Monday, August 29, 2011

I owe you some cheer this morning.

I believe cheer can ALWAYS be found. Even in Moldova.

My friends Brett and Shelly served in the Peace Corps in Moldova and tell me it has been consistently rated the most "depressing country in which to live." I have a hard time believing it is worse than a place like Somalia where civil warfare, collapsed governance, and famine wreaks havoc. But, supposedly, it does not hold a candle.

In all of the chaos, I continue to be awed by the magnificence of human resilience. I know some folks who have received rough news lately. Rough. Devastating. Fill in your own adjective. And in the wake I have seen these very same people rise up to seize life a bit like a lion with its prey. They ravage it. Ravish. Ravage. Both. They receive its goodness and its trouble a bit like a bridge grasping the earth with its fingers and toes, bearing up over the chasms below.

Over the weekend Clark and I took time to play- really play. We ran around Green Lake under a bright, warm sun. We learned how to paddle board and went to the movies (this picture of Matthew McConaughey and his girlfriend really gives you a sense of EXACTLY what Clark and I looked like when we paddled). We went to church and met Angie and her kids at the park. My friends Peter and Cheryl sent me a gift in the mail and in their gesture reminded me that we live life in community for a reason. In community, we remind one another of what is true and what is good and what is hilarious and what is beautiful.

Remembering the sweetness of life in the midst of chaos is good medicine. And when you cannot do that, you must read Billy Collins poems instead.

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wait for the right fit.

This is the advice I have received most often of late.

Whether it is choosing a spouse or choosing a job, all of us are asked to navigate a cacophony of voices helping us to know what we want and what we need. In the midst, it is hard to unearth the voice within. Call it the Holy Spirit, call it your own still small voice, but listening for her is like leaning into the wind along 5th Avenue in New York City. If you have ever walked along the east side of Central Park you know you have a simple choice: you can click along the apartment-side of the street where you smile at doormen standing on pristine concrete only occasionally defiled by the urban dog (you can always tell a NYC dog—look deep into his eyes after he has circled and circled and circled, desperate for a blade of grass), or you can walk along the tree-lined portion of the park where uneven cobblestone threatens the heel and the ankle. Non-native New Yorkers often prefer this side of the street. This must be genetic.

Whichever side of the street you choose, you swim in sound. Horns, birds, barks, children chattering, cab drivers shouting, whistles blowing. Your own voice melds with the busy world and somehow the exhilarating clamor brings peace. But hearing your own voice? Good luck, Jack.

In the Presbyterian Church these days, there is a litmus test for the “right fit.” It is always embedded in a larger conversation about “Biblical Ethics” or “One’s Exegetical Hermeneutic” (swear to God, this is the heady, theoretical language that is used to describe the difference between Evangelical Christians and Christians of the more liberal slant). Christians supposedly have one or the other: an orthodox exegetical hermeneutic or one that is distorted by cultural/intellectual shifts. Ironically, I believe that both brands, both sides of the polarity, depend on something I would call ‘selective literalism’ when reading the Bible. All of us pick and choose which parts of our sacred texts to read authoritatively, which texts to interpret metaphorically, and which texts to carefully slide under the bed.

'Hermeneutic' is playing an important role these days in the debate about healthy sexuality (the litmus test used in determining who is in and who is out). Historically, here in the United States we separated the lambs and the goats based on who endorsed slavery and who endorsed abolition. Later we separated the lambs and the goats based on who ordained women and who exclusively ordained men. Now we are separating the lambs and the goats based on sexuality: not just who is gay or straight, but who has the right to enter into the covenant of marriage and who is disqualified. Hermeneutic aside, most folks have a knee-jerk reaction to this subject. Sex has a way of stirring up the most mild of souls. Yet, many of our knee-jerk reactions are ungracious. We fear variability, complexity, and the possibility of having it wrong.

Funny thing is, ask anyone, the church has been a disaster on the subject of sex. Here in the U.S. we live in the most hyper-sexed culture in the world. We are experts in commodifying bodies, exporting pornographic material, and our homes are more silent on the subject than ever. Churches are just one step above silence: “Humans are not sexual creatures until they are married, so either get married or pretend you are not sexual.” Eeeesh. The brave ones among us, spend time reflecting on the God-given goodness of intimacy, the art of loving, and the lessons derived from commitment.

I should move to Sweden.

I am living in a city where the most popular, populated church is rigorously black and white on the subject of sex ( But I have a hunch it is all far more complicated than Mark Driscoll suggests. So, I will live in the complexity of the conversation because I am just an idiot 33 year old that wants to enter into it more fully and with deeper integrity. Guess who probably won’t get a church-gig in the Emerald City.

But I'll keep on keeping on. Looking for the right fit, right?

Who knows. Maybe we will all begin to make more room for each other, for the parts of us that flop over the edge of the cookie cutter. Stupid cookie cutter. I suspect the cookie will be tastier for it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pull, pull, pulling my hair out

So, I have come to discover something about myself. I am a worst-case-scenario kind of cat.

When I apply for a job the same patterns erupt:

1) Position reviewed. Application submitted.

2) Investigation period takes hold and I talk to a few people about the hopes/expectations of the position.

3) A dark cloud of unrelated warnings, red flags, noisy beeping explodes in short succession:

"Your boss will be a narcissist."
"You are overqualified for this position."
"You are a loser and you have no tangible skills to offer an organization."
"Maybe you should move to Europe."
"Starting over in a new city will be exciting."
"Moving across the country will make your family sad."
"I am hungry."
"You are crazy, so you should go run before you go insane."
"Maybe you should start a business cleaning houses."
"Hang in there. You are doing fine. You are awesome, fun, and will find a great place to serve."
"But your co-workers might be crazy."
"That will be okay because most people are crazy."

Now, being a worst-case scenario kind of person has its upsides. Nothing is as bad as I create it in my head.

O Carms, ye of little faith, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"

It is a fabulous, beautiful, warm day in Seattle! It is high blue sky and this sunshine might call for some paddle boarding with Clark later today (who is making bread this instant!). Not bad. Not bad at all. The Hairless Wonder will go forth into the sunshine and play as intensely as she broods!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Earth's crammed with heaven...

...And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning