Friday, October 29, 2004

Road to heart

Good morning!
The election is only four short days away. We have candidate drama at our house still as my son went through the neighborhood with a permanent black marker to write BUSH on the KERRY EDWARDS signs.
A pack of law-conscious kids showed up at my door to tattle-tale.
I'm still unsure who to vote for. Maybe the third party, as a non-choice, is the way to avoid the personal responsibility of a dismal outcome. Would it be dismal? Who would most likely give us a dimal situation?

The sounds of the day are upon me: a baying, yard-encased dog, my loyal windchime, the washing machine ... I have had several hours of solitude this morning, and it has been comfortable, good.
Earlier this week, I struggled again during a gray, long day. I'm not sure where this is coming from. Perhaps my last active year set me back a bit in the ability to face the external and internal in an extended space. I very much do not want to lose that. All writers need the solitude. All contemplatives need the quiet.
Yet, like the writer in the book I'm still reading, I have the blend of extroversion which at times cancels out the other desire. Could be called: Schizophrenia. Meyer-Briggs balancing act between categories. Gemini. Spiritual warfare. This generation's distractability. ADD. Sugarholism.
Relationally, though, things are excellent. I have two workout partners now: one on Fridays, and the other on the trail on Mondays. Much needed. I also received a friend's recorded music in the mail. Last night, I talked with an acquaintance about her writing. Both creatively inspiring. That takes me back to the balancing act of time and focus and, at time, my lack of it.

Teen parenting has been difficult this week. She has hated me several times. I have reacted with boundaries, fear, protectiveness, and a strange version of love. I do love her and want her to thrive, but I can't control her. How do I guide her?

Well, the day is passing, and I have much still to do. Here's an excellent quote that I just found to leave with you:

The road to the heart is the ear. Voltaire

Friday, October 22, 2004

Junior band boy

I asked him to prove himself worthy, and he showed me his babysitting license, his boyscout card, and told me how excellent (yet sometimes creepy to customers) his work is at a local grocery store.
He told me that he studied religions beyond the teacher's expectations last year.
He told me that he helped an autistic person for a while.
He told me drugs and alcohol use were stupid and that he kicked off the lead singer from his band for using pot (and getting caught).
He told me that he wants to produce music one day as a career.
He told me that it was a compliment to my daughter to look like me.
Okay, I guess this 11th grade boy can hang around some more. Yet last night he showed up at our door at 9:30; I was in my pajamas and told him at the door, and he said, "Ooooh can I see?"
Okay. Maybe he needs to take the boundaries class.
My daughter said that he was very interesting as we talked later on the couch. How many dimensions of 'interesting' are permitted? :)
I'm just in new territory. Help me. Help me. Help us.

As a follow-up, my "good" goal went pretty well on Wednesday. Even though I was a bit flaky and shallow and awkward on Wednesday evening, mostly it was good. We laughed a lot in the small group as we wrapped boxes for a service project. Our discussion didn't go as well -- I know a lot, I've read much apologetics, yet sometimes it gels in me and at other times it doesn't. Yet, it was good. It was all gooooooood.

Then on Thursday morning, my sweet, artsy intellectual young co-leader who was struggling with intense "issues" led our group, and, wow, she was brilliant. I can still see her big smile of relief and possibility afterwards as she said goodbye to me and went out the classroom door. I pray that she admits her own goodness of self. Don't beat it down -- our sense of self is a gift not a curse. Please allow it to saturate within.

Ah, Father, everyone is so cynical these days. Even my daughter as we talked about faith on the couch last night. Confusion, hurt, rejection pattern as it relates to acceptance of a divine and personal good. Please permeate and saturate and make yourself more fully known. The cry of history, the cry of the day. You work and breathe, heal and inspire, please, please heed.

The Red Sox and the Cardinals are in the World Series! Who do I vote for? I love both teams; however, don't tell the fellow Missourians that I may end up cheering for those Easterners. I've always needed an Eastern fix, a visit, an author, so I guess it's coming out in baseball this year.

Au Revoir, mon Chere!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Guilt-free Apple Pie and Red Sox

Mmmm.... nothing like my apple crumb pie for breakfast. Perhaps I should sell my pies?

Baseball fever has hit our home. Yes, I admit to being one of those late-season MLB fans which makes me wonder why I don't watch games throughout the season. (Baseball is much slower than football.) Last night, Cody and I sat and watched the Red Soxs pitch to victory. The Yankees tried to cheat with a couple of plays, but the refs proved themselves true. The fans were both prayerful (hands clasped, looks of contrition for a run) and violent (the mob police lined left and right field at the beginning of the 9th). I love to ponder about such things. It always hearkens back to the nature of man, n'est-ce pas?

I taught Cody about 'the count' and 'the strike zone' and what innings are. I envisioned lots of future time watching games. Fun. Tonight is the final game of the series. Go Sox!

Cody has been sick these last couple of days. One morning, he had problems breathing. I'm glad that I'm here to hand him water and medicine; I'm glad I don't need to worry about outside work without me. I'm glad that he's improving now. One more day at home, and he'll be ready to go.

I've been thinking about guilt this morning (perhaps the pie?). I know that the Christian belief is sometimes synonymous with the presence of guilt. I am guilty, therefore I confess. I thought a wrong thought, therefore I am sinful. Our entire nature is sinful, therefore I am thoroughly drenched with guilt. Yes, and if you believe the story, Christ came and saved us from our sins, but, still here I am heavy with the 'natural man', guilty at every corner, sinful still despite a grace.

I'm tired of carrying this around, and, furthermore, it's not intended that I do. Within my belief system, it's not intended that guilt hang like an anchor around my neck. Guilt intertwines with insecurity -- I'm not good enough. I ended a phone conversation quickly yesterday w/o reason. I'm socially inadequate. I can't do things well, etc, etc. An endless barrage if you let it. And, sometimes justifiable if you're an admitted 'guilt-carrying natural man' through the spiritual lens. Justifiable in the sense that we use the guilt tag as an excuse to allow these thoughts access to us. I'm bad, we might say, I need God. See how guilty and inadequate I am all the time? I need God. To an extent, that stance is acceptable; however, it's not our lot in life to carry the woebegone attitude around due to an initial guilt (which is pardoned) or a struggle to choose good.

I know several friends who would disagree with me. And, if we could talk for hours, we would probably arrive on very similar ground. Personally, though, I have to release the guilt as much as possible. For some reason, I can carry destructive levels of it around for hardly any reason.

So, today, everything I do will be good. If I don't read the books I need to, if I stumble over my words as a leader in a small group this evening, if I don't reconcile with a friend, if I only eat crumb apple pie for meals, if the house lays splintered with odds and ends, if I don't practice the mandolin, I will be doing good by breathing and desiring to be, inwardly, good despite the outward actions which are inconsequential to this fact.

Alrighty then, onward to the next bite!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Settle the ball

"Settle the ball now," soccer coaches call everywhere.
And, that's what it feels like I'm avoiding today. The ball is bouncing off, rolling toward the marked boundary, snaking across the field with its player in tow. That would be me today.
The space I long for is here. Nervously, I thought of friendships and wondered if they were still solid. Should I schedule something? Nervously I thought of the house and its contents and my recent powerful urge to compulsively order and remove (a bare home sounds heavenly). I even felt a shudder of chest-stress for the first time about it. Nervously, I thought of the small project that I have for a Wednesday evening group. I thought of the prayer time I avoided today (midnight Red Sox game) (distraction and space). I'm reacting to every thought and feel like the ball spirals at my feet. I have this desire to work again and fill my life at the first taste of still life, yet still life with small endless duties (home, ministry, relationships). But, I'm here because of prior choice. I want to be here.
Yet Jones in the Dead Bird book talks about having to bring "me" along to his lovely hermitage in the Ozarks (near my brother's house). The "me" part which is heavily hooked into the three P's of society: power, prestige, and possessions. It's difficult to face ourselves in a silent, removed atmosphere, though, given these P's which influence the inner strains of being human. We want to be affirmed, we want distinction, we want to feel successful, we want distractions. Yes, I would like my own money, an ability to feel a part of something outside of the home, a desire for independence, yet when I try to grasp this, I end up despising it, and I choose to stay home again, to be balanced, to be available for kids and volunteerism, and to be able to think. I often feel it's my own weakness that causes me to be here. Yet, I know, after analysis, that it's not this at all. It takes more strength in ways to deny the other things and to affirm the opening in which I find myself.
Settle the ball.
I want to remain healthy in my perspective.
I want to be able to be in the space, and in the solitude, without the feelings of it enveloping me and separating me from society. I want to trust that good will be and emerge to enable me.
Thank you for the state of being, God. Help me to know the difference between action and being and to know when to jump and when to settle.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The mailman rings

