Friday, December 18, 2009

I Make Well-Being and Create Woe

My life gushes to the brim full of blessings. I am loved, I am befriended, I am educated, employed, valued, I am rich enough that I own my car and have my own room, I have things like an iPod and a smart phone. I have friends that would give me the shirt off their backs, and I know they're not going anywhere. As for my family ... well: the stuff of legends. My life is the sweetest of fare, but don't try to get me to admit that just any day. I can be stubbornly negative about my circumstances when I focus all the time on what I've got still to achieve.

There have been days, however, when I have tasted blood. Even for whining weakling like myself, there have been wounds worthy of a tear or few shed. I've been battered and bruised -- sometimes it's a byproduct of my own misjudgments; other times it's been a legitimate betrayal of trust. Sometimes it's just senseless, wasteful, undeserved injury. Times when turnabout was very unfair play. And I know I'm not alone. We all draw this card from time to time.

Wednesday morning I read a Word from my God and I was startled at what He said: "I make well-being and create woe; I, the LORD, do all these things." Subconsciously I want to protect Him from His own proclamation. "Nah, God, you're not all that bad..." It takes me a moment or two to realize this isn't my pal talking, needing my encouragement and asking my help to let go of their self-berating. God is not apologizing. He doesn't need me to help Him feel better about Himself.

God, did You make my woe? Was that You?

Have you ever been in a situation where you're complaining to some trusted friend about something that really annoyed you or ticked you off, and you don't know who caused it so you're just blabbing away about how much it bothered you, and then all of the sudden! -- Your (crazy) trusted friend decides to say, "I did that. And the reason why is ..." And suddenly the beloved's logic makes sense and you realize all along you'd been embarrassingly self-absorbed in your moment of annoyance? You backpedal and tell your friend why you really don't mind that much and you totally understand where they were coming from anyway... [Or has that only happened to me??]

Reading this passage from Isaiah's book was a little like that moment. I wanted to suddenly justify all God's actions, but He wasn't asking me to. He's not embarrassed. He has a logic. He has a purpose. He's in control of it all because he created it all. By God, nothing is wasted. Not one tear, not a sigh, not one crushing blow or suffocated heart trying to keep beating through the letdown. Ultimately, expect justice. For your enemies and yourself, pray mercy.

When you cry and beat your chest and feel angry, depressed, confused: please know that God isn't trying to lie to you. He hasn't pretended to be something He's not. He's been honest at every turn. He is in control of your circumstances, and mine. He's responsible for all those Kodak moments you love, and yet He's still conducting the orchestra through the tragedies. He's a friend and lover with a logic that we can't yet defend, because His ways are beyond our understanding. If you need to scream at Him, scream. He can take it and see you through it. He won't try to explain any more than He already has, but He might reveal a bit more of his heart when you're ready to see it.

HIS longing is for creativity ... justice ... salvation ... life!

Is 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25

I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this.

For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday: Humility (as told by John the Baptist)

Prayer this morning centers around a request for the Lord to enlighten me by His Word. In the reading for today, Psalm 25's refrain: "Teach me your ways, O Lord." I am reminded that the Lord's ways are compassion and kindness, and that He shows sinners His ways. Humility before enlightenment.

The Baptist was joyful because he was humble. In fact, he shows us the true nature of this virtue. Humility is not beating up on yourself, denying that you have any gifts, talents, or importance. John knew he had an important role which he played aggressively, with authority and confidence. The humble man does not sheepishly look down on himself. Actually, he does not look at himself at all. He looks away from himself to the Lord.

Most human beings, at one time or another, battle a nagging sense [of] inadequacy. Pride is sin’s approach to dealing with this. Proud people are preoccupied with self, seeing all others as competitors. The proud have to perpetually exalt themselves over others in hope that this will provide a sense of worth and inner peace. Of course, it doesn’t. Human history has proven that point time and time again. Even the pagan Greek storytellers knew that hubris or pride was the root of tragedy. Pride always comes before the fall, as it did in the Garden of Eden.

Humility brings freedom from this frantic bondage. Trying at every turn to affirm, exalt, and protect oneself is an exhausting enterprise. Receiving one’s dignity and self-worth as a gift from God relieves us from this stressful burden. Freed from the blinding compulsion to dominate, we can recognize the presence of God and feel a sense of satisfaction when others recognize that God is God and honor him as such. We can even be free to recognize godliness in someone else and rejoice when others notice and honor this person.
(Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

Have a beautiful Monday. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Make Your Music (with me?)

I love this time of year. I LOVE that I walked into my home tonight and it smelled of freshly baked bread (waiting for the cooling to be done so I can tear into it..). I LOVE that today is my nephew and godson's first birthday, and that I can pray for his life to be blessed with the same richness that his life has brought to mine and others'. I love that I'm going home soon ... that Courtney is coming home too ... I love that we use red and gold and bells and greenery and spices and sweets to remind us of the beauty and sweet abundance of life when the winter encroaches and threatens to steal our joy with its long darks and heavy frosts.

I get a huge kick out of new beginnings, so I love New Year's, and the fact that it coincides with the mark of my birth date. The rub with New Years and other beginnings is that the flip side marks an ending of something. The theme of the past couple of weeks in my mind has been waiting, counting days down, watching them pass. I counted up the things I felt grateful for, and immediately started counting down til the moment I would see my family again. We're all counting up and counting down, saying hello and goodbye, staying in certain holding patterns, landing and taking flight.

At this time in my life I am beginning to wonder if I have ever really opened up my heart to God. Have I ever spent an extended period of time meditating on His purposes and His sovereignty? Have I really laid myself open before Him to accept the fact that His way for ME is the only way for ME? Have I ever really contemplated and meditated on what that means? It is finally dawning on me that maybe the realization of a true heart openness to God takes time, counting days upon days of small moments of meditation, and asking simple questions such as, "What can I do for You today?" "Where do You want me today?" "Who did you create me to love today?"

I have spent so many days closing in on my SELF. What do I want to do? What am I going to do next? How can I stop myself from feeling lonely or bored or left out or purposeless? It's always been one day of scrambling through to the next day. I'm not here to say anything pretty or clever, but just to tell you all and let you hold me accountable -- I'm looking to open up and stop striving. Just rest, meditate, and listen. It might take me months or years. Eventually I know I will understand better what it means to be a servant of God, and instrument. Instruments make beautiful sounds but they deflect all the glory onto the musician. That's what I need to be -- an instrument.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Perplexed, but not driven to despair..."

Humble Pie: You don't have to eat the whole thing. You just have to taste it.

* * * * *

I really liked this poem when I was 11 or 12. I still think it's pretty inspiring of who I want to be -- a tough, strong, loving servant of everyone I meet.

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

-Amy Wilson Carmichael

* * * * *

'But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power of God may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.' 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Friday, November 13, 2009

While We're On The Subject Of Stories

My story has been kicking me in the pants all week.
"But these stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to..."

