Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thinking about leaving...


10 things I'll miss when I leave Provo for a while (in no particular order):
1. The wonderful Utah Valley Symphony, one mile away.
2. Constant access to good Christian radio.
3. The mountains.
4. The sunsets.
5. My fellow missionaries, whom I love and admire.
6. The spacious, quiet public libraries.
7. The kids I teach and their eagerness to learn.
8. All the plays and concerts and museums of this cultured little city.
9. The inherent morality of the heart of Mormonland.
10.The privilege of carrying the light of the gospel in such a needy area.

...And the list could go on and on!

There are also a few things I will NOT find hard to leave behind...
1. Showering in a public restroom.
2. Brushing my teeth in a public restroom.
3. Being sick in a public restroom. (Thankfully, that's been rare!)
4. Going 5 miles in twenty minutes, due to the infamously heavy traffic.
5. Having dry, cracked skin.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Joining the ranks of aunt-hood


My little nephew was born October 21. Welcome to the world, Aaron Pressler Clark!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Allow me a brief moment of self-pity.

I fondly recall the time when "job searching" meant flipping through the Old Testament, hoping to find that obscure book about boils and potsherds and well-meaning friends. "Application" meant Microsoft Word or Internet Explorer; "interview" connoted Stone Phillips. Alas and alack for the bygone days of yore.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shatter Me


I took a long walk this evening, beside Provo River. It was for the purpose of clearing my head and making some tough decisions. Along the path, I noticed some of the largest milkweed plants I have ever seen--and they were at that picture-perfect stage when the pod has popped open and the fluffy seeds are poised for flight. The sight brought to mind a Richard Wilbur poem I memorized years ago but hadn't thought of in a long time...
Anonymous as cherubs,
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my burst pod.
What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind;
I shall possess the field.

I'll not belabor the exquisite metaphor. Suffice it to say, the Lord is teaching me to yield my will to His.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Picture, a Memory, and a Wallpaper Shirt


Here I am with Daniel and Karen, Sarah and James, all former classmates at Appalachian. Daniel and Karen were attending Candidate Orientation with me at Biblical Ministries Worldwide in July. Lord willing, they'll be missionaries in Japan soon. Sarah and James live in the Atlanta area and are involved in youth ministry in their church. It is an awesome thing to see my classmates living out what we learned in Bible college! I remember praying in chapel services and during the annual missions conferences for the Lord to send out workers into His harvest. I don't think we really grasped back then that He was answering those prayers by sending us!

Warm fuzzies aside...check out the shirt! Didn't know they make coordinating clothing and wall decor, did ya?!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Neutrality Loathesome

God will have all, or none; serve Him, or fall
Down before Baal, Bel, or Belial:
Either be hot, or cold: God doth despise,
Abhor, and spew out all Neutralities.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Odds 'n' Ends from a Traveler



Some varied reflections after five-plus weeks on the road:

1. Don't take the cross for granted.
One of the first things I noticed on my bus trip out of Utah was the regular appearance of church steeples with a cross on top. You'll see precious few of those in Utah! A cross is just a symbol, but it stands for something inexplicably profound and deeply precious to the child of God. The very Son of God "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

2. I'm an S/C.
We BMW candidates took the DiSC personal style survey--and lo-and-behold I'm a hybrid "Steady" and "Conscientious." (The other two possibilities are "Dominant" and "Influencer.") That means I'm agreeable, consistent, diplomatic, and orderly; but I'm also overly tolerant, indecisive, fault-finding, and too detail-oriented. (I see you nodding your head!) We discussed how different personalities interact and complement each other. So my new singles ad is going to read, "Female S/C in search of male D/I; must take responsibility for all decisions and accept criticism for every detail of those decisions."

3. Fly Frontier.
This was my first experience with the airline, and I was impressed with the roomy seats, cheerful service, flawless landings, and fresh donuts!

4. Go Greyhound.
I'm serious! There's no better way to take in the sights of our grand nation while interacting with some of the most interesting characters she can boast!

