The power of chaos

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto hit me harder than I would have expected. One thing was that I happened to look at Yahoo! news just as it happened, so I watched the story develop. That’s an impact of the “web” side of the internet to get caught up in the stort as its immediacy makes it more dramatic. In the “old days” I wouldn’t have heard until the 5:00 news. Now things are posted for the world to see instantly.

The drama of the shots, explosions, mangled bodies, crying men, people trying to get control of the scene are gripping. One of the best portrayals is the photo essay by John Moore. You can see it here. It makes the destructive impact the event, the contrast of the beauty of Bhutto and the ugliness of the murder, so real.

But a bottom line is the power of  something small and evil to destroy.  Without making commentary on the merits of Bhutto’s politics, her return was the result of years of preparation and a large investment of work with the idea of moving Pakistan to a more stable, more democratic nation. A few cunning people were able to destroy all that work in a brief work of violence.  Their act moved the whole nation to chaos, something that serves only the interests of evil.

I work with people who have been impacted by evil. Most of what I see are products of sustained evil such as cult abuse, spiritual abuse, sustained sin within a family system and such. But I also see the outcome of such acts as the Bhutto assassination where one act destroys years of construction. A visit to a gullible counselor confirms the fears of a spouse and trust in a marriage is blown out. A moment of inattention leads to a crashed automobile and terrible injuries. Words spoken in anger elicit an angry response and a pastor’s ministry is destroyed, a growing church shaken. The examples multiply in this broken world. It’s hard to maintain hope and courage to keep building when the force of chaos ruins years of work in a moment.

But I also get to see the power of life, the soft warm reality of light that overcomes darkness. In the phrasing of the King James, “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). Occasionally the miracle happens and the change is dramatic. More often it’s quiet, persistence that makes the difference. And there’s a lot of energy required behind the grace. It exhaused Jesus.

Which is more “news worthy” – the slow patient crafting of a beautiful vase or the hammer blow that shatters it? The  extended investment of courtship leading to engagement, marriage and family, or the screaming fury of torture. As for me, I want to have the wise eyes to delight in the process, the courage to add my effort to the building, the courage of Job who after everything was pointlessly destroyed in chapters 1 and 2, went on living in chapter 42.

courage. hope.


40th Anniversary

December 15 is our 40th anniversary . . .  of our first meeting. We like celebrating events and this was a major shaping! I knew Mr. Hartzell had hired my replacement as his bookkeeper. He wanted to ease the transition as I graduated from college and headed off to be a math teacher somewhere. That day I walked into my work area and this cute girl was sitting at my desk. She remembers that I flirted with her. That could well be. I do know I asked her out a week later. Our first “hot date was seeing “Jungle Book” together. And the rest followed very naturally.

We celebrated the 40th in part with me working on my Luke 1 sermon for Grace, with her replacing the alternator in her Geo (really romantic!) and then with us going with Sherry Atkins to Living Hope Church to see their “Word on the StAll Smilesreet,” a Displaced Jennycontemporary telling of the Joseph and Mary story. This was the first of something like 15 services through Friday. At least seven people stood for prayer and then headed off to meet with Pastor Rick and the connection time to work out their commitment to follow Jesus. After supper, we relaxed at home. We nostalgicly remembered celebrating our 30th at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Taichung, Taiwan with Peter & Debbie Dodd and their newly born Elizabeth.  This time a History Channel retrospective on 1968 reminded us what a cataclysmic year we picked for our wedding.

Ruth Palnick, a 25 year friend who identifies herself as “Chaplain-HymnSinger,” was recently enjoying the hospitality that has characterized our home over the years. As we were taking our breakfast in the kitchen, she wondered, “Where are all the men?” I laughingly spread my arms, “Here I am!” She immediately shot back, “You are so taken!” She’s right. One woman has captured all the romance in my life. Very good thing.

 Oh, Yes. Our Elizabeth continues to do well, though she had a 12 hour re-admission to Children’s Mercy Hospital Wednesday night after an episode of difficulty in breathing. It was only a “normal” congestion. But with her history, they were very careful.

Stormy Finish

Footprint? Yawn!ShakaWe are still marveling at the wonder of Elizabeth Anne. 48 hours with her was wonderful. We did our best to spoil her with being held in those brief hours. It was strange to see her get her doses of Methdone. That connotes drug addiction rather than helping her end the effects of her morphine sedation so she’d not fight the respirator that saved her life. She’s a pretty calm little girl considering the drama of her entrance into the world. You can see in the left hand picture that she’s already learned the Hawaiian “shaka” sign in attitude as well as in gesture. She thought Susan and Cyndee decision to footprint her an occasion for a big yawn.

Samantha called from Cannon Beach as we left on Sunday night to tell us that high winds had blown out the electric service at the Conference Center from 11:00 to 5:30. The “Called to Be Handicapped” conference was going on with 22 seriously handicapped people in the final session on the second floor of Pacific View Lodge. Problem: No electricity means no elevators. Samantha’s crew were able to take the lunch upstairs but still no electricity. No matter how powered the wheel chair, it won’t go down stairs! So what to do? Well, you call the fire department! Problem solved. But the electricity went off again later in the evening and it’s still off. They don’t expect to have service for a couple of weeks. There has been no telephone and no cell phone service. Land line service came back up tonight (Wednesday), but unless you hav an old rotary dial phone, you can’t use it without electricity. One of the elders at Grace owns a major cell tower construction business. They’ve not been able to get to the beach to do repairs because of highways closed with fallen trees and landslides.  There’s a very dramatic picture of the I-5 closure at Chehalis here.

 The up side is that David, Cyndee and Joy spent an extra night here since there was no way to get to Cannon Beach. If the CBCC Christmas Conference is cancelled, they may head off to their 2 1/2 week trip to theme parks in Southern California a few days early.

I hope your house is dry, and your joy is full as we move into Advent.