Where Were We Again?

When I take a few days off from writing, I learn why I shouldn’t do that. I have no idea where to even begin. My last entry isn’t anywhere close what’s happening now, and herding my thoughts is less easy than herding cats.

The last entry was written while I was still in Portland, and for the first time, I slept all the way home… well, except for the last hour, from Charlotte to Arlington, VA. I was so exhausted that I missed the safety speech, taking pictures of the Columbia from the runway (that would have been hit or miss…. it was dark), and last but not least, the entire takeoff sequence. When we landed at CLT, it was a total “where tf am I?” moment, because there were no national monuments and I’d forgotten I was connecting in the haze of waking up. I had more time to kill in N. Carolina than I did last time, so I walked around looking for a UNC Chapel Hill t-shirt (Mia Hamm’s alma mater). I didn’t find one (in fact, no Tarheels gear at all, just Hornets), so I settled for a very large cup of coffee. I imagine that if I’d walked all over the airport, I probably would have found what I was looking for, but I didn’t want to leave my own terminal. I thought I was too groggy to be able to make it back in time. I took my coffee and settled in the waiting area, and when my flight started boarding, to GOD I swear I almost started crying.

Because here’s the thing… I love visiting other places, but there is nothing on earth more beautiful than landing at National, and thinking about that beauty always makes me tear up, no matter how long I live here. People will argue with me on the objectivity of those statements, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I mean, I’ll go out to BWI or Dulles when I need to (luckily, I haven’t had to deal w/ Dulles since 2002- one of my friends called it the seventh level of hell, and I can’t disagree with her), but neither airport gives me the feeling of home like National does. It’s especially breathtaking at night, but I’d taken a redeye, so I did get a good picture on the tarmac of a small plane with the Jefferson and Washington monuments in the back. If you’re just a nerd with a camera, this is the best place on earth to live. #nolie #smile

Now, remember I am tired AF- redeye, etc. I get to the Metro around 0945 and don’t realize there are three tracks. One goes out to Virginia, the other crosses the river into DC, and the third is for broken down trains. It’s in the middle. My bench is facing a CLEARLY (in retrospect) broken down car out of service, and I sat there for 25 minutes before I realized that the train I needed was behind me. A venti coffee of the day at Starbucks can only do so much.

However, the first train that came by after I answered the clue phone was Yellow to Ft. Totten. Bullseye. Yellow connects to red at Ft. Totten and Silver Spring is only two stops down the red line from there. That meant I had about 40 uninterrupted minutes without changing trains. There’s probably a more direct route, like changing lines at Gallery Place/Chinatown, but I didn’t want direct. I wanted “don’t make me get up.” I was also a total baby and got an Uber while my train was rolling up to Silver Spring, because I didn’t want to lug my shit on the bus and walk with it. Pretty sure it was the best $4 I spent the whole trip.

I get home and absolutely collapse with exhaustion, despite the coffee. I slept for a couple of hours, then made myself some more coffee (Donut Shop) to ensure I could get back on Eastern time quickly. This is really the first trip I’ve taken where I learned that jet lag is a thing. Coming back was easy. Moving three hours earlier was just FUBAR. I slept when I didn’t mean to because otherwise, I would have fallen down. Thankfully, I didn’t have to explain myself, because it was written all over my face.

Besides Bryn, I also got to see two other friends I’d really wanted to meet up with, and one was a total lark. Of course Volfe and I hung out… how could we not? But it just so happened that one of my friends on Guam was in town that weekend, too (we met when she was a student at University of Portland). We met at Greater Trump’s for trivia, where we lost by ONE POINT. It’s ok. If she hadn’t been there, I would have lost by at least ten more.

I walked in and she was sitting at Table Eight. The reason I know she was sitting at Table Eight is that the first time Dana and I ever went to trivia, we didn’t put a team name on our paper because we didn’t know we had to… so that’s the team name they gave us. She was sitting in my chair, so I took Dana’s. Did it feel weird to be sitting on “the wrong side?” Yes. Did it feel weird that we lost? Also yes.

The first time that Dana and I went, these two guys showed up at our table and said, “we just wanted to meet the team that showed up late when we thought we had it in the bag and kicked our asses.” We were basically an instant foursome after that, and after having won eight games in a row, David decided to get cocky and name our team “Thanks for the Free Drink.” I would like to tell you that David’s hubris cost us dearly, but no. We won that one, too. Every week, there was an alcohol question, so if we won and they had it, I ordered the drink in the game. I got to try a lot of things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Some were amazing. Some were not.

When it was my turn to pick the team name, I always liked to start with an ellipsis so that it was a sentence. For instance, my favorite was “and tonight’s winner is …under investigation by the FBI.” We had some good ones over the years. We were having a conversation over what could possibly be in fat free Caesar dressing one night, thus our team name was “Chemical Anchovies.” One of our team member’s names was Nathan, so one night we were “Better Nate Than Lever” when he had a work thing and came in halfway through.

On Monday, our team name was “PBRmada.” Soooooo Portland.

Still pissed about losing by one point, although thank God Hope was not there to see it. The worst part is that we tied for first and THEN lost in the tie-breaker.

