Monday, October 29, 2012

Thank you, Pinterest!

Based on this image found on Pinterest..

Here is my picture taken from the other side...not exactly Pinterest worthy, is it?

We drove over to Portland to go to Cathedral Park today.  Cathedral Park is a small city park on the Willamette River.  To quote the Portland Parks and Recreation site. 

The site which now bears the name Cathedral Park is steeped in history. It is believed to be one of the 14 Lewis and Clark landing sites in the Vancouver-Portland area: William Clark and eight men camped there on April 2, 1806. This spot had been a fishing and camping site for many area Indian tribes. In 1847, the founder of St Johns, James John, settled on the site and operated a ferry to Linnton across the Willamette River. In 1931, the St Johns Bridge was built on the site with 400-ft towers and a main span of 1,207 feet. It is the only steel suspension bridge in Portland. 

It really was quite lovely. Today was a warm fall day with minimal rain and it was good to get out.
Here are some of my pictures from my i-phone.

This isn't the first time we have found something fun to do on Pinterest.  I guess it's not just crafts and baking!


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Beauty of Simplicity

A song for simplicity
by Luci Shaw
There are some things that should be as they are:
plain, unadorned, common and all-complete;
things not in a clutter, not in a clump,
unmuddled and unmeddled with;
the straight, the smooth, the salt, the sour, the sweet.
For all that’s timeless, untutored, untailored and untooled;
for innocence unschooled;
for unploughed prairies, primal snow and sod,
water unmuddied, wind unruled,
for these, thank God.

Singly and strongly, from each separate star,
a brightness pricks the retina from far
to near.  And for clear eyes to see
deep space and dark infinity
with an untroubled gaze,
give praise.

With both hands unjewelled and with unbound hair
beauty herself stands unselfconscious where
she is enough to have, and worth the always holding.
The mind perceiving her, the heart enfolding
echoes the unchanged pattern from above
that praises God for loveliness, and love.

Glory again to God for word and phrase
whose magic, matching the mind’s computed leap,
lands on the lip of truth,
(plain as a stone well’s mouth, and as deep)
and for the drum, the bell, the flute, the harp, the bird,
for music, Praise! that speaks without a word.

As for the rightness to be found
in the unembellished square and the plain round,
in geometric statement of a curve
respond! without reserve
but with astonishment that there’s for every man
one point in time, one plainly drafted plan,
and in your unique place,
give glory for God’s grace.

All this from him whose three-in-one
so simply brought to birth
from the red earth
a son.
All our complexity, diversity, decor,
facet the gem, encrust the clarity.
So pierce you now the opalescent glaze
till all your praise
rises to him in whom you find no flaw.

*Pictures taken this morning at the Columbia River Environmental Education Center.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Othering people.

