Monday, November 26, 2007

magic

I’ve chosen a different view this morning. I have surrendered the beach for the magical world of Christmas that has unfolded in my living room this past weekend. It really is quite a transformation. You’d really have to see it to appreciate it though. I’ve chosen an amazingly comfortable spot on my couch with a prime view of the fireplace, and a tree shining like a jewel. I’m guarded this morning by a large assortment of snowmen, angels, my Santa collection, the holy family, and our loyal and lazy cat who has shared this view for the past 15 years. She loves this season almost as much as we do and demonstrates it by curling up under the tree even before its decorated. She’ll hibernate there until we can lure her out with her annual bag of kitty narcotics. Eventually she’ll end up back there, quite stoned from the experience.
I choose this spot today partly because I have two other appointments with Starbucks today and I wouldn’t want to be a candidate for intervention. I have a weakness for Gingerbread lattes this time of year. The other reason though is that it just seems right. I’ll spend an unusually large amount of time here this next 5 weeks. There is no television here. I have to serve myself at this hour of the day. There is certainly no community here, unless you count the extraordinary amount of inanimate characters that are all staring at me. There is magic though. My wife has a gift of creating it. My job is mostly to haul it back and forth from its place of seasonal storage. When she was all done with the transformation this past Friday…yes it was the day after Thanksgiving, all I wanted to do was to sit right here in the middle of it. I tend to sit back and simply observe more often than not, but for the next few weeks I’ll be leaning closer in to savor every moment. So Starbucks can wait.
I know that I’m not the only one who can feel the magic. The little cuties in my community o’ faith were even cuter yesterday. People stayed long after our scheduled time together was over. It is in the air. We’re surrounded by magic this season. And, as G.K. Chesterton wrote, “if there is magic, there must be a magician”. My wife can serve as a wonderful instrument of creativity and love, and a conduit of seasonal magic, but she’ll tell you that it’s because of the Magician Himself. I wish more people could share the experience that my cat and I are sharing this morning.
I am not na├»ve. I know full well that too many are not feeling it today. It’s bitterly cold outside, which may add to my experience, but it creates quite another for people living on the streets. This time of year may elevate my own personal level of community, but I’m well aware that it magnifies the loneliness of others. People feel compelled to lavish gifts to fill the void, but come away from the season with empty souls and depleted VISA’s. I wish that they could feel it and I wish that those who are like me could be better at sharing it. To those who have taken the time to read this, my wish for you as this season begins is simply this; If anything within you can relate to any part of the magic of this time of year, please consider carefully that, “if there is magic, there must be a magician”.
You might need to a bit lean closer to see it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

seasons

The change of seasons has finally hit me. I’m slower than most. I don’t know what exactly brought that stunning revelation to me this morning. It might have been the mental pre-Thanksgiving to do list that I woke up with. Thanksgiving? Did I miss Halloween. It may have been the rain soaked, “gore tex” clad bicycle commuter that I passed along the water. It might be the nearly naked beachside trees against the gray backdrop in view through my window. It was probably all of those including the very obvious tribute that Starbucks has paid to the impending Christmas season. Although here in the land of denial, we call it “the holiday” season. Wouldn’t want to offend.
Anyway, I’m not lamenting, I do after all love living where the seasons change. I know many of you living elsewhere have heard that Seattle only has two seasons; rainy season and the fourth of July. That’s a load of crap. It doesn’t really rain here as much as rumored and it almost always does on the fourth. I love the change and I love Fall the most. It might be the artist in me that appreciates the color and variety of creation. It might be the cynic in me that appreciates the approaching of winters death. It’s more likely the glutton in me that appreciates turkey and pie and candy and cookies. My yearly tune up has advised me to pace myself though. Cholesterol. Maybe I’ll forget it and ask Santa for lipitor this season.
I’ve also changed seasons in my Monday morning routine. I’m back where I started, kind of like the cycle of seasons I guess. I’ve come home to Starbucks, even without the free wi-fi. I took nearly an 18 month break to follow a friend and my daughter through the land of caffeine competition. They’re both on to bigger and better now. The personality and atmosphere are gone now and so am I. They might not have free wi-fi here, which I’d like to go on record as a crime, but they do have atmosphere. Given the choice between the two, I choose atmosphere.
Seasons keep me humble. They usually occur without my timing and without my control and sometimes without my approval. They are part of families, friendships, and careers. They mandate adjustment and growth and sometimes, if I allow it, time to reflect and just remember. I am humbled to drift back over seasons and call up images of times when I thought that time would stand still and hold that moment forever, only then to come back to the present and realize that said moment will stand in time only as a memory. I’ve left friends there. I’ve left childhood there, mine and my children’s. There are baseball games, summer jobs, college friends, coworkers, weddings, funerals and birthdays. They are only memories now. I don’t say “only” lightly though as I also know that each of those moments and memories led me to today in this chair by the window, slowly sipping over priced coffee….the cup warns me that this is a “hot” beverage after all. I appreciate the extra awareness.
If I’ve learned anything from Starbucks, it is this; experience costs something. The seasons of life and the experiences that accompany them cost something. I may consider myself to be inherently cheap, however, for the experience of sailing on the seasons of my life, I’d spare no expense.

