6.25.2013

airport antics


Waiting for my flight, I found it hard not to stare; people watching is my guilty pleasure.  The jumble didn't seem to have anything in common other than their destination.  A team of soccer players threw cards around in a circle.  A cowboy propped his hat to cover his arms as he crossed his arms and rests his ankles on his suitcase.  A toddler succumbs to a quick nap on his mother's lap just a few feet away, while the man to my right flips pages in his Andrew Johnson biography, his suit jacket arms donning corduroy elbows.

I found it hard to catch my breath, surprised with this time to spare before the boarding call as I sat with my fellow travelers.

***

With a three-hour Sunday pit-stop on my way to San Antonio, I grabbed my phone.  I found the listing of airport chapel services on Google: quick and easy.  Locating the chapel on foot while dragging around my wheely suitcase and a laptop-filled backpack: not quick and not easy.

Looking at what seemed to be the eighth air-port map in my second terminal, I could feel it laughing at me like I was Harry Potter stuck on a moving staircase in search of the Room of Requirement (And yes, I'm just dorky enough to know that room name.)

A phone call to the number listed on Google led me to the realization that I had leave security.  This was "you-should-turn-around-and-quit-this-craziness" moment #1.  But, I walked on, surprised at how easily the stream churned me out.  I prayed for an easy swim as I returned up-stream, through security, perhaps with a shorter line for my re-entry.

On the other side of all those bare-footed people with laptops flat in plastic bins, I saw the sign that said the magic words I'd been looking for: Mezzanine Level.  It wasn't a myth after all.

As the door opened, I could almost smell the hymnals, but my slow breath quickened back up as I realized that the glamorous Mezzanine Level was nothing more than a 10-foot cement hallway with "security only" signs at either end.

This was moment #2 as I started to think that all of this snooping around might land me on some no-fly list.  Justification thoughts whispered, "That video link that I watched of Steven Colbert's tribute to his late mother seemed pretty churchy this morning, right?"

As I took the elevator back down to the people-watchers buffet, another elevator glinted into view.  The flowing font of the word "chapel" set this wall sign apart from all the others.

In the second half of the squirreled-away Mezzanine level, I slipped into the back row of the tiniest little service of 15 travelers, some in flight uniform, others with suitcases like me.  We sang a canticle accappella, received communion, and passed the peace.  I'd made it for only the last 10 minutes.  Still, as I shook the priest's hand on the way out (unsure if it was weird for a Lutheran to call him father) I smiled as I declined his invitation to the coffee reception.  I thought it would take a miracle to get me through security in time for my flight.

As I turned the corner out of the elevator and noticed a shorter line for security with a sign that said something about "previously scanned passengers," I wasn't quite sure if the thoughts that slipped into my head were benign or a justification as I stood nonchalantly, trying to somehow prove my belonging.

***

As the boarding call wrestled the sleeping cow-boy awake and the mother slipped a wiggling toddler up to her shoulder to settle back in, I unfolded the little card from the priest; I'd wadded it in my pocket.  The words slowed my mental pace, even as my feet moved, like an action movie clicked on mute.  The prayer fit today, and perhaps any day we run ourselves ragged trying to get wherever it is that we're going.
Lord, hear our prayer for today's journey.
Bring us safely to our destination.
Accompany with your consolation and encouragement, those among us who make their journey in sorrow or with a sense of loss.
Give us patience and a deep spirit and a respect for all whom we will meet along the way.
May we continue the journey to You.
 
Glory be.  Amen.

6.20.2013

three branches for dad

As my dad held the spinach artichoke lavash up to his mouth last Sunday, he might as well have been eating one of his farmer boots after a slosh through the cattle lot.  A meat and potatoes guy, he was hesitant to try the meatless entree I'd ordered for our father's day lunch.

To his credit, he did take one little bite.

As I look at my own husband with our daughter, I think she's got bonus points for life as she has a dad who loves her well--like mine did.  Dad's always been a simple man, yet somehow far from simple.  Here are three branches of memory offered in honor of father's day.