Now that I’ve taken you down THAT piece of memory lane, I got home to my family going through a hurricane of enormous proportions, and it’s still going. Kelly, Will, Wi-Phi, and their dogs are holed up at my dad’s because he has a generator AND, as a paramedic, has delivered three babies…. just in case they can’t get to a hospital. Better him than me…. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies. But lucky kid that the first person she (squee!) sees may be Papa, what Wi-Phi calls him.

While my dad and stepmom grabbed Kelly & Co., I went to see the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs play the Sugar Land Skeeters. I was right behind the on-deck for the Skeeters, so I got to talk to every player, told them I hoped their houses and families were okay, etc. One player said he was only worried about his truck, because his house is in Louisiana and his truck is at Skeeters Stadium. And I thought Silver Spring to Alexandria was a long commute……..

So, it’s been a very eventful time, and I am proud of the way I handled all of it. The being in Portland, the worrying about the hurricane, the going by myself to a baseball game, everything. People always ask me why I don’t invite others to come with me to these things. Easy. I am way too focused on my camera, and I don’t want to ask anyone else if they’re ready to leave and have them say no…. because when I’ve had enough, I have had enough. I don’t care how tight their pants are, Barbara.

 

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Sermon for Proper 14, Year A: Choppy Waters

Matthew 14:22-7

It’s hard to imagine looking at the news this week and not feel the choppiness of the water surrounding our boats. We pray for all those affected by the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, particularly the family of the woman who died and those injured. We pray for all those at University of Virginia and the neighboring schools who are watching in horror.

We pray for Guam, who has been directly threatened by Kim Jong Un. We pray for a president who has no experience in this type situation, and may encourage violence rather than squash it.

Prayer is about hope, faith, and love. We may not be able to directly calm the waters around us, but we can abate the hurricanes inside us, emotions rising that we may not have felt before because for the young, they are walking in new territory… while older Americans remember the white supremacy violence and nuclear threats of the 1960’s, and have to relive that trauma.

Today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus needing rest and relaxation after preaching to the crowds and having them flock toward him, overwhelming the calm inside him and needing to retreat to recover. While he is gone, a storm brews on the Sea of Galilee (now known as Lake Kinneret), and Jesus cuts his time away short to run to the shore and help them.

It is essential to remember that Jesus is not doing anything out of the ordinary, and is in fact, a part of his personality. Jesus is doing what he always does, which is to help people in need. When the Disciples see him walk out onto the water, they are terrified. Some people translate this literally, that he could walk on water. However, from the Greek, it is unclear whether this is what happened. In verse 25, it is epi ten thalassan, which can equally mean over the sea and towards the sea. In verse 26, it is epi tës thalassës, which can mean on the sea or at the seashore. Therefore, it is hard to tell whether the Disciples thought they’d seen a ghost because he was walking on water toward them, or whether he just sneaked up behind them and they jumped out of their skin. Remember, he was away and unexpected.

The surprise regardless of what you believe happened is that Jesus shows up in their hour of fear and need of reassurance. Whether the storm blew over on its own, or whether Jesus personally calmed the waves is of no consequence. As  Rev. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister in addition to his PBS presence, put it, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.

When we look around at the choppy waters surrounding our own boats, let us not focus on the water. Let us focus on the people who are willing to drop whatever they’re doing to rush in and help us in our own hours of need.

There is no better metaphor for our current situation than Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk rescue mission during WWII in which private sailors volunteered to drop everything they were doing, including fishermen who would lose wages, to go and rescue soldiers in France and bring them back to British shores, because the destroyers could not reach shallow water. Without even thinking about it, they refused to focus on the choppy water, but on the people in need. People who never signed up for military service endured gunfire and bombs, but ignored the threat in favor of “keeping calm and carrying on.”

It has become a trite saying, but when you really ask yourself, “what would Jesus do?,” this is it. This is the spirit of Christ working through enormous chaos, calming the water for the soldiers who saw the rescue boats coming. Just like the Disciples surprised by Jesus, they had no idea that the small crafts were coming. Some were scattered among different ships, and others were swimming for their lives.

Even if the weather was still bad, the storms that raged within the soldiers as they knew they were facing almost certain death from German fire or hypothermia were calmed. The spirit of Christ walked on the water, to the water, in the water.

When the storm rages within you, know that someone is coming. It might be the spirit of Christ that lives in you, or it might be the spirit of Christ that lives within someone else, ready to drop anything to come and help you in your own hour of need.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Falling Water

I’m reading a YA series that I started for free on Amazon and couldn’t put down. It’s called The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney. Janie Johnson has a milk allergy, so she shouldn’t have even been drinking milk that day… but she was eating a peanut butter sandwich, and couldn’t resist grabbing a friend’s carton. The blood drains from her face as she looks closely at the waxed cardboard. It’s a toddler wearing a dress she can still picture, still feel the fabric in her hands. It doesn’t make any sense.

51CtC+YyAXL

Her parents couldn’t be criminals. Ready to faint, she realizes she was kidnapped 12 years ago… and whether or not her parents were criminals, there was still another family looking for her.

