse

Last night, Michael said, "Tomorrow is Mother's Day. I'm sorry I didn't get you a card." Michael always writes me deep, thoughtful cards on major holidays. He and I have the flu, so I knew he hadn't done anything. No problem. It'll come.

I told him that Angie, who had been feted in advance, got a KitchenAid mixer for Mother's Day, AND they went to P.F. Chang's for dinner. I'd been sitting on this report for a few days because I didn't want to imply that I needed a similarly spectacular Mother's Day. (I cook as little as possible and would just feel pressured by a fancy mixer.)

We turned in.

Michael's voice woke me: "Kristi, John threw up all over his crib."

I'm up.

When it comes to vomiting, John is extremely considerate in aim and timing. Yet again, he limited his targets to machine-washables and the floor, and during daylight hours. And he's one-and-done. Once he's thrown up, he returns to his sweet, energetic self.

I threw John's pajamas, bedding and Blankie in the wash while Michael gave John a bath.

"Angie isn't having this special of a Mother's Day," Michael said.

Let's hope not.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy 60th Birthday, Israel

Amil Imani is an Iranian activist for the freedom of his nation. He writes against "the imminent and present danger of expansionistic theocratic Islam" from the United States.

He posted yesterday:

"Israel, your people, as well as people of good will, are celebrating your sixtieth birthday. We, the children of Cyrus the Great, also would like to offer our heartfelt best wishes to you on this occasion. Yet, this, in fact, is your rebirth. Your birth occurred some 4,000 years ago."

Read the rest of it here, at Imani's site.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

My 15 Seconds of Fame

Allow me to be self-referential for a moment. There is a point to it.

Two weeks ago, I installed a counter at the bottom of my blog. I was feeling, I confess, a little neglected as a blogger. Wondering if anyone was reading. I started the counter at 2000, figuring that was a good estimate of the number of hits I've had in the year or so I've been writing.

After a week, my counter was at 4000-plus. Could I really have that many readers? Michael suggested my counter was malfunctioning. I wondered if I had a cyber-stalker.

So after a little investigation, I found a way of tracking more information about my readers. can tell you, for free, the times, duration, page views, referring websites, and general locations of you, my friends.

I installed it on Monday morning, and soon discovered the reason for my recent popularity.


Roughly calculated, between 95 and 98% of my hits were coming from google searches involving laminin, directing readers to that post -- a slight post, really, in my mind, as it wasn't original to me. And most readers don't stay too long, I must admit (a little over a minute average. I love sitemeter's statistics. Kind of addictive, though).

But I'm fascinated by the fact that THOUSANDS of people are googling about laminin. They (you, if you're reading beyond that post) come from all across the United States -- California and Oregon, Florida and Maine, and everywhere in between, plus Hawaii; England, Norway, Kenya, South Africa, Qatar, Australia. Not to mention all of the people hitting the other blogs talking about laminin.

So I'd like to hear, especially from those outside of the United States -- how did you hear about laminin? Or, just comment about whatever you want to talk about. I'd love for this to be more of a conversation than a soliloquy. And a belated welcome! I'm so glad you're here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

What the Church Really Needs

What if the church needs your weaknesses more than your strengths?

A friend mentioned yesterday that Joni Eareckson Tada says the weak (or needy, I can't remember) are a gift to the church.

A gift. Not a drain. Not a burden.

How hard this is to understand. When I was very depressed, my family and I needed a lot of help from our church. They gave us prayer, meals, help taking care of John, love, encouragement. They took time from their busy lives to spend with us.

It was very difficult for me to receive all of this love and attention. I want love and attention, but I would prefer it to be for my strengths, for how wonderful I am, how much I can give. In fact, though, I was at that time quite unlovable, angry, bitter, and overwhelmed.

God used that experience to humble me, to show me, through others, his love for me as I really am (as opposed to as I want to be). But God also used that experience to bless the people who blessed me.

They were reminded of God's faithfulness to them in hard times, as they encouraged me to hang in there and trust him. They probably appreciated their own situations more. Helping others puts your own problems in perspective. Then, when God suddenly freed me from the bondage of depression, they rejoiced with me. It was their victory, too. They would have been deprived of seeing God's power at work in my life if I had not gone to them for help in my weakness. (Not that I was brave in being vulnerable; just desperate.)

Needs don't have to be overwhelming to bless the giver. While I was depressed, a friend's sister and her family came to the Dallas area to live here for about six months. They needed some household items for that time. I gathered up some towels, sheets, blankets and other things to lend them. Focusing on the needs of someone other than myself gave me relief from my own pain. I know I received more than I gave.

So why aren't we more open about areas of our lives in which we need help? Pride makes it difficult for us to show how weak and needy we are. It is frightening to risk judgment and rejection. But if we act like we have it all together when we don't, we are denying the church the opportunity to grow and to bear witness to God's unconditional love by loving for us in our needs. "We love because he first loved us."

Lots of churches give parishioners opportunities to take spiritual gifts assessments to help them contribute more to the body of Christ. Why not also a spiritual weaknesses assessment? Like spiritual gifts, everyone has weaknesses.

If we see the good only in the strengths of our members, and not our weaknesses, then can we as a church embody the truth of Jesus' words to Paul: "My strength is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness"?