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These past few weeks have been ones of soul struggle for this daughter of God as my heart, thoughts, and mind have been all over the place — which isn’t unusual — but there is a certain level of accustom-ness that I have achieved with my mind’s all over the place-ness.  That has been pulled out from under me and been replaced by a certain sense of wander lust.  I’m not sitting well with this sense of complacency that I’ve come to assuage my mind into believing is “being still”.  Yet, I want to trust God in this “in the meantime” phase of my life where there are more questions and uncertainties than there are answers — even as the years seem to drag on into bigger numbers (and I really should not even be counting or keeping track or holding God to any sense of an ultimatum to get this mess that is me together already!). I must simply wake up and give God my all for that day and wait patiently for His will for me in all things in my life.  Isn’t that faith?  Or is He wanting me to move forward in boldness and trust Him even though doing so would be so scary, so tumultuous, and not the safe or “still” way?  Is that faith?  Doing the thing that scares us most or waiting?  Or is it somewhere in the middle?  And what does that middle actually look like? Cause words can often be just pretty, preachy things…

And in the midst of it all, life is so busy isn’t it? We’re mothering, we’re wifing, we’re sistering, we’re daughtering, we’re working (so hard), we’re doing all.the.things, and it’s all.so.demanding.  And I’ve just been craving my time alone with God and just can.not.get.enough.  My Bible and journals are indicative of the state of my head and heart — marked up and all over the place with notes and scribbles and arrows.

And so something in my life needs to be organized, right? Ha!  Which usually means I go a little crazy within our home.  I often feel like I am drowning in our house.  I live with a couple of pack rats — my husband and my oldest save EVERYTHING — so we have so.much.stuff everywhere.  It straight up makes me depressed at times — and I want to throw everything away.  The living room and our bedroom are places of solace and organized free space for me — in which my minimalistic nature gets to play itself out — but otherwise?  There is just STUFF everywhere.  I’ve gone all “thirtyone” on most of it and attempted to contain it in every imaginable organizer you can possibly think of, but it all ends up spewing out somewhere.  So I manage what I can.  My things — and have as very little as possible.  And I declutter.  Often.  Things and thoughts.  Thoughts need decluttering too.  Our brains need room for more free space, more Zen.

I just don’t go back to the past often.

Unlike revisiting an old childhood playground — I have yet to go back to those places and find that those memories have grown smaller, more quaint, or even precious– so I just don’t venture backwards often… 

I tend to stay in the present.  The past has been laborious and grim.  And I’ve done my due diligence.  That was another me.  An entirely different planet.  A completely unique universe altogether.  And THAT girl is gone. THAT girl is dead.  And she had been born again.  Not in the religious “sin no more” sense — but in the very much ‘dead and gone and buried’ sense that only survivors of abuse can understand — survivors that want to start life again without constantly feeling the fingers of their father around their neck — survivors who must let everything go to breathe.

So, I haven’t been able to look back at this life with a sense of detached peace, wonder or awe — I haven’t been able to sift through and gather the bits and fragments of the utterly crazy magical or the majestically beautiful that haven’t been born from the ashes of the phoenix rising from the birth of the “everything that happened after” — because if I ever ventured back to find the good, the lovely, the pieces that may have contained a little golden sparkle — the darkness enveloped all around them and swallowed them up — rushing in, engulfing them in the same flood that wiped out Noah’s treacherous generation — only I had no ark, and I was completely overtaken with them — slightly destroyed again, and needing to rebuild myself back up.  Exhausting.  Every time.  Who voluntarily does that?  Years of therapy was enough of that crap.

Maybe it’s time that helps.  Lots and lots of time.  Or a sense of ‘growing’ — what ever that means.  Or a straight up miracle.  Or all three.  For what ever reason, I am inexplicably grateful.  Because this girl has lived a pretty wild life that has held some crazy beautiful magic — and I am thankful, yes utterly thankful, to.be.living.it.

It’s funny how the little, incidental things open the flood gates.  Things like organizing.

I have been struggling with this wildly popular devotional book for a year or so.  It’s just been sitting, unread, for quite some time now on my nightstand.  So mixed with spring break and some extra time to declutter and this avaricious appetite to spend time with my heavenly Father in the word and dealing with all of these other life issues — it’s as if God was getting me ready for and guiding me to this very moment…  I decided to put this devotional downstairs with all of our other “good will” and “garage sale” stuff to organize the space next to my bed.  I really had wanted to love it as a dear friend of mine had given it to me and so many of my sisters like it (best devotional book ever!!!). But it was just really, really hitting my heart and soul space all wrong every single time I opened it.  It was becoming painful.

