Sunday, February 28, 2010

Haiti...and Chile...not to mention all the other things.

Our attention is stolen.
stolen by the radio.
stories in newspapers and magazines.
our prayers are deep.
Our attention is stolen.
it's time to go to class.
dinner in an hour.
our prayers are brief.
Give us your attention.
teach us your pain.
our prayers need your help.
This morning I listened to Jars of Clay's song, "Oh My God."

"Oh My God"

Oh my God, look around this place
Your fingers reach around the bone
You set the break and set the tone
Flights of grace, and future falls
In present pain
All fools say, "Oh my God"

Oh my God, Why are we so afraid?
We make it worse when we don't bleed
There is no cure for our disease
Turn a phrase, and rise again
Or fake your death and only tell your closest friend
Oh my God.

Oh my God, can I complain?
You take away my firm belief and graft my soul upon your grief
Weddings, boats and alibis
All drift away, and a mother cries

Liars and fools; sons and failures
Thieves will always say
Lost and found; ailing wanderers
Healers always say
Whores and angels; men with problems
Leavers always say
Broken hearted; separated
Orphans always say
War creators; racial haters
Preachers always say
Distant fathers; fallen warriors
Givers always say
Pilgrim saints; lonely widows
Users always say
Fearful mothers; watchful doubters
Saviors always say

Sometimes I cannot forgive
And these days, mercy cuts so deep
If the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
While I lay, I dream we're better,
Scales were gone and faces light
When we wake, we hate our brother
We still move to hurt each other
Sometimes I can close my eyes,
And all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
What makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder
We all feel the need for wonder
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder

Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven
All the times I thought to reach up
All the times I had to give
Babies underneath their beds
Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
All the comforts of cathedrals
All the cries of thirsty children - this is our inheritance
All the rage of watching mothers - this is our greatest offense

Oh my God
Oh my God
Oh my God

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mr. Old Man,

I appreciate that you were walking down State street with a twinkle in your eye smoking a cigar. It rather made my afternoon.

Today I enjoyed running errands. I walked a lot. It was darn cold. But good to get out and walk.
I am looking forward to spring. A lot.

Friday, February 26, 2010

backyard hockey and a prayer that has been picking at my soul

(i must start out by saying that i am really enjoying Ray LaMontagne right now...)

It’s Friday. Whew. What a week. I don’t think I’ve had a week like this in a long time. Assignment after assignment and all other “life routines” kept every moment filled. Did you try to find me? If so, you only had to look in one of three places:

  1. The library 2. My apartment floor (conducive to studying, surprisingly) 3. In bed sleeping (although, if I added up the total number of hours I know mom would tisk).

I am here, though. I find myself again enjoying a quiet Friday evening. Have I mentioned before how grateful I am for Friday evenings? So very grateful :)

I have a 3 hr. Friday class (from 2-5) that is almost unbearable. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea. By the time I am out of it all I can do is make my way back home to cook dinner and collapse on the couch (which is actually rather wonderful).

I watched Sleepless in Seattle and cried (only in the first twenty minutes, which doesn’t make much sense). Sappy, I know. But you know when you are tired to begin with so anything that might remotely compel a person to tears just pushes you over the edge? Uh-huh. Or it becomes an outlet for everything else you’ve been “holding in” all week that might actually be worth your tears? Such as…

…a prayer offered in class that seemed to speak its way out of my own soul…

…a research paper on divine violence that stole my heart and mind for 24+ hrs last weekend and has been with me since…

…beloved people in my life who have no inclination to follow the Lord that I am every day more deeply captured by and committed t0--perplexed and inspired by…

…a game of backyard hockey with a four-year-old…after which we saved apple seeds to sprout for summer growing…

…receiving a letter from a friend that was so timely it left me mystified at the train stop…

…grey skies till Thursday when the sun broke free and seemed to energize the air and infuse us with life again…

…an un-expected lunch date with whitney…

….conversation with those older and wiser willing to listen, encourage, wrestle, and wonder with me…

…simple prayers muttered under my breath or questioned out of my heart in wonder… about a friend that quiets and concerns me...

…a gift (book of knitting patterns!) from mom, “just because”…

…voicemails from friends I miss and love…

…and, finally, the gift of rest…either small moments in the midst of the busy or the anticipated “longer moments” provided by a weekend…

(By the way, can you see how I had ample opportunity to “offer up” my worry and anxiety to the Lord? Indeed…)

It is worth expounding on the backyard hockey story. Monday afternoon found me stomping down snow with a four-year-old to create a “skating rink” in the backyard. He was all excited about the Olympics and hockey. What better than to become those players for a while? So I taught him how to stomp nice and flat and he taught me the “rules” of the game :) We slipped around for a while until we were too cold and wet. It was lovely.

