And they’re out!
Marriage tends to be a popular topic this time of year—June is the busiest month for tying the knot—but earlier this month marriage made the news among evangelical circles for surprising reasons. The first was an article from Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church and wife of Rick Warren, in which she confessed she and her husband had spent many years living out a marital hell. The second came from Lysa Terkeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, when she announced that she was divorcing her husband of 25 years due to infidelity and substance abuse.
Reading honest depictions of the struggles of marriage from two women who, from the outside, seem to have both the marriage and spiritual living thing all figured out, is not just refreshing, it’s essential: Those who are dating and considering marriage need to know that marriage is a long road, filled with both joy and sorrow, pain and healing and that, sometimes, there is no happily ever after.
In other words, marriage is not an institution for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. So what if you’ve met the partner of your dreams, and the two of you are beginning to talk about the “M” word? It’s important to know if you’re truly prepared to tie the knot and give your best toward a healthy, happy marriage for decades to come.
But how do you know when you’re ready, let alone when your partner is? Read my five signs for marriage readiness at Relevant Magazine.
I almost ignored it.
I was raking thatch out back, watching the kids pretend long, fallen branches left over from winter storms were light sabers, and our willow tree Darth Vader. Vader had won this battle and the kids were headed in, the youngest crying at his loss, when I saw something shimmery and black wiggle a little in the grass. I thought for a second it was a trick of the light, but then remembered the baby copperhead we found a couple of months ago and figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
Three steps later and I was staring at a mostly naked baby mouse, no mama mouse in sight.
I had no idea what to do. It was too young and cute for me to have the typical “mouse” reaction, and besides, it was barely breathing, let alone moving. What could it possibly do?
I dropped my rake and ran in, calling for the kids to come outside. Aaron resisted at first, still crying but now sitting at the kitchen island. “But Aaron,” I said. “It’s a baby mouse!”
If that mouse does nothing else in its entire life, it can always say it stopped a four-year-old’s tears.
The three of us went to look, the kids getting too close, while I went through the various scenarios in my head.
We couldn’t kill it. And we couldn’t keep it. And we couldn’t just dump it over the fence and make it someone else’s problem. Maybe drive it to a field and let it go? No. It was too little; it would die.
I decided to call Andy, who was still at work, but thankfully his office is in our basement so he didn’t have far to travel when I said, “Come to the backyard ASAP, please.”
He didn’t know what to do, either.
“If we leave it alone its mom might come back,” he said.
“No.” I’ve worked with neglected children long enough to see the signs, even in a 5-inch long rodent. “It’s been abandoned. It’s going to die.”
We took pictures. We hemmed and hawed. We told the kids not to get too close or to touch. We shushed all the pleadings to take on a new pet.
“I’m making an executive decision,” Andy said.
I immediately got nervous. I don’t do executive decision too well, unless I’m the executive.
“We’re leaving it alone to see if its mom comes back. I’ll check on it in a couple of hours.”
We agreed and went in the house, but went straight to the window overlooking the shiny, black, clearly dying lump of almost-hairlessness in our backyard.
I started dinner.
The kids and Andy played Uno.
The dog wanted out.
“Oh no. He might eat the mouse.”
“He wouldn’t eat a mouse.”
“He tried to eat the copperhead.”
“Yeah, but snakes are tasty.”
“Well, Winston eating it might save the mouse from something worse.”
Rachel started screaming.
“I’m also worried about Winston bringing mouse-mouth into the house!”
Rachel was still screaming.
“We aren’t going to let him eat the mouse, Rachel. Sit at the window to play cards. If Winston gets near the mouse tell me and I’ll get him.”
Winston didn’t eat the mouse. He didn’t even try to.
I kept cooking and they kept playing cards. Every 5 to 10 minutes, one of us would check on the mouse to see if it was still breathing. It always was.
As I cooked I thought, what are we doing? This is crazy. A month from now I’d try to kill that mouse if I saw it. We have mouse traps in our basement for crying out loud. And babies are always cute. Then they grow up and turn into adults and sometimes become completely unlikeable.
This was a baby. Its eyes were still closed. It wriggled and writhed in the grass, clearly rooting for its mama and her milk.
I called Petco.
“No, we don’t take wild animals. Sorry.”
I called our vet.
“No, we don’t take wild animals. Sorry.”
I started to say thank you and hang up.
“But let me give you a number,” I heard just in time. I wrote it down, but it was 4:55 on a Friday. What could be done?
I called the number anyway and got a woman’s voicemail telling me she was only accepting baby birds on a limited basis. She didn’t mention mice, I thought, so that must mean she’s taking them in droves. Score! I left a message.
We ate. We checked the mouse. We told the kids to eat. We checked the mouse. We finished dinner. We checked the mouse. We started to pick up. The phone rang.
It was the limited-number-of-birds lady.
“Sure. It won’t be the only mouse I’ve ever raised.”
She told me where to go – a town 30 minutes away. On a Friday. At rush hour. Right before the kids’ bedtime. And those kids also need baths.
