Friday, January 29, 2010

Why Didn't I See That Before?

I think I've said before that God sneaks things into my Bible all the time. He's really good at it, too (as if God would be bad at anything). What happens is this: I'll be reading a passage I've read a dozen or two times before, or listening to such a passage, and—wham!--something jumps out at me, something I've never before seen or considered. Usually it's a kind of an "Aha!" moment. Sometimes, though, it's a "Duh!" moment.

I know, I know. The words were always there. Right. Got it. It's the understanding of the words that wasn’t there before. But it's usually so obvious that it seems like it's new stuff.

Today it happened again. I was listening to Luke. I have the Gospels on my MP3 player and try to listen to that every day while driving. Not only do I get immersed in the words of Jesus, but I find it helps me drive with more of the spirit of Christ. Which is a good thing for all those people around me. Anyway, there I was, driving along, listening to Luke 16, when I came to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. You know the parable. Lazarus died and was with Abraham. Then the rich man died and was in torment. So he calls out to Abraham and asks him to send Lazarus to bring him just a drop of water. Abraham says that is impossible—the rich man had his good things in life, and Lazarus had only bad things. And besides that, a great chasm separated them.

Now, before we go further, we need a little bit about what a parable is. A parable is a teaching designed to make a point. The point is typically made at the end. But the circumstances of the parable aren't necessarily true, in the sense that the rich man was a specific person that Jesus or his listeners knew. He's a character in a story. For that matter, a lot has been written about heaven and hell from this parable. That really doesn't hold a lot of water, it seems to me. Remember, the point is at the end. All the stuff about the rich man, Lazarus, anf the chasm is part of the setup.

Anyway, on to the "Aha" moment. The rich man then asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his house to warn his brothers about what awaits them. We'll pick it up there:

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

" 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

At that point, the thought came to me, "Even if someone rises from the dead. Like Jesus did."

How many times have I read that same parable, and missed that it was talking about the resurrection of Jesus? This may not be as big a revelation to you as it was to me. Maybe you've thought of this before, but I can honestly say I have never heard anyone teach on that parable and bring up that point. It's always about how Lazarus cannot go back and warn the brothers. Or it's about how the rich should treat the poor (it is, but that's an issue that Jesus covered elsewhere, too). Mainly, the takeaways I've heard from this parable are about fire insurance. You know, "Do the right thing so you don't end up in hell."

I am just beginning to see the implications of this new understanding. Here are a couple.

Jesus here proclaims once and for all his endorsement of the Old Testament (Moses and the prophets).

If you can't accept the story of God that is told by Moses and the prophets, you're not going to accept the resurrection.

That last point is huge. We in the church, especially the evangelical church, have focused largely on the New Testament to the neglect of the Old. After all, the New Testament is about Jesus! It's about the church! It's the New Testament.

And without the Old Testament, it doesn't have any foundation. We've been guilty of forgetting that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. That was his culture and the culture of his followers. He kept the law. Perfectly. That meant everything from the sacrifice offered for his birth as a firstborn son, to his circumcision, to celebrating the Passover—all of it. It was his perfect sinlessness that made his death the sacrifice that frees us from sin. Without the law, without Moses and the prophet who foretold him, it would not have been possible.

We've also been guilty of thinking of splitting God into the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. We think of the New Testament as the time when God became a Christian. Or we think of God as the mean old man, and Jesus as the nice young fellow who goes around hugging lambs and makes God be nice to us.

In reality, Jesus was there from the beginning. John makes that clear. And if you read your Old Testament and look, you can find him. He is there as "the commander of the Lord's armies", or as "the angel of the Lord." But that's a tale for another time. This tale is about how God continues to sneak stuff into my Bible.

I think they call that the Holy Spirit. And without that, a Bible is just ink on paper.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And Away We Go Again

We heard yesterday that we will have another foster child sometime this week—a newborn girl. This is really what we have wanted to do, so we are very thankful to have the chance to foster her. We'll likely have her a month or more.

And who needs sleep, anyway? It's overrated. Right?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodbye, Little Buddy Revisited

A short video of our foster son's time with us.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Goodbye, Little Buddy

Many times in this world, someone comes into your life for while, and he brightens your world. That has been my story lately. Yesterday we said goodbye to our foster son Rodie. (That's not his real name, but it's what we usually called him.) It was a very bittersweet moment. He really was a bright light to us. Such a beautiful smile, so loving, so needy, and so much fun. He was a handful at times, and almost always demanded a great deal of attention. But that was to be expected. He is, after all, a small child, one who missed out on some of the development he should have had before he came to us.