I also need to share the prayer offered in class. From time to time Dr. Schmutzer reads one of Walter Brueggemann’s prayers to open class. This one broke into my thoughts because I had just spent so much time working on that “divine violence” paper…and I had already been saying to Him, “Lord, I don’t want to just study this subject to accumulate thoughts and compile scholarship. It matters to me and it involves you. It needs to move me because this pursuit is most worth it if you change me through it…” Otherwise, it is only the movement of “data.” Sometimes that's inevitable. We are busy students. But there are times when I believe that can be very dangerous...

PRAYER – Practitioners of Memos

Here we are, practitioners of memos:

We send e-mail and we receive it,

We copy it and forward it and save it and delete it.

We write to move the data, and organize the program, and keep people informed -
 and know how to control and manage.
We write and receive one-dimensional memos,

that are, at best, clear and unambiguous.

And then – in breathtaking ways – you summon us to song.

You, by your very presence, call us to lyrical voice;

You, by your book, give us cadences of praise

that we sing and say, "allelu, allelu."

You, by your hymnal, give us many voices

toward thanks and gratitude and amazement.

You, by your betraying absence,

call us to lament and protest and complaint.

All our songs are toward you in praise, in thanks and in need.
We sing figure and image and parallel and metaphor.

We sing thickness according to our coded community.

We sing and draw close to each other, and to you.

We sing. Things become fresh.
but then the moment breaks and we sing back into memos:
"How many pages?"

"When it is due?"

"Do you need footnotes?"

We are hopelessly memo kinds of people.

So we pray, by the power of your spirit, give us some song-infused days,

deliver us from memo-dominated nights.
Give us different rhythm,

of dismay and promise,

of candor and hope,

of trusting and obeying.

Give us courage to withstand the world of memo

and to draw near to your craft of life given in the wind.

We pray back to you the Word made flesh;

We pray, "Come soon."

We say, "Amen."

(From Prayers for a Privileged People)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A prayer for Lent

Loss is indeed our gain
"The pushing and shoving of the world is endless.
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our fair share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create the spaces in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to come to newness.
So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial--
not to notice the suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.

(Walter Brueggeman; in anticipation of reading 1 Samuel 8/2000).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Living Lent

I’ve never “observed” Lent. This year I decided to take the plunge and get intentional about steeping in the season. God has taught me some significant things over the past several years about liturgy and ritual—and the subsequent “loss” that comes with the absence of these. Evangelical circles tend to let the observance of certain seasons slide a bit more than I have come to find is probably healthy. Lent is one of these “lost” seasons. Of course, there is the danger of allowing strict observance of certain traditions to dull the heart and deaden the vibrancy of faith. I’d like us to consider, though, that loss of certain traditions can also have the same effect.

So I am only now beginning to teach myself about the season—reading, thinking, praying, and wondering. The most thought I’ve ever really given to Lent has been in the form of, “gee, I wonder what I will ‘give up.’ Should I even bother giving something up?” It is different this time. I really want to live Lent this year.

Ash Wednesday crept up on me before I could decide what I wanted to let go of. Yesterday evening, as I lay in bed for a few hours battling a migraine, I started thinking about worry. This is another thing God’s been teaching me lately—how to handle worry, stress, and anxiety in healthier ways. My perfectionist tendencies often lead me to live with a lot of pressure and worry. I want to work on this.

So...I am giving up worry for Lent. I know what you are thinking—that’s impossible, right? Here’s the thing. Obviously I can’t entirely stop worrying. But I can be intentional about the time I spend in worry. I now carry around slips of paper on which I scrawl my worries as they sneak up on me during the day. I scribble them out and write a brief prayer (a ritual i need right now). This helps me acknowledge weakness and my need for strength to sacrifice habits of thinking and being that are unhealthy. It also teaches me to pray anew. There is something simple about intentionally letting go of my worries. There is something bold and beautiful about entrusting myself to the Lord's strength for facing temptation, sacrificing habits of weakness, and hoping toward newness.

In so many ways I am grateful for this season and my “new” recognition of it.

Yesterday I was reading an online lectionary, here, and came across a few prayers I want to share for this season:

“Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ. Amen.”

“Fill us with your strength to resist the seductions of our foolish desires and the tempter's vain delights, that we may walk in obedience and righteousness, rejoicing in you with an upright heart. Amen.”

How are you living Lent?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Week in Pictures

Notice Sam's sister (in between his legs)!!

