Thursday, April 30, 2009

Life With Shepherds and Thieves

Text: John 10:10-18... Sermon at Beresheth

Thieves do not break into your house or deceive you as an attempt to bring you life. Thieves by their nature are deceptive, intentionally conspicuous and they come to steal and deplete, never to give or refill.

Otherwise we’d call them saints or benefactors or maybe Santa clause, but as it now stands, those who take what is not theirs and lie about facts and break into our homes are called thieves, bandits or bad guys.

The only exception to this rule is Robin Hood, but he stole to give to the poor which may put him in a category all of his own.

Kind of like Jesus.

Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life.” And while saints bring food to the poor and benefactors bring money to the artists and Santa Claus brings presents to children, Jesus brings life.


The thieves will compete for you he warns, but don’t let them win. Only with me as your shepherd will life ever be satisfying, law ever bring you freedom or love ever redeem you. Those who lie to you and manipulate you and claim to know what’s best for you have intentions of stealing what they can from you and leaving you alone. But the good shepherd, the good shepherd always watches out for his sheep. He seeks out the lost and He carries the lame. And He’s got sheep all over the place… don’t think you’re the only ones, but He is the only shepherd and it’s time to enter by his gate.

It’s time to play by his rules.

And his rule is… live life abundantly.

During Lent some common themes are wilderness, confession, abandonment, etc. During Eastertide some themes might be baptism, hope and life as we’ve been studying here in Beresheth. But what does it mean to have life?

I mean, technically we’re all living. We’re breathing, blood is coursing, hearts are pumping, brains are functioning, we’re alive. But the way Jesus describes it, we may not all be living. At least not abundantly.

So what does it mean to choose life?

You heard earlier some of Frederick Buechner’s thoughts on the subject.

You’re alive if you cry and can spot beauty and can really listen to others.

But how do you get to that point? How do you get to the point of choosing life when the world offers you death on a silver platter? And I mean really, what else is lust and greed and gluttony and adultery and war and abuse and porn and drunkenness other than death? Death standing up or sitting down or maybe passed out on the floor. These are the things the liars offer us and tell us will fill us up, end the emptiness, heal the pain, ease the burden, make us rich, make us happy, make us famous, make us mad.

Make us crazy.

Because when we search and search and search and can’t find something or someone, we go crazy.

I couldn’t find my passport. I’m taking my college kids to Chile in 21 days and I couldn’t find my passport. I looked everywhere… My desk, my file cabinet, my receipts folder, last years tax file folder, this year’s tax file folder, my warranty’s and will’s briefcase, my underwear drawer, everywhere.

In the meantime I found some old love letters, $26 and a picture of my sisters from about 7 years ago but none of these things were what I was searching for, I needed my passport.

“Help!” I screamed into an empty house. Well, a house full of stuff, but not any person, not anything that could help me out of the mess I was in.

“Someone help me.”

I sat on the couch, I stood up. I got a glass of water, I grabbed a beer. I walked through all the rooms. I looked out the window. I paced, I breathed, I meditated. Where was the damn passport? And why wouldn’t anyone help me? “God, what I wouldn’t give for a boyfriend or a mom or a roommate or anyone right now.” I was going crazy.


I found my passport. It was in the bottom of my stationary drawer in the back bedroom.

Searching for life where we won’t find it will make us crazy.

And Jesus Christ came and died for all the craziness in our lives and now it’s time to walk in the newness of LIFE.

So how do we choose life?

I should have asked my therapist this week. She might have had some good advice for me. And some of us need all the advice we can get. Sometimes it’s hard hearing the shepherd’s voice, especially when everyone else is screaming so loudly at you. You’re not good enough! You’re standards are too high! You can’t do that! I want you! I need you! You’re not doing enough! Try harder! Be better! We’re doomed! It’s hopeless! You’re hopeless!

Whatever words you hear the plethora of voices shouting at you, our Shepherd’s voice is the quiet one that says, I love you. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. I am the way the truth and the life. Father forgive them. Male and female they were created in the image of God. I have come that they might live life abundantly. These are the words of the Good Shepherd, the one who whispers life into our ears, into our hearts, breathing into our very being.

