Monday, November 9, 2009

A Perfect Proposal

Our day started early, Chris picked my up a little after 7:00 so that we could carpool into Wilmore together. As we traveled the newly paved Harrodsburg Road, he excitedly announced some good news. “We get to go see Stella tonight.” Stella is a golden retriever that we let out when her people are gone and I beamed at the thought of getting to visit the softest dog in town. After dropping me off at my office, he meandered over to the seminary with the ring stuffed in his pocket. Eight hours of clients, classes and a midterm later, we reunited for the trek back into Lexington.

Our scheduled event for the evening was to join a birthday celebration for one of our friends that we met through the Room In The Inn program. (Chris and I served in this ministry at two separate locations last winter, but eagerly anticipate the opportunity to work side-by-side this season.) With the cake being cut and tradition song being sung, we moved into a bible study time where salt and light became the central topic of conversation (Matthew 5:13-15). Towards the end of that discussion, the host said something along the lines of: “I know that this is going to embarrass him, but I’d like to point out that Chris is light…” He went on to give examples and warmth flooded my heart with the acknowledgement that God had placed such a man of humility and beauty into my life. As a community we took communion, worshiped and prayed over the each other. Much to my surprise, Chris stood quickly and began putting away his guitar after the final “Amen” was offered. If you know Chris well, he is the type that will sit and linger after a service to soak in presence of what has been shared. Puzzled, I looked to him for some sign of what was going on, to which he reminded me that there was a furry creature on the other side of town that requested our presence.

We conversed about the uniqueness of the family that just hosted us and affirmed that we wanted our own future home to offer the same hospitality. Upon arriving at the Ridd’s home (proud owners of Stella), Chris and I entered through the side door. As I made my way to the dog holding zone, I noted the aroma of burning candles. Fearful that the Ridd’s had accidently left something lit, I let Stella out quickly and returned to point out my sensory observation to Chris. “Do you hear something?” he asked. I did, a faint hint of music was playing from the front room. “My family leaves music on for our dogs all the time so they don’t get lonely.” I reported to him. He persisted, “I wonder where it is coming from?” (Believe it or not, I still hadn’t caught on yet what was taking place.) Following the music into the sitting room, a fireplace filled with candles mesmerized me. Then, tucked safely between two arm chairs sat a table adorned in gifts. A black and white picture of us (the first ever taken), two charcoal drawling of our favorite trees, an opened bible, and a scrapbook ornamented with a lily. “What is this?” He asked, I squeaked out, “I don’t know.” He asked again and with my same dumbfounded response, he suggested that we read through the book he’d created. Page by page, Chris had documented through words, photography and other craftiness, some of the pivotal moments in our relationship. Each entry included the phrasing, “one simple thing.” And upon each entry, he got closer and closer to asking me one simple thing. When there were no more pages to turn, he was on his knee. I gratefully accepted his gift and invitation into a shared life and future. We then turned to his opened bible and read together Ephesians 3:14-19 as a prayer. Personal prayers of thanksgiving and hope were offered and we launched into sharing our good news with family.

My sister remarked, “You have like a billion friends, how on earth do you plan on telling everyone?” Little did I know that Chris had already done most of that work for me. To abbreviate an already long story, he had planned a surprise engagement party the next afternoon. Among the distinguished guest of my closest friends and family, his parents had traveled from Oklahoma to partner with the celebration.

As I have shared with most of you, I am blessed beyond measure. Chris is more then I had ever dreamed to pray for. Thank you so much for joining us in our excitement. We continue to covet your prayers as we move closer to the Love that initially brought us together.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The desolate wasteland images that I had conjured up in my mind's eye dissolved after crossing the Oklahoma state boarder. While it can be said that its landscape is not nearly as lush as my old Kentucky home, it has a unique beauty. Oklahoma is rich in pockets of standing water. As timing would have it, our entrance into the state was synchronized with the setting of the sun. Though the hues were relatively muted, the warm orange glow seemed fitting with the inner peace I had sensed throughout the 10 hour trip. Easing deeper into the comfort of my seat, my eyes settled on a field of cow ponds. One after another these still waters acted as mirrors for the dusk sky. The magnificence was multiplied. I giggled to myself in affirmation of the sight. "Something that pretty should be reflected with precision."

In a weighty moment a few hours later, I was reminded of how far I have yet to go in order to embody what the created order does so naturally. A dear friend commented on my personal mirror - more directly he was speaking of the lens in which I view myself. While I can't recall phrase for phrase what was communicated, two words stuck out: distorted and broken. There is a high degree of truth is what was said. I don't have a clear picture of what I look like internally or externally. And sadly, in a culture filled with mirrors, I suspect that very few of us actually see who we truly are. I could fill pages with psychological mumbo-jumbo concerning why this is so, but it will suffice to say that our life's experiences throw rocks into our still waters. These ripples and painful agitations alter our ability to see.