5. Evangelism. Discipleship. Leadership training.
You want to know what God is truly passionate about? I'm convinced these three inter-related concepts are a big part of it. This is His direct, 3-step approach to planting and growing an effective church. It was convicting to sit under the teaching of experienced Christian leaders (at candidate school) who reminded me to get back to the basics.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A rare public appearance of The Clarks


In June, my folks and I spent a few days in Rochester, Minnesota with my brother (Tim) and his wife (Kristine). We painted and ate gyros and had a baby shower and went to the Clark reunion and grilled out...and in the midst of it all took a moment for a family portrait.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dear Frank...

Dear Frank,

When I first met you in the Denver Greyhound terminal, I thought you were a wee bit eccentric. After all, you were wearing dark shades in a dimly lit public building. Your eccentricity was confirmed in my mind when you explained you are a poet--albeit unpublished--preferring the medium of "life rap." I was intrigued to learn you were somewhere on the downhill slope of a 3-day ride from Tacoma to Branson, with only a backpack full of belongings. You said you were going to Branson to be a chef's assistant, "specializing in sauces." Or, if you couldn't find a chef in need of your specialty sauces, there was always painting. And after Branson? Spend a year or so on the beaches of Costa Rica. Know Spanish? Nah, but it can't be too hard to pick up a few words.

You were kind enough to help carry my bags as we inched forward in the line to the bus. When we finally boarded, you sat down beside me, commenting, "You're thin and I can't detect any B.O...you're the perfect seat-mate." Then you promptly fell asleep, dreaming of specialty sauces while I enjoyed the fantastic sunset.

As you slept, I did some thinking. I thought about you. I thought of your comment about an aching neck from two days spent in uncomfortable bus seats. I thought about your directionless life. You had nobody to meet you at the bus stop in Branson, nobody to greet you with a hug and a homemade meal. I imagined the ache in your heart to be far deeper than your physical discomfort.

Then I thought about myself. I thought about my dear friends on one end of the bus ride and my wonderful family on the other end. I thought about the direction, the joy and the hope I will always have as a child of God. I also thought about the gift of a good friend the day before I left Utah: a fleece blanket that rolls into a pillow. It was the perfect size and firmness for both a neck and back support, and it had spared me the aches you had mentioned. And I remembered with tenderness my first Greyhound ride years ago, when a kind stranger noticed I was cold and lonely, and gave me her soft blanket to keep.

I glanced over at you, Frank. You were still asleep, your head resting at an awkward angle. You would be even more sore when you awoke.

I knew then that I should give my blanket to you. You needed it. More than that, you needed to be shown love.

Selfishness is an ugly instinct. It causes one to cling to things that have absolutely no eternal value. It makes one forget he's been on the receiving end, himself, of countless blessings from a generous Father. It's something of a lid that fits tightly on the cup of life, preventing the overflow of love into other lives. And I'm ashamed to admit that I let that lid close tight, that night on the bus. You see, I wanted to keep my blanket, and I thought up all kinds of (what I considered) valid reasons. I desperately didn't want to give up this parting gift of a close friend--a friend who was moving across the country, whom I didn't know when I would see again. In the end, of course, a blanket is just a blanket, just a "thing"--but I allowed selfishness to blind me. I was choosing my selfish desire over your legitimate need.

You woke up somewhere just west of the Colorado/Kansas border, Frank. We chatted in the darkness until you switched on the overhead light and began reading your book. Even then, you were your friendly self. Every few paragraphs you would stop to read me an interesting sentence or fill me in on the story. We shared a love for words and good writing, and you made the miles pass quickly for me. Our conversation turned to the book I had been reading, about the life and imagination of C.S. Lewis. I explained the most recent chapter had been about Lewis' conversion from atheism to Christianity. It was the perfect opportunity to share that I am a Christian, myself, that my sins are forgiven by God's grace and I am bound for heaven. But you had picked up your book again, and I was weakened in boldness by the selfishness I harbored in my heart.

The bus pulled in to Colby, where my parents were already waiting, at 11:30 p.m. As I gathered my things, you caught me off-guard with the question, "Are you keeping your blanket?"

