Friday, May 28, 2010

Michelle & Dane: A tribute to neighbors

First, in case Dane has the opportunity to read this, I want to assure him that - in the interest of privacy on the big, wide and wild world of web - I am refraining from using last names.

Now that's taken care of, on to the tribute...

I bet they're up early, not the sleep-in-er types, visiting with family they've been missing and longing to see for a while now. Memphis is but a memory, close enough to feel the humidity, but far enough to know there's no going back. At least, that's how it seems it might be.

Michelle and Dane were the best of neighbors. And friends. But the best of neighbors are friends, and so my definition of neighbor has been redefined. After all, "And who is my neighbor?" was the question asked to Jesus, as a way of getting around true love and mercy, and we know that He expanded for us in that one parable what it means to be a neighbor (but that's surely for another post).

One of my earliest and dearest memories with Michelle is that she was comfortable being together and now always "doing" together. On Sunday afternoon laundry day, she'd bring over their loads of laundry, along with some knitting, a book, and a need for napping, and so the next 3 hours of "being" ensued. What a joy to have the kind of friend who can be in the same room with you, resting, reading, or talking when necessary. The memory is vivid, and the lesson has left its mark - being together is just as important - if not more important - than "doing" together.

Another favorite memory is of garden conversation, all of us on different tasks with our shovels and spades and plants, talking away, hearing each other, learning from each other, and on the occasion, disagreeing with each other. But we were doing all this together, and before you knew it, 2 hours had passed and the garden was well on its way to somewhere other than a plot of weeds!

Dane was never short on conversation, and few times in life do you meet someone who can engage just about any topic with well thought out opinions and gleanings from readings and teachings on the subject. Dane is not only really intelligent, but he's really thoughtful, and can even muster up the courage to admit he's not thought something through instead of spouting off things that are untrue, just for the sake of ego. He liked to be right, too - don't we all - but mostly, he was just really great to dialogue with, in a really meaningful way, a way that did not leave me unchanged, but spurred on "toward love and good deeds" (Heb. 10:24).

How long could this tribute be? We could talk about Pancake Sundays, and Saturday mornings at the Farmer's Market, and Michelle teaching me how to can tomatoes. There's also the night we sat around and sang with her siblings in our living room, and the Sunday evening prayers, and Farkle. The quirkiness of Dane's love for spare change (under washers and dryers at the laundromat or next door in the car wash), knowing I could call Michelle for an onion or an egg, and the joy we all received from reading "A Severe Mercy".

It was a good two years - a really whole and full two years. How many times does someone move in and out of your life, only to leave you wishing that you'd done this or said that or spent more time together? I'm delighted to know that none of that is true with these neighbors, friends, brother and sister, bound together as we were for two years (and still are, forever).

Michelle & Dane, this is your tribute to the neighbors, friends, truth-tellers, lovers, and Family that you are.

Go with God...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

across the miles

It's all a Mystery, these miles, the depth of which we love and care for each other. And it isn't the first time, isn't the first person. This connection, we know it with others. Only a few, yet it's very real.

Sometimes we discover it over Saturday morning pancakes; other times in 5-page letters. Sometimes we discover it on car rides in the Vermont mountains and sometimes we feel it when the wind blows just right.

Aislinn and I were talking tonight - she, in Vermont and I, in Memphis - and sometimes you could hear a voice quiver, the tears almost coming. It isn't uncommon for us to long to be together, this sister who I've never lived in the same town with. But beyond all explanation, we're bound together; we are Family.

"Is this what the apostles felt like?" Aislinn asked tonight. When they were so far apart, each trying to inspire and encourage the Church in the place where they were; encouraging them to move ahead, to love each other, to bind themselves together, to forfeit the idols and prejudices and traditions that kept them steeped in division. Is this what it feels like to send your words, on paper, over miles and miles of river and road, hoping it reaches the ones that the same miles cannot separate?

"One day we won't see through a glass darkly..."

Praise be to you, O God, for binding us together!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

everybody wants commmunity

(**Note: "everyone" in this post doesn't mean "everyone." But you'll know what I mean.)