O the gravity of everyday life. This is where heroes are born. Unfortunately, it's also where villains are born. Too often I am the villain in my stories. At best, I am a cowardly lion sidekick hero with a tragic flaw. That's My Story.

Sometimes I cry because I miss my family. My nephew is so grown, and I have missed too much. Sometimes I don't even know why I am still away from them. Sometimes I just want to smell the Atlantic Ocean and drive on teeny nonsensical narrow roads at ridiculously low speeds and sit on Federal-sized Hills and take pictures of precious old buildings. More on that later...

Lastnight as I was putting one foot in front of another to get to my night class, I acknowledged inwardly that sneaking question: Does this small sorrow draw the attention of an eternal God? My sniffles are so small and insignificant in this big world, but they are big as all get-out in my brain. Try as I might, I haven't been able to skirt around them this week. Does He notice? Does He care? Does He wish I would get over it and care about other things more? (Also, does God know that everything is Bigger in Texas?) I can think of lots of things I wish I cared about more. God, do you accept good intentions?


I have made so many mistakes and so many poorly (or barely) reasoned decisions. As a whole, however, I have made it work. Or rather, God has made it work, and let me fall on trampolines and safety nets and hammocks all over the town. He's protected me from many the potential catastrophe. Most of the time I am really thankful for the way things work. Yesterday, and every so often, someone sneaks into my soul with a baseball bat of Regrets and just starts beating. Ouch. Hurts so much I can taste it.

Why can't Current Me go back and sit with Past Me and tell Me what I'm really going to want to swing at in life? Also, Future Me, can you give Current Me some pointers on how strike this darn Regret Batter completely OUT? I'm ready for the next inning.

I pondered all this inbetween learning about Z discs and A bands and all these other bizarre skeletal muscle terms that don't seem at all relevant to anything. On the way home I just prayed, honest monologue to God, on a leap of faith that He cared what was on my mind. I spilled my regrets, and told Him that I had no idea how to get rid of them, and I didn't know if He really wanted to listen to my petty, immature hangups that I should've left behind. And I asked Him: am I supposed to go back and change some of the decisions I've made? Am I just supposed to accept what I've done and move forward? What do I do? Did I screw up the plan? (I'm sure you all have fabulous advice at this part.)

Strangest thing happened to end the evening. I got home from class, almost 10 pm. My roommate was packing her bags for a special trip so I went to say hi to her. I see her most days, and I've been in her room countless times. Lastnight there was a brand new small rectangle of paper about the size of a business card on her desk. In green handwriting, bright and bold, were written these words:

"No Regrets!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This Business of Life

If I can I'd like to express to you something I love about my job. It's very un-American, a little mind-boggling, and possibly the hardest part, but also the best.

No matter what we are doing, if a person walks in, we must give them our attention immediately, 100%. The reason is that the customer is the most important, whether that be a resident or a prospective resident.

It's not that they don't give us many other things that they want us to be doing, because that is far from the case. We have many tasks online, offline, paperwork and then some. Whatever it is, we are to take bite-sized pieces to our desks at one time to finish, and whomever may walk through the door, we give him our full attention at the expense of every thing else.

This is so TRUE. Human connection makes the world go round. Relationships are the core of business, education, humor, and just life. We must respect our relationships and give them our best.

When we are weary and stressed, this is the hardest thing to do.

When I am overwhelmed at the thought of the paperwork piling up in my bin, or the deadlines encroaching, or the sheer exhausting multitude of intense conversations I've already had for one day, giving myself to one more person seems humanly impossible. And then I do so, and in the doing I'm revived because I glimpse the gems inside the person sitting across the desk from me. I get to hear their story, see a snapshot of their journey, and it reflects the meaning in mine. This excites me, and I can keep on -- if I let it be that way.

When I am empty, what have I left to give you but a vacant stare? I need to let you pour into me what is on your mind, that it might revive mine.

There is a kind of soul-touching that must occur in order for us to stay alive. It's the reason I write.

I am sorry to say that the only place I consistently put human connection first is at work, because I'm required to for business practices. Sometimes the best business practices spill over into the best practices for life. Eh?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bloomin'...Even if it's Just Onions for the Moment

Just finished watching the brilliant Hugh Laurie as Dr. House for a couple of hours. It was a rerun, which I have seen part of before. He's in the psych ward, and of course he doesn't want to be there and doesn't think he should have to stay. Problem is, the Dr. in charge thinks Dr. House needs to get better from the ailments he chooses to ignore, and won't sign the dotted line to let House go back to practicing medicine unless he stays in the ward for treatment. House of course fights this by conniving one twisted plan after another to be surprisingly unbearable, hoping that if he persists in resisting long enough, they'll give up and give in to what he wants. His game is a bargaining game. It's a game of trade-offs and denials. He's pretty terrible - I think I would've given up on him and sent him packing with all the unforgivable stunts he pulled in two hours (between commercial breaks).

The breakthrough moment comes when he stops trying to get out. Things aren't perfectly fixed, but once he figures out that he needs help and takes the action that proves he knows where help comes from, he gets to go home. He goes home when he's not even asking for it. House still has a long way to go, but he's stopped with the dragging of the feet. Once he quits tugging on the leash, he gets to walk with out it.

Boy did I see myself in that fictional television character tonight. I am very rebellious to being tied down. I want to march to the beat of my own impulsive drum. I want to go across the country. I want to do this job or that. I want to go to school for this or for that. I want to fill every waking hour with tasks large and trivial that fill every moment, and then I want to quit it all. Nobody makes me do anything - I do what I want! It looks pretty good sometimes, but all in all I think it feels pretty chaotic from the inside.

I want to embrace the ordinary. It's within a compilation of ordinary moments that the extraordinary happens, and I want to be there to witness it. Extraordinary is always tied to commitment -- days of plodding on and on along the same path with sweat dripping and bloody blisters and maybe some tears or squabbles about whether or not we're following the right directions on the map. Can also mean getting bored and wanting to quit and go back the other way. Might include ignoring nagging doubts that the reward at the end isn't going to make the painstaking climb all worth the while. Embracing the ordinary is acceptance and enjoyment of where we are. Making the most of every opportunity. Even appreciating cliche but true sayings such as, 'Bloom where you're planted.'

I want to give up my silly notions of the extraordinary or remarkable lifestyle that I think I somehow deserve and it must be waiting around the corner if I just angst hard enough. I want to lay it down on the altar and receive the peace of accepting the pleasant places where the lines are drawn for me. But is it really genuine? Because there's always that persistent hope that if I learn to love my leash ... maybe someday I'll be allowed to run without it.

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

U2 360 Tour Part 2: I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

Even the most gigantic of pretzels and the coldest of beers cannot do much to distract one waiting to witness live their favorite band of all time! I spent my time examining the stage, which I'd heard a lot about already, and trying to capture pictures of myself with the stage in the background. I'll try to share those here... Not having luck with Blogspot and pics today, however. The stage was enormous, a circle with a center platform like the center of a target. Three arms extended across to bridge the gap between the central platform and the outer ring of the stage. Two of the arms were movable. People filled every space around!