It was as though the Lord were giving me another chance to do what I knew to be right. He does that often, and I usually give in by the second or third time--but it's never as good as immediate obedience. This time I finally chose your need over my desire, Frank. I pulled off that lid, allowing the love of Jesus to flow, which I had selfishly kept bottled up for myself. And--oh!--did it feel good!

I gave you the blanket as we said our hurried goodbyes; you said it would be something to remember me by. I, too, have plenty to remember. I am poorer by a blanket but richer by a valuable life lesson. Next time, I hope I won't hesitate to show love to the one who intersects my life for a brief and opportune time.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Rise and Shine!

Psalm 90:14
O satisfy us in the morning
With Thy lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy
And be glad all our days.

This is the latest addition to my collection. Some people collect stamps or baseball cards or garden gnomes; I collect Bible verses about morning. Believe it or not, I used to be a "morning person." Then college hit. Staying up till 2 a.m. writing a 10-page paper on "The Silent Years of the Apostle Paul" made it verrrry difficult to rise and shine a few short hours later. Then I found Psalm 143:8, "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love." It became a kind of daily prayer--and every day I found it to be true. God's infinite, constant love greeted me with each ringing of the alarm clock. Since then, every time I came across a verse that would help me roll out of bed to begin a new day, I took time to memorize it, and many times I find those wonderful words to be my first thought upon waking up. Interestingly, the Bible has a lot to say about morning. The Lord's mercies are new every morning... rejoicing comes in the morning... in the morning He hears our voice as we lay our requests before Him and wait in expectation. Thankfully, I have no more papers to write or exams to cram for, but sometimes the challenges of the new day--real or imagined--are enough to make me want to unplug my alarm clock and roll over. Don't tell me I'm the only one! Aren't you glad God promises His love, mercy and grace sufficient for each day? It makes all the difference when you know the "bright Morning Star."

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter

O death, where is your victory?
I Cor. 15:55
~
Death and darkness, get you packing,
Nothing now to man is lacking;
All your triumphs now are ended,
And what Adam marred is mended;
Graves are beds now for the weary,
Death a nap, to wake more merry...
Henry Vaughan (1622-1695)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Good Friday

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,
that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
II Corinthians 5:21
~
For some thought-provoking essays on the Passion week,
I recommend:

Monday, April 2, 2007

Y?

It's a Utah thing. Most towns have a massive concrete letter on an overlooking mountain. The letter above Provo is a "Y." As the story goes, it was built to mark Brigham Young University, but the "B" and the "U" were never finished. Thus it stands alone, hovering over Utah Valley, silently asking a single perpetual question...While my friend Jess was here visiting in March, we ambitiously set out hiking up the steep trail to the giant letter. Despite cramped calves and heaving lungs, we managed smiles half-way up...
At last we made it to the Y! (Now if I could just get pictures on mountains M, C, and A...)
On the way back down, I slipped and for one heart-pounding moment I was in danger of plummeting to the floor of Utah Valley...
Jess came to my rescue... after taking several pictures, a drink of water, and a good laugh. There's nobody like a true friend. The moral of this story, kids, is: always travel in pairs.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

His name's Stein... Frank N. Stein

Mom! I met this guy! He dresses nice and he's actually taller than I! And I can tell he loves my sense of humor 'cause he's always in stitches!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Necesito una casa

house
habitat
abode
dwelling
residence
apartment
home
lodging
quarters
accomodation
digs
domicile
nest

It's like this.
I need a place to live.

And while we're listing necessities...
I need a whole lot of patience!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A word from Miss Rossetti

O Lord, I cannot plead my love of Thee:
I plead Thy love of me;--
The shallow conduit hails the unfathomed sea.
--Christina Rossetti

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A penny for my thoughts

Move over, Bill Gates and Benjamin Franklin! Their money-making inventions are pretty good, but I've got 'em beat. Their ideas required too much work and waaaay too many risks (i.e. lawsuits, lightning). Wait till you hear my innovative (and safe and easy!) strategy to pull in the bucks hand over fist. It is simply this: take a walk.

