Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Deep






deep adj. \dep\
1. very intense or extreme
2. profound or penetrating in awareness or understanding

I love the word deep. It makes me think of rich long conversations with my husband. It's sitting with a girlfriend and listening for hours to a heart poured out. Deep can't be superficial. Deep is vulnerable and thoughtful and often intense. Deep asks penetrating questions. Deep can also be still...it goes to places long buried. It is roots down "deep" in the dark earth.

Matthew is at his first summer sleepover camp this week. Thankfully he is up in the Winter Park, Colorado area which seems to be one of the few places in Colorado not on fire. He heard about Deep Camp at a school chapel and immediately knew he wanted to go. He had second thoughts on the way up to Snow Mountain Ranch, but by the time he got all his check-in stuff done and I was leaving, he was already busy playing frisbee with other campers. I exchanged Facebook messages with him yesterday and he's having a great time. I can't wait to pick him up Friday and hear all about it on teh two-hour drive home.

I hope he's had a deep experience.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life is a...

Image

The Joy of Margin


One of the things I am loving about being underemployed is that I have regained margin in my life. I have time for lots of people and even things I just love to do. The stress of an overscheduled life is less true of me today. My motto of "people over projects" is now more real to me than ever before.

Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin like this in his terrific book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances. We don’t want to be under-achievers (heaven forbid!), so we fill our schedules uncritically. Options are as attractive as they are numerous, and we overbook.

If we were equipped with a flashing light to indicate “100 percent full,” we could better gauge our capacities. But we don’t have such an indicator light, and we don’t know when we have overextended until we feel the pain. As a result, many people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy. It is rare to see a life prescheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My New Best Friend

I am in love. I have a new best friend. And its name is Fiskars (Weed Remover). It pulls weeds without killing my back. It faithfully snags all my weeds with such ease I don't know how I've gardened all these years without it.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

From 2lbs. to 16 in the Blink of an Eye

It's been 16 years since Matthew was born. So on this important milestone day, I celebrate his birth and the memories of all that transpired that crazy summer 16 years ago.

August 1996 (A letter sent to family and friends)
Well, you may have heard by now that little Matthew has arrived! In fact, he’s actually a little over two months old, born June 19, and has more than doubled his birth weight of 2lbs. 4oz. and 15 inches long!  The saga of Laura’s pregnancy began around Christmas 1995. So for those who already know many of the details, please bear with us as we update those who missed the blow-by-blow.
November 1995 was a tough month for the Taylors. Our fertility doctor informed us that after practically two years of trying to have a baby, “our odds” of conceiving on our own were very small. We’d dreamed of children from the beginning of our marriage and this was a big blow. So, with a desire to leave no stone unturned we began preparation for Invitro Fertilization to begin in January (1996).  It was at that time Laura’s prayer turned to a difficult, but confident acceptance that in spite of all the wonderful technology available to us today, God is still the author of life and can overcome the most dire odds to create life.
Well, Christmas came and went and we counted the days before our IVF cycle would begin.  Then on December 28 Laura quietly, fearfully, and with a bit of sick dread for the anticipated and familiar disappointment, took a home pregnancy test…and it came out positive. We were in shock. And so was our fertility doctor when we shared the news. God again demonstrated that He is a God of genesis…new life.
My one pregancy picture...on bedrest
Six months of nausea, colds, migraines. Ugh! Somehow we thought (naively) that since we’d been through so much trying to conceive that the pregnancy itself might be smooth. No such luck! The “fun” was only beginning. In late May (1996) Laura found herself at the doctor’s office midday with contractions. Nothing serious, they went away and she was told to take the next two days off. Then on June 5 at her next OB appointment the first signs of trouble revealed itself…creeping blood pressure and protein in her urine, clear signs of preeclampsia. She was told at 26 weeks gestation that she would not be returning to work for the duration of the pregnancy – hopefully 14 more weeks!
By week 28 her blood pressure was 170/116 and things were going downhill fast. Thursday, June 14, Laura was admitted to Stanford University Hospital. It’s at times like these that we actually can thank God for our mortgage payment in this “most expensive housing market” location…Stanford’s in our backyard. If we were going to have this baby early, this is where we wanted to be. To say we were scared would be an understatement. This was the baby we’d longed for and we were only just entering the last trimester.
Within two hours of admission the doctors at Stanford were giving Laura the first of two betamethasone shots – steroids to help the baby’s lung development in the event of a premature delivery. The neonatal team visited us in the middle of the night to prep us on what to expect from a preemie of barely 2 lbs. We got more scared. It became apparent that they didn’t expect Laura to “wait out” the pregnancy in the hospital. The race was on to prolong the pregnancy and give Matthew his best chance for life. Ultrasounds showed he was a very small baby even for his gestational age…another cause for concern.
Daily ultrasounds, hourly blood pressure and hyper reflex checks (another sign of the disease advancing) and ongoing fetal monitoring. Then on Tuesday, June 18 the blood stopped flowing through the umbilical cord and the decision was made to do a cesarean. When you know your baby is going to be born in the next 24 hours, 10 ½ weeks early, weighing probably about 2 lbs., it shakes your expectations about becoming a parent. They kept telling us about the amazing things they can do for preemies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)…but two pounds! Laura described his anticipated size as two medium potatoes lying end to end. People we didn’t even know were praying for us, and we needed it.
The Polaroid pictures taped to my bed since I was too sick to go see him
At 3:30 p.m., Wednesday June 19, Matthew was born. The neonatal team took him immediately; all we saw was this extremely tiny body being lifted out of Laura’s stomach. We heard one small cry before he was whisked away. He looked smaller than a child’s doll. Laura was then put on a magnesium sulfate drip for 24 hours and what Laura can only describe as physical and emotional misery. The bright spot was Todd’s constant movement back and forth between her room and the NICU and Todd’s glowing exclamations of how beautiful he was…Laura contented herself with Polaroid pictures since it would be two more days before she could see her son.
Momma and Matthew
Daddy with the boy in the green cap



















