Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thinking about an empty garage

This was going to be a humorous piece about why I can't park in my garage, but it became something else.

Dual carbs, tail lights, shifter knob, oil pans, metric wrenches, parts catalogs, heater box, rebuilt engine, blue headlights, rust spots, gas leaks, tow bar, young man, old car. About to fly the coop, make his mama cry, take the guitar, see the world or a part near by, head for freedom, be the boss, no more nagging, garbage bagging, room cleaning, home at one. One day a three year old, 3rd grader, thirteen, out of school, job worker, thirsty for what, must find out, music and friends know, laugh, call, drive, eat, watch life like a movie. Help needed to let go, hush the din, thoughts, hopes, prayers, colliding emotions, memories slammed in the door of an old car, making its way out of the garage and down the drive to somewhere.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Just say....okay!

Kathy shares her experience of being the clay and being the potter from our spiritual direction mini-retreat. My responses of resistance were similar. "Being pulled and stretched hurts!" Others in our group felt comforted by being held in the potter's hands-- sharing images of safety, hiddenness, and warmth. The potter's perspective was more fun for me. Holding the formless clay, changing its shape, pushing here, expanding there, I noticed a feeling of excitement and anticipation of what was to be. I felt the effort involved in a not-so-instant process. But my mind's eye kept the abstract piece of crazy beauty before me as I worked.

my journey mapOur director, Debbie, began with the thought: "Bidden or not bidden Christ is present." Throughout the exercises we were encouraged to see God's fingerprints and his moving. In mapping my life's journey, I was reminded of all the geographical and emotional places, the milestones, the people, the adventures, and the detours. This was the most significant piece of the morning for me. "I speak life over you," I felt God say. In the midst of the times where I felt lost and in the places of nothingness, I could reflect back to see that life came out of them. Part of my simple prayer from this experience:
In the places I've been lost,
you found me.
In the places I'm still lost...
find me, O God.

We've heard of programs and initiatives using the slogan "Just Say No." As this clay (me!) is being transformed, I want a new slogan. I think it has to be "just say okay." If our journey is not to get somewhere, but to become, I want to focus a little more on the becoming. That helps me to say "okay" to the potter...and even "okay" to the sometimes difficult and unpleasant parts of the process. The cool thing is that maybe I will be more present to the joyful life-filled moments and more readily say "okay" to them, too.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Misc. frozen thoughts

So glad I'm not outside. I don't do cold well. We were in Lafayette earlier and on our way home from our 'house of refuge' stopped by the store for bread and a couple of things. I stayed in the nice warm car listening to the radio while T. ran in. A few minutes later I noticed someone bundled up and briskly walking down the street. I shudder to think of others outside tonight, not just taking a quick walk, but needing to find a warm spot to sleep. It's dangerously cold and not everyone has a home in which to put their groceries away and a thermostat they can adjust like we have and take for granted most days. Here's the forecast for Denver:
snow flurriesLow clouds and intermittent snow flurries will gradually give way to clearing skies. Many areas should see the temperature fall below zero by midnight.

It's 1 degree F (-17 C) right now. Earlier today when it was 8 degrees I took a couple of photos of my patio . Then by contrast, a shot just inside the patio door. Outside was colorless and lifeless. The succulent gardens are numb. poor frozen cactus
poor frozen succulents
frozen patio
plant corner
I usually bring them up to my loft (office) to winter over, but this year there isn't any room. There is more clutter, plus I brought in some plants I started from cuttings from my dad's yard. They have more sentimental value for me. Like the rest of us who live indoors, the plants are doing fine. And I'm hoping the ones I abandoned outside will make a go of it again in a few months. The blackened and weak-looking herbs in the perennial beds will begin to show new growth before it gets warm, but I don't know what will happen to the individuals who will huddle tonight and look for remaining cots or floorspace in downtown shelters. I will be praying for them, but will feel bad that I don't know what else to do this night.