Arching over the stage were 4 green arms with orange dots. One central column plunged vertically through the center of the entire structure, covered in lights and cameras. Just above the central platform a screen ran in 360 degrees. It was made of hundreds of smaller panels so it could expand and contract as needed, giving every audience member visibility of the band. While I took in all these details I was hearing some nice ambient music that really helped pass the time of anticipation pleasantly.

Around 7:30 the opening band, Muse, came out. They were fantastic musicians and the crowd was very responsive. It was exciting to see the lights go down and the stage really begin to showcase itself. I had trouble hearing Muse and started to get a little nervous -- there seemed to be a lot of distortion and I swear I didn't catch a word of their lyrics. I think one of their songs might've had the word ... "girl" in it? Maybe? After a few tunes I wandered from my seat. They played 5 or 6, then the lights came back up and they told us to enjoy U2. Ok, fine, I will! More waiting...

The stadium lights were extremely bright. Lots of people around me were still showing up. It hardly felt like I was at a concert. I don't think the show was sold out and I was disappointed. I wanted it to be a good crowd. I got the impression that the people behind me were on their once-a-month double date as mid-aged couple friends. They were taking lots of pictures of each other coupled up in front of the stage. Lots of big, blonde hair, high heels and t-shirts tucked in with belts. One couple debated whether or not to go meet their friends "in their box." They're probably friends with Tony Romo! I got a drink from a lady walking through the seats carrying a big box of ice, water, and beers around her neck.

There were a couple of brilliant moments when someone in the crowd was feeling clever so they would start whistling and cheering and it spread. The whole crowd would stand and lean forward in their seats and start screaming ... and then we'd realize no one was coming and we all fell into this joker's silly trap! It was fun though, and it certainly built the anticipation for the real moment.

Around 9pm, when I was beginning to wonder if maybe Bono had a tummy ache and needed to reschedule, there was a sudden gap in the ambient music. Then, loudly, some David Bowie lyrics without the music behind them brought everyone to attention: "Ground Control to Major Tom..." [I could not believe the amazingness of this selection!!] The countdown commenced. The lights came down. "Check ignition..." The crowd went wild as the band emerged from a corridor RIGHT BENEATH MY FEET! Larry run up on stage and went to his drum set alone while the rest of the band ran under the stage and came up through the floor in the central platform. Larry got us started off with his classic drum roll and the band jumped straight in with Breathe from No Line On The Horizon. It was really happening!!

From this moment on I was in such a state of elation and disbelief. The band was incredible, the stage was pulsing and changing colors and the screen was moving and expanding and retracting. Bono and The Edge would emerge from the central platform, cross the bridges and run around the outer circle, connecting with the crowd on all sides of them. They are energetic and legitimate, bona fide rock stars. It just comes naturally. There was no "Dallas how ya doin tonight??" that we were all obliged to cheer for. Bono asked us how we liked his space camp? He mentioned that he thinks since they're playing in Dallas that makes them space cowboys. He spent more time thanking people than any rock star I've heard, just intermittently between songs. He introduced his band with humility and respect for the musicians he is honored to perform with.

Some highlights .... (besides the sheer thrill of seeing them perform everything live!)

City Of Blinding Lights - From How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Bono is standing the middle of the bridge traversing the crowd between the central platform and the outer ring and suddenly he starts leaning over the railing grabbing people's hands and singing "don't let go..." Eventually he found some kid that wouldn't let go and Bono pulled him up over the railing and kept him up on the stage. Bono holds the kid's hand and starts running the outer circumference. Kid looks in shock. Bono gives him a hug and asks his name. Guides him around the stage through the song. Gives him his own sunglasses (don't worry, a stage hand was immediately ready with another pair at the end of the song). When it was time for the kid to go, he sang out "And I miss you, when you're not around..." Kid's day was made.

I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
- This track from No Line they all performed from the outer circumference of the stage. Larry left his set and wore his percussive magic around his neck, keeping the beat. (I <3 Larry.) All 4 of them made their way around the circle and revved the crowd for this tune, which they'd remixed with a heavier techno/dance influence.

At some point the Couples Night behind me asked me if I could sit down. I wanted to turn around and tell them that this is a U2 CONCERT NOT A MOVIE THEATER, but I was polite. I just decided to move across the aisle to stand with the REAL fans!! (The opposite side of my aisle stood for the entire show!)

Walk On - Many fans were prepared for the tradition, but I was surprised. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia: "The song was written about and dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi. It is written in the form of a supporting, uplifting anthem, praising her for her activism and fighting for freedom in Burma. She has been intermittently under house arrest since 1989 for her efforts. Due to the political tribute of this album, those in Burma caught with possession of either the single for this song or the album All That You Can't Leave Behind could face a prison sentence lasting between three and twenty years." The giganto-screen starting running reels of Aung San Suu Kyi's face. Bono spoke to the crowd: "If you have her picture, take it out. If you have her mask, put it on." They began to sing as a throng of Amnesty International volunteers wearing her mask climbed on the stage and filled the entire outer circle. "This is a prayer from Texas to Her .. for her freedom." It was very well-done, very moving. A perfect reminder of the power of music to bring awareness to what is happening in the farther reaches of the world.

Ok, now I have to go to work. I will finish with the encore and my reflections in Part 3, coming soon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

U2 360 Tour Part 1: Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I had to race home on my lunch break today to try and write down the events of last night while they are still fresh in my mind. They are still so fresh that little things can't even get to me. My mind has been elevated to a level that only rock and roll can take it! I don't wanna come back down to the real world -- or should I say, the world that everyone *thinks* is real.

There was some uproar about the fact that I attended a mega rock concert by myself. I had to drive a fair distance -- 45 minutes to Arlington, TX, home of the Rangers, Cowboys, and Six Flags. I didn't have anyone to go with me, so I went by myself, simple as that. As I told one friend, there was NOTHING that could stand in my way. I had to take the opportunity to see U2, because who knows if/when their next US tour will happen?

