Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Over the past three months, I've taken advantage of a life coaching group to help me make some significant steps toward reaching the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. It has been enormously helpful, on so many levels. One area that I had identified as important to me to work on this year was the area of creativity, specifically, my practice of writing. I was frustrated when I got to the middle of the year and realized I wasn't even close to making progress in this area, so I made it a priority in the coaching process, and am delighted that I am finally working through some of the block and starting to write again. One of the most helpful things I've done is purchase the book, A Writer's Book of Days, and start using the prompts given for each day of the year to help get me started. I'm anxious to see where this kind of disciplined practice leads. And, I hope to use the blog as workspace for some of what I'm doing in the coming weeks.
So, I think that means I'm back to blogging fairly regularly. I took some time last week to look through old posts and identify some of my own favorites. I've created a list on the right-hand side of the blog that provides links to those posts. And now, brace yourself, as I said I would do in my goals for 2008, I'm going to dare to talk about my hopes and dreams for my writing. I want to work toward having some of my work published. I have no idea what or how or where, but for me to even say that's something I plan to do in a public space is progress enough for right now. I hope that putting that intention into the ether will help move me to make some more concrete plans.
So, stay tuned and wish me luck!
Friday, November 14, 2008
And a few days later, I wrote about the weekend: September 5, 2007 Part I and September 5, 2007 Part II. Then, a couple of months later, I went out to help in the garden on a Saturday and wrote about the day: October 27, 2007.
Many of you have commented about how you enjoy reading about my visits there. Well, I've got good news. My friend, Bibi, who lives on the farm is now blogging about her life there. She just started and put up her first post today. So hurry on over and welcome her to the blogosphere and go back often to read about her work to start a goat milk dairy on her farm. You'll find her at Living on this Farm. And for some good recipes, check out the blog she keeps for her "day" job at Oklahoma State University's Seretean Wellness Center: Cowboy Bites.
Monday, October 13, 2008
This morning I went to a coffee shop to journal. A man walked in front of the table where I was sitting, lost in thought and contemplating what I would write next. He startled me when he stopped one step past the table and turned back to say, "You have really nice handwriting!" I was startled not only because he pulled me out of a faraway place in my mind, but also because I have never considered my handwriting to be nice. In fact, I can still hear the daily lectures from my fourth grade teacher, Miss List, who was convinced I'd never amount to anything because my handwriting was small, and messy, and not always neatly resting on the lined page of my wide-rule notebook paper. She'd allowed the other students to shift to college-rule. I, however, had to have remedial handwriting lessons, until my mom took the extremely rare bold step of challenging one of my teachers and telling her that she wouldn't concern herself anymore with Miss List's criticisms of and concerns about my handwriting. After all, my dad's handwriting was bad, she reasoned, and he was a successful person.
The gentleman who stopped to compliment my handwriting said that he'd noticed his own had gotten worse and worse the more he'd shifted to using a computer for his correspondence. The exchange was over quickly. He hurried off to the car where his teenage daughter was waiting for him to take her to school. But, the compliment stayed with me.
After I dropped off my rental car and picked up my own, I stopped at a drug store and found a thank you card. A friend had me over for dinner last night, a beautiful fall evening out by her pool, the smell of salmon grilling over the charcoal fire, and a cool breeze bringing an occasional chill to an otherwise perfectly pleasant evening outdoors. Harry Connick, Jr., played softly in the background over the stereo, and soft warm light illumined the bar where we sat to eat. Her dog laid quietly at our feet, enjoying a pig's ear while we talked until I caught a glimpse of the time on her watch and realized we were both going to have a difficult time getting up in the morning. It was the kind of evening that will remain in my heart for some time, and it just seemed an e-mail thank you, our usual way of touching base about such things, was too impersonal for such an intimate, warm evening.
I wrote my words of thanks on the card, addressed the envelope and dropped it off at the post office on my lunch break. The card lay on my desk most of the morning, the sight of my handwriting catching my attention from time to time. I wondered what the way I write communicates to people. Does it show the beauty I wish to convey? Does it communicate the warmth I want them to know I feel when I think of them? What part of me do they recognize in the way I shape my "s" or dot my "i"? I thought about the cards and letters I've received over the years and the feelings I've had when I recognized the handwriting of someone I love or someone I loathe.
I'm not an overly sentimental person who mourns the loss of things with the increasing use of technology to communicate. I'm deeply appreciative of the enhancements such things as e-mail, instant messaging, and text messaging have brought to my communications with friends and loved ones. But it was odd to think there are people I love, whom I consider close friends, whose handwriting I would not recognize, and in some cases, I've never actually seen. I think that's why I stopped to buy the card. A small gesture, perhaps, but it just seemed important to give a little bit more of myself in the way I said thank you for that beautiful night.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
1. the smell of the ocean
2. my blog name, apparently because there is now another (popular) blog that uses my blog name
Why do so many people Google search on the smell of the ocean? It's fishy. It's salty. And all of that together is wonderful and good, but why do so many people do research on it?
As for those looking for the other blog, I'm sorry this isn't it. Perhaps someday I'll actually post regularly again and I won't just be using up a URL that someone else actually wants.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I've been spending a lot of time lately imagining how I want my life to look and feel. I've written descriptions of four areas of my life that are evocative pictures of what I want when I'm moving effortlessly through life, experiencing it the way I think it should be lived, full of the joy and passion and satisfaction that I think I'm meant to have, not because I'm anyone special or particularly worthy of the privilege of such abundance. I'm just now, at 43, getting around to actually believing that what I've long thought was meant for everyone else in the world is also actually meant for me too. There's no need to pity me for this. It's not a bad thing to discover this at age 43. I think I have some wisdom and clarity and focus that makes it all the sweeter to enjoy these things now that likely would have been lacking from my experience much earlier in my life. I'm just happy to be awake to it now.
But back to balloons and why I plan to release one today. I am finding that the abundance I seek exists somewhere in the tension of working on those things over which I have control and practicing an awareness that control is merely an illusion. I have it, and taking responsibility for that which I can influence requires far less energy and provides much greater satisfaction than hanging my hopes on the actions and desires of others. But if that sense of control isn't held in tension with a good healthy practice of detachment, I'm going to be gravely disappointed somewhere along the way. That's why I'm releasing a balloon today.
I need to let go of my attachment to a particular hope for my life. It's the next step in a long journey of detachment. This hope has taken on a sense of ultimacy that's far too confining for me. Letting go of it, allowing for the possibility that it may not be my path, frees me to see the ways in which God is seeking to offer me that which I thought only this one hopeful outcome could offer.
I've held on to that hope because I thought I was as entitled to it as anyone else. I've clung to it because I was convinced its absence from my life meant I was living in deprivation. I know now that's not true. If it never comes to me, I will be just fine. I will not be in the least deprived, as long as I keep my focus on what's provided in the moment and not get too attached to it to provide what I need or long for.
So I'm going to buy a balloon and let go and watch it float up into the sky and out of my sight. I'm going to marvel in the sense of freedom that comes in seeing the balloon carry away my attachment. And I'm going to delight with gratitude in the abundance that exists in my life today.
Anyone want to join me? Wouldn't it be great to walk outside and see someone else's balloon in the sky and know that today her/his life is a little lighter too?
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Peter says, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
It sounds like a pretty generous offer to me, particularly when I hear his question immediately after the preceding passage, the one in which Jesus teaches the disciples that if a brother sins against them they should go to him in private and if he refuses to repent, then take along a couple of other people to confront him and if he still refuses to repent, then take it to the whole church, if he still won’t listen and repent, then they should treat him like a tax collector, like someone who isn’t one of them. That’s harsh!
And so when I hear Peter say, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” I find myself ready to pat him on the back and commend him for his generosity.
I suspect he thought he was pretty generous too. He heard the encouragement to confront the one who wronged him in the context of his Jewish upbringing which taught him that if a brother sinned against him, he should forgive him three times. So, when he offers seven instead of three, he really is being generous.
Yet, Jesus, the one who had already told them to confront the one who sinned against them and hold them accountable, says, “Not seven times, but I tell, seventy-seven times.”
