i wonder if i can love enough

When I met and married Jill, I was in professional ministry: stuff we can now do for free.  As a seminary trained minister, I allowed me to think I was, what?  More spiritual?  A little better?  I am not sure.

It evidenced often.  Here’s a way.  Jill loved horses and Colorado.  Loves.  And I wondered subconsciously if maybe she loved them more than Jesus, or God.

When we married, I knew for a while that I loved Jill more than anything, but I “corrected” that by relearning to love Jesus first.  Again, I got paid to believe like that.

I spent another thirty years with Jill.  I resigned from church work, and I now play at being honest.  I say “play” because honesty without love or grace is an all-consuming monster.  Brave souls have faced it and been ground to dust.  Many write novels to journal it.

In my honesty I found nothing affects me like a horse or mountains move Jill.  Okay, I weep at some books or movies, but it’s different: not as structural, as fundamental as is Jill’s love for horses like Firefrost or Dartagnan; or the Princeton Valley, Chalk Cliffs, and skiing the Rockies.

I ride bikes.  Clear land.  Work in wood.  Ski.  Write.  Travel some, and nothing grabs me like being on a horse on a snowy day grabs, sustains, heightens, infuses Jill’s day with light and hope.

Which caused me to go back and hear John, whom I translated from Greek: [1 John 4:20] “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

Jill loves her brothers and sisters, and we see them more than mine.  Jill loves our grand-kids, and goes to lengths to babysit them more than me.  Jill also walks our land and draws strength up out of the ground through her boots — when I see all that needs to be done.  Jill also loves Lewis and MacDonald as if they were fiances she lost in the war.

And John shattered my thinking.  Jill has been passionately crazy about people and things God has crafted for her and handed her — far more than anyone I know.

So God, by way of John, is using Jill, not my measuring stick, to show me: Loving who and what has been evidenced to me by God, is the first step in really learning to love the One who created them as evidence of His love to — me.

This may be a great year to learn to love more.


My Appointment with Me

When I was a kid, I was taught to have a daily quiet time with God.  It had two benefits.  One, I read scripture, so what I was reading was independent of my day, my fears, my priorities.  It had a leveling effect.  Other things were important, besides what I was freaking out about.  Two, I was talking to God. BSing God seemed an inherently terrible idea.  I moved it sideways, so that BSing me was not a good idea, had zero or worse return on time invested.

I still work to keep that appointment.

I have added other people for appointments: wife and first love, Jill.  Partners in business, students, faculty, extended family, CPA, all require time and conversation.

But every once in a while, I need to remind myself to make an appointment with me.

I noticed something when Jill and I were newlyweds.  I was working/serving at a church and I noticed that if I told people and staff that I had a lunch with Jill, they were happy to keep talking and taking my time for another fifteen minutes.  Or more.

My time with my wife was no one else’s priority.

It had to be mine.

I started telling everyone that “I have an appointment” and they would let me walk out the door, to be on time for my time with my wife!

It is the same for time with me.  If I tell people I have an appointment, they nod and defer.  I If I say it is a bike ride, or mowing with earphones, or reading National Geographic, or sitting in my office and without any noise or distractions — thinking.  They blow right by that and keep talking.

So I say I have an appointment.

And occasionally, those turn into appointments with God, to come back full circle to my quiet times as a kid in college.

I fell in love with someone else

I fell in love with someone else.

In a couple of our toughest fights over the years, Jill in tears or in anger has said, “I fooled you.  I am not who you thought you married.”

She was close, but truth sometimes boils close to the surface in the cauldron called life, or the coffee mug of relationship.  When truth boils close to the surface, we sometimes try to enunciate it because it is as close as we have ever come to truth, there, just below the surface.  Having come this close, this MUST be truth!  Look how different it is compared to all else in the cauldron or mug.  Smell that fragrance, which is unlike anything ever from Keurig or Starbucks!  That must be truth.

So Jill believed herself.  I let her believe.  Jesus wept.

I argued pointedly, but not the sort of arguing that has certainty when you know what is false (what she said) because you know the truth it is close to.  You argue stronger if you know the truth she should have seen and said, before it turned in a convection current of heat or foment and was gone – leaving only a memory of the incorrect conversation.

Jill is not the woman I married.  That was a girl-friend, child-woman shadow of the imposing woman; with whom I travel this world.

And she is more, deeper, more fearsome, more unrelenting at times, more passionate when I am coasting, and more demanding.  She demands more of me.