Last night, one of our church small groups met in our home.  We are studying Paul Miller's Love Walked Among Us.  Part of the study is looking at the parables of Jesus.  Last week, we looked at the widow of Nain and Jesus restoring her son to life. We talked about the fact that Jesus really looked at her, really saw her, felt compassion,  met her need and restored her to her community by raising her son from the dead.
 This week, we did the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Good Samaritan is probably the most famous of all the parables...except maybe the Prodigal Son.  We get our "Good Samaritan" laws from the story-those protective laws that allow us to help a person in harms way without fear of retribution.  The importance of those laws were really brought home to us as China does not have "Good Samaritan" laws and if you help a person in crisis, you can be arrested and blamed for the accident.
The story of the Good Samaritan is  told in the gospel of Luke and it is simple and complex. The Samaritans are a  group despised by the Jews.  They are considered half breeds, they have intermarried with pagans, they worship wrongly and at the wrong mountain.  Earlier in Luke, a city of Samaritans reject Jesus and the some of the disciples ask Jesus if he would like them to pray for fire to be rained on them.  Jesus rejects this idea and tells them that he has come to save people, not destroy them.
Later, a young "expert in the Law" asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus answers back from the Law with the answer that all Jews of the time know - "Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind."  and then He adds "Love your neighbor as yourself."
The expert "seeking to justify himself" (and don't we all do that) ask him who is neighbor is.
So Jesus (as He so often does) tells a story.
Basically- a man is walking in a deserted area of Israel. He is taken by bandits, robbed and beaten and left for dead.  Two prestigious people come by (a priest and a Levite-religious and authority figures in Jewish culture) and continue to walk/ride by.  They are possible too busy to help, to afraid to help, fearful of religious uncleanness, lacking in compassion or whatever.  For whatever reason, they refuse to help. Since they were important people, I wonder if they were traveling alone and if their whole group refused to help.  Scripture doesn't say this but it's something to ponder.
But a Samaritan walks by and helps. He takes him to an inn, cleans his wounds, pays for his stay and says he will be back to check on him. The Samaritan shows himself to be the good neighbor, not the esteemed people of the culture.  It's a powerful story.
But last night, a woman in our group said something that really struck me. She asked "I wonder what the man who was victimized felt like to be cared for by a Samaritan."  What was it like to wake up and realize that the person who was caring for was from a group that he had been taught to despise?
To apply it to today...what if you woke up and the person caring from you was from a group that you despise?  An injured person who believes in strict gun control is being cared for by a member of the NRA.  A gay person being cared for by a person who is working against gay marriage.  An ideological Democrat being cared for by a dogmatic Republican.  A soldier being cared for by a peace activist.  A progressive Christian being cared for by a fundamentalist.  You get my point.
It is easy to "other" people, to dismiss them as part of a group.  The poor, the gays, the liberals, the conservatives, the Calvinists, the.....whatever.  It's easy to dismiss a group.  It's harder to dismiss a person.
A while ago some friends were visiting.  We had a great time until towards they end, one of our friends made a comment about an issue. I strongly disagreed with her...very strongly.  It was tempting to simply "other" her.  But that would demean the friendship.  We had to agree to let it go and agree to disagree.
In our many years in ministry, one thing that we have learned is that people are not the sum of one experience.  If we have had a bad experience with someone, that does not dismiss all of who they are as people.  It is entirely possible for us to have a bad experience with someone....and for others to find that person delightful and warm.
This is not to negate those differences or to say that differences are  not serious.  Just some thoughts that people are people, not ideas and ideologies and that to group or "other" them is not the way of Jesus.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How He Changed Our Life.

This month is Down Syndrome awareness month and I'd like to write a little about our foster son. In the fall of 2010,  while living and working in China, we unexpectedly became foster parents to a little baby with Down Syndrome.  He was malnourished and needed one on one care. I don't write much about him anymore because he really isn't ours anymore.  He belongs to his future family and with the complicated adoption process going on, I don't want to write anything that would make it too complicated.   Leaving him behind in China was one of the hardest things we have ever done. We still hear about him and get pictures and sometimes even SKYPE.  We make sure his ayi gets paid and he has clothes. He is thriving with his ayi, being loved and cared for while he waits.
He is a part of our story and we are a part of his.  His being in our life changed us forever. Our being in his life changed his life and gave him a future.  The mutual impact is profound. We miss him everyday.
So what did we learn about Down Syndrome while we had him?
We learned that Down Syndrome is about an extra chromosome in his cells.  We learned that the extra chromosome give him more widely spaced eyes, lower ears, a sweet round tummy and rather poor posture. We learned that  Down Syndrome gave him low muscle tone and that made him slower to crawl, sit, stand and walk.  We learned all of those things so that we could strategize his care.  Not all of his issues came from having Down Syndrome but it was a good starting place.  We consulted with a speech pathologist friend about things to do to strengthen his swallow reflex.  I talked to my friend Gillian who has two children with Down Syndrome-she was a wealth of help and information for me.
We learned that while he has Down Syndrome, he isn't Down Syndrome.  He is very much himself-lively, funny, a book lover and cuddler.  After a while, we didn't really think that much about it except for when we were in public and people would ask.  There is a famous conductor in China who has a son with Down Syndrome and many people knew about him.  That was always a starting point.
Because of Down Syndrome and our little guy, we learned about love.  That's the biggest thing.  Our hearts were enlarged and our spirits enriched.  He gave us eyes to see. We are forever changed.
From the time we got him and he looked like this.

(Yes, we were trying to make up for lost time with all the black and white stuff! He is nine months in this picture and black and white stuff is usually for very young babies)

To when he started to chunk up and looked like this about a month after we got him.  This is one of my favorite pictures.