I was having such a hard time accepting the author’s tone.  She spoke as the voice of God every single day.  It reminded me so much of my father (who constantly heard God’s voice speak clearly to him and would tell us what God had told him to tell us — which would often lead to very painful experiences in my life). It was as if I was willingly spending time with a person who brought heartache to my life every single day with this associative memory. But I wanted to fight through this because I didn’t want my dad ruining this for me if it indeed was supposed to be a good thing. I could do this.  Yet, it continued to bang up my soul — this author acting and speaking as God in the first person.  And it continued to feel so wrong.  Sometimes it’s really okay to trust your feelings.  I have to remember this as  I was incessantly told by my father that my feelings were crap and sinful and wrong.  Sometimes those feelings are actually the Holy Spirit.  When you walk and move and live and breathe with God, He’ll guide you sister.  You can taste and see that the Lord is good…  You can put your FAITH and TRUST in Him.

Before I brought the book downstairs to store it, I opened it up to read my friend’s inscription — I love and miss her.  And I realized I had never read the author’s lengthy forward.  I had just opened it up and started the devotional on the day I had received it.  My soul’s misgivings were well founded in my eyes as I read the forward and found that she felt her daily writings were God breathed like the scriptures and were the penning of God’s voice speaking directly to her — she was His median — His “listener”(hence why she wrote it in His voice).  She would sit in stillness, pencil in hand, waiting for Him to send her His message for that day.  While I DO think that God speaks to our hearts — in personal, unique, private, and beautiful ways that are meant for us — to guide us and grow us and steer us in the path of righteousness for His divine purpose — I do not believe that the scriptures are evolving.  They are complete, just as they are.  They have been written.  What I mean is, they are finished.  They don’t need an “in addition to”.  No median needs to bring God’s written voice to all of the masses.  He speaks to His children, yes.  He speaks loud and clear though his living word.  He speaks through His creation.  He even speaks though what His children create.  He can also divinely speak, as He did to me, though the power and gift of His Holy Spirit.

What struck me next and sent me into days of restless thought and nights of no sleep and long discussions with my Mom and sisters, was her page and a half reference to her experience in the Alpine village in France at L’Abri.  It actually made me physically catch my breath.  I had not seen, heard of or thought of that word or establishment in forever.  It was another world, another time, another life, another place, another me.  L’Abri.  They were such beautiful years.  And although it was rife with the consistency of the abuse of my father, it was a very magical time in my childhood.  And that I could even think that or rest in a thought like that…  I had all but forgotten them.  I completely forgave this woman for putting my soul in turmoil every day by pretending to be God.  She had known and experienced some of my people.  And my next thought was, Dr. Schaeffer would have so vehemently been opposed to such a devotional assuming such hubris (smile)…

L’Abri is French for the shelter.  How lovely and gorgeous is that?  My parents came to work for L’Abri fellowship in Rochester, Minnesota (I will always and forever be a Minnesota girl — it is just home to me) when I was in sixth and seventh grade.  They handled the “business” side of the fellowship.  It was the first time, in my life as a ‘kid’ — that we lived in a real, legit house — and not just a house — but a grand house.  And although it wasn’t ours, when you’re a child — that really doesn’t matter.

L’Abri had several international branches–and has grown even broader since then.  The only one that I knew of in my little mind was in Switzerland–because it was were Dr. Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s children lived.  I just want to mention right here that all of these memories are from the view of my childhood.  L’Abri was and IS larger than life in theology, in it’s outreach, in the lives it had changed — some for better — some for worse — and what I know of it and what I experienced of it — is from the perspective of a little girl who was going through her own hell.  This is not a grown woman’s synopsis of the theology of L’Abri nor of Dr. Francis Schaeffer or of his wife, Edith.  This is, quite simple, my childhood story…

I was startled, but so happy so find Sarah Young’s mention of L’Abri in her devotional as I have never heard mention of it or of Dr. Schaeffer or Edith anywhere in any Christian or Evangelical circles.  Ever.  They were such prolific people.  And I’ve been through a great deal of church (smile).  And it has often caused me to wonder if this part of my life, if these people, if these events, ever — indeed — did happen.

Because they were larger.than.life.  They were deities.  They were gods in themselves to my little mind.

Our home, not far from Mayo Clinic, was a revolving door of all of these grand people.  Artists, musicians, missionaries, writers, theologians, students — largely European, Australian, from places on the globe I had never heard of.  We would clean up the house and cook and “make ready” and and then the bustle of activity would begin.  And there would be music, and singing, and deep, deep philosophical and theological discussions — and so.much.food (all kinds from all places).  And tea, ALWAYS tea.  And in the midst of it, I would sit.  And I would be welcome.  Because to Dr. Schaeffer there were “No Little People.” And I remember my parents attending Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s funeral.  And everyone being so solemn and so incredibly sad.  As if a fourth person of the trinity had died.  I wasn’t sure the sun would rise the next day.

Francis in Gods sight

And I remember boys with names like George.  My first complete, head over heals crush.  George. He was the most.beautiful.boy.I.had.ever.seen.  Names like Priscilla (Dr. Schaeffer and Edith’s daughter), Fiona (their granddaughter), Franky (their bratty son — their only son — in MY mind he was bratty — I believe the word they used was rebel –smile), Dr. Keith and Maggie from Australia (who lived right next door to us in another L’Abri house and who introduced me to this incredible band called U2 and this album entitled “The Joshua Tree” while I babysat their wonderfully chubby little baby — I never breathed a word of this U2 business to my parents), Boe, Katherine, and so many others.  But my most vivid memories are of Edith.  Mrs. Edith Schaeffer…

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She was the quintessential European woman, and to me — she was absolutely perfect.  She was this bundle of energy — a force to be reckoned with, powerful, and always slightly stressed — and I was both a bit afraid of her and yet so completely wanted to BE her.  Her home was so lovely.  Gardens, always flowers, pictures and more pictures, I swear there was a harp or maybe it a grand piano — a Steinway perhaps — tapestries, throws, and elegant lounging chairs, books, books, and more books, a grand kitchen, it was a world where I envisioned that fairies could very much exist.  They may have added cubes of sugar to our cups of tea. Large open windows where the sunlight always streamed so majestically in — as if God was pouring out His blessing onto her home in the form of the brilliant rays He had created so many, many, many years ago.  And my mother and I would often help her in preparing for parties and get togethers within her home.  There were so many.  I am remembering something with a poster that was black and white and something regarding “Forever Music” that was particularly important, but that could just be a memory and not a real thing.  But there was always music.  Always talks of art and books and violins and things.  And that was my heart space.  As someone who loved and lived to read and write — that was my God space.  So I felt such a connection to that movement of thought…

Edith taught me how to candy orange peals. I didn’t know such a thing was possible.  Who eats orange peals?  Europeans (smile).  You had to cut them so straight and so thin.  And sugar them.  And dip them in dark chocolate.  And then there were dates which we would stuff with various cream cheeses and walnuts.  And the big, decadent marshmallows.  I love marshmallows to this day–but have never tasted one like the ones Edith had in her home.  And we would dip then in dark chocolate and place a perfectly halved pecan on top.  And tea.  We always had a perfectly exquisite cup of tea in the most elegant and lovely tea pots and cups.  There was ceremony, there was tradition, and everything was done just so…

Edith Schaeffer

And I wanted to look just like her.  Her chignon and pencil skirts, big earrings, lovely scarves and heals.  Her bright, gorgeous smile that just ate you up and took up her ENTIRE face.  She was warm — demanding yes — but so warm.  I desperately wanted her to like me and love me.  I wanted to please her.  I wanted so very much to just be good enough…

She, like her husband, was an accomplished author in her own right (Affliction, Lifelines, The Tapestry — just to name a very few).  A mother.  A homemaker.  And so incredibly smart.  Who wouldn’t idolize this woman?  She could do it all (and she was a girl!  this was unheard of to me who had been taught since birth that women were mindless, weak, drivel some nothings basted in sin). She just proved my dad’s god all kinds of wrong.

ediths books

Her husband was the voice of the, what I would call, the right wing conservative force of the time–which is still going strong today.  Our home was scattered with all of his books — the covers STILL so vivid in my mind — The Mark Of A Christian, How Should We Then Live, No Little People, Everybody Can Know, Genesis In Space And Time, True Spirituality, and on and on and on and on.  There must be close to 90 books written by this great thinker.  As well as a couple of film documentaries (that gave me nightmares as a kid).  His face, beard, knickers, mannerisms, voice, are all embedded and engraved in my mind.  He was a prophet.  A man who encouraged discussion, thought, and discourse — but there was really only ONE correct way of thinking and any other way or cause to deter from this way was going to be the fall and demise of the evangelical church.  That was my little mind’s take on this larger than life man.  He was going to bring us all back to Jesus, back to real truth…

