christmas is over, sort of. i mean, if you're in canada saturday was boxing day, and that's all part of the tradition. for you americans that's a day of a lot of shopping with deals and such similar to our black friday--not a day when people fight in the streets. or maybe if you are really unique you do that whole 12 days of christmas thing, and you're only on the 4th day of christmas. i hope you're loving your calling birds.
actually what that holiday corresponds to is an event in the church calendar called epiphany. we don't usually celebrate epiphany, or at least i've only once been a part of a church/community that did. and i don't know why we don't. it is the day to commemorate the revelation of God in human form. maybe we've tried to wrap all that up into christmas. but the problem there is that we have the conception of a little baby. easter reminds us of the cross and resurrection. but there is such a value in celebrating just the simple fact of God being made man and dwelling among us. it is a beautiful thing.
in the west epiphany is generally celebrated as the revelation of God given to the gentiles. this is represented symbolically through the coming of the three wise men to visit Jesus. this is something else that has gotten wrapped up in christmas, but it's pretty clear that the wise men were not there at the birth. they were even perhaps as much as two years after the fact. so christmas, no. epiphany, yes. and they were certainly not jews. in the east they celebrate the event drawing more on the baptism of Jesus to symbolize the meaning. this actually makes a little more sense to me. but you can celebrate it either way you like.
i believe the date this year is on january 6th. i think it always is, or a sunday close to that date. so celebrate it. and you can count these 12 days of christmas leading up to it (do the math: 25th plus 12 takes you to jan 5th--funny how it works like that eh? almost like they planned it).
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.
You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
For you will break the yoke of their slavery
and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
You will break the oppressor’s rod,
just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
"christmas in the room" by sufjan stevens"
(and yes, that is the real cover)
fortunately though there are some good musicians out there trying to create christmas music that is actually good, whether by redoing some of the old stuff or writing new classics. the problem it seems for most people is finding it!
well now you all are in luck! your christmas music santa is here! with this week leading up to christmas i will post a christmas song a day, something you can actually (hopefully) enjoy. nothing lame or cliche. sometimes unknown sometimes familiar. maybe some of you out there can even play the role of elf and send me some of your favorites--they might even get played!
so saddle up your ears and ride into christmas on a delightful joyous medley of holiday cheer!
"why can't it be christmas time all year?" by rosie thomas
(i posted this one last year too, but this is a good one to kick it off)
why should the holidays--the freaking holidays be something that leaves us worse than before they came? well if you look up "holiday" in the dictionary, depending on your dictionary, it will usually give the first several definitions of holiday as something that is merely a break from work. "a fixed day by law or custom..." ugh. that sounds wonderful. it's all just a bunch of cultural customs. go through the motions.
you could make this case for thanksgiving, fourth of july, mother's day, labor day, etc. but christmas? oh no. let's not lump christmas in with all the others. we have to take hold of christmas as not the same as just any other holiday. yes we do that through focusing on advent. we do that through fighting consumerism and materialism. we do that by focusing on Jesus more than santa. but is that enough? is that working for us? it's almost as if we need something more. it's all so pervasive that it's really hard to keep our heads above the surface.
never fear my dear readers--i have the solution! i have the thing that is going to push us all over the top so that we can finally find our christmas cheer and hold the holiday in goodness and truth.
Forget fire, forget winnowing forks, forget threshing floors: amid our daily lives, is there anything more unsettling than receiving a clear word about what it is that we’re meant to do in this world? Is there anything that risks taking us deeper into our insecurities, into our fears, into the dark unknown than when someone who sees and recognizes and knows us, then challenges us to be the person whom God has created and called us to be? And is there anything more full of wonder and hope?
I’ve always been an ideas person. And I think in many ways, it speaks to the numerous privileges and opportunities we all have in our lives. Having said that, I think it lends itself to this theory that I have that we are part of the most over-rated generation in human history – because we have access to so much data, info, resources, modes of communication…but end up doing so little. We tweet, blog, talk, preach, retweet, etc…and while I’m not diminishing that the aforementioned things aren’t actions per se but what are the “costs” behind our actions?