When you meet someone with similar views, you relax. Yes! you understand what it's like to think and feel in this way. May we walk together for a while and talk about things?
I can't tell you how I've valued these relationships. Sometimes have overvalued them. But, an appreciation lights up the value of the companion tremendously, and so I'm not regretful for any of these types of people. They've been sent my way I do believe.
Many of them have only been sent as word carriers. Mailmen of their own spirit and discoveries. Here, here's my post. Read it quicky because I'm moving on to the next box. I'll be by your house again, but I can't stop because I'm busy, and, really, do you want rumors of tea chats with me, a mailman?
He has a point, and, therefore, distance, propriety, full friend lists already, necessitates that I simply buy his (or her) book without reciprocal conversation. Darn, but acceptable.
I just read a chapter in the book mentioned before in which Jones tries to piece together the patterns of history (by way of a tour to historical sites: Israel, Egypt, Athens, Rome, England) to understand himself and the existence of God. All last year, I did this too with my World Studies material that I tried to teach well to students. But, I was impacted beyond the preparation. My "why" questions were bounding off everything. My intellectual and faith companion teacher also asked questions but his didn't resonate as much in his emotions as mine. Or, in a sense of activism, which was a strange and powerful thing for me. I know that I was difficult at times.
Anyway, Jones encounters the same questions as he thinks about the patterns in history and of the paradox of progress on the back of despair and conflict. The Sistine Chapel, for example, portrays this as the finger of God and finger of Adam almost touch at the ceiling's centerpoint. Then as the the painting plunges down the wall, the figures are more distorted, contorted with greed and self-importance and subjugation. And then Jones, in Africa, ruminates on the imperialism, the rape, of this people and country for the more 'civilized' countries who need Africa's wealth at any cost in order to fund their own self-interests. I learned all about this in greater detail last year, and it bothered me greatly. Yet, you move over to India, China, Haiti, the U.S. in some of our globalization plans, and similar things happen. The nature of man becomes the question. Why do we have so much greed? Why are there such opposing forces?
Jones concludes, "What happened is that wherever I went, I was confronted by my own face-to-face enigma writ large....every change and every advance simply poses more graphically the paradox of human existence."
I'm wondering "but what does that call us to do"? Focus on ourselves? Increased activity in social justice?
As you can see, I identify with this author. I've been trying to make sense of my last year in terms of the knowledge that I was exposed to. Perhaps this book is to help prod me along.
By the way, I was able to get out of bed today. Prayed, journaled from 5:30 to 7. No feeling of exalted nearness. Just glad I plowed in the early morning light. Thank you, God.

Dead bird to sing

The book is called, "Teaching the Dead Bird to Sing" by W. Paul Jones, and it's challenging me to figure out a way to the path.
The path. Sounds supra-spiritual. Sounds new age-ish.
Yet, the path to be on questions me constantly. So be how it sounds.
The book reminds me of my purist-spiritual Buddhist, Christianity early yearnings.
I wanted to live above the rest. Above my own desires. Above world definitions of success and performance. Show me the high path, and I will take it. Pursuing and focusing on the inner, I once felt like my feet were lifting under me as I walked. I floated; my desire for heightened spiritual experience, sharp. I've had a few strange mystical experiences, I must say. The music at night once I submitted to the unfolding of the Judeo-Christian plan for my life. The crafting of the dried floral bride wreaths. The ecstatic awareness. The desert of Hagar. The submission of intellect in order to heighten understanding of the irrational. The death of the idealistic in order to bear the reality. God's taken me places.
Yet, here I am, later, struggling, feeling myself settling for lesser awareness, or should I say lesser experience.
Lesser experience due to the increased consumption of distraction. Distraction which demands its usefulness in its own right. I must clean and be a good wife. I must serve and be a good steward of gifts and commission. I must go to lunch with others and be a good friend. I must be a good mother so I must do this.
All those are good, mandated, yet, I feel like I'm slipping. Can I undergo a future 'desert'? Am I ready for hardship? Should I train myself? Equip, prepare, restrain? Should I pray more (yes)? Should I resist more (yes)? Should I not grow lax in the disciplines (yes)? I'm growing lax and distracted, I know.
Jones' book is making me think. He's making me think that I'm convoluted like him. I'm full of analysis of how I should be. Full of confusion on how to arrive there. Full of oppositional factors.
One example is of the desire to be simple and the desire to be beautiful. I want to be content with little, yet I desire more in order to look good. Or, the desire to be responsible to health concerns (cholesterol, weight) and the gratification of chocolate, bread, and anything else I see that I want. I rarely hold back any more. I'm blessed with predisposition to thinness, yet still the nutrition is bad, and I am feeling more uncomfortable with the slack in physical activity.
Oppositional factors. When I teach at my small groups, I feel like I've found harmony. I project it. And, it's true, spiritual focus has led me to a sharper vision of what and who provides life more abundantly. I know this through release, through feelings, through intellect, through resources, through faith.
Yet, at times, my focus becomes fuzzy when I'm not on call. Call me out into greater stamina and desire. I do not give up longings any more for what can be fulfilled.
Therefore, my book knocks on my door.
Tonight, I'll go to bed, as usual, with great longing for a fresh focus, and, more importantly, a renewed discipline that keeps me actively looking for outer surprises of the inner life. I sleep on it. I wake up and return to old patterns of undue servitude.
What can I do to break this cycle?
Tomorrow morning, I will try to wake up early to pray.
Try to.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Cooler temps

