Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

When it Rains it Floods…and Makes Lightening


Scripture doodle art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

Scripture doodle art by Jennifer Clark Tinker

Living in Texas has had its ups and downs for me. I’ve had the joy of getting better acquainted with my in-laws, and the honor of being with my mother-in-law in her dying days. I’ve enjoyed spending time outdoors more days out of the year. But I’ve also had the worry of drought, and the terror of lightening striking my house.

Lately we’ve had massive rains and severe flooding near us and my worry and terror leftover from past calamities have crept back up on me.

We were in Houston the other night with flash-flood warnings blaring from smart phones all night. The power at my father-in-law’s house went way down low–I guess you call it a brown-out–but it never went out completely. It was an eery and restless night.

The next morning, interstates and schools were closed all over the metropolis. I was supposed to go to a conference, but I was prevented from making the trip.

We were able to return home safely, and sleep in our own beds the next night. But more rains came that night too. And there were more flash-flood warnings. And there was lightening–violent outbursts of shocking, white light filling the sky, penetrating the darkness of my bedroom.

The lightening that Tuesday night took me back to that night of the lightening striking my house. My breath felt shallow, my heart was in panic mode. I got out of bed–sleep was not even an option at that point–and tried to outsmart the flashes interrupting the darkness by lighting a candle, and I sang and played on my ukulele until the sun showed up Wednesday morning.

The next few days remained edgy for me. The next couple of nights I defied the wet of rains and floods by lighting a fire in my backyard. This was my own little way of trying to take back some measure of control over elements that are actually far beyond my reach.

Saturday came and I needed to pull myself together to prepare a sermon. I had read and re-read the Gospel appointed for Sunday, and had given some thought to my message. But I needed to get to it for real, so I sat down and read all four of the scriptures that were appointed.

[Sidebar: The Lutheran tradition of which I am a part generally uses a 3-year cycle of scripture readings called the Revised Common Lectionary. Each Sunday has four readings appointed; ordinarily these include an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament epistle (or letter), and a New Testament Gospel.]

And I tell you, I know that no cycle of readings can be perfect, but I am so grateful for the tradition of having a lectionary. It helps tremendously to stretch me to read parts of the Bible that I might otherwise overlook. I mean, favorites are favorites for a reason and worth reading and re-reading, so that’s often what I do when I approach scripture on my own.

But Saturday was a shining example of  how my faith, my life, are enhanced by having a lectionary. I would not have happened upon Psalm 29 by chance. But it was appointed for this past Sunday. And the words of that Psalm washed over me with peace and comfort.

Here are some nuggets:

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” –Psalm 29:3-4

“The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” –Psalm 29:7

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” –Psalm 29:10-11

These words spoke to me in my uneasiness about the weather. For all of the out-of-control I feel, God is bigger yet than those flashes of flooding and of lightening. And I laugh at myself trying to defy the elements, lighting my candles and fires, for God is even above my vanity, my folly, my fires.

I don’t know exactly what it means that God is above all these things. I shudder when some attribute vengeance to God, suggesting that God sent floods to discipline God’s created people. I don’t perceive God as working that way.

For me comfort comes from knowing that God is steadfast. God is not shaken by even the most aggressive tempests. God’s love is a constant on which I can rely–rain or shine.

I am in awe of the work of brothers and sisters in the faith who have woven together lectionaries. I am thankful for this Psalm that spoke to me in the middle of the rain. And I am relaxing into the peace that comes from knowing that God is enthroned over the floods and lightening.

That Time When A Dinosaur Saved Christmas


Howard the Christmas Dinosaur

An Original Story by Jennifer Clark Tinker and her son

We all know that dinosaurs are extinct, but we’d like to tell you the story about a time, not long ago, when a dinosaur walked this earth…and saved Christmas! 

It all started in a lab where scientists figured out a way to clone dinosaurs. Just to have a little fun, the scientists spliced in the genetic material to allow the dinosaur to talk and experience emotions. The result of this wild experiment was Howard.

Howard could do everything they hoped and then some. The “then some” was that Howard had an insatiable thirst for understanding the world around him and he asked a lot of questions.

Howard’s first Christmas led to even more questions than usual. Everyday he looked out of his habitat and saw the giant Christmas tree in the town square. He had so many questions about Christmas that the scientists could not answer them all.

But as good scientists, they appreciated Howard’s need for inquiry. So they set up a series of interviews with people in the community for Howard to learn more from them about Christmas.