Monday, November 12, 2007

depth

I’ve been thinking a great deal about depth lately. It might be that sitting here every week staring out at the cold waters of Puget Sound have inspired me toward this. My mind wanders to what lies beneath. A pod of Orcas has been hanging just off shore this past week. I’ve recently enjoyed video views from local divers of the giant octopus and the six gill sharks that lurk in the darkness. We’ve been blessed with the adorable baby seals lounging on the beaches and all of this draws my mind towards one question. What’s it really like down below the surface?
It’s carried over into real time for me and peeks out in many different venues. I’ve been reading more lately, possibly inspired from a pilgrimage to Powells City of Books in Portland last week. My studies for my teaching in my community o’ faith have taken a different path. Relationships are slowing, more time is invested. I want to know what lies beneath.
I admire the divers I see who confidently stroll from the safety of the sand into the mercy of the surf just beyond the shoreline. I stand on the edge and look out and see so much uncertainty. Jaws has forever erased the innocence and naivety that would allow me safe and unconcerned passage beneath the waves. I now know much more than I ever wanted to about the dangers. I’ll take a kayak any day. The most I risk there is a bit of salty mist around my lips and sunglasses.
Real life is like that I guess. Too many of us are content to merely skim the surface. We surf, we ski, we kayak across the surface of issues, of relationships, of the human condition, with only the residue of salt spray appearing afterwards to prove that we’d even gone near. We’re afraid of what lies beneath.
Beneath is where the senses have to engage. It takes much more effort. It’s colder, darker, and sometimes you need to hold your breath for uncomfortably long periods of time. Divers tell me in their blogs of the exhilaration that is experienced on each and every dive. There is uncertainty to be sure, but there is wonder and experience and a lure that is undeniable. They are not ignorant of the danger, but the rewards are far more alluring. So they’re drawn in, time after time, to the riches of the depths.
I don’t do that nearly enough. I’m content too often with stereotypes and labels and surface “how are yous”. I’ve been feeling stunted. I want to know more about people, which in and of itself is somewhat of a miracle. I want to learn without judgment. People are far too complicated and lives too complex to fit them in categories. I’ll admit that categories are much easier for me to deal with, especially with the volume of people that I connect with on a weekly basis. The problem with putting people in categories is that they have an annoying tendency to leave my grouping and move to another that fits them better. Being of the pastoral arts profession and holding tightly to a worldview that believes with everything that I am that God is in control of this confusion, I know the danger of being labeled. So my wife and I go out of our way to shed those labels and place ourselves far from them. They can be very limiting to people who, like me, have a tendency to kayak on the surface. I know the frustration that comes when your voice is silenced even before opening your mouth, because of the assumptions of surface dwellers. I guess that I owe it to myself and to everyone else to upend the kayak and spend some time in the depths.

Monday, November 05, 2007

promise

It’s taken me awhile I’ll admit, but I’m really beginning to get the idea that things are not nearly what they’ve been made out to be. For the most part anyway. I really have resisted complete surrender to this concept. Those who really know me will have a hard time believing that I would hold on to an optimistic view of anything. Really, it doesn’t matter to me whether the glass is half full or half empty, it still seems that I’m drowning in the bottom of it most days. Still I hold on to hope.
I recently installed some software on my traveling friend here in hopes that I would encourage it to longer life and strong performance. The program in question came with all of these promises, most of which I downplayed when wrestling with the possibility of purchase. I have been down this road before. Things are rarely what they are promoted to be and many claims fall miserably short of expectation. The one that I did hold out hope for was the promise of cleaning up enough clutter that my boot up time would decrease significantly. Me being of the impatient temperament, this was a hook that I just couldn’t get off of. I was a bit reluctant though. I’ve been burned before. I just wanted what was best for my electronic companion. Surely, God would smile on me this purchase. Certainly someone has marketed something that was worth my financial investment. I’ve missed it on most of my purchases so I guessed that the odds were in my favor this time.
Not this time. I guess that with past experience and self recognized pessimism, I would have been content with even the illusion of quickness. Not this time. It’s become a bit like running underwater. I almost don’t recognize my friend anymore. I fear that I’ve forever altered him. So now I drift into the realm of questioning. Have I been taken one more time, or does this really work for everyone else and I’m in the Charlie Brown “I got a rock” place of existence. I think I can deal with being taken. It puts me on a level playing field with all of the other suckers born all of those other minutes. I can’t deal with the rocks. One more piece of the Jenga puzzle of my life has been pulled.
Today my wife and I leave for a short getaway to Portland. We’re looking forward to it really. I booked a downtown hotel supposedly in a great location. At least the online pics held some promise. I have great hopes. Surely this time something will resemble it’s claims and I can hold on to hope once more. Anyway, you may think this overly dramatic, but I’m really getting tired. I’m leaving with the echoes of failed software ringing in my consciousness.
I’m tired of unfulfilled promises. I’m tired of hollow people with polished exteriors. I’m tired of hundred dollar haircuts on ten cent heads. I know that there is more out there. I live for it. I understand the importance of promise. It’s not something to be played with, yet we as a culture have been more than willing to compromise the trust that is inherently built in to a promise. My life is based on the promise of all promises. Unfortunately many who claim the same promise have difficulty living it. I know that I do. Like so many software companies, we claim something and fall short in the delivery. We need to try harder, understanding what we really have. This one is too important to leave to the marketing group. We need to carry this one ourselves, with honesty and integrity. He’ll take of the delivery.