Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Just Because...

Sometimes I can't think straight. Or I have so much to think about, I can't focus. So I do Sodoku. I have no Sodoku here. (Am I even spelling that right?) Perhaps this will help me fall asleep...

8 Things I'm Passionate About:
1) Jesus
2) the Old Testament
3) social justice
4) the arts
5) equality of the sexes
6) mental health disorders
7) my job
8) my friends

8 Things I Want to do Before I Die:
1) write a book
2) travel to Africa (more central or southern africa)
3) get married and be in a healthy marriage (is that two?)
4) raise children (please note i didn't say Have children)
5) catch up on my scrapbooking
6) be in a professional play or musical
7) preach at a conference
8) go back to France

8 Things I Say Often:
1) Eh?
2) Pop
3) I'm just sayin'.
4) I cannot tell a lie.
5) Rad.
6) That's rude.
7) Pretty princess.
8) You know what I mean?

8 Books I've Read Recently:
1) Watermelon
2) The Trial of Judas Iscariot
3) Doubt
4) Eat, Pray, Live (in the middle of...)
5) Jesus Hopped the A Train
6) New Day Revolution
7) Exodus
8) The Trembling Cup (in the middle of...)

8 Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over:
1) That I Would Be Good
2) Coming Toward
3) On My Own
4) Fire In Babylon
5) Samson
6) Delicate
7) Macy's Day Parade
8) No Need to Argue

8 Things that Attract me to my best friends:
1) laughter
2) honesty and the ability to tell the truth in each other
3) sense of self/ ability to reflect
4) similar interests (music, theatre, spirituality, etc)
5) similar faith
6) care for the world (resourcefulness)
7) intimate knowledge and acceptance
8) non-judgmental

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Good Quotes

Some quotes I've appreciated overhearing this past week...

Presidential Hopeful Hilary Clinton: "I'm returning health care into the hands of the people. I'm giving it to you!"
Voter Scott: "I don't want that responsibility."

A bored republican at a Texas Obama/Clinton debate party initiated this conversation:
Adam: "Look at your wedding pics!"
Amy: "Yeah..."
Adam: "Is this girl reading from the book of 1 Corinthians or Phonecians?"
Amy: "Huh?"
Ann: "Phonecians?!"
Adam: Philistines?
Ann: "You mean Philippians?"
Adam: "Whatever. One of those classic love passages they always read at weddings."

What the...?

Cam: "You know that movie that made everyone cry?"
Frank: "Terms of Endearment?"
Cam: "Yeah."

After reading the grumbling wilderness narratives in Exodus a student said under his breath:

"God should have chosen the Egyptians."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Parable

A puppy followed me home yesterday.

Janie and I were on our morning walk when a yellow puppy came bounding up to us. After some slobbery kisses to my sweatpants and a menacing growl from Janie, the pup began running up ahead of us and then throwing herself on the ground, on her back right in front of Janie. "I'm submitting to you - please like me!" she cried. But Janie, being her normal snobby, disinterested self, walked right past the dog. Stumbling over her too big paws, the puppy would scramble to her feet, bound down the sidewalk and throw herself on the ground again. A good ten times this happened! I got the giggles. Finally the pup conceeded that she would be getting no love from janie and contented herself to scamper alongside us ALL THE WAY BACK TO MY HOUSE.

"Whatchu doin' wid dat dog?" my neighbors jeered.

"It's following me - I'm not sure where it came from. What should I do?"

"Go home and name it! Youse got yerself a new dog."


So I took the little thing home and put in it the back yard, gave it water, and gave myself a pep talk. "You cannot keep this puppy, Ann. Puppies have too much energy and have to be potty trained. You don't have time for that."

Janie picked up her toy football, took it to the puppy and set it down in front of her. I about died.

So I put the leash on the puppy and began a walk around the neighborhood, knocking on doors. "Do you recognize this dog?"

No luck.

We returned home and I fed the puppy and pet her and left her and Janie outside to play while Clarence's dog, Bandit, barked mercilessly through the fence. The dirt is always dirtier in some other dog's backyard.

