Plane Coffee Mom

Chatting about Mission Aviation over coffee

Tag: grace (Page 1 of 2)

Safe Places

Safe places: places like your mother’s lap when you were young, the attic that kept you warm while out of sight, the friend who listened to your dashed dreams with tears in her eyes, the closet where you hid when a stranger knocked on the door, and the family that embraces you. For some of us, inside four walls is safe while for others a wide open field or a trail in the woods feels more secure. The one thing that is constant is that we all need safe places, and when we are in danger we look for them.

Our physical location is important and so are the people who surround us. Safe people create safe places. As I read the Gospels I see Jesus as a Safe Person for those who were broken or seeking. Even Judas was given access to walk with Jesus for several years. I think part of the Church’s calling is to be a safe place, a place of refuge for those in need and pain. Yet sometimes it is not so.

Years ago a young woman told me about a time when she was searching for God.* She was raised in a good family, but she felt abandoned and life was painful. Her questions were deep and hard. She knew God had the answers and she went on a quest to find Him. Not being part of a local Body at that point, she simply visited churches. Not during services, but when she thought she could find a quiet place to seek God on her own. A large, ornate church in the middle of town caught her attention. However, it was locked. A small, friendly-looking church on a side street called to her. Unfortunately the door was chained shut. At one church she found an open door and a place to pray. Soon someone came to question what she was doing, and she quickly left, no closer to answers than when she entered. She tried Sundays, but they were little better. The loneliness she experienced in the throng of worshipper was deeper than the pain of being alone. At another church she arrived early and sat in a pew only to be asked to move by an older gentleman because, “this is where I always sit.” At another church she was followed around as she made her way to the restroom before entering the auditorium: she had simply stopped by and wasn’t dressed for Sunday service. The man who trailed her wore a gun only partially hidden, obviously protecting the normal crowd from people like her. As she traveled, she stopped by church after church, and she couldn’t find what she was looking for.

Eventually she found solace and a connection with God in public parks, standing among the trees and wandering the lonely paths. It wasn’t church, but God seemed to be there. One day in a distant city she drove by a beautiful park. The beauty of God’s summer was on display in well-tended flower gardens and properly pruned trees and shrubs. It was beautiful. When she had some free time, she drove across town to enjoy the park and find rest and answers for her weary soul. A large gate welcomed her, and she had barely begun to walk the well-trimmed path when she was approached by a monk, “Welcome. How can I bless you today?” he said. It was a Buddhist temple, not a park after all. This was not God’s place. She left disheartened by the fact that she had been offered more blessing and welcome in this place than in the places where the God of the Bible was preached.

This story brought tears to my eyes and hot anger to my heart. Why can we not do better? What have I  locked up that should have been open, what have I carefully saved that God wanted to spend? What am I bearing arms against, either mentally or physically, that is meant to be welcomed? What do I need to lay down in order to bless the hurting with open arms?

We are the Church, and how we choose to manage our buildings and spaces communicates profoundly to a hurting world. May we be a safe people who create safe places.

*details changed to protect privacy

The Street Corner

We recently took a trip to Seattle and Garry dropped me off at one of my favorite coffee shops. I ordered a drink and did some people watching. Beside me was a guy with a guitar and dreads laboring over a small notebook. I noticed how the barista acted like the bar was a shield between her and the customers. In the corner sat an older man working diligently on his computer between smoke breaks.  I did some writing. I enjoyed the experience, and Garry was due to pick me up soon. Due to the parking situation I decided to wait for him outside.

I stepped out of the welcoming coffee shop and on to the street corner. It was a handy place to stand because I could see traffic in so many directions. But it was cold, and in less than two minutes I began to feel awkward.

A younger guy who was high on something stumbled by. A well-dressed guy kept eying me  while acting like he was doing something on his phone. A scantily dressed woman walked by, swinging her hips and trying to catch the eye of the guy just down the street. Two guys sauntered by, holding hands and looking into one another’s eyes. I looked behind me and saw a small band of poorly dressed young adults apparently fighting over something they were examining from an old grocery bag. An older lady, shabbily dressed but with steps of purpose, walked by carrying her groceries.

