Monday, February 21, 2011

I stretched out on my daughter’s bed in her cozy little apartment and listened in as she explained sketches to her dad. We had come for lunch and for my dear husband wanted to consult her on some design ideas for a web page. She spoke clearly and confidently about “negative space” and “rezzes” and “opacity”. I lay there wrapped in wonder and mystery. I couldn’t help but consider that this person who was speaking in tongues (as far as I’m concerned) was the same one once coached in phonics.

I suddenly was reminded of the many times she would require I not enter our old dining room. My chubby cheeked 6 year old would be busy rearranging furniture, drawing pictures, assembling these items to create an art installation of her imagination. She would sternly remind me not to touch a thing until her daddy came home from work so he could appreciate her “project”. Her face was all seriousness, her long curls bouncing up and down and it was all I could to refrain from squeezing her.

Our children display their corner of the world, their personal secret garden of imagination to us when they still trust us. How many times have we not been invited to participate in their world of illusion? And how many times do we support this burst of creativity melded with their confidence in our appreciation?

My younger daughter had no patience for creating objects or works of art. Yet she would spend hours on end weaving intricate story lines for her Barbies to experience. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to be swept up in one of her dramas that I realized my little girl was processing her own emotions. Friend troubles, missing loved ones, challenging homework. All these topics, which could have been opportunities for whining and defeat, she instead used as material for her ongoing sagas. I sat watching her cry real tears when Skipper announced to Barbie she was moving away and they would no longer be friends. I wanted to put my arm around my little girl, but instead she whispered in her famously raspy voice, “mom, your turn to talk. Tell Barbie everything is going to be alright.”
My Barbie –playing child is now 22, and I overhear her consoling her friends on occasion. “Everything is going to be alright. I’m here for you.”

My daughters taught me about respecting the inner creativity we all possess. To take the time to listen , watch and wait for it to bloom. I will relish this perfume forever…

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tick, Tock...

I’m getting old.

Perhaps it’s this countdown to my mid-century mark this year that has me suddenly aware of every creak and ping of my body, but the fact remains the same. I am getting old.

After 15 minutes on the elliptical, my knees pop and scream. When I stretch out in bed at night, there’s some strange cracking in my back and hips I’d never noticed before. I seem to be “touching up the roots” way more often than I used to. And Lord, when I look at myself in the mirror, there’s some saggy, soft version of myself staring back at me. It’s not quite my mom (she’s in way better shape than me), but damn, she looks close.

People around me seem to be younger as well, which in turn makes me older. In a couple of months my eldest daughter will be the age I was when I gave birth to her. At my youngest daughter’s age, I had been married for almost a year. I could swear the cop that gave me a friendly warning and called me m’am can’t be a day over 17. And watching parents chasing after their preschoolers at the mall exhausts me. Just watching and I’m wiped.

I’m getting old, that’s true. But I think I may be getting a bit wiser as well.

I don’t seem to care much what people think of me and my life choices. And when I don’t feel like doing something, I just say, “I don’t feel like doing that” and don’t.
I spend time doing the things that really mean something to me, and surround myself with people I really care about.
I love more deeply and perhaps more passionately and unconditionally because I’ve realized I’m probably half-way through my allotted time to love on earth.
I learn for the sake of knowing and have no compulsion to prove myself or my knowledge to anyone. Love me or leave me. It’s all good.

I peer into the mirror and indeed, time is marching on.
Creases and lines make their way across my face and suddenly I see a wayward, misplaced pimple. A reminder that youth with all its frailties and temporariness hasn’t quite waved the white flag. Not yet anyway.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


In my line of work I come across all sorts of philosophies and theologies. Some are nicely packaged like a Nordstrom gift; perfect silvery box with color coordinated bow. Some are messy and unfinished, bits and pieces tossed into a nondescript paper bag. Some are quite bountiful and generous, others the first attempts at assembling a thought, a belief.
All of them, in their various states of completion, elaboration and decoration are housed under the umbrella of Reformed Christian. Presbyterian, to be more precise. And I find myself reveling in the diversity of it all. As a wise man once said, it’s easy to be of one mind when you’re with your own kind. I like contemplating others’ positions on issues. I like considering other interpretations of scripture. I like hearing the evolution of someone else’ thought process.

But in my line of work I also come across the misleading gift.
That’s the one that is beautifully wrapped with expensive heavy wrapping paper and a real satin ribbon. It’s the one that feels heavy when you hold it and makes mysteriously enticing sounds when you gently shake it. It’s the one you cannot take your eyes off for fear of losing one single magically lovely moment.
And you open it.
And you are suddenly hit with the stink of rotting flesh. You spy one lone item in this decorative masterpiece and it’s slimy, cheap and minuscule.
The misleading gift. It’s not just available in my line of work, in theology or philosophy. I see it in relationships, policies, manners. I see it all around, these misleading gifts.

That’s the one where someone tells you you’d be a better wife, husband, mother, father, child, friend if only you would…
That’s the one where someone smiles in your direction but it’s just their lips curling up while their eyes glare coldly at you.
That’s the one where society tells you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but you’re barefoot.
The misleading gift is the one you receive with an open heart, excitedly run home with it tucked under your arm and then spend hours weeping in your pillow.

I was the recipient of such a gift today. But I won’t weep.
And I won’t rewrap and regift.
I’ll hold on to it for a bit, just so I can try to make sense of life, of humanity. And then I will let it go, like an unwanted balloon growing tinier and tinier in the vast sky.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shaping A New "We"

Recent articles in the mainstream media have reported Britain’s recent proclamation that “multiculturalism has failed”. Political leaders in the UK go on to delineate their supporting arguments for this statement and several others across Europe nod their head in agreement.

The church’s commitment to multiculturalism has fared better, though we cannot yet claim victory. The church has one great advantage over economic, political and sociological frameworks. She can call upon our common source of unity – spirituality – and from there build upon diversity in the hopes of fulfilling the vision of a beloved community.

This begins with our ability to recognize and respect our different forms of worship, an obvious difference we can observe. Many of our fellowships within the Seattle Presbytery do not limit their services to an hour, but to however long the Spirit leads. Dancing is a form of sacred expression, and spontaneous testimonials are not uncommon. In turn, the quiet reserved worship of many our established Presbyterian churches reflect the reverence and engagement with the holy centered on the church’s historical identity.
If we were to solely look at these outward expressions of worship, we would indeed be “us” and “them”. Thank God, we are more complex than that. We are capable and we are meant to be “we”.

Professor Tariq Ramadan, Islamic scholar and recent keynote speaker at Seattle University Searching for Meaning book festival, said, “As created beings of a great God, we must acknowledge each other’s complexities. I am as multidimensional as you are. Do not limit yourself to know me by my periphery, but come to the center of who I am. Know my essence.”

We are challenged by our differences as well as our call to unity and inclusion, but this is indeed who we are called to be as the body of Christ. There is a healthy tension when we embark on the adventure of being the whole people of God and together fulfill God’s dream for humanity. We do it with the confident knowledge that at each of our core is the divine spark of our Creator.

Open wide the church doors, there are many who seek your spiritual partnership!
Open wide the church doors, there are many who await you in their community!