Friday, May 30, 2008

something new

Today we heard little Potatoes Wilson's heartbeat for the first time. I was completely unprepared. I had no idea what the doctor was doing and then I heard it--the very loud, very fast heartbeat that wasn't mine.

My first thought is, "Thank God it's still alive" because apparently I have a powerful fear that something I do or eat will hurt it. My second is, "Wow, that's loud." Loving Husband just had a look of shock on his face.

I think it's slowly dawning on us how real this whole thing is. Don't get me wrong, we are thrilled and can't wait to meet Potatoes. However, we don't really believe there is a Potatoes to meet, if you catch my drift.

doughnuts and jesus

Have you ever had a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut fresh off the conveyer belt at 6 in the morning? No? Go ahead and set your alarm now so you can drive to the closest Krispy Kreme—in Columbus—and try it. I'll wait.

How was it? No, I don't expect you to have actually driven to Columbus, but I do expect you to try it next time you're in a city with a Krispy Kreme bakery. You won't regret it. Let me paint the picture for you. When you walk in, your nose fills with the scent of baking dough and hot glaze. You can see through several large glass windows the machinery which makes the doughnuts: mixers, shapers, some sort of tall, rise-inducing rack, the oven or vat or whatever it is that cooks them (it's been a while for me), and the conveyor they arrive on, doughnuts freshly drenched in sweet glaze. At this point, you may think, "So what? It's a commercial baking enterprise." If you were there, you would only be thinking that until you ordered your doughnut, had it handed to you, still hot, from the conveyor, and taken your first bite.

My friends, this is what heaven tastes like. It's hot but not uncomfortably so, sweet but with a strong undertone of yeast, and literally melts in your mouth. It is not, though I may try, a taste that can really be described. And it is, much to my disappointment, almost completely unlike the taste of the same doughnut several minutes later. Once it cools, the glaze hardens, the dough firms up, and the taste of heaven dissipates like smoke on the breeze. The doughnut we buy at the store bears no relation to this newly-minted, fresh, passionate doughnut.

That's right, passionate. Because I'm not just waxing lyrical about breakfast foods in my second-trimester state, I'm talking about the Gospel, too. How often have we heard the Gospel preached and it sounds nothing like what Jesus actually said? Or it has no taste, no yeast, no passion? Or it's gone stale? And how often do we ourselves feel that way about it, ignoring the scandalous implications of Jesus' words and the drastic measures he wants us to take to change the world? Jesus offers us the Gospel—the fresh-off-the-conveyor, melt-in-your-mouth, taste of heaven doughnut—and we receive or offer the world the day-old, store-bought version.

To be fair, we've always quite liked the day-old, store-bought version—it's sweet and a little salty and satisfies what we think we want. But there's more out there—there's challenge to live better, there's powerful comfort in grief, there's unnamable joy when you search for it and get up early and wait for a glimpse of the kingdom. But the kingdom isn't really like a doughnut, friends. There is a cost to discipleship. We are charged to sacrifice our sleep and our wealth and our comfort for the sake of others and for the sake of God. It is not easy to follow in Jesus' footsteps and we all too often decide to sleep in and go to the convenience store instead. But the reward for following is passionate life and a taste of heaven.

What is your passion at Redeemer? How is your faith evident in what you do in the world? What are you sacrificing for the sake of heaven? And what have you tasted as a reward?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


There was once a part of me which loved mowing the lawn. It was such a zen kind of moment. The action of cutting the grass shorter proved my existence and that my presence had made a difference in the world, yet it was short-lived: within days the grass grew back and there was no way to tell I'd been there.

The same is true for house-cleaning, only the "re-growing" is our clutter which is proof positive that we exist. Cleaning the house, de-cluttering, sweeping, dusting, laundry--it all gives a powerful sense of satisfaction when it's done. "I was here and I made a difference. I have triumphed over the forces of chaos and filth." But of course it doesn't last. The house, like the universe, gradually succumbs to entropy.

I suppose this might be depressing to some--that no real change can be made--that the grass and the clutter continue to grow despite our best efforts. I am oddly comforted by the encroaching chaos--the world continues without me, the community I live in will exist after we leave, the faith community perseveres through clergy and lay changeover, the earth remakes itself with each passing moment. What we do is not permanent, and we'd do well to remember it. Our towers and committees will all eventually fall apart yet the spirit that animated them will not.

The prophet Qoheleth wrote "Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." Again, some read this as depressing, but it rings so truly and beautifully in my ears. Only the moment is truly available to us--the past cannot be undone and the future is only a theory--it is only the olam, the eternal now, the depth of a single moment, that is where we live.

When I took ceramics in college, our professor--a gruff, hippie sort--spent a lot of time on "non-attachment." When you make a pot, he said, you pour your heart into it. You shape it with your hands, it's messy, it's beautiful, and you love it. And then you surrender it to the processes of drying, bisque firing, glazing, and re-firing and at any point along the way it could break. Your beautiful pot containing your heart could break and be worthless. So don't get too attached. Create with your hands and heart, invest fully in the moment of creation, then let it go.

Monday, May 12, 2008

repenting and big business

Saw Iron Man last night--beautiful, exciting, and surprisingly funny. The bits when Tony Stark converses with his AI lab equipment are priceless.

It got me thinking, though, about a certain genre of movies lately. Iron Man and Batman Begins both focus on men whose lives and livelihoods have been shaped by their parents and other powerful adults into something monstrous. Tony Stark has embraced it by helping his company become the foremost manufacturer of weaponry--and he is filthy rich. Bruce Wayne, too, is filthy rich, but more from his parents' idealistic projects in Gotham. Until the company is overtaken by his "mentor" and it, too, turns to weapons manufacture. Both men at some point in their lives have an epiphany and turn away from the violence and greed of their big businesses. Or at least the greed--they are, after all, superheroes and a certain amount of violence is part of the genre.

It is interesting to me that we go in droves to the movie theatre to see these stories enacted and yet don't really expect CEOs in the real world to follow suit. There is so much talk about corporate culture and consumerism as a necessary evil, yet we cheer on heroes who forsake the path laid out for them and try to save the world. This is, at its base, what repentance is. It means "to turn" or "to turn away." Jesus and others call us out of what we think we have to do, out of the monstrous molds we've grown into, and give us another path. Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne turn away from the corporate sin they've participated in, however unwittingly, and commit themselves to helping the helpless.

What would the world look like if we all did the same?

Monday, May 05, 2008

a forked tongue

How often do you lie?

Seriously, though, how often? I was kind of a goody-two-shoes in high school, so I never lied about staying out or who I was with. Well, except that once when my grandmother was in town and I convinced her that my folks were okay with my going on a 5-hour picnic date with my new boyfriend that they had never met. Yeah. But I’m not a big liar—I can’t. I get guilty when I tell big lies and it’s obvious to everyone. Little ones, though… “I really can’t make it.” “You look great in that dress.” “I’m actually helping the sweat-shop worker by purchasing her product.” Those I tell all the time. It’s easy. I know what I want, and I go after it. Even with a little falsehood.

I just read The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible—at one point, he get’s caught in his truth. His toddler son wants English muffin for breakfast. They’re out. Mom says, “tell him the bagel’s an English muffin—it worked yesterday.” Dad says, “I can’t tell a lie. Little buddy, it’s a bagel and it’s delicious.” Toddler son wants none of it and throws a tantrum. So should he lie to his son? I don’t know. It’s a sticky area, but I do know that lies can destroy relationships. There is no trust. There is no connection. There is no love. And when I get away with a lie, I frequently feel crappy about myself, like there’s a stain in me.

What do you think?