Meet Sam's best friend, Bernard. Bernard is probably the world's most lovable puppy. He hails from IKEA. Sam laughs every time anyone talks about Bernard. He also gives Bernard the best hugs. They are a very cute pair.

Sam and Auntie love...

A variation of peek-a-boo, i think :)

A favorite pass-time: "spying" out the front window. He laughs whenever cars drive by. It's the cutest ever. When I baby sat him, after he got up from his nap we sat in the chair by the window for at least 20 minutes cuddling and laughing at the cars go by. I love my little nephew :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Life with the McGee's

I've been in Richmond with the McGee's. I flew into DC late on Thursday. I fly back to Chicago Wednesday evening. It's been so great to get away from the city for awhile. So great. I don't think i can emphasize the "great" enough :) It feels good to be in a real home, eating a regular diet of real food, not to mention spending good time with family. whew, those are all great reasons to be enjoying this time as much as I am, don't you think? I haven't been able to get much studying done. I go back and forth about feeling "stressed" and not really caring. I think because I recognize the gift of this time and in the long run it matters more to me than working really hard on homework. I needed a break. I am always studying. Sometimes I just have to give it up a little to do other things. I'm trying to be more ok with this when I need to be :)
On saturday we went into town and walked one of the main streets, looked around in shops, and ate lunch at a local diner where I had my first fried pickle. This sounds gross, i know, but it was actually really good.
Mostly we've just been hanging out at home. Kristen and I have begun new sister knitting projects. I'm not going to tell you what yet. I'll keep you updated as I progress! I am really excited about it...
Tomorrow we go on a sister date to the doctor to hear little niece's heartbeat! I've felt her kick a few times. I am so excited for a little girly. So is Sam. haha. oh, sister! He doesn't know how lucky he is (yet)!
Some highlights from the week thus far (and pictures!):

1. Waffle breakfast. Mmm. Sam and Auntie bond...

2. Watching the Olypics. Hannah Carney and the women's moguls (this is my new favorite event). The men's moguls. Couples figure skating (umm, surprisingly humorous thanks to a few idiot commentators). There's something about the Olympics that is just wonderful. I can't really describe it. I so enjoy watching athletes of all ages and ethnicities compete in such a wide variety of sports. It's exhilarating. I love laughing with jay and kristen at the ridiculous commentators (note: kristen and i have decidedly found a future as "sister commentators." think about it, how awesome would that be?).

3. Babysitting my very own nephew, exchanging smiles across the room, cuddling, giggling, "reading" (his attention span for books is still a little short), chasing each other around the house, watching cars drive up and down the street, laughing at other silly happenings...he is the best. i love him so much.

4. Being with Jay and Kristen. I love that we can hang out and talk, not talk, and laugh. We are good at laughing. Sometimes we gang up on Jay, other times on Kristen. Sometimes they gang up on me. Good times. Tomorrow is movie night (Nacho Libre, what else?!) with good food and drink.

More later. the pictures are taking forever to load. So you're only getting those three. and a certain little rascal keeps coming over to see if i will play. it's time to go...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

where is your spot?

in several ways and through several people i have been reminded lately of the importance of personal space--"self-care," if you will. we stack our days full of events and appointments such that anything "unexpected" threatens to topple us. we can even justify business by claiming that it is "in service" to others or a focused "investment" in relationships. well, i am here to tell you that i have used those very same justifications and, while there is certainly time and place for service and investment, there is also a very important four-letter concept called rest. and i think we compromise it too readily sometimes.

so, this is my challenge for YOU. think about what is necessary for personal health, growth, and development. naturally, this should include concerted thinking about your relationship with God--a being whose very influence in our lives promotes wholeness through rest and redemption.

do you need to take a long walk? a long bath? read a novel? write a poem? paint a mural? collage a wall? go for a run? escape people? find people? journal? sit somewhere quietly? cook? play music?...the list of questions is endless and, ultimately, you need to determine with yourself and God what things are "most" healthy for you. but i encourage you to devote time to some of those things.