His response is a challenge to us, isn’t it? Oh, we struggle with the encouragement to confront the one who wrongs us, probably because the passage holds some difficult sayings about binding and loosing, and we don’t like to think about cutting people off or treating them like tax collectors. Or maybe we struggle because we don’t like conflict, and the idea of confronting someone when we’ve been wronged is hard for us to agree to.
The truth, though, is that if we’re honest with ourselves, well…the truth is, if I’m honest with myself, that part of me that’s very oriented toward justice, working on behalf of those who have been oppressed and hurt by injustices committed by those in power, I want to yell with Jesus, “Yeah! Confront them! Call them to repentance!” And in some way that feels more satisfying than asking someone to forgive the person who’s wronged them.
It’s all a little messy for us, isn’t it? It felt really messy to me when I sat with this passage in preparation for today’s message. I sat with the passage while thoughts of people I know who have been hurt badly by senseless acts of violence or prejudice or abuse ran through my mind. Can we really ask them to forgive? I sat with the passage mindful that in a couple of days we reach the seven-year anniversary of a terrible act of violence in our country, an act of terrorism that’s affected us all deeply and I wonder, what does it mean to ask those most deeply hurt by what happened on 9-11 to forgive? I wonder, how do we call a nation, a government to forgive?
I think it’s difficult for us because forgiveness has been thrown out to us in a rather casual fashion….maybe it conjures up images like this one that it did for me, images of my tired mother, weary from all that she had going on in her life, weary of the fighting and bickering between my brother and me who often said, “I don’t want to hear it! Just kiss and make up!” My friends, no kiss was ever so bitter as the one demanded without justice first! And while in the long run forgiving my brother for irritating or annoying me may really have been as easy as kissing and making up, to glibly suggest that someone hurting from a genuine, painful offense to just kiss and make up, to tell them to just forgive is to cause harm.
That’s why I think holding the two passages together is critical. The two acts of faith that these passages point to need to be held in tension. Our justice-seeking is an act of faith that leaves us empty if it doesn’t point us toward something different, if it isn’t meant to bring about the long-hoped-for reconciliation promised in the kin-dom of God. That’s what I see happening when I hear that our nation’s response to the cries to “Never Forget” what happened on 9-11 is to take the scrap metal from the twin towers and make a battleship! Doesn’t that just lead us down a never-ending road of revenge and hatred?
Without forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, transformation cannot happen. That’s a reality we’re faced with.
And our forgiveness is shallow and meaningless if it doesn’t also name the offense committed and demand change. That, too, is a reality we’re faced with.
As people of God, we stand with those who are hurt and work for change. And as people of God, we also seek to forgive, setting ourselves free to embrace the promised transformation.
The parable Jesus told shows us how we find our way through the messiness. A king demands that a servant pay the debts he owes. The servant begs for the king’s mercy, asking him to be patient until he can pay it off. The king has mercy on him, sets him free and forgives the debt. But the servant, we’re told, immediately encounters another man who owes him money, and demands that the debt be paid. When the fellow servant says he can’t pay and begs for mercy and patience, the first servant, the one fresh from his experience of forgiveness, has the man thrown in prison. When word of what the first servant did reaches the king, he calls him wicked for not having pity on his fellow servant, particularly after having been shown mercy himself. Then he hands him over to be tortured.
Jesus concludes the parable with a difficult saying, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” That difficult saying tempts us to be distracted from the point. We want to debate whether or not a loving God would actually do that to us. But, as anyone who has actually struggled to forgive can tell you, it’s really a moot point. We need not be distracted, because the reality is that when we don’t forgive, we’re holding ourselves prisoner to the anger that for awhile protected us and pointed us to the need for justice. We torture ourselves, making ourselves prisoners to the past and to the pain. And we cut ourselves off from the very work God wishes to do in our lives. Forgiveness sets us free from those things…..when we’re ready. It declares that we no longer believe the past holds such significant sway on the present and future. It declares our faith that change can happen. It takes time, there’s no question, and it is wrong for us to demand that anyone forgive. But when we keep working at this -- and I really think that’s Jesus point in saying seventy-seven times, that we keep at the work as long as there are wrongs to forgive -- then we open the door to peace and reconciliation.
And what helps us do the work? Remembering that we have been forgiven. That’s what the servant failed to do. He failed to take in the power of his experience of having his debt forgiven. So if you need a place to start in the work of forgiveness, if you find that there’s someone or a group of people that you just can’t forgive yet, then find another way to do the work of forgiveness. Don’t start with the big stuff if you aren’t ready. Asking someone to forgive the major offenses without doing the work to get there is like asking someone to run a marathon before she’s made it around the block. We can start by practicing forgiveness in our everyday lives, seeking to offer it where it’s possible. We can start by seeking to forgive ourselves. While we do what we can, we reflect on the multitude of times we have experienced forgiveness and let that move us to show mercy when the time is right. And when we struggle to believe forgiveness is possible, we can turn to people who have done the hard work and let them inspire and challenge us.
During my preparation for this sermon, I watched a documentary entitled “The Power of Forgiveness.” Near the end of the film, a Sufi Muslim man who lives in California, Azim Khamisa, is introduced. Azim’s story is extraordinary. His 20-year-old son was killed delivering a pizza to a group of young men who refused to pay. When Azim’s son, Tariq, told them they could not have the pizza, he was shot in the head in response. Azim used his faith to help him deal with his loss. He observed the prescribed period of mourning, then turn to his religious leaders for help deciding what to do next. He was told to do an act of charity, so after considerable thought, Azim, an investment banker, started a foundation in the name of his son. But he didn’t stop there. He went to the grandfather of the young man who killed his son and asked him to help him build the foundation. The two men now work together in schools and other community organizations to teach others that forgiveness is doorway to transforming the violence and hatred in their neighborhoods to peace.
Forgiveness is possible! The message of the gospel is that change can happen. Hope lies in the present and future. It’s based on the very real possibility of transformation. We demonstrate our conviction that we believe it’s possible when we act in faith and seek justice and forgive.
Who do you need to forgive today? Are ready? It’s okay if you aren’t, but I encourage you, as one who’s struggling with you, find some piece of the work of forgiveness that you can work on today, and open the door to transformation.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Summer days stretched lazily from the cooler morning hours of baseball and basketball and long bike rides around town through the hot afternoons of quieter activities in the shade of the giant oak and well into the night when our families sat in cheaply made lawn chairs with flimsy aluminum frames and fraying nylon strips that tenuously held us while we ate watermelon and drank slurpees in plastic cups with pictures of baseball players from the Kansas City Royals. Our brown bodies and dirty bare feet bore the marks of summer. Chigger bites swelled under cracked layers of clear nail polish from spots on our feet and legs. We relished in the freedom of summer. The neighborhood belonged to us and our days were our own to structure and plan as we pleased.
In the summer when Tommy was eight and I was nine, he got a unicycle for his birthday, May 25, two days after school was out. We had three months to learn to ride it. Our goal was to make it around the block once by the end of the summer, a trip that would take us up and down a hill and over crumbling sidewalks. We practiced for hours, falling off with each half turn of the pedals, the cycle dropping clumsily to the ground at our feet. We were stiff and clumsy. Each move came timidly, uncertain where it would take us. There was no one to teach, no one to say, "Lean forward" or "hold your arms out to keep your balance." We were left to experiment and see what position on the bike would keep us upright and what shifts were necessary to compensate for the terrain we traversed.
Our lessons eventually shifted to the thin patch of lawn under the oak tree. The bumpy roots mimicked the crumbling concrete on the sidewalk and the opportunity to keep the tree at arm's length while we rode in circles around its trunk gave us the balance we needed to stay on the unicycle long enough for our bodies to feel where it needed to position itself to stay on. Slowly we made progress, spurned on by the competition we offered each other, yet free to enjoy the pleasure of learning something new just for the sake of learning it.
