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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 09

I'm snuggled in my sister's bed under approximately four blankets (one of which lies across my feet at the end of the bed). Amy's not here anymore and neither is her dog Sophie. Since I have the only twin bed in the house, when the family begins to drift away, I usually move to one of their beds. Amy's is my favorite because it's a nice tall bed and the feng shui feels good and I think her bedroom is warmer than both mine and Emily's.

It's been a cold Christmas. It was chilly when I arrived, but then on Christmas Eve it began snowing... and snowing... and snowing... and after a foot of snow on the ground and drifts upon drifts pressed up against cars and houses and windows and porches, and piles of plowed snow lining parking lots and strategically placed in the middle of double lane roads, it got really cold. And our house is drafty anyway. It's old... for the Midwest that is. Built in the early 1900s it's huge with mostly french windows all around it (two full walls of my bedroom are just windows). It's beautiful, don't get me wrong. But a little chilly.

"Do you want me to put your beer in the fridge so it won't get cold?" my father hollered up to me one afternoon. I'd forgotten I'd opened it and had become swept up in loading dad's CDs onto his computer since the Pittman women bought him an iPod this year for Christmas.

"This will change your world, dad."

Of course, it didn't work. Leave it to us to buy the one broken iPod in the whole Apple store. Well, sort of broken. It works okay, but it's earphone jack doesn't work so you can't hear anything. Not much good that does. My dad was really disappointed. So tomorrow after they drop me off at the airport my parents are driving into KC, the closest city with an Apple Store.

But truth be told, even if we weren't prone to buying things that are broken (iPod) or stolen (a car) or illegal (a house), this was definitely the Christmas of broken stuff. My phone broke (when my dad stepped on it). The power-steering on my dad's car broke and just today something with the muffler got messed up when we ran over a curb hidden in snow. Mom and I broke my grandma's phone this evening while trying to untangle the cord and clean off the mouthpiece. It screeched and hollered and made noises I didn't think a phone was capable of. The automatic windows on Emily's car broke when she forgot to roll them up while she went through a car wash. You should have seen her afterwards when she pulled up to an ATM and was trying to get her window to go down so she could slide her card into the machine and retrieve some money. but all it kept doing was going up, up, down and up again. Look mom, no hands! I've never laughed so hard.

My heart broke a little too when I had to leave all of my pets in Austin so I could fly to Missouri, a first for me at Christmas. I've always driven, every year, with the cats, then with the cats and the dog, then with the cats and the dog and the boyfriend and then with just the dog, but this time, I flew. Two years ago my car broke - blew up rather - on the highway while driving home and at the rate we're going this Christmas season, I'm guess I'm kind of glad I flew. Somebody knock on wood, please...

With all the snow we've had here and with the snow all across the Midwest (Ok City was declared worst city for weather on Christmas day) I'm pretty glad I don't have to drive back in it. That makes for a stress-free trip (at least for my family and friends who worry about me). The snow relieved me of even more stress than a car drive home. It cancelled church... twice! I know church isn't supposed to be stressful, but I was scheduled to sing on Christmas Eve and my voice wasn't fully recovered from the strep yet and while I know I shouldn't try and be perfect and that I should just "praise God with what I've got," I still was a little nervous about belting those high notes. And then when the Christmas Eve Service was cancelled and I realized I was going to have to now sing the song at the Sunday worship service that made me even more stressed. I had planned on skipping Sunday worship... a little break if you know what I mean, not that any of you get stressed by going to church, but well... it turned out I didn't have to worry about that either. No one could even get into the church, let alone the parking lot, so Sunday's church service was cancelled too. Sorry baby Jesus. I guess we'll just have to have church in our hearts.

Grandma and grandpa had to have church and Christmas at home. Usually after the three Pittman girls have finished opening our stockings, we call gma and gpa and invite them over. By the time they arrive, we're mostly through the presents and they get to catch the last few big ones (this year it would have been dad's broken iPod and my NEW! luggage!). But they were stuck, and they were too nervous to even have dad come and get them. This was probably a pretty good choice on their part since the next day when mom and dad went over because grandma/pa's furnace broke (i forgot to list that one earlier!), my parents had a terrible time getting off their street and even in pulling back onto our street dad's car slid into a snowdrift and he nearly had heart attack number three.

Truthfully, I've loved every minute of it. Well, maybe not one night when we miscalculated our turn into the driveway (turning on snow and ice can be tricky) and had to push the car out of the snow knowing that we had almost made it home and the back door (and warmth) was just a few steps away. But other than that, it's been great. Winter Wonderland literally.

Snow makes everything brighter. Literally. At night, it's not nearly as dark because the white snow reflects the light so well that there is a constant glow in the city. I wonder if that's how people keep their sanity in Alaska. Darkness is hard for me which makes Daylight Savings Time my least favorite six months of the year. But with snow, the world is brighter, lighter and feels less scary, less sad, and less oppressive. And snow forces you to slow down. You weigh the benefits of driving somewhere. Is it really worth the trip? And you have to drive and walk slowly on snow. Each step is deliberate and necessitates your concentration on the moment. I like that. I like being able to see and slowing down... and of course snuggling.

Except, not for me since I'm on day 72 of no men. Which really made me miss my pets this Christmas. You need more than just your own body to fight the cold in winter. Staying warm is a team effort. Fortunately for me, on her last night in St. Joe, Sophie spent most of it draped across my legs in my bed. We'd made a bargain earlier that day. "Sophie," I told her, "if I give you this apple to eat, you have to come sleep in my bed tonight." Unbeknownst to me, this white lab understands the human language and sure enough, when I tried to roll over in the middle of the night, I awoke to find her keeping me warm.

And tomorrow I fly home. It'll be in the 40s when I arrive and as high as 60 the next day. I get to leave, to escape. But I'll also be leaving behind a little part of me that loves the drama of it all: the snowflakes, the sparkle, the snowdrifts taller than you, the ice storms, the electrical blackouts, the fires in the fireplace burning real wood, the two pairs of socks, the piles of blankets, and the light... being able to see in the dark. Always cling to the light.

My favorite thing to look at when it snows is the Christmas lights that decorate bushes in front yards, bushes that are perfect resting places for fallen snow. Not being trampled or dirtied by feet and goulashes, the bushes stay perfectly covered by inches or sometimes feet of snow. The lights have been dampened by the snow, diminished even maybe, but you can still see them glowing underneath, whether white or red or multi-colored, illuminating the whole pile of snow on top of it. I love that. it makes the bush more beautiful than before.

Always cling to the light, whether you're covered in snow or not.

And always let the light shine through.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Movie Review

So, starting back at Thanksgiving when I came home, the fam has caught a couple of flicks at the Hollywood 10 that I find worthy of a blog review.

1. Old Dogs. DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. It's horrible. My father wasted, WASTED $80 paying for the family (minus Amy) to see this over Thanksgiving. We only chose it because I wanted to see Fantastic Mr. Fox and Emily wanted to see Blind Side and neither of us wanted to see what the other wanted, so we compromised by mother announcing that we would go see Old Dogs. That was a mistake. It's now a nice family joke, but no joke is worth that much money or that much of my time.

2. Sherlock Holmes. MUST SEE. As if the raving critics weren't reason enough, this movie has two of my favorites in it: Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. I mean, need I say more? And I was skeptical, people. I'm a literature person. Sherlock Holmes is a nerdy middle aged man who wears a cap and sits in his library smoking a pipe and solving mysteries. He's not some kung-fu murder solving karate kid. But my skepticism was unfounded. I was wrong. I should have known better. Lest my childhood crush deceive me, RDJ was amazing (and hotter than ever!) and of course Jude Law is just good eye candy. On top of that though the plot was interesting, the jokes funny and Holmes was still... well, a little bit nerdy. And I was quite taken with the cinematography which my father insisted was actually a 3d film sans glasses, but which I thought illuminated Holmes' thought process well. Overall 4 stars or 5 or however many stars are available. Plus we saw it on Christmas Eve with the WHOLE FAMILY which was awesome.