The drive was fine -- drizzly and unfamiliar, with an atmosphere of industrialism providing the scenery. (I noticed the Microsoft building on my way. It looks very drab and square, and it made me really curious about what Apple office complexes look like?) All the sunshine I needed was in my heart, made of sheer shining childlike anticipation. I left early to avoid the traffic and try to find the closest cash lot possible. It turned out I timed it perfectly -- I found a cash lot immediately adjacent to the entrance I need for my seat! I don't know how I achieved such good fortune, but it was fine with me because it helped a little to stave off the feelings of self-pity about the fact that I was alone. Those feeling grew a little as I approached the line to enter -- fairly short lines since I was there so early. Felt like a cattle-loading dock! Everyone around me was there with someone else: friends, children, significant other, etc. That was interesting -- a lot more children than I expected for a Monday night rock concert. A lot of women in jeans and sneakers (including me, for the fact that I expected to walk a LOT farther from my parking spot!), a lot of people were my age or older. It was a family-oriented, tame crowd. I felt self-conscious for coming alone, but then I realized that nobody around me cared or noticed, and so I just sent people text messages and played solitaire on my phone. :)

Finally they opened the gates and we started filing in. I didn't bring my purse, I just put everything I needed in the pockets of my denim jacket, and the security guard who scanned my ticket was impressed with my high level of intelligence (for a woman). The outdoor entryway of the new Cowboys Stadium is super fun, with jumbo screens and grass and Tidal Basin-like pool of water surrounding by grass. Lots of tall bar-style tables sit outside, I guess for those who will enjoy the concert from the exterior of the building.

People were selling Miller Lite and MGD for $8. A souvenir stand outside the entrance immediately caught my eye and I joined the throng as quickly as possible. I'd planned ahead at and knew just which t-shirt and I needed. Had to jump on it BEFORE the concert so as not to miss out on the items I really wanted. He started yelling "Cash only cash only who's ready?" And I jumped out in front waving my wad. I wanted #12 - medium, and a black cap. We made the exchange quickly and I skipped backward as the eager crowd surged forward and blocked the table from my view.

I started wandering with my goods, wondering if I should wear them since I didn't have a bag to put them in (starting to doubt the security guard's praises...). I settled on folding them up together for the time being and went inside the stadium. I had everything I needed. Everything except. Somewhere between cattle-loading entry scan and the souvenir speed exchange, I had dropped my ticket. I had no idea where I was sitting, all I remembered was section 244. Ah geeze.

I searched pockets and sleeves, through my jacket, jeans, on the ground, in my phone, everywhere. Decided that the security guard was definitely a cruel tyrant filled with ill foreboding. Ticket was definitely gone.

I found someone who worked at the stadium and he sent me to "guest services." This was an odious task, as I was struggling mentally to figure out how to convince them that I wasn't a crazy weirdo girl that somehow sneaked into the stadium on my own, I really DID buy my ticket the very MOMENT they went on sale ... MONTHS ago. I felt like it would have been much less suspicious if I'd been there with a companion who DID have their ticket, but that was not an option, I would have to go it alone. The first lady I talked to had no idea what I should do, but she did have the idea to refer me to the "Ticketmaster guy." He was wearing a skull cap and looking particularly unexcited about helping me. He made a couple calls, got no answer, and sent me outside to retrace my steps. I felt 5. I retraced. Nothing. He made a couple more calls and asked for my I.D. This led to some good results: a seat relocation ticket, which was really just a handwritten ticket for my original seat assignment (the person on the phone was able to verify via the World Wide Web and some database that I really had paid to be there).

Ladies and gentlemen: access granted to Section 244, Row 3, Seat 25.

If you are familiar with the NEW Dallas Cowboys Stadium, you will know that this seat is actually very, very good. I, however, was not familiar with the stadium, so figured that before I start climbing stairs I would add an unsalted gigantic pretzel and cold bottle of MGD to my purse-less inventory. The only way it could've been better was if I'd had some mustard to dip the pretzel in! Next, I approached Section 244 and showed the lady Seat Relocation Pass. I expected her to direct me up a nearby flight of stairs, but NO. NO. She pointed DOWNWARD. All The Way (almost) to the very front edge of the section. The only people between me and the stage were the 100's, on a level with the special VIP boxes. Wow. Humble little me, who had scraped together my very few pennies for this experience, felt extremely grateful. Grateful to myself, that is, for jumping on the ball and sitting logged into Ticketmaster waiting for the spinny clock to wind to the exact moment that the tickets went on sale! I will say it could have been better -- I could have been on the concrete floor with all the people that had to stand through the entire show. That would have been ideal, and maybe even worth the couple hundred I'm sure those folks paid (they got to walk up on the stage and take photos before the concert started!). Next time, perhaps.

This time, I just got settled in and waited. I was seated 45 minutes prior to slated starting time, so I knew it would take even longer than that. I got to picture-snapping.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sleep Well

Adulthood carries with it the joys of independence. Late at night, that independence may resurface as a nightmare, or at least a pesky recurring dream that makes one want to lie awake just a little longer rather than succumb to another repetition.

Some dear ones are gifted with the ability to leave their troubles with their unconscious, folded up under the pillow. Others are good at hiding it. I carry mine around like a darn purse that makes my shoulder ache, and then the ache flows down and down to my toe. Sometimes it even spreads up to my eyebrow.

I am most troubled and disappointed by my own shortcomings, which are seeming to reproduce and then light on every surface near and far, like Charlotte's baby spiders just after hatching.

Next I am troubled by my schedule and it's impossible boundaries.

Then I am troubled by the reality of my everyday existence, which is certainly not what I had planned for my life. I could accept that if it made sense to me why it might be a better option than I what I had planned, but since it's not make sense right now, I am still straining against my leash most pathetically.

When I talk to others, I realize almost all of us are in the midst of the same behaviors and varying degrees of shocked disillusionment. Not everyone, by any means, but many of my generation seem to be facing this.

At night sometimes I remember falling asleep as a child. Of course I had woes in the past, and they even loomed large at times. Sometimes the 'tragedies' didn't make any sense, but eventually they sorted themselves out. I remember rare nights when sleep was hard won, and of course my mom would know it. And she might come in and sit by my bed, or on my bed, and stroke my hair or rub my back until my childish body relaxed, and I realized all my problems were taken care of by someone else anyhow.

Or maybe I fell asleep in a random location, watching a movie or waiting to go home from my parents' friends' house. And my dad might scoop me up and carry me to my proper place. I might wake up, but I would realize it was best to keep my eyes closed and remain motionless, not to let this opportunity slip by to be carried by my father to exactly where I belonged.

It troubles me at first when I realize I am escaping to fairly passive memories of existence. Then I understand that my responses in those times were not exactly passive, although the result was true and deep relaxation. My response was trust. I knew the ones who loved me, and I let them care for me in their love. Then I grew up and got blasted independent and stubborn, and viewed it as a sign of weakness to accept help and support and direction from anyone except for my own self. I would plumb the depths of my own mind for answers to questions.

Today I am weary. I have worries. I am perplexed by knotted strands of the future I don't know how to untangle. I want to fall back into childhood and let the solutions wash over me like a night of trusted sleep, when all my problems, ultimately, were solved.

And then I realize... I can.
"Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will bear you;
It is I who have done this, I who will continue,
and I who will carry you to safety. [...]
For I am the Lord, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.'
" (Isaiah 46:4, 41:13)

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's Good Today


I have been seriously MIA from all my normal social networking activities, because my computer has been unable / unwilling to access the internet since I moved into a new apartment on July 17th. With the new apartment, however, I gained a very kind roommate who has allowed me access to her laptop anytime I want, so thankfully I think I have been able to pay all bills and read all emails and reply to some. This morning I am prolonging my stay on her laptop while she is at work, simply because I want to tell you all what's good.

