Thoughts at a Train Crossing and a Waiting Room
I put my car in park at the
train crossing watching one cross after another.
Tanker containers, mostly all black
Heading in the direction of the port or the refineries.
Empty or full.
I was in no hurry.
One car rolled by with graffiti.
The word "Boobs" in bright white and yellow.
I started a one-sided conversation with the unknown artist.
Then I edited my own drafts of opening lines in the conversation
because they all sounded like a grumpy generation who
hates just about everybody.
"Haven't they got something better to do than vandalize private property?"
I scratch the grumpy responses and turned to sarcasm.
"Really, "Boobs?" you decide to paint the word "Boobs" in 3-foot font on a chemical tanker?
"Kid, I wouldn't dream of painting the name of one of your body parts!"
"What an idiot!"
"Get a job"
"Get a life"
I was in no hurry.
I thought about the artist again the next day
In the mammography screening room.
The body parts created for the nurture of another generation
whether or not they were ever used for that purpose.
An object of fascination.
A vulnerable bag of cells for disease or just a routine check-up
Called by silly names that turn into sources of humor
just to utter the names out loud or paint the names on a tanker car.
I chuckled while waiting to strip to the waist thinking about
an artist's work I saw while waiting at a train crossing.
The moment belong to God. It was less about the judgement of artist or vandal.
Less about the body parts.
More about living in the moment and feeling God chuckling with me.
The laughter was a grace I needed.
Laughter is a gift from God who gives us the freedom
Not to take ourselves and foolish, young graffiti artists
quite so seriously.
Waiting by a train crossing and in a waiting room,
Marie Kondo is an author, television series host, tiding expert. Imagine that, an expert in tidy. We live among clutter in multiple ways. My house looks like my head. Little piles of household laziness. Little islands of projects started and incomplete. Ever-present dust. I did traumatic uncluttering of my office after the hurricane. Urgency triumphed over the luxury of time to ponder what was salvageable, worth-saving, important, or "sparking joy" as Kondo likes to say. I did more thoughtful and yet still severe uncluttering when I sold my house and moved to a smaller one. I am uncluttering dusty messages that have been choking my soul for decades. I am splaying my philosophies and theologies and ecclesiologies and growing-up messages on microscope slides looking for signs of undiseased tissue worth saving, anything that sparks joy. Creativity and generosity, laughter and perspective, compassion and curiosity among others are at my elbow like little experts in tidy as I live and breathe.
This process of embracing a new identity is a bumpy ride.
I watched a video yesterday of a caterpillar becoming a rather furry, scruffy looking moth. Not a monarch butterfly that emerges resplendent after an appropriate length of time in a delicate pupa without windows. The process is hidden from sight mostly until the unfurling, the stretching of glorious wings.
I am not a monarch butterfly.
I watched the process for the furry, scruffy moth.
It had to slough off its skin several times.
Over and over again.
Convulsing to stretch its long tail from the confines of old skin.
And then it ate the old skin.
Finally after many ugly looking efforts of sloughing off and eating old skin,
It builds a really ugly cocoon of what looks like vomit spittle.
Inside it convulses with its morphing into new life.
It finally emerges.
Like something, only a mother could love.
Wet, squeezed out of shape, exhausted but it has no time to waste. Life is short.
It finally becomes what it was meant to become.
A scruffy looking moth. Not a monarch. A moth.
The only difference between it and me is that I will
compare myself to the monarch and bemoan my fate.
Slowly comes the wisdom I need to live.
Slowly I come to embrace the miracle that once I
was a caterpillar made of dying layers of skin that
I had to shed and eat to survive.
Now....I can fly.
Don't know for how long or why or how far.
The bumpy journey continues.
For right now, this furry, scruffy moth can fly.
I was captivated by a quote of Rachel Held Evans who said, "So what did God say to me in the silence that morning? I'm not sure, but I think God said something like, Don't try so hard, little child, and Hey, check out this cool turtle I made."
I was captivated because I do listen in the silence for God to speak.
I do try too hard.
I am a little child in many new ways and yet still grown and wise.
