you say tomato, I say tomato

At a recent church get together, somehow the conversation turned to—I can’t remember what. But I seized the opportunity to drag myself into it.
Once upon a time, I told my politely listening friends, back when I was single and very involved in children’s ministry at my church, I bought a new Sunday dress.
At the time my hair was dark dark brown. I had a bit of a tan and thought a red dress would look nice.
It was a shirt dress. It fit well. It was comfortable. I paid decent money for it.
But I didn’t particularly like it, or feel pretty in it.
The color was a sort of tomato-red as opposed to any other red in the known universe that would have been more flattering.
Maybe that was it.
I wore it. About every third or fourth week.

One Sunday I and my tomato red dress popped into the Sunday school room.
I greeted my littles.
One of my little ones, in the sort of tone one might use facing tuna noodle casserole for the fourth night in a row, greeted me back with, “Oh. You’re wearing that dress again.”
The tomato dress went to the thrift shop the next morning.

I’d like to say the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. Never wear clothing you don’t feel pretty in. Or that makes small children sad.

But my next story demonstrates what makes this post a cautionary tale. Instincts aren’t always reliable.

Years back a church lady, talking about Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, observed, “Mary might have chosen the better way, but I’d rather be on committees with Martha.”

That stuck with me, especially since I’ve fought a lifelong battle against being the sluggard in Proverbs. The one who’s supposed to go to the ant for instruction on hard work.

My instincts tell me to work harder, do more, serve better. Because no one likes sluggards, and most hard-working women aren’t even that fond of Mary types.
So when we hosted a retired missionary and his wife for dinner, I worked like crazy to make certain the house was clean and cozy, our meal the right balance of nourishing and attractive and tasty, and the beverages stayed filled.

But, meals for guests being what they are, the potatoes didn’t cook as fast as the veggies and the meat looked underdone and the serving platter had water spots and apparently the slotted spoon ran away with the dish.
Once my sweating self got everyone fed it was time to clear away, get the coffee going, provide tea for non-coffee drinkers, cut the dessert and polish more water spots off the forks.
My instincts kept prodding me. “No sluggards allowed. Make the Marthas of the world proud. Keep moving and provide for every possible need of your guests.”

At one point the missionary’s dear wife caught at my arm as I bustled my busy way back into the kitchen for the umpteenth time. “Anita, we’re fine. Just sit down and talk to me!”
But those blasted instincts keep pushing and I chugged to and fro, Martha personified, giving the guests everything but what they wanted.

They left that afternoon and I never made the time to sit and chat, and I never saw that dear woman again. She’s in heaven now, sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary. AND Martha.

I am left with regrets.
And justified suspicion of my instincts. They were right about Tomato Dress. Wrong about the Importance of Being Martha.

I’ll probably never sort them out.
In the meantime I avoid clothing that makes small children sad, work hard at working hard and harder at investing in relationships. When I get it wrong, as I often will, I’ll rest assured that, ultimately, it will come out right in the wash.

(Ephesians 5:26)

Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Foretaste of Glory

This is my youngest son at age 5.
It’s a self portrait.

Here he is last month.

Preparing to be a groom.

We had an adventurous quarter century between these two depictions. There were losses: three grandparents, friendships, soccer/basketball/baseball games galore, hair.

He had challenges along the way, which meant his family did too. For years he chafed against being the youngest, and his family had the rash to prove it. Then there was the very very scary bout with pneumonia, the questioning of his faith, the strain of deciding what he wanted to be when he grew up, which led him from Italy to LA, from Iceland to Chicago to Machu Picchu in search of meaning, identity, and clarity.

But goodness and gain clamber up the backs of challenge and loss and wave wildly so that those blessings are where our memories go first.
-His initial but increasingly grateful acknowledgement that God truly never abandoned him during his spiritually dry period.
-The self-recognition that yes, he’s a nifty world traveler, decent actor and poet, and surprisingly gifted house painter. But he’s really really good at teaching. English. To high schoolers. A career that can make strong men shudder and turn pale.
-He’s gained and retained a plethora of friends and mentors from childhood, college, summer jobs, and church family.
-The brothers, whose lives from his toddlerhood till he graduated elementary school he determined to saturate in misery, are now two of the people he’s closest to on earth
-Blessing upon blessing—his brothers chose wisely and well who to marry, and he gained the best sisters along with a bounty of adoring nieces and nephews.

Then, last month, he gained the title ‘husband’ when he married the woman I’ve been praying for, most likely since before she was born.
She is a delight, a perfect and practical foil for his introspective, over-thinking and charismatic personality. She is beautiful. She is wise and hard-working and enjoys being with our noisy crew.
And she loves her Savior even more than she loves my son.

The wedding was a glorious mix of solemn vows and beautiful music and food and wine and family and friends old and new. And praises to God and overflowing celebration.
As one of my dear friends said, “It was a foretaste of glory.”

Indeed. God gives us these little glimpses of what eternity will be like. We experience them at worship, work, fellowship.
Nothing about heaven will be dull.
Instead we’ll get to enjoy the best food, the best drink, the best music, the best people and praises. None of it will end and none of it will get old or stale and not a minute of it will be separate from the Bridegroom.

We’re still basking in the afterglow of Wedding Weekend and now, more than ever, anticipating the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.

Wedding photos: azuregphotography

Plant a Tree

Martin Luther is credited with saying that if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he’d plant a tree. If we knew the same, parents would still change diapers, zookeepers would feed the critters, children would still want to be pushed higher on the swings.

And we have to hope that the brutality of man’s inhumanity to man would stop.
We’d spend earth’s final twenty-four hours looking to God for hope in the next world.
We’d look at everything we’ve been given in this world with new eyes. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, right?
We’d love on our fellow humans like crazy—the ones who are good to us, the nasty ones, the marginalized ones, the ugly-spirited ones.
When it was almost too late, we’d be astounded that just one morning and midday and evening of unremitting love and grace could make such a difference.

Bloggers like me who committed to blogging every week would still post…something. Anything.
That’s what today’s Tuesday Prude post is. Something.

As far as I know, the world isn’t ending tomorrow.
For a lot of people it ended yesterday, on Independence Day.
And for some reason all the violence and killing and anger and despair that happened in the USA on the 4th of July hit me especially hard, and posting a light and frothy little nugget isn’t sitting right.

Lord willing there will be lots of joy-filled and spirit-lifting things in the virtual world today. There will be laugh-out-loud memes created.
Folks in real world adventures will laugh at their crazy pets and three year olds will discover the pestiferous delights of knock-knock jokes.

And somewhere, someone is holding another human close—squeezing anger and hatred and destruction right out of them and sowing the seeds of unconditional love.

Someone is planting a tree.

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.