Tuesday, May 27, 2008

altered

There is something fascinating going on with the invention of 4 dollar gas. It’s a discussion really that has surfaced and every once in awhile takes hold for a short burst. It’s more of a psychological experiment if you ask me. As a trip to the gas station begins more and more to resemble the cost of a nice night out with my wife, talking heads are beginning to wonder, “what’s it going to take?”. What exactly is the tipping point from which normal people will veer from their normal behavior? In other words, how high will it have to go for people to alter their driving?
In my opinion, if anyone cared to know, the answer to this would be the same as the answer to the age old question “How much is enough?” The answer of course is, “Just a little more”. We are always a bit in denial I think. We are always of the opinion that “it can’t get higher”, or “things can’t possibly get worse” and then they do. We treat politics like this. We treat relationships like this, and we certainly treat economics like this. It is especially true when considering personal economics. That being said, I think that I’ve reached my limit. I should say that “We”, as in my gorgeous wife and I, have reached our limit.
We have altered our behavior. It’s not an earth shattering shift and certainly not one which would show up on a Shell executive’s radar screen, but we’ve altered just the same. We have begun to take more advantage of the place that God has put us in here in our urban village. We have access to at least some form of mass transit. We have cool ways to travel like the water taxi across the bay. If all else fails, we have our feet. We have even considered, from time to time, doing the unthinkable and selling our car. I’ve had a car from the moment I turned 16. This is no small matter. To be honest, my motives aren’t purely economic. Some are personal. I have an issue paying increasingly more on everything oil related because of the whole supply/demand rhetoric while those producing the rhetoric are finding it more and more affordable to fill their own tanks. Profitability isn’t something that I can affect in large measure, but I can sleep nights knowing that I’m not contributing to theirs. If you ask me, I’d say that we are edging towards a Mel Gibson, “Mad Max” kind of destiny.
The deeper question in all of this for me as a pastoral artist has little to do with the price of gas, but it has everything to do with incentive for altered behavior. I believe in the power of a Jesus centered faith to produce life transformation in the lives of those who claim that faith. I’ve seen it in my own life and the lives of so many with whom I have had the privilege of sharing life together. The question though is why in some but not others? Why is it that for some who claim it, patterns are altered and decisions are made which are transformational, yet for so many others who claim it this is not the case at all? To be honest, one reason it matters to me is purely selfish. They make me look bad. They make my faith look bad and they make my profession look less than admirable. They are like the SUV laden environmentalists that I see all over my home in the “green” northwest. They are like the “I’d not be caught dead carpooling” people who protest carbon gas emissions. I just want them to shut up.
I can totally empathize with people who want Christians to shut up and “stop trying to legislate morality” while not seemingly being able to define it in their own lives. I feel your pain. If my home were true to its own stated values, we’d be the most green friendly, car intolerant, leader in mass transit that this world has ever seen. But we’re not, and I just want them to shut up and alter their selfish lives to walk the talk. So the question remains, “what is it going to take?”. Whether driving or living, it’s the same elusive question. What is the tipping point from which lives will be altered?

Monday, May 19, 2008

uniform

So I’m wondering this morning who exactly was it that came up with the very first uniform? What might the occasion have been to warrant such a distinctive look? What was the motivation for singling out one group from another by wardrobe choice? And who came up with the first little embroidered name tag? I’m wondering this as I sit here surrounded by them. There’s the barista look of the Starbucks partners. In the corner is the Port of Seattle Police uniforms, not to be mistaken with the Seattle PD. In walks the Metro uniform, not to be confused with Sound Transit. And of course, what Monday would be complete without the official uniform of the Northwest Native….. fleece, socks and sandals.
Who was it that first decided that it might be a good idea to functionalize our attire so that there might be little or no confusion as to who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. Take the military for example. When was it determined that each branch would have a different look? Why not just use a color? I mean really, in the heat of a battle, wouldn’t it be easier just to look for the “other” color?
I wonder why we can’t take this further and complete the thought. Why can’t everyone be outfitted to match, say, their personalities. The joyful people could be designated a certain look or maybe some bright color. The bitter people could where something else on the other end of the scale. The gothic people seem to have this system down. The people who seem to resemble a certain part of a donkey’s anatomy could wear “the uniform” and the rest of us could be forewarned . That way, one could always anticipate reactions and interactions and prepare or respond accordingly. This would certainly help me function on a different level in my community o’ faith. It would be like a visual caller ID, where you decide ahead of time whether or not you want to engage in this impending social interchange.
Lest you think that I haven’t thought this through, let me assure you that I do recognize some objections to this bit of social engineering. First of all, how would one outfit the cultural chameleons. Those are the ones that you can never really pin down. They change to meet their surroundings, and I don’t mean in a useful adaptable kind of way. They pander to the crowd and the polls. Oh sorry…….my mistake, that’s the politicians and they do have a uniform. You can always identify them as the ones usually inappropriately overdressed. They tend to go bowling in ties and shoot pool in pant suits.
The other short coming in this plan is that with certain uniforms, there come certain expectations. We’d have to live consistent to our designated place in life. I have certain expectations of people in uniform that are based on the uniform itself. I’d feel a bit more at ease walking down some dark streets accompanied by a Seattle PD uniform than if it were someone with the “barista” look. What happens when the uniform fails, either the Police uniform or the barista uniform. My day gets measurably worse with both accounts. My tribe of pastors has its own uniform, generally speaking. The pastoral uniform can be often be easily identified. It’s not always a good identification either, so I choose not to wear it. I’ve even resorted to creating my own designation as a pastoral artist. I made it up, but it is a much better fit. There is no uniform and so expectations are generally non-existent. I like it that way.
People get to experience me for me. They get it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can ask for permission or forgiveness. I can adapt without pandering and I can lead without an agenda. So I’ll try to consider the same potential within the lives of the people who surround me. It’s easy to look at the uniform and make all kinds of assumptions. Don’t lose focus of the one wearing it though.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Plan B