Through a series of twists and turns, the first book ends with Janie meeting her bio family. The second book is her adjustment period, in which her boyfriend listens patiently to all her worries, fears… and rarely, joys.

The third book starts with her boyfriend going to college and becoming a DJ on the college radio station. Dead air hangs as he struggles with what to say… and all of the sudden, it comes to him… Once upon a time….

I’m guessing you can figure out what comes next. All of the sudden, my fears and insecurities spilled out on the couch. I body-blushed, and panic raced through me as fast as the water falls through the Columbia River Gorge. I’m halfway to dry heaving before I realize I have the ability to put my thoughts to paper, and hope it helps. It generally does. If not, I will take a walk with my headphones in and set to dead air. Thinking while mobile allows my endorphins to create different pathways in my head, so that I stop thinking about problems and start thinking about solutions.

I started this YA series to get the structure and feel of it. Now about 60% through the third book, I realize that in a lot of ways, I am no better than Janie’s boyfriend, who isn’t malicious, but certainly thoughtless…. or is he?

Through all of his talks with Janie, he’s had nowhere to put them. Nowhere to decompress. Nowhere to receive feedback from strangers who have no horse in the race. His signal strength is nowhere near broad enough to get from his college town to Janie’s house in a different state. He spills his guts, unloading all of his own thoughts and feelings on everything he’s been through, trying to communicate and organize the jumble of emotions in his head…. without thinking that someday, someone close to him would turn the knob to his frequency.

He’s the good guy AND the bad. He can’t help but have been affected by all this, but he doesn’t take precautions. He doesn’t change names, he doesn’t change descriptions, he doesn’t change any identifying details at all.

I, at least, try. What I have found over time is that I’m not very good at it. There are certain people I do name, but a thousand others I don’t. I want you to know my friends, to meet them in your own way as they develop over time into 3-D characterizations that I hope are as full of life as they are…. especially for my friends in different areas of the country that I hope will one day run into each other.

Other people whose identities I thought were sealed have been as flimsy as shaved ham…. and I think, how could I have been so stupid? Why couldn’t I have thought a few more steps ahead? It feels like I have been Gretel all along, leaving breadcrumbs and then throwing myself into the oven. The only defense that even possibly stands up is that even though I was leaving breadcrumbs, they were too small for me to see… too small for me to find my way back… but not so tiny that other people couldn’t.

If it wasn’t for The Wayback Machine, I would have gotten up from that novel and deleted this entire site…. because now I know I’ve been tattooed from my scalp to my heels. There’s nothing I could do or say to get away from the things I’ve already written, both about myself and others. My comfort comes from the fact that I’ve tried my very best to only tell my side of the story, leaving room for both other people’s perceptions of me and the Truth™ that exists in the middle. But sometimes, just sometimes, I’ve crossed that line. The truth that exists for me is that those moments have been subconscious, because I’ve always thought of this blog as being about my own reactions to other people and not the things they think about me… and if I’ve published something that was a reaction to me, it was only my interpretation of what it might mean, and not the meaning that the other person would say it was. But when I do that, the chances that I’ll learn their truth diminish dramatically, because they think I’ve already made up my mind.

You can read three or four days of entries in a row and tell that’s not true at all. I change my mind constantly, which isn’t always seen as evolution, but maliciously two-faced. It is then that I go back to the name of this web site, which I coined from my belief about The Bible…. Stories That Are All True…. and some of them actually happened. I would like to think that the conflicts in both are made up of evolution in thought…. like the old joke about describing different parts of an elephant. The views from the front, sides, and back are completely different, and yet, all valid. Different entries are different trains of thought, sometimes brought about by the view in front of me and/or the passage of time.

Time has a way of softening hurt, and yet, does not defeat it entirely.

From where I sit right now, the passage of time has allowed me to look more fully at all the ways my marriage and my friendship with Argo went well… but it doesn’t erase the hurts they dealt me, or my guilt at the hurts I dealt them, either. Time just slips in and, like water, smooths the hard places.

And yet, those two people aren’t even close to the number of people I’ve loved and lost because I wrote something without thinking about it all the way around. Outside of Argo and Dana, there’s another woman I met over the Internet that used to chat with me when I worked overnight at Alert Logic, keeping me company on a lunch break that usually started at 0400… some of the most precious hours of my life. She was my velvet hammer, with the metal on the outside so that hardness and softness coexisted in a beautiful way. You couldn’t get to the velvet immediately, you had to be invited…. but I got the metal when I was entirely deserving of it… that friend who wasn’t afraid to tell you that you’re fucking up instead of covering it up as not to engage, or couching it in sugar so that you couldn’t really tell what was being said in the way it was supposed to be taken.

I let her go without a fight, when she deserved to be fought for. I didn’t have many friends that would tell me the straight-up truth when I needed to hear it. Telling you why it ended would just be yet another breech of confidentiality. All I will say is that it was my fault entirely. She didn’t leave so much as she was forced to say, I’m out. She didn’t say those words, exactly, but context clues are my strong point.

I also got the sense that she didn’t want to be fought for, didn’t need or want my input on the situation, which was basically I’ve been an idiot, and I should have and could be a better friend to you. But no. I just tried my best to pretend it didn’t hurt and move on.