Or how does that verse go?
we walked inside to the sound of soft music and a gentle warmth very much welcomed. there were a few people walking around the church, a few in pews praying. the light was low, mostly spreading from the illumination of the icon sculptures. across the church a door was open with a sign outside it. it was in german but by now i could recognize the word "markt."
all around vienna and most eurpoean cities there are christmas markets. little stands are set up in several places around town and they are filled with christmas items--usually small handmade crafts or like items. others have food and crepes and apfelwein. they are really delightful. but they are also usually crowded and a little touristy.
but this little room was not at all. it was out of the way, no signs outside the church for it. through my very limited german i was able to learn that it was a fundraiser for the church. i'm a sucker for christmas stuff and for unique treasures, so this place was like the X that wasn't on the map. my favorite were the candles. they were white with christmas scenes painted the outside, all handcrafted by the little old lady sitting behind the decorated display table.
at this point it was late in my time abroad, and i was already wondering how i was going to be able to get all my stuff back. that and the candles weren't exactly the cheapest items. i searched through the various candles while sipping my cider. i tried to ask the lady about the candles but she didn't speak very much english at all. her smile said more than her words. after much deliberation i picked one out, and so did my companion. as she was wrapping up our candles she pulled out two little small candles with baby Jesus on them and wrapped them, putting them in our bag.
"oh how much?"
she shook her hand at me and smiled, handing me the bag. i thanked her profusely and she just smiled.
i don't know what it was about this interaction that has stuck with me so long. maybe she did this for all of her customers and it was nothing special. or maybe she saw us and understood. she knew that we were american visitors and that we had happened to stumble into their little church. i'm sure from my painful agonizing over several candles she realized we didn't have much money. and maybe since we couldn't communicate in any other way, she gave us a gift to try and say something more. and trying to put that gift into words now just wouldn't work.
i have these candles now in my room. i put them out because it's christmastime of course. but there they sit--they are a reminder of this encounter three years ago and of so much else. they have taken the place of the candles i wrote about a little while ago. and especially as i think back over what i wrote then, i'm left with the question, "do i burn these?"
what is a candle for if you will never light it? the object holds the memory and represents a lot, but then do i keep these candles forever and never burn them? are they just a display then? or would their burning in a way consummate the experience.
how do we hold the past? how do we accept our memories with gratefulness and not miss what they gave us at the time? i remember something like this and it makes me want to go back. it creates a longing in me. so then do i hold onto these candles for what they were, or for what they are now--the only piece of that experience that i can physically see and touch now?
i'm sure your answers may vary on whether or not you out there are packrats or purgers, nostalgics or anticipators, rememberers or adventurers. but what do you think? should i burn the candles or save them?
we've heard gunshots before down at our church. not infrequently actually. but none of them have ever been this close. they had to have come from less than a block away. i'm a pretty heavy sleeper and not much wakes me up, but this shot my eyes open rather quickly.
after the sirens i laid in my bed for a few minutes, my eyes still wide. i thought about how my car was parked on the edge of the lot and how it could have taken a shot. i thought about how a bullet could come through the window and hit the wall above me, though with the exterior stone and roof section off my room that is basically impossible. but truly it was the first time that i have felt a good amount of fear at the church. it took me awhile to fall back asleep.
admittedly most of my thoughts were about myself and others in the community. in fact just as i'm typing now it's the first time i've given any real thought to our neighbors or the people in the gun fight themselves. nothing was in the news so it seems as if no one was hurt. but my inability to consider others just shows how deep my own selfishness goes.
why do i tell this story? to share something interesting? to show everyone how dangerous our neighborhood is and how we are so badass for living there? i don't want people to worry. and actually i don't think that this story really shows things are any more dangerous than we already knew they were. and while it's something of a crazy story, i think it doesn't really show anything conclusive--except that maybe this is what you'd expect.
tuesday morning i was walking to my car and i pressed the button on my keypad to unlock the car, upon which instead my car locked. this simply means that i had somehow failed to lock my car the night before. i shook my head at myself and opened the door. everything was still there; nothing was missing. the car was still there, obviously. and unfortunately i have to say that this isn't the first time that i've done this since moving into the church.
and i guess i tell that story because maybe it isn't what you'd expect. maybe we should though--i mean, it's not as if people are lurking around our cars every night testing them to see if the doors are locked. and yet it seems like a shocking thing--or at least that's what some people have told me when i casually mentioned it to them.
