Sunday, February 18, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
And that was the truth. I really didn’t want it. Any of it. The church, the steeple, certainly not all the little people. But, if I was honest, I felt God everywhere. It seems everytime I turned I was hearing, reading, seeing God things. So I thought, “Maybe you do exist.” And against all my rationale against a God, I said, “If you do, I don’t want to live my life without knowing you.” I didn’t want to have guessed at deity. It seemed too important to leave to a hunch. And so my haughty prayer was, “I don’t want this. And you will have to proof that you are faithful. But if you show yourself to me, I will commit to seeking you completely. I will go to church and read the Bible and pray and follow most of the commandments. Just show me that you are real.” There was no choir singing, no candles burning, no tear-stained preacher searching for my dirty soul. Just OPB on the radio, the interior of my Subaru and me making pathetic deals with the creator of the universe.
And more strange still, it was all that was necessary. One moment of faith in something that I couldn’t see, touch or taste. One second of belief was enough to begin a tide that would change everything. No matter how hesitant I was, I had joined the club. I agreed to follow Jesus Christ. I was a Christian.
Later that night I found my Bible. I took a deep breath and let it drop open. My eyes fell first on Psalm 46:10. I read, “Be still and know that I am God.” It seemed a pretty direct answer to my earlier prayer and is a command that I continue to pursue. In all things, first trust that He is God and have peace in that truth. All else flows from that.
It’s been 5 years since that night and I have mostly kept my end of the deal. I have attended River West Church ever since, continue to read the Bible and pray to God. I’m even improving at the number of commandments I can keep! Pastor Guy asked me to join the church staff and I have loved life in ministry for 2 1/2 years now. But what I have really learned is that whatever I do is pretty inconsequential. The hero of my story is Jesus. You see, He not only kept His end of my lame, presumptious bargain, but He has overwhelmed me with love every since. It shows in myriad forms, and I have learned to recognize His signature in relationships with friends & family, in the beauty of the world God crafted, in my joy in ministry here & in El Salvador. He is also in the details: the roof over my head, the food on my table, the clothes on my back. I read the Bible and am awed by it’s utter simplicity and complete mystery. How can one book hold both of those together under one leather cover? I expereince Him In small subtle things and in large amazing miracle things. It’s been mind-blowing. It’s terribly humbling. It’s the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. And to think it all began in a parking lot 5 years ago . . .
Monday, January 01, 2007
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
But I guess, I have grown accustomed to their absence. It's like there is a small lump in my heart where that loneliness lives and I'm just used to it. And honestly, we don't change a whole lot anymore. So while I miss the Saturdays on the couch, last minute meals and the day in and day out of our friendship, we are pretty much continuing on our same arcs with some different scenery, occasional dramas, etc.
But today I had to give Riley my goodbye kisses and that was a totally different thing. Because she will change. She's changed in the 6 days I was here! And missing that --watching her grow, seeing her become even more of her own little person-- is pretty heart breaking. I know that I am just her Aunty T, but I am still so filled with love for her little muppet self that the thought of missing any time seems awful.
Honestly, I think this is just a ploy on Liser & Jim's part to make sure that I fly to NYC more often. Look at her in the muppet hat I knit for her! Tell me you could just leave that baby! Please.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Saturday, November 04, 2006
These photos were taken after my mission trip, while relaxing in El Salvador. All of these are images that remain somehow connected to Tortilla Flat in my mind's eye. It's like they are the illustrations of the story in my lil pea brain. Read below to hear more about Danny, scoundrels, fish stank and the warmth of dogs.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
"It is worth while to be kind generous," he said. "Not only do such actions pile up a house of joy in heaven; but there is, too a quick reward here on earth. One feels a golden warmth glowing like a hot enchilada in one's stomach." Pilon
Truly words to live by.
While in El Salvador I read Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat. If you've never read it, just put aside what you are reading now and get to it. It is a simple story about a handful of friends that wander through life together, often with a jug of wine in hand. In fact the paisanos are deadbeats, lushes, bums, people you would likely avoid on the street. And yet they are also loyal, gracious, generous and profoundly human. They love deeply, sometimes with their fists and they share everything with one another (although sometimes under duress.)