The day came when we were ready to move away from the tree. After hours of practice, we were consistently circling the tree five or six times without ever having to touch it to keep our balance. We wanted to see how far we could go. I was timid at first and the unicycle quickly fell from under me, crashing down while my feet dropped to the ground to keep me upright. My legs and arms were tight, my jaw clenched. Over and over, I tried to keep my balance, but I kept falling off. I would make it two feet on one try and five the next, then fell with the first turn of the pedals. And just as I was ready to give up, in a flurry of frustration and anger, I pushed on the pedals with greater force and groaned through the stiffness in my stomach until with each turn of the pedals, I found myself moving another foot down the sidewalk. I went over the Collins' double driveway and past their house, crossed the Schmidts' driveway and before long my own house was no longer in sight. I breathed in deeply and laughed with delight while my body took over and kept the delicate balance needed to ride all the way to the end of the block, where I had to turn to go down the hill and around the block. I stayed on the cycle until sheer exhaustion kept me from making it back up the hill on the other side of the block.
That's the feeling of summer to me...beginner's mind with no attachment to an agenda, free to learn and explore, playfully finding a new balance that my body can learn and embrace.
And if I close my eyes, I can feel the warm summer breeze in my face and the sheer pleasure of effortlessly balancing on the unicycle down the crumbling sidewalk and around the block, the sheltering oak tree in Tommy Weaver's yard saluting my freedom as I ride past.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
- Laying Pergo
- Hanging sheet rock
- Mudding and taping sheet rock
- Applying structolite (like stucco)
- Blowing insulation (eco-friendly, green insulation made of recycled newspapers!)
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Riding my bike to and from work a couple of times a week...
It's 10.3 miles each way, so the to and from gives me a good workout, a nice alternative to running. And I LOVE it! I swear I'm like a kid at Christmas. I love seeing the city up close and at a slower pace. I find myself connecting with it in a different way.
*Things I Have Time for Now That I'm not Zoning Out Behind the Computer
Saturday, June 28, 2008
We took two designs we found on the internet and combined them to come up with our plan, purchased the materials, including the used plastic food grade barrel from the "barrel guy" who sets up shop on the grassy median at the exit off the highway we take to get to my friend's house (where I will be moving in August).
Monday, June 23, 2008
And....at the end of the summer I'll be moving into an apartment on their property!
My life is full of good things, and yet, I know there's still so much more waiting for me if I'll open myself up to it. I have some work to do to get there. I've known for a long time that one of the steps I'd need to take is to stop blogging, at least for awhile. I've felt guilty about "abandoning" what for awhile felt like community to me, particularly two and three years ago when my life was on the verge of some big changes and I had isolated myself from supportive people who could push me in the right direction. Many of you who still drop by here to read were a big part of giving me that boost to change. And my life is very different as a result. But, there are ways in which I still use blogging as a less than adequate substitute for the true intimacy I want, but honestly struggle to seek and receive, in the relationships I have. That's a habit I want to break. I want to quit hiding behind this brick wall here and start showing up more with the friends I have.
So, I'm dropping out of the blogosphere...for awhile anyway. I'm going to leave the blog up because I would like to return and use the space as an outlet for writing, but for the next two months, I won't be hanging around here or on Facebook.
I'm grateful to you all. I don't know where I'd be right now if I hadn't started writing here.
Friday, June 06, 2008
I've rehearsed the conversation I had this week a thousand times. Though I have known I couldn't predict how it would go, it didn't go the way I expected it would. I prepare myself for the worst most of the time when I think there's the potential for conflict, and in this case, I had good reason to believe the worst would happen. It didn't. In fact, it was far better than I dared to imagine. Not only did I get to say something I've longed to say, I heard something said in return that everyone should have the opportunity to hear said by her own flesh and blood.
I've had one lingering question ever since, "Why did it take so long?" There is an answer to that question. The answer is found in several lifetimes of learned decency and silence that was thought to keep peace, values handed down by parents who were themselves taught to keep silences to avoid offense and shame. But at what cost?
I am a person who far too often holds her words. The pain of the last few steps of this journey is the awareness of all that I've missed out on because I didn't say what I felt deeply in my heart. I've been afraid I might offend. I've feared that I would be rejected and somehow that seemed reason enough to hold back deep convictions and strongly felt words that had the power to change things, and while I rejoice that those words have been spoken and have closed some of the space that separated, I regret that it took so long. I really regret that I allowed my parents' commitment to decency to hold sway over my own values and convictions.
Silence is the torrential rain that washes out the road that separates me from others. It keeps me inside the walls built with the bricks and mortar of my fear. The longer the silence is kept, the harder it is to traverse the way to another. The obstacles are harder to overcome. It becomes easier to stay apart and not take the journey to end the separation. I convince myself it's safer that way.
I've found myself wondering what's wrong with being offensive from time to time. It's a question that has to be asked if I'm going to challenge the assumptions that keep the silence intact. Recently I was reminded of two heated conversations I've had in my life that ultimately became life changing.
In one conversation, as a 23-year-old arrogant American, I proudly proclaimed the goodness of the United States' paternalistic military policies in South Korea to a group of Korean college students. To their credit, they didn't demonstrate outside my apartment throwing bottle bombs at riot police who retaliated with pepper gas, nor did they refuse to associate with me after that. They didn't even yell, "Yankee, go home," though I'm sure I deserved to be told that. Instead, they gently challenged me, and in the course of the conversation, I became deeply, painfully aware of my arrogance, of the ridiculousness of considering an 8000+ year old culture adolescent, in need of the gentle instruction and safekeeping of the great parent democracy I thought we had in the U.S. On a rare occasion, I opened my mouth to say what I thought and I offended good people with my misguided ideas, however well-intentioned they may have been. But they didn't leave me in my ignorance. They challenged me, I listened to them, and my life was changed for the better.
A similar conversation with my step-brother and his partner years later opened the door for me to accept myself. The words had to be said out loud, my fear and ignorance revealed, in order for me to find a way to truly hear what they understood from their own experiences. The offense caused is long forgotten, replaced instead with gratitude for the life-altering new awareness and understanding gained from engaging each other in that way.
For someone so quiet and afraid to say what she thinks, I've experienced a lot of transformation in the school of awkwardness and offense. I can't get back the years lost, and some of the distance that separates because of the secrets kept may never be closed, but I find hope in these final steps of a long marathon to end the silence that has separated me from people I love that the latter half of my life will be lived out of the realization that words not said cause more regret for me than words said out of honest conviction, however misguided they may be.
Friday, May 23, 2008
In Minneapolis, where I've spent the past five days, it's the food. I established a new tradition of trying, wherever and whenever possible, at least one restaurant that uses local foods. It's not always easy to find such places, but I hit the information jackpot when I walked into my hotel here. A monthly publication for tourists prominently displayed at the registration desk showed reviews of "green" restaurants. When I turned to the article, I discovered a listing of three places within easy driving distance of the area of town where the Festival of Homiletics was held this year. I carefully planned my schedule to allow time to slip out to each of these places.
The first, Cafe Brenda, was about as close to perfection as I've ever found in food. I had a dinner salad with my meal that consisted of fresh lettuce, carrots, red onion so sweet it tasted like apple, spiced pumpkin seeds, and watermelon radish. It was very gently tossed with a vinaigrette dressing that added a hint of flavor while allowing the vegetables in the salad to take center stage. Each bite was perfect, and I after two, I became firmly convinced that local, fresh, and organic is definitely better. Accompanying the salad was a plate of grilled walleye, seasoned with a blackberry ginger teriyaki glaze, and crusted with sesame seeds and almonds. The fish had light flavor that was amazing. Green beans, braised greens, and wild rice complimented the fish. I left the restaurant certain that I'd had one of the best meals of my life. I really can't explain it.
Subsequent days included trips to Red Stag Supper Club and Wilde Roast Cafe. The food at Red Stag was good, but did not compare to Cafe Brenda. The service, however, was fabulous. I sat at the bar and enjoyed the company of the bartender for the duration of my lunch. It was a slow day. I got a lot of attention, and our conversation proved to be the only truly meaningful one I've had since Tuesday. It's odd how that happens to me. I blame myself. I don't mix well in large groups, so I kept to myself a lot at the FoH.
There was much about the Festival that I enjoyed and will take back with me. I found a panel discussion with several writers to be the most helpful and challenging time of the Festival for me. Singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman was first to speak (and sing!). She used a computer/internet metaphor to talk about the creative process. I was annoyed by it. She talked about songs being in the ether and that all she had to do was download them. This struck me as extremely reductionistic. If this is how the creative process works, then why don't I have access to those songs she downloads. I still think it's too simplistic, and I suspect is an attempt at trying to explain something that seems impossible to describe. But what struck me is how quickly the others followed suit in describing their own creative processes. I expected at least one to disagree with her, but instead, they all described something similar.
