Just Ask

photo by Amanda Sinnen

“…The Bible is as much a book about men and women questioning God as it is about their obeying God. We Christians in some misguided definition of faith have seemed fearful of acknowledging this” Katherine Paterson

Something I’ve recently been introduced to is the freedom to question. Okay, so it’s true that I’ve probably always done it. But I think I tried so often to keep it a secret, somehow scolding myself through the process.

As a result of this type of reaction to questions, much of Christianity focuses on the answers (something I’m sure I’ve been guilty of before!). But like Paterson said, God invites us to ask things of Him—it means we’re in true relationship with Him! Just as Jacob in the bible wrestled with the angel of the Lord for His blessing, I think God is waiting for us to come seeking Him for ours. Like any good Father, He could take us down at any moment, but He wants us to win!

 

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Changing Diapers

Do you understand what I have done to you?…If then, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet you ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:13-14

I think sometimes we read this story and imagine Jesus bending down, rubbing off a little dust with a white cloth and some clean water.

Photo by Amanda Sinnen

I really don’t think we realize how humbling an act it really was. I’ve been at foot-washing ceremonies before, and while moving, they really don’t do justice to what is happening in this passage of John. In those times, people drug their feet through all sorts of dirt, droppings and otherwise. And washing them? The job of a servant.

Picture this—bending your face near to the stench of days of sweat, dust, and dung, using youe hands, a small basin—washing twelve grown men’s feet, making them clean.I think the cultural equivalent of Jesus’ act would have to be changing diapers, maybe worse!

What I see is this: Jesus didn’t just love in speech. He didn’t proclaim his affection in only words or ideals. He lived it. And we were never meant to love with only words. ( 1 John 3:18)

My question is this: are we willing, as Jesus was, to deal with the dirt of humanity? And as Walter Wangerin challenged me, I challenge you, “Change people’s diapers.”

 

A Cord of Three Then Fraying

I am remembering those nights when

after soup

in the dim of our kitchen,

 

our father

would rise

reach for his coat,

find our fingers, mine and yours,

somewhere in our sleeves.

 

Stepping into the night

slowly,

the air                   the right kind of cold.

 

You and I,

walking in his wake

mint gum, cracked leather, cologne

 

 

 

Or maybe this:

bright flakes

maze the black,

contested

by stars

and stars

and my breath—

caged in

 

my soul’s own night

 

and you,

with our father,

 

now far ahead.

 

Challis Idaho Stanzas

I visited Idaho for only a week or so, Challis was one of the places we stayed. The beauty of the landscape and people who lived there was captivating. If you ever get the chance, go.

Morning

The Sawtooth Mountains rise on all sides, giant piles of fine dust. Closer hills reveal their stalagmite structures, layered, leaving furrows where red rock can only spill. Statuesque, a lone bird rests, unruffled from his perch on the log fence in front of me. No breeze disturbs us; only the sprinklers stop the silence,

try to quench the thirsty earth.

Midday

By ten the sun has no shield, the sky coal-white melting into blue. Crab grass feeds on faucet water, clings to red earth with frail white fingers. I drag my chair, stirring up dust, down the sloping bank, sturdy it on the slimy rock bed, and sit in the river. The cool water running over my ankles hardly satisfies. Soon, I abandoned my chair for the smooth, furred rocks of the riverbed. It’s bliss—sun on my shoulders, on the rivers surface, my submerged skin. All gleam. All seem to shine from within sun-lit centers. Today, I know I am living.

Evening

From where we stand, the basin is the color of fallen pines dyed to earthy browns. A few russet roads run like tiny ant trails from our position on the mountain’s side. Other peaks rise parallel and perpendicular to ours, sea greens and grey, static waves in the dusty sky.

Morning

My mother and I scour the aisles of a local grocery store, the only one in Challis. It smells like moldy cardboard and linoleum tile cleaner. A Native American girl, doubtless a descendant of the Nez Perce who once owned this valley, stocks twelve foot shelves. Tells me the nearest town is an hour away. She laughs when my eyes widen.

It’s no secret this city is dead. After the miners left only the ranchers and trappers stayed. A man, his denim worn to brown, approaches us outside the store. Shoshone or Nez Perce? His face sags as he tells my mom his story. No job, no money. My mother listens, stands in front of me.  When this happens, we usually buy them food, nourish their stomach and not their obsession, but this time is different.

He stayed too.