As my hurt began to compound interest, I was bleeding out emotionally… but what was coming across was anxiety in the form of rage when I didn’t even know that anxiety presented that way… that not getting so angry was an easy fix. I needed medication to slow my physical reactions and therapy to slow the behavioral ones… but I didn’t get it (physically or mentally) until I hit rock bottom and had to claw my way up.

Rock bottom was not everyone else becoming exhausted and enraged by my behavior. Rock bottom was realizing who I was in the equation, exactly the person I did not want to be. I can make all sorts of excuses… I was emotionally abused as a child, I didn’t have coping mechanisms, my medication wasn’t right, blah blah blah… The awful thing was that until I released my own thunderstorms, I actually believed them. Didn’t question them for the excuses that they were, because I thought I had no power.

People like me didn’t have power. They stood next to powerful people and hoped it rubbed off. Or, worse yet, people like me didn’t have power. They married into it, because when you aren’t carrying yourself under your own power, it’s easiest to support someone else in theirs…. to make them able to do what they do better because solving their problems is infinitely easier than looking at your own.

The paradigm shift didn’t come until I met Dana, because we were both on equal footing in life, and neither one of us was the driving force carrying the other. When it was over, I retreated into myself, because I realized I was falling backward instead of stumbling forward. It took two dates with a lawyer and thinking about a date with an intelligence agent on loan from MI-5 to realize it.

After that, dating was over for me. Just done. I realized that if I couldn’t have the same type relationship I’d had with Dana, where we both came into the relationship on equal footing, I didn’t belong in a relationship at all…. and still don’t. It’s not a matter of wanting Dana back. It’s a matter of refusing to engage in romance until I am sure that I have something to bring to the table without being an accessory to greatness… wanting that relationship where there is no chance of codependency because we are both taking care of our own problems rather than the me that would fix your life in a hot second while mine hangs in the balance, unexplored, and in turn, unlived.

I’ve made a couple of people laugh when I’ve joked, at this point, my only hopes for retirement are Pulitzer Prize or marry well. I’ve since stopped saying it, because even though I really was joking, the more I prodded into my sub-conscience, it ceased to be funny.

So, Pulitzer Prize it is.

Sermon for Proper 11, Year A: Subtraction

It might help to read the scriptures before you read the sermon, although if I put them here, my word count is bigger. 😛


In researching for this sermon today, I accidentally came across something profound in a novel called Quantum Lens, by Douglas Richards. I have two free book aggregators that comes to me through e-mail every day, and though it is not on sale anymore, it is worth every penny ($6.99). As an aside, because I’ve gotten so many books for free, my Kindle is breaking under the “weight” of everything I haven’t read….. But the lines I came across that struck me so deeply are these, and I’ll have to paraphrase:

Character 1: How many colors are in the rainbow?
Character 2: Seven, but with combinations, infinite possibilities.
C1: What color do you get when you look at all of them together?
C2: White.
C1: Right. Water is blue not because of addition. Water is blue because of subtraction. The water is not blue because it was made that way, but because the water subtracts everything but blue. What if God is the same way? God is not God because of addition, but because of subtraction? That God is all infinite possibilities and creates by subtracting pieces of God’s self breaking open?

In another part of the book, my mind was absolutely blown. One of the characters says that on the first day of creation, Genesis says, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Ok, so we’re there. It’s one of the most famous passages in all of scripture… and here’s where it gets interesting.

The sun and the moon and the stars weren’t created until the fourth day.

What if, without knowing it, quantum physics is explained in Biblical terms by the 3rd verse of the first chapter of the first book in the Bible… God separating light matter from dark in a concept not truly understood even today… Again, God working through subtraction and not addition.

God dividing themself rather than multiplying.

When you think of scripture in this way, we are all subtractions of God… tiny pieces of divinity flung throughout the world, no matter what kind of deity to which you identify. Eastern, Western, it’s all the same. What changes is the way we subtract from God willingly. If God has many names, they also have none. There is no separation from God, because you are a piece of them, cut of the same cloth:

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me *
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,

Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.

Psalms 139: 7-11

What would Christianity look like if we all saw ourselves in this way? What if we threw out the idea of the grandfather in the sky and all realized that God themself is within us, and not without? How would that change theology as we know it? Not for the people that study it every day, but for the people who think they are worthless, or friendless, or needy, or insecure, or all of the things we tell ourselves in our moments of weakness

What would it look like to know for sure that you are not a multiplication of God, but a subtraction? That God themself is in the beating of your heart, divinity you do not have to seek anywhere but in your own heart? What would it look like if all of God’s subtractions stopped subtracting from each other, because as a human race, we are all the same pieces?

What if we were able to subtract negativity, toxicity, war-mongering, famine… all the horrible things that humans do to one another because we do not realize that we are literally hurting ourselves? If everyone on earth is a subtraction of God, we are all literally the same person, with enough difference to make things interesting. We lash out in fear, but what if we were all able to turn that fear on its ear and reach out in the knowledge that when we treat each other unfairly, or engender anger and fear in others, we are only using a knife to cut our own hearts?