3. It's Complicated. Good movie. Mom, Dad and I caught it after all the other children left and liked it a lot. Meryl Streep is always so fun to watch and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin are always good. Plus Jim from the Office is in it, so it's real NBC special! There were a few scenes when I thought, "O God, I'm watching this with my parents," but overall it was very tender. If you're low on cash I'd recommend waiting for it to come out on DVD, but it was still worth my time and my dad's money in my opinion.

4. Up In the Air. Amazing. Tangible, funny, unpredictable, this movie usurps even Sherlock Holmes the excitement of which kept me going to the movies this holiday season. It was the final viewing by my mom, dad and me this Christmas season since I return to Austin tomorrow and it is a MUST SEE. From the 23 year old girlish optimism turn realism that I still often feel at 31 to the down-to-earth beauty of the 34 love interest of George Clooney who also resonated with my life, it was a capture-it-all film of what it means to live up in the air and what it means to live here on earth. I'm adding this to my birthday wish list 2010. It's a must own.

5. Nine. AWESOME. Although I haven't seen it yet. We were supposed to see it yesterday in KC with Emily and Jesse but dinner ran late and we didn't make it. I plan on seeing it when I return to Austin and also Avatar which I've put off seeing until I return to a city with 3d theaters. Yea! Maybe I'll see you there!

December

Tales of the Pittman Christmas adventures are to come, but until they do, here's a beautiful Christmas poem...

December
by Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Grinch on Christmas Eve

Since my sisters have kindly nicknamed me the Grinch (I was a little cranky earlier this evening because when I asked what we'd be doing as a family for Christmas Eve since the service at church had been cancelled, my sisters responded "watching Falala Christmas." I know. You just threw up a little.)... And since my neighbor/the-brother-i-never-wanted lightly explained on a facebook post that the Pittman's had two daughters and a grinch... I thought we could read the poem for old time's sake.

Plus my parents DVD player is broken, so I can't watch it on there.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
by Dr. Seuss

Every Who Down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch, Who lived just north of Whoville, Did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason, His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Whoville beneath,
Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.
“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer,
“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
For Tomorrow, he knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE!
NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST!
FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would feast on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast beast.
Which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
And THEN They’d do something He liked least of all!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing! And they’d SING!
SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Grinch thought of this Who Christmas Sing,
The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!”
“Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!”
“I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! But HOW?”
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
THE GRINCH GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!
“I know just what to do!” The Grinch laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!”
“With this coat and this hat, I look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need is a reindeer…” The Grinch looked around.
But, since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,
“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!”
So he called his dog, Max. Then he took some red thread,
And he tied a big horn on the top of his head.
THEN He loaded some bags And some old empty sacks,
On a ramshackle sleigh And he hitched up old Max.
Then the Grinch said, “Giddap!” And the sleigh started down,
Toward the homes where the Whos Lay asnooze in their town.
All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care.
When he came to the first little house on the square.
“This is stop number one,” the old Grinchy Claus hissed,
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue.
Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row.
“These stockings,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”
Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned the Grinch, “I will stuff up the tree!”
And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove,
When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!
Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this tiny Who daughter,
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, “Santy Claus, why,”
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”
But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick,
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.”
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.”
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head,
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took Was the log for their fire!
Then he went up the chimney, himself, the old liar.
On their walls he left nothing but hooks and some wire.
And the one speck of food That he left in the house,
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
Then He did the same thing To the other Whos’ houses
Leaving crumbs Much too small For the other Whos’ mouses!
It was quarter past dawn… All the Whos, still a-bed,
All the Whos, still asnooze When he packed up his sled,
Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!
Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
“PoohPooh to the Whos!” he was grinchishly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!”
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!”
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two,
Then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry BooHoo!”
“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch, “That I simply MUST hear!”
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow.
But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Whoville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!
Every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”
“It came with out ribbons! It came without tags!”
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then? Well…in Whoville they say,
That the Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light,
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy 40th Anniversary

Yesterday was my parents' 40th Wedding Anniversary. Whoa. So we celebrated tonight by surprising my mom with a family and friends dinner at Galvin's, a famous restaurant in St. Jo, Mo. EJP made mom and dad a scrapbook of the past 40 years including letters from friends and family reflecting on old time and more recent times and on my parents' marriage. It was a pretty exciting and happy and yes, a little bit of a tearful evening. My dad gave a speech and my grandpa fell asleep (he couldn't hear it anyway) and as always, my grandparents figured out a way to pay for dinner.



So, here's what I wrote for my parents to put in the scrapbook and now on the web.

Dear Mom and Dad,

You've taught me that...

No matter how messy the house, how obstinate the children, how high the bills, how leaky the roof, how needy the children, how stinky the pets, how low the funds, how overgrown the yard, how ornery the children, how aged the body, how annoying the in-laws, how slow the internet, how overcooked the dinner...

Love is worth it.

The beautiful children are worth it, the blooming impatiens are worth it, the nights at the theater are worth it, the Sundays at church, the living room full of family, the articulate children, the murder mystery parties, the rock garden, the den cabinet full of toys, the Disney movies and Steven Spielberg films, the swim teams, the choir performances, the creative children, the boards and committees, the dinners with the grandparents, the friends who made it and the friends who didn't, the fireplace fires, the birthday parties, the talented children, the quiet nights alone, the swing sets, the board games, the cats, the hamsters, the guinea pig, the newt and even the fish who jumped out of their bowl... it was all worth it.

Love is always worth it.

Congratulations on 40 years of Love. Here's to 40 more...

My New Favorite Christmas (and Hanukkah Song)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

While Making Your List

Consider this...if all the people who attended church in America bought Just One fair trade item for someone on their list this Christmas, one million families would be lifted out of poverty for one year.



Last year one of the best gifts I received was a computer bag I wanted from Trade as One. It's super cool and in buying it for me, my mom... I mean Santa Claus... empowered people living in poverty to take one more step toward self-sustainability.

Trade as One is fair trade company whose mission is to to bring ethical spending to the church in America. They partner with churches is several different ways introduce fair trade and provide opportunities to buy fair trade. Take a second to check out the TaO website.

Check out the Trade as One Website and happy shopping!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Found It

When I was somewhere around the age of 11 or 12, I was in a play that I just finished assistant directing with Trinity Street Players and which is running THIS WEEKEND ONLY, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I played Imogene. "Type casting," my sister said; Imogene is the oldest girl and the ringleader of the infamous Herdmans, six children who are the bullies of the community. They lied and stole and smoked cigars, even the girls! The Herdmans had never set foot in a church until they heard there was free food.

And in the show I was in. I really had to smoke. Here's proof.



At one point in the play, Imogene Herdman is found smoking cigars in the ladies room wearing the Mary (the mother of Jesus) costume. That, of course, was the scene the local St. Joseph Gazette newspaper wanted a picture of for their article. So the girl who played Beth (the narrator) and the girl who played Alice (the know it all) and I all showed up for our photo shoot one Saturday afternoon and I smoked two or three cigars while the photographer worked on getting the best shot. Unlike Bill Clinton, I only inhaled once or twice, and at the young age of 11, that was definitely on accident.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a delightful play that everyone in Austin should come see whether you're six or 29 or 82 years old. It's a great family outing or would make for a very cosy and sweet date night.