On the surface, it is a mystery how Steinbeck can create this community where the ills of society seem to reign and all social/moral rules seem to be broken. And yet the utter charm of the characters woo you completely. (I was in tears more than once as I moved through the mere 207 pages.) Sure Steinbeck has near perfect prose and that helps. His dialogue is so perfectly written that you more hear the words then read them and each character has been so perfectly crafted and is so real that you swear you met that guy before! But it is more than technical acumen.
It seems to me, there is something universal about Danny and his friends. There is a complexity that reflects so much of reality. Each character can be fully dark and fully light, almost in the same instance. There are warm moments that totally wreak of self-interest from one character or another. There is laughter amidst the darkest moments. And you vacilate between love and hate of almost everyone.
And ultimately, this shows the horrible, beautiful truth of life. We are all just bums --in the church lingo, sinners --broken, asleep in a chicken coop with only dogs for warmth. And then another bum delivers a cookie, for a totally self-serving reason, but nonetheless we are drawn into community through our common traits and small gifts to one another. (Now you really want to read it to find out what I am talking about!)
And somehow through our shared bumbling, we find ourselves united in this "good house of parties and fights, of love and comfort." Sometimes this is how I see the church. A big crowd of broken and selfish and foolish people and when we are together we are a force to be reckoned with. But we are also filled with the light of Christ and any real Christian is so overwhelmed by the intoxication of grace, that God must shine through. And somehow Christ redeems and makes us gorgeous in spite of our ugliness. He doesn't wave a magic wand and make us perfect Stepford Christians, but using our pains, our past sins, the consequences that can remain, He draws us nearer to Him, to His love, to His perfection. And someone that perfect light shines through our cracks and He uses us to help light the path. Such a weird way for things to work and yet that really does seem to be the truth of it. Very similar to Steinbeck's description of Father Murphy:
" Father Murphy used to go fishing all the time, and for months the Holy Sacrament tasted like mackerel, but that did not make it less holy."
Yea, often I feel like Father Murphy, covered in the stench of fish guts, sin & brokeness that remain in me. But yet I am continuing to pursue holiness. Trying amidst my smell! Trusting that God will actually be the director of my redemption and just trying to keep my head out of the gutter. (We probably shouldn't tell my mom that. She might be disappointed.)
The really amazing thing, is that somehow it seems to be working. I am learning, I am growing, I am ever filled with the presence of God and that is amazing. And oddly, Pilon is right, it does kind of feel like a warm enchilada in my tummy. Anyone else ready for lunch?
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
I returned Tuesday and Darcy met us at the airport and then made me a wonderfully meaty dinner! And as always, Darcy listened to me babble and gave me 100% of her support & friendship through a few hours of food and hanging out. Wednesday evening Wendy came by with my car (with a gleaming new side mirror). We drove over to Diane's and hung out and I shared photos and stories, dreams and prophesies. Thursday I went to work and was so happy to return to the staff that I have come to love and enjoy so dearly and the day ended with time at Bible study sharing about the trip, praying for others and seeing more friends. I can't tell you how many hugs I received that night. And the evening ended with Adam's two girls, Lauren & Bridgette hanging out and giving me costume ideas for Halloween. (Kathy has promised to bring the two girls over for Halloween tomorrow!!) Friday D & I met Jessuca & Dave in Janzten beach and caught up on pizza eating, life sharing and giggles. Saturday night was spent watching the peeps costume. A mermaid, ghetto red riding hood, the Hamburgler (burgle, burgle) and basketball face all had me laughing. Even Diane, albeit covered in plague-like proportions of hives, had me smiling in the pink "prophesy" suit.
And Sunday was spent with my church family worshiping God for my time in El Salvador and each person that I had shared time with since my return. My heart was filled with thanks for the day and with an expectation for so much more from my good and gracious God.
And last night, I made a french beef stew and D, Crystal, Summer, Johnny and Trevor joined me for an evening around the family table.
Talk about an amazing return home, wrapped in frienship, purpose and joy! I am blessed in El Salvador, but I am also blessed beyond all measure at home in Portland. And if you are reading this, then you are part of that blessing and I just want you to know that I thank God for you every day! You light up my life, are the wind beneath my wings and are part of the reason that I have a perpetual grin peeking out of my face . . .
