Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Shannon posted this one and I thought it worthy of not just linking to, which I am, but also reproducing here . . .

“I will not die and unlived life
I will not live in FEAR
of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me
to make me less afraid
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom
goes on as fruit”

–Dawna Markova

Surreality . . . My Life Is Full of It*

Hard to complain about an early morning doctor's appointment for my annual boob smashing when I spent my time in the waiting room editing a story that included references to Pol Pot's murderous regime in Cambodia.

*yes, I knew what you might think when I chose this title

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I've Been Sick

For those of you who read this blog regularly, you may have noted that I've begun posting several in one day. For those of you who may be new or only peeking in occasionally, please note that several posts exist below this one and they are all new. Oh, and I've been sick so this is the first day in a while that I felt like typing.

Here's One for All the Theologians . . . Or Anyone Else with a Good Guess

So my friend and I are talking about the passage that says Jesus loved his disciples the way God had loved Jesus. And I got to thinking, "What exactly are we talking about here? What does that love look like?"

For instance, Jesus was born to a young unmarried woman insuring his status as a bastard in some folks' eyes. He lived the immigrant lifestyle in his early years (good thing there wasn't a 700 mile border wall south of his homeland, huh?). If he carried that same attitude he took with the temple teachers as a young boy into the schoolyard, I'm sure all his playmates thought the whole "God complex" he had going on was just ever so endearing. And Dan Brown assertions aside, he doesn't appear to have been intimately involved with anyone of the female persuasion as he traveled around with some of the smelliest, sweatiest, stubbornest varmits he could have found. All to get to die in way we all know wasn't pleasant.

For me, that's not exactly the "look of love." I doubt many of us would sign up for that kind of fatherly attention.

So what does the God's love look like that we're supposed to be reproducing?

Ain't that sweet . . .

Me: Sir, I gotta tell you that I find you to be a most interesting man.

Him: (pause) Well, you're gorgeous and obviously I need to spend a little more time listening to your stories because you've lived a fascinating life.

Me: That was a perfect response.

Deja Vu But Not Really

We rode the escalator to the ballroom level of the Hilton Americas. The last time I'd done so, I emerged to a view of 750 gay men eyeing what was available at the silent auction that would benefit human rights advocacy. This time the crowd was once again 750 strong but they were cowboys and their spouses and their silent auction proceeds go to scholarships.

Much to the chagrine of both groups, I'm sure, I smiled at their contrasts and similarities. Seems bad fashion crosses all cultural lines. Way too many people seem to lack full length mirrors in their homes or friends good enough to give them the "just cause they have it in your size, doesn't mean you need to wear it" speech. Alcohol consumption definitely boosted both groups' generosity. Seeing and being seen is a party game in either camp. The sweetest disparity I saw came when we stopped to examine one of the auction items at the cowboy table. Whereas the gay boys had a refrigerated wine cooler and a couple of cases of wine featured in a focal spot, these boys had a premium ice chest with all the acoutrements needed for a kicking fishing expedition.

To each his own indeed ....

Second Time to Quote this Guy

From The Week October 20, 2006 issue, column of the editor William Falk:

When I first noticed grown men ogling my daughter, she was barely 14. She hadn't started high school, and she was walking next to her dad, yet men in their 30s and 40s were checking her out with undisguised prurient interest. I often challenged these gawkers with a glare; they'd look back with no evident shame, as if to say, "Yeah, you caught me. So what?" Julia -- who's now 15, younger than any congressional page -- says that she and her friends run into this kind of leering everywhere. Men two or three times her age approach her on the street and try to engage her in conversation. She's grown afraid to go running in our suburban neighborhood, because so many men shout obscene comments out ther car windows. Not one of these men, I would venture to guess, is gay.

Of all the lessons being drawn from the Mark Foley scandal, the most laughable is that this is what happens when you put gay men in Congress. "Whether we admit it or not," said columnist Pat Buchanan this week, "many male homosexuals have a thing for teenage boys." I'd restate that sentence a bit more broadly. Whether we admit it or not, many men have a thing for teenagers -- and they no longer feel very guilty about it. Let us not forget that when she was the same age as Foley's page friends, Britney Spears was our culture's biggest sex symbol. Of the dozens of sex scandals in Washington's recent past, 98 percent have involved straight men with much younger women. So if we really want a Congress free of scandal and drooling predators, it's not gay men we should purge from politics. We should stop electing men. [his italics]

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We Just Drove . . .

