there was God, of course

Just a quote, after all this.  Just a quote.

Both for the writing, and the content, a perfect example of why I love Frederick Buechner; from The Final Beast:

“Why should he stay?

There was God, of course, but God made Irma Reinwasser very angry.  He asked so much of His servants and rendered so little:  marry and bury, christen and counsel, joke with, solicit from, try somehow to live by Him, live with Him.  It emptied a man.  Yet skinny and bright-eyed in his black robe, he still had to stand up in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and speak to Him and about Him to that big, white, half-filled meeting-house of a church with the turkey-red carpet, “And when they tell me he looks like Abe Lincoln,” Irma said, “I tell them after Abe Lincoln got shot is what he looks like.  If you got God for a friend, you don’t need any enemies.”  What did God give in return?  A dead wife, knots in the stomach.  She plucked up the bacon with a cooking fork and flipped it over.  It spat at her.  Why should Bluebeard stay for the sake of God?

Or was it maybe for the sake of God that he had gone?  Sobered by this possibility, she sucked her wrist gravely where the hot fat had scalded her.  You could never be sure about Bluebeard and God.  There were times when she felt that each must take the other as a kind of joke, and when every night just after her light was turned out Cornelia began with “Our Father who aren’t in Heaven” instead of “Our Father who art,” you could imagine both God and Bluebeard laughing as in fact sometimes Bluebeard actually did laugh, so soft you could hardly hear it as he sat there on the child’s bed with his eyes closed.  But his were closed; that was just it.  That was why you could never be sure what Bluebeard felt about God or what his lightheartedness meant.  It might not be a joke at all.”

poking a hole in this barrier just to see if anything happens

I just decided to post something here to this long-ignored virtual reality.  Sometimes you just have to break a rule, or run through a wall that has gradually encroached upon your life through some unintended habit or omission, just to see if it matters.

I’m pretty sure this blog thing doesn’t need to be some mental mountain, imposing itself in my brain-space like Mordor.  Poke it in the eye, and I think it will whimper and slink away.

Welcome to the dog-days of summer – middle August.  (I read a story recently about how August got that “dog-days” moniker.  I don’t recall the details, and it really doesn’t matter, anyway.  But I did.  It’s always interesting to me that we use phrases that we don’t really understand just because they’ve always been used, and they have a story that we don’t know.)

The mornings are darker later, and the evenings are getting shorter.  The days are still hot, but the nights are cooling.  The kids are excitedly dreading the start of school, and in some cases, so are the parents.

I’ve hit the August lull in workload – just after finishing July reports, just before beginning budgets for next year – and I’ve got a few days with few meetings and few deadlines and I feel like I can catch my breath.  Breathe in, breathe out.  See a little more clearly.

It won’t last, so I need to milk it while it’s producing for me.

I had a vacation in Vermont with my lovely wife:  6 days and 5 nights in a town with no cellular service and no restaurants, sleeping in a house built in 1846 with a 10-step walk across the grass lawn to the front door of a church also about that old, like every other church we saw in every tiny village of Vermont back-country with white clapboard siding, black shutters and a steeple reaching to the high heavens.

Raspberries and blueberries were at their peak.  We purchased fresh raspberries from an untended roadside stand in some friendly stranger’s front yard by putting a few bucks in a can, and ate them with our fingers as we drove, and we ate fresh blueberry cobbler in a gourmet restaurant in a tiny town in which we just happened to find ourselves along the way.

I read good books in bed until my rear-end was sore from lack of movement, rolled over and took a nap without even glancing at the clock, then stretched and slipped my flip-flops on and took my wife for a drive on what the map shows as the little gray unidentified roads with no numbers to find our next adventure.

Have I told you lately how much I love my wife?  Of course not, since I haven’t told you anything lately, so let me say it plainly here:  I really love Renee.  Really.  After 22 years, she’s still the person with whom I’d rather spend my time, bar none.  We laugh, we cry, we share and just hold hands for the comfort of knowing the other is near.  She’s God’s pain-reliever gift to whatever pain is vexing me from day to day.  Thank God for her.

