Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now What Will I Do?

As of this afternoon, there will be millions of grieving, forlorn women.  Their longtime friend who visited daily for 25 years will not be knocking on their door today.  For some, she is even a childhood friend, and they have grown up together with tears and laughter, compassion and outrage, and literally through thick and thin.  After 5000 visits, Oprah is no longer coming over for a cup of afternoon coffee. 

Oprah, I am sure, relished having so many viewers.  Little can she conceive how intimately these women are attached.  She was welcome in their homes.  She ruled their schedules.  She filled an hour of their day.  Since 1986, she was their best friend.

My mother never watched Oprah, but she was glued to the news.  Every afternoon, Carol Marin, a local Chicago newscaster, appeared right across the room from where my mom sat on the couch.  Mom welcomed her, and if one of us was there, she would comment on Carol’s hair or clothing choice.  My mom was not so pathetic as it sounds, but in her eyes, Carol was her friend who came every afternoon to see her.  My parents’ house at the time was across the street from the high school.  One day during a so-called earth-shattering news event, the television cameras were lined up across the street.  Mom always kept a stealth eye on what happened at the school, vigilant particularly during the sit-ins and protests during the Viet Nam war.  As she peered out from behind the curtains, she spotted Carol, getting ready for the broadcast.  Mom dashed across the street, probably still in her slippers, ran up to Carol, and hugged her like a long-lost friend.  I am sure that Carol was duly shocked and delighted at the same time.  Mom talked about it for weeks.

That is the kind of attachment I am sure that Oprah had, even though most women I know always said to me, “Well, I just so happened to see Oprah the other day, and she said….” as if it were a rare occurrence.  But there was a tremendous draw and impact through this television idol. 

“Now what will I do?” many will ask today as they scroll through the channels.    The only thing God never meant you to do is to live a mediocre life.  God has something special in mind for every one of us.  Day by day by day, and we are too distracted to know it.  As Donald Miller wrote in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, “get up and do something.” 

Think about what you can do with one hour a day.  God can change the world.

“My times are in Your hand.”

                   Psalm 31.15

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Great Expectations

Last week, flipping through Redbook magazine, I came upon an article that stopped me in my tracks about a mom who struggled with accepting her child ( It was a powerful and convicting essay because of its honesty, revealing feelings few are willing to admit. “I viewed Sophie through a lens of failure,” she wrote. This is not an isolated story. It is my story. And it is yours. It has everything to do with how we treat everyone around us, how we see them, what we expect, and how we are frustrated because they don’t fit our grid, be it a child as in this story, or a spouse, or a parent, or friend, or co-worker. “You are not who I want you to be,” we think and vocalize in so many words, as if WE are so high and mighty, the perfection of all things. We let those phantoms reign destructively in our lives and relationships, and then wonder what’s wrong.

I carried the haunting words of her article around in my head for days. At the same time, I was deep into writing an article about worldview. Worldview is the way we see reality and make sense of the world. It infects how we see all of life, including how we view and respond to other people. Biblical worldview, based on the reality of God, is different, because it sees life through God’s loving eyes.

And that is radical indeed.

In April, I read Dancing with Max by Emily Colson, a moving account of a single mother who raises her severely autistic son. I was touched by the struggles she endured in everyday things such as picking up a prescription at the drug store, or confronting school administrators to provide an education for her son, or desperately seeking the advice of so-called experts, one of whom advised her to lock Max in a closet. She saw Max differently. “I don’t think this diagnosis steals our dreams,” she wrote. “What if it were the very thing to build our character, to give our lives purpose?” As her perspective continued to change over the course of twenty years, so did her expectations. Her expectations were not diminished, but whole new dimensions of life opened up for both of them.

If a relationship is based on performance, the other person can never be perfect enough, always viewed through a convenient lens of failure. But in the eyes of God, “…you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43.4) Our relationship with God is based on grace alone. That changes the lens completely. We are all created in the image of God, precious in His sight. And as a result of the Fall, we are all depraved, in need of redemption. If we really get that, it changes how we treat others and how we view ourselves. What’s wrong with the world? As G. K. Chesterton once replied, “Sir, I am.”

And what emerges through that redeeming work is the restoration not of our own eyesight but seeing through God’s lens and His great expectations for how life is meant to be.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Design 101


Last month, my husband and I traveled to the mountains in east Tennessee, emerging from cold grey Chicago into another dimension where the adorned mountains seemed to sing out loud, and the trees were decked in a million shades of tender green, lifting their limbs upward against a blue too deep to comprehend.  The waters of the creek danced over the rocks.  The woods, trail sides, and hills were carpeted in an explosion of color, millions of flowers that no one even planted.  The beauty was so radical I wouldn’t have even been surprised if the animals could talk.  The winter cold had been redeemed, the world turned right side up with a glimpse of the way things ought to be. 

And in the midst of this wonder, I ran on asphalt painted with double yellow lines, designed, constructed and paved by the Army Corps of Engineers and a battalion of earth-moving machinery.  This hard inanimate surface wound its way through a living, breathing, totally organic world so interdependent and fragile that the elimination of one species or a single degree throws it off balance, so intimately and intricately designed.   It is all seamlessly woven into what we are able to recognize as beautiful.  The best description is awe.  And it appears every year.  Right on time.

The road was engineered. Duh.   Anyone could tell you that.

But this beauty… just happened?  Always remember, reality reveals truth.  Profound.  Complex. And amazing.


The Mighty One, God the LORD,

speaks and summons the earth

from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of the perfection of beauty,

God shines forth.

                Psalm 50.1-2