While our version of Pageant doesn't have Imogene smoking cigars, it does star my best friend, Michelle



and was directed by myself and my other best friend Amy.



While working with 521 children (or maybe just 21) often made me want to pull my hair out or have a hysterectomy, it was an awesome learning experience and I really have fallen for some of those little monsters a.k.a. baby angels (side note: never reference younger children with names like "little monsters" in front of older children because children, no matter their age, go home and tell their parents what you said. yikes. like i mentioned, this was a learning experience).

Anyway, if you're in town or even close to town, come see our show. And be reminded that Jesus was not born to a family modeling what society tells us are worthwhile attributes: wealth, power, perfectionism and good manners. Rather, the story of Christ is one of humility, poverty, and the unpredictable nature of God.

7:30 tonight (Saturday) 2:30 Sunday. FREE 901 Trinity Street in downtown Austin.

Shazaam.

Monday, December 07, 2009

2009 Christmas List

Luggage. Mine almost didn't make it back from Chile... in either lime or pink. these are 20% off and have free shipping for the next 2 days.

Canon Powershot sd990IS camera or the Fugi Finepix f200EXR or the cheaper Canon Powershot sd780 IS camera

Gift Certificates to Home Depot, Victoria's Secret, Parts & Labor (local Austin), Toy Joy (local Austin).

a pet guinea pig. i told myself i couldn't get any more pets until i got married, but if someone gave me a pet, i couldn't exactly decline it...

the new regina spektor cd, Far.

some teeshirts i like: Big Cats for MU Game Day, this Chesire Cat tee (that changes in sunlight!) or Zion, or maybe dinosaurs against creationism all "Girl" shirts, probably in "med" but "small" if that's all they've got.

a Girls Are Not Chicks Coloring Book. You can buy it here

red iPod nano armband $29

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Man Is Only As Good (a great poem)

A Man is Only as Good . . .
by Pat Boran

A man is only as good
as what he says to a dog
when he has to get up out of bed
in the middle of a wintry night
because some damned dog has been barking;

and he goes and opens the door
in his vest and boxer shorts
and there on the pock-marked wasteground
called a playing field out front
he finds the mutt with one paw

raised in expectation
and an expression that says Thank God
for a minute there I thought
there was no one awake but me
in this goddamned town.

Where Should I Live Next...

When Texas gets tired of me, where should I move next? How about to one of the ten coolest small towns in the nation?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Christmas Came Early This Year

I don't know why. It's definitely not in my character to break out the boxes and hang the tinsel early, but sometime in mid-November... November 18th in fact, I decorated my Christmas tree.

And then I felt something else out of character. I didn't want my decorations to be... well... ghetto. Not this year. I didn't want lights all strung around every which way, the whites and the greens and the blues and the multi-colored all intermixed and cattywampus. I wanted order and beauty.

I don't know if I'm finally done defying my parents (people rebel in different ways, I certainly can't explain it) or if I was just feeling nostalgic, but that night I knew I needed Christmas although I didn't yet know why. I found out a few hours later. And a few days later and well, who knows really why we need Christmas so badly in our lives. Perhaps because we live in a free country where religion can't unite us so we need a holiday to do it. A big long one cause we're a really divided nation.

I watched The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada tonight and was reminded of that.

"Thank you God for not making me be born in a poor, undereducated, racist, sexist, environment... or in Texas." I joke about the Texas part (mostly because i'm feeling obstinate cause I know I'll be berated tomorrow for not watching the Big 12 Game tonight), but not about the rest. This movie is wonderful. It speaks so bluntly of the depravity of society and so profoundly of the opportunity for redemption.

Too bad you have to be beaten and dragged through the desert with a dead man sleeping next to you to find it... but it's possible.

"You gonna be okay?" The "villian" calls out to the "protagonist" at the end of the movie.

You gonna be okay?

I think so, I just needed Christmas to come a little early this year.

Technically it gave a little wave back in September when we held auditions for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. And then it began peeking out from behind the pillars during October as we began rehearsing once a week. Now it's jumping up and down in front of me screaming and waving its arms in every direction: Christmas is here! I'm here! Look at me! Pay attention to me! Celebrate me!

Yep. I see you.

And the church needs to pay me more.

I told the director the other day that I've never identified more with a character that I'm not playing.

I sat down Wednesday on the edge of the stage composed of 14 heavy platforms that we carried down two flights of stairs last Sunday, that were painted on Thursday and then "textured" on Friday. I sat down, just like the character does in the play and put my head in my hands.

This isn't going to work.

Actors didn't know their parts, parents weren't participating. "I have spent thousands of dollars on something that might flop."

As if my lame social life and my the fragility of my family weren't disappointing enough, now I might be failing at my job too?

It was time for Christmas to show up.

And it did at today's rehearsal when the kids received their body mics and their faces and their entire attitudes changed as they realized this was it. The real deal. Miley Cyrus watch out. Here come the Baptists.

And it did when I watched Three Burials tonight: a gruesome story of sin and redemption, fierce friendship and forgiven enemies. And I think that's what Christmas is about.

Cause in Christmas you get the whole package. You get the barn and the baby, the poverty and the power, the edicts of death and the prayers for peace. And you know, for as popular as it is to hate the commercialization of Christmas, our culture got some things right about Christmas. Sometimes it's okay to give gifts, even really impractical ones like frankinsense or Chanel No 5. And it's okay to let a child's birth give us opportunity for rebirth in our lives. And it's okay to take the advice of a fat old white man (we've been doing it for years anyway) and choose to be nice over naughty for once. There's nothing wrong with watching snow and wondering if you too could wipe the slate clean. And sometimes, even when you feel like shit, you gotta dress your life up with some garland and white lights. There's nothing wrong with optimism and there's nothing wrong with love. And if you can't get it in a christ-child maybe you'll find it in a christmas tree or the ringing of some bells or in a green grinch or an overgrown elf.

So Christmas came early. November 18th. And I'm glad it did. Cause for all the smiles and parties and presents and spiked eggnog, there's still the hundred feet of lights that you hung up on your roof all by yourself that won't light up. And there's the tear and the sigh and the longing and the wondering sometimes if this is worth all the effort.

Thankfully Christmas answers yes.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

With a bow, or maybe even an angel on top.

Friday, December 04, 2009

RIP WA

In the past month, three of my friends' fathers have passed away. Two of them I knew and dare I say, even loved a little. This morning one of my best friends from seminary, Big Phil, lost his dad to cancer. This is a picture taken at his brother Darrell's 50th birthday celebration in October. I love this family and I'm really grateful I got to participate in the celebration and see WA (who flew in from Alaska for the festivities) one last time.



Rest in Peace Wa.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever



Yep, this is the play Trinity Street Players is doing this winter at FBC. Only instead of being in our Black Box Theater, it will be in the sanctuary. So there's no need for a reservation unless you've got a party of more than ten. If so, call it in and I'll rope you off a row.

The doors open half an hour before each performance with live music by Darrell Shepherd (Friday night), Cantamos directed by Louise Avant (Saturday night) and FBC's Youth Choir on Sunday. So come early, get your seats, find your friends and listen to some great music.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was written by Barbara Robinson and is directed at First Baptist by B. Iden Payne Austin Theater Award Winner, Amy Downing.

There's only three performances so mark your calendars. Opening night is one week from tonight! Hope to see you there... Shazaam!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Okay Peeps, Let's Re-cap

So before I quit my blog and then unquit it, you may have noticed I hadn't been blogging much. So here's what was going on...