i don't entirely know why but these two stories keep rolling around in my head. perhaps because of their seeming contradictions, for the way they somehow show very different things. perhaps the contradiction is obvious enough in itself and i don't need to explain it to you. in fact i really could have just put these two stories side by side without all the commentary, but for some reason my voice is coming out. i guess i must have something to say. let's see if i can find it.
yesterday in class we were talking about persecution. we talked about the church worldwide and how it is growing, though it is shrinking in america. and we talked about the persecution the church is facing worldwide and how in reality that tends to just make the faith grow even more. that is, when people live out of their faith despite persecution--because then people can actually see that it is something very real and very significant.
but in our society we don't really have the stomach for very much. we like our comfort and we get very upset when it is upset. we don't really know what it looks like to truly sacrifice. we like our security. we like our doors locked to keep out all the critters. we don't like bullets flying over our heads.
but when i hear and read stories of people suffering for the faith, when i read the scriptures talking about persecution, when i consider all that people have given and lost--then i see a few gunshots for what they really are. then i see my fears for the weakness they are. then i see that for all i look to and wish they were doing more, there are many who should say the same of us. i see faith. and i want it more myself.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17
we like to quote verse 39, but not what comes before it.
"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
who can accept this teaching? who then can enter the kingdom of God? but where else will we go? you alone have the words of eternal life. may you help us listen.
oh and just in case some aspiring car thiefs happen to read this blog, my car is the black hyundai.
What then is the opposite of work? It is play. These are the two poles of activity: work and play. And what we have come to understand about purpose and meaning will help us see this more clearly. Whenever you work, you work for some purpose. If it weren't for that purpose, you'd have better things to do than work. Work and purpose are so closely connected that your work comes to an end, once your purpose is achieved. Or how are you going to continue fixing your car once it is fixed? This may be less obvious when you are sweeping the floor. Can't you go on sweeping even when there is not a speck of dust left? Well, you can go on making sweeping movements with your broom, but your purpose was accomplished, and so the work, as work, is ended. Sooner or later, someone is sure to ask you why you are playing around with that broom. What was work with purpose has now become play.
In play, all the emphasis falls on the meaning of your activity. If you tell your friends that you find it very meaningful to dance around with your broom on a Friday night, they might raise their eyebrows, but they cannot seriously object. Play needs no purpose. That is why play can go on and on as long as players find it meaningful. After all, we do not dance in order to get somewhere. We dance around and around. A piece of music doesn't come to an end when its purpose is accomplished. It has no purpose, strictly speaking. It is the playful unfolding of a meaning that is there in each of its movements, in every theme, every passage: a celebration of meaning. Pachelbel's Canon is one of the magnificent superfluities of life. Every time I listen to it, I realize anew that some of the most superfluous things are the most important for us because they give meaning to our human life.
We need this kind of experience to correct our world view. Too easily are we inclined to imagine that God created this world for a purpose. We are so caught up in purpose that we would feel more comfortable if God shared our preoccupation with work. But God plays.
may you all find meaning and playfulness on this day. happy thanksgiving everyone.
but dancing is good for the soul. so in that spirit i propose i dance off! find a friend, and then preferably a crowd of people to cheer and judge. pick your songs and then go at it!
now you can do this with any sort of variety of songs--you can have the dancers pick their own, you can limit it to a genre or exclude a genre (like saying no hip-hop increases creativity). but just in case your musical selection is a bit limited, here are a couple that you can use if you feel so inclined. i'm sure better dance songs are out there, but if you are reading this and you are skeptical--then i defy you to listen to these songs without moving any part of your body. really. i dare you.
passion pit "little secrets"
lonely dear "airport surroundings"
ps if you are alone right now, you have two options:
1. plan a time to come over to our community and we will accommodate you with a dance off.
2. challenge yourself to a dance off! maybe when no one else is home. trust me, it's more fun than it sounds. i mean, er, not that i would really know, personal speaking, of course.
the candles were a gift from my mom. they came in a set of six nearly three years ago. these are the last two and they are almost empty. i have set them apart to be burned for a specific focus--and now they are almost all gone.
three years and a week ago i was in taizé for the first time. eight months ago i was there again. both times it has been something of a spiritual pilgrimage for me, though the cost of each was vastly different. i'm not talking about money.
it's something about this time of year--sometime around mid-october into december that i get caught up in the memories of my experience abroad and all that came with it. and each year around this time there have been different emotions with those memories. i'm not quite sure how to name these.
sometimes candles need to run out of wax.