Work is going just fine, and I have been getting to know my coworkers better, which helps the days be more enjoyable.

My new living situation is awesome -- a two-bedroom apartment and a wonderful roommate! I have been amazed at my good fortune. Saundie is a real blessing. I love our conversations and I love how relaxed everything is. I love that there is another living, breathing human being sharing my living space. There is something just so wonderful about sharing life with someone else and having to think about how one's actions affect others. I am glad I got the experience of living on my own, and I did enjoy that. I'm also glad not to be doing that anymore for now. I hope I don't frustrate her overmuch with my ADD / impulsive lifestyle. Thus far she has proven very patient. We don't really have any rules or regulations. She loves Coconut, which is all I could ask of anyone. We are both seriously trying to figure out life and enjoy it simultaneously, so there is a lot of common ground. Also a lot of coffee grounds.

I am super excited to say that I will take a couple of classes this semester. I have no idea where this will lead, but I am so thrilled at the prospect of challenging my intellect and growing my brain again. Who knows but that it might lead to some increased opportunities for the future? I waited until the 11th hour to make the decision to return to school, so there were several marks against me for a little while there I wasn't sure I'd be able to get into any of the classes I needed, much less pay for them. I feel so blessed that I have been able to register for exactly the classes I wanted at times that work for me. I have been given all the resources I need to make it work. I have received so much encouragement from friends and family and mere acquaintances who all seem inclined to make me feel good about what I'm doing. It's great when everything seems to be going my way, and all my outside influences agree. It won't always be that way, I know this, but for now I'll take it and enjoy it.

Michael has gotten into all the classes that he needs and I'm overjoyed that he has multiple musical ensemble/combo opportunities that are really the stepping stones to the future he has been working towards for years. Music is truly a calling for him. Many factors stood in the way of him getting the chance to prepare how he wanted to for auditions, but it seems that didn't matter. God knew what He had planned for Michael and it has come to pass. I am so excited for him, and excited to be putting concerts on my calendar! Instead of sitting in the audience with him, this time I get to be HIS audience, which tickles me to death!

My good friend Sandy always likes to remind me that in life we are always in the middle of trial, emerging from a trial, or about to enter a trial. She speaks all this to me cheerfully from her wheelchair, enduring a constant trial with immense strength and beauty. The Psalmist always reminds me that no matter what life's challenges, I need to sing praise to the Lord. My life is full of rich blessings, and though my heart and head may ache over certain aspects, the most healing activity I know is to think on all the blessings that are poured on top of riches and tied together with great bonds of love that I don't deserve, and then take all that meditation and call it GOOD, for that is what it is! And I just wanted to share that with you all, my friends. :)

I miss so many of you and long for the next opportunity to interact and catch up. Please let me know what is good today with YOU.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Worms in the Kitchen

One worm by itself doesn't scare me. A whole mass of writhing worms is a little disconcerting. If I'm going to be truly "green" in my lifestyle, however, it may be necessary to employ the McFearless aspect -- for the good of the earth.

Check this out!

This all started on my most recent plane trip from Texas to California. Allowing my mind to wander, I dwelt on what I could see from my window seat, and was breath-taken. The beauty of the terrain below changed various times as we went from the flat, green land of Texas to dry deserts and then mountains. I can't begin to describe to you my amazement at all the shapes and colors, parallel, contrasting, complementing one another. Between my window and the ground below hovered various clouds, some white and wispy, others bubbly and chunky, sometimes at a far distance and other times blended together in diverse collections.

Flying back the other way, our plane jutted out over the Pacific and made our turnaround above the island I was privileged to sail to a couple of summers ago, Catalina Island. I saw the gorgeous ocean and the mysterious, unpopulated expanse of blue water made my heart rise in my throat temporarily (oceans have always made me nervous for their unknowability). Small pockets of land on the island are humbly populated; the vast majority of the terrain is still in its natural, respectable habitat.

I couldn't believe the beauty of the land below me! It is just our mundane, everyday existence, designed impeccably with so much variation and satisfying themes. I could imagine that this small part of the universe must have pleased my Creator to make, and I realized that it is just one of His ventures. Then I began to ask myself, how does it make Him feel to see what we are doing to His creation with the powers He has given us? And a further question: how are we depriving ourselves by the ways we treat the earth around us?

Never been much of a hippie or tree-hugger myself, mostly because I don't really have the time to care. Now the "green initiative" is always in the news and modern politics, and of course our waste problems -- not to mention human laziness -- provided the foundation of Pixar's recent movie, Wall*e (which I loved). I am determined to research and discover how to improve my lifestyle in order to best protect, preserve, and flourish creation. This will be awkward at first, and I'm sure to make several mistakes, but that won't stop me. It will seem to some like my efforts will make so little impact, but I believe if we find fun and meaningful ways to change our habits, then our habits will become contagious, and the grassroots can become the norm as we continually repopulate the earth with little children who learn a new way of normal.

All that being said, I am considering efficient and fun methods of recycling and composting in my little apartment, with the hopeful result of reducing my waste by 90%! I have been doing a lot of internet research and have also found out about some books that I might check out from the library. If any of you have a greener lifestyle than mine already, please share with me! I'd love to learn about your journey and what has worked for you and your families and what hasn't.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I think you can help me with something....

I have so many subjects swirling around in my head that need serious brain power wrapped around them!

> The current state of agriculture in America: What can / should we be doing as citizens of our country / planet?

> How can I make my daily life more energy-efficient and recyclable? Does it make a difference if just one person changes their daily living? What does a coherent, holistic approach to "Green Living" look like? Why aren't we all doing this?

> Subtopic: How about these Hybrid cars? Are they going to help? Are they going to cause more trouble than they're worth?

> Is it better to change circumstances or accept them and then transform the self? Would I be happier / more fulfilled if I saw work as work and worth as ... something else entirely?? (Subthought - If I become more active in volunteering for the causes that really matter to me, could I someday find myself employed to help one of those causes?)

> Real reconciliation = possible, but messy? Thanks to a few, I know that while we are adept at breaking things, sometimes broken people can fix things together.

> How do we say goodbye? Death is a heavy subject in the news and many dear ones' personal lives.

> Where do you all, my friends and neighbors, find your facts about the political issues facing us? How do we stay TRULY informed? What is our role?

> What is our role in LGBT issues today? What does God think / say about it? How can we bring love to bear more heavily?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Practice for Blessing

When I came home from vacation I felt so happy and free and excited. I had grand plans for keeping new resolutions, and the best part was that I had the energy to start putting them into action! I was so positive and felt full of life.

In seconds, I let that be taken away from me by just one person.

I don't know why I let things like that happen, but it's definitely true that I'm too sensitive.

