Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 EVTC - Of Meaning & Bones

"Liminal experiences drive meaning into the bones." - Colin Greene, at the 2010 Emergent Village Theological Conversation.

I may have mentioned this a time or two before, but I'm a huge fan of transformative learning. While I love a good intellectual challenge or a spirited debate, what really gets my attention is new information and/or experience that shapes who I am and how I engage my world. Meaning driven into my bones, therefore, is a poetic way of summing up one of my highest values. And a beautiful way of expressing my experience of the 2010 EVTC.

Of course, this also influences my ability to process the experience on an intentional, deeply aware sort of level. I've spent the last ten days or so working to identify just what meaning it was that was "driven into my bones." And as I've tried to bring more of that learning to the conscious surface, I've been challenged to explore more of the process itself.

I think in some ways transformation always happens just below the radar, somehow sneaking around our constructs and defenses and wreaking holy havoc while we naively proceed with our lives. Hence the reference to "liminal experiences" - those times and places where we find ourselves outside our normal, comfortable places and consequently tend to have thinner barriers and a greater susceptibility to the invasion of change agents. The EVTC was just such a space - we came together away from the demands of our daily lives, with an altered schedule and atypical freedom, sharing time and space, food and drink with new faces and different voices. We were presented with new ideas - or perhaps familiar ideas, with altered accents, or colorfully diverse stories. The influence of this open, challenging space and its rich variety virtually snuck up on many of us, driving its beauty deep before we necessarily even realized what was going on.

In upcoming days, I'll spend more time exploring specifics of the Conversation. In the meantime, however, I'm trying to absorb the significance of deep meaning, of creating and enjoying the spaces in our lives that make room for profound transformation.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Life begins at 40

I've heard it said that life begins at 40. In some ways, that's entirely inaccurate...the fullness of the past 40 years is impossible to ignore, nor would I want to. On the other hand, a rekindled passion for life and its potentialities seems to be astir in this watershed year. I can find no better way to express what's brewing than this poem, recently e-mailed from a friend:

"Go to the Limits of Your Longing"

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,

go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like a flame

and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.

You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

Book of Hours, I 59

Monday, October 4, 2010

2010 Theological Conversation: Creating Liberated Spaces in a Postcolonial World

Four weeks and counting till this year's Emergent Village Theological Conversation. As an MK, I find this year's topic particularly compelling; I've spent quite a bit of time thinking & reading about missions and postcolonialism. Here's a link to a post I wrote recently on the topic: "Postcolonialism Comes Home."
You can read additional posts on this theme by Julie Clawson and Brian McLaren; check back for more in the coming weeks.
We'd love to have you join us in Atlanta for what's sure to be an engaging, challenging conversation!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Musings on Magic

I just learned that our local art museum will be hosting an exhibition showcasing the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. I can hardly wait to attend, and I anticipate I'll visit more than once.
I enthused over this remarkable opportunity to a couple of friends, and, much to my surprise, they didn't take me seriously! They were convinced I was poking fun, putting on a show of sarcastic excitement.
But no, I really am excited!
So why, I wondered, would my anticipation seem so out-of-character? What do I portray that would belie this long-held fascination? Then I was reminded of the responses of friends when I expressed excitement over a visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom. Identical. Surprise, disbelief, raised eyebrows.
Well, here it is. (I think) Both of these experiences instilled in me, at a very malleable age, a sense of magic. Dreams come true, romance on a magnificent scale, adrenaline and fireworks and sentiment writ large.
Now, I know all too well that life, and our world, specialize in broken dreams. Most magic gets steam-rollered in its earliest stages--and in fact, the longer it survives intact, the more deeply the pain of its rupture. This is probably my predominant perspective on the matter, and it would explain the skepticism of my friends in the face of an almost naive embrace of sentiment and fairy dust.
But I believe, also, that life holds for each of us a measure of magic. A moment at sunset, the gleam of a full moon, a flash of deep connection with another human being. And this sense of magic is one we can foster or crush. For some unexplainable reason, the chaos of Diana's marriage and early death, and the capitalist dreams-for-sale force of Disney's empire have failed to steal from me the sense of magic that each still conjures. Rationally, I can observe and detail these great failings. Experientially, I love the rush I feel when either one comes to mind. And I do believe that I'm a better person for it. I recognize (all too often) the harsh realities of our world, but I want to be open to the beauty and joy of it, too.
I want to be the sort of person who can fall under a spell, if just for a moment, and be immersed in the wonder of it all.