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Liser asked me what it was like to get to know a place so intimately that wasn't home. And it is a unique experience. Oddly, at times during my visits, I feel more at home there than anywhere else on earth. Now, I know that is partially because the trips are so short (only a week). In that time little conflict can exist and everyone feels like part of one big family. But it is always a little disconcerting to me to feel so right in my skin when I know I just have to pack up and leave shortly.
But it is also so wonderful. How many people live their life never feeling that way about any place? And whether imagined or real, it feels like home to me and I enjoy each visit fully. I love the villagers deeply; watching them grow stronger, healthier, happier is amazing. I even love the dirty part of the various projects. (This trip we are working on installing a water system in the village. We will be digging ditch and laying pipe all week long.) And then there is the adventure of getting to know the face and character of a country rather than just seeing it's key tourist spots. This trip I actually get to stay a few extra days and go to the beach and see parts of El Sal that are brand new. That will be so cool!
And then, in the end, I get the joy of returning to my real home in Portland with friends waiting for me. I am pretty blessed! Anyway, if you want to see pics or read a little more about my last trip, feel free to visit the blog I created just for the village: My el sal blog
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
Every year in Portland thousands of Vaux Swift's arrive for about 3 weeks and call the chimney at a local school home. We are not talking 100 birds, but thousands of little swifts on their migratory trek.
And being Portland, this has become an annual community event. Last night was the first time that I was able to get to it and it was so cool. Jen, Shannon and I arrived at around 7, parked and walked to the school. Most folks were already happily camped out on the side of a super steep hill with their blankets, picnics, babies and dogs . Talking, chilling, just waiting.
Then the birds began to come. They would swirl, dive, glide and eventually all join a large cloud of birds in a ballet of motion circling the chimney. And then in one mass movement they focused the cloud homeward and began a mass exodus from the sky into the warmth of the chimney. Yea, it was cool.
But that was not at all the best part.
On the side of the steep, steep hill, kids in the know brought pieces of cardboard and were sliding down on their corrugated sleds. There were probably 50 kids of all ages doing this in a mosh. It was not "video games" as Strong Bad would say. It was so Old Skool. It was not marketed with special action figures or sponsored by Disney. Just kids + card board + hill = good time. And I kept getting distracted from the mystery of nature by the wonder of childhood. I can still hear the giggles echoing from the hill. That many children laughing has an almost wildlife biology quality to it. I told the girls that the noises the kids were making were almost like the sounds of a flock of happy birds. Such a pretty sound.
The birds are supposed to be there again tonight. So let me know if any of you have some extra cardboard and want to head over with me.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Her style has come into and gone out of fashion more than once. She is no longer cutting edge. When she mentions The Love Boat to kids in their 20's, they look blankly back at her secret "old school" reference. Wrinkles have started to show on her skin. She weighs more than she wants to. (Or less.) She wonders if her "child-bearing" hips will ever be put to use. And often she finds herself telling stories of her past: drinking stories, adventure stories, boy meets girl stories . . .all old stories.
And when she roles over in the darkness and sees that still there is no one there to anchor her, she almost drowns amidst the quiet night. I know that sounds melodramatic, and yet, I am her some nights.
And in recent years, it's been harder for me to come back from the drowned feeling. It's been harder and harder to return to the bouyancy of hope. I question myself. I question my coolness. I questions my core beliefs. If I am no longer cutting edge, am I mainstream? Am I really smart? Or is it just a lie I tell myself? Is my faith real or am I buying an opiate because I have nothing better? If there is no Prince Charming yet, arent't the statistics starting to be my enemy? Am I Kink-FM? Am I Banana Republic? Or worse, The Gap? The questions come in torrents like tiny tsunamis and I fight to keep my head above the wave.
Yet, recently I have been remembering some things. I have a God that is in control of all things and He is just refining me each day to be more like Him. In that is love, peace, joy --the nontangibles that can make each day beautiful no matter what storm I am weathering.