A man came into my work wanting something that I couldn't do for him. I tried to tell him as nicely as possible not only that I couldn't do that for him but also the reasons why (I thought that it might soften the blow if he understood the why). Of course, I was missing a large piece of the puzzle that would've made me far more optimistic about his situation if I'd known it, and it all worked out in the end. In the meantime, he proceeded to abuse me and intimidate me by his words and his body language, encouraging other people in the office on his side of the desk to do the same. I was the only employee in the room, vastly outnumbered in my station. I asked him to please leave because he could not talk to me like that, but he would not leave, he kept asking to see the manager. The manager had already told me she did not want to see him. Of course, she did in the end, but he just had to wait his turn until she made it all better.

My day was ruined. The entire rest of my day I kept remembering his facial expression as he looked at me with infuriated accusation, calling me names and telling me all the reasons why I was an unworthy human. I hated the things that he said to me, and I hated wondering if they were true. I hated that I couldn't stop shaking and I was mad at myself because I am sure he recognized that I was badly rattled (he got what he wanted). I hate that when I come home from an afternoon like that, all I can do is shut down and sit in my apartment, and cancel my grand plans of progress and positive accomplishment (not that I canceled any plans with another person, just my own for myself). In this case, I let myself be the casualty because I couldn't shake those words. Those words broke my spirit, forget about sticks and stones and stupid bones!

It is hard for me to gain any comfort for this situation. I have never been one to deal well with injustice, and this situation seems like a great example of injustice to me. Part of my problem in getting over the experience is that I cannot accept the fact that he felt like he could treat me that way, and in actuality he can because he got what he wanted in the end.

The other part of my problem is that my feelings are pointless. What he said was a long string of cheap shots aimed at motivating me to do what he wanted and to feel bad for not doing what he wanted in the first place. IT DOESN'T MATTER what he thinks, but it still hurt a whole lot. So what do I get out of this?

Hopefully I will gain a thicker skin over time. And even though I can't rejoice that I was persecuted for the sake of Christ, maybe I can turn the negativity and seeming meaninglessness of this experience into a positive and meaningful lesson by taking it as practice to stand my ground and rejoice if ever persecuted for the sake of Christ. Maybe a few daily abuses will be just the practice that I need in order to be ready to lay it all on the line for what I believe and what is right, to stand for justice no matter how many liars tell me that I am standing for a lie.

And in any case, now I can identify more with Jesus and the unjust abuses He received. Of course, He didn't let His feelings get hurt or His purpose and plans become derailed, so hopefully I can learn to identify with that someday, too. Also, He was perfect and I'm far from that, so there is always a learning experience for me tucked inside the conflicts, even when someone else is totally out of line. Jesus, please walk with me in the workplace and make me better than I was yesterday, more equipped to dole out grace to all the unjust and recognize myself in their accusing faces.

This is all part of a process of becoming accustomed to a new environment. With the same company but at a different location with different systems and procedures, I am the new girl again with a lot to learn. The culture of "customers" is completely different as well, so I am finding there is a much higher proportion of people ready to jump me on a regular basis. I'm hoping I don't become so jaded that I am always in "fight" mode.

Thanks for letting me vent until the rock left the pit of my stomach, Blogspot. You have helped me become more McFearless! I had to "write through" the experience before I could back again for another day of beatings. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

I should be packing ... or cleaning... or...

I should be doing something else right now.

That is the theme of my life, I think. I am always replaying the words in my head! In big and small ways. Sometimes it indicates guilt feelings. Other times it just points to discontentment. There have been moments when I've suspected I just float that thought to the surface in order to feel like I was made for something more than what I'm currently experiencing.

The suspicion is sneaking through my days that a life of fulfillment and purpose has much less to do with what I DO WITH IT, and more about WHO I AM IN IT. I don't pretend that this is an original thought, just a damned difficult one. When the object of my day seems so small and insignificant, I believe that I am small and insignificant, and my actions and attitudes cease to matter all that much because they aren't related to any kind of behavior that would end up in a movie or a book. The less my actions matter ... the less I strive to frame them, tame them, blame them on myself (always some outside force beyond my control).

I live for books and movies -- great stories -- but sometimes I despise them because they lead me to expect more from my life than is realistic to hope. They make me want a kind of glory.

Or maybe I am just unwilling to take the risks that come with a truly meaningful way of life? Maybe I am holding onto a suffocating security?

This question sends the merry-go-round again, as it is wont to do, and the familiar line of questioning lands me back where I started, thinking maybe what I should do is just accept my life the way it is and try to get as much out of it as I can, for myself and others.

Or should I kill myself, working double-time, trying to get something more worthy that could end up disappointing me in the end? Not sure.. No answers tonight, just cyclical avoidance of the menial tasks that really must be completed in order to achieve that uncluttered, unharried state I am always longing to possess.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hello, Goodbye, May

Some months leave me at a loss for words. May was one of those months. As I look back, I'm not even sure what happened in May that made it flit by so quickly, but now it is over. June has arrived.

In May I unexpectedly flew to California to join my family in facing the terrible demon of cancer, stealing life from one we all know could have much left for which to live.

For those on what I call the "front lines," visiting the hospital daily, I think the days feel like continuous pressure on the heart, the throat, the head, and the soul. I think there is occasional relief, but it is not a romantic experience. I think it is moment-by-moment progress of coming to terms -- complicated by not knowing what to come to terms with as one day to the next becomes a study in the complete fallibility and non-omniscience of doctors who can't really say what is going to happen.

Under the circumstances, we are all reminded of our personal vulnerability. I don't mean that we are all thinking with gravity about the fact that we are all going to die someday, although that is true. I never once reflected on the unavoidability of my own death. I thought only about the unavoidability of loss.

For my part, in my brief days providing a moment of companionship and cheer to my family, I was constantly berating myself for an overabundance of selfishness. In these moments it is impossible not to berate myself for how frequently I think about how all this is affecting me or I am failing to live up to my own expectations of myself to bring some kind of relief and encouragement to my Papa and my other family members.

It is impossible to know how to empathize with my grandfather, or what to do in his presence to provide encouragement, relaxation, and a smile. How to make these moments positive for him is the question ... but I am so often caught up in myself, thinking too centrally, trying to figure out what I should do to make the situation better, continually falling flat. And it's just as uncomfortable as hearing a vocal soloist fall flat in front of an audience, only more mortally so. When we stand so close to this bridge from one life to the next, there is very little we can rely on ourselves to accomplish. All below us uncharted territory and opaque rushing waters.

There is only One who has traversed back and forth between the two lives successfully on our planet, and we have to rely on His hidden presence for grace. That grace may remain unfelt at all times in our experience of what is happening, but it must be there. In moments we only know this because He promised it to us, and we believe Him. Only He has the Words of Life.