I have been reading some of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speeches and have heard some sound bites on the radio. This one about radical revolution was posted by Inward/Outward Very timely. See what you think. I grew up in a town where MLK was jailed once and I was sheltered from this fact as well as from his words. I was a late bloomer about civil rights, but some things started to dawn on me when I became a Jesus follower in college. Culture and tradition began to clash with what my heart felt about that new society--the kingdom. I still have a lot to learn.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sacred cows pt. 3 or Why I love photography

When light is used to paint, draw or record it's called photography. From its Greek root words "photo" and "graph" it means "light-writing or light-drawing." There is a visual language being spoken. With the popularity and affordability of digital cameras, photography has exploded into an everyman's pastime. But it retains a mystery, a magical nature and a sacredness. Making images with light sounds magical enough, but image capture is only part of the process. The captured image must be rendered visible and made permanent. Working digitally, results can be immediate with the ability to scroll back through shots just taken. Downloading to computer memory archives efforts and can even note technical information about how the shot was made. There is no middle man or middle step. The process traditionally, however, has consisted of development, and printing. It uses chemical baths to convert silver salts into metallic silver, which blocks light and forms the negative image in black and white photography. (More layers of chemicals and a third step to remove the silver in color development.) The negative is used to create a positive print by projection or contact. There is a physical/spiritual miracle that happens for me each time I see an image developing in the print tray under the dim red darkroom light. I can't think of a time when I haven't felt excitement or bubbling anticipation for what was being born. The element of surprise is common. What will an image actually look like? What will it say about the subject? What association or response will it call up in the viewer? So many factors work together to create a perfect print. It's a subjective series of events starting with the eye of the photographer and light falling on a subject, coupled with timing, composition and perhaps intent. Photography by nature abstracts. Only so much information can be included in a single frame. Still it can tell a story, isolate beauty, and be a gateway to larger realities. It can inform and persuade, catalyzing awareness of issues and situations. It can bring tears of joy, grief, or sadness and move people to action.

I love photography. It involves an act of creation. Through it people can notice things. Really notice, and experience a heightened awareness akin to what being present to the moment brings. I don't necessarily love cameras. They are tools to capture or house an image in the interim between exposure and final image or print. The quality of gear may make certain types of excellence (technically) more possible, but focal length, f-stops, skyrocketing megapixels and fancy cameras are not photography. They serve it. They are the paper, ink and font. They are not reading. Some purists think cameras are sort of holy and they themselves become a little more important because they "drive" a Nikon (for example.) Hmm, reminds me of Mac owners...but back to cameras. No matter how ultra cool or in some sense beautiful the camera itself is, it's the beauty of the result that counts. Cameras can sometimes get in the way of photography because the focus (no pun intended) is shifted from the study of the quality of light, the contrast of lights and darks, compositional relationships, points of view, symbolism, and message to something else. Something like a sacred cow.

A little visual example: This is the camera I am currently using. 10 MP and 5x optical zoom. Impressed? Don't be. It's little and pretty cheap. I have stickers all over it. It is not holy. It does serve my photographic pursuits related to documenting things and can pull off some pretty arty shots as well. If I can one day afford an expensive digital SLR with several lenses and lots of accessories, I still don't want it to be holy. I want it to be about the beauty of the result. And to me photography, when you zoom out, is about seeing, both with the inner and outer eye. It's about something bigger than what's involved in the process.

Sacred cows, however comfy, neat, special and important to their owners and practitioners, kind of distort and detract from the real subject. Is it about cameras or is it about photography? Likewise, I can see the correlation to kingdom principles. Is it about the good news of God's love through Jesus, or is it about the kind of show we put on or the version of the Bible we use? Is it about responding with our whole life and lifestyle or is it about what people think of us? What is the beauty of the result? Do we love? Are we kind? Are people connected with God? Are lives changed?

I want to think more about the act of creation that is happening when we gather together with God and each other, and how that can and does continue when we scatter to each of our homes, workplaces, and communities and how it becomes a piece of the bigger, zoomed-out picture of the kingdom.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sacred cows pt.2

Have you noticed how some people are affected by our sacred cows (methods of evangelism, prosperity message, etc...) Consider a portion of I Take My Chances by Mary Chapin Carpenter from one of my all-time favorite albums, Come On, Come On:
I take my chances, I don't mind working without a net
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get

I sat alone in the dark one night, tuning in by remote
I found a preacher who spoke of the light but there was brimstone in his throat
He'd show me the way according to him in return for my personal check
I flipped my channel back to CNN and I lit another cigarette

I take my chances, forgiveness doesn't come with a debt
I take my chances, I take my chances every chance I get

I've crossed lines of words and wire and both have cut me deep
I've been frozen out and I've been on fire and the tears are mine to weep
Now I can cry until I laugh and laugh until I cry
So cut the deck right in half, I'll play from either side