I know it’s hard to choose life amidst all the death, but it’s time to do so. It’s Eastertide. And we owe it to ourselves, to our Shepherd, to choose the life given us, given for us.

We could spend weeks discussing how to hear God’s voice. We could go to spiritual retreats. Or take a whole day off and sit in silence and meditation. We could read our Bible more, go to Sunday school, attend lectures and maybe even Midweek Moorings. We could volunteer and live with the hurting children of God. We could donate money instead of indulging ourselves. We could spend ages and ages talking and discussing and trying to things, but that too might just be folly because Jesus didn’t say he came to give us stuff to DO abundantly, he came so we can live abundantly.

Live abundantly. With an attitude of gratefulness, humility an excitement that Life has come. It came in a person. Not in a theory, not in a thief, not in you or me. But you and I inherited it. And that shepherd walks behind us and beside us and before us and whispers, life… life.

Love God, Embrace Beauty and Live Life to the Fullest.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Look Who's OCD... and it's not me.

So I need to preface this blog with a disclaimer... if you are inclined to ever say, "type-casting" or "like mother like daughter" or "that's the pot calling the kettle black," then please don't read any further.

Cause Potter has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I kid you not.

It was his yearly checkup so we went to get his shots from our favorite vet, Dr. B. Just for safety's sake, I pointed out Potter's bald spot on his lower abdomen. I figured he'd gotten into some duct tape on one of his journeys into the great outdoors that is my neighbor's yard. But the doc said it's either mites or obsessive grooming (god knows he didn't get that from me). However, after a scraping of the belly, Dr. B ruled out mites and suggested he might suffer from OCD.


And any other assortment of appropriate acronyms.

It's stress, Dr. B suggested and offered to prescribe my cat antidepressants. ANTIDEPRESSANTS. "Don't bother, I've got plenty in the cabinet," I wanted to say, but refrained. Instead, I argued: Potter's the happiest one in the house! How could he be stressed? So Dr. B offered to check out a fecal sample just in case it is mites (and not a mental disorder) and the mites are hiding.

Even worse. I should have kept my mouth shut.

"Can you get a fecal sample?"
"Have you ever followed an indoor/outdoor cat around all day? No. I cannot."
"Then shut him in a closed off room with a litter box."
Riiight. Cause that won't get my carpet ripped up and my shoes peed on.

Then I thought of another solution. I'd change the litter in the litter box. I rarely do that because they're indoor/outdoor cats and often take care of business where it recycles naturally. They only really "go" inside except when it's raining. And I'm convinced that changing the litter is for Potter like hearing stories of waterfalls and gushing rivers is to a child in a car. So, once home, I grabbed the scooper and began scooping. Then I waited. And before the dust from the litter even settled, Potter was in the litter box having a little moment. Unfortunately the moment only produced urine. But as he covered it up with his paws pushing the litter, he circled around once again and my hope was rekindled. Sure enough the squatted and hunched and a little squeek came out of his mouth.

I scooped the poop before he had a chance to cover it and closed in it the vet's container.

One cat down and one to go. My truly troubled cat is actually the opposite of Potter, he's essentially quit grooming himself. He has huge knots in his fur that he can't get out and I can't get out, and they keep growing and spreading, knotting his fur.

"Lion's Cut," Dr. B said. "Just do it."

And speaking of licking, or not licking as the case may be, I asked our favorite vet (i've practically put his kids through college, I'm sure), "Is it normal for dogs to lick things?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like... the bed. Or the couch. For long periods of time."
"The same spot or multiple spots?"
"Oh, different places."
"He licks the bed and the couch. He licks cloth, then."
"Uh huh."
"No, that's not normal."

Of course it isn't. But Dr. B assured me that neither does it mean she's ill. "Try telling her NO and then handing her a rawhide."

Yes, okay, I'll give it a shot. Let me know what you find out about my OCD cat's fecal sample and I'll bring Satan's Little Helper in for his Lion's Cut tomorrow.

Wait til my therapist hears about this...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

31 and counting...

Surely you knew it was coming. Although I admit, I've only given you 26 days to shop, my bad...

