Meat, Potatoes, & Creative Juices

Of all the things I should be doing right now, this probably isn’t one of them. Papers need grading, a bladder needs emptying, and posters need laminating. C’est la vie…

Last night I cooked homemade mashed potatoes & filet mignon. I was quite proud of my taters…since it was my first try at making them myself. This goes to show you how lazy I am – peeling, quartering, boiling, mashing, & seasoning seem like so much effort – but it was totally worth it. The meat, however…I thought might be poisoned. I’ve grilled this stuff (same cut, same brand) before & it came out perfect. Last night, it didn’t look right, and didn’t smell right. I’m not talking putrid Upton Sinclair’s jungle-meat, but enough to make me wonder if I’d spend the rest of the night sick. Mark inhaled his with no problem, even after several, “Are you sure this doesn’t smell weird to you?” inquiries on my part. I ate two pieces, then focused on gorging myself with mashed potatoes. He finally forked one of my pieces, popped it in his mouth, and after a couple of chews deposited it in the trash. I lived through the night, so I guess it wasn’t rotten to the point of poison.

Mr. Mystery Meat caused me to ponder… I started thinking: How can two cuts of meat in the same package be so different? Granted, they were vacuum sealed apart from each other, but still! Just goes to show things aren’t always what they seem. People are the same way, we may look delicious – all wrapped in bacon & dripping with juice – but may be rotten to the core. How often am I a whitewashed tomb, full of dead men’s bones and everything else unclean? Chew on that.

Spring break is now a distant memory and summer is only 66 days away. I’ve lived life semester-to-semester since I was five years old, so at this point I can’t imaging having to work during the summer. Every year when the administrators send out the summer school job opening list, I ponder applying for all of ten seconds…then think Who am I kidding? and delete it. All last week I got to pretend I was a stay-at-home-wife, which only makes me more eager for this summer. One of my favorite things is planning surprises for Mark, and I realize most of those take place when my brain isn’t full of Romeo & Juliet. I’ve already planned our July 4th getaway to Fredericksburg, and am ready to sit by the pool and read until my eyeballs ooze out of my head. Personal free time will one day be a thing of the past; the day will come when I’m worried about other things oozing out of diapers. In the meantime, I’ll focus my creative juices on spontaneous picnics; wine, cheese, and cracker nights; snuggling my guts out; planning mini-weekend getaways; and trying to turn everyday things into Mark & Robin Adventures. My daily goal (at which I often fail miserably) is to love Mark in ways that are unique, tangible, genuine, and sacrificial; I look forward to two months of uninterrupted goal meeting!

March Madness

Basketball fans are busy with brackets – cheering and jeering the Sweet Sixteen.
Christians are busy with theology – defending and defying Rob Bell’s salvation.
A family is overwhelmed with life – mourning their young daughter’s tragic death and waiting at their older daughter’s hospital bed.

All of a sudden, arguing over brackets and beliefs seems quite pointless. In the grand scheme of things, they always have been, currently are, and always will be pointless.

Duke versus Michigan doesn’t matter.
Calvinism versus If-you’re-not-like-me-you-are-wrong-ism is a waste of time.

I’ve been reading Rob Bell’s latest book, which we all know has come under fire. However, most Christians don’t stop at disagreeing with his ideas, they go on to personal attacks and judgment…seems a bit ridiculous.  Had friends and family not asked me to give my opinion on Love Wins, I wouldn’t have taken the time since there are more important matters at hand…which I will discuss momentarily.

Since I’ve actually read the thing, I can say with confidence that he’s not the devil. Bell never says There is no heaven or There is no hell. On the contrary, he states that “Jesus consistently confirmed heaven as a real place…” (pg. 42), and that hell “describes[s] the very real consequences we experience when we reject…God” (pg. 93). Additionally, he provides indepth discussion on the Hebrew word Sheol, mentioned in Psalm 18. Christ’s explanations of hell would have been based heavily on Sheol, considering he was a rock star in Hebrew school.

Do I think Mr. Bell hung the moon? No. Do I enjoy reading his books? Yes. I agree with Eugene Peterson in that he doesn’t “[compromise] an inch of evangelical conviction.” Do I consider myself his “student”? Nah. Will I read the next four books he has in the works? You betcha!

What he actually does say is pretty spot-on: “All that matters is how you respond to Jesus” (pg. 7). In regards to the age to come, the most important thing is our response to Christ’s grace here and now. What matters most is the way we love others based on our acceptance of Grace – not how vehemently we agree or disagree with someone’s theology.

Another statement Bell never made (but is being accused of) is that people don’t have to choose God prior to death. The last few chapters of Revelation tell us “the gates of that city in that new world will ‘never shut'” from which Bell makes this connection: “If the gates are never shut, then people are free to come and go” (pg. 114-15). His point is not to say we have a chance to call a post-mortem I changed my mind timeout regardless of decisions made in life; he merely states it could be a possibility. Considering we don’t know anyone who’s ever returned from hell for a testimony to confirm or deny this, posing the question is not heresy.

Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires (pg. 115).

The thing I most agree with in Love Wins is this statement: “Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death.” To that, I say touche! When people limit themselves to farsighted vision, they may miss what’s right in front of them: human suffering.

While there are countless other points I could go on to make, I’ll stop here. I feel as though I’ve addressed the hot-button issues trending on Twitter and Facebook.

Human suffering causes all else to take a back seat. While we fast-forward through DVR’d games and discuss theology, there is a father, a mother, and a brother experiencing a pain most of us can’t begin to imagine. This past August, their youngest daughter died from complications incurred in a car accident. After a week of sitting by her hospital bed, holding her hand, stroking her hair, and crying out to God for a miracle, they had to plan this sweet girl’s funeral. Through their unbearable pain, I watched them praise God for blessing them with her life. Through tears, they were able to laugh at the memories and testify to God’s goodness, mercy, and love.

This week, their older daughter was in a skiing accident. She is currently in ICU. An all-too-familiar scene is playing out for this family… Again, this mother is holding the hand of an unresponsive daughter. Again, she is placing her daughter in God’s hands, trusting that He will bring healing and hope. They are waiting for her to wake up so the doctors can begin to assess the amount of brain damage. Once this occurs, she will be moved to brain trauma rehab. The family lives in Texas, but she is in a Colorado hospital near where the accident happened. Travel expenses add to medical bills, piled on top of traumatic fear and worrying. My heart is broken for this family.

Brackets and beliefs? No thank you.

Please stand in the gap for the Williams family. Pray for healing; pray for miracles. Ask God to give them strength, to give the doctors wisdom and knowledge to provide the best possible treatment. Pray for her mother, father, and brother. Ask God to comfort them and give them rest. Pray as though she were your daughter, sister, cousin, or friend because as a child of God, she absolutely is your sister.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galations 5:6

In the end, regardless of theological standpoints, love does win.

"I’d Rather be Covered in Vomit."

Two nights ago, I couldn’t get past the idea that I’d rather be covered in baby poo and puke than try to give knowledge, encouragement, motivation, and love to selfish, ungrateful students. Teenagers, by nature and levels of brain development, are selfish beings; none of that is new information to me. (Which is why teen girls choose to get pregnant: I want a cute baby to love me forever! All the while forgetting the fact they currently hate their own parents.)
After working with students for the past five years, it’s blatantly obvious that the first few years of life are insanely important. I truly love my students – if I didn’t, I couldn’t do what I do – yet I’m stuck with trying to overcome the effects of television babysitting; music, games, and movies too mature and wildly inappropriate for their age; and parents who are overworked and insanely stressed by life. Yes, these parents love their children. Yes, they do the best they can…life in this day and age is just tough.
I’m trying not to turn this into a Natalie Munroe rant (for the record, I agree with her statements), just stating the daily hurdles and challenges of teaching. No matter what I do, I cannot make them care. I cannot force them to be motivated – and if they haven’t grown up in an environment that promotes education and motivation, there’s not much I can do…at least that’s how I feel around 3:30pm on a semi-regular basis.
Unfortunately, this mindset gets worse every year; it gets harder and harder to motivate them to do much of anything. When I say “them” I’m not referring to all students. Every year I’m blessed with 75-80 respectful students who actually care about their education…or at least they fake it well. Adding to the general lack of motivation, the state of Texas begins new rigorous standardized testing next year…which never solves anything.
These factors, and so many more, led me to tell Mark that “I’d rather be covered in puke and baby poo than go back to school tomorrow.” I almost immediately followed that with: “I’m sure when I am covered in puke and poo I’ll regret it and wish I were back in the classroom, but for now I take poo.” This past year of teaching has led me to create a long When I Have a Baby, I’m Doing This list. I long to quit teaching in order to put every ounce of my life into giving that baby every advantage in life. I’ve started reading scholarly research books about brain development, mentally mapping out the first four years. Granted, I don’t yet have a child and have never been faced with the difficulties of providing for a family, but when the time comes, I only get one shot.
No matter how hard I try – and try I do – I can’t make up for being raised on hours of MTV, Lady Gaga, not reading books, eating unhealthy foods (it truly affects their developing brains), and parents who aren’t around because they’re forced to make ends meet. My fear is that no matter how much of my life juice I squeeze into them, the effect will be minimal at best. For now, all I can do is be a student of my students to learn how to best benefit them (and hope they’ll let me), and keep adding to my When I Have a Baby list…

Getting Back to Our Roots (The Hebrews knew how to party!)