But he gave us much more than he took. He always ran to greet me when I came in, sometimes with his hands held up, asking to be hugged, sometimes with a toy to show me, but always with a huge grin on his face. He loved to show me his cars, and even learned to share them with me, especially if I was doing something else and wasn’t paying attention to him. He loved to be read to, and I have to say those were some of the sweetest moments. I have re-learned the joys of Green Eggs and Ham, Go, Dog, Go!, and children’s Bible stories as they can only be known through the insistent, repetitive delight of a child. I have memorized most of One Fish, Two Fish and tangled my tongue repeatedly over Fox in Socks. (By the way, I hope you know that Dr. Seuss was a towering genius.)

I’ve changed many diapers, and Shan has changed many, many more. She really bore the burden of caring for Rodie. My daughter Rachel and I have simply been the second string. I’ve spent many meals trying to get Rodie to eat, and telling him over and over to chew and swallow (he has a habit of just holding food in his mouth, probably because he had only soft foods and had never learned to chew before coming to us). I’ve taken the dog food up repeatedly to stop him picking it out of the bowl to dribble on the ground for our smallest dog.

I’ve also laughed and smiled as he threw the ball for the dogs and wrestled joyfully with them, squealing and shouting. I’ve tried my best to puzzle out the things he says, and watched with delight as he learned to speak, going from four words when he came to us, to full sentences when he left. Watching him has been like watching a video on fast forward. He learned so much in his time with us.

One of his favorite games was to stand on the bed and be pushed over backwards. In fact, we could just point at him, and he’d fall over, squealing with delight.

I have also seen him meet and start to fall in love with his adoptive parents. They are marvelous, loving people, who are already making a great home for him. He’ll have a big brother who has been praying for a little brother or sister for a couple of years, and who has been showing off his picture at school.

Yesterday was bittersweet, with the sweet outweighing the bitter. Perhaps that is because we have always known we would only be temporary parents, a waypoint on his journey to a new life. Perhaps it’s because we know that what is ahead of him is love, attention, learning, and joy. It helps that we know we’ll get updates on him periodically.

I think, though, the thing that helps the most is knowing we did good things for him. Having him with us was joyous (and tiring), but knowing we did something for him is the best reward we could have.

After everyone was gone yesterday, we went to see The Blind Side. In case you don’t know, it’s the story of Michael Oher, who was picked up off the street and nurtured by the Tuohy family. Oher was a huge young man with great athletic skills, and has since been selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. It is a marvelous movie, with a great message, but his story of neglect and redemption might not have been the best movie for us to see the same day we turned R over to his new family. I shed tears like a fountain all through the movie. The fact that so, so many children are essentially thrown away really hit home with me.

Then again, maybe it was exactly the right movie to see yesterday.

Every last one of us has the opportunity to help a child. It might be your own child. It might be a foster child, or a kid you coach, or one you never see who benefits from the money you donate. The need is great, but the joy is greater.

May you all have the joy of helping a child.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Virginia (Ginny) Rose Gill Manly

This is a tribute to a marvelous woman. My aunt Ginny passed away in the early morning hours of Dec. 29th. She had fought a battle with aggressive cancer, and while her body lost the battle, her spirit won. In the months of her illness, she never lost her spirit or her good will.

Ginny was a very special lady. She is more than my aunt. She's in many ways my second mother. She was definitely a mother to my sister. You see, after our parents died, we both went to live with another aunt and uncle. They were wonderful people, but each of us, my sister and I, developed bonds with other relatives. I saw that my uncle David, my father's brother, was so much like my father. I boldly wrote to him and asked if I could live with him. My sister Alison had already fallen in love with Ginny, and she made it known that was who she wanted to live with. We split up to live in different cities, but we both made the right decision.

Later, when I was married, I came to the DFW area largely because Ginny was here. She had that kind of appeal. She was always a grandmother to my children, and we treated each other like mother and son. I'm glad for that.

For her memorial, four of us; Ginny's son Tom, my sister Alison, my cousin Tim, and I, wrote short memories of her. None of us trusted ourselves to read them, but we were able to write and let Rusty Peterman, the attending minister read them for us. I'm reproducing them below. The four different views say things I could not say on my own.

First, from Tom, Ginny's son:
Coming up with something to say about Mom is difficult. I could tell you stories about her taking me to the ER about a dozen times, or about being grounded for attempting stunts that would lead to an ER visit. How she would do ANYTHING to help someone, or how she could read your mind and say just the right thing to make you feel better.

Most of you know this already. You know her because she is an open book. A loving, fun, faithful book. She cares for everyone she meets and you know your important to her by the way she absorbs every word you say, every gesture you make.

She was a great Mom. I always knew where I stood with her. I could rely on her and trust her. She would support me even when she was unhappy with me.