I threw yet another fabulous Halloween Party if I do say so myself (and I always do!). The costumes were yet again amazing. I went as Corpse Bride.
Can you see the resemblance? Laurel went as a monarch butterfly.
But my favorite costume was Bethany who went as Mother Earth and painted her whole bare stomach like a globe (albeit a backwards globe since she used a mirror).
It was awesome and we all had a great time.

Then came Thanksgiving and for the first time in NINE years I spent T-day with my (real) family in St. Jo Mo. I wrote about that experience too of course, but it's in my journal and not on here so sorry about that. Here's some pictures instead.
Yes my family is neurotic about all holidays. Even really boring ones like... Thanksgiving. And here's my placemarker for the dinner table pictured above.
Yes, it has sparkles on it. Which even I can admit is a little bit fantastic.

I participated (or rather opted out of participating and stayed inside Lowe's where it was warm) in the annual getting of the tree the day before Thanksgiving.
And I got to spend time with my grandma and grandpa which was the real reason I went home.
Grandma taught me how to make a baby blanket which is proving helpful considering my potential new line of work:

Being a doulah.

In November, I helped deliver my second baby. Well, not my baby, but the second birth I've participated in. While the first one back in June was short, sweet and to the point, (Laurel knows how to get things done), the second birth proved more of a chore. And so instead of snapping a few quick pics of parents and newborn, I actually got to help in the laboring process: holding hands, rubbing backs, holding up mom's upper body while she floated in the bathtub, you get the point. And it took forever. Lila (pronounced Lie-lah) was not interested in seeing what this new world has in store and took her sweet little time getting here. But what a sweetie she proved to be! But not cute enough to ever make me want to go through what her mommie went through. Dear God.

So that's baby number three in case you're counting. First Pete and Joy gave us Zoe. Then Chris and Michelle brought us Laurel and then Lila begrudgingly made her way into the world to Angela and Patrick's relief. And finally, Bethany and Gabe texted me the day before Thanksgiving that their little bundle of joy had arrived. So welcome to the world Tessla Meredith! I saw her when I returned from Missouri and loved all her dark hair!!
She looks like a little latino baby with her black hair and jaundiced skin. Too cute! But 5 and 6, we're still waiting on you guys. My last two besties of the year, Lynnette (and Sam) and Amy (and Grant) are due in January and February respectively. So I'll keep you posted on that.

If you think that might be too many best friends having too many babies for one single person to handle, you may be right, but I love them all anyway... :)

Visiting baby Tessla was the last relaxing and peaceful thing I did this week. After that came Advent, a time of waiting and contemplation of peace and meditation about the coming Christ for some... for me? Pure chaos. I've already worked 40 hours this week and I still have two work days left. I don't have a day off until December 19th. "Remind me next year to quit my job before Christmas starts," I told someone tonight as I arrived breathless to sing with my women's choir at a nursing home before running back to church to do an advent worship service. I had to hire someone to help me in my office today (yep, I won her help with cold hard cash) and the two of us put in 17 hours worth of work total. Seriously? Seriously. And thank god for Charlotte
(who went as Annie Potts from Ghostbusters for Halloween!) who gave her time to paint my stage for the play we're doing. GOD BLESS VOLUNTEERS. Char, you're the best. Thanks.

So there you have it. Holiday, Baby, Holiday, Baby, Grandparents, more babies and work work work. That's pretty much what you've missed out on.

I mean, I gave up boys... so how much drama could be left?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I lied.

Or maybe it's April Fool's Day.

Or maybe after talking to my therapist, I changed my mind. Who knows. But I'm back. That vay-cay was short lived and I'll post a little more in a little while perhaps with more details, but if not, know that I'm back. And I've been composing blogs in my head since I left you, so you're really in for it! Get ready!

And forgive me for leaving you. At least I didn't leave you for someone else! (Wordpress will never have me!)

Love,
anncpittman

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sorry Blog World

If anyone even ever comes here anymore, you can stop now cause this is my last blog :)

Done and done.

Thanks for the good times.

Peace out,
ann

Friday, November 20, 2009

33 Days and Counting

Tonight at dinner with Chris, Michelle and Laurel, another couple, probably in their mid-thirties, sat down at a table next to us with their 7 month old son.

Like mothers are wont to do, they introduced their children to one another.

You can probably imagine where this is going.

Laurel's eyes, when she finally found the baby boy we were trying to point out to her, got big and she stared at him and then at his mother and then back at him. The little boy, Colin, if he every saw Laurel, was unimpressed and soon pressing to be allowed on the table where he could bounce up and down and up and down and stare at the lights. Laurel just stared at him.

Typical.

Boys are clueless. Clueless.

"Laurel," I whispered across to her, "remember what we talked about. No boys til you're forty."

The other night, as a half-joke, someone asked me who I haven't dated.
"Tons of people," I replied.
"List them."
"Um... well... Peter, I never dated Peter. And Adam Asher. And Chris; I never dated Chris, either Chris. And... um. That's four. Hold on. There's more, just give me a second."

And here's the crazy thing. I'm not a whore. I know you're not supposed to say that word in a sermon and probably not on your blog, but I don't care. I'm not one. I've just dated A LOT of people.

And really, that's not my fault. I'm a girl. And when boys become infatuated with me, I think, gosh, why aren't you jumping up and down on a table? Why are you paying attention to me? And then I fall for it and agree to a date or two and it usually lasts a week or two and then the infatuation ends although I've yet to figure out why but it probably has something to do with me.

Again, not really my fault. It's not like I'm out seducing people. I didn't even kiss a boy til I was 18 years old. Can you believe it? And I didn't have my first boyfriend til the end of my first year in college! I've had two major relationships that both almost ended in marriage but instead just ended and two minor relationships that just seemed to cause a lot of heartbreak. And the rest, well, god, the list is a mile long of them, though I'm not sure why.

My sister and I were in a texting argument once and she ended it by saying, "Oh Ann, why don't you just go date someone."

Well that really pissed me off, but kind of made me laugh too cause that's my life. And I thought getting on EHarmony earlier this year would help end that process but it only made it worse. The dating just tripled in frequency and nothing came of it.

So after my last "talk on the phone for two months and then date for one week" fiasco, I swore off men. And as of today, I'm 33 days sober.

"But who's counting?" I told my acupuncturist today.
"You are apparently."

Sigh.

But I like it, I think... most of the time. Like when I went in to see said acupuncturist she asked how I was doing and I said, "Pretty good. Since I gave up men the only drama is at work." So that's kind of refreshing. Maybe my therapy bills will go down.

I doubt it.

"Are you experiencing any temptation?" a guy asked me tonight at a show. I'm not sure if he was fishing or what.
"Nope," I said, "I'm a very strong person you know."

And most of that sentence is true. There was the night my grandfather went into the hospital and I really just wanted someone to hold my hand or maybe run his hands through my hair to make me feel better, but other than that, it's been pretty easy and I'm definitely digging not having to worry about reading someone's signals or trying to figure out if so n so is going to ask me out on a second date or wondering if I look pretty in this shirt or just plain.

I think most of my friends are afraid I'm going to enter my man hating phase again or maybe become a lesbian (which would be a whole new set of difficulties), but I'm not.

I'm just on a break. Sobriety can be good for a person. And until I meet someone who just can't help confessing his love for me just as I am, the good and the bad, I'm not doing this anymore. If you won't man up men, then I'll do it for you. No more misbehaving. No more late night calls. No more casual dating. No more text flirting. No more "I'm just looking to hang out with a smart, attractive woman."