It’s difficult to miss two things when reading through the Old Testament: blood sacrifices and holydays. Thankfully, Christ willingly allowed himself to be the Ultimate Blood Sacrifice on our behalves. However, the countless festivals, holydays, special offering days, and days of rest have all but been ignored completely.
Lent serves as a remnant of those times. It may not have been practiced by ancient tribes and cultures for thousands of years, but it is a special time set aside for Christians to worship in a slightly different way. Growing up Baptist, lent was the stuff in the dryer, not a religious observance. After reading through Leviticus and Numbers it’s hard to ignore the importance of setting aside a special time to focus on our relationship with Abba.
I didn’t realize it was Fat Tuesday until I checked my box this morning and found the cheap beads that represent our culture’s skewed version of Lent: Party all night, then sober up Wednesday morning to begin a forty day “fast” that ends up looking a lot like a diet. Giving up Coke or chocolate for forty days doesn’t do much to put things in perspective. Ash Wednesday is where it’s at! Those who observe Lent are given a visual reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s gift of grace. Much like we put our name on things that are important to us (lunch in the community fridge, favorite toys, books…), I like to think of it as God’s way of saying: “Mine!”

Never Trust a Preacher Who Won’t Drink Beer (and unrealistic standards I held myself to…)

While not a truism, the title is a tongue-in-cheek observation from my own life. I’m not trying to say ministers must drink, or even that they should, nor am I forbidding the practice altogether… In all actuality, the statement is a metaphor for my own life.
The majority of my life was lived according to a set of rules I ratified for myself. These standards were far more stringent and unforgiving than most would willingly set for themselves. In my world, there were absolute rights and absolute wrongs; I worked hard to keep myself out of the gray areas. The problem with those rigid regulations is that I inadvertently held everyone else to them as well…and life in and of itself is a gray area.
If I never messed up, I never needed forgiveness. If I never needed forgiveness, I never needed to give it to others – because everyone else, like me, should know better.
I remember first becoming aware of this phenomenon in a conversation with a close friend; I remember outright apologizing for being such a complete, inaccessible, impossible…well…bitch. It’s not a pretty word, but accurately illustrates my behavior. In holding on to my own levitical law, I denied my need for grace. While this was never a conscious decision, this thought process was so ingrained into my being that it became second nature. My heart hardened against the giving and receiving of grace.
Of course, if I didn’t “need” grace, I acted as though I were above the law of love – and no one is exempt from redemption – most of all, me. It took a spectacular head-first dive into the proverbial empty pool of life to knock me to my senses. My extreme independence, which I once felt was a strength, revealed itself as an overpowering weakness. A glorious weakness.
2nd Corinthians 12:9 reminds me that God’s grace is all I need. His power works best in my weakness. Now, I’m proud to boast about what I once feared the most – my glorious weakness. Then, and only then, can Christ work through me. It’s comforting to know the ones I’ve needed the most have been there all along. It’s a blessing to share laughter over our faults and failures…and the occasional beer.

If I Only Knew…

I originally wrote these words over seven years ago…if only I knew then what I know now!

“God has shown me, through recent events, how necessary it is to show His love and compassion, especially when it’s easier not to. It’s much easier to grab a rock off the side of a road & hurl it in someone’s direction. Easy because I’d be far away at a safe distance, not witnessing the blow of the impact. Personally, I hate confrontation, so I usually run the other direction. I have to change the chanel when people start arguing on talk shows because I can’t deal with it! I cringe when newscasters get into heated debates with the interviewees, and again – change the chanel. (See the pattern here?!)

Usually, the harder thing for me to do in these situations is stand beside the person getting hit with rocks. I’d be forced to see their pain, watch them bleed and bandage their wounds. It’s these times that force me to face my demons and examine my own heart. I hate confrontation so much I’d rather stand infront of the stones, but that’s not always an option. Everybody expierences times in life when the stones seem to be coming from one of those tennis ball thrower-things and your feet are glued to the ground so you can’t run away, and I think sometimes that can be a necessary evil.

God has taken his super-glue to my feet this past week and shown me what my first instinct, Olympic Stone Throwing, really does – and it makes me sick. I want to apologize to anyone and everyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of my stupidity.”

Seven years later, those words are oddly prophetic. To all of those who stood beside me and bandaged my wounds: Thank you.

My Confession

I’m Robin. I’m utterly discontent.
How I got there, why I left there, why I went back, is the story of my life.
But it’s not the whole story.

I’m Robin. I’m a failure.
How I got there, why I left there, why I went back, is also the story of my life.
But it’s not the whole story.

I’m Robin.
I was discontent in life, but I am no longer discontent.
I was a failure in love, but I am no longer a failure.

How I got to those places, why I left those places, is the story of my life, too.
But it’s not the whole story.

I’m Robin. I’m a sinner, saved by grace.
That is the larger and more important story.

[Adapted from Brennan Manning’s The Furious Longing of God]