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Letter in the Spirit of Paul to the Romans

Who hopes for what is seen?

If we are to believe in this letter, we have a lot of work to do. “Paul” is urging us to set our own creation free. Chapter 8, from which this excerpt is taken, deals with the problem of righteousness and entitlement… that being saved in hope does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want without consequences. His ambition in this letter is to show that the Jews of his time practiced their faith by strict adherence to the law, and to him, there was no way on earth this was possible, or even probable. What speaks to “Paul” is spiritual submission, the act of doing the right thing because the law did not always line up morally.

Jesus freed us from all Talmudic law, which is the basis for the new church that “Paul” is trying to create. In effect, he wants to subtract Christians from the legal bondage that the Jews have created, to be able to follow their own hearts and minds. Reading between the lines, “Paul” is calling out all the Jews who live to the letter of the law and yet, have no spirituality at all…. but he’s trying to fix it. He is trying to show the Romans that they are not a church of their own, but part of a larger body, all subtracted from the same being.

There is also self-motivation as well as mobilization. “Paul” was eager to preach in Spain as the West opened up, and he knew that establishing Rome as a base of operations was his best bet. He laid his heart bare, establishing his theology, because he knew that his “reviews” from Rome would be mixed based upon his reputation without even knowing him…. because who hopes for what is seen? He was trying to hope for something bigger than the churches he knew well (to paraphrase Wm. Barclay).

In order to do this, he establishes that we must be responsible for our own well-being and that of others. Not to be claimed, but to own the claim we already have. “Paul” calls us the first fruits of the spirit, just sitting there, waiting.

What are we waiting for if God has already subtracted a piece of themself into us, so that we may further the message of the Christ on our own? If “Paul” was reaching beyond the hope that was already established, what is stopping us? What is stopping us from reaching out to the poor, friendless, needy, insecure, or otherwise hurt in a world that sometimes knocks us flat? What is stopping us from subtracting pain? What is stopping us from subtracting fear? What is stopping us from subtracting unity?

Glory is not about to be revealed to us. It is already here. What are we waiting for?

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Sermon for Proper 10, Year A: Seeds and Stems

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Sperm is often called “seed,” especially in the Bible. Therefore, every single one of us starts out as a seed, and when, joined with an egg, takes root in the womb and stems outward. A lot of our personality is created when seeds become stems  and stems become branches and branches become the mature tree… a new person, ready to take on the world.

But have you ever stopped to wonder how the DNA handed down to you affects the type of roots you create? What kind of seed you might be? Do you consistently seek out people who you deem “in the same garden?”

The types of seeds that Jesus is talking about directly relate to personalities in people, and he says so directly when he’s explaining what he just said. This is because often, when Jesus uses an analogy while preaching, and even in just talking to his disciples, what he receives is a series of dumb looks.

This is not unusual even today, because without repetitive explanation, people get lost in their own minds and now have no idea what you’re saying. The best preaching advice I’ve ever gotten is, “first, you tell them. Next, you tell them again. Then you tell them again.” Of course, you use different illustrations, but they’re all the same point.

When people are firmly planted in their pews, completely tracking with you, they may not get the idea of repetition. People who are not often need it. As a preacher, I am competing with the personal stories that come up for the people listening, what to have for lunch, and, especially in Portland, a sunny day.

It’s the difference between how the seeds are planted, and what kind of personalities they create.

We can even expand past the personal to the local church. Are you invested with deep roots, or did your mother make you come? It’s at this point that we have to ask ourselves “are we the 30, the 60, or the 100-fold kind of church?”

What kind of church ARE we?

Are we so shallow in our commitment that a bird could swallow us up? That it would take so little to make us disband? We have nourished the bird, but have failed ourselves in a “give a man a fish” kind of way. We’ve sustained, for a moment, one being… and walked away. The gospel competes with the world, and loses… badly.

Have we planted ourselves on rocky soil, reaching for the sun? The best analogy I can think for this kind of church are those that initially are so gung ho that they over-commit, and six or 12 months later, leave, never to return… because it’s just so much work. Few can let go and listen because the running tab of things to do is so long, particularly for “the Marthas…” who place very little importance on the phrase don’t just do something, sit there.

Initial excitement in its exuberance is a wonderful thing, but it has to be watered carefully, as not to burn or drown. There is generally little room to add new crops, because people are already so mired between committees and choirs and teaching Sunday School and laying out vestments and ALL THE THINGS that new shoots spring up, and there’s no one with enough sunlight left to tend to them. The gospel just gets in the way of the running to-do list with no respite.

Churches with deep roots are not only self-sustaining, but have the ability to minister to others… and it’s a difference you can both see and feel. Deep roots mean there’s a group of people for each single thing, so that no one group has to do everything. The same 30 or 60 people are not the entire church, but just the choir or just a couple of committees. If you’ve ever been to a really small church, you know that there are at least ten people who are on every committee and in the choir, and have to say “no more.” Not out of malice, out of exhaustion. There are churches with deep roots who have the ability to create a committee just to shake new people’s hands as they come in the door, and that is their only function. There is enough room between rows, enough nutrients for everyone, that the seeds become stems and the stems become branches and the branches become the mature tree. The gospel is not working at us, but through us. We are able to welcome the stranger, give to the poor, fight racial inequality and GLBTQI rights… we have the ability to widen the net, teaching others to fish as we go.