She demands better of me.

So we talked last night and I spoke of shortcomings from me that cost her greatly for a day and a half.  And this is the nut, the gist, the genius of Jill not being who I thought she was when we married.

I could not conceive of this woman today.  That’s the problem with being a boyman.  I knew she held more potential for me than any other woman I had met, I just could not conceive of the steel of her, even after watching her birth two and lose one.  I just could not conceive how much I would need the resoluteness when I was faltering in my way, or sloshing improper behavior on her that dishonors her.

She won’t stand for it.  Won’t let me get away with that.

The girl I married was beautiful, and maybe she loved me so much that I could continue being a _____ at times.

I was wrong about her.  I was wrong about that.

Thank God.

I can’t use the excuse of being a boy any longer.

I have much growing up to still do, though.

Seeing and hiking Multnomah Falls

jill at multnomah.jpgThe Columbia is more of a lake from here, flowing imperceptibly from one end of the earth to the other.  Sheets of rain have pulled their grays away.  Sun-golden touches brush the air-green buds, the pinks of cherry blossoms, whites of Bradford pears, and the deeper red hues of Japanese maples on both this and the far shore.  The iridescent green here in the grass and rhododendrons are weeks ahead of the rest of the world.

At the base of the falls, some things were as we would have thought.  We felt in our chests, the waters’ roar falling 612 feet.  The spray blasting out from the base of the falls, swept by at more than 30 miles an hour, dousing us in only a minute.  The spray blasted out hundreds of feet, and a huge flow of air followed the water down the falls and then had to find a place to blow.  It blew through us.

But the unexpected piece was elemental.  It shocked me.

Visually, I was overpowered.  That much water falling that far, just stunned me.  Vertigo whispered to my inner ear, that the entire earth seemed to be hurtling toward me from on high.  The roar decorated the surround rock in moss.  Lichen in differing colors made parts of the cliffs appear to be bathed in sunlight, when none appeared.

That was still not surprised me.  It was rocks rolling around.  The waterfall brought some rocks over the edge, slamming them into the base.  But way beyond that, a sound harked to massive tonnages of slate crashing on each other: the gods shooting marbles.  At the base of the water fall, the water was forcefully rolling rocks, moving rocks, flinging some rocks, and that sound, that sound reverberating through – me.  Whispered how forceful was the water shaping this cliff and pulverizing rock into sand.  How massive was the hand of water slapping rocks back and forth.

And how small I am, and how small was my grandfather when someone took his picture here more than seventy years ago.

Seeing him here reminds me that I am small.  And that I am closer to the mist blowing through than I am to the rock still on the cliff or being slapped around and pummeled that I am hearing.

Will the world be in a place where my grandchildren can come here, and snap the equivalent of a selfie with my Jill taken by my camera?

Tolkien’s Translations

I am not touching JRR Tolkien’s etymological and philogical scholarship or astounding work in creating the languages of Middle Earth.  I am not touching them because the scope and brilliance is beyond me.  Humility 101 was hard for me, but this one is obvious.

I simply want to think briefly on two events that he translated into his works: one lovely and the other harrowing.  

The lovely one came while his beloved Edith sang and danced for him in a grove of hemlock trees near where he was convalescing (again) in World War 1.  She was enough for him, more than enough.  Out of all of the loneliness while he was at the front in World War 1, those minutes when her hair was still raven and her skin clear gave us the strong, vulnerable, winsome and brave women in the Trilogy.  Be they elven, long or short lived, born to horses or court: his women were royal, gritty, indefatigable, and every bit as brave as any man.  

And Edith was enough as his font of knowing, his muse, and his encourager.  My Jill is unlikely to sing, except when she is unaware of my attention, but she has faced our trials: financial and health, life and death with a courage that she would deny and I cling to in my own hopes.  

So Tolkien and all of the rest of us men have more than enough in the courageous love of one woman committing herself to any of us boys cum men.  

Tolkien also translated his WW1 experiences into gritty, harrowing, believable battles where men make their semingly feckless way across inconceivable mayhem and horror.  What is so astonishing is that after “second lieutenants (his rank) dying at the rate of a dozen a minute” and losing all but one friend among the millions dead in the first round of industrialized warfare — he still wrote that one man (or woman) could make a difference on a battlefield.  