I'm pretty sure the puppy slept most of the night (I can't be sure, I had in my super-duper ear plugs). But when I awoke in the morning, the banging on the doggie door (which I had locked) was unnerving to say the very least. Not to mention that getting in and out of the backyard was quite a task with two hyper dogs egging each other on underneith. Fed, pet and doted on, I left the energetic children in the backyard.

When I came home at lunch, the puppy practically ate the sleeves off my arms and covered my jeans with dirty paw prints. I loved on her anyway but with my legs still throbbing from the morning's puppy scratches, I threw the football to try and get her away from me. She just looked at me with big eyes while Janie took off across the yard, retrieving the toy and triumphantly bringing it back to me. "See, I'm your dog remember? Do you still love me? Remember me. I can fetch! Come on! Love me! Look at me!" It was precious but depressing. Never ask your children to compete at the same task.

After lunch, I headed out the door with Puppy while Janie whimpered from the backyard. I tried to get the leash on her but this proved to be quite a task. She's a rowdy little thing and I couldn't get her to sit still long enough to get the dang leash on.

"Raising children's hard ain't it?" Clarence called from across the bushes. "You named your new dog yet?"

"Puppy, Clarence. The dog's name is Puppy. And it's not my dog. I can't handle another dog."

He shook his head and smiled. Puppy and I started down the block.

"Hey y'all," I called out to some children on Bunche and crossed into the yard where the 11 year olds were scattered, having returned from school and caught in the space between television/isolation and playing outside/community, greeting family/doing homework and greeting the sticks and rocks on the ground/processing the day as only a child can do. I digress. "Y'all recognize this dog."

"Yeah, das Baby D's dog."

"Can you show me where Baby D lives?"

"Hey show her where Baby D lives. Das his dog."

"Ah know dat dog. It got big!"

"If ah found dat dog... I'da kep it!"

"Yeah we'll show ya," two boys finally agreed. "Come on Princess," they spoke to the dog like an old friend.

Princess? Puppy's name is princess? That's a horrible name for this dog. She has way too much energy and gumption to be called Princess. Not my dog though.

We arrived at a house that i had knocked on yesterday but received no response. A little boy named Timothy answered the door.

"Is this your dog hon?" I asked timidly. Had I really found it's owner?

"Yeah, das ma brother's dog."

"Are you parents home?" I just wanted to be sure it was really their dog.

"Yeah, hold on."

He left the doorway and I peered through the opening into a living room with mattresses on the floor, a tv against the wall and everything you can imagine littering the beds and floor area. There was barely room to walk. There were cracks in the walls and giant holes where an elbow or table edge had plastered through the plaster.

A young man came out and agreed that indeed, this was his nephew's dog. He thanked me and I sort of lingered, but then slowly began backing away. "You're welcome. You know I think her collar's too tight," I cautioned. "Um, it's tied with a shoelace and i really think that should be cut off and loosened." No one was listening to me. The dog had run into the neighbor's yard. "Okay, well. Cool. Great then. I'll see ya." I walked back towards my house. I turned to glance one more time at Puppy who was prancing around the yard trying to be corralled unsuccessfully by the children.

I walked a few more yards and felt my stomach drop and my head spin a little, a feeling all too familiar to me over the past few weeks. "Don't cry, Ann. What is up with you? It's a dog. And it's not your dog."

But it was given to me to care for for two days. For two days I fed it and loved it and nurtured it and provided for it and then I handed it back over to it's owners, to the people who dictate it's life, to it's world, and...

"It's a parable," my co-worker Kevin said. We had been discussing the great gift and the tenacity of being ministers, of working with youth and college kids and young adults.

"Yes," I realized. I invest in these people that I love. I feed them and encourage them and teach them and listen to them and love them and pray that somehow in the little time I've got, I make a difference. And then I hand them back to school, college, work, divorces, illnesses, car wrecks, suicides, felonies, drugs, alcohol, greed, addictions, perfectionism... and I pray that when they get back into their crazy homes that they will remember their real Home and that they will make it through.

And I teared up again. At a parable. At a dog and a youth and a college student and an inability to detach.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I got my first sunburn of 2008 on Friday, February 8, when I was weeding my cactii garden.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

This is the world we live in. For everything beautiful to arise, something else must die. Why is it this way? I kill the weeds so the cacti will grow and look beautiful in my front yard garden. I kill so more life will be recogized, will flourish and be more fully beautiful...