She told me how to transport it safely. How to warm it if it were cold to the touch. How to cup it in my hands and rub life into it and give it sugar water in just the tiniest amounts because otherwise I could drown it.
I donned gloves. I filled a Tupperware with Kleenex. I grabbed a dipping bowl and medicine syringe and headed out back, the kids begging to do the work for me.
I noticed it had rained while we were eating. The mouse was now even slicker, shinier. Colder.
I scooped it into my hands.
“It’s a boy!” I said to the three people gaping at me through our open living room window.
I carried it inside. I laid it in its box. I let the kids touch it, ever so gently. I dribbled sugar water into its mouth.
“Was he cold when you touched it?” I asked the kids. They nodded.
I would now incubate a mouse.
And it worked. Slowly he started to wiggle more in my hands. His heartbeat became stronger. He twitched his little mouth and drank the sugar water. His ears – once flattened against his head – were somewhat softer. Perkier. After a few more minutes, he wriggled more. Became ever more alive. And I didn’t want to put him down. Feeling that life come into fuller being in the palm of my hand was … miraculous. Somewhat indescribable, although not entirely.
Eventually I put him in the Tupperware, leaving one corner open just like the limited-birds woman told me.
“Y’all better hurry. She said time was of the essence.”
But still I stood there, plastic box, tissue paper, and life grasped in my hand.
I told Rachel that she was the mouse keeper. She would have to be the one to keep him safe during the thirty-minute Hanauer Medi-Vac trip. Her smile was huge.
Aaron, however, sat at the table, sad.
“Should I take him?” Andy mouthed to me, gesturing slightly towards Aaron.
“Why not? It’s Friday. May as well.”
I said good-bye to Cuddles, placing him safely in the van, Rachel’s keen eye watching the whole time.
I turned to go in and saw a box against the garage. A delivery.
Well crap again. I knew already what was in it.
Inside, I grabbed the scissors, sliced open the box, and saw before me peppermint oil – mice don’t like it – and mouse traps. Ordered two days ago, BC: Before Cuddles. Before I became an incubator.
Earth Day is tomorrow. The next day is Sunday. I could hear the Sunday School lesson forming in my head as I stared at those traps, then realized I wasn’t teaching that week. What a shame. I’m sure there’s a lesson in this somewhere.
Just as I sat down to post this, the phone rang. I noticed the call was coming from the town 30 minutes away.
“Do you have a cat?”
It’s the bird lady.
“No, just a dog.”
“Well, he’s a bunny.”
“No, the mouse. He’s a bunny.”
Of course he is.
My six-year-old daughter is all in when it comes to Christianity, except for one little thing that she can’t quite come to terms with: The Trinity. The absence of a logical explanation for the three-in-one has left her grasping at words and ideas not unlike those used and argued over in the fourth century, when the definition of the Trinity we still hold today was born. I’ve given her demonstrations with rubber bands, shamrocks, unskilled drawings, Challah bread, and interlocking rings, but she remains dubious and confused. She cycles quickly from one heresy to another, the six-year-old embodiment of all that is confounding about this particular piece of orthodoxy.
She’s far from the only one, of course. That’s where Franciscan priest and contemplative Richard Rohr comes in.
Rohr has a way of putting into words what most people can only feel, but never articulate. His new book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, is no exception. In it he, along with Mike Morrell, invites readers to take a closer look at the mystery better known as the Holy Trinity.
The invitation is not to understand the Trinity – Rohr makes no true attempt to explain it in logical terms – but rather to experience Trinitarian “flow” firsthand, and thus know, innately, what it means to be “three-in-one.” For too long we’ve been content to carry this confounding dogma in our doxologies, our prayers, our hymns, without stopping to contemplate or fully appreciate the enormity of what is offered to us in this revolutionary and triune relationship of beings that describes the very heart and nature of God. Thus, Rohr writes, the time to further investigate the mystery is now.
You can read the rest of this review and more about Rohr’s exploration of the Trinity here. 🙂
Headlines this week have again been filled with the names of black men shot and killed by police officers, and — in at least one instance — protests have erupted in response. This has sadly become a known routine.
It is apparent that we are failing as a nation to see the image of God in those around us. This failure has become a deadly one.
In his new book, Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World, Leroy Barber tackles this failure head on, writing that we must learn to embrace, rather than disconnect from, “the other” if we are to achieve shalom.
He begins the journey to shalom in Babylon. Babylon, he writes, is a synonym for ungodly depravity and corruption. Yet the people of Israel were called to be there, living in discomfort among those different from themselves.
And that’s OK. God did not call them, and does not call us, to comfort. Instead, God calls us to hard work and hard places. Our deliverance does not come when God releases us from those places of division, but when we lean into them, fully accepting why we are there — not to share God with a godless people, but to learn and act on the essential lesson that we are all God’s people.
You can read more about Embrace in a time of division at Sojourners.
