Monday, July 28, 2008

impressions

“You only get one chance to make a first impression”. At least that’s what they say…. “They” being the invisible force of opinion that rules the world. That’s a bit of pressure. I mean, if you don’t get it right the first time, then who really knows if you’ll be able to get it at all? One of the things that fascinates me about the north west is the reality that many here don’t seem to be hung up on what their first impression might be or whether or not it influences others for bad or good. Our contributions to the fashion world are, after all, fleece, socks and sandals, fleece, Doc Martins, fleece and vests made of fleece. It’s not really much of anything to boast about. I’m convinced that this area of the country has the least amount of mirrors per capita, and most of those that do exist are probably part of an independent art exhibit.
There is not nearly the pressure here that I’ve experienced in other areas of the country. Just one early morning visit to my beachfront hangout here at Starbucks would confirm that we’re not all that wrapped up in this idea. Just ask indigo hair guy, or slippers girl, or the guy in the Sponge Bob boxers, they don’t seem to be hung up on impressions. I haven’t seen hair like this since the last wake up call at an elementary age sleepover. And then there’s me. I’m the one who see’s some distorted wisdom in paying decent hard earned money to keep my hair looking messy. I mess it up and then put this natural, organic (code word expensive) crap in it to hold it there. If I’m not successful making it look messy, then I put a hat on. It all seems kind of backwards to the logical mind. We don’t care about logic here.
I could tell you that I haven’t fallen into the trap of conformity…that I haven’t sold out to “the man” (or woman)…that I don’t care about first impressions, but that would be a lie. I’m not a liar, I’m a pastor (pastoral artist to you). I may stretch reality a bit or say “someone once said” before a story, but I wouldn’t lie about this. I spent the first 15 minutes this morning trying to figure out what a good opening sentence would be to this post. After all, if the first line was not engaging, then you wouldn’t have gotten this far now would you? I spend significant effort each week trying to figure out how a good first impression might lead into a teaching time with my community o’ faith. I am always seeking how to engage others in whatever the Book says. There is nothing more lame in my line of work than to communicate that God’s words in the book might be a bit boring or irrelevant.
Sometimes it even comes down to what I will wear and what that will communicate about me or else what my wife will let me leave the house wearing. Honestly, She is actually more concerned about what my clothing choice says about her than about me. I try to honor that. After all, somewhere back in time, I made an impression on her and she married me. I’m not so sure it was the first impression that did it. Fortunately, she was gracious enough for another chance. We don’t always get that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

wait

Yesterday I had a plan. Fortunately some friends had a better plan. I knew it was a better plan because I felt it deep down, at heart level. It wasn’t even my plan, it was theirs, but it resonated in my being. I was envious of the simplicity of what they were about to experience. Usually when someone tells me about their planned activity, even if it’s a really good one, I can only manage a polite “Oh that’s nice”, kind of response. This was different. Yesterday, my first reaction was an envious “I wish we could do that today”. It hung precariously close to whining. The plan wasn’t complex, in fact its simplicity was what was attracting me. I could have easily done it, except for one small complication. I had my own plan for the day.
Those of you who know me, know how much of a dilemma that could be for me. It was worse though. Not only did I have a plan, I had a timeline that had to go with the plan. Let me explain. I am in the midst of remodeling a guest room. Time is running short, and actually getting shorter with some unexpected, but very welcome guests. In the infinite wisdom of my plan, I would need all of yesterday afternoon to solidify my chances of completing this project. The clock doesn’t stop after all.
Now to their plan….They were taking a ferry across to an Island with a daughter and some dogs. It was fairly simple, hang out as a family in the sun along the water and take in a lavender festival. I didn’t even know that lavender had festivals. Well it does here. Now you must understand that yesterday was one of the most beautiful days of the year. They had graciously invited us to come along, but the pull of my plan was strong. “The Plan” for me is like “The Ring”. I both love and hate it. As much as their plan resonated within me and the thought of a carefree afternoon with good friends, good dogs, and some good food thrown in was pulling me, it was still a difficult decision to make.
What finally put it over the top was our own daughters willingness to go along. This was really the hand of God pushing me away from my plan. She rarely gets to or wants to spend much away time with us. She works, she has friends, and sometimes we’re just not cool enough. I get that. However, she’s leaving in a month for school in another state and then the time will be pretty much gone. Her yes to the plan became my yes. My own plan would have to wait. I wasn’t sure how it would wait, but I was sure that it would have to.
I’ll have to tell you that the experience was every bit as good as it had sounded in the first place. A ferry ride itself is an experience all its own. The natives here might be a bit less impressed, but I’ve not lost the enjoyment of the ferries. We were able to wander through a couple of lavender farms that were part farmers market and part renaissance fair. Artists, craftsmen (and women), musicians, and of course lavender filled our afternoon, along with scrambling down a trail to the waters edge to watch the dogs take a much needed swim.
It worries me a bit that I nearly missed it. I stood on the edge of boredom yesterday looking over with countless others and nearly stepped into it. Like many, I nearly sacrificed the important on the altar of the urgent. I almost became another who never saw what Gods plan was because I was blinded by my own. It probably has helped my cause that I’ve spent a good deal of time lately reading the early parts of Genesis and rediscovering God’s original plan for us before “urgent” arrived. There’s more to life than sheetrock, tape and mud. He happens to be more interested in husbands and wives, daughters and dogs, lavender and islands. Everything else can wait.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