Thus began phase three in Matthew’s joining our family—daily trips to Stanford. As with all babies, Matthew lost weight that first week dropping to a mere 1 lb. 15 oz.  He was so tiny and sported a huge green knit cap to help keep his body temperature from slipping. Although tiny, the doctors’ proclaimed him to be in remarkably good shape with amazingly healthy lungs, but the prognosis was guarded as with all babies that small. Daily Laura held Matthew as part of Kangaroo Care: Matthew in only a diaper and hat would nestle against Laura’s bare chest. Her body temperature not only would keep him warm but also provide important skin-to-skin contact that helps preemies thrive. On July 3, two weeks after his birth Matthew was moved to the INN (Intermediate Intensive Care Nursery). This was an important step toward going home, and testimony that he was doing remarkably well.

Matthew out of the incubator...finally!
But, the morning of July 6 had the Taylors racing back to the emergency room at Stanford. Laura was in severe pain and could barely speak. After ruling out gall bladder and kidney problems, the ER doctors began to suspect pulmonary embolism. After numerous tests, it was confirmed that she had not one but two life-threatening blood clots, one in each lung and a third still in her pelvis. Laura was in the hospital for a week while the clots were dissolved. It was that weekend that Matthew flirted with trouble and was transferred back to the NICU for tests to rule out problems. Todd had his hands full and for the first time showed the wear and tear with both his wife and son’s lives on the line. Well thankfully Matthew needed only a blood transfusion (common for preemie since they aren’t mature enough to manufacture their own blood) and Laura needed time.
Going home day -- a wee bit over 4 lbs.
The next six weeks are now a blurry memory of daily trips to nurture Matthew. Like most preemies he struggled with apnea and bradycardis episodes where his breathing would stop and his heart rate would fall. Because he was gestationally so young, he could not immediately coordinate sucking and swallowing and had to be gavage fed (with a feeding tube). Once learned, the really difficult task for a preemie is coordinating sucking, swallowing and breathing all at the same time. Slowly Matthew passed each developmental milestone, never once succumbing to infection, brain bleeds or other complications of prematurity. We were blessed beyond measure to have a pediatrician who came to the hospital daily to manage Matthew’s care (and provide Mom and Dad with encouragement). Right from the start Dr. Greene assured us that Matthew was an amazing preemie and should have no long-term problems.
Well Matthew came home on August 11. We’re just like every other new family with an infant – not getting much sleep. As of August 21 he had grown to 5 lbs., 17 ¼ inches. We are so thankful to God for his loving care for us, who gave us the beautiful child, Matthew James, whose name means “gift of God.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Saint Patrick's Breastplate




 
 
Saint Patrick's Breastplate is a Christian hymn whose original Old Irish lyrics were traditionally attributed to Saint Patrick during his Irish ministry in the 5th century; however, it was probably actually written later, in the 8th century. It is part of the Liber Hymnorum, a collection of hymns found in two manuscripts kept in Dublin. (source: Wikipedia) 
 
 
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Gospel of Yes

As you know by now if you've read some of my blog, I read books for a variety of publishers and post reviews of new books. Personally I'm one of those sorts who tries to blog with this old school mom-advice in mind: if you can't say any thing nice about someone, don't say it at all. 

So...The Gospel of Yes by Mike Glenn puts me in a quandry. I didn't really like the book. I was bored. His theology (and I absolutely believe that God is all about yes and gets a bum rap that he's all about no) seems indulgent. It misses the Yes in sacrifice and waiting and pain. Argh. And it reads slow.

Okay, there, I've done it. So let me tell you what I liked if you are brave enough to read on. I actually really liked his introduction. He tells his personal story as a pastor about leading a church in crisis. He leads a very wealthy church in Tennessee...my husband is on a pastoral team at a very poor church in urban Denver. Yet, I was encouraged because through Mike's story I saw that my husband is in his sweet spot of ministry --  thoroughly mixed up in the lives of people, teaching the Word regularly, counseling, walking alongside, fielding late night phone calls...loving people. It's messy and hard but he is doing it faithfully every day. He receives very little pay and no benefits. He has few choices in what he can "farm out" to other people. If there' s a breakfast gathering, he buys the food out of that meager salary; there is no church budget for these things and our people are poor. Mike's conclusion in his story was to just do what he's good at and give the rest to others.