----

It's the week of high school state track.  My uniform's packed.  As I race to meet the van, I slow my tires and stop to read the black spray paint on cardboard signs that dot the driveway held up with electric fence posts. . . Go Evi. . .Take state . . . they cheer in dad's best crummy penmanship.  I gas the car onward with new confidence, once more checking to ensure I've packed my spikes.  It's not until I reach the highway that I realize he could have posted the signs here, for everyone to see, but his signs were for a certain pair of high school eyes, now welling with tears.

After shooing the flower girl down the aisle, I'm all spun up, not really nervous about the man at the end of the aisle as much as I am about the stare-filled aisle that I have to traverse to get to him.  As the personal attendant gives us the nod, I step forward with a white shoe peeking out from under satin.  The firm elbow linked with mine holds back.  I stop, sensing dad's slower approach.  He pauses, then looks me up, down, and square in the eyes. . . smiling.  "Perfect," he says, and we step out toward the aisle together.

Growing up, our couch was a shiny fake leather.  I recline on the re-upholstered blue with tiny tan stripes, back home on a college summer day.  I hear the screen door slam; Dad's in from the field.  He settles into his worn chair that's covered in the same blue, his normal cup of coffee in hand.  He grabs a book and flips pages to the devotion he just has to share with his English-major, youngest daughter.  I lean in as he reads of Jesus and His inspiration of artists.  In bullet points, dad reads of how Christ's sacrifice moved these greats to their greatest.  I've seen him cry only a handful of times, but the power that moved these artists grips him.  He hands the book over so I can push through words that were sticking like tears in his throat.  It's my favorite memory with him: the two of us sitting silent on old blue furniture, both choked up by our savior.


6.17.2013

a runner's fable: sabbath


Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. - Exodus 20: 8-11
Two athletes set out, running shoes laced up, ready for the day's challenge: one in magenta shorts, the other in simple gray.  Both had trained, but only one was truly prepared.  Each woke excited; her waking thought, "race day."

The weather seemed to approve with no clouds and sunshine warm, not hot.

Pop! Marked the starting gun as both sprung into the pack and found her beat.  Gray and Magenta shorts sang like a scythe, swish, swish.  As the race wore on, the sun met trees from the left, and then from the right as shadows marked passing time.  Endurance cheered them on.  Shoes padded a steady pace, spurring up little pebbles with each step.  Magenta wound around curves, and kept on.  Gray found new energy where there had been none.  Both met running thrill and mental walls.  Both busted through, true runners those two.

The lead tottered back and forth, like a tennis match.  Each found her stride for a time, until it would skirt away to tag the other.  No fan could predict the winner.

Magenta met the line first, but in her excitement, she didn't notice the cheers or the tape swapping her midsection.  She ran through, on and up the hill, her eyes focused on some invisible future place.  As she ran on, even through the night, she didn't think of water or rest.  Running blinded her, as she ignored the messages of her muscles--overtaxed, in need of rest.  She ran on, never realizing the gift that running truly offered.

As gray met the finish, she leaned over with hands on knees, soaking in cheers, smaller in volume, but somehow louder than Magenta's.  Gray smiled and took the ice water handed her, beautiful in its sweaty-slick sides.  The water slid down, cool on her throat.

Although gray didn't come in first, her muscles sang a deeper victory as she stopped and took the rest she was offered.
Then Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. - Mark 2:27

6.14.2013

5 minute friday: listen


Birds gossip in the trees in our front yard.  Two wide maples cast huge shade across green grass and the gray cement made up of driveway and sidewalk.  We three sit in this shade with fat pastel chalks in hand.  The black concrete begs, a canvas.  Grandma makes art: a face, a flower, the word Faith.  Toddler's shirtsleeves are powdery with color as she scribbles a white circle around herself chalk swinging back and forth, up and around.  I sit, somehow anxious to put the chalk to concrete, finally drawing a safe little house, a doodle I've done time and time again.  Grandma skips past safe and crafts a hop-scotch board and gets right to hopping, skirting over her rock, reminding me of the rules.  Toddler sits transfixed, as a grin spreads.  She's excited to see that Grandma can bounce.  In response tiny arms go up, as if reaching to grab the sky and pull herself into a jump.  She stretches out tight wanting so badly to join the bounces.  Trying.  And trying.  "Jump, jump!" her little brain directs her body.  Her legs aren't quite jumpers just yet, but she smiles nonetheless, excited to be all stretched out.  As shade hugs chalk, a bouncing Grandma, and a toddler stretched to the sky, I listen and hear old souls and little souls pulsing with new life.

