Wednesday, November 28, 2007

||| Her Story |||

He's been gone for 18 years. She says it feels like it happened just yesterday. When they were sitting in a room alone together, it was likely that one of them could guess what the other was thinking. Married 34 years. Best friends. Soulmates. Her sons says, "If dad had a headache, mom took the BC." And you have to know this gal. She's a fiesty, semi-old-timer, who has been there and back again. She takes care of a handicapped daughter, and has raised at least one other child from what I can tell through her stories. She researches all her supplements before she buys them, and knows as much, or more, about the product as I do. A faithful customer.

Around the holidays, though, she gets sad, because she misses him. She doesn't often offer personal information. Unlike most people, she isn't aching to tell her story. She seems to be saying, nonverbally, that she has made it this far and doesn't need our sympathy to make it the rest of the way. Although today, she did say something that caught me off guard.

"Did you know this is the time of year with the highest number of people who do away with themselves? You know, suicide?"

I wasn't ready for that one.

"Only thing stopping me is that Mississippi doesn't have a bridge good enough for me. Besides, my husband always said it wouldn't do me any good because I know how to swim."

Joking, I assume. But sort of serious. Likely, she was communicating the fact that she can understand why some people might choose to end this journey, because they are so sad, however, I don't know if she will believe this tomorrow, because she seems to have the sort of spirit that comes out of these sad moments and realizes the fullness of life. When she's raking the leaves in her yard. When she gets a laugh out of us here at the store. When the sun is shining brighter than usual.

When I told her Jeff was my best friend and we never get tired of each other, she didn't roll her eyes and say, "Just wait; you're only on your 4th month." Instead, she said, "I know... when you've found your soulmate, you know. I do not understand getting married 3 different times!" [enter rolling of the eyes and throwing up of her cute little hands.]

Soulmates. Best friends.

Today, this gets me through.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

||| Thoughts on the Bible |||

"Many people these days feel an absence in their lives, expressed as an acute desire for 'something more,' a spiritual home, a community of faith. But when they try to read the Bible they end up throwing it across the room. To me, this seems encouraging, a place to start, a sign of real engagement with the God who is revealed in scripture. Others find it easy to dismiss the Bible out of hand, as negative, vengeful, violent. I can only hope they are rejecting the violence-as-entertainment of movies and television on the same grounds, and that they say a prayer every time they pick up a daily newspaper or turn on CNN. In the context of real life, the Bible seems refreshingly whole, an honest reflection on humanity in relation to the sacred and the profane. I can't learn enough about it, but I also have to trust what little I know, and proceed, in faith, to seek God there." (Kathleen Norris, "Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith," emphasis added.)

refreshingly.... whole.

Monday, November 19, 2007

If only we cared about Bangladesh as much as we do the United States of America.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Don't you mean ROBERT RANDOLPH?!

I found myself yelling at my friend, who, as a result of drinking entirely too much beer and gatorade + vodka, couldn't manage to correctly pronounce (or remember) Mr. Randolph's name.

"You ready to see Randall Robolph?!" he shouted at the girl standing beside him (who absolutely did not need to judge his perfected shouting skills.) And this made me mad. Not because he offended me and mispronounced his name, but because he always drinks too much and always annoys me.

There has been a gap between where I came from and where I am now. The conservative lifestyle I grew up around, one which didn't seek to understand but rather to memorize and repeat and act accordingly, caused me to be one who questions much as I entered college. I didn't turn from my faith; I embraced it. I like to think of myself like Tony Campolo-- the conservatives think I'm liberal and the liberals think I am [very] conservative.
I bring this up to say that after having spent so long running from many half-truths of my upbringing, I am now enterting a discerning phase, where I can safely and calmly revisit ideas and truths and doctrines of my past, and still embrace some of those.

One is alcohol. I am not Baptist; I don't stand by its stance on alcohol, that if you have a sip you're sinning. I do, however, treat it like anything else, with moderation and wisdom. Drinking too much and forgetting the latter part of your evening the night before does no good for anyone, in fact, it can definitely do you harm. I have watched many of my friends who came from ultra-conservative backgrounds turn around and run the complete opposite direction. But instead of embracing moderation, they have embarced extremism quite different from the extremism of their theologically conservative pasts. Instead, it is okay to [always] drink too much, because alcohol isn't sinful.

No, alcohol isn't sinful, just like food isn't sinful, just like money isn't sinful.

But oppression of others with your love of money and your drive to get as much of it as possible... is sinful.
Ungratefulness and wastefulness of the overflowing food on your table... is sinful.
Being reckless with your friendships and words as a result of repetative intoxication... is sinful.

And I'm not asking for perfection. I'm asking for confession.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Let Us Build a House, Pt. 1

It took us a while to get started. I can admit, 7 am is terribly early for someone who isn’t expected to be anywhere until 10 am on a normal workday. Nevertheless, I arose to the mostly dark morning around 6:20, clambered about the quiet house being careful as to not wake my blissfully sleeping husband. I made it to the work site only about ten minutes late—not bad for a not-so-early riser—only to find that I was not the only one who didn’t make it on time.

This was our first morning to begin construction on the new home for our dedicated friend, T. She, along with a few others, trickled to the site within the next hour, and after a light breakfast of Nutri-Grain bars and Sunny Delights, our work was soon underway. The morning air was now filled with the sound of hammering and laughing and other sounds of the exciting construction crew, also known as the brothers and sisters of Court Street United Methodist. We were feeling fresh and excited and ready to build a house! With hammer in hand, I quickly discovered what little bit of strength I have in my forearms, but I made it work anyway. My swing was becoming swifter by the minute, and I was feeling more and more confident in myself. With everyone else working just as swiftly as myself (if not faster), we were pleased at how quickly things were progressing.

My favorite parts of the morning, though, were those when I took a break and just looked around me. On this small slab, in the middle of the muddy Mississippi (we were blessed with much rain and much mud last week), were a dozen or more people swinging hammers and telling jokes and lifting boards above their heads, all in the name of giving. You see, Habitat for Humanity prides themselves on a “hand-up” not a “hand-out,” offering families an opportunity to help build their house with their own hands, plus a little help from others. In our case, the body of believers at Court Street have been more than happy to chip in—serving meals, bringing water, and putting up walls. As I looked across the slab, I saw community happening at its best.

I am passionate about seeing the Church be in true community with one another, doing life together in all its beauty and messiness, its joys and struggles.

As the first wall went up, it was a truly unifying moment. Everyone grabbed a section of the stud-wall and lifted together, some with tears in eyes, all with smiles on their faces. Together, this is what we can do.

So let us build a house. And let us build the Church.