I still think the metaphor and the descriptions are too simplistic. But, what I realized upon further reflection about my annoyance is that my problem isn't that I don't have access to that creativity. My problem is the I fear the process. I fear it so much that I can't sit still long enough to be inspired, to tap in and wait for the words to come, to keep wrestling with them until I understand. It's a fear of my own power, I think. There's something easy and comforting in assuming that I'm just meant to live day to day, happy and content with what I have, never wanting more.
The coveting, I believe, is an indication that I'm not nearly as content as I think I am. It's a holy discontent, I believe, and the covetousness is an expression of my laziness. I want what's out there, but I often lack the will and drive to do the hard work necessary to get it. The trick is to learn to embrace the discontent without spending too much time entertaining the self-pity coveting encourages.
I have a good life. When I think back to what I had two years ago, I can't complain about where I am now. But, I'd be lying if I said I'm satisfied. I want to be happy with what I have, but I realize now that being happy with what I have means accepting that the discontent I feel deep in my bones is part of that too. It needs to be embraced and understood and welcomed as an ally, a guide ready to show me that there is more for me than what I have now. I get trapped feeling guilty for wanting more. I have good friends who love me and accept me for who I am, who share their good fortune with me with such generosity that I'm often overwhelmed, yet at the end of the day, I go home to my quiet apartment alone. I travel to places where I know no one and a ten minute phone call to this friend or that back home helps me feel the connections I know there and seem to lose when I'm not there to be a part of the day-to-day activities we share, but it's never the voice of someone who wants to know the details of my day, who cherishes the small things I see and experience. It's not the sound of a voice I hear every night before I fall asleep that makes me long for the feel of her warmth in the bed next to me. I love my friends, but I want more. And that desire scares me.
I have a job that provides for my needs. I have opportunities to do some amazing things, but it doesn't fulfill my desire to make a meaningful, lasting difference in the world. It's important work, but it's not what I want for my life long term. I feel guilty about that too. There are people who don't have jobs. My own parents did work that neither found all that meaningful, yet they were able to grasp a deeper meaning in the way they provided for their families and worked toward providing us with opportunities for something more in our lives.
That too is a holy discontent. I am not doing what I'm called to do. The job I have now may be a means to an end. It may help keep me financially stable while I do what I need to do to be ready for that which I'm called to do. I find meaning in that, but I'm also grateful for the restlessness I feel. I can't be content with this job. The restlessness causes me to listen to the constant woos of a quiet voice inside of me that says there's more for me to do.
So I leave this place today, returning home to a life I love, but also grateful that I'm not fully satisfied. As hard as it is for me to admit, I want more for my life than what I have now. That may sound like a lack of gratitude, but I think, for me, it's an important step. I don't think I'm meant to be satisfied. Grateful, yes, but not satisfied.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Concretegodmother sent this poem to me last night. It's given me a lot to think about. It's from Mary Oliver's latest collection, Red Bird:
Listen says fox it is music to run
over the hills to lick
dew from the leaves to nose along
the edges of the ponds to smell the fat
ducks in their bright feathers but
far out, safe in their rafts of
sleep. It is like
music to visit the orchard, to find
the vole sucking the sweet of the apple, or the
rabbit with his fast-beating heart. Death itself
is a music. Nobody has ever come close to
writing it down, awake or in a dream. It cannot
be told. It is flesh and bones
changing shape and with good cause, mercy
is a little child beside such an invention. It is
music to wander the black back roads
outside of town no one awake or wondering
if anything miraculous is ever going to
happen, totally dumb to the fact of every
moment's miracle. Don't think I haven't
peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons
making love, arguing, talking about God
as if he were an idea instead of the grass,
instead of the stars, the rabbit caught
in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought
home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is
responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not
give my life for a thousand of yours.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
The plan was to fish, but the river swelled after a storm on Thursday, making it impossible, so we sat and watched birds. The river right now is a stopping place for white pelicans returning to the Dakotas after a winter in Texas. Numerous other birds circled above and darted over the water in the beautiful morning sun.
But I was completely captivated by a Baltimore Oriole that must be nesting in their yard. I don't think that I've ever seen a more beautiful bird. The brilliant orange color is so striking I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I stood outside and watched it until he finally flew away.
I left around noon and returned home, eager to read about some of the things I saw. The night was busy and sleep interrupted by the dogs' fascination with the activity outside. I took a long nap this afternoon, a deep sleep that comes to me only when I'm totally relaxed. I did a few things around the house and then decided the new fishing pole had to be used. Today.
I drove out to the lake and fished for an hour and a half without a single bite, but while I was there, I saw a couple of bluebirds, the brilliance of their color matched only by a perfectly clear blue sky. At one point, I looked up and saw six vultures circling overhead. I decided not to take that as a sign of my impending doom, and chose instead to assume they had great confidence in my fishing skills. Alas, they were wrong, as I left the lake without so much as a hint that there were fish in it.
On the way home, a friend called. I was expecting her to call to tell me the homemade potato bread she was making was ready for me to taste, so it took me a minute to catch what she really said, "We have an owl on our front porch." She went on to explain that she thought, "This is the sort of thing Linda would like," but she delayed calling me thinking that by the time I got there it would have flown away. After about forty-five minutes of it sitting and staring at her, she decided to give it a try. I'm glad she did. When I arrived 15 minutes later, the owl was still there. I stayed for about 45 minutes more and there was no sign of it budging. You can see some of the pictures she got of it here and here. Don't hesitate to check out these links. You will not be sorry. The close up pictures of the owl are amazing!
Now, I'm home, relaxing while I eat a piece of still warm potato bread. The cat, not to be outdone by the rest of nature, is insisting on getting between me and the computer, trying to rest on my stomach and sleep.
It has been a most fabulous day!
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Om Akulayei Namaha [Om Ah-koo-lah-yei Nahm-ah-hah]
Translation: "Om and salutations to She who, having risen to the thousand-petaled lotus at the top of the head, is referred to as 'akula', having no perceivable genesis, lineage, or qualities whatsoever."
Receiving this from her and hearing the group's feedback was a powerful experience for me. I'm anxious to see what comes of using it in my meditation.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
It's very tiring to hike like that.
It was a wonderful day. Tomorrow I head home. There will be a more substantial post in a few days, and some pictures. Now I will sleep. Very peacefully.
Friday, April 18, 2008
I love that I can pull up to a friend's house at 5:30 in the morning, a dog whom I love peering out the window at me, and load up my luggage in the friend's car to head to the airport, where I will catch a flight that leaves at the ungodly early hour of 6:45. Then, walking in to the airport ticket counter, I walk immediately to the front of the line, check my luggage and proceed to security. Having nearly an hour before my flight leaves, I decide to enjoy a little coffee before I endure the long winding line at security. My mocha consumed, I walk up to the security checkpoint and take my place at the end of the line and start slowly moving forward.
A couple of minutes later, I look up to see two familiar faces coming toward me in the line that has doubled-back. It's a retired pastor from the area and her husband. I had lunch with her on Wednesday. They're headed to Germany for two weeks. We chat until the line separates. I continue moving slowly forward, winding my way back and forth a couple of times more when I hear my name in a familiar tenor voice to my right. I don't even have to look. I know it's Mike from church. He's going to New York for a few days of fun. We chat a couple of times when the line's winding brings us together. In between visits with Mike, I meet a couple from church who are headed...um...I can't remember where.
I've never lived anyplace where I regularly meet people I know at the airport. I do love this place!
I'm in Colorado for a couple of days of work and one big day of hiking! Woo Hoo! There's much to think about while I traverse the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. I met with a minister at my church yesterday to talk about my application for the credentialing process. I don't know what I expected, but he was far more affirming and much less cautious in his enthusiasm about the possibilities than I imagined.
Could it be that ordination will actually happen this time? You'll understand if I'm not quite ready to believe it will just yet.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Yesterday was Father's Day. My dad passed away two and a half years ago. He was actually my step-dad, the only father I knew well. I still miss him, especially this time of year.