Five Minute Friday

6.13.2013

splash giggles

Cool water prickles around my ankles and calves--sharply contrasting the sticky air I'm swimming in from the knee up.

I hold my little yellow-polka-dot-ruffle swimming buddy as she curves her neck to the right, looking down at the water, skimming her fingers across the surface.  My legs adjust to the water's coolness, and I muster gumption to sink down, knowing if I don't move fast, we'll stall at knee level.

I sink to my waist as the coolness tightens my jaw.  Her little legs recoil as tiny arm muscles firm up, curling around my shoulders and neck like a clamp.  She monkeys ever higher, climbing up my torso like a jungle gym.

After some minutes we settle in slow.  Splashes flirt and finally dance with giggles.  

I've felt that tiny leg recoil before.  I find myself looking down, terrified at what lurks below.  Instead of bravely plunging in, I skirt away, clinging to the familiar and comfortable, terrified to even slip the tip of my toe in.  I imagine all manner of things that might be down there. . . meanness, comparison, failure, responsibility, inadequacy, or a to-do list never finished.

When fear grips, I need reminding that Someone is holding me tighter, hugging me close, always ready to towel me off, but also daring me to loose my grip and take the plunge to find the splash giggles that have been there waiting for me the whole time.

See, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands. 
- Isaiah 49:16

6.10.2013

grumble rumble


"Sure, sounds great," I say. . . and mean the total opposite.

If I told you to picture a complainer, you probably wouldn't cue up a mental picture of someone smiling with her head nodding.  We grumblers can be hard to spot.  Lately, the silent grumbles are sticking to me like summer cockelburs on socks.  I find myself caught up in stickery thoughts as one builds on another until I've walled myself into a den of negativity--blocking out positive light.

In these negative wells, I've never spent much time thinking on the second commandment--not prone to F bombs or GDing anything--but this Sunday "not taking the Lord's name in vain" stretched from a simplistic rule to a deeper plumb line for interaction.  Taking God's name in vain can include "any time I demean or diminish another human being."

Suddenly my grumbling doesn't seem so silent.

I want to take the grossness of these thoughts out to the woodshed for an old fashioned rumble.  Willing myself to not grumble, I come up short, as negative thoughts tip-toe back in.  Avoidance doesn't work, only action wiggles the wall, brick by negative brick.  Grumbling thoughts can't stand hanging out with positive ones, so thankfulness works like a wrecking ball.

Angela Maiers wields her own sledgehammer in her Ted Talk, You Matter, and her resulting foundation,  Choose2matter, in both she challenges us to see others and remind them of the fact that they matter.  What if we started noticing people mattering all around us, and not just noticing, but recognizing the action, behavior or disposition OUT LOUD.  So, "Thanks for the work you did," becomes "Thanks for your hard work with that student.  I liked how you got down to eye level and really listened to her concerns.  You made a difference for Susie today--you mattered."

What if we shifted from the tendency to build walls of negativity and started erecting strongholds of confidence around others--telling them how we see God's light reflecting through them.  What if we made it our mission to daily remind others of their value?  Do you have the courage to see?  Others AND yourself--the way God sees you, no matter how wonderful it might be?   
You matter.  When it seems like everyone isn't seeing--I SEE.  I have a special place in my heart for you.  Your contribution to this world made a difference today.  Thanks for just being YOU--the poem I created you to be.    
If the creator of galaxies, and whales, and the color magenta says this about us, just what type of words and thoughts should we use for people who seem to set our grumble wheels a spinnin'?


6.07.2013

slippery shadows


"I was crying because I can't get this shadow to stick."

When Peter Pan, green tights and all, says this line to Wendy Moira Angela Darling in that magical nursery with a huge window, I'm hooked. I loved Neverland, Tinkerbell and even Captain Hook, but even as a little kid I was most curious about the idea of someone losing his shadow. Pixie dust or not, I saw shadows as slippery things.

The word shadow tends to get glossed over, when I think of it only as darkness, but the definition is more complex. A shadow can't exist unless both dark and light are present in the same place. Something blocks the light, but the light is still there. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," reads differently for me with a shadow's true ingredients in mind.