My dream of last entry called me to action.
I wrote and received and now I know what is happening this year in my co-teacher's life at school without me. He's okay. Some of our formers students are in good hands, and I can mentally move on now. That's all that is needed. Hopefully, now, I won't have the dreams.

It's getting colder outside; the day is gray; I've felt detached today from others (although yesterday in the sun, I felt the happy communal spirit and boasted on it). But like a fireplace sets a mood in the room, the gray atmosphere tells me that winter approaches. I shouldn't dread winter each year. And so, while my daughter took guitar lessons, I went to a nearby bookstore and bought a book with the following introductory lines:

To the countless hermits
who populate our hills, towns, and cities.
Invisible, unknown, unrecognized,
they are blessed with the courage to face
the demons,
without and within,
on behalf of us all.

Winter means hunkering in, choosing to commune or not with others, and figuring out how how to face that feeling of loneliness, detachment, withdrawal. Sometimes I welcome it. I've always been somewhat of a contemplative, and winter gives me more space and mood for it. However, at times, it's somewhat scary. Being a stay-at-homer, I have more empty space to either wrestle with or enjoy. I want to enjoy it this year. I want to live in it's fullness. I'm thinking about how to release some of the pace in order to face it head on again.
On the other hand, this is crazy thinking. Why not enjoy the friendships that I have and not let them slip away? Seems like I always have this dualistic way of thinking about things. Therefore, I will probably try to do both which is probably more healthy ... have friends, yet have space. What's wrong with that?
We'll see what this winter brings.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Accepting the divide

Early this morning, I had the 'teacher dream' where I roamed the halls and classes of the local high school where I taught. I found my co-teacher and cornered him into telling me how his full-time year was going.
I can't sleep now and so I prayed for him, for his maintained faith, for a solid girlfriend, for good influence on his students, for less conflict with his partnering teachers. We went through a lot together last year, both highs and lows.
Prayer helps, yet it doesn't take away the sneaky longing to be there as a more experienced and toughened teacher who knows what's going on for those who remain. The divide is difficult. I feel like crying this early morning. Dreams can disrupt the emotions.
However, life is good now. Many pies have been baked. I've been present for my children. My friendships are stable. My ministry work is fulfilling. I can't have it all, and, therefore, I choose.
Bless the choice and the memory which I submit to your unfolding. On to this day ....