Cause I've got better things to do. And worrying about a man, isn't one of them. Go find some other girl to obsess over for a week and then dump her on the side of the road. Not me. Cause I'll be in the Toyota Corrola with the Cool People Care sticker on the back driving in the other direction.

33 Days. And counting.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Can't Help It, I Love These Guys... And Cats.

So I posted a video these two engineers made last year and couldn't resist posting this one too. I watched it twice straight through giggling the whole time. And my poor Potter couldn't figure out where the other cats were coming from. Thanks for the clip Ginger!

Scary Stories of the Bible II

If you want to read the story first, the text for 2 Kings 4:8-37 is here

***

The story takes place in a territory in northern Israel at the foot of the slopes of the Hill of Moreh. The town of Shunem was about15 miles away from where the prophet Elisha had a home, but just a few miles from Tabor where there was an Israelite Sanctuary.

This episode occurs during the reign of Jehoram (or Joram), second son of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, roughly 850 BC. From all indications, King Jehoram gave lip service to God, allowing Elisha freedom to preach and travel, while at the same time granting similar freedom to pagan religions. While he wasn’t as heinous as his infamous parents, I guess he just liked to keep his bases covered.

Like last week’s story, our hero is Elisha, a man of God, a prophet, but second only to him in this story is oddly enough a woman, a wealthy woman who invites town visitors into her home for meals and conversation. When she recognizes Elisha as a man of God, she persuades her husband to build Elisha a room on top of their house for whenever he passes through town. (Holy men were often put in rooms on top of homes to be kept free from the profane and mundane rituals of the household).

The Rabbis who read this ancient text praise the hospitality of the Shunammite woman and learn from her conduct that everyone should bring a Torah scholar into their house, give him food and drink and let him enjoy all that they possess. The Shunammite woman is mentioned by the midrash as one of the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel.

The woman’s name is not given, but she is described as “a great woman.” In Hebrew, the word translated “great” in the KJV and “well-to-do” in the NIV has several nuances of meaning, wealthy being only one of them. This description was used of Abraham in Genesis 24 and is often used to describe an attribute of God. Being great included character and influence. Even though her husband was generous, the wealth belonged to him and his male heirs. Her greatness in the eyes of God and the prophet Elisha was not dependent on her economic status. Her wealth gave her the means to support Elisha’s ministry. It was her kindness and generosity that made her great as well as her continual worship of God.

Pretty cool! We like strong women here!

So Elisha accepts this giving woman’s hospitality and as a blessing to her asks her what she would like to receive from God. Insisting that she has all she needs, yet another noble attribute of contentment and humility, Elisha eventually learns that this rich old woman is barren and gives her the gift of a child.

Reminiscent of Sarah and Hannah and Elizabeth, this unnamed and barren but remarkable woman gives birth, of course, to a son.

Some years later though and while the details are scanty, most commentators suppose the child falls victim to sunstroke, a heatstroke caused by direct exposure to the sun. Out in a field of grain, the boy must not have had any protection from the intense rays of the Mediterranean sun. Being a child, he succumbs quickly, feeling the first symptom as a massive headache before fainting.

When her husband sends the complaining child in from the fields, the Sunnammite woman feeds him and nurses him. But when the child dies in her arms, the she lays him in Elisha’s bed in the back of her house and leaves on her donkey hollering back to her husband that she has to go see Elisha immediately, and is off… 15 miles to go.

Elisha spots her from some distance and sends his scoundrel of a servant, Gehazi to go check on her. Now Gehazi was probably Elisha’s assistant like Elisha had been to Elijah, but unfortunately Gehazi lacks the integrity and spirit of his forerunners. We learn about his misdealings in the next chapter and what his envy for Naaman’s money makes him do. But Gehazi doesn’t come off so well in this story either.

Gehazi reports back to Elisha that the old woman is fine, but when she finally reaches Elisha, she clasps his feet in a true sign of submission and desperation. Gehazi steps forward to push her away from his master. Interestingly, the midrash understands “le-hodfah” or “push away” as an abbreviation of two Hebrew words meaning the “majesty of her beauty,” and surmises from this that when Gehazi went to rebuff the Shunammite woman, he pushed the majesty of her beauty, that is, between her breasts. The Rabbis observe that although Elisha was extremely careful in sexual matters, Gehazi acted differently. Although the latter was a man of great Torah scholarship, he had several shortcomings including licentious behavior.

But as the narrator in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever says of those rascally Herdmans, “And that’s not all,” the midrash has a few other stories to tell on Gehazi.

Like, he did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

Elisha took his staff and instructed Gehazi: Go and place the staff on the face of the boy, that he may live, but say nothing on the way. According to Jewish tradition, Gehazi thought that Elisha was sporting with him, and he did not do as the prophet had told him. On his own initiative, Gehazi turned to everyone he met along the way and asked them: “Do you believe that this staff can resurrect the dead?” I picture him kind of like Wormtail in Harry Potter, scurrying around doing what his master tells him to all the while thinking he’s all that and a bag of chips when he’s just not. According to another tradition, when someone met him on the way and asked him: “From where have you come and to where are you going?” he would reply: “I am going to resurrect the dead!” Consequently, when he came to the son of the Shunammite woman, his efforts were for naught. And so it is Elisha who must come to the boy in his room. Elisha lay upon the dead child and placed his mouth on the boy’s mouth and his eyes on the boy’s) eyes, and began to pray to God. True to the ancestry of Elijah his mentor, through the Spirit of God Elisha brings the dead boy back to life.

What?

I don’t even want to go there. It’s very strange. The whole story reminds me of my friend Frank who had cancer and went to a Chinese doctor in Illinois to have him lay hands on his salivary glands or something. This guy, who also works with the Chicago Bulls I think, had a dead fish in his fish tank and when he secretary buzzed back to tell him that Frank was in the office, she also mentioned the unfortunate predicament of the fish. Not to worry. That little doctor of Eastern medicine came out and scooped the fish out of the fish tank and put him in his hands and blew on him and I’ll be darned if that fish didn’t come back to life. Frank was standing right there watching!

Thankfully he healed my friend Franks glands too, but I think you get my point.

Our Halloween story about a dead boy suddenly turns into something straight out of A Chinese Ghost Story or something.

I mean it’s weird. Lay on the boy and transfer God’s Spirit or your qi (chi) or whatever and the kid comes back to life?

Man, sometimes God calls us to do some pretty scary things.

Sometimes we live up to the challenge, like Elisha. Through us God is able to do some amazing things. You should have heard the testimony last night of Caroline Boudreaux who started the Miracle Foundation for orphans in India. One woman has brought so many dead and empty children back to life; she even puts Elisha to shame. You can change the world if you follow God’s call!

But other times we end up doing our own little cowardly dance like Gehazi, very Gollum-esque, tossing God’s call back and forth across our tongues deliberating what to do, and from one hand to the other, weighing the idea of where following God might get us and what it might demand of us.

“Open your door to God,” Preacher Will Willimon writes, “O.K. Just remember: this is a real God, not some make-believe image of ourselves, not some tame deity you can have over for a chat. Break bread at the table of the living God, you don't know how you'll be surprised.”

The Shunammite woman opened her home to a holy man and look what happened to her life. A holy friendship, a son, a death a resuscitation, and as we read earlier in the service, eventually an evacuation from the town due to famine and upon returning seven years later receiving all her land back full fold.

Imagine what would happen if we opened up our hearts.

Anne From A Window

I love Anne Frank and always have since I played her in The Diary of Anne Frank on the stage of the Missouri Theater seventeen or so years ago. Here's a lovely article on the only video footage we have of Anne and of what it means to be one who looks out windows...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Post You Must Read (especially if you know women or have heard of the church)

Please please please go read this blog posted by an Emergent Methodist named Jessica. it's hilarious and discouraging and awesome.