Sounds too easy, right? Ah, but the proof is in the pennies. This photograph shows eleven pennies and one dime which I found while doing that very thing. What makes this impressive is the fact that I collected the fistful of coins in four different locations in a total of approximately twenty seconds throughout the last four days. With that kind of a return, one could make $32,000,000 (that's 32 million, kids) in one short year! The only overhead would be the twenty pairs of shoes you'd go through.

I only wish dimes and quarters showed up as often as pennies. I mean, when was the last time you saw a Sacajawea golden dollar lying in the gutter?

Seriously, though. Twenty-one cents/four locations/four days is pretty good. I challenge my own mother to top that. She's the one who taught me the skill of finding dropped coins. Years ago, I coined the acronym (pardon the pun), LFM--Look For Money. "Don't forget to LFM," I would say to her as we walked the dog or crossed the street. Not that she needed reminding. It's a hobby for her. During every stop on road trips, while Dad was filling up, the rest of us would tumble out of the car and scour the parking lot for that promising glint of metal. I was often tricked by the rusty bottle top or the video game token. Not Mums. Her practiced eye was rarely fooled, and seldom did she return empty-handed. Until now I thought she was unbeatable. (Until now. Wha-ha-ha.)

Of course, now I'm grateful for this parental quirk. It's paying good dividends--all of which are being collected in a jar, to be counted and turned into the bank when the jar is full. (That, too, I got from my mom.)

More than the financial reward (mediocre at best, I admit), I love the thrill of finding a penny. Green and nicked though it be, it's a treasure. It means I'm richer than I was a moment ago. It means something worthwhile that was lost is now found. There's a parable like that, which my Savior told, recorded in Luke 15:8-10. He explained the meaning in verse 10: "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." That thrilling truth is the essential motivation behind any endeavors to share the gospel. It's why I'm here in Utah. Even one lost person would be worth all the work, time and investment. I often fail to remember that--until I catch a glimpse of a dull round object near the curb. Though many would walk right on by, I stop, smile, and pocket the coin. Even a penny is a treasure.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Good News!


Good News Club
at Provo Bible Church,
every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Caregiver (a.k.a. Gracegiver)

If variety is the spice of life, my job provides seasoning even the folks at McCormick would envy. My title is "Caregiver." It's a vague term and I'm sure the ambiguity was intended by those who coined it. It covers a lengthy job description, including--but not limited to--visiting, shopping, reading, watching TV, putting together puzzles, changing Depends, feeding pets, pushing wheelchairs, giving hugs, scrubbing tubs, vacuuming, dusting, taking walks, cooking, laughing at bad jokes, and eating pie. The last task was added to my repertoire this past Monday, when Mr. and Mrs. W took me to Village Inn and persuaded me to finish off a slice of Lemon Delight. I laugh to think I get paid the same hourly wage to do that as to scour a toilet!

Not only is there variety in my tasks, but also in the people. My clientele is in a constant state of flux. (Right now I have about thirteen clients, about five of which I see regularly.) Besides that, each client is unique--and I love them all! There's the dear 101-year-old deaf lady who will pass an entire afternoon playing teddy bears, coloring pictures and eating chocolates with me. There's the 6'4" man who spent an hour bent over his stool with a snake and shop vac after I managed to flood the bathroom in the process of attempting to clean it. There's the interesting lady who has me massage her feet for 30 minutes while she explains at length all seven of her chronic diseases. Then there's the elderly man who loves to play catch with a beach ball and kisses me goodnight every time I leave. And there's the wealthy lady who suffers from irregular blood pressure, thus prone to fainting and hallucinating about refrigerators moving across the room. That's just a sampling.

Each client is one-of-a-kind and special to me. The one thing they have in common is their desperate need of a Savior--all the more urgent because they are nearing the end of their lives. What an honor it is to represent the Lord Jesus to them! I enjoy my job immensely, but I also take it seriously for that reason. My prayer is that I would be a model of diligence, dependibility, compassion, and joy. May these qualities point to God's grace--a grace so wide that it spans all generations and all circumstances. How badly I wish for these dear people to experience that grace for themselves!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Now comment-friendly

I recently changed the settings so readers can leave comments without logging in. That simplifies things. (Now you have no excuse for not telling me what a fantastic blog this is...)