Father's Day falls at the point in June when the summer in Missouri starts to grow hot and dry. For years I sneaked away for the weekend, carrying little more than a couple of pairs of ratty jeans, old t-shirts, and my fishing pole, to spend time with him silently casting lures and bait out into ponds where fish might or might not show interest in what we had to offer.
We would wake up early, stop by the grocery store to buy chicken livers for the catfish, and make our way to one of several family farm ponds in the area around his hometown in southwest Missouri. Many of the ponds were in fields where cattle grazed. We would drive his truck as far out as possible and trek the rest of the way on foot, carefully passing under electric fences and around the curious glances of bored cows. Words were few. Our ears were tuned to the droning of locusts and grasshoppers and the lonely calls of red-winged blackbirds and quail.
Conversations consisted of "what are you using?" and "have you gotten a bite yet?" My dad was not given to deep conversation. He would never have thought it necessary to talk about the meaning of life, but I never doubted he considered it, and I was always certain that his understanding of it was worked out while standing on the edge of a pond, rhythmically casting his fishing pole. God was there in those moments with him. With no words to put distance between us, we understood each other.
If heaven is a physical place that in any way resembles this earth, my dad is standing on the edge of a pond, silently whispering gratitude for a life filled with fun, family, and friends. The fish aren't in much danger because he's never been that concerned about catching them. He stands there knowing that he lived his life well, loving his family, showing care and concern for others in ways both big and small.
And in some way, I'm there with him, silently content to bask in the warmth of his love and acceptance, knowing that if I never did another thing of worth or value in this world, he would still be proud of me.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
This kind of scheduling is not my idea of a good plan.
Any thoughts on how to make ministry as a vocation as engaging (or more so) as pizza and the banter to be enjoyed with dozens of others their own age? I need help, you all! I know I'm in trouble. I think pizza and teenage banter is going to be way more interesting that what I have to say!
Friday, April 11, 2008
1.How many times have you moved? When was the last time?
As a kid, I lived in four homes in the same small town of 15,000, so while I had the experience of packing up and moving, I never experienced leaving behind friends and family until I went to college. My life since then has been different. I've had six major moves in the 22 years since I graduated from college, and several smaller moves within the towns I've lived in each of those six locations. My last move was 18 months ago, to where I live now. I hope to stay here for a good long while. No place has felt more like home than this. But, I have been here long enough to become reacquainted with some of my less than stellar personal qualities that have often led to my decisions to move in the past. I was full of adventure and wanderlust in my early adulthood, an independent spirit, afraid of bothering people, and of getting too close. I still love to travel, but I also love to come home, to a familiar place where I have a routine and where there are people who know me, but love me anyway.
2. What do you love and hate about moving?
Each of my moves have been to places where either work/ministry or school offered a chance to learn and explore things that were new and exotic to me. I love that about moving, but I hate the inevitable loneliness of being in a new place. I don't make friends easily, so a new place means a lot of work to get to know people and build relationships that are supportive. I also hate packing and unpacking!!
3. Do you do it yourself or hire movers?
I've always done my own moving, with little help even from friends - because I hate bothering people. This last move, however, my new employer paid my moving expenses. I still did all of the packing, though. I just didn't have to carry the boxes or furniture up the two flights of stairs to my apartment. In 100+ weather.
4. Advice for surviving and thriving during a move?
This last move forced me to do things differently and as a result, my advice is very different than it would have been two years ago. I arrived in my new town two weeks ahead of the moving truck, so I didn't have boxes to unpack for awhile. In the absence of stuff, I got out to explore my new surroundings everyday and was more intentional about going to events and places where I could meet people. I think that approach really helped me settle in to the new place more quickly. Of course, I still have only one picture on the walls, and there are boxes that have yet to be unpacked, an odd little thing left over from living with the ex who never made room for me and my things in her house, leaving me to store my things in a shed behind her house for the five+ years I lived with her. It was a ridiculous thing to put up with and I regret that I didn't care more for myself more than that, but it did shift my relationship to things.
So, I say, use a move to simplify your life and get down to just the basics, and be intentional about making relationships and connection to the landscape of the new place a higher priority.
5. Are you in the middle of any inner moves, if not outer ones?
I'm learning to be more tolerant of discomfort in my life, an inner move that is needed, but not especially easy, and contemplating a suggestion that I could take more risk in relationships as an invitation to an inner move that is both terrifying and exciting.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
What would you do if you found a friend on an online dating site, one whose relationship status would make looking for a date seem a bit shady?
Monday, April 07, 2008
Rock! Chalk! Jayhawk! KU!
2008 NCAA Champions in Men's Basketball!
Unfortunately, since Memphis beat UCLA to make it to the final, I didn't win the coveted banana bread prize for the Chalice Lighters pool I was in. I can live with that.
*It's only been 20 years since their last title, but that's long enough.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
- Go to church.
- On Wednesday night.
- In time to eat dinner.
- Forget to pick up name tag when you walk in to the church.
- Sit at a table full of people you know.
- Leave an empty seat next to you at the dinner table.
- Wait for gregarious church member to sit next to you.
- Visit with gregarious church member.
- Be appropriately impressed when he knows your full name without the aid of a name tag.
- Tell the truth when he asks what kind of work you do.
- Learn that he has a client with a business near yours.
- Learn surprising information about business owner's business.
- Realize that business owner might have a solution for a big problem at work.
- Tell gregarious church member about the need at work.
- Watch the wheels spin in gregarious church member's head.
- Notice that it's time for chapel to start and say goodbye.
- Forget to get gregarious church member's contact info.
- Forget to give gregarious church member your contact info.
- Go to chapel.
- Go to class.
- Go home.
- Get up.
- Get ready for work.
- Start e-mail to boss at work about possible solution.
- Realize boss will think you're crazy for e-mailing at 6:00 a.m. when you will be at work that day.
- Delete e-mail.
- Have long phone conversation with friend before work.
- Go to work.
- Meet with boss.
- Forget to tell boss about conversation with gregarious church member.
- Remember to tell boss about conversation during meeting at work.
- Go to boss's office after meeting.
- Tell boss about conversation.
- Realize you don't know what kind of work gregarious church member does or what kind of client business owner is for him.
- Guess what kind of work gregarious church member does.
- Get boss's preference on how to proceed.
- Contact minister from church to get contact info for gregarious church member.
- Think about calling gregarious church member.
- E-mail gregarious church member instead.
- Answer phone when gregarious church member calls.
- Find out gregarious church member talked to business owner last night on his way home from church.
- Get contact info for business owner.
- Give contact info to boss.
- Talk to boss as she passes through your office and learn that she is on her way over to see business owner.
- Listen to the pouring rain start while boss is walking to see business owner.
- Wonder if you should take car to pick up boss.
- Relax when rain stops.
- Talk to colleague about employee appreciation luncheon.
- Let boss interrupt conversation with colleague to report on meeting with business owner.
- Find out that business owner may have just the solution you've been looking for for six months or more.
- Join boss in celebratory dance.
- Eat chocolate.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
My mind is full. I was given a great gift at the end of this week, the unqualified acceptance of my former boss, the one who recruited me to seminary 20 years ago, the one who launched me on my career in seminary administration. He enjoyed a great deal of renown in the Southern Baptist Convention years ago. He's since surrendered his ordination and is teaching religion courses at a state school here in my current state. Next fall he will teach a course for us at the seminary.
The closer association necessitated my coming out to him much sooner than later. I felt enough urgency in telling him to ensure he heard it from me that I opted to e-mail him, rather than wait until we got together. His response was quick and gracious. We'll be getting together on Friday to talk some more. There's much to catch up on. I've yet to find words to articulate what this means to me. I'm not sure I really even know what it means yet, but it's not for lack of trying to figure it out. I've longed for an accepting connection to my past. I'd honestly given up hope I'd ever find one.