- Real Cowboy boots!! (um... i'm not sure how to go about getting these...)
- red iPod nano armband $29
- Gift Certificate to Parts and Labour, my favorite store in Austin to buy shirts and jewelry! located on South Congress
- Bamboo Bird Wind Chime $14 or the Tree of Life Wind Chime $44 to hang outside my house from Ten Thousand Villages located on South Congress
- Kaiku Shower Curtain $29.95 (mom suggested it might be time to re-do my bathroom decor)...
- Fl-owl-er Power Wallet $27.99
- Gift Certificate to Anthropologie an awesome store I can't afford :) located on 6th and Lamar
- candles that smell good like Fleurs D'Oranger (Orange Flower Blossoms) by Cote Bastide
- Gift Certificate to Big Red Sun located on Caesar Chavez to buy flowers and cactii :)
- Gift Certificate to Home Depotso I can continue work on my backyard (blocks around tree, stepping stones, grass, wood for deck, etc.)
- Some new jeans... not sure what size... gotten bigger as I've gotten older :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Risen to Walk In the Newness of Life: Thursday's Beresheth Sermon

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” We practiced on each other in a swimming pool. Because I was one of the smallest “ministers” in my seminary class, I had to baptize the biggest man there. Fortunately he was my best friend so if I dropped him in the water, I wouldn’t be too mortified and embarrassed; although he might have dunked me in retaliation. “Tell your baptizee to bend their knees and you’ll lean them back. As long as you both do this, you’ll be fine…”

Four years later, Roger Paynter and I practiced again, this time focusing on the theology of the baptism. I was to perform my first baptism except not in a swimming pool and not on my best friend. “You will take her under the water and say, ‘Buried with Christ.’ And as you bring her up out of the water you will say, ‘Risen to walk in the newness of life,’” Roger explained. At that point in my faith, I began to really internalize what it meant to live resurrected. I began to understand why baptisms were often performed on Easter. And in the light of Easter, I began to understand Lent.

Two years before I performed my first baptism and one year after I practiced in a swimming pool, my Waco pastor and friend passed away preparing to baptize a parishioner one Sunday morning. There was a problem with the baptistery’s pool heater and the water was charged and as soon as Kyle touched something outside that baptismal pool, he became the road for the current to travel and his own road stopped short.

At a baptism.

So I have mixed feelings about baptism: it’s amazing but it’s very scary. Then again, most of us do have mixed emotions when it comes to baptism. While there are those who immediately run and fall at the feet of Jesus begging to be healed, while there are those to whom faith comes easily, most of us are Nicodemus who come to chat with Jesus in the concealed darkness of the midnight hour, most of us are the rich young ruler who can’t let go of his possessions, most of us are Thomas who doubt what God had done, most of us are the older son, lamenting the party being thrown for the prodigal little brother. We like our lives and we like ourselves, and pride most always keeps us from surrendering to God.

And in that way, pride does come before the fall because when we fall back into those baptismal waters we put to death, we say goodbye, to ourselves, to our hopelessness, to our giftedness, to our self-securities because none of those things matter or will get us anywhere while sin reigns in our lives. We have to let go of ourselves before we can let God perform a miracle.

While it may be considered just a symbol, in baptism, we get the miracle of resurrection.

I love Easter for that reason. The wilderness wanderings of Lent and Holy Week, the disciplines, the dying, it’s so very dark, but on Easter, all that has died is brought back to life not dark and deafening as it was before, but clean and new. Like Jesus, raised from the grave, death isn’t going to win in our lives. Our sin and our sorrow aren’t going to get the last word if we’ve committed to follow Christ. Rather, we experience resurrection… here and now…

I remember my own baptism. I barely remember the robe and the dressing room and wading into the baptistery. But when I came up out of the water I’ll never forget how I felt. Although I was only nine, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my body, lifted off my shoulders. As I came up out of the water gasping for breath, I got it. Breathe enough to last a lifetime and then some. I felt relief and probably even joy although until that point, happiness was all I’d ever really known as a kid.

However, twenty years later I made another discovery.