Speaking of giving thanks, I read a book recently called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and let me say I just highly recommend it.  All the more so if you’re struggling a bit with finding eyes of gratitude amongst what can often seem monotonous and futile daily-grind kinds of days.  In response, I’ve been praying for God to improve my eyesight, to let me see the trail of him in my days, and to appreciate the colors he’s sprinkled about to keep them from blending into some gray soup.  Guess what?  He’s been answering my prayer with unexpected enthusiasm.

Seeing him more regularly is almost as gratifying as holding Renee’s hand.

wonders never cease

Lord, your wonders never cease. I scarcely behold a fraction of them. Yet, when I do, I’m overwhelmed by the extent of your engagement in the affairs of this world.

I’m persuaded there’s no place, no life unaffected by your intervention, your care and invested love.

As a gardener perceives every inch and aspect of his garden, touches it all with pruning, planting, cultivating, pervasive care, weighing each element and it’s relation to the whole – the threats, the nourishment, the slope, the shade and light, the weeds, the pests, the healthy and the ill.

The gardener takes everything into consideration and becomes invested in every part for the overall well-being and benefit of the whole – invested heart and soul: physically, mentally, spiritually, presenting the garden as a poetic expression of the essence of his own being.

Lord, there’s nothing you haven’t touched, contemplated, known and loved; even in acts of discipline, scourging, and purifying.

All things work together for good . . . you make it so.

Yet, we see in part and know in part.

We testify to your presence in the small, infrequent, more obvious ways.

It’s like witnessing the presence of water only when we turn on the faucet. The water – in the pipes in our homes, the rivers and reservoirs, or in the springs and aquifers hidden in the earth – is always present and flowing, available regardless of our awareness or access of it.

I’m grateful for this reality.

The truth and power of your unseen involvement, persistent presence, a force always exerted in every moment: the air we breathe, life and death, the hope and sorrow, the grief and joy, the struggle and pain, the power and glory.

Beauty. Inherent, ubiquitous, permeating, persuasive, constant, unfailing.

rich mineral deposits and grand aquifers

Oh God, I’m not sure you’re a blog reader, but what if you are?

I just wanted to tell you, in this public space, that if there’s any way you could open our eyes a bit, even temporarily, and allow us to see a bit of the deeper things of what you’re doing, that might help us.

It seems we go about assessing the value and weighing the outcome of your influence based on the circumstantial and tangible.

I’m pretty sure that’s hardly a glimmer of what’s really going on, and subject to vast misinterpretation, if nothing else, just due to the constant discomfort such things bring to our lives, even if they’re offering temporary pleasure.

Moreover, I’m pretty sure that what’s really going on, and what really matters, and what really draws us into this saga of your reigning power, is active in deeper places; mostly dark, unseen, cavernous depths where the foundations of your creation are moored and alive beyond imagination.  And I’m pretty sure the chiefest elements of those depths are in us.

We get confused.  We start to believe the evidence of boiling water – the unwieldy, random, violent bubbles rising to the surface – are also the intended product of the boiling.  That can’t be true.  They’re just the by-product of the heat.  The heat, and its effects, are producing the transformation.  The bubbles are just evidence that something’s happening, and they’re subject to vast misinterpretation.

They’re like a dying man on a cross.

If that’s all we see, then when the earthquake comes and the rain starts to fall, we run to our homes without a concern other than keeping our heads dry and making sure our favorite knickknacks didn’t fall off the shelves.

So, it would be great if you could just let us see more for a bit, or feel more, and then maybe we could shake ourselves free enough to be a bit more enthusiastic about what you’re doing.

We get weary and confused, Lord.  I’m sure I’m telling you nothing new with this.  You get it, I’m sure.

I’m glad you’re gracious about it.

Thanks.

Amen.

baking in the heat of the moment

The heat necessary
to bake the ingredients of our lives
into something worthwhile
out of all of its well-beaten batter
comes from the friction
created by the moments
flying by us
and pushing past us.

 

We ought to seek to embrace
their slippery substance
more forcefully
to take advantage
of the friction more desperately,
so that we become edifying earlier
rather than living most of our lives,
if not all,
as half-baked messes.

 

Given an adequate awareness
and sense of desperation for life,
we are supremely capable
of having well-baked,
warm, and nutritious offerings
harvested from the ovens of our hearts
not just once in our lives,
as if only some grand opus
were all that mattered,
but several times a day;
here a little, there a little,
but always good
and comforting
and nourishing.