sometimes i can't understand how i carry so much for so long.
i've been reading a lot lately. it seems as if the extended reading funk i was in has ended. one of the books i've been reading is donald miller's new one, where he talks mostly about the story of our lives. are we living a good story? there's also a bit in there about fathers and sons. it is really speaking to me.
awhile back i was thinking about story and hollywood, and how great movies and most great stories have mostly the same arc. rising action up to the climax followed by the denouement, or wrapping up. all the stories we know work this way. or well, most of them. most the stories we hear anyway.
but then i was learning something about the bible, and how in the old testament actually a lot of stories operated under a structure called chiasm. it's called that because the greek letter "chi" is shaped like an X. you see, chiastic structure puts the meaning, or the "climax" so to speak at the center of the story. this idea really fascinated me.
because how many of us actually define our stories by how they end? ok some people will have some sort of romantic death where the end makes sense of all the rest--but while this seems to be the case in movies, it is rarely the case in our lives. no usually people's lives start to slow down as they get older and they look back on the days when things were really great. or people's lives don't always end the best, especially in the bible. think about david, or solomon, or jacob, or joseph, or lots of others. all their stories were defined by a central point or points in their lives. not the end.
the thing that's pretty amazing about this--to some extent you get to choose what that central point will be. what will you define as the core of your life's story? for too many it was the great days of sports in high school, of the freedom of college. "those were the best days of my life." we define our story by the pettiest things.
if at any point in your life you look back and shake your head at the center, you create a new one. or if you're quite old, adopt that familiar old story arc. for most of us though who are young, we can look to a center that is not too far off. we don't have to wait till the end of our lives to figure out what our story is going to be all about. we find it in the middle.
but then it isn't always so much of a conscious choice is it? some things put themselves right in the middle of our stories, even if we don't want them there.
i was reading another book not long ago by this austrian monk. it's an amazing book that i will end up quoting on here a few times i believe. but anyway this one part just made me laugh. let me quote it in full:
What does gratefulness have to do with courage? We might, at first glance fail to see a connection. But looking more closely it becomes clear that no one can say "thank you" for a gift and mean it, without trust in the giver; and to trust always takes courage. Take a simple example. A friend hands you a gift-wrapped package, and you say "thank you." You might think that you have expressed your appreciation for the gift. But wait! You haven't even looked at what's inside that package. How could you express you appreciation? What you really expressed was trust in your friend. A grateful person will say "thank you" before checking what's inside the gift-wrapping. If you wait to express your thanks until after you have examined the gift, you might be smart, but no one will call you grateful. True gratefulness is courage to give thanks for a gift before unwrapping it.
Now, it might not cost you a great amount of courage to trust your friend. True enough, that box wrapped in gold paper is just the right size to contain a medium-large time bomb. But who would even dream of that possibility? When life hands you a gift, however, it's a more serious matter. God has a way of putting time bombs into pretty packages. We know that from past experience, and now we get another one of those surprise gifts. To be there to say "thank you" and mean it does take courage. It is as if you were saying: "Watch it! This might be another one of those whoppers. It might blow me to pieces. But even if it does, I trust that this is just what I need right now." That's trust all right! And that trust in the Giver is the crucial point where faith and gratefulness meet.
God has a way of putting time bombs into pretty packages! ha! that made me laugh out loud. because i know all too well that it is true. but am i grateful? am i willing to trust in the giver? do i have the courage to be thankful again? even before i know how it will all turn out?
for whatever reason i needed all that happened three years ago, and all that has happened in the years since. and i needed it right then. i don't want to be fatalistic. and i don't mean to make it sound like it was all about me. but can i possibly see it all as a gift? and can i learn to see it not as only the huge thing that it was and how it changed so much, but at the same time how it does not define my story?
sometimes pain finds its way to the center of our stories. and sometimes it can go so deep that we think we will never see the experience anywhere outside of the middle. and then before we know it it has begun to define our lives. it has become our climax, and we cannot focus on the future or find the hope we need.
but joy costs pain. it's just that you didn't know the price was so high. and you, like the chronic gambler, will keep paying more so that you can somehow win your money back. but who can walk away from the table? who can cut their losses and let the story change? all of the sudden where you were once looking back to the heart of it all, now it has become something you once again look to in the future.
the two candles have all but burned out now. the flame in the center endures.
yes, forget black friday and loads of materialism. let us celebrate advent and christmas for it's real meaning. as this season of remembrance comes to a close in a couple weeks, we move into the season of waiting and anticipation. here are some things to check out to help:
an advent blog--wonderful art and contemplative reflections on the season.
a guide through the season
please share if you have other advent resources you find helpful!