(Image borrowed from the internet - it's so widely posted I can't seem to find its original source! Perhaps it appeared out of thin air?)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Discovering the God Imagination"

I just finished working my way through Jonathan Brink's new book, Discovering the God Imagination. I heard Jonathan speak at TransFORM, and was intrigued by his ideas, so I jumped at the opportunity to help provide some finishing-touch editing--and in the process, gain early access to the book.

Those of us who find our spiritual home in "Emergence Christianity" have been known for our penchant for deconstructing the faith--and for an unfortunate tendency to offer no viable alternatives. This book caught my attention, therefore, because it's a robust attempt at creating a new theological understanding. Jonathan does his best to step back from various inherited interpretations, and then step forward into creative and life-giving possible alternatives.

Though the author doesn't frame it in this way, I think I understood the book best by taking it to be a comprehensive exploration of what it means that we--humans--were created in the image of God, and that God's first judgment of us was that we were "very good." The question then becomes: have either of these two qualities changed? Do we still reflect the image of God? Are we still "very good?"

Historically and theologically, there's been an understanding that "The Fall," described early in Genesis, marked the turning point for humanity. At that point, sin entered the human race and made us, in effect, "very bad." The remainder of Scriptures, and especially the Gospels, address this badness, and our consequent need for restoration. Jonathan challenges this understanding by exploring the early story of the Garden, and concludes that in fact, there is not sufficient evidence to support it.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil has typically been viewed as a test. But rather than a test of obedience, perhaps it was a test of our understanding, of our acceptance of our God-given identity. The Serpent told Eve that if she ate the fruit of this tree, she would "become like God." Oddly enough, if we believe the account of Eve's creation, she already was like God! Eating the fruit could not make her like God, because she had already been created in God's image. Her decision to eat the fruit, therefore, highlighted a troubling reality--deep down, she had not accepted her god-likeness. That first bite not only defied God's judgment of her, but it reflected (and reinforced) in her the suspicion that she was not, in fact, "very good." Whereas previously she had "been naked, and [known] no shame," she now hid (along with Adam) in painful realization of her nakedness. In essence, taking the fruit was accepting the lie that she must "do something" in order to become like God.

Interestingly, when God showed up after the Tree & the fruit incident, there were no big explosions, no condemnations, not even the word "sin!" Instead, God clothed the two poor souls and layed out for them the consequences of their decision. Jonathan interprets the "curses" as more expository than deprecatory--"These are, plain and simple, the logical consequences of the choices you've made." God then ushered them out of the Garden--a protective measure, lest they eat from the other Tree that would bind them to eternal life, in these lie-bound bodies.

As you can see, such a reading of the early Garden story has significant implications for our conception of the rest of the story. The nature of redemption, for instance, is no longer about ransom, or propitiation. Instead, it is about God's continual reaching out, in love, to restore us to that earliest of judgments: "very good." Sin (a term first introduced in the story of Adam & Eve's children) is understood as the continued choice to reject God's judgment and instead find our own way into acceptance. The Cross becomes crucial because it is God's ultimate evidence that we are, in fact, unyieldingly valued and loved. In a sense, the cross is God's payment to us, incontrovertible evidence that God thinks we're worth dying for. In light of this God-given identity--as deeply loved and judged to be good--we are called into a life that follows this love. We are called to combat the lie that we must earn our own acceptance, and instead live in the freedom that comes from God's perspective. And, we are called to view others in this same light, honoring the image of God reflected in their inherent goodness.