The prayers stemming out of this reality continue to change shape. I first asked that He would calm my waters and allow me to see plainly. In His ultimate wisdom, my pond has been made muddy. Old rocks are being dug out and the sludge surrounding them is being dislodged. In response to this, I'm now asking for courage to withstand the transitional mess as He does this work. God is faithful and I anticipate unruffled days in the future. Almost as a promise, while together this morning, He showed me a still water pocket. It was so transparent. As I approached it I expected to be able to see all of myself. Upon closer examination, the reflection was His image. His magnificence was multiplied and I'll tell you, it was beautiful.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Cor 3:18

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rooting for the Wicked

Recently I had the privilege of traveling to see the Broadway musical Wicked. In preparation for my journey I borrowed the soundtrack from a local library, read the inner leaflet, and memorized a half a dozen songs. For those unfamiliar with the show, it aims to tell the back-story of the Wicked Witch of the West. Roughly 45 seconds into the opening number the people of Oz announce (in song of course) the theme of the whole production: “Goodness knows the wicked’s lives are lonely. Goodness knows the wicked cry alone. Nothing grows for the wicked, they reap only what they’ve sown.” Glinda, the fair creature that transports herself via bubble, chimes in: “Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” The character cast as the town ditz is on to something…and the implications of an answer continues to challenge me.

Growing up as a Wizard of Oz fanatic, I had never thought to ask why the Witch ended up with such a bundle of unbecoming characteristics. It is not a bad question. I mean seriously, why did she prefer the company of disfigured primates to that of human beings? What would fuel this green woman to forcefully seek out her sisters red shoes? Did she have a weird fetish? Was it greed? Vengeance? Justice? Stimulated by the possibilities, potential plot lines reeled through my mind: maybe it was childhood abuse, an adolescent accident involving a nuke plant that tainted her skin and attitude, or maybe she kissed too many green frogs looking for her prince. Despite my various versions, nothing I fathomed aligned with the pen of the stories author. As is turns out, this Witch of the West wasn’t wicked at all. She was still emerald in tone, but not jaded towards her existence. Her actions were often attempts to bring life, restore unity and promote love. As a result of her outer shell, the villagers expected the worst and thus spun their interpretations of her behaviors in an unconstructive light. She was misread. So many people are.

Oswald Chambers once said, “The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual.” If Chambers is accurate, and from my experience he isn’t far from the truth, one has to ask why. Why are those who are supposed to be laden with love so judgmental? I could be wrong, but I’ve been wondering if the root of judgment is fear. Our “Safety First” mindsets create a desire to rid ourselves of that which is frightening. I can think of few things as unsettling as ambiguity and so we rush to establish categories in which to assign people. “This one is not a threat to me, so he is good. That one makes me uncomfortable, she must be bad.” Once allocated, we can manipulate those around us. For all intensive purposes, it seems easier to control people then to love them. Love always costs us something. Sometimes it is our security.

Who scares you? I’d venture to say that there is always one detail more in every person’s story about which we know nothing. Maybe it is in that one fact that we can empathize with their current tics. After all, “I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God (Chambers).”

Saturday, June 27, 2009


For a little over a decade the Nave clan has been a two-dog family. Our Boarder Collie, Cinder (also known as Fish Stick on account of her fowl breath) was hand picked on a farm seven counties from our own. She was one of ten in that litter and everything about her adoption into our family was intentional. She arrived to a home newly prepared with a kennel, fluffy pillow, and plush toys…as well as owners who had read a manual on how to care for her unique needs. Our Black Lab, Pearl (also known as Puma, Garbage Disposal, Prewash, Bulldozer, Stealth, Biological Tripping Hazard, and Demon) entered our family under very different circumstances. She was spotted on a bitter cold January day, standing disoriented in the center of a busy intersection. With thoughts of rescuing the puppy only from her current peril, she was whisked into The Loser Cruiser (our mini-van). Not looking to extend our family, multiple attempts were made to find another arrangement…each of which failed miserably. For better or worse, this disoriented mess was ours and she found herself to be a Nave at an extremely chaotic juncture in our lives. We weren’t ready for her and as a result of the abuse she was subjected to by her previous owners, she wasn’t ready for us. A mere few days after her capture, Garrett was scheduled for surgery. Like most surgeries of this nature, the recovery process was grueling. Pearl found safety next to him as she sensed that he had no power to inflict harm on her in his stupor. As providence would have it, these two spent the next week and a half healing together.

Despite our dogs equal treatment henceforth; remnants of their initial days on earth emerge in their personalities. I saw this no clearer then in an incidence last fall. Like most mornings at Mom and Dad’s, I awoke with a black lab stretched out and pressed against the length of my back and a small collie sharing my pillow. A gliding motion of my fingers through their fur stirred a happy tapping of tails welcoming the new day. The gliding was interrupted by a bump on the scruff of Cinder’s neck. After closer examination, the said bump was confirmed to be a tick. I announced my find to her and like any good doctor, explained the removal process. An ideal patient, she followed my instructions verbatim, lying quietly as the extraction ensued. In under a minute the parasite was free of her flesh and flushed promptly down the toilet.