While nostalgically perusing my baby album one afternoon, reading things my mom had recorded, looking at strands of hair from my first trip to the salon, I stumbled upon a certificate I had never noticed before.

I called my mom completely flabbergasted, "I was baptized as an infant?!"

But my mom didn’t remember that ever happening and neither did my father or grandma whose church actually recorded the baptism.

"Well there's a certificate in my baby book that says otherwise," I informed them all, indignant. "It has a minister's name and my name and the date. And it's glued in my baby book!"

Now, it should be noted that I have no problem with infant baptism. It is not a practice of my denomination, nor is it my preference for the baptism of a believer, but I understand what it symbolizes theologically and respect the tradition. In face, Frederick Buechner says this about Baptism, “Baptism consists of getting dunked or sprinkled. Which technique is used matters about as much as whether you pray kneeling or standing on your head. Dunking is a better symbol, however. Going under symbolizes the end of everything about your life that is less than human. Coming up again symbolizes the beginning in you of something strange and new and hopeful. You can breathe again.”

Buried in Christ. Born to walk in the newness of life.

He continues, “Question: How about infant baptism? Should you wait until the child grows up enough to know what’s going on? Answer: if you don’t think there is as much of the less-than-human in an infant as there is in anybody else, you have lost touch with reality. When it comes to the forgiving and transforming love of God,” Buechner writes, “one wonders if the six-week-old screecher knows all that much less than the archbishop of Canterbury about what’s going on.”

Buechner sure has a way with words. But I'm a Baptist minister and when I found that certificate signed and sealed in my baby book, I felt that knowing whether or not I was baptized as an infant and then re-baptized as a nine year old was fairly critical to my story. I mean, it’s my job to tell my story and encourage others to do the same in which case it becomes fairly critical for me to know my story...

So I guess part of my Christian story is that at one time, my family thought it was important enough to commit their first-born daughter to the community of Christ, and the covenant occurred. . . . It’s just that no one remembers it. ☺

My grandpa has almost the opposite experience. He was baptized at age 90. One Sunday I returned to my hometown where most of my family still lives. I preached at my home church and my grandparents came over to hear me. That Sunday after church my grandpa announced to my grandmother, “I want to be baptized.” And even though my grandpa is a lifelong member of the Methodist church, he’s also a demanding old man, set in his ways. So if that Methodist wants to receive a believer’s baptism, he’s gonna get one. Sure enough, several months later, he was the first in line, waiting in the baptistery as the curtains opened with my mother standing behind him to help escort her feeble father out afterwards. “Buried in Christ. Risen to walk in the newness of life.” As the minister gingerly and quickly pulled my grandpa out of the water my grandfather exclaimed, “Hallelujah!” and everyone in the congregation laughed, the joy contagious. That was the same Sunday I performed my first baptism. I doubt either of us will ever forget that day.

The choice I made as a nine year old child, confessing to my pastor that I loved God and wanted to be with God forever, is my first memory of the significance of baptism. The water that washed over me (and all other believers) as I was submerged, dying to myself and was then raised from, resurrected, into a new life with Jesus Christ remains the most special and significant water I will ever enter. No wonder early Christians saved all their baptisms to be performed on Easter Sunday. After 40 days of fasting and repenting and realizing their depravity, they let go of the depressing nature of carrying it alone and gave themselves over to the freedom of belonging to Christ. They were washed clean. Resurrected in the water. And though the Hydrogen and Oxygen compound is at it's most basic description just elements and numbers, it is a memory in each of us that is charged with symbolism, tradition and yes, something even magical. I left that pool of water 21 years ago changed – lighter and freer, and even my nine-year-old heart and mind knew it.

And so we enter into Eastertide: the period in the church calendar after Lent and Easter. We practice living daily what it means to be resurrected people: not perfect, and not without pain, but also not alone. We are accompanied by Christ, by one who became like us and went before us and resurrects us into new life with him every day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Spade's a Spade and Tea is Tea

One of the most ridiculous characteristics of many Texans is their pride over their supposed ability to "secede from the Union." Several people informed me of this notable fact when I moved to this state over 8 years ago. "Really?" I thought. "Cause it might be a brilliant move to secede from the frickin' United States of America. What have I gotten myself into?"