My day off was great. Gardening, shopping, cleaning, hanging out, dinner... a phone call. and then it became another unpredictable day. i say another, because such days come frequently enough to be "another" but are so unexpected that they deserve the label of unpredictable. Another, Unpredictable, Day.

And so I pray for healing, fidelity, honesty, humility, courage, discernment and all the other assets one would want when experiencing what I witnessed tonight. and hopefully something will die, and something more beautiful will be reborn.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ash Wednesday Contemplation

"Tonight we will come and have the ashes of last year’s celebratory palms burned to symbolize the joy that is departed and the suffering that will ensue imposed on our foreheads, and on our lives. The ashes symbolize our confession that from ashes we have come and to ashes we will one day return. In humility, we surrender to this Lenten season and we journey with Christ in his suffering all the way to the cross. This is lent. It is not about chocolate or beads or fish on Fridays, it is about suffering.

Suffering’s not that difficult, I’ve actually got suffering down quite well, thank you – you may say. And I grant you, this world offers its unfair share of hardships under which we all labor, but in choosing to suffer alongside Christ, we often choose to deprive ourselves of something – you know the routine. We give up something and pretend the loss of caffeine or alcohol or television is actual suffering.

But choosing to suffer alongside Christ as we journey to the Christ means choosing to give up something else if we reflect closely. Suffering requires giving up our pride. Suffering requires admitting our sin. And that may be the hardest sacrifice we make: admitting we are wrong and giving up our sin.

At the front of the pews is a pile of leaves. Deadened by the winter winds and cold, these once green leaves have dried and fallen from their life source. They were found lying beneath their origin. And so does our sin cripple and diminish us until we are crusty, dull colored replicas of what we originally were created to be. We will each take a leaf.

And then we will bring that leaf to the front table. We will write our sin in permanent marker on it. We will acknowledge it in our lives and then we get rid of it. We will take the dead leaf with our sin written on it and we will crumple it into the bowl. For just as leaves die and fall from their source, so does their decomposition eventually nourish the tree to bring new life.

We choose a sin. We give it a name and then we give it away. We crumple it and we choose to walk away. And though sin is dangerous and lures us back time and time again, for this time, we acknowledge our weakness and we walk away. We humble ourselves, confess our sin and choose to walk with Christ to the cross where indeed, soon enough, new life will rise again.


Last night, before we received the ashes, we each took a dried up leaf, confessed a sin by writing it on the leaf in permanent marker, and crumbled it in our palms letting it fall into a clear bowl set on a black-clothed table underneath the cross. I was the first to go forward after giving the above introduction. I was startled by how loud the leaves crunched in the silent sanctuary with all eyes on my back. Did they wonder what I wrote? Were they guessing, judging me, estimating my confession? Crunch, crackle. The dismantled leaf tumbled into the empty bowl. I wiped my hands on my jeans and returned to my seat, a little overwhelmed. How would I move from the symbolic decomposition of my sin-filled leaf to the true repentance and turning from sin in my own life? I sat down and exhaled.

It took a second, as most communal activities do, and then people crowded patiently into line, anxious for their leaf, ready to confess their chosen sin and let it go. Old women, who couldn't walk by themselves, scuffled up front with their dead leaves. Youth, always quick to participate and bright enough to grasp the symbolism, picked up the markers resolutely. Those who would criticize even doing a "catholic" service wrote on the leaves. Pristine business partners crumpled the dead leaves to dust between their manicured hands. Mothers and daughters, the sick and the well, all lined up for the leaves, and most even lined up for the ashes.

After the service, I picked up the bowl of broken leaves to dispose of them. It was all I could do to keep from spying into the dusty remains to piece together leaf fragments and sin confessed. We are forever voyeurs, fascinated by evil. I didn't, though. I sighed knowing my own sin was enough to keep me busy and dumped the leaves into a trash bag.

Ash Wednesday. From dust you have come and to dust you shall return. 39 days to go.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Journey to the cross...

Ash Wednesday.