And in the context of holding onto Christ, I begin to see myself in a different light. I can let go of the questions and see some truth. Um, I am cool. I am funny. I am smart. I have a heart that loves well and someone some day will probably be lucky enough to call it their own. I am weird. I am strong. I am probably even beautiful.
And last night I spent a few hours with Wendy, Jenn and Diane. All recently have ended relationships one way or another. All were feeling broken. And initially we were kind of a pathetic bunch, but then something happened. A great 80's song came on and Di started to dance. Then we all started swaying. I grabbed the camera and started shooting photos. The interpretive dance song by Verve came on. Di and Jen interpreted a new dance for Liser including a "baby" (aka my purse) in the interpretation. Jason came home and began playing tunes on the baby grand. We all started to sing and before long I couldn't sing for laughing. And as I drove home after singing The Rose, the Whitney Houston Body Guard theme and some song from Titanic, I was humming. And I was full. Full of laughter, friendship . . . full of ramminess. And full of hope. And I realized, I am not broken, but rich. So very rich.
And I'm hoping it will make you want to come to my wonderful city . . . (If you want to read more essays on Portland, go the the link.)
You walk down the streets of this city, the city you realize you have fallen in love with, as hard and giddy as falling for any lover. Is that possible? You touch a concrete wall. In this city, you smell the river, which smells like the ocean. You think: my rainy city. Stop it, you think, try to curtail the love drug in you. But again you think, my rainy city. You watch sparrows slant through the plum blossoms, clouds everywhere. You've just returned.
It was last spring when you decided to leave your city. Spring rises up from the earth; in this city, it is like dipping your fingers in the icing. Spring feels like you are getting away with something. Spring--how is this possible? Spring in the softest city in the world--where people don't like to get up so they wear clothes like pajamas all day. Where the sky is gray and soft as flannel.
A year ago you were walking back to a hotel, explaining to yourself why you had to leave your city. It's time, you'd said. You'd sold your house, packed your things, now you were staying in a hotel room, waiting to go. Outside a bookstore, you ran into your friend S. You told your friend S. everything, about how it was time, how you'd decided to leave your city, and he laughed. And of all of the people you know, his is your favorite laugh, a sweet sss, a wisp of breath. He said to you, don't go. You shook your head, smiling, walking backwards toward your hotel, waving.
A city is a city is a city. But in this city, everyone is in love. People lean toward each other during conversations, as if they will kiss. You look at your hands, they look round and bright as pearls under this marble sky.
Last year, outside the hotel, a young girl had asked you, where do I get the No. 15? And you, who had no idea, you could not bear to disappoint her, so you turned around and gestured and made up detailed instructions that would make her unimaginably lost. Finally you confessed; you said, don't listen to me, I'm moving away. Why, where are you going? she'd asked, as if she did not want you to go.
The heavy glass doors to the hotel had swung open when you pressed on the gold bar. In the elevator, the young man with the big white tray on his shoulder blushed and told you it was only his second day delivering room service. He was bringing room 438 their coffee. You told him this was your last night in town; you were spending it in a hotel room. For some reason, he'd said to you, don't go.
In the window of your hotel room, the rain has gotten great and round as pearls, it fills the glass with its shining. You put your head down on the smooth gray sheets--this hotel smells of a thousand years--and you hear the rain and inside the rain you hear something speaking. It says: home.
Diana Abu-Jaber's recent novel, Crescent, won a National Endowment for the Arts award in 2003. It was also named a Notable Book of the Year by the Christian Science Monitor and won the 2004 PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction as well as a 2004 American Book Award. Her newest book, a memoir entitled The Language of Baklava‚ will be published in 2005. Abu-Jaber's work has appeared in such publications as Ms. , Salon, The New York Times and The Nation, and she frequently is featured on NPR. Her first novel, Arabian Jazz, won the Oregon Book Award in 1994.
Friday, September 22, 2006
OK, so I have been in the process of moving and settling in for a little over 3 weeks. And the entire time I was internetless at home. So I kept meaning to post something at work, but that is just no fun.
So, last night I got back online at the new house. Ahhh.
Of course, these few weeks have made me realize my total reliance and addiction to the world wide waste of time. It's sad really. But, um, we all have our vices . . .