Throughout the reading and editing process, I found myself deeply challenged. How differently might I view the world (not to mention myself) if always, at the forefront of my mind, was the remembrance that God calls it (and me) "very good?!" If this became the dominant paradigm of my life, how radically would I be changed! This book isn't perfect (I'm used to cumbersome footnotes and extensive citations, none of which are to be found here) and some of the arguments didn't entirely win me over. But I think it's an excellent first step, opening up a critical conversation.

In Discovering the God Imagination, Jonathan coins the term "intrinsic mobilizing story," which I think helps explain exactly what this book is about. It takes a fresh look at an old story, and stirs things up in a way that can't be ignored. It challenges the reader to move beyond reading--to wrestle, internalize, and ultimately take action--inspired by God's vision for (and of) us.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

transFORM mash-up, Round Two

Still thinking, still living a full life, still slow to blog. Nevertheless, anxious to keep at it.

I'm not much of a sermon-listener...there are worse ways to spend a morning, but I can't think of too many. However, Anthony Smith made me reconsider my categorical opposition to the practice. The wisdom & hope he presented, coupled with an impassioned and artistic delivery, held my attention for...well, for the whole time. (I actually have no idea how long he spoke!) He described the Kingdom of God as "not something we build or create, but something we enter." In the process, we are fundamentally transformed: "to see and enter the Kingdom of God is to become genetically predisposed to lovingkindness." He spoke about the early American slaves, and their hope for the future of God's Kingdom. Their longing for freedom, expressed in song and prayer and action, was a very real participation in God's future. Anthony invited us, as well, to look for the future of God in the world (and in the Church) around us, to participate in it--and to "look for hope to the slaves, who ultimately saw God's future come to pass."

In "Stories that Compost", Melvin Bray & Russell Rathbun encouraged us to read Scriptures with an eye to stories that bring life. Stories that might be re-told with a new twist, so they might bring new life in their re-telling. Our group together read the opening verses of Exodus 1, noting elements we'd missed before, or questions that grew out of our reading. We then spent 6 minutes - yes, just six - writing stories inspired by these observations. The breadth of perspectives was remarkable, and I came home telling the stories to anyone that would listen. A guiding question to continue this practice might be: "How can I tell stories so that others don't have to re-traverse the territory I've already covered?"

Mark Scandrette talked about starting a Jesus Dojo. Dojo means simply "place where you learn the way", so he's talking about learning the way of Jesus. For him, it's a deeply communal process, ongoing and practice-oriented. The question that guides is "What is my next step [or my next risk] into the ways of Jesus?"

Mike Stavlund bravely facilitated a discussion about failure, one which I'll remember each time I do yardwork. He described a job that included the [potentially intimidating] task of maintaining a garden, to which he was introduced with this invitation: "This place is what's left after 20 years of my mistakes. Pure trial and error. So you won't be able to mess this up. We can always dig stuff up if we need to, and if you prune anything back too far, it'll grow up again." Anything that survives in my garden is bound to be resilient and fairly self-sufficient -- and I'm delighted in a surprised sort of way each spring when I see plants growing back. Our conversation created the occasion to think about more of life from this sort of paradigm, in which I patiently trust and wait and accept that I can't make everything flourish.

Given the fact that this is a mash-up, I get to stop writing now, without any sort of neat wrap-up or parting wisdom. But with much gratitude, and inspiration.

Friday, May 7, 2010

transFORM mash-up

Still getting my feet on the ground after last week's conference in DC. I've been itching to blog, knowing that much of my processing (and remembering) happens only in the context of writing. So I've finally managed to catch up on (read: delay) the urgent things, brew a cuppa, and sit down with my [unusually extensive] notes.