"'Communal allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom is the indispensable check upon the pretentions of the modern state. Because Christ is Lord, Caesar is not Lord. By humbling all secular claims to sovereignty, the Church makes its most important political contribution by being, fully and unapologetically the Church.' Yet it seems that universality should be qualified in the name of our service to democratic nation states as we can be called on to kill Christians from totalitarian states in the name of the relative goods of our 'open societies.' But then in what sense is the Church our first loyalty? Or, what kid of unity is it that would have us eat at the same table to which we have been invited by a crucified savior only to be told at the end of the meal that the peace of that table does not mean we cannot kill one another for the goods of the nations in which we find ourselves living?
"I do not see how loyalty to democracy in this sense is any less tyrannical. Rather it suggests that the democratic state is no less a state and it will respect the 'freedom' of the church only to the extent that it can count on that 'freedom' to underwrite its ends as a nation that knows not that Christ is in fact Lord."
so, happy birthday anne hathaway, one my celebrity crushes. you're 27 today, which means you are less than a year older than me. it could work. think about it, ok? if you say no i'll have to i'll just have to go to rachel mcadams, whose birthday is in 5 days (i'm not a creepy stalker, i promise!). she's a few years older, but that's cancelled because she's canadian. so now's your chance, because it's your birthday. let me know...
you see there comes a point when you are old enough to feel like you really should have done something, that you really should have accomplished something by now. you don't know exactly what that something is, but it would probably be really cool and a lot of people would know about it. like write a book. or climb a bunch of 14ers. or hold your first child. something like that.
i watched a kids movie the other day. i was tired and i put it on thinking i would fall asleep to the comfortable familiarity of a family movie. but i couldn't fall asleep. nope. i got sucked into the movie. i should have seen it coming really, because this movie is one that always gets to me. Hook is the movie about peter pan, after peter pan. really it is a movie about growing up. and for whatever reason it always makes me cry. several times throughout. not bawling panting heaving cry, but just some tears to my eyes. i think it was frederick buechner who told us to pay attention to our tears, because they usually mean that our heart is trying to tell us something.
Hook was the movie that made me realize i wanted to eventually get married. at the time i was questioning whether that was the right thing for my life. but like peter pan i think it was more rooted in not wanting to grow up than in noble pursuits. like him, i realized i want to be a daddy. i want to have a family and not miss it happening. but the selfish part of me really worries about that time when i will give most of my time and energy to my kids. what will be left for me then? what will i still get to do? and what will i no longer be able to do?
i think a lot of growing up is a constant learning how to be less selfish. though of course if this is the case we have a lot of peter pans out there.
i saw another "kids" movie recently--where the wild things are. i guess you may argue it's not a kids movie, but it is a coming of age story if i ever saw one. there are so many childish things in the movie--some beautiful, some disastrous. the one that keeps coming to my mind though is about the fort they build. it is amazing. it is so cool. but the reality quickly comes crashing down. when something unfamiliar and unplanned enters, it begins to break down. the old problems from before are still there, and the fort cannot protect them from all of that. at one point carol says "i thought this is the place where everything you want to happen happens."
maybe that's striking me because now i'm living in my own fort these days. we can all sleep together in a pile when it's fun and games, but then we realize some of the people smell. (of course speaking about the movie once again, not our community). or we don't like all the people there. or everything we want doesn't happen. we want to retreat but there is nowhere to go. if we try to build our own little secret compartment everyone will see us, and they will ask what we are doing, and why.
thankfully none of us are little children--or monsters! but are we really grown up either? no. and thankfully as well none of us are king. we can believe in the promises he gives us. but do we? do we hold onto those promises when things get tough. or did we even let ourselves hear them in the first place?
our fort is not a defensive place. no. our great paradox is that God is the refuge who sends us outside the city walls. he has us come out of the fort and not be safe. not get everything we want. not be comfortable.
we all build our own forts. and it doesn't matter how many people we let in them or how old we are--we all to some extent are still hiding under the cushions.
