Monthly Archives: February 2010

giving and receiving…

I grew up in a small town, in a neighborhood. Our houses weren’t  fancy… Neither we nor my neighbors had “entertaining” style houses. I think that is just a realestate euphenism for “showy.”  We did not entertain, as in, have many corporate cocktail or dinner party functions at our homes. You know those once a year events that you have to have and everyone attending has to go to. I’ve grown up and been to a few now, sometimes even at an “entertaining” home. There was nothing missed there.

Let me tell you what we did do. We romped about our neighborhood:  running, bike-riding, playing some pretend adventure. We ate snacks wherever we landed. Most anyone’s mom or many of the other good ladies were ready hostesses with koolaid – in a pitcher, freshly mixed, and maybe some store brand cookies. We would bang on the screen door and bounce on in to chat a few minutes, dropping off some very fine bouquet or other improvised gift and bounce on out smiles and thank you’s a plenty.

Same at the pool. People brought things and shared. We all did. There was no tab lunch counter, complete with shrimp cocktails and steak sandwiches. Somebody’s Mama brought whatever she had and we all feasted. People cooked out in their backyards and hollered over the fence to neighbors to come on over, dinner was ready and there was plenty. And people came on over. No one ever dared offer financial repayment or even worried too much about what they didn’t have to bring that day. There would be other days and those days it could be their turn to holler out.

When weather did not permit, people would fill our cozy kitchens and eight foot ceilinged houses. We just sat close and grew close. Sometimes the men would brave the cold with the boys and throw balls to them in the street. We watched tv games on regular size screens. Kids played kickball while Mamas sat on porches talking and Dad’s hovered around a grill. I remember no caterers, no florists – people cut their own flowers from their yards, no invitations.

We didn’t “entertain;” we grew up together, we shared what we had, we learned the joy of giving and receiving.

Today, during Servolution, we encountered  many people who don’t know what that is about. We tried to just share some small thing we had: a doughnut, a water with them and they were bewildered, sometimes unable to just say, “Hey, thanks.”

We live in a world that sells and buys…giving and receiving are suspect. Today, so many people seemed to feel this compulsion to pay for our gift…something that we just offered, something that they didn’t even ask for or pursue.

Why?

What in us cannot just say, “thanks.”

In some ways the good old days were not. Many things are better. Medicine and racial ignorance  and, and… I’m thinking…I think we have bought the line that we must have everything…and the very best of it…or we are less…Madison Avenue has gut hooked us all…It all must be ours and we must have our own of everything…Sharing is for suckers. So we do now… have it all… So much stuff. …Stuff that we haven’t actually paid for yet, and choices of everyting in our pantry, and that “entertaining” home.  And yet, something is grossly amiss and our paucity is staggering. We cannot receive and share and enjoy good things right in front of us, extended into our very hand. We can’t…

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a sea of blue…

Tomorrow we are doing this “Servolution” thing at Kingwood Church. We are just going to go out en masse and be kind and do caring things for people, because that’s what the church does…in this earth…the kind and caring thing.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone knew what kind of turn-out that we would have, in February, to go out ( usually outside) and just help or encourage folks. Helping is something that our minds may relate to sourly. It often requires hard work, sacrifice, maybe being a little uncomfortable in a setting that we do not completely control. But helping almost always ends up tasting sweet. Helping is good and good for us and even makes us feel good.

God made us to help…Adam to help Him, Eve to help Adam ( that is not a hierachial statement but a ontological one) and many sons and daughters after to help their parents and brothers and sisters to come.

I have a student or two that the only way I have gotten a glimpse into the real of the child, who they genuinely are made to be, is to ask them to help me and help others. It’s like this magic key…just a turn…and the helper…relaxes into my help as the teacher/mentor. Helping helps make us okay enough to be helped, to drop barricades of fear and resistance that wall in our insecurity. So helping helps us be made more able to help.

I think the leaders at church were expecting two, maybe three hundred folks to sign up/show up tomorrow. That’s a pretty good percentage, 10-20%, no matter how you calculate it. Last count, Wednesday night, there were 625 signed up. I hope we ordered enough t-shirts. If so, there is going to be a sea of blue flowing out into Alabaster, Alabama.

What does that tell us about our need to help, our hunger to help? It tells me a lot. I’m willing to bet that extras show up and stay; free, cool t-shirt or no free, cool t-shirt.