First, let me just say what a privilege it was to meet so many folks who are intensely committed to action. We were all at transFORM to learn and think and discuss, but I don't think I've ever spent time with a more implementation-oriented crowd. Everyone seemed almost impatient to get home & roll their sleeves up. Second, Steve Knight pulled together a remarkable crew of insightful folks. Every workshop I attended was outstanding, and I heard the same from others. Not one "dud". How often can you say that after a conference?!

So, down to brass tacks. Turns out there wasn't any one specific take-away. The weekend got my mind going in so many different directions that I've decided to take a different tack w/ my next few blog entries. I'll just go through my notes, highlight some of the ideas that stuck, and post them here, with or without context or commentary. If you're curious, let me know - I can always add (or invent) more detail. So, without further ado:

Jonathan Brink, "Constructing an Emerging Theology":
intrinsic mobilizing story: how do we understand and tell our stories in such a way that they get us off our pews and into active, transformative engagement? (for more on this, I'm reading Made to Stick. Also, see upcoming post on Stories that Compost)
Pride: can be understood as the human attempt at self-validation, trying to validate something that's already been validated.

Samir Selmanovic, "Learning to Love the Other in God, Self, and Society":
Holy Awkwardness - the discomfort we feel when we stand before someone entirely alien to us, while recognizing in them the image of God. A discipline crucial to truly loving humanity is to "practice my ability to not understand the Other." And finally, to those who have influenced our lives--in any way at all--"we owe a tribute--we owe our selves to them."

Peter Rollins invited us all to accept and even internalize our doubt with this: "To believe is human; to doubt is divine." Do we use our faith as something to hide behind, something to shield us from suffering? Or do we stare into the hard questions, and cling to God and God's body anyhow? "We find God in our midst. God is among us. As we doubt God up there, we pray, we weep, we long for God in our midst, in our actions." And then he stepped aside and let the the music of the prophet Jeremiah speak. (around 1:20:20, warning: strong language) We ended the evening in heavy, hope-filled silence.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What's emerging in (& from) the church

As I've thought about participating in today's synchroblog, I've riffled through a variety of ideas--and I've finally landed on a devastatingly stereotypical theme. I'm a woman, a full-time mom, and I'm going to write about what's emerging in the younger generations, and especially among children. I landed on this [potentially cliche] theme with a tentative boldness for two reasons: 1) I'm thrilled at the hope and beauty I find in the lives of our young ones, and 2) Within what's emerging, I've found my voice welcome in broad variety of contexts. Ironically, not being strictly confined to the role of motherhood has freed me to embrace it with deep joy and confidence.

In the past few years, I've been intrigued to watch children learning to take church "out" of church. Not that they're staying away (for the most part), but that they're discovering the reach of God's Kingdom. They understand that God isn't confined geographically (to a building) or temporally (to Sunday morning) but almost intuitively grasp that the presence of God permeates our world -- and, in fact, longs to spread ever more broadly and pervasively throughout Creation. A few examples, I think, will be the best way to make my point.

  • A thirteen-year-old girl who says, "No Christmas presents, please. Just help me save up to visit the African orphans our family has been supporting."
  • A five-year-old boy who stops the family car to buy -- and hand-deliver -- burgers to the folks living under the bridge.
  • A teen-age boy who happily spends hours designing a creative, hands-on worship experience for a small faith community.
  • An eight-year-old girl who holds her family to a strict regimen of recycling, expressing a deep commitment to God's creation.
  • A home-schooled teen-age girl who is inspired by parents to reflect the image of God through her relationality and vibrant creativity.
  • A ten-year-old girl, who observes in the middle of an amusement park, "You know, we don't have to be at home to offer hospitality. We can be hospitable anywhere!"