The scientists were very thorough in selecting interviewees. Howard learned all kinds of things about Christmas. A history student told him all about the history of Santa Claus. A local firefighter told him about how to have a safe Christmas. The mayor told Howard about the giant Christmas tree farm where they always get the town Christmas tree from.

But the one interview that finally put the whole thing in perspective for Howard was with a local pastor and his son.

The pastor told Howard the most amazing story about the God and creator of the world—who was even more powerful than the scientists that cloned Howard. Just like the scientists who cloned Howard cared for him, God cared for the people he created.

Just like Howard, the people God created had questions, but they wanted to find their own answers. They did not trust their creator to take care of them and to help them with their questions.

The pastor said, “This led to people arguing over answers, making bad choices, and hurting—even killing—each other in the process.”

“Killing?” Howard asked.

The pastor’s son, Jack, spoke up, “I sometimes watch the 5 o’clock news with my Grandpa and there was this one story about someone coming into a school and shooting and killing a bunch of people!”

“I’m not allowed to watch the 5 o’clock news, and I think I see why,” said Howard.

“I’m not supposed to either,” Jack whispered.

“But what does all this have to do with Christmas?” Howard asked.

The pastor explained how God gets very sad about the kind of tragic answers that you see on the 5 o’clock news, so he decided to do something. He explained that God’s answer was to go down to earth as one of the people.

“He came in the form of a baby named Jesus. The name Jesus means, ‘savior,’ because Jesus came to save the people from their bad choices and arguing over answers,” the pastor said.

“It is the birthday of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas,” the pastor continued. “Some people get into all the gifts and decorations—which are great. I mean, seeing the big tree on the town square all lit up at Christmas is really special. But Christmas itself is about the birth of Jesus.”

Just then a big CRASH came from the center of town. Howard, the scientists, and the pastor and his son all ran to see what happened.

When they got to the town square, they saw that the giant Christmas tree had fallen over. And there was lots of commotion around the tree.

People were confused, sad, and angry about what happened. This beloved icon of their celebration had fallen down and with it their hopes fell as well. Their biggest question was, how would they have a real Christmas without their beloved tree?

Then more questions came.

“Who did this?”

“Why didn’t you use the brand of Christmas tree stand that my cousin suggested?”

“How could you get Douglas Fir this year when we always get Scotch Pine for the town square tree?”

“Isn’t somebody going to do something?!!!”

And then the arguing began as one person after another had their own answers about what should be done. The arguing was so loud that Howard couldn’t hear himself think.

Then suddenly, a voice from the crowd said, “Hey Howard! Can you help us?”

Howard recognized the voice from one of his interviews. It was the mayor who was at the front of the crowd. She asked, “Could you push this Christmas tree back up? You’re the only one strong enough and who can do it quickly.”

Howard did as she asked and in no time the tree was back up. The townspeople cheered!

“Christmas is saved!”

Indeed, it was a relief to have the special tree standing tall once more. But Howard knew there was more to Christmas than just that tree.

Howard realized that since all the townspeople were gathered in one place, it would be a good chance to tell everyone in the town all that he learned from his interviews. And he especially wanted to tell them what he learned about the true meaning of Christmas and the baby Jesus.

When Howard explained the part about people arguing over answers, all the townspeople looked around at each other. They realized how unkind they had been to one another in their panic about the tree falling.

The people were silent as they pondered all they had learned from Howard. Then a faint clapping began, and then the applause grew louder. And the people started to cheer, “Yay for Howard the Christmas Dinosaur!”

And that is how a dinosaur saved Christmas.


Authors’ Note


Right before leaving the Lane of Lights, my family and I posed in the warm glow of a lit Christmas Tree.

The story of Howard was inspired by a seemingly out-of-place display on our recent visit to the Christmas Lane of Lights in Ledbetter, Texas. The Lane of Lights is an annual fundraiser and community service of the Ledbetter Volunteer Fire Department.

At the Lane of Lights there was a 1/4 mile walking trail with various light displays. One of them was a lit-up dinosaur. We chuckled to ourselves about them having a “Christmas dinosaur” and we wondered what his story was. But before we could ask anyone, we made up our own story right there on the walking tour.

We knew then that we had to write our story and share it because it is not everyday that you see a Christmas dinosaur!

Rejoice in the Good News

of Jesus Our Savior!