I’ve always thought of myself as a justice-oriented, do-gooder-type person, but over the years, I’ve become a bit fuzzy about what exactly that means. For example, most people would say it’s good to donate to charities and worthy causes, but how many times have charities and worthy causes misspent, misappropriated, or misjudged? What about donating goods after natural disasters? International adoptions? Microloans? Many things that sound good on the surface—and that are almost always well-intended—aren’t necessarily doing the good work we think they are. It also seems that far too often when someone says “justice,” what they really mean is good intentions and a quick fix.
In his new book, Slow Kingdom Coming, Kent Annan makes clear that good intentions can only take us so far, and that the work of building God’s kingdom is anything but quick. He writes, “we don’t want to think … that our good intentions are enough, as though God wouldn’t expect us to love our neighbors in the best possible way.” And the best possible way, he continues, is by creating deep and lasting change that, almost by definition, comes slowly.
You can read the rest of my review of Slow Kingdom Coming at Red Letter Christians.
I keep expecting someone to step out from behind a potted plant and say, “Smile! You’re on candid camera!” and then all of America will laugh and breathe a sigh of relief. After the nervous giggles pass and we finish pretending we knew it all along, we will go home and think long and hard about what would have happened had the whole thing been true.
And by “the whole thing,” I mean Donald Trump.
About an hour ago I learned that Ben Carson endorsed Trump. I was never a Carson fan, but from what I understand he isn’t a bad guy or anything. And clearly he’s brilliant, right? He’s a brain surgeon for crying out loud. He’s apparently also popular among “evangelicals,” which may just be the most over- and improperly used word in American media today.
Right now I’m watching a clip of a young black man being sucker punched in the face at a Trump rally by a long-haired man in a cowboy hat. This just a week or so after the Guy in the Red Hat went verbally psycho on Black Lives Matter protestors, and a couple of weeks after Chris Christie’s takeover by Trump-loving aliens.
Where’s a potted plant when you need one?
I’m about 99% sure that in 20 years we’re going to find out (assuming there’s no hidden camera, anyway) that this was all a conspiracy. I don’t know if Democrats paid Trump to run to ensure a Democrat would win, or if Trump is paying people to vote for and/or endorse him, or threatening their families, but something fishy must be going on here. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate.
Because that alternative is that there are a whole lot of people in America willing to vote for someone who, whether he himself is or isn’t, doesn’t mind giving off the air of a misogynistic, jingoistic, racist megalomaniac.
The hateful and insulting comments, the atrocious proposed policies, the lack of knowledge and experience to hold the most powerful office in the world, and all those other, more obvious scary Trump traits are one thing. The hate and violence and anger at his rallies and among his supporters are another. The “get ‘em out of heres,” and the “I want to punch him in the face,” and the screaming, punching, “go home” sign-wielding Americans frighten me, sadden me, overwhelm me, embarrass me, and sicken me. They drive me to an eschatological place I don’t want to be.
I get it to a certain point. He’s an outsider. He speaks him mind. His aura is one of success and confidence. He’s sort of like the bad boy/girl you might date in high school. You know what almost universally holds true about those relationships? They end. You don’t marry the bad guy/girl, or if you do, you regret it/get divorced/change the person/change yourself. Four to eight years of damaging, dangerous, and damning governance is a lot of regret. It’s also a long time to stay married to someone you can’t stand. That leaves two options: change him or change yourself.
I won’t say Trump won’t or can’t change. His efforts at self-moderation these last few days have been apparent. Clearly he gets that he needs to be “more presidential,” but in the end, he ends up right where he started: acting as the lowest common denominator. I won’t pretend to know Trump’s internal affairs, but if I had to guess, I’d say the odds of him changing are pretty darn low. So then, will he change me? Will he change us? Change America? I’d like to think he can’t. That even if elected that we’d somehow stand strong against him, singing Kumbaya in front of the White House while patchouli wafts through the air and babies coo from their mama’s and daddy’s slings and front packs and toddlers munch on homemade gluten-free granola.
But I never have liked the smell of patchouli and my kids are far too big for slings and front packs. I can also hear the bullhorn now: “Get ‘em out of here!”
It’s scary folks, really scary. This isn’t about electing a politician with whom we disagree, even on very, very important things such as cluster bombs. Perhaps it sounds extreme, but I would go so far as to say that this is about good vs. evil. Not that Trump is evil, or that Trump supporters are evil. No, I’m not saying that. What I’m saying is, have you ever read Lord of the Flies? Remember Piggy? When you put a lot of non-evil people who have some not-too-kind ideas together in a big melting pot and stir them together—viola!—you get something pretty darn ugly.
Since I still don’t see a potted plant anywhere around, and since I may not ever know if there’s a conspiracy or not, I’m going to have to assume that this is real. Trump himself may be fake—I suspect that in many ways he is—but the voters… the voters are real. If they are both real and numerous enough to put Trump in the White House, I will be so scared, so sad, and so morally wounded that I may have to learn to bake my own granola and enjoy the smell of patchouli. But I’m still not putting my kids in a front pack.