Each of these young persons represents to me a whole-hearted, whole-life commitment to the ways of Jesus. They remind me that God's Kingdom is vast--as are the demands on a citizen of that Kingdom. They remind me that the Kingdom of God is a place of hope, and that pursuing that hope is an all-encompassing, lifelong quest.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rituals, liturgically speaking

Still thinking about ritualizing the dark side. Having come to terms with the notion of ritualizing, I’ve been thinking about the various contexts of my life in which I can develop this practice.
Perhaps the most obvious context, in light of the word “ritual”, is that of the institutional church. That’s certainly where I most frequently engage rituals, particularly as I attend a highly liturgically-oriented church. A pre-determined liturgy has several advantages when it comes to ritualizing just about anything, and I appreciate the more-than-cursory nods to the darker side of life. A weekly prayer of confession, for instance, reminds me each week of the power of darkness over my own spirit and behavior. On a yearly basis we observe the season of lent, which certainly makes real the darkest time in the history of our faith.
Of all the liturgical practices to ritualize darkness, I think my favorite is the Eucharist. One lesson that was taught over and over in my low-church childhood was that I should never take the Lord's supper "unworthily." This directive was no doubt a healthy one (not to mention directly lifted from Scripture!) and it helped me develop an understanding of self-examen and repentance. As I bring that understanding to what I now call Eucharist, however, I've internalized something new: how can I ever approach this table other than unworthily?! There is nothing I can do - ever - that will make me deserving of such a gift. Period. For me, each Sunday morning when I step up to the brass railing, I participate in a ritual of lament. For those brief moments I am deeply in touch with the darkness and need within my own soul. Most of all, I’m reminded of –and paradoxically relieved of—my doubts. My ever-spinning, questioning mind is momentarily brought to a standstill. In the practice of receiving the bread and wine, I recognize the frailty of my belief, and set it aside ever so briefly to join in the disciplines of this community.
Interestingly, as I write this, I discover that this ritual of repentance and sorrow and doubt is a tremendous gift. I’m so grateful for a place to acknowledge all this “stuff”. Whatever else is theologically intended by this practice, it creates a sort of freedom to stare unflinchingly into the haunting eyes of failure and even despair.
Perhaps you’ll argue that this doesn’t ritualize only darkness, that the Eucharist (and other practices as well) reflect to us also the hope of our faith. And, of course, you’d be right. But I find it helpful to consider that these rituals remind us of both. Darkness and light. Despair and hope. And I think it’s Great News that the practice of our faith makes room for both.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ritualizing doubt/sorrow/lament/...

Last night Peter Rollins visited GR, as part of The (mostly) East Coast leg of the Insurrection Pub Tour. Pete & friends promised an evening of "incendiary theology" and "haunting soundscapes", among other things--and yes, they did deliver. The visuals, the music, the ideas all melded powerfully to create an event with profound impact. Flowing from story to techno beat to acoustic poetry, the genius of the performance was that it reached a very broad audience on a profoundy personal level. A poem may have connected for one person, while a parable later in the evening might have "clicked" for another.

For me, the concept with which I walked away (to wrestle) was the challenge to incorporate the darker sides of faith into our everyday practices. While I tend to be a pretty upbeat type, I've also faced my share of darkness. And figuring out how those elements harmonize in the context of faith has been a real sticking point for me. I can often do one--or the other--but learning to hold the two in tension has been an ongoing challenge. So last night's charge to bring the darkness into our experience of faith came both as liberating permission and as confounding head-scratcher.

The specific terminology that struck me was that of "ritualizing sorrow" or "doubt" or "suffering". Certainly the term "ritual" carries its fair share of negative connotations. But for my purposes here, I'll try to polish it up a bit and use it to mean an intentional, consistent practice that is designed with a specific objective in mind. In this context, that purpose is simply to shape my life in relation to God.

I'm intrigued with the idea of bringing this level of intentionality --ritualization--to my experience and understanding of the interplay of God & suffering.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Exploding reality

I read a blog post this morning that completely exploded my construct of reality. And when I say completely, I do mean completely. And by exploded, I mean blown to kingdom come.

