Theology

Porch

The sky was green this morning, the air thick and warm, as I sat with Bible and coffee on my porch swing, soaking up Jesus’ words in John 15, taking to memory a few more verses from Ephesians 4. I could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, even though there’s no rain in the forecast, temps in the 90’s on this first day of fall, and this is Minnesota. It’s a little eerie, and no wonder my mind wanders to all assortment of weather all over this globe. It’s in the Bible just like this, before His Coming. Three women at Walmart yesterday afternoon discuss hurricanes and wars and the End of all things.

Jimmy and I have been learning theology together at the kitchen table. We sit close on a handcrafted bench sticky with years of use, my shorts peeling free like a post-it note when I stand up briefly to check the soup simmering on the stove. It’s the boy’s first year in regular English, and here he is reading articles like those I read for seminary assignments a few years back. Mom, can you help me figure out an Inclusivist argument against the Universal Opportunity view? And it’s no wonder I’m glued to this kitchen table until the thing is finished, and loving every minute, truth be told.

Next weekend I’ll spend four days savoring fall at a camp up north – Hackensack, Minnesota. Just the way it rolls off the tongue has me pining for pine trees and leaves turning color, a cabin to myself all weekend long. I’ll be the camp speaker for a women’s retreat, and I’ve spent every spare moment the past couple of weeks thinking and writing about what I’ll say. I’ll tell some of my stories, and talk about John, and how he wrote in his gospel of LIFE in Jesus, and what it means to live Fully Alive. And I wrote in my notes for the Saturday session about my time at the seminary, a dream come true, but how I knew from the start it wasn’t close to as good as an earlier season when God was my teacher, and I lingered with Him in my own private classroom on this same front porch.

Last week Kyle sent me a text. What were the three things in your dream? And I knew just what he meant. A few years back God asked me this question while I slept, about what I wanted, and this was my answer. Go to seminary. Write books. And enjoy my grandchildren. It was one of those dreams that seems so real you don’t forget it, and now I’m answering my husband’s text like it’s gospel, and I’m surprised when he responds and it’s what I’ve just been thinking. “So one down, two to go?” Because I did go, but I didn’t finish, even though I could have and would have, if we hadn’t met two Colombian boys who’ve become my sons. So now Kyle’s asking the same question I’ve been pondering while writing my story for the women at camp. Does been-there-and-done-that, but not-quite-finished, count as a dream fulfilled?

Most Wednesdays I work from my front-porch home office, weather-permitting. But this week it was chilly and I was practicing reading retreat talks out loud, so I was still in my bedroom when Luke woke up late and plopped down on my bed. He’s always chewing on one theological mystery or another, and now he’s applying to seminary and wondering if he’s more suited to be pastor or teacher, and he’s been staying up late FaceTime chatting with that girl he likes out in Colorado, figuring out if they’re on the same page when it comes to belief. And we cover it all while he’s sprawled out sharing space with the dog, and I press pause on whatever I’m doing and relish these moments knowing they’ll not likely last. We talk about predestination and holiness and the end of things, both of us prone to thinking hard, but embracing mystery, and at the end of the day we’ll stake our alliance on a few sacred things. I tell Luke about Jimmy’s assignments, and how he had to answer a question about overcoming sin. He’d cut and paste an answer about “reading the Bible and doing what it says.” And I’d said yeah that’s part but not all, and I guess he caught my passion as I stated my answer, because later proofreading his work, there were my own words all in capital letters: JESUS OVERCAME SIN BY HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION, AND HE GIVES US HIS SPIRIT TO DO FOR US WHAT WE CAN’T DO FOR OURSELVES.

Mom’s theology in a nutshell.

Luke makes his way to shower and work, saying, “Mom, we should do this more often.” And I know right then I’d trade all the seminary dreams in the world for this conversation and others like them. God as my teacher, and my boys as my classmates, and it doesn’t get any better than this.

Half Dome

Half Dome Sunrise

(Photo credit to Kiana Anderson – kianagrantphotography.com)

 

Half Dome was their dream, but I was the one to win the lottery.

The first time we visited Yosemite, Grant was ten. It was the first leg of our God of Wonders tour, Kyle’s sabbatical “splash,” a whole month of summer travel and exploration. Those were the days when little boys seemed big, no more need for naps and diapers, and we were ready to get after life. A hike up Half Dome. Kyle and Grant researched and dreamed about their Great Adventure. And when the big day came father and son awoke before dawn, CamelBaks and trail mix, and a big little boy in his floppy brimmed hat.

They almost made it. The eight-mile hike to the cable climb, side-by-side with another family whose daughter was twelve. Inspiration enough for an already determined boy to Half Dome Little Gkeep climbing. He gave it his all, but in the end it was Dad and son both, resigning, deciding, it would be too much, the risk too great. Eight miles back down to the valley, the sun nearly setting, a mom counting minutes, searching faces, happy relief at their return. And I could hear it then in my husband’s voice as he told the story – pride in a journey, but a dream left undone.

Fourteen years later we’re booking flights and crossing our fingers, taking our chances at receiving passes good for one of the days we’ll be there for the climb. It’s Kyle and Grant and Kiana and me, and in the end it’s my name on the permit, irony’s humor, all of us knowing Mom won’t need the ticket for that final ascent.

It was grueling and glorious. Every vista a breathtaking view, and right from the start I’m – Oh my goodness, this is so amazing! Until I realize my family’s making sport of my repetition, and I remind them of how in Revelation the saints repeat themselves, too.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, and Kiana’s got both. A backpack heavy with professional camera, and plenty of good conversation to pass the time. We catch our breath for photos ops, press pause on chatter for steeper climbs, and by midmorning my competitive daughter-in-law stops wondering out loud if she’s going to make it, and starts talking instead about the cable climb.

And then it’s Kyle asking me one more time if I’m sure I won’t try it, and me getting just a bit heated saying I’ve made my decision, and it’s always like this. This love-hate relationship I seem to have with God’s creation, where everything beautiful has a dark side. Images by day of breathtaking heights, water spilling brilliant over mountain’s edge. Images by night of freefalling terror, strangled by fear on a mountain ledge. Later I’ll pray hard before sleeping, taking thoughts captive and pleading with God.

And then God gives us Anne. A sweet young gal who’s hiking solo, the guys saying she looks like that twelve-year-old girl all grown up. I believe in miracles just enough to risk asking. Have you ever been to Half Dome before? And she tells us no, and says she’d love to summit, but entered the lottery with no luck. And it’s a miracle after all, and I’m near to bursting. We have an extra. You can have my spot! I tell her about how I never intended to climb those cables, how I found this fabulous place just off the trail a mile or so back, perfect for hammock. I’ll finish my hike just before those switchbacks, head down the mountain with a book in my pack.

So it’s Anne joining my family for the final challenge, and it’s me hiking solo a ways back down the mountain, Kiana making a valiant effort, choosing wisely to forgo the cables, father and son reaching summit together. And a picture worth a thousand words.

Summit

Photo taken by Anne 🙂