Category Archives: Uncategorized

In the swing

When I was a little girl, my grandpa had strung a plank of wood between two trees and I would sit on the swing for hours, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Photo by Norman Rehme

Days spent in that yard, days spent on that swing, days spent where my cares were lifted high with my feet, sent skyward on my girlish sandals, those days are summer to me.

These days, summer isn’t so carefree. It’s hectic and I have more troubles than my feet can lift, trying to make money, preparing for classes, teaching, trying to find something more stable, plus my girls, my relationships, my friends, it’s not a lazy swing in the backyard.

I need to get into the swing of things again. I need to get school going and syllabi written and do some job searching. I also have some, shall we say, adversarial, issues to work through, and I’ll be taking a break.

I will be back once school is in the swing. I will be writing once again when I’m firmly seated and can lift my heavy feet skyward.

I will see you again in a couple of weeks.

Will you return when I do?

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Picking a favorite baby

Indulge me in a hypothetical, please. Let’s say that upon your death (in the next 30 days), your assets will be liquidated, everything sold and all the money could be given to only one of your children. Which one inherits the green? Is it the eldest? the youngest? the poorest? the one with the most sense? the boy? the girl? the one you love best?

As a parent, I can tell you that choosing a favorite child is frowned upon. I don’t like to see other people do it and I’d be hard-pressed to choose one of my children over the other, BUT, as my uncle pointed out this weekend, it’s easier to choose a favorite from among your friends’ children.

For instance, I teach at a day care. My oldest daughter is in my class, and while she’s obviously my favorite, there are kids I would take home with me instantly, and ones I’m fine seeing go home with their parents at day’s end. That’s not to say I don’t like them, or wish them ill, they just aren’t my favorite.

When you don’t love children like a parent, it’s easier to see their faults and strengths objectively. There is no objectivity with my own children. I can still see faults and strengths, but over that is a layer of unconditional love.

When we join the family of God, we’re not just anyone’s children, we are God’s children. He doesn’t play favorites with inheritance. No matter who we are, what sins lie in our past, what malice we previously held in our hearts, we still gain the same kingdom.

We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. He isn’t going to divide his grace equally, he gives it to each of us fully.

But we aren’t God, so, how would you pick a favorite baby?

You don’t have to have children to play. You don’t have to be serious. What ultimate method  you devise for making that hypothetical choice easier?

 

 

The 2nd Anniversary Annihilation

Later this week (the 21st) would have been the 10th wedding anniversary with my ex-husband. In honor of the fact that we’re still friends and it’s been so terribly long since the events which I’m about to describe occurred, I’m going to tell you the story of what happened that fateful summer of ’03.

First of all, I need to tell you about the wedding. It was HOT. Who gets married in late July in Houston? Heat indexes alone were in the 110s or some such nonsense that day. In the video of our wedding ceremony, you can see me oh-so-subtly take my arm from his, wipe the sweat from my armpit and then nonchalantly continue with the ceremony.

We were never going to have a cool, 80-degree anniversary in Texas, and yet, two short years later, we got the bright idea to go camping… in Texas. David and I bought supplies. In the end, I believe that anniversary trip to San Marcos cost us about US $1.8 million in tent, ice chest, camp stove, sleeping bag, new car(!) and camp site registration. We were very-nearly-almost prepared for camping and tubing on the river.

We meticulously packed the car. We painstakingly unpacked the same car upon arrival 2 hours away from our home, and set up camp.David made sure to tell the check-in people that he’d been a boy scout and finally convinced me to trust his skills at this camping thing.

We met the neighboring campers in the motor home next to us.

David bragged (well, you did, didn’t you?) about his Eagle Scout background to the guy with the motor home. As he bragged, I noticed, but it did not register, that the pinwheel stuck next to motor-home-man’s temporary abode didn’t spin.

We made dinner and cleaned up, and the stupid pinwheel never moved. David bragged to pop-up-family to our left about his Eagle Scout background before we headed for a walk along the river.

I sopped sweat from my temples and torso like I was getting married, and David admitted he felt pretty hot, but the general sense of foreboding didn’t hit us until we turned into our two-person green nylon tent for the night.

All the windows needed to be opened. We lay on top of the sleeping bag, sans clothes, on our anniversary… and on opposite sides of the tent because it was just too dang hot for physical contact. To my right, I could see that taunting pinwheel, motionless.

An hour later, we decided to leave. I’m not sure if he was tired of hearing me whine, I was tired of hearing him whine, or he thought his plans for anniversary fun might be more well met in a building with air conditionining.