Okay enough said - I really was encourage by the introduction and agree that we do the best for our congregations and others when we focus on what we are good at.

As always, here are a few quotes to give you a flavor of the book:

"If we understand who we are created to be in Christ, we realize we have an all-consuming calling. Our calling -- our "yes" in Christ -- is what focuses our lives and determines how we invest our lives." (p. 14)

"Getting to know your "yes" allows you to ask one simple question of everything that comes along: does it help me get where I am going? If it does, then choose it. If not, then drop it." (p.15)

"What makes life increasingly difficult is to know what you are against without knowing what you are for." (p. 15)

"Committing yourself to the "yes" of Christ isn't losing everything but letting go of all the wrong things." (p. 15)

"Every yes carries with it a no, and no defines our limits as created beings." (p. 22)

"As long as out first thought is What do I need to avoid?, the guiding influence in our lives is sin, not Christ." (p. 28)

Sadly, while there is good in this book, it's just not meaty enough for my tastes.

(Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Praying with the Grain

How does your personality type affect the way you pray? That's the subtitle of my latest read: Praying with the Grain by Dr. Pablo Martinez. And of course I loved that John Stott wrote the forward - added credibility.

I thought I was in for another traditional  book on prayer - one of many in a cluster of books in my library. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is an intriging, unusual, thoughtful, and altogether different book on prayer than I suspect you may ever read.

The opening section is all about personality types and from a doctor's perspective how those unique characteristics and preferences affect our approach to prayer...and the potential problems that may ensue. Really interesting stuff. Particularly good presentation on introverts and extroverts.

But then Dr. Martinez takes us on a most interesting journey discussing prayer and psychology, side by side and intertwined. There is so much scripture and terrific quotes by people from Teresa of Avila to Paul Tournier to Larry Crabb to Richard Foster - I was amazed at the variety and breadth of references. All very spot on in my opinion. I was underlining on nearly every page. New ways of approaching and discussing a topic that has probably been written about more than any other.

I don't often do this but the table of contents is worth sharing here:

Part 1: The Psychology of Prayer
  1. Different prayers for different people (Prayer in relation to temperament)
  2. Overcoming difficulties (Emotional problems and prayer)
  3. The therapeutic value of prayer (Prayer - a love relationship)
  4. Questions & answers
Part 2: The Apologetics of Prayer
  1. Prayer: psychological illusion? (A psychiatrist's viewpoint)
  2. Are all prayers alike? (Christian prayer and Eastern meditation)
I want to share some excerpts but first let me say, I really enjoyed this book and believe I'll be refering back to it in the future (I can't say that about every book on prayer I read). At times the psychological talk got tedious but there is great meat to chew on.

Here's an example, however, of how practical and prescriptive the book is as well:

In responding to the issue of how to get started in prayer and the challenge that presents for some: "Try writing down your prayers. One practical exercise I often recommend is to write down two good things that happened today: perhaps some good news, a conversation of any form of blessing for which you feel happy and grateful. Then do the same with two reasons for concern or anxiety. Now you are ready for a short prayer." (p.58)

He goes on to say to those who feel hypocritical in prayer because they aren't "feeling it:" "My recommendation, then, is basically the same one that I recommend for those who have problems with starting to prayer: begin praying, regardless of what you feel. It is better to begin praying, though you don't feel like it, than not to pray at all. Prayer is primarily an expression not of my inner well-being, but of my love towards God. I do not pray when I feel well; I pray because I love the Lord." (p.66)

I commend Dr. Martinez for his presentation on the differences between Christian prayer and Eastern meditation. It is logical and thoughtful, and in my opinion quite helpful. Here is one excerpt that I found particularly good:

"Eastern meditation is fundamentally passive; one gives oneself completely, simply letting go. The person seeks to disconnect, to emply himself or herself. As Gaius Davies, a psychiatrist, says, it "puts the mind, as it were in neutral gear." Here, the differences are also absolute. Christian prayer is not a technique, nor is it passive. It is an active process by which the person is fully occupied with God's truth. It does not seek to empty the mind but to fill it. It does not seek to lose the attention but to concentrate it. It does not seek relaxation. It does not consist of letting ideas float without a fixed direction, but of setting them on concrete realities: the person of God, his works, his promises, his commandments. This establishes the framework within which meditation is developed. It is not an excursion without borders, or an aimless journey in which a map and compass are lacking." (p.162)

I had coffee with a friend yesterday and she asked what I was reading...after a brief discussion (not unlike what I've shared with you here) she immediately got on her Kindle app and bought the book to read this weekend. I think she'll like it or at lease be challenged by it.

(Note: Thank you Kregel Publications for providing this book to me for review purposes)