 

These thoughts were inspired by a conversation in an orange-vinyl-covered booth in a diner over a table covered with eggs, pancakes, gyros, french toast, sausage, coffee, and little pitchers of syrup surrounded by foil-wrapped rectangles of real butter with my friends Seth and Max, who happen to be wonderfully tasty treats of inspiration, of whose substance the world is scarcely worthy.

 

These thoughts were written in an email message to my lovely, soon-to-be-seventeen-year-old daughter, Hannah, who happens to be someone I aspire to be like, someday, of whose substance the world shall surely never be worthy, in which I apologized for the pitiful and grievous mistake of squandering moments which were offering opportunities to hear the overflow of her heart’s music.

 

I could write a thousand words, or two, more and hardly exhaust my longing to relate all that stirs here, but I think I’ll go home instead.

meanwhile, back at the well (Peru, continued)

So, as it turns out, the cost of the trip to Villa Rica, Peru will be higher than I expected.  Airfare will be $1,200, plus $600 for other expenses, which adds to more than the $1,300 I mentioned previously. (I’m an accountant, you don’t have to do the math, just trust me.)

If you want to read my previous post on the topic, just for old time’s sake, click here.

So, here I am, back at the well (that’s you, and it’s a fantastic metaphor, I think).

Katie and I, which I’m now grouping together as one effort (since, apparently, Christ Community has lovingly lumped us together as one account in support-raising efforts, and called it “Pratts”) have a combined total of $1,145, so far.  That’s been plenty to meet our deposit requirements and get us neck-deep into this commitment.

Giant, super-sized, sincerest, and humblest of thanks to each of you who have sent in a donation.  Slightly less giant, but just as sincere and even humblerest (yes, humblerest) thanks to those who have thought longingly about making a donation.  All kidding aside, it’s overwhelming to be on the receiving end of such generosity.

I know, with all my heart, that this stuff is a giant pain in the patooty, and that it’s beautiful all the same.

I need you, and I’m not just saying that to get a few bucks for a trip to Peru.  I need you like liver cells need leg cells, and vice versa.  (For more on that topic from a previous post, click here.)

So, thanks, and thanks, and thanks.  Really.  Thanks.

Now, I’m going to throw in a few words I wrote to a friend in response to some questions they had about this trip, but before I do, let me just say:  If God makes you send in a donation, make it to Christ Community Church, with just “Peru Mission” in the memo, then send it to me.  When I give it to them, I’ll tell them it’s for the “Pratts” account.  If God doesn’t make you send in a donation, for crying out loud, don’t send in a donation.

So, for years, Christ Community Church has had on-going missions efforts in Peru in a variety of places and by a variety of means:  medical teams, sports teams, church-planting, serving, key support for an orphanage in Lima, and most all of those efforts are integrated with a large conglomeration of pastors and local churches.  The main focus of those efforts have been development, church-planting, and evangelism.  This is good.

So, a friend wanted to know how this crazy trip to a coffee-farm village in the remote mountainous regions of Peru would line up with those types of efforts and follow in that evangelical pattern.  Here’s my response:

We will be travelling with a Peruvian couple who are pastors who have worked with CCC previously. They are related to the coffee farmers we will be visiting, and that’s how the connection has been made.

The business building aspect of the trip is actually secondary to the evangelism, although the method of evangelism will not be as direct as some other mission events in Peru.  Zoe’s doesn’t necessarily need coffee from Peru, and because the business is not motivated by profit, the financial aspects of the arrangement and/or the quality aspects are really a minor factor.  The ultimate value and motive for us (to my view, at least) is the potential to establish a long-term relationship with a community of people in a previously unvisited area of Peru so that over the long-term we’ll be able to continually serve and teach Jesus in the area via the opportunities presented by the arrangement to have ongoing interaction.

This first trip to the area is certainly an opportunity to teach the gospel, but we hope it is a stepping stone for longer-term opportunities in the area.  I’ve been told the pastors who will be our guides are considering moving back to the area in order to help facilitate the future of the ministry there.