David couldn’t pack up, having bragged to every breathing being in the campground of his mad skillz and Eagle Scoutness. So, he backed the brand new car to the tent. We surreptitiously repacked the car and then, rather than taking our tent down, he shoved it in to the trunk and we drove away, three hours after arriving in San Marcos. As I looked back, I saw the pinwheel, unmoving, unspinning, just… stopped.

What’s the application? What have I learned?

Don’t vacation in hell, and if you do, please, for the love of icy cold drinks, don’t brag about how it’s going to be great.

Tell me I’m not the only one with a holiday-from-Hades story!

Segregated Perspective

Several years ago, I was working in a research library on a college campus. My immediate supervisor had beautiful dark chocolate skin. Her supervisor, a black Muslim woman, acted as an outside committee member on my Religious Rhetoric advisory panel. (There’s a joke in there, on my thesis committee… of a Jew, A Muslim and a Methodist walk into a thesis defense on the apocalypse…but I digress)

Beyond that, our faculty and staff consisted of two Hispanic males, several white people, like me, a homosexual male and student workers of all colors and ethnicities and religious backgrounds. I loved that. I loved working with so many different kinds of people. I loved the conversations it produced. I loved bringing huge exhibits together like the one on Women and one on African-Americans at our traditional all-male, all-white University.

Then, came time for my annual review. My supervisor gave me two perfect scores. I don’t remember the first category in which I scored perfectly, but I remember the 2nd, Diversity. Me. A girl so white, I’m practically transparent. I got high marks on Diversity, because I appreciate and love and respect and want to  get to know everyone that came through the library doors. The library director made her change it, downgrading that score to something more in keeping with other employees of my rank and giving me “room for improvement.”

My supervisor was so incensed that she wrote a letter that detailed how much I cared and did and went beyond for people, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, background, clothing, sexual orientation, religion, or any other category we humans place on each other. I kept a copy of that letter because it meant so much to me that she would write it and because I had never consciously thought about my approach to diversity. It was just something I did.

My perspective on the matter was singular. I had never intentionally set out to embrace diversity, I just loved people. I have never tried to bring “tolerance” into the workplace, I just wanted to talk.

A few weeks ago, on Michael Perkins’ blog, I won a copy of Church Diversity, by Scott Williams, subtitled “Sunday: The most segregated day of the week.” I’m going to be blogging this book, because I’m at a loss to explain why my church is mostly people who look like me (though, to be fair, some have tans). I can’t explain how to make my local church look like the kingdom of heaven, or even my community, for that matter. I do not possess words that would cover why the message of Jesus is filtered by skin color throughout churches in America.

I don’t have anything profound for today, I’ve just started the book, but I want to know what you think. Why is it that 40+ years after Dr. Martin Luther King called Sunday School the “most segregated school in America,” we still choose to separate ourselves like oil and vinegar on Sunday mornings?

Williams says in the book that it’s about PERSPECTIVE. If we change our perspective, we can change the game. We have to be honest about our perspective, first.

What does your local church look like in terms of diversity? I don’t just mean color, what does it look like with regard to age, politics, family background, socio-economic status and education?

Shaken, not stirred

One guy, upon learning that I graduated with a degree in English, tried to impress me with his love for Shakespeare. He waxed poetic about sonnets and tragedy, and by waxing poetic, of course, I mean, he recited knowledge gleaned from Wikipedia, with vigor. When I asked what he knew of As You Like It, my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, he fell silent. He claimed to know all about love, and Shakespeare, but was so green, couldn’t quote Silvius.

From our current sermon series

No, Corin, being old, thou canst not guess,
Though in thy youth thou wast as true a lover
As ever sigh’d upon a midnight pillow:
But if thy love were ever like to mine–
As sure I think did never man love so–
How many actions most ridiculous
Hast thou been drawn to by thy fantasy?
– Act II, Scene 4

Love isn’t love until it compels us to the extraordinary. Until that point, it’s all a warm “like” you might give someone on Facebook when they announce they’ve found a new job.

Love shakes us to the core, radically transforms life as we thought we knew it. Love changes situations and it changes the people in those situations. People are very comfortable with “like” but love makes us uncomfortable. “Like” stirs us and may move us, but love alters us completely.

Do you think God calls us to “like” or to love?

Ask Abraham who lay his beloved son on the altar and prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. Because God called. Ask Job who lost it all and sat, ridiculed by his friends and neighbors. Because God called. Ask Elijah who walked without a map or itinerary or plan. Because God called. Ask Samuel who served. Ask Esther who interceded. Ask Moses who led. Ask Joshua who marched. Ask the disciples who suffered torture and death. Because God called them to love and not “like.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us – Romans 12:1

———————————

I want to be shaken. I want my foundation rearranged.