The photo is the dance party at Diane's house on Tuesday night. Yep, that is Diane with a 3 year old! When his parents got him into the car at the end of the night, all he could say was:
I want more dance party.
Don't we all?
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Currently I am house-sitting for some friends that own a house in the park. And I was brushing my teeth, when Katie (the dog I am watching) lost it and ran downstairs barking madly. I noticed a person on a bike and figured Katie would get over it once the bike person rode on. Well she kept barking. And then more bikes came. And more. And a skateboard or two. And using my best Nancy Drew super sleuthing, I realized that this had to be zoobomb!
There is no apparent zoobomb manifesto, but it seems to me that the core is simply a desire to get back in touch with the pure joy of riding fast on a bike. The speed, the wind in your hair, the extra kick of fear at the possibility of your face meeting the asphalt. (Thus the photo attached.) Really, other than falling in love is there anything better? (And a bike is a whole lost less complicated than a partner.)
There is also a certain hoodlumish absurdity to it that is a little bit, well beautiful. I know some of the kids drink and I am sure that there are many folks that wish this lil event didn't disturb their life every Sunday, but to me, there is something extra poignant about the fact that this group weekly chooses to risk limb, skin and potential criminal prosecution for the simple beauty of speed on a bike. Now that is true religion! Really. As I watched the kids fly by from my bedroom window, I noticed about 12 other people on the street that had come just to cheer the bombers on. It was kind of surreal to see people waiting just to watch people zip by them. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that those of us that couldn't do it, still hoped to catch some of the dust of youthful zeal simply by being near it.
And since it's Sunday, my thoughts turn to God. I really love God. In particular the past year has been a real time of growth for me and there is a new depth to my personal relationship with Jesus, that is, well beautiful. I know some of you out there in TV land think I am off my rocker or that Jesus is too conventional a spiritual choice. But the thing is that there is something pure and elemental and truly mind-blowing about what I experience through Christ. It's like doing a zoobomb from the top of Mt. Hood. The risk is huge (what if I'm wrong and this is all for naught), the price is high (no booty calls ever and I have to love even those that hate me) and ultimately it is simply a step of faith to say that I believe in a God I can't see. And yet, it is so real to me. As real as the wind on those zoobombers faces. But how do I explain it?
Strangely enough, words never seem right. I try. I write down various experiences, emotions, etc. But they always seem hollow compared to the way I feel. I feel a peace now that I never knew before. I am learning the sweetness of personal sacrifice. There is a strength within me that was never there before and it grows with every prayer, every day. And I hope there is a love that grows within me. I hope you can see that. And if you can't, forgive me, I'm trying.
Basically my core truths are as follows: zoobomb is cool. I'm super psyched I finally got to see it. And God is um, good. Really, really good. Who knew that zoobomb could remind me of my God?
ps: If they show, I stole the pics from www.zoobomb.net. check out the "cops & robbers" video. It made me cry. It made me laugh.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Wendy would disagree with me on this, but I think this is a very well-named location in western Washington. We seemed to hike an eternity and all we saw was an old light house and this freaky cement land of prison-cell-looking nooks. I'm pretty sure the attached picture is the hell-mouth.
On route we saw a sign to "Dismal Point." I have high hopes for this as a next destination. Perhaps you would like to plan a family vacation in lovely Washington state?
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Wendy and I drove to Astoria last night to have a night of R&R. She is sleeping. I can't seem to sleep past 6:30 no matter what I do. May as well post some of the photos we took last night for your viewing pleasure. Of course that is if I can get this really slow connection to stop sucking and be there.
We have some visual commentary of life on the Oregon coast. Then we have some great signs, because I love them.
The schooner is a tiny bar with a great sign.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Let's start by saying that these images were part of a much larger sign at the Mt of Beatitudes. (Where Jesus said "Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc., etc for you heathens.) And let me also say, that this was one of my favorites sites because I could really picture Jesus gathering people under the trees here and speaking.
OK, that being said, the following three images leave sooo much room for translation. It's just plain dangerous. For example, I am guessing that this is a "No German's Walking in Piles" sign. Then there is the internationally known, "No black socks with shorts sign." And my personal favorite is the "Asians- Be quiet!" sign. Really, as a people, they are pretty loud.