But two days ago, if you missed it on the news, "tea parties" were held on the lawn of the Capitol and people screamed "Secede" at Govenor Perry as he arrived.

Puh lease.

Here to respond to these events more academically is Statesman columnist, Jody Seaborn...

"There are good reasons to be concerned about the huge deficits that have been run up the past few decades and the enormous debt that we have accumulated as a result. We should absolutely debate how much government we want and how to pay for it, but we must also stop pretending that we can have for free whatever size government we decide we want to have. One thing I wanted to ask Wednesday’s protesters was, Where were you when Dick Cheney was saying that deficits don’t matter? Or when the vast majority of our current $11.2 trillion federal debt was created during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush? (Presidents Carter and Clinton actually lowered the federal debt as a percentage of GDP; Reagan-Bush and Bush significantly increased it.) So, a moment of honest self-reflection, please: Is it government spending that bothers you, or government spending by Obama and a Democratic Congress?"

Chill out Texas. Stop being hypocrites. Use your brains for something other than idiocy. And for once try some Yogi Tea Bedtime *Calm* for your mind... and try waking up in the 21st Century where we play like adults by voting and paying taxes and yes, even protesting. But not with threats of "I'm not playing with you anymore!" We're not in the third grade. You can't just threaten to not invite Obama or America to your birthday party and expect to get everything your way. Gah! Okay, I'm done. I may go have some Yogi Tea myself...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"It Is I and It is We" Wed Holy Week Sermon

Scripture: John 13:20-31; Isaiah 50:4-9 and Hebrews 12: 1-3

Lent it hard.

Truth be told, I’ve spent this year and last year avoiding Lent. Last year I experienced so much grief and sadness, (mostly the pain experienced by people around me) that killing God too seemed like it just might do me in. This year things are going well, I’m happy, I’m working hard, life is good… so I don’t want to enter into darkness for fear it will overpower the light and I won’t re-emerge again. I fear this because once you’ve seen the darkness… the “darkness that can be felt” like Exodus 10:21 describes, you know it’s danger. The dark is always dangerous which is I suppose why Paul admonishes us to walk in the light…

And yet Lent, and specifically holy week, is designed to take us into the darkness. Into the depths of despair. Intentionally.

Some churches get real kicks out of darkness, specifically if it includes the gnashing of teeth. Hellfire and damnation is meant to scare the evil out of you. Unfortunately the sin they’re often trying to eradicate is drinkin’ beer, playing cards and going dancing on Saturday nights. And as if the threat of hell wasn’t bad enough such communities specialize in guilt, fear and self-loathing, and making this life a living hell too.

Fortunately I don’t ascribe to such theology.

Unfortunately, because I do embrace a theology of hope and grace, when my religious community does ask me to enter with them into intentional darkness, it can be even more terrifying than hellfire and brimstone. You see, it’s not the gnashing of teeth I’m afraid of… it’s myself.

Those other religions portray God as a wrathful, vengeful God. A “hater” as my teenage friends might say. But I don’t think an angry, spiteful God would come to earth, impoverish himself and then allow his enemies and even his friends to nail him to a cross or submit himself to a tortuous death. If God’s in the game of winning at all costs and gloating in the process, those were the wrong cards to play.

But this isn’t a game. This isn’t about who gets in and who doesn’t. Who manages to please rather than piss off the Holy One.

It’s a relationship.

Ched Myers writes “Reconciliation is not something accomplished by Christ for God, nor inflicted on Christ by God, but forged by God through Christ. This wreaks havoc on the medieval (but still widespread) doctrine that Christ's death functions to placate an angry or offended deity. Rather, the ‘crucified God’ represents a fundamentally restorative initiative by the Divine victim towards the human offender.”

This is about God who became a man… and that man wants a living relationship with the men and women and children of this world.

While the passage we read today in John describes Judas as dipping his hand in the common cup and being called out by Christ as one who will deny him, as Roger noted on Sunday, in the Mark passage no one is named and thus all the disciples in the story are indicted as falling short, as denying Christ. We know what happens to Peter. We know about Thomas’ doubts. And so Roger concluded, like the disciples, we’ve all had our hand in the goblet of blood, on the plate on bread and we’re all now sitting in darkness asking, “Is it I Lord… Jesus? Is it I?”