Here's my favorite quote...

"In implying that women should accept discursive erasure of their spiritual experiences in order to be liberated, those outside of church are performing the exact same violence that those inside the church have been doing for centuries. Guess what? Y’all both need to knock it off."

Beresheth Sermon: Scary Stories of the Bible Part 1

“Do you have any inspirational quotes about dead people… specifically zombies?” I hollered over to my colleague and fellow minister across the hall.

Because here I am on October 22, 2009 with Halloween right around the corner (hurray!) writing a sermon on a topic my Beresheth team suggested I do called Scary Stories of the Bible, where in worship we use texts commonly left out of the lectionary and quite frankly, out of church.

I know I’d never studied this story.

But while researching the Lazarus story in the New Testament where Jesus waits four days and then brings poor, dead Lazarus back to life, one of the commentaries I was reading emphasized the difference between resuscitation and resurrection.

Resuscitation: being brought back to life, Resurrection: being given new life.

Cool. I thought. What other resuscitation texts are in the Bible? So I did a little research and found two more. One of which we just read. And in case you blinked and missed it, let me reread it for you…

"So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. As a man was being buried, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha; as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he came to life and stood on his feet."

Riight.

Maybe if I retell the story in my own words it will sound better: A man dies. His body is on the way to the cemetery and suddenly some bullies or a gang or some outlaws show up and in a panic the mourners throw the corpse into the nearest grave where it happens to land on Elisha’s bones and magically comes back to life. The man got up and crawled out of the grave, alive.

That is NOT better.

So I did some research.

Turns out that occasionally funeral rituals included a pilgrimage to the grave of someone important or inspirational. Thus the proximity to Elisha’s grave. Additionally, miraculous things happening at someone’s gravesite is actually common in hagiography, or in the study of saints. Yep, the Catholic church would call Elisha a Saint. I guess all the prophets were. And this story definitely shows up in Elisha’s hagiology.

But who was Elisha?

Elisha was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom during the reigns of Kings Ahaziah, Johoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash. The Nothern Kingdom was called Israel which was sometimes at peace and sometimes at war with it’s fellow God-fearers in the Southern Kingdom, called Judah. These two kingdoms came about when after King Saul, King David, and King Solomon there was a civil war of sorts and of course, the country split into two kingdoms, the northern and southern, Israel and Judah. And so the time of Kings Saul, David and Solomon is called the United Kingdom and the time of Kind Jeroboam, Rehoboam and the 38 others who ruled either Israel or Judah is called the time of the Divided Kingdom.

Elisha is one of the prophets during this time of the divided kingdom who was led to power through his mentor, the famous EliJah. Elijah was a great prophet who did many wondrous miracles like calling fire out of the sky which promptly burned up a completely drenched pile of firewood. Elijah spoke God’s truth of compassion and honest worship against the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. He’s also the prophet who didn’t die, yep, another spooky story worthy of a campfire and a bunch of scared little kids, but rather was taken up by a great whirlwind into the sky, never to be seen again.

Elisha is his appointed successor and true to Elijah’s memory, Elisha too performs great miracles and speaks out against unrighteous kings. Thus, “Elijah lives on in the ministry of Elisha; Elisha is Elijah one more time, larger than life.” Indeed, such is the power of God in Elijah and Elisha’s memory that when a corpse even touches the bones of the deceased Elisha, the corpse comes back to life.

And now here we are, sitting in worship, wondering how in the world the story of some Zombie has any effect on our life or our faith.

And it’s not like the writer of 2 Kings gives us any help on the matter. He simply tells the story about as matter of factly as can be. I mean, I would have given it a little more substance, a little more pizzazz. I would have described what it felt like landing on the bones in the grave. I would have described the dead man receiving air into his lungs again, his dried blood suddenly warming up and coursing through his veins again. I would have described his shriek of surprise and the look on his friends faces as they began screaming and running away when he came waddling out of the tomb trying to untangle himself from the mummy rags.

But I also just got done watching Zombieland last week.

Obviously, the writer of 2 Kings didn’t. The facts are there, they’re stated and the story is over. (And when he man comes back to life he probably returns to eating hummus and hallah, not brains and humans.)

And scholars say this is intentional: “it is important to note that the narrator does not linger on the ‘miraculous’ but presents each occasion in almost matter-of-fact terms…The reader is thereby pushed away from focusing on the spectacular in itself and asked to discern the theological and religious import of what is being stated.”

So what’s being stated? What’s the point of Zombieland, I mean, verses 20-22? What theological wisdom can be gained from this scary story of the Bible?

Quite frankly, it’s that God is powerful. And God doesn’t just act in religious settings. God acts in every area of Israel’s life.

Did you know while all the prophets of the Old Testament warned the Kings and people that God did not like the way they were treating their neighbors and enemies, while they warned that justice would flow like a mighty fountain and that it would flow against God’s people. While all this was happening, despite the King’s or the people’s unrighteousness, God continued to work on Israel’s behalf. Indeed in chapters 13-14 of 2 Kings, “god acts on behalf of the faithless Israel… God’s compassion and promises continue to shape Israel’s life in the midst of its evil ways.”

In other words, “the most fundamental witness of [the Elijah and Elisha] stories is that Israel’s God makes true life possible in every sphere.” Even in politics. Even in relationships. Even in schools. Even in churches and synagogues. Even in war… Even in the graveyard.

And I guess that is good news.

Because we all have our fair share of faithlessness. We all experience times when we abandon faith for societies’ whims. We all choose coping mechanisms over prayer and perseverance. We all choose to be selfish rather than compassionate. We all choose to judge when we should offer grace. We all choose death when we should be choosing life. And God is faithful to us despite us. There’s always hope for new life… even if you’re dead as a doornail. And while maybe God isn’t going to resuscitate you after you’ve passed on, plenty of us feel dead enough inside that we could use a breathe of fresh air, of God’s air, of God’s spirit, waking us up inside.

And that may be the scariest part yet, letting go of ourselves enough to let God’s life take over. This is America and we like to be the best, look the best, know the most and accomplish the most whether that’s our success in academia, success in the business world, doing the most at church or downing the most at our favorite bar. To let go of our need to be in control and instead live by faith, to let go of our cynicism and live by hope, to let go of our fear and live with intellectual and emotional integrity… that is to receive life. Life that is waiting for us no matter what we do and who we are.

Life is always available if we’d just be willing to take it. I just hope we don’t get so far gone that we have to fall into a dead man’s grave to wake up to that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gross



Nope, this is not a joke, this was real advertising. Check out the article about digitally altered advertising here. Obviously I think this is wrong, wrong and wrong.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Almost Famous

"Hollywood, come and get me Hollywood," floated through my head all day (kudos to whomever catches this movie reference.)

Yep, Hollywood bound we were. And after a twenty minute drive, we were there, walking the stars, sizing our hands and avoiding all the people dressed up like famous characters. (Zorro practically accosted me).

We went to the Graumann's Chinese Theater where lots of stars' hand prints and footprints and cigars (Woody Allen) and dreadlocks (Whoopi Goldberg) and even a pistol (I can't remember whose) are saved in cement. My favorite print of the day was of course Judy Garland who, alongside her daughter, was an amazing singer and actress.



After we walked the block and mused at all the (literal) stars on the pavement with names etched in gold, (some real - Jeff Bridges and some not real - Mickey Mouse) and after I got startled after running into Samuel L. Jackson outside the house of wax (damn those statues look real) we decided to go back to the Movie Palace and actually watch a movie. We were in luck as Zombieland was just about to start, so we bought tickets and popcorn and took our seats.