Saturday was one of my favorite days in Houston. I love living here most every day but on Bayou City Arts Festival Saturday, I feel like I do after a long afternoon in a bookstore -- like I've been to worship gathering where everyone accepts and no one blames.

I'm not so naive that I believe artists are without malice and envy. That's not it. I just love breathing in creativity, even when I don't like what I see, even when it hurts. Something mysterious is untethered within my soul as I walk from booth to booth and am reminded of greater forces at work than I can understand. Colors, textures, ideas and images wash over me and I'm clean again.

Definitely dealing with the metaphor here, given that we are talking Houston and even a breezy day like Saturday came with some high temps and the resulting sweat. Still, I thrilled at each encounter.

Yes, I bought a piece. Yes, Roger bought a piece. Yes, Stan did as well. We don't pay to get into the event since we serve as volunteers and offer relief to the artists in the form of booth sitting while they grab food or a spot in the Porta Potty line. . While our charity -- Bering Omega -- gets a portion of the gate for supplying volunteers, the festival also never fails to gain from our participation. Much of my home is decorated with festival buys.

But as much as I love this event, and I'm hoping you can tell that I do, what we did afterwards was even better.

We just drove.

Roger and I were hungry but we couldn't decide where to go. So we put the top down and started driving, agreeing that when we saw what we knew we wanted we'd speak out. We took the side streets through the city and around the wards. We ate supper in the Heights outside. We kept driving. I would sometimes make the choice of which road to take and sometimes just ask, "Left or right?" One or the other of my two favorite men would respond and we'd see if that street was going to include teens in the park declaring, "I'm feelin' ya" as we drove the VW in its red splendor or old men sitting on the bumper of cars seemingly permanently parked in yards. We saw crowds gathering for soccer games and football games and what was probably a drug deal. We smelled the richness of outdoor cooks prepping for the evening grease fix the drunks stumbling out of cantinas would need. We watched old women fold up closer to the card table to see the game in the darkness. We marveled at the sun setting behind the clouds and reflecting off the most beautiful skyline in America.

Well, the most beautiful on this Saturday, the Saturday we just drove.

If I Were In Charge of the World . . .

I wouldn't be. If I Were in Charge of the World is the title of a children's book I often used in workshops and speeches. Amusing and telling, it placed the author in a position of power she dreamed of and yet soon discovered wasn't for her.

I don't want to be in charge. I started my professional career with quite a bit of responsibility and for ten years climbed the ladder, adding more people to supervise, more zeroes in my budget and my salary, and more reasons to work late at night and on the weekends.

With every job change since that first decade, I've taken on less. Today, I'm a consultant. I don't even supervise an adminstrative assistant! And the only things I'm usually responsible for are fairly easy to produce.

At the moment, though, I'm working on details related to hosting a weeklong meeting in November. I keep trying to hand off bits and pieces of the decision making but much of it is still left to me.

I don't want to be in charge.

And yet, because I want this meeting to go well, because I want to either birth this thing or bury it, because people I care about are part of it, I'm treating this like a weeklong visit from family. I'm trying to find the balance between fun and progress, between structure and freedom. I'm answering questions and taking polls.

And just like those days when I was in charge, I could use a back rub and someone to tell me to shut it off, to let it go, to save tomorrow's worries until then.

If I were in charge of the world, there'd be more backrubs.

Rainy Days and Mondays . . .

They don't get me down. In fact, I relish hearing raindrops tapping at my picture window. Though I can't take a whole night of it, even the zydeco-reflective percussion of drops hitting my washtub/icechest housed on the patio stirs something within me. Someting in between want and waiting waits for me on a rainy Monday.

Yesterday, Houston wasn't alowed its usual denial that we are indeed a tropical climate, flat and without the necessary outlets for water to flow. After a deluge that reached into the teens, streets were now rivers, cars were boats, and people were . . . not always wise.