here's to growing up a little, hopefully a little more each day than we are a day older--that we might find wisdom beyond our years. that we would no longer be lost boys and girls.
come on, if peter pan can do it....
you see i was at the gym, working out and watching some highlights on the tv screen above. it was actually sportcenter's top 10 segment. and they showed a couple of really nice football plays. and that's when it hit me, "oh yeah! so that's what a running back looks like."
let's be honest folks, larry johnson is terrible. extending his contract was one of the worst decisions the chiefs have ever made. we could have traded him for a draft pick and kept jared allen, who isn't worthless. in fact he's one of the best defense linemen in the league, and probably will be for a few more years. lj, well, suffice it to say he isn't the best at anything--except maybe talking crap and causing drama. he's definitely beating out TO these days.
remember when everyone used to talk about his famous "juke" move. it was comparable to pressing the L1 button on a video game. he would be running full speed and all of the sudden stop and juke to the side. it made defenders look bad. real bad. so when was the last time we saw that? actually when was the last time we saw larry johnson make any kind of move at all?
granted you gotta get some blocking to do something, and you gotta get out into the open field to be able to pull that L1 move--but bad blocking can only be blamed so much. even running backs with crappy lines still manage to pull off some good runs. but then again that would be a good running back.
ok maybe it's unfair to pick on just larry johnson--yes all of the chiefs are bad. but it was just a realization i had and needed to vent. when was the last time you saw this:
in latin american countries this day brings a trip to the cemetery, with people bringing picnics to the graves of their family members. they spread a blanket over the gravesite and often bring food that the person particularly liked. a picnic with the dead may seem a little strange to us, but it is an act of remembrance and honoring those we have lost.
so i take today to remember my family who have passed on. i have had a couple family funerals in the last few months. as i get older i begin to see my parents age as well and think of the time when they will not be in my life. it makes we want to cherish them more now while i can. it makes me wish that i had spent more time with some people. it makes me think about how life is short and this place is not all there is.
but our lives do matter. so much. too much. more than you would think if someone were to look at how we spend our time most often. but people are worth remembering. so take some time today to remember someone who's gone, and to celebrate them and their life.
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretch'd in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:--
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!
i think they mean it more like "what are we actually physically doing with our time," rather than the more abstract meaning that implies more of a "why" question. they are both good questions though, and sometimes i ask them myself.
like say, today. i spent most of the afternoon painting part of the outside of the church that is off one of our little roof sections. it's a little hard to describe but it's this little flat roof area our windows open out onto and the exterior walls were in terrible need of a paint job, which pastor asked us to do. so i took advantage of the wonderful weather and went at it. though i was on the roof it was entirely safe--except for trying to navigate my way around i kid you not like 30 wasps. in fact i wasn't able to finish the job because we are out of wasp spray and there is a giant active nest where i need to paint. suddenly i am more thankful for the bats. do bats eat wasps? i think they do. or at least they should.
so i'm up there painting the day away, listening to some music, enjoying the view behind me that looks out west across the ivanhoe neighborhood, umkc, and the plaza. but something was getting to me. something was stirring in me emotionally as my thoughts went to many different places off the mindless task of the roller. it was more than a few words could express, but it was something like a weird sentiment on my life. how is it that this is where i've ended up? what do the last few years mean and how they've passed? what will this time hold for me?
life just seemed so open at the moment, so unattached or disconnected--whichever way you want to spin it. at the moment it seemed more of a burden than a freedom, but that's been more and more rare lately.
and right about then a siren started to chime. and then another. and another. and i looked down off the roof and saw several police cars speeding around our streets. they eventually settled around the church property, with cars at every corner and more. one pulled into our parking lot and searched under our cars. i ran back inside to watch, where i saw a cop pull his gun and check our dumpster for the suspect. then they went south and searched the brush and woods around the area. the helicopter was all around too. they didn't find him.
apparently though they had already found him. twice. they caught him but he managed to break free and keep running, though he lost his shoes. so they caught him again and tased him, but apparently he rolled onto the cop and took his taser and ran off again. way to go kcmo police.
it was a pretty exciting to watch, not really scary though. all the neighbors were outside. i don't know what the guy did.
maybe it's things like this that make other people ask what we're doing down here. why put yourself in the midst of that? and maybe i think that same way sometimes, but usually i think that's exactly why we're down here--because other people live here too. and they have to live with this going on around them a lot. and we've just marginalized them in so many ways. did you watch that video from my last post? seriously. do it.