And the answer is yes. Yes it is you. Yes, you are Judas who sells Christ to the highest bidder every time you gripe about paying your taxes or choose comfort over charity or a business promotion over your family or a raise to the detriment of your employee’s health benefits. Every time you render to Caesar what is God’s the answer to “Is it I” is yes.

Yes it is you, Peter, denying Christ three times before the crack of dawn. Every time you check the “spiritual but not religious” for fear of being misunderstood as a Christian. Every time you fail to stand up for Christ’s principles in the business room or decline to defend Christianity when the media portrays it as a war-loving, gay-hating circus. Every time the government tries to put our ancient Genesis text into the public classroom instead of into the hands of religious communities we are Peter, and we say, nah, it isn’t ours. You can have it. I don’t belong to him. We say it all the time with our silence and with our vehement admissions. And then the cock crows.

Yes it is you, Thomas who refuses to believe until you’re proven wrong. Yes it is you every time you write off the miracles of God as folklore. Every time you dismiss the Bible as myth. Every time you choose the easy way out instead of the hard work of learning from God and the people around you, you are doubting Thomas. Every time you vote no to the church budget that’s too big, lose hope because the building that needs so much work, turn away from the person who’s screwed up too many times. Every time you need proof of change, you dip your hand in the cup.

Yes, it is you. And yes it is me. And yes, it is all of us.

All of us. They’re all around us, Hebrews says. All the saints who were also the Judases and Peters and Thomases and thieves and Pharisees and Politicians… they’re all around us. All these faithful and not always faithful men and women of the Bible, men and women from our history books, people we looked up to… they made mistakes too. They too ate of the bread and drank of the wine and ended up denying Christ. The saints are always the sinners which is what makes God so good. God died so humanity could experience reconciliation, resurrection. The tricky part is always coming to peace with the fact that peace on Christ does not always mean peaceful living. Suffering and pain and challenges will always be with us… just as they were with our forefathers and mothers: the Martin Luthers, the Martin Luther Kings, the Mother Theresas, the Lottie Moons, the Volma Overtons and the Glenn McLaughlins… and when you feel the darkness of holy week, when you feel the suffering and the abandonment of the cross take heart… the saints are all around us!

And take heart because they too raised their hand and asked, Is it I, Lord?

And the answer was yes for them too.

In Isaiah we read about perseverance of the faithful. Perseverance is a gift from God given to all believers even and because they have had their hand in the common cup…
The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples,

That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word 

I love that line. And I can list, just as you did earlier in the service, the saints that God has put in my life to help me through the most difficult of times. They too sustain me with a word.

You have to go through Lent to get to Easter. Good Friday dies before Sunday raises. You have to enter the darkness to end up in the light. We all do.

But don’t be afraid! So many have gone before you and truly they are all around you too! Look up, Rafiki tells Simba in the children’s movie, The Lion King. See all those stars? Those are all the kings who have gone before you and are with you now. What beautiful imagery. We too have our cloud of witnesses, so take heart!

No more giving up! Go into the darkness, but don’t give up. Turn around. Turn around. See the darkness, feel it even. Repent and drink of the cup again, taste the bread again and start walking toward the light. Resurrection is coming. Hope is just around the corner! Four more days my friends, four more days! And while I can’t put an hour or date for when you will escape from the darkness in your life, I promise, healing IS coming. It is coming. It is right around the corner and though you may feel scared or abandoned or guilty, nail those feelings to the cross of Good Friday and they will go down with you and on Easter morning you will be raised to new life in Christ. Healing has already arrived. Not in a bloody cross, an angry God, a wimpy prophet, but in an empty tomb, a living body, a forgiven community. Peter and Thomas and Mary and Paul went before us… Saint Augustine went before us… Annie Armstrong went before us… Jerry Keesee went before us… but they are with us still, cheering us on to Easter.

You are not alone, my friends. You are not alone.