Which invariably leads to the question of what kind of world we want to be.

For a lot of people, it’s starting to feel like being a 100-fold seed in a 30-fold world. But here’s the catch… it’s not a 30-fold seed world. Perception is not reality. There are enough people to do everything, enough people to be able to pick which causes to support, which battles to fight… and which governments need resistance. Resistance is not futile, it’s its own kind of protest.

Hundred-fold people create hundred-fold churches which give the individual a chance to grow into a community. So many people can and will get involved, but are overwhelmed when it comes to how to “jump in.” They are the hope and the future as to how a 30-fold seed can find its way from feeding one being to all of them.

This is where you are issued an invitation, in turn to give one. In my own life, I have never once had success with inviting someone to come with me to church. I have had success with showing them who I am and to whom I belong. For instance, I’ve invited friends to march with me in the Pride parade along with my church group…. or go to a political rally. Wide-eyed, they look at me as if to say, your church does THAT?

Of course. In a church with deep roots, the plants grow toward the sky, because the deeper the support system, the easier it is to say…

Jesus Has Left the Building.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

How to Even Tag This One…..

I haven’t heard anything from Blackboard, and I’m starting to get very frustrated, because of all the companies I could work for in all the world, this is where I straight up belong. Helping Scott and Andrew set up the Academic Technology Support Center at University of Houston was one of the greatest years of my life. Scott even sent me to University of Minnesota for a WebCT conference, complete with nine inches of fresh snow on the ground, and I learned more in that one weekend than I did in five weeks of trying to teach myself. At first I thought I’d end up becoming an instructional designer myself, and got to do a little bit of that with Evangelinux and again going out on my own with Udemy.

I haven’t posted anything to Udemy yet, and will let you know when it’s available, because I have an issue I need to clear up first. I have to figure out how to evade online pirates, who will download your videos and take your course for free, offering it to others through direct download and torrenting.

If I can’t figure out how to do it on their server, I might be interested in offering it on my own. To do that, though, I’d have to move to a real server space rather than WordPress.com, because apart from a small donation button, they will not allow you to make money. I understand- they’re giving you server space for free. If I moved to another server, I’d be able to have more control with scripting, etc., plus be able to use things like Google AdWords. Now, you don’t make much with Google AdWords, but at the same time, you make more than if you can’t use it at all.

The idea of the course is Linux for beginners, using desktop recording software and voice overs. I have more than one idea, because I think people need to know how to use the command line, because typing is so much faster than searching through menus to get simple things done. The second idea is talking about replacements for all the software you really need. For instance, it is just not worth the cost to spend money on Windows, Office, PhotoShop, etc. when similar tools are available for free, and often open source, so that if you’re a programmer, you can customize everything to what you need with no legal penalty… even with Linux itself. Microsoft is just beginning to get on the open source bandwagon, and there is no way they’ll ever release the entire source code for any of their flagship products.

Quick tip for PhotoShop users… there’s an open source image software called GIMPShop (a mashup of Gnu Image Manipulation Program and PhotoShop) that changes all your keyboard shortcuts to the same ones you’d use in PhotoShop, therefore cutting the learning curve in half. Maybe I should have saved that for my own tutorial, but there you have it. The first one’s free.

I only lasted a year at the ATSC because I was promoted again to Internet/Intranet Developer II. Back then, it was so much easier to be a web developer because we were writing all our own code from scratch rather than having to make our web pages talk to databases, one of the major changes in web development over the years. Cascading Style Sheets were about as sophistocated as we got. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a file that you reference that is similar to creating styles in Microsoft Word. Basically, you separate out all the content from the formatting and put the formatting in this one file that works across all the pages in a particular site. That way, if you want all your headings to be in a larger/different font, you change one file rather than manually having to change every heading on every page… which, back in the day, was as excruciating as it sounds.

This is another reason to change to my own server space, because on WordPress.com, all the fonts and everything are controlled by the theme. If I upgraded to WordPress premium or whatever, I’d have complete control of ALL THE THINGS. But I still wouldn’t be able to do everything that needs to be done in terms of protecting myself from illegal downloads…. or as much as I can, anyway. Surely there’s got to be some kind of Digital Rights Management for personal web sites… which wouldn’t stop a hacker if they were really dedicated, but would definitely stop the lazy ones.

But for most of you, this post is probably unbearably boring, because you don’t want to hear about WebDev and all that computer crap. You come hear to learn about what I’m doing and how I’m feeling and how I’m interacting with others, along with how I’m dealing with soul-sucking grief.

The short answer is that I’m not.

I’m burying myself in trying to find a job, trying to push myself to create my own courses to have income I don’t have to watch, anything to get away from having to think or feel anything that doesn’t have to do with business. I have done so much feeling and thinking about everything that I’m getting tired of it. I’m tired of feeling down ALL THE FUCKING TIME. I’m tired of feeling that I don’t deserve joy because I am enmeshed in grief. I am tired of feeling guilty when I receive said joy because I am “supposed to be” in mourning.