Garry didn’t come.Both our phones were nearly dead, and for just a moment I imagined what it would be like if he never came back. Seattle with no money in a less-than-desirable neighborhood. Suddenly I knew that my few “good ideas” about downtown were sorely disconnected from reality. I imagined how hard it would be to actually get out of this neighborhood if you were born here. I imagined what kind of help you might need to get a better job, how much effort it would be to change your self-perceptions, and the long journey to better habits. The complexity of the conversation hit me hard.

Soon Garry came and we returned to our safe world. The mental photos and haunted feelings remain as a reminder to pray for so many who are caught and for those who reach out to them.

Old while Young

I felt old as a teenager and ancient in my early twenties. My memories of pain-free days as a young mom are few and far between. Now in my forties, I feel younger than I did two decades ago. While it strikes me as strange sometimes, it shouldn’t surprise me. Until my early thirties I struggled with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Every day began with the same mantra, “I can do this. I can make it through another day.”

All that changed with a simple, faith-filled prayer late one night. There had been many simple, faith-filled prayers before that one, but that night God answered in a miraculous way. Things changed. I woke the next morning with energy and a new hope for the day. I’ve been sick, I’ve been discouraged, I’ve been weary since then, but neither the chronic fatigue nor the fibromyalgia has returned. It’s an undeserved blessing, one for which I am grateful every day.

I would hate to return to the fatigue of those years, and yet I would hate to live these years without those experiences. There are so many things I learned in that time that I need every day. God used sickness in a powerful way to dispel my independence and to teach me about prayer. I began to learn about empathy as I lay exhausted on the couch, trying to pay attention to my two-year-old. I had to say “no” more times than I can count, and yet it’s a skill that still comes hard to me. Sickness taught me to value the temple that our bodies are and to take care of myself and others in ways that have proved valuable.

Chronic illness was a school that taught me things I would have otherwise have had no interest in learning. It pushed me into places that I would not have chosen to go. It changed my perception of myself and of others. In some ways, I experienced age before my time and am now given the opportunity to live my real age.

What has caught my attention lately is how common this is. Maybe not the exact circumstances, but the reality that we experience things for a purpose. Today’s trials have every opportunity to be tomorrow’s joys. Today’s hardship is training for tomorrow’s joy, and for tomorrow’s challenges. What we do with today matters, not only for how well we’ll sleep tonight but also for how well equipped we will be for tomorrow and the days, weeks and months that follow.

Risk and Danger

I woke up last night in a cold sweat, heart pounding. I had been cornered. I was caught. And I had no clue what would happen next. Thankfully, the next thing that happened was waking up in my own bed, safety beneath my warm blanket.

It got me thinking. I’ve lived with danger. I’ve done risky things. Some of the most dangerous things didn’t feel dangerous, and some of the least dangerous felt very risky. I’ve been scared in perfectly safe darkness and felt safe in a spot that proved risky. When Garry talks about risk management there are two key factors– the probability that something will go wrong and how serious the effects of a failure would be.

There is a cobra in Paraguay, for instance, that is one of the most deadly but least dangerous snakes in the world. A bite is usually fatal, but they seldom bite. I think it was one of these snakes that five children under the age of nine encountered in our back yard. I persuaded them that neither playing with nor attacking snakes was a good idea at their ages and maturity levels. They came inside. The snake left. End of story.

It was scary, at least to me. My son, on the other hand, complained to my husband that I never let him do anything. I considered never letting the boys outside. I thought I should watch them more. I wondered what I would do if something happened to them. In the end, I realized that keeping boys in the house can be more dangerous than letting them play outside. You see, boys need fresh air, space, exercise, and adventures. Andrew Petersen catches the wonder in this song, Little Boy Heart Alive.

In a culture that is often averse to risk, dependent on insurance, and in love with comfort, the thought of a life overseas can be scary. Missionary life seems risky. Mission aviation feels dangerous. The unknown is scary. The truth is, boys need to leave the house and sometimes we need to venture into the unknown. Faith needs the unknown to grow. We need challenges to get stronger. From this vantage point, the most dangerous thing I can think of is not going where you’re led, not following God’s direction for today, or not embarking on journeys you are meant to take.

Not only do we need to grow, we need to see God. When there are no other options, we see God at work. When we cannot control things, we realize that God has a plan. After all, there’s difference between watching the storm through the picture window in the living room and standing outside in the midst of it. Vicariously adventuring with the latest reality TV show is not the same as going yourself. And there’s nothing like adventure to change us and grow our faith.

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