Referencing the new book Reality Hunger, as well as some related web conversations, Kester Brewin asks: "Is it a reality we are immersing ourselves in when we read, or a virtual space?"

If you know me at all, you know that I'm not just a reader. I'm an avid reader. A passionate reader. A voracious reader. Not an hours and hours a day reader, but life-shaped-by-the-books-I'm-reading sort of reader. I love books. I own too many of them, and usually read too many at once. To me, there are few questions in the world as interesting as "What are you reading?"

I've certainly been accused of escapism, and there's no doubt I can get overly engrossed in my reading. Sometimes books do pull me away from other priorities, and I admit, my timing still needs some work. But mostly, reading for me is simply another one of the worlds in which I engage. There's the world where I happen to be right now (that would be Grand Rapids), there's my formative childhood world (Northwestern Argentina), the world of family (spread across the U.S.), the world of challenging ideas (mostly cyberspace), and the world/s of the book/s I'm reading right now.

As a child, I moved frequently, and of necessity learned to adapt to new environments, while simultaneously keeping alive the reality of past settings. I've never had all my friends in one place. I've never, in my memory, communicated in only one language. My favorite foods, favorite restaurants, favorite people have always spanned at least two continents. So to me it just makes sense that books would become one more environment in which I could engage. It could be argued that books aren't a real environment--let's face it, it's not like I could exactly see or taste or smell what I was reading about. Not exactly, because my eyes and tongue and nose were still in a geographically tangible world. But the sensory organs that take over after the initial input--the brain connections that told me I really was seeing and tasting and smelling these things--were no less convincing. Just ask anyone in my 8th grade class who watched me read the end of "Gone with the Wind." I was right there with Scarlett O'Hara, no question about it.

Now, don't get me wrong--I never expected to find Frodo hanging out in my front yard. I was simply happy to hang out in his. I have certainly known the boundaries between worlds, which is perhaps why finishing a really good book has often been as painful for me as a teary airport farewell. But as I thought about this today, I realized that the boundaries, apparently, have not for me been clear indications of the beginning and end of "reality." They have simply been markers between two different realities.

This is just as true of non-fiction as it is of fiction. The lessons I learn, the ways I change, the things I appreciate and fear, all flow through and around my tangible world as well as the books that I read. I cannot count the times I've marveled at the ways in which books "choose me". They consistently engage me on a level that parallels other aspects of my life, very much like a friend over a cuppa who listens, draws me out, helps me think things through.

So back to the mental explosion. If books are this real to me, do I have a problem? Those boundaries I noted earlier--the ones between book world and this world--are they enough to keep me "properly" grounded? Or are gauzy purple dresses, crystals, and flighty remarks about quantum dimensions awaiting me just around the corner?

I'll let you just imagine what happens when I start thinking about reality and cyberspace.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Yesterday, out on a walk w/ my husband, I heard birds singing again. It's been months of silence--since last fall--and even still I'm worried they might be a bit ahead of themselves. But as I enjoyed the warmer weather (we're talking low 30s here!) and the hints of spring, I suddenly remebered I have a blog!
Since we moved to Michigan (over 10 years now) I've learned a great deal about myself--and one of the key lessons is that I've got more in common with the animal kingdom than I might have thought. When winter hits, all I want to do is eat and sleep. Really. "Creativity?" Gone. "Productivity?" Why? "Proactivity?" Nope. I'd really just prefer to curl up in the dark and pass out till the birds come back.
After several years of gritting my teeth and forcing my way through winter, I've decided to concede a few things to the powers of Nature. I pretty much give up on creativity during the dark months. I don't expect to accomplish anything grand. But I do expect to slow way down. If I'm lucky, I'll keep up with the basic demands of life. If I'm wise, I'll spend more time with people (who nourish me--and even at times make up for light deprivation). And if I can think clearly enough, I embrace the introspection that's guaranteed to drop in.
Then, when the birds start singing, and the sun shows itself again, and smells return to the out-of-doors, I begin to pick up where I left off in the fall. Hopefully enriched by my time of quasi-hibernation, I start edging out of my cave. Tentatively, of course--spring in these northern regions isn't a given until June, after all. But with hope, looking forward to the upcoming sunshine, and the vitality and creativity with which it infuses my life.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"/" Life

