5.27.2008

the knob of mercy's door

Just as getting myself out of my thousand mistakes oft requires the mercy of another, pulling myself out of inadvertent messes requires a touch of external mercy as well.

This all became even more readily apparent yesterday evening as my phone hopped between the calls of several friends. I was pondering anew what I was going to do with my personal housing mess when Reuben (female, not her given name, unless you consider a white boy named Julio a proper name-giver) called. Her new, exciting, trans-pacific job that began in a month just lost its government funding. New and exciting has quickly become scary and dead end. Though not for any wrongdoing, she's found herself lying at mercy's doorstep.

On the other side, someone holds the knob of mercy's door. They are employers, parents, friends, acquaintances. Maybe it is you. Maybe it is me. I am convinced that we all hold the knob of someone's mercy door at some point in our lives.

The question is: do I turn the knob and open the door? Or do I turn the lock and keep it shut?

Not feigning humility or shying from reality, today I ponder my knob turning tendencies. Perhaps it is time for a little knob grease.

5.23.2008

motorcycle driveby (or goodbye you)

sun glints through my eyelashes
the colors refract
brilliant
a song swells familiarly
the road lies ahead

jenkins croons
just as at sixteen
so alone
so alive

one foot in front of the next
no longer on a calle
or an avenida
but the streets and avenues

still alone
still alive
the burning and the thinking of you

you've slipped into the passing waves and swells
on a motorcycle driveby

he's not thinking of you again
and so
neither will i
think of you again

5.19.2008

god doesn't hate gay people

The gay and lesbian lifestyle seems to be all over news these days. But I don't bring up the topic because of the recent court decision on homosexual marriage in California. I am going to refrain from commenting on gay marriage and leave my opinions up to your imagination. Verbalized speculation not encouraged. (And frankly, I don't want to debate the morality of homosexuality because really? Again? Aren't you exhausted yet? Wouldn't you rather conduct lab experiments on fruit flies? I think I would.)

I bring up homosexuality because something happened this week that reminded me of the power of my work in the church. We wrapped up a year of 7th and 8th grade bible studies a few days ago. Boys and girls huddled around cans of pringles chips (it made for a fun time-to-try-dill-pickle-chips smorgasbord snack) as we shared what God has worked in our lives through the last year. We talked about the low times and the high times (not the chemically induced kind). We shared things that we've learned about God and through our faith walk.

(I should back up to tell you that every year, I teach the seventh grade girls at our day school about sexuality and faith. We talk about everything from the obligatory piping and plumbing conversations to the sexuality in our culture. Homosexuality always comes up. It makes for a good conversation about God's deep love.)

One seventh grade girl shared very boldly that the biggest thing she learned this year was from our sex education classes. She learned that God doesn't hate gays.

Wow.

What a powerful thing for a young teenager to learn.

She left it at that. And I smiled and commented to the whole group that God loves all people regardless of sexual orientation, skin color, the length of the criminal record, the number of times they've stabbed a friend in the back. The room was a little quiet and we moved onto the next person.

I'm not sure why that was the topic that resonated with her, but it did. And I am so glad it is a message of mercy and not one of hate or despise because the God I know in scripture is a God who forgives and loves and cares beyond our earthly inability to make sense of God's law and God's grace. I'm glad I could be part of her journey.

5.16.2008

crisis

Aside from cyclones, earthquakes, wars, and politics, there are still mountains of depressing news. A depressive economy. An unhealthy population. A global food crisis.

I can choose to ignore wars that happen across the oceans. The same with cyclones and earthquakes. I can turn my nose up at the unhealthy. I can hoard my savings little by little as I can when I can. But I can't choose not to eat.

I've never experienced a life without easy access to food. I remember once when I was a teenager, I went to the neighborhood grocery store. I put the bags in my trunk and duly locked the keys in my car. It was good I didn't have ice cream. I ran back to my house, no more than a mile, got another set of keys and made my sister or mom or someone take me back to the store. I think that is the most I've ever worked for my food.

But food in excess is a luxury. Regardless of my acknowledgment of the luxury, it is just that. When I hear news reports of the cost of bread in Egypt, the rising prices in America, the starving people in crisis around the world, I take another look at the way I buy groceries. I work hard to only buy what we need, eat everything, and only throw out what is unsalvageable.

Yet, until lately, I have turned a blind eye to my work. Working as a junior high youth minister, I am regularly bombarded with ideas to slather the kids up in chocolate sauce and roll them down a hill. People love getting into food and making it messy. But the voices of the women who can't afford a loaf of bread ring in my ears. They yearn for the simplest of foods and I am promoting extravagant wastefulness?

This simply cannot be. And so gracefully, from here forward (actually several months ago) food-wasting fun will be eliminated from the repertoire.

Food is for nourishment and it should be respected as so.

5.12.2008

ascend (to the ceiling)

I am a sucker for object lessons. I love connecting the visual elements to a story. I think it helps the listener understand the story, it keeps the listener engaged, and it gives me something to do with my hands when I am talking. The last reason for love is key because otherwise I would probably knock a kindergartener out with my wide sweeping arm expressions.

Whenever I give a children's message, I like to use objects whenever possible. Like the time I used colored club soda with red food coloring and then bleached it "clean" again. Or the time I filled a glass so full it spilled all over the place (into a bucket). Or put mud all over my face. Or made a clay creation. Or made the dry bones (sponges) soft again. Let's not forget the time I came to chapel in my (one piece) swimming suit (plus shorts, towels, and a lot of other covering clothing items).

With all of these ridiculous object lessons, I have not yet achieved the gasping awe that resounded through chapel last week.

The object: helium balloons.
The lesson: ascension.

I tied six large helium balloons together on one string. One balloon had a crosses drawn on it and was at the longest end of the string (about five feet more than the rest). It was the Jesus balloon. You guessed that ahead, right? That's because you are so flipping smart.

So I told the story of Christ's life on earth, death and resurrection using the balloons. It was simple. Kids shouted out answers to the world's easiest (at least for Lutheran day school students) and yet most important question: What did Jesus do while he was on earth? (he loved us! healed us! forgave us!)

Then I talked about Jesus' ascension while letting the Jesus balloon rise above the rest.

We talked about what we are supposed to do while Jesus is in heaven. We talked about how we are still tied to him. I read a bit of Romans 8 (NOTHING!!! shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus!). We talked about how he is going to return to us. And then we talked about what happens next... we rise with Jesus to heaven.

I untied the long string and slowly let the balloons rise up. And up. And up. Forty feet. To the top of our sanctuary ceiling.

The yelps of glee were wholly unpredictable. Who could imagine that balloons could be so entertaining?

Talk about Jesus so that they can soar up with us! Share his love so that we can rise together! Jesus will take us farther than these balloons could ever rise!

The balloons floated at the ceiling for the rest of chapel as a reminder of where we are going when we are tied to Jesus.

(And then I pulled them down using that really long string.)