But you are forgiven, accompanied by Christ and the great cloud of witnesses and together we will stand one day before the throne of God and hold out our wine-stained hands and our crumb-dirtied fingers and Christ will say, thank God you drank of my cup and ate of my plate. Well done, my good and faithful servants. And welcome home.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

My Friends Are Famous

Artist, Aaron Sacco is featured in this article about his new work that you've probably seen on TV. Check out his blog of art here. Congrats, Ren!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Reinventing Dating.

13 men. I've been on 15 dates with 13 different men over the past month or two. Once I even had three dates in one day.

That's not as much in person as it is on paper.

And that's not counting all the ones I've been "chatting" with in "open communication" or all the blasted questions I've answered getting to said open communication.

See, my "good friend," Mel, signed me up for eHarmony one night when we were watching Sex in the City and I was complaining about men.

"Here Ann, I've got you started. Here's your username and password and now you just need to finish answering the questions. I've gotten as far as I can..."

I grimaced and glared at her.

But since she's getting married and I'm not, I thought well, perhaps she knows what she's doing so I started answering the questions.

Pick three adjectives your friends would use to describe you.
Are you ever attracted to people of the same sex?
Choose the best word to describe how you communicate when you're angry...

I throw the computer on the ground and curse my friend for signing me up for an online dating program?

No, I guess not. So AN HOUR AND A HALF later I'd finally answered all those dang questions and I'll be damned if eHarmony didn't accept me. "Here are your new matches," they wrote me and four men popped up on the screen.

"Well, one little look can't hurt..."

$120, fifteen dates and thirteen men later, I'm in dating heaven... or hell... I'm not sure which.

But I've eaten lobster at Eddie V's, met a man who called Obama a communist even before the media picked up on it, eaten kosher with a Greek Orthodox Christian, corresponded with a guy who turned out to be in IRAQ (he sort of lied about his location), drank with a man who knows my therapist, and kissed a boy named after the pope.


I know. I don't know what to say for myself.

Except that we're playing by my rules now. My rules. Who knew that dating was a decision I got to be a part of? I write that half-jokingly. But if you knew my dating history you'd agree.

My sister the doctor calls it "the bomb." Every time I call to tell her about some new guy I'm dating, she waits for it. She wait's for the bomb to drop.

"He's 48." The bomb.
"He's 19." The bomb.
"He lives in Morocco." The bomb.
"He's a recovering alcoholic." The bomb.
"He's a republican." The bomb.

You get the picture.

I mean, I'm a girl. I've suffered from the "savior" complex syndrome, been through the "money doesn't matter" phase, and run the gauntlet of "he's the male-me" all the way to "opposites attract." From the actor to the jock to the lawyer to the starving musician.

And you know what I discovered? It's all about me.

This is my life.

I get to choose.

It's okay for me to want to date a man who has health insurance. That's not an unreasonable standard. Neither is it unreasonable for me to want to date someone with a job. And if he's got too much money, that's okay too. I can say good-bye to too much money if it makes me uncomfortable. And it's alright for me to want to date a man who's capable of wrestling with his demons in therapy rather than in the bottom of a bottle or a bong. And I should expect my boyfriends not to fall for my sister, that's not too much to ask. And I can set the standard of no lying, no cheating and for god's sake no talking to your ex-girlfriend.

I can choose those things. I don't have to settle fo what comes to me nor do I have to set my standards higher. I can want what I want. And if I get what I want, I'm one lucky girl.

A friend told me the other night that when you meet the right person you should feel like you're the luckiest person on the planet. That's pretty good. I want to feel lucky... lucky that I get to be the recipient of someone's love and lucky that I get to love them back.

And then comes the compromise and the challenges and the giving and receiving... but that's all good too cause you're the luckiest girl in the world, remember?

So thanks Mel, for making me finish the questions. And thanks to my girlfriends for setting me up with your friends (they weren't all online). And thanks Brandon, Brad, Padaric, Imad, Jeremy, Charlie, Terry, Travis, Paul, Ryan, Rowland, Aaron and Dominic. I'm having a lot of fun. Even if I "closed" some of you cause you're weird.

And one of these days I just might get lucky. And you know what? Some man might just get me...