I am tired of worrying about what Dana & Argo and anyone else I’ve pissed off thinks and turning my attention to those who do show up. Because honestly, what good is it doing me? They’re never coming back and it is wasted energy all the way around. I’ll never be able to say enough, do enough, be enough to erase the hardship I’ve caused both of them. “You’ll never amount to anything” and “we’ll never be normal” are beginning to be it for me. I say “beginning” because it’s just my personality to overthink and overworry and carry that shit around for years on end… because not only do I owe them a hell of a lot more from me than they got, they’ve stopped listening and they did a long time ago. Even when I am being dead-level honest, they don’t believe it, anyway. It’s not my job to judge whether they should believe me or not. That’s their decision, one in which I’ll never have control (and shouldn’t). But what I can do is try to stop thinking about it, try to stop caring so damn much, try to love them in a loopback that feeds me and keeps me going rather than expending energy trying to “win” them back. I can’t undo or redo the past, but I can take the lessons I learned and turn them into something beautiful in their names… because I cannot and will not forget the gifts they gave me along the way. It was a long road to stop thinking about all the negativity and toxicity and just breathe, taking in the wonder of their prayers and presence while I had it.

Just because I erupted and crazy spatter and emotional vomit rained all over them due to forces I thought were literally beyond my control doesn’t mean that I don’t take full responsibility for it. Notice that I said “forces I thought were beyond my control.” They weren’t. I just didn’t have any coping mechanisms and everything I was feeling made me go off like a loose cannon, saying and doing things completely contrary to who I am, because my emotional abuse lasted so long that when I finally accepted it and started moving on, there were….. casualties. I said things I’ll never be able to take back, acted in ways I never thought I’d be capable.

Because I had no way to stop it at the time, everything that was heaped upon me was heaped upon them… mostly because I couldn’t confront the person with whom I was really angry…. and it isn’t as if I didn’t try. I tried with a passion I’ve never felt before or since. It left me full of despair and rage for which I had no safe outlet, and chose the most unsafe of all…. two people who loved me beyond all reasonable measure… or at least it seemed that way to me, because I didn’t think I was worthy of that kind of love. It surpassed all my understanding…. and because I was not healthy, of course I chose to go after this dysfunctional, unstable, disaster of a relationship rather than relying on the healthy patterns I’d developed with Dana, and later with Argo. And, as all emotionally abusive relationships inevitably end, I blew up like a firecracker because it was SO UNFAIR.

It had never been fair, but I didn’t know any different. I wandered further and further from myself, my values, my personal compass as I tried to release the thunderstorm that had been raining on my head since 1990.

In the words of Dooce, it sucked and then I cried.

It sucks that I’ll never go back to that time in my life, because both relationships ended with our bridges burning in effigy. How could they not? At this point, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter what I want, and they are two completely separate things in each relationship.

With Dana, it would be the ability to have stayed married through the storm, knowing it would pass once I returned to my old self. But you never go back to someone with whom you’ve had a physical fight. She started it and by God she was going to end it. I’ve never been hit harder in my life. I do blame myself for escalating things emotionally and not running away before it got physical… but I don’t blame myself for getting hit, trying to defend myself, and it ending….. poorly.

With Argo, it would be to erase the words that cut me like a knife, that “we’d never be normal.” It would be her contacting me as if everything was okay and yet, it was CLEARLY not. It would also be the chance to thank her in person for emotionally whipping my ass, because it got me back on the road to wholeness. It would be the chance to give and receive hugs that last a second longer, because it might do more good than an apology in black and white. It would be a chance to know the whole package rather than the people we presented to each other- only the sides of each other that we wanted the other to know. It could never be a do-over, but a begin-again. It would be to know forgiveness rather than remission.

For the non-Episcopalians, remission of sin is erasing it like it never happened. Forgiveness is recognizing the wrong and reconciling it.

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to cover anything up. I want my friends to love me even though I am hugely flawed, because I’d do the same for them.

I am starting to find those friends, or rekindle friendships that have been idle a long time. It is an important step in finding the next great love of my life, because if I can’t be a good friend, I can’t be a good partner.

As I rest and recover, though, there’s no place like localhost.

Tolstoy Abridged

…she had learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.

-Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

It is funny the lengths to which we will go, the things we will withstand, when we think we need something or someone… most likely someone. Things are an achievable goal. People are moving targets of emotion. In most relationships, but not all, there is some bit of lopsidedness to it. Not everyone finds that marriage, that friendship, that boss in which esteem and respect are equal to one another.

And yet we go on, trying to please and tolerating others’ behaviors as if they are normal in order to learn their particular brand of dysfunction. As Leo Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina, “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” No family is immune to it- to fit in, we adjust our expectations from the ways we were raised to the way they were… because equality is about compromise, and need is ingratiating ourselves, sublimating the parts of us that are completely different so “we’re on the same page.”