In Richard Foster's discussion of Formation Prayer (Prayer, Finding the Heart's True Home pp.60,61), he describes the active pursuit of humility. After all formation has to do with conformity to Christlikeness, so could it be that there is an antidote to some of our sacred cows that has to do with humility? He says: simple terms, humility means to live as close to the truth as possible; the truth about ourselves, the truth about others, the truth about the world in which we live...
It does not mean groveling or finding the worst possible things to say about ourselves. Humility is in fact, filled with power to bring forth life. The word itself comes from the Latin humus, which means fertile ground. "Humility," writes Anthony Bloom, "is the situation of the earth." In one sense humility is nothing more than staying close to the earth. The earth, Bloom reminds us, is always with us, always taken for granted, always walked on by everyone. It is the place where we dump our garbage. "It's there", continues Bloom, "silent and accepting everything and in a miraculous way making out of all the refuse new richness...transforming corruption itself into a power of life and a new possibility of creativeness, open to the sunshine, open to the rain, ready to receive any seed we sow and capable of bringing thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold out of every seed." Such is the power of humility.

I want to think more about this power of humility. It sounds like a power for freedom, a power for joy, a power that attracts and makes people curious about the life it enables.

Okay, I'll take the bait

As if there were not enough quirky facts revealed in the previous post, Kathy has tagged me to share 6 more.

1. I am a fisherperson. I will even sit for hours on the dock at the lake house in GA constantly changing bait on cane poles when the fish are too small to catch. I keep waiting for one of those giant appaloosa catfish monsters to get on my line, but would not consider cleaning one if I caught it. I still have a scar from a small catfish's fin from a Florida beach trip in my teens (see photo at left.) Would like to learn fly-fishing, but don't want to walk through the brush and possibly encounter a snake. That is heart attack material.

2. I am seriously tree deprived. I drive around my flatland northeast Denver suburb (i.e. prairie) and wonder what happened to all the trees. I just can't get the fact that they were never here before the houses came. I am an obsessive gardener, adding growing things each year to my little patch of clay ground, but I have to practically wear a haz-mat suit to counter the sun and allergies. Very cute.

3. I love beauty and order. I never seem to have that for more than a few days at my house.I don't have a handle on the domestic engineer thing. I have a fridge magnet that says, "housework makes you ugly." I love to help others with interior design, but I cannot personally get into my own loft to work because of the clutter.

4. I never babysat, never had siblings, never thought I would be married or have children. Knew I would not have boys. (Eeooh. They pee in the yard.) Have 3 boys. They peed in the yard. I love them dearly. They are wonderful (and all grown up; the yard is safe.)

5. For several years I played tennis every single day. My favorite tennis buddy went pro. Instead I became a professional art student, putting in years of over-nighters on projects that are now stuffed under the guest bed in my mom's house. I still have 2 pinhole cameras I made and hope to use them again one day.

6. My favorite lunch is a vegetable plate. Fried okra, squash casserole, and cornbread make me happy. Sweet tea comforts me. I also like French cooking, and my newest favorite is Thai--spicy eggplant with chicken--yumm.

I tag Sharon, Lilly, and anyone who's reading who wants to play. This is your tag. Here are the rules:
Link to the person who tagged you
Post the rules on your blog
Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
Tag six people and at the end of your post, link to their blogs.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
I have a lot of friends who don't blog, so your first tag is to get a blog going!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fewer sacred cows

copyrighted to Himalayan Academy PublicationsI think one of my resolutions this year will be fewer sacred cows. Having been around the Church block a few times, I've at times found, adopted, rejected, or ignored rallying cries and doctrinal dividing lines along the way. Years ago I was part of discussions (i.e. arguments) to do with eschatological events and I've been fairly certain about different positions on opposite sides of the spectrum at different times! I could back it up with scripture. That shows how crazy some of that stuff gets. This is really weird, but I once had my community of faith (during early college years) tell me they "couldn't fellowship with me anymore" because I was asking questions about the Holy Spirit! They believed charismatic experience was "wrong." I wasn't pushed out of the group because I was selling drugs or living with my boyfriend, but for messing with their sacred cow of doctrinal purity according to them.