And happy she was. Ever the smile and laugh, she would find humor in anything, even if you didn't yet find it funny. Even when she was hurting from the cancer, she would laugh at my bad puns and jokes. My humor definitely came from her. Though I consider it a blessing from her, some don't quite see it that way for some reason.

She cared for everyone she met. She made you feel important to her with the way she hung on every word you said. Little kids would seek her out because of her smile, laughter and attention. No one ever distrusted her.

In the last days, I've had a lot of time to spend with Jim. He shares a strong love with my Mom. Repeatedly, he said how kind and forgiving she was and how she was always supportive of him. My sympathies pour out to him as I know he is loosing so much.

I grew up going to Church, learning the Bible and singing. I always knew I lived in a faithful home. That foundation is still firmly under my feet. When I strayed, I always knew I could return home to the foundation she built with Gods guidance. She is a true believer, ever faithful, true follower of God. I know she is now with God, but I selfishly wish she could still be healthy and whole with us.

Next, from my sister Alison:
Most of you know that Ginny was my Aunt, the youngest sister of my Father. You also know that my parents were killed in a car accident when I was very young. When Ginny became my guardian, my life changed in many ways. I had to adjust to being in a new family, and in every way she made that adjustment easier for me. She told me many times that I was the daughter she always wished for. It was not long before I called her "Mother" as she was completely in my heart as my mother. Every year on December 5 we would celebrate the day we became mother and daughter. She would tell me "Happy Anniversary" and we would relate little stories to each other about how happy we were to have each other.

No one in the world has been or ever will be just like Mother. She always listened...always cared and even when she did not agree with what I was doing in my life, she was always there for me. She did not judge, but counseled. She was the most faithful person I have ever known, both in her spiritual life and in her faith in the people she loved.

When I was asked to give one word that described her, the very first word that came in to my mind was "Mother." She gave me so much, and I will selfishly miss her terribly. The last thing I told her was "Thank you for being my mother."

Now from her nephew, Tim:
I remember Ginny from my earliest days. She was a teenager when I was born, and she was frequently my babysitter. When I was grade school age, I thought she was the coolest aunt anybody could have. She was hilariously funny, and she drove cool cars - well, except for the red Mercury. That was definitely a mom-mobile.

When I was in college, Ginny and I discovered that we were really kindred spirits. She once told me, "I love your sense of humor. It's just like mine - warped!" It was about that time that the two of us began a long running contest to see who could give the other the meanest - and funniest - birthday cards. I'm not sure who won; it doesn't matter because we both enjoyed the game.

Ginny was the queen of the one-liners - unfortunately, they were often a day late. Once when she was working as a spotter for a bike race at the ranch, a rider broke down right in front of her and yelled, "Hey lady, I've got problems. Can I get a screwdriver?" She later told me, "Just as he got the bike restarted, it occurred to me to answer, 'No - but could I fix you a Bloody Mary' "

Most of all, what I remember Ginny for what happened the day I arrived home from Germany and the Army. She introduced me to a girl in a blue sweater vest. Five months later, I married her. Thanks, Ginny - Jan & I are forever indebted to you.

Finally, my words:
The other day when we talked to Rusty about Ginny’s memorial, he asked us to think of single word descriptions of Ginny. For me, the first word that came to was “laughter.” Ginny was always ready to laugh. For a cut-up and clown like me, that was a very welcome quality. She was quick to laugh at a joke, a story, or herself. I really have a hard time remembering Ginny when she wasn’t smiling. She was always glad to see me, and especially glad to see my children. My kids always called her Nana, at her insistence.

Alison always called her “mother,” for good reason. Truly, Ginny was a mother to me as well, although I never called her that. When Shan and I moved here in 1977, Ginny welcomed us into her home and into her heart. Truthfully, she was a big factor in our decision to move here. We immediately began to come to Richland Hills because she was here. She became a mother to both Shan and myself, and she was definitely a grandmother to our kids.

Ginny was also a kindred soul. Shan and I (and Brian, Duncan, and Rachel) have always been avid readers, or if you prefer, book addicts. Ginny was just as addicted as we were. Shan told me early in our marriage that she knew Ginny was a kindred spirit when she learned that Ginny also read the shampoo bottles and toothpaste tubes in the bathroom. Ginny and Shan even had much the same taste in reading, and passed books back and forth so much at church that I felt like a Bookmobile.

Ginny had a sweet, sweet spirit. She put up with the kids (and me) surprising and scaring her at every opportunity, and even encouraged it. She loved to bring joy to children, and she brought joy to me through my entire life. I suspect at this moment she is laughing with Jesus. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Farewell, Ginny. We miss you, but we will see you again.