You've probably heard the phrase already/not yet, particularly as it refers to faith and the fulfillment of what we hope & trust for. It's a fairly routine way of describing this understanding: God is at work among us--but it's obvious to even a blind eye that God's work is far from complete.
I've come to realize recently how much I live in the "not yet" of this phrase. I have HUGE dreams and expectations for what God's kingdom must look like, and I'm inspired and exhilarated by these visions of wholeness. On the other hand, this visceral connection to the beauty and hope of these unrealized expectations creates in me a powerful sense of disconnect and pain--sometimes even panic. Our world is SO FAR from what God designed it to be! How can I sleep at night when there's this jagged tear down the fabric of reality between what is and what should be?!
On Sunday morning, I walked forward to participate in the Eucharist with the thought: "This, at least, is already." Jesus has already taken human form; his life, death & resurrection have already happened, and have already introduced us to God in a unique way. How grateful I was that, however briefly, I could rest in the already. Just as the cup came my way, however, the minister smiled apologetically and whispered, "Sorry. I've just run out. I'll be right back."
I knew there was more wine behind the altar, and I was pretty sure she wasn't taking off through the back door, so I knelt patiently and waited with confidence, knowing she'd be right back and we'd pick up where we'd left off.
Then the lightning bolt struck. Here, at the altar rail, I found myself in the midst of already & not yet. And I was calmly, patiently, and in full contentment, waiting. It hadn't crossed my mind to panic. Or to demand immediate fulfillment. The blood of Christ had already been offered, and would inevitably be given. I just needed to rest a bit on the cushions till it showed up.
A few moments later, I walked back down the aisle, tongue tingling from the sip of wine, eyes burning with threatening tears. As a hands-on learner, I know when I've been taught a lesson.
If only I could learn to rest in that "/", that place between already & not yet. The way I'm wired, there's no danger I'll ever settle in the already. But that doesn't mean I have to pitch my miserable tent in the "not yet". I have been given a vision of that middle ground, the space that honors what God has already done, as well as what God has promised to do. My place is to perch in between.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The flip side

Last time I posted, I was thinking about beauty. Since then, I've done some thinking about ugliness.
In contrast to Mr. Beautiful, I've also come across folks in my life who have made (or are making) choices that have (or will) make them ugly. Interestingly enough, not all those choices are patently wrong, or even objectionable. Some of them, in fact, are encouraged or viewed as healthy. Take, for instance, our culture's fascination with authenticity. I'm all for honesty--don't get me wrong--but it seems there's something in our need to "put it all out there" that can twist around and bite us. Somehow, in our quest to be healthily transparent, we can develop a harsh, self-centered air that holds others at bay.
Or, take for instance, our fascination with self-fulfillment. I think it's glorious that we live at a time & in a place where we even have the time & energy to ask these questions. Most of humanity, sadly, probably hasn't even had a term for such a notion. We're richly blessed to not only know it exists, but to have the freedom to pursue it. But I've also seen that our drive for fulfillment can create a coldness towards others, a sort of self-contained sense of purpose that excludes the needs and desires of those around us.
Interestingly enough, choices like these (and countless others that might be less controversial), when allowed to dominate, show through in our eyes. They shape our face, and I think even determine where some of the inevitable wrinkles will fall.
Which leads me to conclude, with 40 fast approaching, that now is definitely the time to be making choices that will enhance beauty. I think I'd rather like to be remembered someday as "that gorgeous old lady in the checkout lane".