Unfortunately, it's October, which means it's almost Halloween. Now, you will rarely ever hear me say the words "unfortunately" and "Halloween" in the same sentence, but on this occasion, it meant that I had to watch the previews for the four scariest movies coming out around Halloween and since I hate horror and scary movies, this was traumatizing.

It did set us up for the gruesomeness that was the Zombies storming the beginning of the movie, Zombieland, but after the first twenty minutes when the plot finally became more character driven, I emerged from underneath my ball cap and actually was able to watch most of the film. It was hilarious and had an amazing cameo in the middle of it. Don't worry, I won't tell who and spoil it for you.

To end the day we ate at a diner where of course I had to order a chocolate malt.



Yum! What a perfect ending to a perfect day. "In fact," I told my friend as we drove home, "I wouldn't mind moving out here to become a famous movie star."

I suppose I'll have to settle for being called beautiful by some black guy dressed up as Zorro outside a movie palace in Hollywood before he moved on to his next panhandling mission.

Almost Famous. Figures.

My San Diego Zoo Experience

THE ZOO.

Was...

Different.

It was cool. Don't get me wrong. But it was weird too.

Like, how many zoos are so big that you can't tour it all in one day (or at least five hours)? And how many zoos have a bus AND an express bus that tour the grounds? And how many zoos are so complicated and with maps so insufficient that one can get LOST for an HOUR in ONE section of the zoo.

Damn those monkey trails. I never want to see another monkey again.

Y'all seriously. And we finally determined that up in elevation was actually down on the map which was eventually helpful. But not before it was 2pm and we still hadn't found the restaurant we were trying to get to.

Despite the episode of Lost that we were apparently being filmed in anonymously, some of those animals were AWESOME.

For example, there was a POLAR BEAR. What? And he was playing in the pool when we rode the Bus (but not the Express Bus) around the zoo. So we stopped to watch a minute and he was hilarious tossing his ball around the water and splashing around.



Unfortunately when we were viewing him later through the glass up close and personal, he was having some sort of personal problems He kept walking to the corner of a small covering like a hut, walking directly into the same right corner, then would take six steps backward diagonal left, swinging his head from side to side. Over and over he did this same movement. Like he had Tourette's or was performing a not so sacred rain dance. We stood there captivated though, watching the same thing over and over again because, well, he was a Polar Bear. And that was pretty amazing.

"Sorry we're destroying your habitat," I called out to him as we left.

And even better than the polar bear was the lion. And maybe it's because I'm reading through the Chronicles of Narnia right now so I'm a little biased in fondness for giant cats, but I checked with the others and they agreed, the Lion was the best. Because we were (maybe) ten feet away and he was sitting there chewing on a bone (a big one) like Sophie or Janie. It was amazing.



No wonder they're the kings of all the animals.

Other than that, there was a very cool flourescent yellow snake, some lame pandas whom the park totally talked up but who were actually in these small habitats sleeping in such positions that you couldn't even see their faces, and about a million bajillion deer of a thousand different varieties. "Probably to feed the lions," Amy determined.

So, back to the bus. The original bus, not the express mind you, although the express bus looks just like the tour bus only it has "Express" written on a green sign across the front of it.



This is Amy and I on the bus, the original bus. Not the express bus. Which was fun and a great way to tour the park in 45 minutes. Except the original bus tour was obsessed with the express bus and Brent and Amy couldn't tell you how many times the driver reminded us of "the express bus that looks just like this bus but with the word Express across the front on a green sign."

That became the butt of many jokes.

So at the end of the day, when we were tired, we decided to take the Express bus back to the entrance/exit of the park.

So we waited. And waited. And waited. And finally when I was about ready to pull my hair out (because the zoo was about to close and I hadn't bought my fuzzy stuffed animal yet), it showed up. Green sign and all. So we boarded, rode a few minutes and then it stopped. "Now this is Panda Canyon, and if you want to exit the zoo you go up the moving walkway, to the tower and take a right," the express bus driver announced.

So we got off. And you get one guess as to where we were.

Monkey Trails.

That bus had NOT taken us to the exit, but as Brent figured out, had taken us from the far east side of the 100 acre zoo back north (up on the map but down in elevation). And of course in true dysfunctional map and bus form, they called this drop off spot the exit. And so we walked and walked and walked to the exit. And as soon as I bought a stuffed Lion, we left.

Goodbye Polar Bear, goodbye Lion, goodbye Express Bus.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beresheth Sermon: 10 Bridesmaids

Text: Matthew 25:1-13

Oh this parable. It’s a good one isn’t it? You can see all the bridesmaids, waiting around for the bride and groom to show up. They’ve got their lamps or their flowers or whatever is appropriate for a bridesmaid to hold for the age the story is told. And they’re hanging out expecting the happy couple to arrive any minute, but they don’t. And like excited girls at any sleepover, the bridesmaids fall asleep. But they awaken to discover the bridegroom is approaching. They smooth their skirts, pat their hair, pad their bras and suddenly discover that five of them don’t have enough oil to keep their lamps lit.

“Give us some of your oil!” Five bridesmaids beg of the five other girls. “No way, they say, buy your own.” And the unlucky bridesmaids scurry to the store to grab some more oil. And of course, while they are gone, the groom comes, invites the five remaining into the wedding hall and shuts the door.

The five girls return with fresh oil and lamps burning but when they beg of the groom to be let inside to which he replies, “Yeah, sorry, not sure I recognize you.” And the door remains shut.

I actually hate this parable. Why do you need a burning lamp to get into a wedding anyway? And what’s up with the five stingy bridesmaids? Surely the gospel teaches us to share. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? And then there’s the groom. He doesn’t recognize them because they’re late to the party? I mean, better late than never right? Doesn’t Jesus remember telling the story of the Prodigal Son?!

So I read before this parable in Matthew chapter 24 to see if I could get any insight.

Well, we’ve got the destruction of the Temple in addition to wars, famine, and earthquakes. Then we’ve got faithful followers persecuted and false prophets running rampant. There’s also desolating sacrilege and vultures eating corpses. Then comes the story of Jesus and the trumpet trio, not to mention some mighty winds. After that a story about some guy getting plucked up out of a field and a cruel slave who gets cut up into pieces and of course some good old weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Helpful. Maybe I’m liking this bridesmaid story more and more.

Okay, so what comes after this parable? What does the rest of Chapter 25 say?

Next is the parable of the talents and the guy who saves his master’s money by burying it and then returns it to him as it was and gets reprimanded for not monopolizing on the opportunity. Then we get some sheep and goats and left hands and right hands and finally we find out that anytime we saw someone hungry and gave him food, or thirsty and gave her something to drink… anytime we saw a stranger and welcomed him, or someone naked and gave her clothing… or when we saw a sick person or someone in prison and visited them we were doing the same for Jesus. And maybe finally we can begin to make sense of these parables.

It’s important to remember as we read passages like Matthew 24 and 25 or any of Jesus’ parables, that we are not reading a systematized theology. Just as that goofball wrote his Left Behind series so could someone easily write the A New Creation series or the I Shall Draw All People Unto Myself series or The Great Divorce. Oh wait. C.S. Lewis already did that one.

My point is that this is a story. And just as soon as Jesus says, “you will know the time has come because of war and famine,” so in the next breathe he says, “no one will know the time it will come like a thief in the night.” The word eschatology means the study of the end times or of the final things, and a theology of eschatology deducted from these chapters would be hard to pin down. In fact, the most tangible word Jesus actually gives us in these stories comes to us at the end of chapter 25.