I’ll ask you as Silvius does in As You Like ItHow many actions most ridiculous hast thou been drawn to by thy fantasy?

I’m afraid Silvius would say, based on my actions, that I’m merely a lukewarm lover, that I’ve been stirred, but not shaken, that I have not truly loved because I have not stepped out in love to the ridiculous.

What crazy act of love have you performed? What has God called you to do for which the world would call you crazy?


Baa Baa – I’m a black sheep

Sunday, Wendy choose to color her bulletin about lost sheep and the Great Shepherd. She didn’t have white, so, she colored all the hidden sheep green. It made me start thinking about what color sheep I would be.

In my family, I’m a black sheep. Okay, because of the way in which I stick out, I’m probably more like a  blue sheep in a red herd. At any rate, I’m the single mom in a family with mostly stable marriages. I’m the doctoral student that can’t get a job in a family where people use their degrees. I’m the Lutheran in a family of Assembly of God parishoners.

Every family has a black sheep – there’s Aunt Mary who saves beer cans to decorate the house,

photo by Martin Williams Agency

Uncle Justin, who is constantly looking for additions to his All-Kiwi Cookbook, Cousin Keri who mutters Scripture all through the 3-D movie, Brother Duane who talks to squirrels in the park, Sister Katie who interviews dogs and then there’s Tamara, the family friend that’s close enough to be considered family, but who sometimes gets a little wild at family functions and starts talking about sex.

Often, we see the black sheep as something less desirable. They stick out — in a bad way, a garish mark on the family, something we discuss behind their backs, titter about as a joke or try to cover up with a vow of silence.

I’m not the only black sheep in my family. My dad was incarcerated when I was six years old. He spent months in a minimum security prison and NO ONE TOLD ME, until I was 21. He and I have talked about it since, and he swore everyone to silence because he was afraid of what I would think.

Black sheep come in two varieties. The ones that flaunt their difference, proudly fly their freak flag, revel in the unique characteristics that have colored their fleece. Others are ashamed of their wooly coat.

While every family has a black sheep, there is one family that’s composed of nothing BUT black sheep, the Church.

“Feed my lambs… take care of my sheep … feed my sheep” Jesus to Peter in John 21.

____________________

We’re a family whose head is a spotless, pure, white Lamb. In comparison, we are all blackened by sin and shame.

When God looks at us, though, he doesn’t see our black nature, he sees us through the blood of that Lamb, and we are rendered spotless by virtue of his Grace. In the family of Jesus, we are all black sheep, but we’re also supposed to be taking care of our darkly colored brethren – feeding and caring for them, just like family.

Design a new sheep breed – complete with color scheme AND/OR why are you the black sheep of your family?

The Music En-e-my

Somewhere in my closet is a box. In that box is “stuff” from my childhood that my mother or I thought was important enough, or meaningful enough, to keep. Medals, ribbons, artwork (I use that term loosely, because I have no discernible artistic talent), school papers and the like, occupy that box. There’s also a caricature of me.

Crystal Gayle - I wanted her voice and hair

I remember sitting for this cartoon at Astroworld. The sketch artist scrutinized my 7-year-old face carefully and started to draw. As he reconstructed my forehead, hidden by loooooooong hair and my somewhat prominent nose, he asked me questions.

What do you like to do? What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your favorite song? Do you like broccoli?

At that time in my life, I wanted nothing more than to sing onstage. I wanted to be a country singer, like Crystal Gayle. Two years later, I cut my hair short, reminded myself I had neither brown, nor blue eyes, but green ones, decided I couldn’t really sing and gave up the dream; but in that moment, my cartoon me was a country singer with cowboy hat, boots, fringed skirt and microphone.

Recently, I overcame my extreme fear of singing in public to join Sacred Edge, our house worship band. Everyone has been really encouraging, and I love worshiping through song. I haven’t sung OUT, though. If no one heard me, that was fine by me. In fact, I am pretty sure I turned my microphone off that first Sunday, because I was so scared.

Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel. – Judges 5:3

____________________

Today, I sang. Today, I was asked if I was interested in singing a solo. Today, I remembered what it was like to be a 7-year-old who didn’t fear the sound of her own voice. Today, I thought that if I am to sing a solo, I’m not going to choose something easy. I’m going to go big like a kid having her dream drawn out before her. Today, I stopped listening to my music en-e-my, that part of myself that says “you can’t sing” and I showed it who was boss, not me, but my God who asked me to praise him with everything he’d given me.

What instrument do you play? If you sat for a cartoonist, what would your cartoon drawing look like?