There are other things occupying my attention as well. My Lenten discipline opened me to things I hadn't expected this year. Once I decided to give up the questions of adequacy to see how my relationship to what I've dreamed of doing for years changed, it was amazing how clearly I saw what I want to do once those questions were taken out of the picture. It hasn't been easy. I've had to face some truths about my self that haven't been easy to swallow. I've had to accept that I have been a greater hindrance to my own achievement than I've been willing to admit in the past. The amazing thing, though, is once that admission is made, it's hard to support staying stuck in that place. And, indeed, there's been much that's happened to rouse me from that place of complacency and inaction. I've quit trying to make sense of it in any sort of logical way, but it has felt like the messages at church lately have been in lock step with where my own heart has taken me.
I'm applying to enter the credentialing process with the Unitarian Universalist Association, a process that will eventually lead to ordination. Though I've seen what I want clearly, I do still feel inadequate to the task, more than I ever have before, with a lot of new reasons to feel that way. I guess what I've learned this Lent is that I can move ahead anyway.
I had laundry to do today, and housecleaning, and I thought journaling about this morning's sermon and how it affected me seemed like the most important things to get done. I feel a sense of urgency about what lies ahead. Instead, I spent a portion of my afternoon flying a kite with an eight-year-old, learning from him the ways to keep it in the air as the wind shifts and changes. In the time we spent, I learned about a bully in his class who thinks he's going to hell. I heard about his teacher's new baby, a girl, and the legends about people who live in the area around him. He told me what he misses from the city he left behind when his family moved out into the country several months ago. He offered me his jacket when the wind nearly succeeded in chasing me back inside. And I shared in his joy over "the best gift ever," kite string on a spool with handles that help him reel it in quickly and keep it under control more easily.
I feel like my spirit is emerging from a dark place, beginning to take flight, pushing toward the sun, riding on the currents of a cool spring wind.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
So yesterday, I took the car in for some repairs. There was a horrid belt screeching noise that started late last week, so as soon as I was able to go without the car for a day, I took it in. No problem. My fabulous mechanic found the problem, but had to wait for a part, so he kept it over night.
Today, I worked from home since I didn't have a way to get to work. I didn't mind. I like working from home. It's nice to have PPBob keep me company.
So the mechanic calls to tell me it's ready, and I arrange a way to get there, and as soon as I'm out of the vehicle and my ride is gone, I notice that the driver's license and ATM card that I put in my pocket was GONE! Panic insued. Immediately.
My very, very gracious mechanic handed me my car key and sent me home to find a means for paying him. I returned and did just that. I looked around all of the places where I had been between the apartment and the mechanic's shop, and didn't find anything. When I returned home, I checked my account to see if there'd been any unauthorized activity. There had not.
I went to dinner with friends, who took pity on my pitiful self, as they have each time I've had one of these "experiences," and then went to their place to watch a movie.
When I got home, I checked e-mail. There was an alert from the bank. I checked my account. It appears whoever "found" my card loves movies. Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, twice. Kwik-i-Mart, Walgreens, and some other ridiculous charge...to the tune of nearly $180. Fortunately, he/she got nowhere at Walmart; the fraud protection person I spoke to at the bank said he/she attempted to use it there but was declined, probably because he/she didn't know the pin.
They've canceled the card. I'll be able to have the money for the charges returned as soon as they officially post to the account, and I can get a temporary ATM card at the bank tomorrow. I'll have to get a replacement license as well, and I'm guessing in the grand scheme of things this will amount to little more than a couple hours of my time and a lot of annoyance.
But I have to tell you, I'm ready to call "uncle."
Anyone have a good cleansing ritual? It's time to clear the negative energy around me. My friends are going to run when they see me coming!
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I just finished watching the speech. While I'm not normally given to tears by speeches from politicians, I'll acknowledge a lump in my throat by the end of this one. To my utter amazement, he forcefully disagreed with the statements that have been played over and over again, denounced the shallow sound bite analysis of relationships and issues, beautifully named his dilemma and the nation's real struggle with racism, AND stood by a man who has obviously had a powerful influence on him. That is exactly the kind of change in leadership I think is necessary to move this country in a different direction.
I don't agree with Obama entirely. His strong denouncement of Dr. Wright's statements was too forceful in my opinion. I'm not offended by what the pastor said. I think he was making some important points. I also understand that preaching good news in a prophetic manner sometimes requires saying things that make people uncomfortable. I would not consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ if that were not the case. I have no doubt that Dr. Wright has said things with which I would disagree. I've never met a preacher who didn't. I might also choose to say some of the same things in a different way, but I have never ministered in a context like his, nor have I ever had the guts to speak as prophetically as he, often to my own shame.
A few years back, Jeremiah Wright preached at my PhD school, Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. I did not attend. I was in the dungeon of PhD coursework at the time, trying to keep my head above water and believing that I didn't really have the time to go to any of the events during that week's conference. I regret that I didn't hear him. The reports I received from fellow students afterward were glowing, full of rave reviews and deep appreciation for the messages he brought. In recent months, the Black Church Studies Program at Brite selected Dr. Wright to be the recipient of an award in honor of the contributions he's made in the course of his ministry. The award will be given at a banquet at the end of next week.
In the past few days, Brite has received numerous phone calls and e-mail criticizing the seminary for honoring Dr. Wright. Some of the messages have expressed hatred and bigotry in shockingly candid language and tone. The seminary's administration has taken the courageous step of affirming the decision to grant the award and has posted a statement on the website further honoring Dr. Wright's accomplishments. I have not always had positive things to say about my PhD school, but their handling of this situation has deepened my sense of pride in having studied there.
I understand why Obama used such forceful language to distance himself from the ideas expressed. I'll even admit that I think doing so demonstrated his ability to be leader for all of the people in this country and to help us move toward healing the pain and suffering of racism. Nothing has made that more clear to me than the angry response leveled at Brite. The pain is deep, and the solutions will not be easy. It is a deeply complex problem that requires both the prophetic word of ministers like Jeremiah Wright to rouse us from our numbness and indifference and the authentic conviction and courageous diplomacy of a leader like Barack Obama to help us see a way forward.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I miss blogging things that are more than stream of consciousness and reports on my boring life.
I miss eating decent food.
I miss running.
I miss my friends.
I miss the day-to-day interactions with people at work.
I miss morning wake-ups from PPBob.
I miss regular journaling and meditation.
I miss evenings at home, reading and writing in an unhurried fashion.
I got home last night and had a normal day in the office today. But my usual routine feels foreign to me now. I sat at work a little while ago dreading going home to an empty house while simultaneously dreaming of nothing more. It's weird, I tell you!
Friday, March 14, 2008
PPBob is also home and feeling better, though very tired from the harrowing experience of spending two days at the vet's. We have a new vet at the clinic whom I love! PPBob has a different opinion, but she's not paying the woman.
I changed the flat tire this morning and got two new tires this afternoon. I'm feeling rather pleased with myself for doing that without much effort! I will tell you, though, I'm very, very glad that I was on a neighborhood road when it happened. I couldn't tell until I got the wheel off, but the tire blew. Seriously blew! It could not have happened in a better spot at a better time. I'm grateful I wasn't on the turnpike.
I'm about as tired as a person can be. I slept 2.5 hours this afternoon and can barely keep my eyes open tonight. But, tomorrow I go to the farm! Woo Hoo!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
My mom had a knee replacement on Monday. She's doing well. She's already walking around, mostly with a walker, but some without. I had no idea she would be doing so well at this point. Unfortunately, the rehab unit they were to transfer her to tomorrow is not accepting transfers because the flu has the hospital at capacity and they are short-staffed. We're waiting to hear what alternatives to the original plan there might be.
My oldest brother and sister-in-law were here until yesterday evening. I haven't spent that much time around them in a long time. I've had some revelations about family that are helpful. I'm waiting to find a good metaphor to describe what I'm seeing now. When I do, I'll write about it.
The hospital where my mom is staying is in a larger town between her town and my city, though a good bit closer to her town. I needed a night at home last night, so I drove a little further and slept in my own bed. I arrived home to find a sick cat. She hadn't eaten much and there were no "packages" in the litter box after two days. I left with her tow to take her to the vet this morning, before I headed back to see my mom. On the way to the vet, I heard a noise from the rear of the car that kept getting louder, until there was a good "thump, thump, thump," and a wobbly drive. A flat tire. When the loud thump occurred, PPBob screamed really loud and raced to the front of her cat carrier, effectively pitching it forward off the passenger seat into the floor board of the car. I was just two or three blocks from some friends' house, so I drove on there and got one of them to take me to the vet and to a car rental place. There were no cars at my usual place, so I called another, made a reservation, and learned that it would be an hour and a half before the car would ready, so she took me to her home and I waited for the car rental people to pick me up. After the agent checked me in, he took me out to the car to check mileage and fuel level. He opened the door, leaned in to turn it on, checked the mileage, then closed the door. It locked. With the keys inside and the engine running. He checked me into another car.