umbrella

I’ve spent enough time here in the northwest, that I’m sure I’m overdue to write something about umbrellas. It might be considered a bit odd that, with the winter rains gone and my grass burning up, I’d pick now for the topic, but many things I do seem a bit odd to many people so why disappoint now. Actually, for your information, this happens to be a very appropriate time.
This week I have the privilege of teaching, in my community o’ faith, the part of God’s creation story dealing with the introduction of Adam and Eve. Just a few weeks ago I was able to be back in New York performing a wedding for a very special couple, and next month, my wife and I will officially become empty nest parents. In case you haven’t caught on yet, the theme of the month for me is relationships. That’s where umbrella’s come in.
I found an umbrella the other day as I was rearranging our living room. It brought back images to me of walking in the rain with my wife. Lots of times when we walk in the rain I get to hold the umbrella for the two of us. Now let me set the record straight; It does not rain here as much as is rumored. It’s a conspiracy devised to keep undesirables from moving here. It didn’t happen to work with us though because, as far as rain goes, this is the desert compared to where I’m from. Anyway, we walk a lot here, it’s what old people do… and when we happen to be walking and it happens to be raining, I like to hold the umbrella.
I’m have not really been sure of the reason, besides I’m in love of course, to hold the umbrella. I mean really, the reality is that usually this means we both get wet because we can’t both fit well under the 3 dollar umbrellas that we tend to buy. I could spring for 2 umbrellas after all if it was a protection from the rain thing. It could be that my mom just brought me up right. She did have that rule about not hitting girls, which usually just meant that I’d get the crap beat out of me. On a deeper level though, as I go through the Garden story with Adam and Eve, I wonder if it’s not something more profound. Maybe it’s something deep within that has me trying to make up for the fact that Adam didn’t really take care of Eve in that critical moment with the snake. I am always the one to deal with snakes in my house,…and spiders and cat throw up and dirty litter for that matter.
I don’t want you to think that I’m Superman or anything. If it wasn’t for the amazing wife that God has placed in my garden, I’d be in deep. I’d be subject to people’s pathetic glances wondering who dressed me, who cut my hair, who forgot to give me some culture. She cares for me. It’s quite a tall job and certainly more time demanding that snakes, spiders, and senile cats. As far as I can tell, it was Adams ultimate fault that fashion even became an issue. As a result, I have a deep seated need to care for her. I’m sure it doesn’t always seem that way. Sometimes it is lost in translation, to be sure. After all, I am still a guy, so a certain amount of cluelessness is just part of the deal. When my head is on straight and I remember who’s in my garden, it just kind of comes naturally. Other times all I can do is hang on to the umbrella.

Monday, July 07, 2008

loyalty

I’m getting to witness a profound transaction taking place this morning. From my seat this morning, a big stupid hulking hybrid bus is filling the background. That should be criminal on a morning like this. Anyway, it’s causing my focus to shift in the direction of two golden retrievers. They had just been hitched up outside while their human marches inside for a venti iced something. They really are beautiful dogs, but what is catching my attention is their stance as they wait for their human.
They are almost rigid at attention, pointing longingly towards the door. I’ve noticed that they don’t alter their gaze a bit when any of the rest of the caffeine clique wander back outside. They don’t even flinch when slippers and boxers guy wanders past. This is a bit unusual because many of their contemporaries, when left in similar situations, will give their attention to just about anyone or anything that walks by. They attempt to bribe you with their eyes, pleading with any sympathetic passer-by to free them from their predestined loitering. Not so with these two.
I wonder what causes such loyalty. How is this relationship played out? Are these two aware that God passed them over as mans perfect garden companion back in the beginning? He went through all that trouble with the rib and all to create Eve in order to make up for some shortcoming that they obviously had. Maybe it was simply the lack of opposable thumbs. Before I dig myself any deeper, let me just reaffirm that I wholeheartedly believe that women have far more advantages than opposable thumbs. I’m just hypothesizing as I watch the “man’s best friend” ideology being lived out.
I remember the days of excited children greeting me at the door or looking longingly out the window at the time that daddy was to come home. I still experience the joy of a reunion with my wife even after only a short time away, sometimes measured in minutes. Even still, no one has ever stood at attention eagerly awaiting my exit from a Home Depot, or Auto Zone. It’s touching. They must have a special bond.
I actually thought all these things in the five or so minutes that I witnessed this interaction taking place. Great ideals, great emotions, these Old Yeller moments were presented for me against a Metro Bus backdrop. They must have an unusually special bond. All of these presented themselves until the human emerged and the secret to this relationship was revealed. It seems that this particular Starbucks, in addition to some quality coffee, has some very delectable dog treats. I guess it’s not that big a mystery after all.