so then tonight we had our prayer time as per usual on monday nights, and afterwards things were winding down when tyler got home and said our neighbors asked us to help them move. sure, no problem--when? oh right now. ok. nothing like a little moving at 10pm. so we got tyler's truck and took oh maybe five loads down to their new place. fortunately it's only 2 blocks away so we can stay in relationship with this family, as they've been our best relationship in the neighborhood (the same house from the letter posted awhile back).
of course tyler had worked not only the opening shift this morning, but also the closing shift at another store. so when he got home needless to say he was tired--but he was the guy with the truck, and i guess that's what they were waiting for. he's a trooper. we were happy to help, but it was something i overheard that really struck me. one of them said that everyone else they asked wanted them to pay like 100 bucks for the use of their truck. and i just though, "really?" i mean, i guess i understand--no, i really don't. what creates that attitude in people? what makes no one willing to help? being taken advantage of? i don't know.
but it takes me back to the idea of being good neighbors. sure we'll help our neighbors move until 11 at night, because that's loving your neighbor. what do we do down here? well hopefully some of what we do is make ourselves present and available for things like that. what are we doing here? i don't know, what are you doing where you live? ok yeah there's more to it for us than that, but this is something of what it is--helping neighbors move when no one else will. and it's good to have those things, however random and sporadic they may be. in other words i don't think we're going to start some program for late night moving for families getting evicted from their homes.
why are we here? we're here to be here. and maybe right now that's enough because it hasn't seemed to be the case for many others in quite some time. not that we're all that special, which is exactly part of the point. anyone can love, can give the love of Jesus. it's not easy sometimes, but it is a lot easier when you are present and put yourself in the place to do that--wherever you are.
it was also great to hear sharice (the mom of the family) tell us that all the kids kept telling her that wherever they moved just couldn't be too far away from all of us. it's the little things like that that are the big things. and what make me glad that this is where i am, today, this day, and hopefully for many many days to come.
see it here.
Living with other people and learning to lose ourselves in the understanding of their weakness and deficiencies can help us. For there is no better means of getting rid of the rigidity and harshness and coarseness of our ingrained egoism, which is the one insuperable obstacle to the infused light and action of the Spirit of God.
Even the courageous acceptance of interior trials in utter solitude cannot altogether compensate for the work of purification accomplished in us by patience and humility in loving other men and sympathizing with their most unreasonable needs and demands."
apparently he was a philospher and social reformer around the turn of the 19th century, most known as a major utilitarian. apparently he had something of an ego because in accordance with his will his body was preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called an "auto-icon" and put on display at university college in london. it's been there for over 150 years, attending two college council meetings, but apparently abstaining from all voting.
apparently though his head was badly damaged in the preservation process, so the one in the box is wax. they used to display the original head as well, but it was the subject of several student pranks so they took it out. i wonder why.
oh, that's why, because it looks like the spawn of satan.
jj, what the heck?
of course this year maybe it's a good thing i'm not watching so much. 0-5 is pretty bad, but we knew this would be a rebuilding year. our offensive line is pretty wretched--which is entirely frustrating because without one you really can't do anything. our defense has a lot of potential it's just that they never get to stay off the field for very long. there are some good pieces in place at least though. oh the consolations of a terrible team. is this what lions fans told themselves last year?
for so long the chiefs were our consolation, this poor city. well the royals are awful again but just wait till football season! and we all acknowledge it's a sad day when i admit i think the royals are closer to turning it around than the chiefs. after all, the royals days of trading away all their good players are done--now it's the chief's turn (tony g and jared allen, who by the way had like a 44 yard fumble return for a td today). that's a bad sign.
i got to catch a decent amount of the game today. how awful. to get the ball on the 50 yard line in overtime and not be able to get 20 yards for a field goal to win the game, well it's just pathetic. there's no other word for it. or i suppose i could put it like i did in a text to a friend, "the chiefs suck balls."
a sad and unfortunate thing it is. but i suppose it makes it that much easier to let go a little bit. for my own good. for your own good you poor chiefs. please remember it's just a game. a game that breaks the heart of your city. thanks.