Having learned from my past experience when I floated down Shepherd in my Toyota, I took the new VW home as soon as possible. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon safe and dry.

Or at least as safe as my reflections and imagination would allow.

What is it about being confined that prompts thoughts of release? What is it in me that takes the gift of a free day and does little to redeem it? Why does being alone cause me to want the opposite?

I'm surrounded by people who would drop everything to come to my aid. I have no question regarding my status as friend. Yet, when given the perfect opportunity to ask for what I want, I hesitate. And then ask the one person who can't say yes.

Rainy days and Mondays . . . may not get me down but they do bring down a deluge of self-doubt. Glad the sun is out today.

Monday, October 09, 2006

I've Got to Stop Reading These Magazines

The ad features 18 photos of the hosts/speakers for an upcoming event addressing an "emerging Faith Forward movement". One woman's face appears in the snapshots. She's the wife of the senior pastor and, fittingly, considered a host.

The two page advertisement suggests the reader "Find your place . . . "

I think I have. But it's not at this workshop.

In Light of the News from North Korea

I propose that if a caricature would appear redundant, we refuse power to any would-be tyrants, rulers, presidents, kings or what-nots. 'Cause really, we're just making it too easy on the political cartoonists these days!

Dabbling in Dapple-ness

Gerald Manley Hopkins must have loved the word "dappled." He often used a form of it in his poetry. I think of him when I walk the path around Rice University on a Sunday morning. The overhang of the trees creates the most impressive illustration of dappled light on the crushed stone. I am always transported to a less heavy place within my soul as I imagine hopscotching my way from light spot to light spot.

For those of you who don't know Rice's tree-lined splendors or the joy evoked when Houston's heat is traded for breezey bursts of actual cool-ness, I invite you for a visit.

And may you all be splashed with dapple drenched delights this day.

Bargain Hunting

My hometown drew quite the crowd on Saturdays. Known for two things, Greenfield had a reputation for being the place to be on the weekend. Folks from miles away would stop at Allison's Restaurant for the pie -- before and, if they were smart, after as well -- a visit to The Factory Outlet.

Please note that this was in the day before outlet stores scored metal, color-coordinated roofs and determined that "outlet" had to in no way mean less expensive. No, The Factory Outlet truly was. Discards from the factory made their way to the crowded, soon to be disheveled aisles and into the hands of bargain hunters like my mom. A widow with four kids and a salary that barely made it out of the teens when I was still in mine, Mom had a way with a markdown. I truly believe that she can walk into that store even today (with its wider aisles and more attentive, or at least neater staff) and the exact two pieces that go together but are housed in separate sections of the store will leap off the racks and into her hands in her very size which she will trust without trying it on because, really, she can always return it. The woman always looked like she'd walked out of Goldsmiths (Tennessee's version of Foleys for all you Texans) but we who were in the know knew that the $200 outfit really only cost her $20.

The Factory Outlet celebrated its "outlet-ness." The pieces weren't quite good enough and instead of hiding the fact -- insuring that you'd have to win at hide and seek to discover that the material in the trouser legs were from two different bolts of cloth -- this store shouted its frailty at you. Colored tape on the flaw established exactly what the issue was. If you determined that the light would never be sooooo right as to highlight the color difference, then those pants could be yours at a fraction of what they'd cost you in perfection.

The labels had to be removed but you could always tell if you were getting a L--nd's E-- jacket. Logos are graphics for a reason, and no amount of creative cutting was going to remove the telltale signs.

Since everyone in town knew that everyone else shopped there, we had no sense of shame for walking around with our flaws showing.

I'm fairly sure this shaped me. I'm much more inclined to celebrate the flaws than pursue perfection. Recently, I encountered an individual who must have always purchased off the department store rack . . . and not on sales days. He just didn't seem to have a lot of time or patience for those who might have been slightly "less than" in his book. Education, money, position, power were all very much a part of his vocabulary.