Fortunately, that string of events seems to have burned off all of the excess anxiety, so this afternoon has been good. Mom's more well-rested and I've gotten some work done.
Hospital stays require a lot of ridiculous questions, like "How do you feel today?" Necessary, I know, but it often seems the answer is obvious. The most ridiculous one I've heard this time, though, came from a person in anesthesia. She came in to check on my mom yesterday, stepped just inside the door, introduced herself, and with clipboard and pen in hand asked, "So how was your anesthesia?" Doesn't it seem highly likely that the person asking the question is in a much better position to answer that question than the person she's asking? I mean, by it's very nature, anesthesia, if done right, is meant to be forgotten.
I have a couple of opening lines for blog posts about things that inspired me the past few days. I hope to get to those posts soon.
Hope all is well in your world.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
The process started with the selection of the wooden drum itself. Then, I wrapped cloth and tied knots around three rings that would be used to hold the drum head in place. All of that was done last night. This morning, I decorated the drum with pictures of the red-winged blackbird totem I posted last year and put a nice lacquer finish on it.
After the goat skin head was thoroughly soaked in water and softened, I began the arduous task of string the drum through the knots on the rings. It took a long time, but I managed to get mine tight enough, pulling with all the strength I had, that it's almost ready to go. The workshop leader will tighten it a little bit more with a special tool he uses, and I'll be good to go.
Someone please warn my neighbors that I intend to practice. A lot.
Bad: I hate to admit it, but I've gained weight over the past few weeks since I was sick and have been traveling. I haven't been running regularly since December. That really needs to change soon.
Oh, and daylight savings time is bad. I hate changing the clock!
Ugly: Watch the following video for the ugly... The audio is from a state representative here. No further explanation should be required.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Tomorrow is the last of several recruiting trips before I take a week off to be with my mom during and after her knee replacement surgery. It's been fruitful, but I'm tired of driving, eating out, and sleeping in hotels. Once I get back from my mom's, things will slow down slightly for me with the travel, well, until mid-May, when it becomes insanely busy.
I bought some vanilla soy milk a few days ago. I've used it in my coffee in the mornings, which isn't bad, but I just had my first glass of it. Bleck! It tastes like Kaopectate! Chocolate soy milk is fine, but it doesn't work for cereal or coffee.
Speaking of milk, goat's milk sure does taste good. My friends the farmers, the ones who have goats and make goat cheese and grow a lot of good food on their seven-acre sustainable farm, are on the cover of a local magazine. Nice picture of the two of them with a goat. Ahh... I e-mailed to congratulate them and found out, as of Monday, they have five baby goats, and one of the sheep gave birth to triplets. That's a lot of babies! There will be more.
I've been intrigued by a blank on an application I'm filling out for this thing I'm doing. It's not the typical "Check the box that best describes your racial/ethnic identity." Instead, it says, "(Optional) Please describe your cultural, racial or ethnic background" and then there are four lines on the form on which to do it. That could be fun. :)
A friend sent an e-mail to four of us today asking if it was "tattoo time." The five of us have all been talking about getting tattoos, and yet, none of us has made a move in that direction. So, after church tonight we went tattoo shopping. It's my first time to be in a tattoo parlor. The two we visited tonight provided two very different experiences. The art work at the two places was quite different. The prices quoted were quite different. The artist I talked to at the second place made a copy of the piece I brought in and will do a sketch to show some of the modifications I asked about. He's going to give me a call when it's ready for me to see. He was way more helpful than the first guy, his art work seems better, his price was less than half what the other artist quoted, AND he encouraged me to shop around and check out a couple of other places.
I am excited about getting the tattoo. I thought I'd be freaked out when I finally started looking into it seriously. I never thought I'd be the kind of person who'd get a tattoo, but my friends, I believe I am.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
For a long time I've been afraid, unable even, to think of what my life might look like in 10 or 15 years. I won't say it's easy now. As little as six months ago, when asked that question, I was completely stumped. I couldn't imagine my life 10 years from now. I wasn't ready to accept that I had responsibility for deciding more of my future than a few days or weeks at a time. I think that's pretty normal for someone who is grieving. I've often suggested to those I've worked with who were grieving not to look any farther ahead than they could cope with, even if the most future they could tolerate was five minutes. When the future for which we've hoped is shut down by some loss, it can be painful to imagine how we'll manage a different future. In times like those, it's easier to imagine a future two days from now than it is to imagine two years from now. We can imagine making it two days, but not two years.
As the work of grief is done, the future begins to open up again, allowing new ways of thinking and dreaming to emerge. I am sensing that in my self now.
Something shifted inside me while I sat on a beach in Oregon last week. The sun had set, but there was still light in the sky. The fog was moving inland, lowering the sky. Looking out at the surf, it was hard to tell where the ocean ended and the sky began. The whiteness of the churning surf blended beautifully with the swirling clouds of fog blowing in to shore.
I sat on the beach, legs crossed, shoulders relaxed and back straight. My arms rested on my legs. I steadied my gaze on a rock just past the shoreline. I let my thoughts wander, not allowing my mind to attach to any one of them. As the last light of the day faded, it felt as though the sky was closing in around me. The rhythmic crashing of the waves on the shoreline was my mantra, a way of bringing myself back into the moment. It was uncomfortable sitting there while the light faded. I felt some fear emerge. I wanted to stand up and walk or leave. I wanted to control the moment by heightening my attention to the surroundings around me instead of trusting that I would be alright. I continued on past the discomfort and for a brief time felt my self slowly blend into the landscape around me. It was a powerful experience, though it lasted for a short time.
I got back in the car and headed back to Portland, but I continued to reflect on the experience. The question of what I want to be doing in 10 years kept popping up. I felt the same discomfort at first thought of the question that I did when I was sitting on the beach meditating, so I sat with the discomfort and breathed my way through it, instead of escaping to another question or thought that was less uncomfortable. On the other side of the discomfort was a greater sense of agency and hope. For the first time in a long time, I felt ready to take responsibility for a longer view of my future.
As I felt that, it became more obvious to me what some of the blocks have been, some of it views on middle age and what a responsible person my age or a person 10 years older than me should be doing, some of it regret and shame about what I've failed to achieve in the last 10 years of my life.
On the return flight, I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea. Some friends gave it to me after they read it a few weeks ago. In the book, Lindbergh uses the metaphor of a shell to reflect on the different stages of her life. She imagines her life as a series of shells lined up, each stage represented by a different kind of shell. Her reflection on transitioning into middle age named beautifully for me what I think has been trying to take shape in me for some time now:
We Americans, with our terrific emphasis on youth, action and material success, certainly tend to belittle the afternoon of life (her term for the period from forty or fifty on) and even to pretend it never comes. We push the clock back and try to prolong the morning , overreaching and overstraining ourselves in unnatural efforts....In our breathless attempts we often miss the flowering that waits for afternoon.
For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence? It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life. And therefore this period of expanding is often tragically misunderstood. Many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty. The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as signs of decay. In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains. One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead. One is afraid. Naturally. Who is not afraid of pure space--that breath-taking empty space of an open door? But despite fear, one goes through to the room beyond.
My life has not followed a typical pattern. What precipitates the sense of emptiness for me is different than it is for those who marry and have children and watch them grow up and move away from home, the events that prompted Lindbergh's reflection. The sense of urgency is no less intense, and the feelings of discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, and longing that she names are every bit as real for me. I don't look on the next 10 years of my life in the same way I saw 30 from the vantage point of my 20-something self. I am more deeply aware of limits, but the future is still wide open. Maybe in accepting the limits, I gain a greater sense of responsibility for the choices made about the future. The choices can be safe, or they can be risky. Maybe what happens when I look at the future now is a deeper awareness of the great temptation to choose what's safe.