but that's not what i want to talk about. another advantage of being the youngest is that you get to watch your older siblings, often exclaiming subconsciously "boy that didn't work at all" or "what were they honestly thinking?" so when you come to that place in your life, every place that is, you've had a couple of examples of what not to do. and occasionally, you have a few good examples--or that ever-annoying bar of perfection placed at unattainable heights. either way it's usually safe to say that you have the advantage of much greater perspective than your same-generation forebears.
in a sense every generation is somehow reacting to and against the one that came before, or probably more accurately the few before. i don't know who decides these things, but apparently i am pretty much right on the edge of two generations--too young to be part of generation x and on the older end of what they call generation y. i sometimes feel this connection to both sides, their values, their attitudes--especially having older siblings. but more and more i discover the things in me that make me much more a millennial. i wonder if there are different "christian generations." how would those be divided? probably similar and influenced by the standard definitions but expressed differently perhaps.
but that's not what i want to talk about either. not exactly. i want to look more specifically at one thing in particular. family and marriage.
it's nothing all too insightful to say that the younger generation cares more about social justice and public morality than xers. i don't know about the younger side of this generation though--i feel like that might be started to fade. we'll see. but for whatever reason i see a lot of christians my age and a little younger who have seen the selfishness of the boomers (their parent's generation) and the destructiveness of the xer's self pity (see into the wild for a great example) and we've chosen a different route. that may be a gross oversimplification and there are many other factors as well as exceptions, but that's what i've seen a lot of. so how does that affect marriage and family? and why am i drawn to talk about that in particular? no it's not because i'm unmarried--why would you think that?
i think it's because for so long the family was supposed to be the place of establishment and security for people. young people so often oriented so much of their lives around finding that mr/mrs right and getting their life in order through that foundation. a lie, perhaps--but one bought hook line and worm. just watch a chick flick. something like 27 dresses and try not to gag. people still buy into this like crazy, but not as much. a massive example of divorce and separation has given a lot of the younger folks commitment issues. beyond that existential reeling that maybe xers felt a bit more, millenials (ys) maybe have gone a bit deeper into the problem. perhaps the problem isn't marriage or family but where we put it in our lives. is it the absolute thing? is it our entire orientation and goal? then that's a problem.
again nothing all that new as far as thoughts go, but that doesn't mean we live by it. and i also didn't really intend for this post to be so impersonal. it is very personal. i question our priorities. i wonder about where we have put our faith for security and establishment in this life. is it in marriage? is that the foundation? i know i have fallen into making an idol out of it in the past. faith can be shown by asking the question, "what is our ultimate concern?" is it your marriage? your hope of getting married? your hope of having a family? because life isn't really established until you have that, right? or maybe it's just love.
why have we bought into this lie? maybe there is some truth to it--after all, didn't God say it isn't good for man to be alone? never mind how far we run with that. can we find our sense of establishment in something else? in community? in the Holy Spirit? in mission? in the person of Jesus Christ present in our lives? or do we give it up for a marriage? maybe not all of it but how much? how much will we sacrifice in the name of love (how noble/romantic) for our beloved? never mind we are the beloved of another. we have to find ours first. then we can get on with our life and feel more secure, because no matter what happens at least we'll have that other.
if that all seems a bit extreme and maybe you think i exaggerate, most of those thoughts and attitudes are at least something i have felt before. and i have to continue to set those aside as i accept what God has had for me apart from all of that family and love and marriage thing. and i have to learn to realize that this is not lesser. this is not incomplete. but man is that going against so many pervasive values in our culture, christian and otherwise. maybe establishment and security isn't what we should be after anyway. down with the man, right? but it is something we all desire deeply (well most of us), and we aren't really in the habit of allowing for some of our desires to be declared wrong, especially not ones that seem so good and loving. but maybe we can see them all a little differently, a little clearer--hopefully we can with a little better perspective.
it is a really amazing opportunity to be down here with just people from kansas city, all of whom are participating in some sort of kingdom work in kc. we are discussing what it is God is up to in the city, what challenges we are facing, what has been working and what hasn't, as well as a host of other questions and ideas. at the very least it is great to meet all these people and form relationships with other groups in the city.
we have several discussion times with perkins and his wife, and the small group atmosphere is way better than any sort of conference. i'm a little sad i am only here two days and wish i could be here longer--but at the same time i miss my community and what is going on there.
i'm sure i'll have a lot of processing to do after this, and probably some of it will find it's way onto here. this is all so incredible. time for another discussion!