I intended to celebrate Fat Tuesday in the usual debaucherous fashion, but alas, I fell asleep at 9:30pm. So Ash Wednesday rolled around without the chimes of glasses chunked together or gluttonous feasts being gulped down.

Truthfully, I haven't decided what exactly to give up anyway. I have decided that it would be a good spiritual discipline to write every day, so be prepared :) Either in my journal or on my blog I need to more in tune with where I am spirtually and emotionally and writing will help me do this.

I also confessed to myself that all I really want to do is walk with people to the cross. With all the pain and lamentations that have risen up in my church community over the past two weeks, that seems like the best thing I can offer God... to walk with God's people, to make a difference simply by being.

I'm reminded of this poem that I have taped to the front of my computer at work, Tell Me... by Mary Oliver.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean --
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth in stead of up and down --
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Journey to the cross.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Daisy Shadows

while filing my taxes from 2006 into my already overstuffed file cabinet, i became frustrated with my tendency to save EVERYTHING and began to clean house. after recycling probably 200 pages of notes from classes in college that i cared nothing about then and even less about now (you know those classes they force you to take, not the beautiful ones like Faulkner and Minority Literature), I ran across a folder full of poems I've written over the years.

keep in mind that i quit writing poetry probably three years ago and even by then, the poems were few and far between. the glory years were in college when an off and on three year relationship with a guy provided excellent material for sad bastard poems.

so, at the risk of being ridiculous and nostalgic, here's a poem from 2001 (post-college)...

When all noise has gone to sleep
Save the ringing in my ears
Daisy shadows on the wall
And the candle that cannot tell all
Attract attention from the bed.

I remember last night when I
Asked if you wanted me to leave,
To go, and
You answered no,
And momentarily something
Shivered inside with your
Acceptance of me
And I realized I was pleased, that I
Wanted to stay and that you had
Said more than just no,
You didn't want me to go.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

NBC Atlanta Observations

my roommate at the New Baptist Covenant gave a short synopsis in numbers the first night of the NBC. I found it helpful and quick, so i'm re=posting it with my own answers. truth be told, i'm really tired, depressed and feeling guilty about not blogging. So this is my quick-fix way of blogging. love to all anyway...

"the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant by the numbers,"

MLK references by major speakers: 9 day one (but stay tuned to Tx in Africa for the full count)

Exes run into: 1

Number of times semi-acosted by members of the Secret Service who were escorting Jimmy Carter through: none - i wish i'd been accosted by Carter's secret service. that means i would have perhaps been able to shake his hand. i was about 20 rows behind him for one of the sessions though and it was awesome!

Level of fanhood of Al Gore: higher than before

Total number of sermons that Tony Campolo still has: 1 (according to Tx in Africa)
Quality of Tony Campolo's one sermon: skipped it to sleep in - knew i had heard it before :)

Best sermon: aw man... um... james forbes/joel gregory/charles adams - that's cheating, i know.
New hero: Julie Pennington Russell - i want to be her someday - except i want to be me being her.
Number of times I grabbed my neighbor's arm and whispered, "Can you believe we're about to hear Clinton? Where IS he!?": 3
Number of times I called Jimmy Carter "cute": innumerable

Number of welcoming and affirming Baptist groups allowed to sponsor the NBC: 0
Number of welcoming and affirming Baptist groups that have a booth at the NBC: 1
Number of buttons I wore to protest the welcoming and affirming Baptist groups not being allowed to sponsor the NBC: 1 (thank you Alan)
Number of buttons I had supporting welcoming and affirming Baptist groups: 2

Most ridiculously over-the-top displays in the entryway to the plenary hall that can apparently be bought when your president plans the event: Mercer University. (I didn't even find Truett's booth until the last day!)

Number of times our alarm clock made a funny, inexplicable sound all night long every hour on the half hour: 6
Amount of REM sleep I got, even with earplugs: 0 - plenty of nightmares though

Parts of my life from which I have run into people associated with those times and places: Truett, William Jewell, Mosaic, Current, IME, SWBYC, Austin, CBF...

So that's her quiz with some of my answers. It was such a beautiful experience. I will try to write more when I'm feeling better. Unity is amazing.

And these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.