The Cardinals and the Dodgers play in the 9th inning. Reds lead 6 to 2.
However, the Reds lost today at the Parks and Recreation showdown-- the Stars hung strong and scored two goals to their one, winning the age division championship.
The red-clad parents were dejected; yet, we, the white Stars' parents, jumped and ran out into the field and created the tunnel with our upward reaching hands. The boys (and one girl) ran through, and we cheered. Cody was trailing far behind, didn't notice that the others were gone; we yelled at him, and the parents remained to cheer him, smiling big, through. I felt so grateful for them that they wished the celebration to cover him too.
For the first time, Cody belonged to a winning championship team. For the first time, I integrated well with the parents, who are mainly modest incomers from a centrally located elementary school. The stress to look good and achieve with perfection were gone from them. We laughed a lot together. They encouraged Cody with shouts whenever he even touched the ball with his foot.
After the tunnel, we took pictures of the team and walked over to the concession stand to be awarded the medals. Big, gold medals with a soccer foot reaching out for a ball. Coach told us later that Cody looked up at him during the walk and asked, "Did we win?"
I think he didn't say all he intended ... "medals?"
Coach awarded him his medal and gripped him by the shoulders and gave a rare-extra encouragement: "Cody's best game was yesterday morning; he really went after the ball." Cody smiled shyly and hurried back, big medal dripping.
Winning isn't everything, but, for a boy who loses a lot, today's winning was off the hook.
I can't wait for the Spring to cheer with my new friends.
Go Stars!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Open palms

It has been awhile since writing! Honesty, I haven't felt much like it. Yes, I've sat down in front of this empty space to write, but then, I decide to write friends instead. My Type 1 personality (a Jung qualifer) rules the weeks at the moment.
But, it's been good.
I'm amazed at life right now, rather the strain in life that lifts us. I'm amazed at people and how they can open their palms to allow goodness to land into them. A beautiful younger woman acquaintance and I went to coffee on Wednesday a.m., and she told me about her early life: sex, drugs, being on the streets, abuse, child at 17, divorce at 19, food stamps, anxiety disorder, depression.
Somehow she ended up marrying a man who connected her to Missouri. We talked in our favorite coffee shop.
She's still rough around the edges, skeptical, nervous, suffers from post-traumatic stress. However, she smiles a lot, and wonders about how God works in her life. She has become a Christian, yet one with holes and huge unanswerable questions. I like her, she's funny too.
I felt like I was watching a miracle when I looked at her, though. It hung around me the entire day, how redeemable we can be, how improved. I went to my women's ministry large group and told the women how I was inspired by this 'anonymous' person, how God can transform, rework, provide hope even in the bleak. Healing, goodness. I looked out and saw her in the audience.
Later she gave me a hug. Later, she sent me a thanks and a look into her reaction and how she felt hard ice had been moved from her heart this week.
So, I'm feeling humbled, hugged, purposeful, wonderful and I want all women to know that they can be moved forward in Christ's love. I know that I have. Nothing else explains it. Thank you, thank you.
That has been my week. On to the next!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Today, a passion struck that was apart from the mandolin.
It was the desire to lighten a la garage sale. My daughter was amazingly non-sentimental: a box her grandfather carved for her hit the pile. "Yes, sell it!" she continually barked. She's been known as as "aaah" and "oooh-er" (she doesn't know yet that the Mercer Mayer Little Critter books are in the stack too), and we have boxes of her hither-thither joint custody arrangement to prove every step of her life. But since her dad deposited all of her boxes on our doorstep before he moved to the east coast, she has access to sell everything from one household, and she is determined to make enough money for eye brushes, homecoming gowns, American Eagle clothes, and car bank account. Costly aspirations for the next stage, so everything must go. A few things stay, though, like the Steve Erkel and the Starla doll. Reminders of the good life.
For myself, I feel suffocation at the brink of a good clean. I hate clutter; I hate stuff. If I had to move in a day's notice, I would love to be ready to go. As a matter of fact, I've had a huge urge for several years to make the home as empty as possible, to sweep out everything in the basement. If the good Lord said, "GO to Zimbabwe," I'd be petrified yet ready to give up everything: my old college papers (my one-time identity still in the storage bin); my old love letters (Lance, Guy, Stan ... ); my water-damaged C.S. Lewis books; my senior memory book; other correspondence that came and went. Those are the most meaningful things to me. However, I felt tonight that for once I was pulling away from those days. I don't have those longings to return, to be affirmed in such way, like I once did. Ageful progress, I reckon, for which I'm glad in a way.
My son had the most difficult problem with his cascade of toys which have play potential in them yet. Finally, though, he turned over all of his early-year books. Finally, he is growing out of his kindergarten and first grade clothes (even though in fourth grade now). He has a stack downstairs to call his own. He has dollar signs in his eyeballs.
Well, it's late, and I must go to bed. It has been a productive day of load-lightening....
Bon soir!