I wish I could say my life was (and is) shadow free, but it's impossible to have light in the room without some dark corners. Many Christian thinkers write about the "dark night of the soul," and even Plato said way back when, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." We are not immune to darkness. In the really dark moments I want to yell at God, "A little light would really help right about now!" Maybe you're there today . . . wishing someone would understand.

God does.

God slipped into skin to understand. He knows. He knows physical pain. He knows how it feels to sit at a table knowing his closest friend (picture a spouse, parent, child, etc.) had totally turned on him. When I try to imagine it, it's gross, lonely, ripe with fear, and yet Jesus chooses it, to not only endure it, but to also move toward it, to push through it.

He knows what we need to hear in times that leave us screaming at God, trying to find the light in this shadowy mess. He wants to help us lose that shadow, like Peter Pan, and push through to the hope that he's got waiting on the other side, to the light that's been there all along.
The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. - Matthew 4:16 (NIV)


6.06.2013

untangled perfection

I woke up with my hair and guts all in a buch.  Today was the day.  I trudged toward my laptop and the conference prep work I'd been putting off for weeks.

I didn't even know the retreat participants, but something inside me was all wound up wanting to create THE presentation.  I sat at the keyboard, fingers paralyzed.

Just how do you start a. . . world-changing, earth-shattering, life-altering, super-de-duper, look how awesome she is. . . presentation?

You don't.

I fumbled through an unproductive morning and debated about skipping lunch to gain lost time.  Luckily, I looked up at my summer bucket list sticky note and read, "Eat outside," so I shut my laptop, grabbed a sandwich, and headed out to the deck with my Esther Bible study homework in hand.

Words jumped from the page and landed squarely in my muddled guts:
"Haman's pursuit of greatness made him a shameless opportunist.  For others, the temptation is to become a perfectionist.  When Fraser was struggling with her first book that 'had to be great,' a psychologist posed an intriguing question: 'You can write a good book, can't you'  Paraphrased: Do you have to do something great?  Can you be happy to do something really good?  Think about it, Sister.  Couldn't the craving to do something great keep us from doing something good. . . Living to be great will prove at least empty and maybe even deadly. . . What if we awakened to what a dream-killer perfectionism is?  To how pitifully small and unworthy a goal personal greatness is?  Every one of us who embraces the glory of God as our purpose will end up doing great things precisely because we do God-things."
God has a way of helping me to find my way to a sandwich on the deck when I want to remain firmly planted in my MacBook, anchored by to-do lists and grossly misdirected goals.  I'm thankful for a God's who's in the business of turning me outward, untangling these guts over and over again.



6.03.2013

practice doesn't make perfect


prac·tice  
Noun
The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use.
Verb
Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency.

I like to joke that I'm not the type of doctor who helps people, neither an M.D. or a Ph.D., Ed.D.'s like me focus on the practical.  So, while I joke that I'm not the type who helps, my aim is to understand and be of help in the the rubber-meets-the-road teaching day.  

In short, I'm all about practice.

The book St. Benedict's Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Living (suggested by my friend Michelle) has me thinking about faith practice: the do-ing of faith.  I need practical hands-on stuff as I have a tendency to make a huge list of what I think I need to do, often ignoring the shorter, more do-able and vivifying list that God's given me for today.

I like it when faith practices seem to stick.  Some work for a week and then fall away.  Others make it past the month mark but slowly fade.  I've got a shelf full of old devotions testifying to this fact.  I want discipline, but also want to be realistic when there isn't any pull.

One faith practice has both pull and stickiness lately is prayer beads.  A friend of mine uses a protestant rosary.  Even when she's tired, she can tuck them under the pillow in her hand.  She challenged me to think of 10 things at the end of every day that I'm thankful for.  This simplified Prayer of Examen, takes the day and looks at it as a basket of blessings.  I like the practicality of this as it's literally hands-on, so, when I found a little bracelet with 11 beads--in colors that seemed to sing--I knew that I would start ending my day with 10 prayers of thanks, or 10 people in the front of my mind, and the Lord's Prayer.  

I'm thankful when God leads me to things and people like this, things that help just as much on normal old Mondays as they do on mountain-top Saturdays.  In faith, practice doesn't make perfect.  Christ already did the perfecting, I just need practice living in response.