Merry Christmas from the Tinkers


My Outpost with the In-Laws

20130527-161100.jpgYou don’t just marry your husband, you marry his family!

I suppose some would take exception to this, particularly if the in-law relationship is strained. But for me it is a true and welcome arrangement. Just as my affection for my husband has grown over the past 18 years of marriage, my affection for his family has grown too. Particularly since moving to Texas a year ago, my parents-in-law have nurtured me in ways I never would have expected. Their home has become an outpost for me in my new state.

Our Journey To Texas

My husband and I are from different states. He is (mostly) from Texas and that’s where most of his family still lives. I’m from Ohio and that’s where most of my family still lives. We met in my home state of Ohio when my husband was in seminary. In our early married life we lived a number of years in Indiana, and a short time in Florida. Throughout all that time we always talked about getting back to Ohio–my family was there and my husband had put down roots there as well.

Finally we made it back to Ohio when my son was a toddler. It was everything I thought it would be for getting reconnected with my family. My parents and brother made it to every birthday party for my son, and we got to see each of them at regular intervals in between. I got to go to events for my extended family–weddings, funerals, holidays, family reunions, and more. I was finally home again!

I really thought I would be in Ohio for the rest of my life. When it was time for my husband to find a new congregation to serve as pastor, we tried very hard to find a match in Ohio. Meanwhile, we agreed it would be okay to do some looking in Texas too. I didn’t really take the Texas thing very seriously though. I was sure I was “home” in Ohio, where I belonged and didn’t really want to think about leaving.

The more we talked about it though, my husband made a strong case for getting back to Texas to be near his family. He made a really positive connection with the staff of the synod where we are now serving. Soon after that, this beautiful match came together with our current church in rural Texas. And to top it all off our current church is only 1 1/2 hours away from my husband’s parents.

My Attitude in the Beginning

Objectively, I know this is just part of the price of marrying a Texan–we will never get to live near both of our families at the same time. Naturally, it is only fair that my husband should get a turn living near his family, right?

While I recognize the realities of it, the move to Texas was rather disorienting emotionally. I didn’t take very well to the idea of being uprooted from my home state and my family all over again.

People tried to cheer me up, “Your husband’s family is your family too!”

I have always appreciated my in-laws and enjoyed spending time with them. There have been normal tensions of learning their expectations, but never anything we couldn’t all have a laugh about later. Overall, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with them.

Still, the idea of trading them for my family just didn’t seem like a fair deal. I knew them as well as I could having seen them once or twice a year over the course of almost 20 years of being involved with their son. But I didn’t know them like I knew my own family! And they couldn’t replace my family!

His Family IS My Family

In the interview process we had stayed with my in-laws on two different trips, and when we first moved down we stopped for a couple of nights to stay with them before we completed our journey to our new town. Their hospitality, and their home were familiar things to me in this new state.

After we made the move we seemed to find frequent excuses to make the one-and-a-half hour drive back to Houston to visit with my in-laws. I found that it wasn’t just my husband making excuses to see them, but I was too. I liked being with my in-laws and getting to know them better. Seeing them more frequently meant we could bond more than ever.

I hesitated to say much to my in-laws about the challenges of the move. I didn’t want to “mess with Texas” and I knew they were so excited to have their youngest son back in Texas. But I had become comfortable enough with them that one day I just blurted out a litany of unpacking woes. I shared that I had kind-of stalled out on unpacking having unpacked enough to get by, but not enough to feel really at home.

Without giving it much thought, I rattled off a list of things–mostly kitchen stuff–that I had not yet unpacked that would make life so much easier! The next morning when I came down to breakfast there was a small assembly of exactly the types of things I was missing. My mother-in-law gathered these duplicates from her own kitchen for us to borrow as long as we needed them.

The kitchen stuff was a big help, of course, and I also came to a new appreciation for my in-laws through the whole exchange. It turned out they were not upset by my rant about how hard the move was for me. Beyond that though, they showed that they cared how I was really. Folks for whom I don’t have to pretend to be okay, they’re my people.

So, even though I don’t get to be near the family I grew up with, my husband’s family is my family. I continue to look for excuses to visit them and draw comfort and strength from being with them. I’m feeling more at home in our new town now that we’ve been here for a year, but my in-law’s home is still my outpost where I can go and relax and be myself.

Where are your outposts in life? Who are the people you can be yourself with?
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