In addition to our experience there in Peru, the opportunity of bringing their coffee to Greeley will serve to establish here in Greeley a tangible representation of dear people and their community in Peru.  I hope that will promote conversations and interest in serving for the folks here in Greeley, increasing interest in missions opportunities in Peru, and providing the conversational setting for sharing the gospel more here in Greeley.

Of course, this is a new, unexplored potential for CCC and Peruvian missions up to this point, so it may be premature to set so much expectation/hope on this adventure at this point.

Therefore, I’m just trying to focus on the excitement of the immediate opportunity – to serve and share Jesus with a family of impoverished coffee farmers and their community.

Thanks for your support – even if that means you’re not led to give at this time.  I trust your hearts are turned toward the people of Peru and sharing the gospel with the world, and your questions are focused on that point.  I’m grateful for that.

Thanks!
Dale

some things I need to say to you

From: Dale Pratt <papaprattsboy@yahoo.com>
To: a friend
Sent: Wed, January 12, 2011 11:35:26 AM
Subject: Re: Happy Thursday

So, as I’m rehashing (as I always do) the blur of conversations over the last week and our recent faith discussions, I’m concluding there’s some things I need to say to you:
 
I want to be sure you understand that I’m not dismissing the significance of that event and its impact on your life, as well as your family.  Sometimes, in an effort to add humor to a discussion and ease the discomfort, my sense of humor, loaded with excess sarcasm, may lend itself to the impression that such matters are just trivial object lessons in the path of life.  That’s not the case – an inclination to dismiss.
 
Those events in many ways are object lessons, valuable for our growth and development, but they are by no means trivial.
 
We all have myriad daily moments which subtly but certainly serve to develop our behavior patterns and routines and perspectives and faith applications.  In addition to those, though, God seems to add a mix a heavy ingredients (whether by direct cause or passive allowance, a theological quagmire we’ll avoid for this conversation) – icons in our experiences which become major shocks to our systems, causing wild changes in direction, perspective, attitude, physical capability, and all of that is directed at our faith application.
 
As we look back over our life stories, these icons are the defining elements of the landscape, both circumstantially and emotionally.  In the future, we should certainly expect more of those, but not spend unbalanced energy worrying about them or preparing defenses against them.  They will come.  We should be prudent but not obsessive.
 
For you, of course, this event is a defining, iconic moment, added to a few others in your life.
 
It is not trivial, and not a ploy in God’s game of life for you to invoke some simple, object lesson that can be easily defined or articulated.  God doesn’t fit well into platitudes.  This is not trite or playful, and the message is not “stop whining!”
 
What he is doing now, in you, through this, cannot be discerned clearly in the midst of the experience, if ever – though I’m sure you’ll have better perspective as your distance from it grows.
 
You will gradually assimilate this tragic, defining experience into your life, taking years potentially to get over the bad taste left behind and the indigestion it brings so violently.
 
It will, even more than it has already, become part of you completely – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  There are no aspects of it which will be entirely pleasant, and there are none that should be avoided.  In other words, you should not isolate part of the experience and its potential impact on you into some desolate corner of your soul and bind it to evade its influence.  Not all today, but eventually, all of it must be allowed to roam freely among your spaces.  You have to become friends with it.  You have to examine it from every vantage point, appreciate its subtle bouquet, break it down into small, applicable pieces and rehearse the responses it evokes from within you, then break those down and examine those.  Thankfully, not all of that requires conscious effort, but all of it is required.
 
This is the essence of trust.  Naked and not ashamed.  Not afraid.  Not destroyed.  Not debilitated.  Not diminished, but enhanced.
 
That does not require you to determine whether, much less to say that, God caused such calamity, but it does require you to have the trust and confidence that he’s redeeming it and making it valuable in you.
 
That’s the point.  That’s why this is perfect.
 
From him to whom much is given, much is required.
 
The evidence of trust is not known by the life without trouble.  The evidence and practice of trust is known in the life lived abundantly – in all dimensions of the human experience:  heights of joy and depths of sorrow.  In such territory, trust is developed, challenged, proven, and found legitimate.
 
I don’t want you to ever think I’m dismissing your concerns.  I can’t do it, though I’ll try.  I can’t know every element and detail, as you do, but I’m with you.
 
Happy Wednesday!
Dale