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, hang out with the sick, refresh the thirsty, welcome the visitors. And finally I think. Okay, I don’t know about oil in my lamp, but I can do these other things.

In fact, I can do them now.

And suddenly we move from a theoretical eschatology to a realized eschatology.

In other words, ushering in the Kingdom of God was something that Jesus and the disciples did in their own lives before Jesus’ death and resurrection and after. And ushering in the kingdom of God is something the Holy Spirit continues to do on earth amongst us and indeed through us right now! Thus, if we are to celebrate the death and resurrection of God here on earth and live life abundantly, if we’re gathered to celebrate the wedding, we have to keep our lights shining, our lamps burning and our neighbors taken care of.

We need to be a city on a hill as a testimony to God’s love and mercy. We need to be salt that irritates the wounding sin of injustice in the world. We need to be faithful to wait expectantly for the bridegroom and active in preparing for his arrival. For just as he returned to the disciples in his resurrection, so one day will we be resurrected along with all creation indeed the entire universe to a new life fully realized with God.

For the end of the night is not the time to run off to attend church or to write a check to the Red Cross or drive down and feed a couple of people at the Soup Kitchen. At the end of the night if you’ve missed living fully in God’s abundant love and justice, you don’t want to miss the bridegroom. Don’t go running off to make last minute amends. Wait expectantly for God whether you’re a child on a playground, a college student in classes or a thief hanging on the cross. When God is among us it’s not the right time to try and usher in God’s kingdom. Rather, it’s time to meet the King.

Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Testimony at Truett

So yesterday I awoke at 6am to prepare to drive to Waco to speak at CBF Hispanic Awareness Day at Truett Seminary. No, I have not suddenly become tan and hispanic. But I did take a group of students to Chile in May, and the CBF director wanted me to speak about my experiences there to raise awareness of Mission work in South America. "You'll speak for about 15 minutes with the students and let them ask you question," he said. "No problem," I replied.

As I was driving in the car yesterday morning after about an hour into my trip to Waco I started musing about the day. Okay, I'll speak at 9:30 and I wonder if we'll have lunch... Wait a ticker. 9:30. 9:30. What day is this? Tuesday. 9:30 on a Tuesday.

That's Truett's Chapel Service.

Somewhere in between Chicago the Musical and Regina Spektor, somewhere in between Austin and Temple, I discerned I would be speaking in Chapel.

Shit.

I started to worry and called my friend JoAnn who works now at Truett in their recruitment office. Hey, JoAnn. So you know how I'm supposed to be speaking to the students at Hispanic Awareness Day? Well, they told me 9:30 and do you guys still have chapel at 9:30 cause if so I haven't prepared anything and well, if you knew of something I'd...

"Yeah girl, I saw you on the program. And there's a song we're doing (she plays the violin in the worship band) where we leave room for testimonials. Maybe that's you."

A testimonial?!

Hanging out with some students and telling them about my trip suddenly became giving a testimony about Chile in chapel. I began to freak out. I was in jeans and cowboy boots for heaven's sake. Would Paul Powell groupies pull me out of the pulpit? Granted I had a dress shirt on and nice jewelry but he was such a jerk so many years ago, who knows what it's digressed to now.

I arrived at the school and met the CBF director. "Yes, you'll give your testimony," he said. "Three or four minutes."

"Okay great. I've uh just gotta run to my friends office to type something up."

"No no, speak from your heart seniorita. About your trip. A lot of people have criticized me for bringing white people to talk today but I want people to hear from your hearts about how we call all work together as one."

"Yeah, that's super. But I'll be right back."

There was no way in hell I was going to stand up in chapel and speak before all my former professors and give my testimony without writing it down. I need my words, my symbols, my metaphors, my language. It tells my heart. I had a very love/hate relationship with Truett as in some of the people there loved me and some of them hated me. There was no way I would be caught dead in front of them in worship unprepared.

My friend Kate and I (she'd come to drive up with me at the crack of dawn praise Jesus) went to my friend JoAnn's office where I told Kate, "Give me ten minutes of silence." "Okay, I'm timing you she said."

I began shaking and I began writing.

"Ten minutes," she said and I kept typing.

Three minutes later I was done. We went to the bathroom (all that pop drinking to stay awake on the trip up!) and then went to sit down in the chapel.

But things had changed since I'd been there last.

There were instruments on stage. Lots of them. More than just a piano and an organ. Cool, I thought. And there were students. Lots of them. In the chapel. Going to worship. What? What happened to my school? And some of them were, *gasp* dressed in shorts.

Worship started with one of my former professors, Dr. Tucker, welcoming everyone to "community gathering" (guess the language of Chapel left with PaPa) and introduced me and the other guest speakers. Dr. Tuck was now dean of the school. "He used to teach here?" one of the students I spoke with during lunch asked. "Yep, I had him for Hebrew. He gave me a B+."

The main speaker who was sitting next to me, a white guy who'd done work for 13 years in Argentina and spoke great Spanish, leaned over to tell me he knew Roger after Dr. Tucker introduced me. After that he paid much greater attention to me than he had when I was just some little girl talking about a mission trip. It's amazing how who you know can affect how you're perceived. Thank God there are men like Roger who advocate for women in ministry and help them succeed.

The song came and the first verse was sung. That was my cue. With my knees still shaking I went to the pulpit and delivered the following testimony...

"I arrived in Temuco Chile in May of this year with ten students and another sponsor who would serve as our translator. When I spoke with the CBF last year about doing overseas missions, they asked me, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “Well, somewhere that Spanish is spoken.” “Oh great,” they replied, “you speak Spanish.” “No,” I said, “I speak French, but most of my college students speak Spanish, so I want to go where they can work and interact with people linguistically.”

I figured I would supervise. Delegate responsibilities, make sure the fence got painted the floors got mopped, I would chaperone, make sure no one snuck out of their room at night to go into town, you understand. And of course, I had Steve, or Estaban to be my translator.

What I discovered was that I had a whole other calling. Yes, I delegated, yes I chaperoned, but I also met people. I met girls who had been court ordered removed from their homes. I encountered their smiles and their giggles and I became a part of their world and they became a part of mine. They crawled into my arms, they sang me their favorite songs, we played games.

With no common language.

You know why? Because God moves beyond language. God moves beyond racial lines. God is bigger than a theology of mission or the structure of a denomination or a carefully planned out mission trip where 10 American students would work for a Girl’s Home. God is a spirit that moves amongst people of all ages, languages and gender.

I expected to accomplish a lot of things while at the girls home. Get a new fence painted, build a study room for the girls and re-do a storage closet. I wanted tangible results and while I did get that, what I also found were friends. Friends and colleagues in the adults who served at the home. Friends in the teenage girls, working to finish school so they could go to college. Friends in the little darlings crying out “Tia Ann, Tia Ann!” I discovered I had been changed.

I’m wearing a bracelet on my arm given by a child in the home to all twelve of the North Americans. When I told the director of the home that the girl had made each bracelet for each of us. She said, “No. Not her. You’ve confused her with someone else. She’s a hoarder, she always takes and stores and keeps her stuff.” And then the director and I realized that this girl who was usually selfish and stingy with her possessions had been changed too and chose to share her love through giving.

I was changed. My students were changed. The employees of the school were changed and the girls who have had such hard lives at such young ages were changed. Not because of what we did or what we said, but because of Who God Is.

Thanks be to God."

I swallowed and returned to my seat on the pew. Kate squeezed my hand. We sang the second verse and the second testimony began. I was done. I had survived.

Thanks be to God.