Returning to the originally scheduled affection fest, I happened upon a similar bump on Pearl. The same declaration was made over her and I went about my business of removing the critter. Pearl wanted to help, actually she was insistent. She flung her head over her shoulder and began nibbling at the surgical area. Amused, I pushed her head out of the way and reassured her that I had everything under control. I evidently wasn’t convincing enough because she promptly returned to her self-biting behavior. I fought with her on the issue for a while and but then resolved that neither of us was getting anywhere. I ceased my assistance and verbalized that she was welcome to do it by herself. Five minutes passed, then ten. I watched in pity as she wore herself out. At the fifteen-minute mark, she laid her head down in utter defeat. “Want my help now?” I inquired. Convinced that she understood, Pearl’s body went limp in surrender.

Two dogs, both from intelligent breeds…why the stark difference in behavior? I could be totally wrong in this, but I wonder if Cinder is trusting because she has never had a need that wasn’t met. She has no reason to fear. Contrary to this, Pearl learned to be the lord of her own life. She needed to take control to regulate her own existence under the abusive hand of her previous owner. While there is plenty of evidence in favor of her trusting us, her pattern of behavior is stuck.

I run into Pearl like humans daily. They have been shaped by the hurt in their lives and therefore carry deep-seated attitudes that usher them to orient themselves inward for protection. Much like my lab, they wear themselves out with their tenuous control. I am not absolved from this group.

I have a tick and I’ve known about it for years. It drains me of my peace and joy. It hinders my ability to love fully and thus limits my relationships. God has radically awaken me to the multiple layers of controlling, grasping ‘noise’ in my life that creates a defensive posture through which I attack a problem instead of allow Him to intervene. I’ve been biting at myself senselessly. This life stealing sin still resides and I acknowledge the insufficiency of my own resources and the inadequacy of my ability to maintain order in my life. I am tired, God is not… and so I ask with all the heart I can muster “Free me from care of myself.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lay Down

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch some of our nations leading trainers showcase their finest companions in the Bluegrass Classic Sheepdog Trails. The objective of both master and beast was to rally a small flock of sheep through a series of obstacles. The communication method for doing so ranged from a succession of whistles to animated hand gestures. While a majority of these cryptic messages were lost to my untrained eyes and ears, the universal cue to stop was unmistakable… “Lay Down!” If you are unfamiliar with the breed, a Boarder Collie is wired to be on the move, therefore watching one of these creatures respond to such a request is comical. While the older dogs were more apt to comply, the less experienced ones simply disregarded the command... after all they were on a mission and lingering for any span of time would be nonsensical. Despite the fact that the puppies were covering more ground, they were often doing so in the wrong direction.

For better or worse, my immediate family is comprised of five Type-A personalities. While most of us have mellowed over the years, it is still counterintuitive for us to remain stationary. The fears linked to non-motion are innumerable. I fear stagnation. I fear appearing lazy. And probably the heavies of which, I fear losing the remaining sense that I have any control over my life. In love, my gentle Master has recently challenged my puppy nature. Sometimes I need only wait a few more minutes, in other instances I sit for days. I have recognized that when I fall short in waiting, I miss the joy of watching Him work things out on my behalf. His fingerprints are so much prettier then the smudging I often leave behind…and so with a deep breath and a few butterflies, I am going to go Lay Down for a while.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Life Without Limbs

I still haven't figured out how to post a link correctly. But until I do....


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Thicker Skin?

I encountered an angry man on Friday. I haven’t the foggiest idea why he was so stirred up, but my mere presence acted as a trigger for his eruption. To the best of my ability I tried to listen, speak slowly and answer with gentleness. Despite my attempt to defuse the situation, his anger continued to spiral upwards. When he had escalated to a point that I felt threatened, he finally began to back off. He swiftly turned, grabbed a briefcase from his car and entered a local business. I remained frozen in the parking lot. Part of me was immobilized by the flood of emotions that were welling up in my core…the other part of me thought that if I was stationary long enough, he would return and we could repair what had transpired over the last few minutes. When it was apparent that he wasn’t going to come back, I retreated to a nearby park.

After I got to the point that I was able to release him back to God, I became rather frustrated with myself. In terms of opposition and attack, my little encounter would barely be a blip on the spectrum scale of what others have endured. And yet, for all intensive purposes, I was rendered useless for the next two hours. While I am aware that my highly wired INFJ personality is a massive contributing factor to this, I found it discouraging that a minor event such as this one could shift my demeanor so dramatically. My analytic side kicked in and I began foreshadowing how much my tendency to be easily moved emotionally would affect any ministry that I partner with. Acknowledging the destructive quality in feeling too much, I reasoned that a need for thicker skin was in order and thus I placed an appeal for before God. His response over the last couple of days has challenged the wisdom of my request and so I retract it. As much as I’d like to avoid the negative baggage that comes with feeling in this world, the cost of callousness is more then I am willing to pay. Let me be moved.