Saturday, September 21, 2013

divine appointment

We had no idea. Slipping outside and starting up the hill together, hand in hand, Mom and Daughter, we were thinking of ice cream. We chatted as we walked, swinging our arms. We laughed. At the stop sign we waited, and then crossed the street and stepped onto campus. The lawn's expanse and massive trees always inspire me. But today . . .

I can't recall who noticed it first, the smooth white icing clouds in the East, fading up into lovely pink and lavender haze. Still walking, we looked up, drawn into the beauty, and then slowly turned and stopped, awestruck. Behind us the sky was a stunning turquoise, laced with puffy white trails. The blue's intensity held us, transfixed. We kept staring as celestial winds hastened north, pulling wisps of white in their wake. Down below, beyond the trees, the horizon shone molten yellow, like liquid, brilliant gold. We soaked it in, speechless.

What if we had missed this! We moved uphill together, hoping to catch more of the Artist's painting. In those brief moments everything changed again—from turquoise to resonant blue, from honey gold to flaming fuchsia. Far above us the winds kept coaxing, drawing airy strings across the firmament. At last we surrendered, hearts bursting at the seams. We entered the student center and bought our ice cream, but the memory of that sky pulled us back outdoors, expectant.

Less than 5 minutes had elapsed, but the grand exhibition was over. Some cosmic hole had opened up and all the vibrant color had drained away, leaving only a pale and tired blue in its wake. The horizon was quenched. Our hearts, too, were silent—awed by the display of His majesty.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words  to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1–4

Monday, September 16, 2013

the house of my soul: learning from St. Augustine

For the Freshman class in which I am a discussion leader, we're reading Augustine's Confessions, an autobiographical account of his life written as a prayer and told with unflinching honesty. Given that Augustine died in the year 430 C.E. his wisdom is surprisingly poignant. Here are some gems worth reading:

"You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you." (Book I: 1,1)

"The house of my soul is too small for you to enter: make it more spacious by your coming. It lies in ruins: rebuild it. Some things are to be found there which will offend your gaze; I confess this to be so and know it well. But who will clean my house? To whom but yourself can I cry, Cleanse me of my hidden sins, O Lord?" (Book I:6)

"Everything I need for health and salvation flows from my God." (Book I: 6, 7)

"Allow me to say something, my God, about the intelligence which was your gift to me, and the crazy employments in which I frittered it away." (Book I: 17, 27)

"I will try now to give a coherent account of my disintegrated self, for when I turned away from you, the one God, and pursued a multitude of things, I went to pieces." (Book II: 1,1)

"But I was quite reckless; I rushed on headlong in such blindness that when I heard other youths of my own age bragging about their immoralities I was ashamed to be less depraved than they." (Book II:3, 7)

"Human beings live on earth for a brief span only, and they lack the discernment to bring the conditions of earlier ages, of which they have no experience, into the same frame of reference with those they know well." (Book III: 7, 13)

When we take time to read classic works such as this one, we begin to develop the discernment to do just that. May it be so!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

rite of passage

A lot of big stuff happened at our house this week.

Easton (age 5) learned to skip.

Eliana (age 12) got a part in the school play.

Both girls started piano lessons for the first time (not counting lessons at home with us).

And Emma (age 8) made a very big decision. She was running away. Things just weren't going her way. To be honest, I can't even remember what set her off. Generally it's the really grievous things like when someone smiles at her and tells her she looks pretty, or when I refuse to help her with a really challenging homework assignment (such as basic addition) because I'm busy reading to Easton. Enough is enough, really.

She demanded a suitcase. I calmly suggested that if she was running away she would need to learn to fend for herself. She stomped off and found one without my help and started packing. The only problem was that we were headed out to eat for dinner to celebrate her 8th birthday. She certainly didn't want to miss that, so she informed us all that she would be leaving in the middle of the night . . . after her special dinner.

As I tucked her in that evening, I let her know that I would really miss her, and that I hoped she packed a toothbrush (she hadn't). She burst into tears, gave me a big hug, and said she didn't want to run away from home after all. (Phew!) We had a good talk about asking God to help us manage our anger, and she went to sleep peacefully. In case you're having deja vu, yes, this has happened before in the Imes household. That story, too, had a happy ending. Running away must be an 8-year-old rite of passage.

A few days later we were getting the house ready for dinner guests when I noticed Emma's suitcase, still packed and ready in the corner. I suggested we unpack it since she had decided to stay. Imagine my delight to discover that not only had she packed a jacket and a pair of pajamas, she had packed her Bible as well. I might be a horrible Mom sometimes, hard to live with and terribly unfair, but I must be doing something right! In any case, it was a good sign. If that's all she takes with her when she leaves home, she'll be well prepared for anything that comes her way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Tidbit: the wounds of a "friend"

Mark Noll is something of a legend at Wheaton College. Not too many years ago his office was 2 floors below the spot where I am sitting right now as I type this. From that basement room he wrote a book that dropped like a bomb on campus and sent tremors throughout the Evangelical world. The book was as shocking as it was painfully true.

Here's the opening line: "The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind." Ouch.
He continues, "American evangelicals are not exemplary for their thinking, and they have not been so for several generations" (3). Noll includes the text of a dedicatory speech given by Charles Malik for the Billy Graham Center in 1980 (the building in which most of my classes have been held on campus). Malik minced no words: "The greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. . . . People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the Gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy." Malik challenged his listeners, "Evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence" (26). Noll says it took him years to fully absorb and process the truth of Malik's words. Evangelicals are known for their activism, but not for their minds.

Noll now teaches at Notre Dame, the premier Catholic liberal arts institution less than 3 hours from here. When I took a class there last summer I lost count of the number of conversations I had that went something like this.

ND student/faculty/person: Where are you studying?
Me: I'm working on a PhD at Wheaton College in Illinois.
ND student/faculty/person (cheerfully): Oh! Do you know Mark Noll? He teaches here.
Me: I've never met him, but I've heard him speak.
ND student/faculty/person: He's great!

Each of those I spoke with gave me two impressions. (1) Mark Noll embodies evangelicalism. And (2) Mark Noll is a prized member of ND's facultyI gather that he is carving out a space for intellectually rigorous dialogue and changing the way Evangelicals are perceived, little by little. And none too soon. Let's hope that by the time my kids go to college Noll's prophetic critique of Evangelicalism will sound downright strange because it's no longer true.

Monday, September 2, 2013

a peek at what God is doing . . .

As you may already know, my husband, Danny, and I have been privileged to work as missionaries with SIM for almost 11 years now. Since 2006 we've been on staff with Sports Friends, a ministry of SIM that seeks to transform lives and strengthen communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I just had to share this 4-minute window into at how God is using this ministry in Zambia. What a blessing to witness the transformative power of Jesus!