I think we as a culture feel bad way too often because we spend too little time and energy helping. But helping helps. It just plain helps.

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Speak

Sometimes…I need to still the words flying about my head. Sometimes I need to give them no avenue of expression. I need to keep them in, ask God to utterly destroy all remnant of  the thoughts that carried them. Sometimes, I struggle here  a bit.

Sometimes…I need to express…to force out words. Sometimes they must be said.

Today was one of those “speak” days. Three times, there were things to say..to bring encouragement and confirmation and maybe to bring a perspective that was somewhat veiled. I so love those moments when God lets me echo His heart. It is a huge privilege and a great joy.

Sometimes, we all need God to say through another person those things that we think we hear Him saying  to us. And sometimes we need another to confirm the things that we don’t believe God really would say to us, especially the good things.

Many times people have been faithful to share something with me that I so needed to hear. The words they faithfully shared probably saved me time and energy and harm. I can remember those words so clearly. They weren’t always formal declarations or beautifully or poetically relayed. They weren’t always happy, happy. Sometimes they stung more than their deliverer ever knew.

But they were faithful words.

Today, I got to share a few faithful words. Confirmation really…of something long known by the ones with whom I shared. They were needed words, deeply desired words.

Today, I got to hear some needed words…challenging and yet freeing. The words were spoken out of a great love, a love willing to risk.

All around, it was a very good day.

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All the leaves are brown…

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray…Everyone knows that famous lead in vocal…Some kids were singing it in class yesterday…silly boys…I don’t why in world that song came to their minds…but they were busting it out in weak falsetto…

It made me think…I hate it when the brown leaves cling. They are supposed to fall…aren’t they?  I love the sight of bare tree limbs against the sky… especially the  gray sky.  I have always loved black and whites. There is a clarity, a poignancy that they convey.  I love to find interesting b&w compositions of unclad trees.

“Tree” scenes have long arrested me, made something catch in my chest.  It is not symbol, nor some deep metaphor attached that impacts me so. It is simply the beauty of the trees, naked, exposed so very plainly.

Watchman Nee teaches the opposing principles of gravity and life. Gravity pulls us earthward. Life pulls us sunward. A tree is the embodiment of the principle of life. Without life’s reigning in the tree’s mortal body, it too, succumbs to the principle of gravity. Dead trees fall.

But living trees do not. They stand and reach high toward the sun, whether in the season of growth or dormancy. I have a friend who told me recently that she is in a season of dormancy. She discerns no apparent fruit, nor flower nor even bud…but she and I both know that life flows internally just the same… life that holds that tree in its stretch upward. Dormancy is life without show…life hidden…life preparing.

I so love those bare trees…sillouetted against the sky…alive in mystery… but just the same, alive.

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chutes and ladders

In the last few days, the old game, “Chutes and Ladders,” has come to mind. It was simple; a game designed for 3-4 year olds, I think. You roll a die and move along a path. Along the path are, you guessed it, chutes descending and ladders ascending. If you land on a square so marked, you are exported down or up. Simple game.

Two of my favorite songs use the imagery of a ladder. In Nickelcreek’s “Reasons Why,” a ladder is compared to our presuppositions and consequential decisions which are many times propped against a wrong wall:  a wall that leads nowhere. In Brooke Fraser’s, “Hosea’s Wife,” people are compared to mere ladders, something used to support our  climb beyond them.  So ladders resonate with me…they are familiar metaphor.

But ladders are showing up for me again right now, in conversation, in dream.  And this time they are not paths to nowhere save our own ruin, they are the great machines they were first imagined to be: the quickened, shorten path to higher ground. A ladder compresses work in time. On a ladder, it still takes the same work to gain ground, but the work is completed in less time.

Climbing a ladder requires a few things: work: each step requires the lifting of one’s own weight, trust: man wasn’t crafted for flight…air doesn’t well support us, and balance: without some of this stuff a quick assent can easily become a quick descent. And ladder climbing requires a purposefulness. You don’t just accidently climb a ladder.

But ladders have come to be, at least in my understanding of late, an important area to give pause, even thought. What if in life, as in that simple, simple game, ladders are postioned all along the path before us?  What if they are avenues to ascend, more quickly, to redeem time.