So many people have brought beauty into the world through their experience with ashes (I am thinking of many, but particularly C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed comes to mind). I suppose I expected some kind of tragic beauty to come to bear on the senses. All I actually perceived was the bumbling awkwardness of humanity trying to figure out the connection between the finite and the eternal, and where we fit in the space between. How do we let our comrade transcend? How do we separate body and soul? Our souls and our bodies want to give in to the agony of loss. It is a task, and rather odious at that. At least from my side of the life cycle.

Ah, I need a break.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Economizing for the Times

We are all looking for ways to save and economize, reuse and recycle, make it last a longer, cut the bill a little smaller...


Why, when life can be snatched away so unexpectedly, would we waste so many moments pining after lives that we are not actually in the midst of living? There is so much to be done with what we're in the midst of, it's just that many of us have looked at our current circumstances for so long that we think our circumstances are a habit or something. Don't throw away what you've got, or discount it. Use it.

I went somewhere I was talking to someone who was a stranger to me. We had to sit next to each other and we were waiting for something to start. The table was a circle so we couldn't really ignore each other while semi-facing like we could if we were just next to each other, or on the Metro.

I found out a lot about her because I could figure out what to ask to keep learning. I could smile a lot and gradually help her feel more comfortable. Now I know where she works and where she's from and how long she's been married and that she and her husband are planning to start a family soon and they they were planning their move to Texas while they were planning their wedding and it was really stressful but they're happy here and they're almost ready to start their family and where they go to church. If I ever paused in my onslaught of getting-to-know-you questions, she would stare at me wide-eyed, deer-caught-in-headlights, frightened and awkward because she didn't know what to say in conversation with someone she didn't know. I thought "Gee, this is awkward unless I direct the conversation ... sheesh, lady, relax and TALK."

And then I realized -- I have stared for so long at my giftedness in making conversation, I have not realized to call it a gift. (Even though my mom tried to tell me this before...) I have despised it by discounting it. And consequently, I have not used it as much as I should! Wear it out! Rub it in! Make it stronger! And there are so many of these gifts that we have received that will help us to rebound in times of stress and difficulty, and dazzle in times of plush and plenty.

Maybe just as -- or more! -- importantly, stop judging other people for not being the SAME.

Don't long to be somebody else. Long to know what you're missing about yourself. There is So. Much. Purpose. that went into the design of YOU.

How are you gifted? Tell me! I want to know! Doitnow!

Monday, April 6, 2009


I really like the music in the Toyota Venza commercials.
* * * *

WOW, Kerry Hasenbalg does it again. The following is an excerpt from her recent blog that seemed to speak into those throbbing, questioning parts of my mind and heart. Please be encouraged and exhorted as I was:

There once was a boy who had many broken toys. So, this boy took his toys to the toymaker and asked, “Will you fix my broken toys?” The toymaker replied, “I most certainly will.” The next day the little boy looked at his toys and much to his disappointment he saw that his toys were still broken, so he asked the toymaker again, “Will you please fix my broken toys?” And again the toymaker replied exactly as He did the first time, “Yes, I most certainly will.” The following day the boy looked and once again found that his toys were still broken. So, he decided to ask the toymaker a different question, “Sir, if you said you would fix my broken toys, why have you not done it yet?” And the toymaker answered, “Because you will not let go of them!”

In order for God to turn our ashes into beauty, we must be willing to let go and entrust our ashes to Him! As we bring our ashes to the foot of the cross, let us believe that He will be faithful to exchange our ashes for beauty in His time and in His way.

And when we are wiling to take this "risk" and really "let go"of our controlling and fearful grip on these things, we will finally have the opportunity to “see” for ourselves how things work in the Lord’s economy. And I believe the experiencing of this exchange process is what builds our trust in God and teaches us to desire His blessed presence with an undivided heart in all things and above all things.

I have broken a toy or twelve in my day. Letting them go for the fixing seems the most unnatural thing to do, because I feel like I have to fix it since I broke it. Yet, no! I will just make the problem worse, in most cases. Let my Creator fix it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Something Wonderful

I know this guy that says, "What's goood?" instead of "Hello" or "What's up" when he sees someone. Debbie and I were talking about how easy it can be to focus on the little negatives in our lives, and to relate with other people based on the struggles we're all facing. Many of our conversations wind around to be negativity festivals. We decided that negativity was not a worthy cause for a festival, so we decided to say "Tell me something wonderful!" Instead of "Hey, what's up?" I like to act all crazy and say "WHAT'S GOOOOOOOOD?!?!?" when I see Debbie, cause it totally throws her off (she is a very grace-filled mom of 4...who reminds me periodically that they don't use the 's' word -- shutup -- in her house).

Lastnight at church we all went around and shared "what's good" with one another. It was so uplifting! It's amazing what a turn of perspective happens when you shift the lens looking down on your days to find those little gems of joy that happen for all of us. There is always something.

Today was amazing, unfairly fabulous from my standpoint. Finally a day off, 1 out of 8 days, and I did what I wanted to do. A little work, yes, a few chores, yes. But because of the kindness of my parents I was also able to buy a plane ticket home ... watch LOST ... talk to my Sister ... surprise some friends with Starbucks ... surprise another friend at work ... meet for martinis with another friend and talk about very deep matters -- really inappropriate yet perfect for Happy Hour.

I am thankful for my life.

Even though I am having a hard time letting go of people / places / things that I thought were always supposed to be a part of my life / dreams / future; or even though I don't know what the outcome will be of my present risky endeavors; and even because I am so imperfect / flawed / inadequate, it is Enough. It seems I may have two left feet, and it is something wonderful.

WHAT'S GOOD! Tell me something wonderful.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

True Story

I should have gone to Japan.

It's not that I'm bitter, just that now I know better.

Japan asked me to come over. A once-in-a-life opportunity! She said. Maybe there was some hyperbole on her part, but many a true word is spoken in jest and other such cliches. I told her I would think about it.

Then he said Come see me so we can see what may be but if you I do not see then we may as well be nothing. See me or see Japan. And that doesn't rhyme, so make your company mine. Cause you like things to rhyme.

Well, truth be told, Japan has no soul and so I was bold and told Japan that she'd be put on hold. Seemed like gold.

To choose another human soul and perhaps make mine one with another -- this was a prospect that forced my hand - how could one deny the beauty of unity even in mere possibility? Well, one could not since one hoped to tie the knot.

Set into motion were a string of events devoid of sense and nearly too late I realized that one soul plus my soul into unity was not the intention. Abolition of my soul was the objective, no one protective, no tying of knots just snot on my sleeve and would you believe - I almost drowned had I not found my rebellion at last.

Japan, I apologize. You wanted to imprint my soul with ephemeral beauty to never be forgotten. I declined your gift, my regrets are stiff for the offer will haunt me for eternity. But you may be pleased when you see that I have set your opponent to sail on seas without me. By degrees I perceive that the enemy is me and I will rebel against myself until the least impurities bleed out

and Japan -- my soul now imprinted with eternity: all you'd asked for me.