Tolkien’s war privations of cold, lice, and infections as well as the shells packaging so many new ways to die trickled through his pen into men fighting for the existence of men as a species believably both on the battlefields and in the calling of Sam and Frodo with so much weighing down their very souls behind enemy lines.

JRR translatd both his love and his dread believably, beautifully into his works.  Courage is a terribly lonely calling against the backdrop of an entire world insanely trying to extinguish itself.  Love is courgeous work as well.  

I may not translate my courage nor my love anywhere nearly as well in print, but I must, I must translate it well enough so that my sons have a model on which to build something brave, something better than I did.  They must see their mom that way, and learn to see their wives and challenges no less courageously.  


Jeane Yates is Home now.  She passed this past week.  

Three things.

One, she was “the first woman to —” forty things, positions, offices, jobs, honors, appointments, you name it.  She was the first woman to do it.  She had more brass and more polish than ten preachers.  She was articulate, measured, and gracious.  Disagreeing with her was work, because she was moving you to “yes” and you could not even guess on how many fronts she was working.  

She was that good.  That amazing.  I miss her.

Two, she taught me to measure time in “monthaversaries” rather than anniversaries.  When she and Kyle were newly married and penniless seminary students, they used to dress up in a tux and evening dress once a month and enjoy a cupcake with a candle in it if that was all they could afford in their tiny apartment.  Obviously, they had some nicer celebrations as time wore on and so many people enjoyed the pool and cruises with them, but the heart of it was class on the day of their wedding every month.  If all they had was a cupcake, they were dressing to the nines, making some romance of it and relishing it ravenously.  Every month.  Life is uncertain.  Every month.  

She knew how many months they had been together when Kyle passed.  I will bet your house that she knew how many he had been gone when she passed last week.  

Three.  Relationships were everything.  Nothing in life is eternal — except the players.  It never mattered if you were working the same side of an issue or not; if Jeane had said she loved you (‘in the Lord’ like she needed help in some of our cases) that was a done deal.  Decided.  Forever.  

Many people will be at her Homegoing Celebration tomorrow, but I had to just let you know, I love her, and totally expect her to be looking good the next time I see her, heavenward. 

Oh, and as long as she looks good, everything else is a distant second place.  And in His love, and in Kyle’s and her family’s love — dahling, she always will look mahvelous.  

If you die before I do, look her up, tell her I said “hi” and I’ll be Home in a heartbeat or two.  

It goes that fast, you know.  

Love. They were deeply in love. Are.

I have watched two people terribly in love negotiate “till death us do part”.   Just a few months ago they had defeated the first round of a very rare cancer in Jon. 


Jon had returned to teaching, and he has always been handsome, tan, fit.  They lit a room when they walked in together. 

The meds to hold the cancer at bay were losing ground.  More aggressive meds were needed and then it looked as if he would need surgery for kinks and obstructions in his small intestine. 

Suzanne, cheerleader for life, outlined the three possibilities.  Homerun was where they resected the bowels and took out both obstructions in one fell swoop.  A double would be bypassing the obstructions and Jon would wear a bag.  The third option was not worth mentioning.

The third option was the reality to which Jon awoke.  His digestive system no longer was at his disposal. 

Brave and loving are two words that weave together in some couples.  It is a dance that they can do with great abandon when the times are jubliant, and a dance which they can wordlessly move to, together, when the night is long and the end is near. 

He was drained but listened to her, I mean looked at her to talk to her. 

She had gone beyond any strength she knew, and still she tried to get his smoothie right when every taste bud had betrayed him and he didn’t know what to tell her.  Nothing she could put in a blender would bring him back. 

She doubted that she could go on with out Jon, and then she realized that everything he had ever given her, every moment, every kindness, every admiring glance — she still held every one of them.

In fact, no one can take them from her.

The tears, the last embraces, last words, and last breath.  She keeps them all for the both of them on this side of death.   Brave lovers get to keep everything. 

Jon keeps them on the other side, for they share Christ, share resurrection, and will be friends again.

Here is the craziest hope for Heaven.  All that Jon and Suzanne held here they have in Heaven with each other, and the children, and their moms and their dads from whom they learned how to give each other a life long love.   Jon is living in it all now.  In a heartbeat or two, Suzanne will join Jon in that great joy. 

Oh, and they have Christ, and they knew one deep secret.  Loving Christ, and loving your soul mate strengthens each love, tempers each, learns from each.   For a while, they will learn without sensing the presence of the other, only sharing the Presence of their Beloved Lord. 

Which is why I think they are still in Love.