The question must then be begged, do I even recognize ladders when I come upon them? Some ladder designs of late, as you have no doubt like me, seen on t.v., are queer, un-ladder-like. What if the ladder looks unconventional, maybe even like a machine of death? Will we yet recognize and employ it for its designed purpose – to raise us?

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too cold for baseball

Trent hasn’t  played baseball in years, but even when he was still in those youth size jerseys, they started so early. It would still be bitterly cold. We’d wrap up the little siblings and carry blankets and sit in the wind, miserable.

Baseball didn’t use to be like that. Baseball was about the smell of green grass, a warm wind, snow cones and pockets full of concession stand candy.

In the dark ages, when I played softball and neighbor boys pierced the crowds’ hum with higher pitched pings, back then, we played ball when it was warm.

Maybe they play more games now, maybe the crazy (out in MAY) school year forces this issue. But it will never feel right to me. I am trying hard to psyche myself to go and sit, if even in my car, to watch the boy now clad in men’s extra-large everything, play. It all seems too hurried, as if it  has come too fast.

Sometimes I wish him on ahead, just a year or two, to that more sane, less argumentative place, a place I honestly see him more clearly than I see his todays. Sometimes, I wish him back, and us some  extra pitches, for the fouls we both struck.

So, I will go today, in the cold, and brave the wind and the too earliness of it all.

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She Who Knows (me)… is coming.

Fall Semester 2009

I’ve been watching this movie, Iron-Jawed Angels with a class. It’s about the young women who, after 68 years of their predecessors’ work, secured the vote for women in the US. I would love to teach a whole class on this film…it has so impacted me on every level. I see myself so profoundly in the protagonist, Alice. She is intellectually gifted, an intrepid ideologue, passionately focused and yet emotionally disabled at times. Alice has a best friend, Lucy, a first mate who she heralds as ten times more valiant than her. I so see my best friend, Karen, in her. I would have many times been, as Alice, “lost” even in victory, without her. I watched the two young women on screen, the subtle interchanges, the tears that seem to come for Alice only when Lucy is near and turns the key to laughter and consequently grief.

I have cried, gently through my free periods this week, especially today. I just keep playing the soundtrack to this movie and I can’t stop crying and I don’t want to.

When the movie plays, I want to fall on the floor and pound the carpet… for… I don’t even know what…and cry until my lungs burn hot.

Karen, my Lucy, sent me a Facebook request today. I wrote her husband a while back and begged him to sign her up, incognito if necessary, for just me. It seems every time we make contact anew, I am pounding some floor…

Jeremy asked me the other day, “Who do you talk to about things? Who gets you?” I smiled a sad smile. I made up some less sad story, about the many women I regularly talk with. And I do I talk with women here, it’s just the not real me talking. I miss being real with friends, being scary real and vulnerable…and making fun of nearly everything that is so off-limits…and being exhaustingly serious…. and that being okay, too.

I watch the young girls who truly have what I did with those sent to me in college.  Sometimes, I think my heart will tear apart in gratefulness and pain watching Millie and Allison or Melanie and Haleigh. I am so glad for them, that they have what they have and at this age. I would pay any price for them to have it/keep it. And yet, my heart hurts on a level I can hardly bear when I see them together and the memory of my like friends slips across my mind.

I just wish that she was here…that she’d just waltz back in the way she always does whenever I am hiding, and grasp a strand of my hair and hold my eyes to hers… and I’d let it all go… against her…and there would be time enough, she’d make it so…and I’d believe everything that she told me… because I believe her.

It’s time to grieve some things lost for now…like her.

She will respond to my facebook greeting, she will tell me she misses me, she will offer to come if I need her. She has been a marvelous understudy for Jesus all these years. When God needs to get in deep, deep and I won’t come near, God sends Karen to do what can be done.

For years, Jesus has been My Husband, for a while now, truly, my family… but my friend, my stick closer, know me better than anyone, including myself, Karen -friend…No, I have not been willing to go there.

Sometimes Rob or the kids ask me,” Why don’t you call some of your friends from Georgia? Why don’t you call your friend, Karen?”

Because, I do not answer, I know what lulls about deep in me, I know what would roar free, surge up my throat and bellow the unspeakable. I know the monstrous pain that would greet her coming. I feed him daily, doses of necessaries to keep him lain low. But her coming would  throw every necessary to the wind.

She Who Knows (me) is coming. Ghost, not flesh. Ghost of God, that sent and sends Karen will come, Herself.

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