January means cold days here in CLE which means Eric & I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm and consume far too much Haagen Dazs peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.
Let’s see how far we can take this “eating for 2 thing”…
My fave scene is Larry David attempting to operate one of those “open” / “close” shampoo screwtops where it’s never clear which way to go before Larry winds up telling the bottle to, well, “go forth and multiply” in Biblical terms. How can we create social media platforms that touch a billion people? Send a man to the moon? And not be able to create an easy to open shampoo bottle?
I digress. Sure, the cold isn’t easy. But people who call Cleveland “the mistake on the Lake” have it wrong. I mean, they put your groceries in your trunk at Costco here. And despite the latest trades, last time I checked we still have LeBron.
MJ survived cold January while channeling her inner Marge Simpson (see below) and kickboxing with Chloe in our basement gym. She’s quite good for someone who still doesn’t understand her foot is connected to her own body.
Seb’s 8th birthday party is coming up. We’re going with the Jumanji theme because other moms, more creative moms, have posted enough ideas on Pinterest that I don’t really need to think much. We’re doing Cheetos as tiger tails, green apple licorice as jungle vines…thank you Internet.
Aside from Curb, snow days, and organizing birthday parties, we’re studying the book of Job at our church. If you’re not familiar with Job he’s a guy whom God allowed to suffer in a big way by allowing Satan to strip him of his health, his wealth, his family, his status.
And how did Job respond? He “worshipped” (Job 1:20).
I’ve always been completely fascinated by this story (as was the scriptwriter for the first Mission Impossible apparently) and when I’m fascinated by a Bible story I ask my brother about it because he’s pretty much read every single commentary available to man, is an elder at Redeemer, and had a perfect SAT score just to make the 5 rest of us Larsons look like total idiots. Thank you Wally.
But the story of Job isn’t easily explainable, even by perfect SAT score boy, so I turn to C.S. Lewis who discusses suffering as God’s painful goodness:
Here you go:
“The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed…But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t. Either way, we’re for it.”
That’s just brilliant.
Also brilliant, something the pastor shared about Job’s integrity while suffering: “We don’t drift towards growth.”
We’re never in neutral. Hanging. Chilling.
We are either actively engaged in a battle for good or slowly getting sucked into evil. 2 tactical positions. That’s it.
As my mom (aka Bubbe) would say “you don’t decide you’re going to remain pure when you’re in the backseat of someone’s car.” She likes to say it straight. Always.
Ditto for TK whose sermon podcasts have sustained me during endless unpacking of boxes and diapers as of late. Keller talks about the concept of Exilic Discipleship, how our faith should drive us to engage with our culture, interact with those who believe differently from us, and lead us away from insular protectionist faith.
In so doing, we are putting ourselves in a more tenuous position to be sure. We’re “out there”, easy prey, capable of drifting away from what’s right and holy if we’re not on guard and prepared for attack like Job was.
And hey, it’s easier to avoid living the tension altogether. I get that. But the easiest way isn’t necessarily the right way. And at the end of the day, if our faith can’t stand getting roughed up (think Daniel with the lions), it wasn’t really there to begin with.
That doesn’t mean we have to be stupid and naively go “out there” unprepared. Instead, it requires thoughtful wisdom as applied to the gray areas of life. This is what I call the Mike Pence effect. Pence has become a favorite Seth Meyers punchline for his method of dealing with extramarital temptation but our VP is looking awfully prescient these days in the era of #MeToo, am I right?
And Pence isn’t alone in getting serious about preparedness. My sister pointed out this Ta-Nehisi Coates piece in The Atlantic awhile back which sounds rather Mike Pence-ish to me. Coates clearly gets that he’s either “drifting” towards something destructive to his marriage OR doing all he can to avoid it:
“I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve
never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not
because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly
in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am
also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put
it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising
will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being
absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and
why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe
that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a
“good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.”
All in, I’m learning a lot at church right now. I’m also learning a lot from our move to this new house. For example, our new narcissistic washing machine sings a little ditty every time it finishes a wash. Talk about tooting your own horn. I’m going to start breaking out into song High School Musical style every time I do a load of clothes just to put it in its place.
And then there’s this toilet seat in MJ’s bathroom branded “Church.” I mean, we’ve all had some bad church experiences but this really puts it all in perspective : )
In sum, it’s 38 degrees today which feels like summer relative to January. Even for a Phoenix, Arizona gal like me.
Thankfully, the cousins here in Canyon Lakes keep each other company on snow days, stealing each other’s milk bottles and randomly placing their shoes in dryers, drawers, and even toilets as they jam to Runnin’.