Another group said I had to be "spirit-filled." Anything liturgical was surely a sign of spiritual deadness and just head knowledge. Only certain people were allowed to pray for other people. I heard one leader say she wouldn't let so-and-so ( who by the way loved Jesus) touch her in prayer (afraid she would get slimed), thereby labeling that person as suspect, messed up, demonized or whatever in front of all the hearers. I am not talking about spiritual warfare, which I think is very real, but what seems like unkind pettiness.

I've heard warnings to be ultra-careful about what words come out of the mouth. A negative declaration may come true. Okay, this is a little extreme, but I know someone who will not say she is catching a cold, only that she is "catching a healing." Very important to her, but seems a little like fantasyland to me.

These are admittedly my own absurd examples and in no way reflect the wonderful, wise, loving people I have known in all camps. I am so thankful for what I have learned and experienced from many persuasions in my faith journey. I've had some excellent mentors, too. It's easy to look back and in hind sight see absurdity in some cases, but how many sacred cows do I still hold to (and even feed) that I don't recognize as such? How many times do I think of someone as being "in" or "out" related to my or my group's sacred cow? Do I alter my behavior to please people (whom I want to impress) over Jesus? This year I hope to become freer from bottom lines that will not hold up over time. In other words, I want to grow in a knowledge of truth that causes me to root deeper in Jesus and his way (the way of love.) That sounds simplistic, but it is not. It is a process of debunking sacred cows that interfere with that along the way as I become aware of them. And friends, I will need you to help me. Are you "in" or "out"?

image credit:Copyrighted to Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii from Wikipedia

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Move over kleenex

Move over Kleenex, I'm bringing in the big guns. Returned from the Vitamin Cottage quite a few dollars lighter today. Heard several other people in there asking for info on products to treat colds, coughs, and respiratory crud (exactly the reason I was there asking the same questions.) What we really wanted to know was, "Can anyone or any magical health potion help me because nothing I'm doing is working!!" Vitamins, immune supplements, rest, hydration, tea, extra pillows, the humidifier, etc. have all failed me for the last couple of I'm prowling for new remedies. Pretty desperate-- because I bought stuff even though the knowledgeable employee person said, "Oh, yeah, this is a really tough respiratory thing that hangs on. I've taken everything myself and I've still got it." Hel-looo?!! She still has it and she has taken all these things she is selling me! Well, maybe my stuff is different from her stuff and my stuff will go away when I take this stuff. One of my symptoms is loss of rationality.

Lest you get too concerned, I did put back some of the recommended items and steered myself toward the vitamin enhanced drinks. I found an attractive 32 oz. Glaceau essential orange-c+calcium +7 other vitamins (very healthful looking.) Surely I will feel better now. I just hope all those sleep remedies and ultra lignans and such that I bought come through for me, too.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My life as a board game

Within the last week we (and by we I mean I) got a little addicted to Settlers of Catan, the game Jeff and Krista introduced us to. Even though people had to leave for the airport at 3:45 a.m. we all played until midnight! It was the most frustrating and rotten round, with certain people rolling 7's every time, which moved the robber continually and kept us from drawing cards we needed. And by we I mean I. My mom was a fierce competitor and even she threatened to call it quits and go to bed. But that gambling adrenaline kicked in to keep the hope and the play alive. My strategy kept shifting and morphing as time went on because I never, never got any stone to be able to build a city. Aargh! See the white pieces on the far side of the board? See there are no (2-storied) cities? Do not use my strategy.

I am questioning my strategy beyond Catan right now. The new year is the perfect time to reflect and evaluate and stay or change course. What cards do I need to move forward and why can't I seem to get that city built? Am I still on the best path? I recently read this prayer:
Dear God, we pray for another way of being: another way of knowing. Across the difficult terrain of our existence we have attempted to build a highway and in so doing have lost our footpath. God lead us to our footpath: Lead us there where in simplicity we may move at the speed of natural creatures and feel the earth's love beneath our feet. Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel the movement of creation in our hearts. And lead us there where side-by-side we may feel the embrace of the common soul. Nothing can be loved at speed. God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being. Amen. (Michael Leunig, The Prayer Tree)

This guy is content to be led, move slowly and love along the way. Every year I receive a word to think about as I move along "the difficult terrain of my existence." I don't know my word yet, but my desire and prayer lately has been about hearing deeply. I trust my word will show up at the right time on my footpath. I, too, want to be led by God and want to love along the way. It's the slowness of the path that tempts me to want to trade my cards in.

If you want to pray for me: patience, peace, and insight would be welcomed.