To when he went in the hospital with severe pneumonia and low oxygen...oh what a hard five days that was.

To our first family picture at Christmas.

To a second Christmas together.

To the playing with the phone, the cars, the trucks, the books, the computer.

To walking him at the river near our home.  People would stare at us as they couldn't quite figure out what our relationship to him was. Grandparents?  Adoptive parents?  If Elisabeth was with us, it lead to even more confusion.

To playing with his beloved big sister.

To his heroic ayi who has gone against her culture to love a special needs little guy.

From all of this!  He is no longer a baby-truly a little boy!  He walks and runs and turns in circles.  It's amazing.

This is a well loved little boy, both by people geographically close to him and many who know about him through my Walking to China blog.  Thank you for loving him and hoping for him. I am so thankful for the many who walked this part of his journey.
Last summer I was working for a few weeks at Portland State.  I would often see a young woman with Down Syndrome walking around. She was nicely dressed and clearly had a job there.  Every time I saw her, my heart welled up with tears.  This is a young woman with a hope and a future that is determined by what she can do, not just her limitations.
That is what we want for our foster son ...and the many who are like him.  We want them valued because of who they are-intrinsically valuable human beings.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I am seeing these days.

I took this photo by accident and almost deleted it.  But then I thought that it reflected a part of my life.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately.  I did not love the book in the picture nor the author's other book Sarah's Key.  They were just okay with endings that were too tidy.  However, I am loving the Flavia de Luce Series by Alan Bradley.  These books are funny, smart and just a great read.  They are written for adults but the protagonist is an eleven year old girl with a flair for poison and chemistry.  They are mysteries without blood, gore or sex.  They take place in post WWII England in a small village. The first is The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Other things that I am seeing-beautiful fall flowers.  I got these at the Portland Saturday market.  It can be faster for us to drive to downtown Portland (if there is no traffic) than across town to the western part of Vancouver.  The Saturday market is an arts and crafts market with a fair share of the tattoed and dreadlocked.  I avoided the incense but got these and a few gifts for Elisabeth's upcoming birthday.

Speaking of Elisabeth-here is the shawl that I knit her,  not very attractively position on our sofa.  I do like it. It turned out to be pretty big after I blocked it.

Here is a close-up of the Indian Pillar stitch that is the main stitch in the shawl. And by main, I mean I knit hundreds of them.  Close to 1000.  The basic pattern was one knit, one Indian Pillar Stitch and yarn overs on each end.  I didn't know how to make an Indian Pillar stitch before this shawl but now I am an expert.  

This is a little sweater that I knit for our sweet little foster son in China. There is a simple cable on the front.  The side seams and neck are not quite finished.  However, when I took it off the needles, Paul told me that it would never fit our little guy.  Indeed, I read the wrong numbers and it is too small.  So I started another one in a bigger size. I need to find a toddler for this sweater.

Paul and I drove up the Columbia Gorge on the Oregon side and stopped off at this museum.  This basket really caught my eye-look at the detail on the top of the basket.

The other baskets with the top basket-so intricate and lovely.

The history of the Chinese workers in the West in fascinating.  There were several displays about the Chinese workers in the area-both their positive impact and the racial prejudice.  The displays as a while were pretty honest.  They also had several about the positive impact of missionaries in the area-always good to read about!

We drove up to The Dalles which is close to the high desert. Outside of the museum was this monkey brush. It was all over the place and there were bees all around.

The mountains and desert brush as the sun starts to go down.  Really lovely.

Life here is so different than life in China.  In China, I often longed for peace and nature.  Here, I find myself missing the frenetic aliveness that is China!  We are settling in well, adapting to being back in pastoral ministry.  We had a vision casting retreat a while ago.  Now for the hard work of putting feet to the vision.
I am still unemployed and a little surprised to find myself without a job.  ESL is a very competitive field here. I have resumes and applications all over the place and have interviewed several times at places that had no positions available.  I have started volunteering at our local junior college  ESL program one morning a week so that I don't have a gap in my resume and so that I can keep current.  It's very humbling to be in this position!
Fall studies have started at our church.  Small groups are studying Love Walked Among Us:  Learning to Love like Jesus by Paul Miller.  We hope this will have an impact on individual families and marriages as well as our church.