complete works of dr. schaeffer

I remember tracing the green ivy that was scrolling all along the walls of the wallpaper in my bedroom — the green vines curling here to there and everywhere — and listening to all kinds of music and conversation downstairs and wondering where it is I would move to when I grew up.  It would be somewhere far, far away.  So far away.  What I loved most about L’Abri as a child was it’s embrace of all the arts.  There was no “Christian” art — like there was for my Father who only let us listen to ‘Christian’ music and read ‘Christian’ authors and so on and so forth (Christian as defined by him–because some Christian labels weren’t even really Christian) — there was only art.  Art in music, in painting, in writing, in singing — it was all just art — an expression of the divine in all of us.  It was proof of the existence of a God himself.  We have the need or desire to create because we come from one who creates.  Therefore, we must create because we come from a wonderfully creative God.  And if we have no specific “talent” in the fields that are defined as art, well then, we wake up every morning and live our lives for our God — and that is our gorgeous and beautiful creation.  That is our masterpiece.  And that was everything to me.  It gave me purpose.  It gave me hope. It game me meaning.  And my life was lacking all of that.  I had more than enough religion.  L’Abri, in this sense, really did give me shelter.  A resting place of purpose.

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It wasn’t all perfect, of course, as nothing ever is.  In all of the swirling about of brilliance and glitter and magic and people from different places and far away lands of mystique and wonder — I often did get a sense of a “better than others” attitude.  People talking just to hear themselves speak — but maybe that’s what you do when you have doctorates and are well traveled (smile) — maybe you earn that.  Talking without any sense of a definitive end or finding a solution — not to solve anything really — just to feel important.  Again, I was sitting in this circle of philosophers, artists, writers, authors, missionaries, and all kinds of people with all kinds of accolades with a private sixth and seventh grade education — so who was I to judge pompousness?  But at that time I often remember wondering, shouldn’t we all stop talking about this and start doing something about this?  Talking for hours on end about these same theological issues doesn’t put food in people’s mouths or heal broken hearts…

But the outreach of L’Abri is incredible.  I saw it. I felt it.  On an extremely personal level.  I actually just ordered one of Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s books — with some trepidation as I am willfully putting myself BACK THERE.  Those words.  Those discussions.  It is all so full of sensory rich memories — food, smells, sounds, sights — and all of the theological discussions. Most of which I am uncertain I mesh with anymore.  The all of the all of it.  I’m not even sure I’ll read it, but a part of me just needed a piece of my history.  I don’t have very many tangible pieces of my history.  With this book it’s like I have a piece of my past I can hold — Ang, this was a part of your life — as so many of my people, my memories, those who were so close to me — are just packed up and moved and gone.  And so very, very often — I never even got to say goodbye.

Edith and Francis

I don’t know why we left L’Abri.  I never really knew the whys of anything as a kid.  Nothing was ever really explained.  We up and moved all the time — and it was always someone else’s fault and someone else’s egregious mistake and mistreatment.  It was hollow.  It was heart wrenching.  It was sad.  It was cold.  But there wasn’t choice.  We were kids.  Life wasn’t about choices.  Life was about surviving.

I missed my magical people.  I missed my little play house shed in the back yard.  Many wonderful stories were made up there between my sisters and I.  The brick fireplace and brick stove. We cooked up some scrumptious pretend feasts.  I missed the fairy like world of dreams and magic where every one around me held tales of possibility and beauty in different accents within their hands and sparkle was always in their eyes.  Where tea time was a constant.  Where chalets and daughters named Priscilla were queens in another country that I might get to visit with grand women named Edith some day.  Where I would just LOVE the mountains and the wild flowers and the snow caps that were still warm and caught the glitter of the sun just right.  And even if it never, ever happened, I could sit with my tea, next to a woman named Edith, and look at the pictures, and dream that it could. 

L’Abri was my shelter.  It’s people were my home, even in a house that wasn’t.  Ever single person that came through it’s doors a warm heart that spoke my language (even if it wasn’t English).  And it’s a place I can go back to now and smile for all the blessings.  I wonder what the French word is for ‘miracle’…

Love and blessings to all of you.

And may you see the miracles in your every single days, past and present… ❤

Dr. Schaeffer excited

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “A Little Food, A Little Shelter (and other thoughts from a surviving evangelical…)

  1. What a wonderful memory (sorry it ended so abruptly and cryptically). Schaeffer had a huge influence on me as a young believer. I once made a pilgrimage to L’Abri in Switzerland, but arrived “spring cleaning week” when Dr. S and all of the other teachers were gone!

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