I didn’t learn this from my biological family. I learned it over years and years of emotional abuse. Early and often I changed my behavior so that I didn’t rock the boat, and walked on eggshells, afraid to be myself… because when I was, it was a signal to me that I wasn’t needed anymore. Agreement meant love; disagreement meant “I just don’t know what to do with you. I can’t win, so I’ll just leave.”

Appeasement was the name of the game, and we all do it, but some less than others. Take, for instance, your work phone voice and the voice you use when you’re just shooting the shit with your friends. If “the customer is always right,” sometimes that means swallowing words that need to be said and aren’t… mostly things like “you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Customer service is the only profession I know in which trying not to fake your own death so you don’t have to go to work is a daily struggle…. because people won’t unload on the others they’re mad at, but they have no problem treating the clerk at Target or the waiter at Jaleo like that. They think it’s impersonal, having no idea how deep their words cut… because hey, they’ll never see you again.

And that’s where they’re wrong. They need you. It’s not like they’re going to abandon going to Target or Jaleo, and they’ll see you again whether you want to see them or not. As soon as they walk in the door, you remember their “kick the dog” syndrome and try desperately to find someone else to help them.

But sometimes you’re stuck, and it’s a crapshoot as to whether they’ll remember and apologize.

This same behavior happens in relationships. We’re mad about something else, and unload on the people we love the most, because we know their softest spots. Unsurprisingly, they also retreat, and if the words cut deeply enough, and apology isn’t necessary, because they won’t hear it, anyway.

Because sometimes the emotional abuse is given, rather than received… especially if that’s what’s been modeled for you long enough. Others tiptoe around you, so that you don’t pick up your toys and go home… the exact scenario you were trying to avoid with someone else. You watch as they change their behavior around you, rarely self-aware enough to know they’re doing it, because you’re doing the same thing… your own egocentricity in the way… both saying to each other “please don’t leave me. I am broken and I know it, I just don’t know how to fix it.” Just not with words.

But that’s what happens with fully-functioning adults. As a child and an adult in any kind of relationship, the balance of power is off to an enormous degree… and any perceived anger is all their fault. There is nothing within them that says “this person is treating me unfairly and I need to stand up for myself.” This is because when the child tries to stand up for themselves, it leads to witholding of affection and long, drawn-out silences in which the child takes on the “I have to fix everything” mentality. Instead of another adult compromising themselves into your crazy as you adopt theirs, children cannot begin to comprehend what they’ve done wrong.

And often, this is the root of the problem with adults who also think that every slight is their fault. You don’t get away from it, there’s no relief until you can take back your own power… and it never, ever happens in an instant. It is a lifelong process of examining why you think the way you think, because even when you think you’ve made progress, you’ll fall back into old patterns because they are so ingrained. It is a lifetime of two steps forward, and between one and four steps back. Just like one is never cured of addiction, one is never cured of codependency.

Adulthood modeled badly for children leads to future adults that cannot trust their own intuition, often relying on other people they perceive as just as damaged as they are because they know they can take a healthy person and destroy them. Sometimes it’s a good thing to share experiences, as my friend Donna calls “compatible wounds.” At others, it’s one awful pattern feeding the other with no end in sight, because neither one is aware of just how much they’re doing to excoriate good memories.

The eternal rub, the thing that makes both of you bleed, is that when you’re saying awful words to each other, it’s really just a cover-up as to how you feel about yourself. If you think you’re worthless, that’s how you’ll treat others. You don’t really think that about the other person, you’re expressing your own disgust at yourself, and it comes across as rage and anxiety… words coming out of your mouth before you even have a chance to connect consequences. If someone has treated you that way, why would you? It’s “what you’re supposed to do” in an argument. For two people abused as children, these are fights that are designed to cut both people off at the knees, mutually assured destruction in which both parties have trouble standing back up.

The craziness continues because you’re so afraid of getting “crazy spatter” on healthy people… or at least, the people we view as such… not really taking in that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. These days, I tend to believe that there are no healthy people, only healthy actions… and, as Elizabeth Gilbert says, “I don’t know of any story of self-enlightenment that doesn’t begin with getting tired of your own bullshit.” I had to decide to get healthy. I had to decide it was time to, in the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, “put away childish things.” However, just like deciding to come out as GLBT, you don’t do it once… you do it every day. I can’t just decide once. I will die having to make these decisions.

If Need accommodates cruelty, it is a choice to step away from it…. not once, but each and every day. I would amend that statement to say that Need only accommodates cruelty when it is based in lopsided affection, when you think you need something not meant for you. Healthy need is interdependence, not wishing and hoping someone will finally realize what you have to offer… because pro tip… they won’t. Users that make it impossible to please them will only move on to someone else when they realize they can’t get adoration from you anymore. They’ll just lovebomb someone else until they’re so wrapped up in the lovebombing that they can’t understand why it would go away, and what they did to deserve it.

“Putting away childish things” is the realization that you know exactly what you did. You took those childhood behaviors and carried them into adulthood, where they no longer serve you… but again, it’s not a realization that happens once, but every time you interact with others. You have to ask yourself if you are really happy and healthy, or in the company of others, whether everyone is just unhappy in their own way. You have to stand up and say………….

I’m not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy. – Ernest Hemingway