Come see, come see me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

To bring us closer to our neighbors

At church on Sunday evening I was sitting there listening to Fr. Henry talk about the Bishop's appeal and how there were these pledge envelopes in the pew backs in front of us and he was teaching us all about how to fill out the pledge cards. I had set my purse on the pew next to me and was moved to get out my checks so I grabbed my purse. It nudged the guy next to me and I guess he didn't understand that it was accidental, so he actually took the purse out of my hands, thinking I was trying to pass it to him. Well, then he started looking through it, and I was sitting there dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. His wife leaned around and looked at me from the other side of him. Women, being much more capable with interpreting the body language, quickly became horrified that her husband was rifling through my purse.

It seemed to all happen at once. He got confused, looked up at me and put his hands palms up with an expression that said, "What? What did you give me this for?" And his wife poked him and said "Give it back!" And I took it back, confusedly wondering what to do or say to smooth the whole thing over. I couldn't really stop laughing but tried to do so silently.

When it came time for us to show a sign of God's peace he just said to me, "Peace be with you," but his wife leaned around and said "I am SO sorry about him!" And I started laughing all over again and I told her it was ok and peace be with her. Then they went to administer the Eucharist.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sometimes I Worry About Money

ALERT: That may be the understatement of the century. I think about the green every day. I have to log in to my bank account regularly to make sure there aren't any "surprises." Most of my friends are probably unaware that every time we do things together, I am inwardly subtracting the cost of our pleasures from my current funds.

I think this may come with the territory of being a 20-something, but regardless of the fact it's very frustrating and imprisoning.

It's frustrating because I can't seem to make myself stop thinking or obsessing about it.

It's frustrating because I have to stay so focused on it in order to make all my bill payments.

It's frustrating because I see in myself a hunger for money and possessions that makes me feel like a kindred of Gollum's.

Never really realized how many things I feel entitled to until I had to swallow the hard reality that in order to be really responsible, I have to cut those entitlements out. There is a lot of potential for peace here, because the less I try to spend my money, the less internal math I am doing while I am supposed to be listening to you tell me about what's going on recently in your life.

The ugliest part of my money worries is that I don't even recognize how MUCH I am able to have and purchase and pay for in full that the majority of the people in the world do not have. Mine is a rare life of luxury for a woman, and sometimes I know this but sometimes it doesn't sink in.

Sunday or someday I was throwing myself into a terrible rollercoaster of feelings. I was trying to get ready to go somewhere and I couldn't figure out what to wear. Everything I put on made me feel uglier than the last thing. There were many things that already looked so ugly on the hanger that I wasn't even going to try them. I felt so sickly miserable inside that I couldn't just feel pretty. Then I embarked on the Shame Spiral for being such a shallow creature in the first place that I was ungrateful for the wealth I experience with so much poverty around me. I tormented myself with that thought for awhile and then I realized that it wasn't really helping me feel less sickly miserable about not feeling pretty in the first place, so I ended the session feeling sickly miserably shamefully tormented. Such grace!
* * * *
Sometimes I tell myself and other people that I really want to help people who have less than I do. This is really true, but it's hard to do from the position that I'm in right now, because basically I'm just keeping my life afloat and I don't have too many extras for helping others keep their lives afloat. My mom and I were talking about Bono and U2 the other day, and the fact that Bono has actually accomplished a lot of good things in the world, but that he's really only able to do that because he's so famous and has made a lot of money being in a rock-and-roll band for the first 20 years of his adult life. Bono and a couple of the other guys in the band dropped out of the band for a little while (after making a couple of really great records) because they found Jesus and they were afraid Jesus didn't really approve of rock-and-roll. Eventually they got over that and I think even later they realized that maybe Jesus was giving them a successful rock-and-roll band so they could be His hands and feet in the world -- without even being priests or missionaries and without looking all that moralistic or spiritual. This is truly inspiring to me.

I am wondering if sometimes guilt about materialism and greed gets in the way of Christians learning how to do good in the world of commerce -- not so that we can live the high life, but so that we can play a part in sharing Abundant Life with others. Ugly truth though it is, Money is necessary for many of the projects that create change and improve the living conditions of the suffering lost souls in the world. I'm not sure how I fit into this presently, because I have a job that isn't making me a lot of extra money but that really focuses on appearances (so there is a lot of pressure to spend money on your outward appearance in order to feel like you're going to be more successful and have a better reputation). I don't really have a conclusion to the discomfort I feel about this. I have to make money somehow. I guess I just get to learn a lot about resisting shallow pressure and the fear of what people think of me. There has to be more to success than appearances, and shame on me if I buy in to the belief that true success is really just on the surface.

Lily Allen has a lyric in her new single that cuts to the quick of me:
I am weapon of massive consumption
It's not my fault - it's how I'm programmed to function
I look at the sun then I look in the mirror
We're on the right track, yeah we're on to a winner.

It's true! So I am commiting myself to a reprogramming. I am commiting to having my thoughts about money taken captive to Christ, the best philanthropist who's ever lived. If I really want my money to be involved in the work of Christ, I have to give it all to Him, and acknowledge the fact that the earth is the Lord's and everything in it, even every dollar bill! The book I've been reading, Blue Like Jazz, contains a passage that inspires me on the topic, and I'm going to try to adopt some of the principles Don Miller suggests. This is all I have to say on the subject right now. What follows is an excerpt of what he has to say on the subject, in case it should encourage you.
* * * *
"I am not giving any money to the church, Rick. Not a dime."
"Okay," he said. "Interesting way to change the conversation. Why?" he asked. "Why aren't you giving any money to the church?"
"Because I don't have any money. Everything goes to rent and groceries."
"That sounds like a tough situation," he said, very compassionately.
"So am I exempt?" I asked.
"Nope," he said. "We want your cash."
"How much?" I asked.
"How much do you make?"
"I don't know. About a thousand a month, maybe."
"Then we want a hundred. And you should also know how much you make. Part of the benefit of giving a portion of your money is it makes you think about where your money goes. God does not want us to be sloppy with our finances, Don."
"But I need money for rent."
"You also need to trust God."
"I know. I just think it would be easier to trust God if I had extra money to trust Him with."
"That would not be faith then, would it?"
"Well, bud, I just want you to know I hate this part of the job, 'cause it sounds like I am asking for your money. I don't care whether or not we have your money. Our needs are met. I want to tell you that you are missing out on so much, Don."
"So much what?"
"The fruit of obedience," he said, looking very pastoral. "When we do what God wants us to do, we are blessed, we are spiritually healthy. God wants us to give a portion of our money to His work on earth. By setting aside money from every check, you are trusting God to provide. He wants you to get over that fear---that fear of trusting Him. It is a scary place, but that is where you have to go as a follower of Christ. there are times when my wife and I don't have enough money to cover bills, but we know the first bill, the first payment we make, is to the church. That is the most important. If the other bills get neglected, then we need to watch how we are spending money. And there are times when we have found ourselves in that situation. But it works out. We are getting good at trusting God, and we are getting good at managing money."

Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.