I do like turtles.
So I made this one.
It helped me lean into the God who says, "Hey, check out this cool turtle..."
This is a poem by the 8-year nephew of a writer named Jeremy John Parker. I don't know either of them. I saw this as a "retweet" by a famous person who I do not know personally. I just happen to read his tweets from time to time. That is the way twitter works. Random, full of sound and fury quite often, and yet sometimes so incredibly sublime. I have read this poem several times. I love it. I love the blissful self-wareness, the metaphors that no one often uses to describe themselves, the effort to name a shade of blue that he did not know how to spell but offered it anyway. The tweet of this poem has gotten 384 comments, 9000 retweets, and 45,100 likes. Pretty good for a poem in these more turbulent Twitter days. The poem and the medium speak to the day. The spirit of gentleness and the individual uttering in his own way: " I am here." It takes muscular listening to hear truth through the din of everyone talking all at once. The ripping tissues stretching in the hearing effort may bleed too much for such little results. Many give up. Don't you. Don't you give up listening. The voices of truth are speaking in the din, like little Bartimaeuses along crowded, dusty paths from Jericho to Jerusalem. The truth is there like gold dust to be gently panned from muddy streams.
"So what do you do all day?" She asked.
What do I DO?
When I was a parish pastor, I got that question alot.
"What do you DO?"
Most would answer the question before me.
"You only work one day a week!" Haha.
Retirement does not take away the question.
If anything, it explodes.
"So what do you do all day?" she asked.
It came with an air of judgment.
Justify your existence before me.
We value the doing.
When asked the difference between the pace of life
in America vs. her native country of New Zealand,
a woman responded, "America is built for work, New Zealand is built for living."
It was another way of saying....doing vs. being.
What I am learning is that...we are indeed consumers.
We value doing. We value productivity. We treat everything including time in
Quantitative terms. Waste time. Make time. Manage time.
What do I DO all day?
I am grateful. I measure the quality of my days by the quantity of my thanksgivings.
The days I struggle the most with the value of my existence....
The days I trip over myself trying to answer the question, "So what do you DO all day?"...
Those are the days when I forget that I am grateful.
Mother's Day Child
I haven't had to buy a card
or make a phone call
on a Mother's Day
for going on a
decade and a half.
The day has since been
a moment to remember
the last moment.
The last gift I ever gave her.
One more wound on
Mothers and daughters
have complicated relationships.
What we have in common with
all the daughters and the mothers
is a complicated womanhood.
That keeps us, in the end,
willing to pity the one with whom
we push and pull.
The last gift I gave my mother
was presiding at her funeral.
As my silent siblings and a few
I shoved my bare hand into
her ashen remains and spread
her on the grave of her 2nd husband.
I carried the rest of the ashes in a plastic
tub to her gravesite next to my father.
I said some words scribbled on a yellow note pad.
I spoke of the complicated woman, the burdens
she bore including us children.
I said that no matter the memories or
the scars of the relationship there was still dignity in her
unique place in our lives.
I said that dignity will never be taken from her.
It was the first time I walked away from my mother
And still whole.
Our complicated God understands and loves us both.
Peace be with you.
Peace be with all for whom Mother's Day is complicated.
Rachel Held Evans, 37, child of God, challenger of the Church. She used her voice. She answered for herself the question, "Why is the Church not growing?" She spoke her truth. Others listened. Some agreed. Some disagreed. Some were inspired to use their voice. She died on Saturday. You can do more than say, "what a pity...so young, mother of 2 young children...how sad." If you have ever asked or heard the question, "Why is the Church not growing?" Or "What's with the young people these days? Why can't they just go to church like we did and not whine so much?" Read Evans books. Let her voice sink into the marrow of your bones and dare to be changed from the inside out. She is one voice. There are more. The Church is alive. It may not be living in the pew you are sitting in and asking or hearing those questions without answers. Rachel Held Evans died on Saturday. Her voice is still alive and making a sound in the forest. If we can't hear it, then we need to dare to walk into the forest.
"Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary." - Rachel Held Evans