I'm challenging myself to journal again. for whatever reason, it has become more and more difficult to journal this semester. really, i just haven't made time for it. but i know i need to. the space of the empty page is a space for me to be "all me." it is, in the words of an anonymous stranger-friend, "a place where i can swear and spit and ache." i need that space. God has always met me in that space. He "risks" the mess of my swearing and spitting and aching to get into my life with me...there is hardly a more wonderful thing...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

appreciating saturday

i used to hate saturday. for a lone time saturday was the day that made me feel guilty or "unproductive." you know, if you have much to either catch up on or prepare for, when else are you going to do it but on saturday? yeah, that's a good enough reason to get frustrated with saturday, i think.

but this semester i decided i need to live my saturdays without getting to the end of them regretting things left undone (like unfinished, dare I say unreasonable, mile long to-do lists). i have always been over ambitious with my weekends. it is pretty great to realize that I am learning to relax about this.

for example...
this morning i slept in. no alarm clock. as mentioned in yesterday's post, this week exhausted me. therefore, i decided a sleep-in was very necessary. I woke up at 9:15 and watched an episode of Recess with a bowl of cereal. mmm.

after getting ready for the day I packed a bag for the library and bundled up. after a quick trip to the bank to deposit last week's pay check and a stop at the post office for a book of stamps (i've had to hold off on letter writing for the past week and a half...arg), i finally made it to the library. i spent a good hour and a half researching for a paper. this is the paper on a biblical theology of the violence of God. it's already very interesting--poking and prodding me in new ways. i just love digging into themes of Scripture that are at first "untouchable" but once in, a storehouse of mystery and meaning...
I got swallowed up by one article in particular for awhile before a footnote sent me on a search for a few other resources. If you are interested, check it out:
Fretheim, Terence E. "'I Was Only a Little Angry': Divine Violence in the Prophets." Interpretation 58 (2004): 365-375.
It's a short article with great insight and challenge. There is another of his ("God and Violence in the Old Testament") that is also on my list.

After the library i came back to the apartment to clean and organize. I always feel better about my Sunday and a new week if things are straightened up in my "living space." Tiffany and I have been waiting to rent Adam, which we did today. Also, I've been wanting to make fresh pasta for awhile. I decided it was time. Actually, the extra bit of motivation came from reading SouleMama's post, here, and remembering that I own The Art of Simple, what have I been waiting for?! It is cheap--flour and eggs. It's not labor intensive either. So Tiff and I took a break from Adam to roll out, cut, and boil these tasty fresh noodles. I think when I have a family of my own i might invest in a pasta press. But maybe the kiddos will enjoy helping cut...

All this to say, today has not been a waste. I am not stressed or guilty for *not* spending hours upon hours working on homework (since there is always more to do, especially for a perfectionist). Saturdays, now, are almost always a good mix of structure and spontaneity. I am thankful for this. please remember, dear reader, that life is short and we really ought to have a balanced diet of structure and spontaneity.

In other news, I am flying out Thursday night for Richmond. Yes, it's true. I get to spend five days with Jay, Kristen, Sam, and the niece-in-progress. Mmmm, I just can't wait!

Well, after a brisk night walk to the grocery store with Lace, I am now cozy in this warm little room with my cup of ginger tea, the weepies softly playing through my speakers, thinking about which article to dive into next. and I quietly look forward to reciting the Nicene Creed with a community of fellow faith-followers tomorrow because, beautifully, it has taken on new meaning for me this week. But that's for another post--this one is long enough. Here's to leaving you hanging :)

Friday, February 05, 2010

the places where He steps in

Matthew Perryman Jones writes a verse that expresses some of the real and raw tension we live with:
"Take me to a place where love can mend these wounds/Where mystery can dance with truth/And the broken soul finds refuge."

Here i am on a friday afternoon, grateful for a few hours to sit and think and rest and pray. It's Founder's Week which is something of a nice change but always also really exhausting. I've attended 13 sessions (sermons/messages/teachings, whatever you wish to title them) this week, worked 14 hrs, and averaged about 6 1/2 hours of sleep each night. i am worn out.

in the middle of all of this, I think it needs to be said that i'm really excited about my life. it is all at once strange and wonderful to think about graduating and moving on to new things. i am so very hopeful about my life and my future. I have had several interesting conversations this week with friends, with myself, and with God, about who I am, what I love, and how I am moving into my future. I've experienced both encouragement and discouragement from these interactions. some days i think i learn in leaps and bounds; others are sprinkled with quiet moments of growth. i am thankful for each. I am glad He keeps stepping in.

do you ever feel like you are growing into yourself? i do.
also, i am increasingly aware of how deeply i desire to walk my life with the accompanying presence of the mysterious God that I love (this is necessary). this has directed my prayers lately. although I am sometimes sore from wrestling so hard with him, i am grateful that he touches deep parts of me and opens my eyes where i have kept them shut. mystery dances with truth.

i feel like marshall (yes, this is an ALIAS reference): "do you hear that? yeah, that's the sound of my mind blowing." there is so much i am growing "out of" and so there's an inevitable sense of loss and pain. But, there is so much I am growing into, and for those there are feelings of eagerness, expectance, readiness, and waiting.

i can see the snowflakes floating down outside my window. beautiful. i think i am going to take a nap.