That's when I remembered The Factory Outlet and longed for my favorite pair of corduroys with the indentation on the "tread." They fit me so much better than he did.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Go Tell It on the Mountain ... Or anywhere else, just not here

Today was a reading day. My seminary's alumni magazine had a cover story on evangelists. The local paper carried a piece on an evangelist that is taking over one of our city parks for the next couple of days to reach young people with the "message of Jesus" via music, extreme sports and feel good sermons. The state Baptist paper featured the Baylor University commissioned study that revealed God is viewed four ways: authoritarian, benevolent, critical or distant. Even the national weekly called (appropriately enough)The Week captured that story.

After a morning of "monitoring the pulse" of my audience, I had this need to go wash my hands.

Yuck! We've Christianized and Baptized to the point of t-shirt evangelism as fix-its for life. I can't be a part of this. If it works for others, fine, have at it. But I'm not into the asshole, buddy, judge or asteroid God of the survey, so I can't share the joy of "telling that story to the nations."

Twice this week I was asked my view on scriptures. For the first time -- out loud -- I answered honestly. If you too care to know, ask me. That's about as evangelical as I can get.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Aches and Answers

A's -- I never really had much of a problem with them. If you listen to what the professor is saying and you give it back, you get the A. You don't always learn, but you make the grade.

Aches -- Longing has been my longtime companion. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to be in the land of luxury "as seen on TV" rather than the rural reality imposed by Greenfield's city limits. In college, I missed my father. I used to hold my pillow tightly to my chest and weep at the loss of him (even though that loss had actually occurred ten years prior). Perhaps it was because I was on my own in so many ways and the idea of someone to take care of me was incredibly alluring. In my marriage . . . well, let's just say I longed for something I finally realized I'd never have. And now, I ache again. I'm angry at that because my life is so full. I'm reminded daily of people who support me, ideas that challenge me, work that satisfies me. Still the ache comes when catching a glimpse of what could be, when the image vanishes vapor-like and I'm left empty-handed. I want a hand to hold that can carry part of the load, who understands my language, desires, and delights. Yes, there are possibile candidates but thus far, the ache remains.

Answers -- For the most part, I'm ok with not having them. Questions regarding faith, life, the best way to slow cook a pork tenderloin and whether I should color my hair yet again ABOUND! Except for the pork one (I cooked it yesterday), I'm good with the waiting, even (as with the faith one) if that translates into eternity. In fact, with the faith stuff, I'm pretty well convinced that waiting is first line of defense. God doesn't appear to be in the immediate gratification business. However, I sometimes act as those God is. So recently, I prayed. An answer came. I celebrated . . . and then ached all over again. Why is it that doing the right thing doesn't always take the ache away? What makes us long for those things that too distant, too complex? Why isn't the here and now good and enough?

"Juxtaposition" is one of those words that suggests an education might be in effect. I got A's in English. I may have learned a thing or two as well. Seems I'm smart enough that the irony found in the juxtaposition of my answered prayer and the continuing ache isn't lost on me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Purple Mountain Majesty

I realized I hadn't been in New Mexico in over a decade ... maybe even a decade and a half! Yet last Friday when the plane dropped closer to the ground and I caught a glimpse of the desert resting at the foot of the mountains, I breathed a pleasant sigh.

(A good last whole breath, too, since I was about to land in the high altitude that was guaranteed to take my breath away and constrict my stomach muscles into tight knots throughout the weekend.)

Once again New Mexico delivered ... a tram ride to the top of peak that overlooks Alburquerque, hot air balloons seen through the open roof of my buddy's convertible and chased from ascent spot to descent in the early morning hours, a tour of one of the oldest residential pueblos led by a chief, great food, horses (for looking not riding), and fun and games.

But the biggest intake of breath I reserved for the sun. Rising or setting, it commanded my attention. As the mountainside caught a glimpse of its splendor, it followed the lead and changed colors right before my eyes -- first pink and then a purple so rich you could almost believe the only true way to honor it was to bow before it.

I love this country.

I love that I have email conversations like this . . .

Him: "I see dead paradigms."

Me: "Night of the Living Dead Paradigms -- can you see the movie trailer?"

Him: "hmmm. a whole new genre: slasher-zombie-gothic-horror combined with agrarian-apocalyptic. man, i think i'm ready to ralph already!"