The path I choose to take to reach the place I want to be in 10 years is going to require a lot of uphill climbing. The fear that's led to inaction, that's kept me in the place of not-quite-a-minister, not-quite-a-clinician, not-quite-a-PhD, not-quite-in-a-relationship means taking steps in middle age that I had the opportunity to take when I was younger. It will be harder now, because I'm aware of the time lost. Shame litters the path creating barriers that I must climb over. The difference now is that I recognize the hard work ahead AND I believe it's possible to do it.
I don't know why I've fallen into the trap of thinking life is nearly over, though I do recognize that culture's voice has likely played a large part in convincing me it is. Or, maybe it has something to do with the fact that with this last birthday, I'm now officially older than my dad was when he died. Life isn't over. A stage in my life is done, but there's much more that lies ahead. My life will not be my father's life. My life will not be my mother's either. It will be my life, and in saying that, I am making the commitment I know is necessary to take responsibility for those choices that will make it my own life.
May it be so.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
But... I took a local seminary's recruiter's suggestion and headed back north to the Columbia River Gorge to drive along the Columbia River Highway. I took my time, stopping to see waterfalls along the way. It was an absolutely perfect day, partly cloudy, mid-50s, a little bit of a breeze. I could not have planned a better side trip for the day. There will be pictures when I get home.
I drove on up the interstate for awhile after I came to the end of the scenic highway. I turned around to return and drive on to Eugene, OR, just before sunset. The darkness slowly enveloped me while I chased down the sunlight heading west toward Portland. The last light of the day hovered over the river on the horizon until I finally exited to get something to eat....salad with smoked salmon. Yum!
Tomorrow, I'll return to Portland by way of the Oregon coast. If the weather's as good as it was today, I'm in for a real treat. Even if it's foggy and cold, it'll be a treat. I love the many moods of the coast. Whatever the day offers will be wonderful!
Monday, February 25, 2008
I have two more trips next week, both short and should only require one night away from home. The following week, I'll be with my mom while she has knee replacement surgery. I'm going to be very happy to see the end of March on my calendar!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
John 4:5-26; 39-42
The Samaritan woman’s testimony to the town’s people is really remarkable when you stop to think about it: “He told me everything I have ever done.” (v. 39) Here is a woman whose reputation looms so large that she is known even by those who just happen to pass through town. People had been telling the story of everything she had ever done for years.
“Did you hear about the woman who lives on the edge of town, you know, the one who has been put out by five different husbands?”
“Yeah. I hear she’s living with another man now and that he hasn’t even bothered to marry her. Oh, the poor dear. How does she do it? It must be just awful to live that way.”
“Poor dear? Are you kidding? I hear those husbands were all well within their rights to put her out.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. You just never know what you can believe these days. I do feel badly for her. She must be awfully lonely. I’ve started to strike up a conversation with her several times, but I don’t know. That’s risky. I’m afraid of how it might make my husband look if people knew his wife was associating with her.”
And though the stories they told may well have been behind her back, or maybe they were told in her presence, she knew what was being said, and perhaps even at some point let go of the idea that there was a different story to tell. The power of voice, of whose story gets told, has a way of doing that to us.
She was accustomed to being the one who hushed conversations when she walked into the room, the one no one spoke to when she went to the well. For years she’d gone during the early part of the day to draw water, when it was cooler, like the other women, but after awhile it became easier to endure the heat of the sun in the middle of the day than it was to deal with the impact her presence had on the women of the town. It’s hard to walk into a group of people who know you by your reputation and as a result, refuse to allow you to be a part of the community, to join in the conversations, to have relationships with others.
So it’s surprising that what struck her about the encounter with Jesus is that he told her everything she had ever done. There must have been something different about his telling.
How do you tell her story? Do you tell about a woman who had lived a hard life, maybe made some bad choices along the way, but also suffered the pain of rejection, the heavy weight of guilt and shame?
That makes for a pretty good story doesn’t it. It makes Jesus look pretty good too. The Jewish teacher sits down with a woman who had shown poor judgment in her life leading her to make some mistakes with men and offers her eternal life. He’s gracious that way, not afraid to sit with the sinners.
I think we have to be careful how we view her from our position of 21st Century western privilege. We run the risk of seeing an autonomous woman who had the freedom to make choices about her marital status, and thus her position in society, because that’s our experience, or at least we think that’s our experience. Life was clearly different for women then though. They were more likely to be viewed as property to manage than as people with freedom to make their own choices.
I think it’s pretty hard for us to know how much of her life’s condition was the result of her own choice and how much was the result of society’s proclivity to exclude. We have to be careful about how we tell others’ stories. No matter how gracious we may think we’ve been in the telling of the story, we may still fail to fully grasp its truth.
So what made Jesus’ telling of her story different?
John introduces the story of their encounter by telling us that Jesus had to go through
He came to the place known as Jacob’s well. He was tired and thirsty and though it was the middle of the day, a woman, a Samaritan woman, walked up to the well to draw water and he asked for a drink.
I wonder how the woman approached the well. Because I’m inclined to think she was there in the middle of the day for the express purpose of avoiding people, I imagine her working really hard to keep from making eye contact with Jesus. I picture a woman trying to sneak up to the well without being seen, trying so hard to blend into the sky around her that it startles her when Jesus speaks to her.
But, she does something surprising. She responds to him. She points out his error: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of
Thus begins a conversation about ancestors, including an interesting allusion to Jacob, the one for whom the well was named, you know, Jacob, the deceiver, the one who lived by the name given to him at birth until he had a profound encounter with a stranger, maybe God, maybe an angel, who knows, maybe himself, and insists he won’t stop wrestling until he has been blessed. And the stranger responds by giving him a new name, a new story to live by. He became
In this conversation about ancestors Jesus makes a curious reference to living water, and the woman takes that and runs with it. She sees his offer as an end to her striving. She will never be thirsty again. She’ll never have need for water, never have need to walk to the well in the midst of those who’ve rejected her, never have need to walk there in the middle of the day. If he will give her this living water, perhaps she’ll be self-sufficient and she can free herself from the suffering she experiences everyday of her life. (v. 15)
But the conversation takes an interesting turn here. It exposes the woman’s misunderstanding about what she needs to end her suffering. Jesus asks her to go get her husband and bring him back with her. (v. 16)
Can’t you just feel the tension in the air when he says that to her? Can you see the discomfort in her face? Can you feel her vulnerability?
Perhaps in a last ditch effort to cover up her exposed life, she tries to hide. First, she tells a partial truth: “I have no husband.” Jesus is not swayed. He calls her on it: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband;’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” Then she does what any good theologian would do when feeling vulnerable. She turns to heady theological conversation. She tries to distract him with the one point that has divided his people from her people: “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in
Or maybe she’s just testing him, seeing if he comes to her genuinely or if he’s just using her life’s condition to further solidify his position of power over her. Maybe she’s asking him to show his hand before she risks acknowledging the truth in his presence.
Jesus shows her he understands what separates them, but he calls her to see something different. He calls her to worship in spirit and in truth.
His telling of her story is different. He tells the truth, but he does it to liberate her, not for his own benefit - to show that he is better than she is - and in doing so, he frees her to reconnect with those from whom she has been isolated for years. His call to truth-telling is rooted in the conviction that the truth will set her free. He empowers her to tell her own story. It takes a lot of courage to do that. He doesn’t tell her to do it. She does it on her own. And she does it with urgency.
Now I’ll make a confession here. I don’t know if I’ve told the Samaritan woman’s story faithfully or not. Telling someone else’s story is always pretty risky, and nine chances out of ten we end up revealing as much about ourselves in the choices we make about how to tell the story than we do about the person whose story we tell. In hearing my telling of the story, perhaps you hear that I am a person who knows what it means to have someone else tell her story for her and in turn to resign herself to believing it’s true. Perhaps you know what that’s like.
If that’s what you hear, then I hope you also hear that I am someone who knows the powerful impact of speaking one’s own truth in the presence of someone who does not wish to use it for his own benefit. Doing so may not convince the masses to see us any differently, but in the telling, we become convinced of the truth of our own lives.
What would you hear if the Source of Life told you everything you have ever done?