A significant part of me isn’t feeling much like writing this morning. I’d rather just sit quietly in my part of the world at the corner of Starbucks coffee and beach front view and do nothing much at all. I’d rather just” be” this morning. But the sun is up, the high clouds are filtering over the mountains, and the usuals are around, including me. So here I sit behind my keys.
I’ve been doing this for so long, the writing thing I mean, that I’m beginning to lose focus on why I’m even doing it in the first place. There are plenty of perceptions that I’ve probably never really intended. Some people stop by here to catch up on random things that are going on in my life in the great North West. Some find common struggles and bizarre thought patterns which they can relate to. Once in awhile I can share an inspirational thought that has helped me along this journey and it may help them as well. Some read it and are totally bored. I understand. I get bored with me quite easily.
I just realized this morning, over a blueberry muffin, that I had almost forgotten why I do this week after week. It’s not for any of the previously mentioned reasons that I do any of this anyway. No offense. It is for me and only me. It’s my sanity and my leveler at times. I write to attempt to ground myself at the beginning of each week. In olden days, I had Monday’s off. I could just disconnect from the reality of my profession and the demands that Sunday’s brought. I don’t have Monday’s off anymore. So this is my plan B. I turn this thing on and just begin to type and see where it leads.
To be honest, looking back over the years of plan B, it sometimes doesn’t amount to anything more valuable than a chance for my brain or my soul to vomit. Sorry for the graphic description, but we all know that feeling of being at the point where you think that if you could just throw up, then you’d begin to feel better. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes you’d even resort to causing yourself to accelerate the process. Kind of like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Unless you just ate a box of chocolates. Anyway, the point is, this is totally for me. It is for my benefit and mine alone. You can come along if you’d like. Obviously if it were intended to be private, I’d share it in a much less public manner. Although I never originally thought that anyone would ever have any interest in reading this stuff…. At least while I was still living.
So there it is. I’ve put it back on track. It’s my plan B to stay level and moving forward on a journey that doesn’t always move forward. It’s not perfect. It just is what it is. I’m not going to complain though. Plan B does have good coffee , good muffins and a great view.

Monday, May 05, 2008

space

Have you ever stopped to contemplate the space key? It may seem like an odd question. Ok, so it is an odd question. I just happen to be appreciating it more than usual this morning. I think that the space key is underrated. Sure you can use it so that your sentences make sense. Without it, life would just be one continual word, kind of like reading ancient Greek or Hebrew text. You would have one continual red line through your computer screen. Do even get me started on how spell check would take place.
I found another great function of the space key this morning. It’s not new, to be sure, and I’d have to be totally clueless to have not been aware of it before. It’s just that it has become even more valuable lately. Did you know that if you have an amount of text, any amount really, on a screen and it’s highlighted, one stroke of the space key will totally eliminate it? Of course you knew that. But do you understand the implications of it? The space key is the predecessor of the “Easy Button” at Staples. It is the original one step problem solver. It grants editorial license to the owner of the key. Life would be ours to control.
I just used it in fact to eliminate a few paragraphs of ridiculousness that was typed on my screen. Some of you are probably thinking that it didn’t go far enough. The cool thing about it is that it only goes as far as I want it to go. It can eliminate as much or as little as I wish. I could use one of these things in my life. I might have a lot less regrets and bad memories. If I could just eliminate a conversation here or there, maybe even just a glance, or a gesture, how much better might my legacy be? I could also go back and eliminate a week at a time if so desired. Last week was kind of a downer for the most part. I could eliminate most of it and never miss it. Even if I had just wiped out the weather, things would have improved dramatically.
A strategically spaced cursor and skillfully used space key will move whole lines of text and eventually whole paragraphs, if so desired. Think out it, you could move a stagnant conversation along. You could jump ahead to the heart of an issue without having to wade through all the small talk. What a time saver that would be. Perhaps the most practical use would be just to give you what it claims to give you….space. For people with space issues, this would be life saving. For people with no space issues, this would be life saving as well in the hands of those who do have them. For all of us though, it’s just an exercise in wishful thinking. Even the space key can be neutralized. It’s called “undo”.