In the not-so-distant past, I read this:

"Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to wash the dishes."

This came from an intentional community, folks living together who are both different and alike (both of which can be annoying when you live together). From that phrase (which I love, by the way), I gather this: everyone wants to do the "radical" things; everyone wants to change their neighborhoods. Everyone wants to move in together these days and show the world a new way to and have potlucks and transform lives and provide jobs and grow their own food (and the list goes on and on and on and...)

But no one wants to wash the dang dishes.

In our home, this isn't really a problem... but weeding is. And so here we are at a new phrase.

Everybody wants community, but no wants to weed the garden.

It's true for me; it's true for our dearest and best. Lest we settle in to a routine, to the ordinary, to the things that need doing each and every day (like washing dishes and weeding gardens), we instead chase after busyness and adventure and the next best thing (or the next best schedule-filler!) Oh, when will my soul be content with the ordinary-ness, of which the fruit is some of the best things in life: closeness in relationship and homegrown okra!

Let's get busy with washing and weeding!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

stability and "roots of love"

"To practice stability is to learn to love both a place and its people. ... Without roots of love, we easily become slaves to our desires, using the place where we happen to be as a staging ground for our ambitions and manipulating the people around us so they might serve our objectives. ...until we give ourselves to a place--until we care enough to learn the names of its flowers and its second cousins--stability's wisdom suggests we cannot know about the One who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. [Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, "the Wisdom of Stability"]

Swirls of questions in my soul. They've always been there... "always" meaning, all the time I've been in this place. Am I here selfishly? To play a part? To complete my salvation in the eyes of the ones for whom living in these places is the most holy choice for living out one's faith in Jesus Christ?

One thing I know: people need loving; God's children need caring for. "We saunter in all broken and messed up inside," lyrics to one of my recent songs. And yes, all of us saunter in all broken and messed up inside. Even those of us whose holiness seems to outrank the rest of them, who have ever - Lord have mercy - thought we'd reached something, figured something out, "gotten" it. We are fractured and disconnected; and the whole point of Jesus is connection, putting back together, reconciliation.

In talking about how hard this is... this commitment to community, to stability, to even confrontation that arises in community, Jonathan offers this:

"The purpose of the confrontation is not to vent my anger or to 'get something off my chest.' It is to regain a friend that I have lost. The point is reconciliation." (chapter 4, "the Wisdom...")

Lord, have mercy! And give us roots of love.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

homemade cheese grits and tornado sirens

That's the short story of my morning. I began at 7am, somewhat prepared (more "somewhat" than actually "prepared") to jog in my first-ever 5K - The Binghampton Community Church 5K, to be exact. Instead, I woke to hear tornado sirens and since I have a secret love for ominous-looking skies and thunderstorms, I watched the local weather on and off, interspersed with some napping here and there through most of the morning.

Then cheese grits started sounding good. So I made some. (along with scrambled eggs, toast, french press coffee, and straight-from-the-juicer carrot/apple/pear/orange/lemon juice that Jeff made... yow!)

So, I thought I was going to do one thing, and ended up with something else. And it was very good.

I've also spent a good portion of the morning reading "What Paul Really Said About Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love," by John Temple Bristow. I'm taking notes and really, really glad I'm reading. It's a good next-read after my time well-spent immersed in Donald M Joy's, "Lovers - Whatever Happened to Eden?" (now titled "Two Become One," which some would say is a much-better title, but forfeited the cool, 80s-esque book cover).

I'm thankful for the voices of good friends and authors who can have these conversations with us, unafraid to challenge the traditional roles of women/spouses that never really seemed quite right in the practicality of my own marriage, as well as the example I was handed down from my parents (which also broke some norms in some ways, which I am thankful for).

Just because we are the Church doesn't mean we can't ask, "Maybe what 'has been' is not what 'should be'". We have not arrived; we are not the most enlightened. There is still room to grow! I recommend these reading with open hearts and open minds!

And finally...

May Grace and Peace abound...