quiet

I'm stealing some words today. They're my words, entrusted a handful of weeks ago to my closest friend in an email. Somehow that description doesn't work. It's too light. But it's late and my mind is buzzing with peace, if that could even be rendered as sense.

Tonight I saw my brokenness laid out more honestly than it ever has been before.

But someone was willing to accept it.

To understand.

To know.

So I don't have many words that are original for you today, because all my emotion has resigned itself to rest.

Today I get to see a number of people whom I love very much, including a group of friends, a tribe, who have insisted on celebrating my birthday tonight. So, with all that goodness, I need to slip into the quiet and share something already written, but something that stirs me still.

I wrote this while I was in London ...

The theater district at night. A taxi for a tenner, swirling past this place. Laughter. People everywhere. Beautiful. People are beautiful with stories that I will never know. But I can write them.

The lights erupt across the city in defiance of the darkness.

I wonder at the elaboration of God's foreknowledge, that we would one day make light to ignite our cities even in darkness, and would deny Him as Creator and yet still think it a secular miracle to produce time and again what the first of creation was.

Broken people still expect the light to carry them through in the things they need, except for those things they wish to hide, because they know somehow that it's wrong. But they all come into the light to eat, to listen, to be. There is little being in darkness. And people who are not used to being are drawn to people who are.

We're all aching for home.

A note here, to you my dear readers. Thank you for journeying on with me. It has meant more than I know how to say.

+1 attack!

It's Wednesday, so I'm writing about relationships, sex, and dating. Or, today, the lack thereof. Please, if you watch 30 Rock, understand that this is best read if you think of it being read to you by Liz Lemmon. Disclaimer: This is not a plea for a date, either. You faceless, beautiful Internet, you. Last year, I was standing in the liminal space between Indian and Eastern European imported foods in the local grocer when the remnant of my relational sanity broke.

There it was, in the harsh light of fluorescent overheads: an emailed save the date on my iPhone, which detailed the location of the wedding, that a reception would follow, and that I needed to indicate if I was to be "1" or "+1".

That's right. It was a +1 attack.

Those of you non-singles out there may have been non-single long enough that you have forgotten what a +1 attack is. It is what happens when you reach a certain age, typically in your early twenties, when all the people you thought would never get married are suddenly, in fact, getting married. They then, for reasons that you can only suppose have something to do with the fact that you have a good eye and shop at Neiman Marcus, invite you to their wedding.

You and, if you have one to bring, a guest.

A significant other.

A +1.

Immediately, as a single person, you are left in utter limbo.

You can't bring a friend to a wedding, because then everyone talks about how you couldn't get a date. You can't bring a date to the wedding, because there have been enough sitcoms to remind us that this usually results in very bad situations: you pretending to be in a much better job than you currently are and your date attempts an accent, which drops off after the first toast.

Worse, you can't go alone. Going alone means that you really, really couldn't get a date, let alone a friend. It means that you will have to endure approximately seven relatives of the bride or groom that you have never met assuring you that they have a daughter, a neighbor, a traffic cop, a pediatrist, a recently released sex offender, who you would, they know, just love.

Regardless, it's a lousy way to spend an afternoon.

The only solution, naturally, is to buy them the $15 vase and potpourri set on clearance from Nordstrom with a gift note that explains how sorry you are you couldn't be there, but you wish them all the best. (Why Nordstrom? Because they handwrite the gift notes for you. Your handwriting may end up looking like it came from a midlevel employee in south Jersey, but it's better than Amazon's brick font.)

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This is, of course, a bit of humor and has absolutely no bearing on any weddings I have been invited to as of late. But it's also some raw honesty. I'm tired of being single. Is it alright for me to say that out loud? Can I admit that without a series of comments assuring me that a woman is out there for me? Because I know that. I've had the privilege of dating some incredible women in my life, some long-term. I've not given up or lost hope, but I am at a place where I am putting out to the void that it's an awful thing some days to be a 1 in a +1 world. Some of your +1 friends forget that sometimes. (And no, you who just wondered if I was talking about you, I'm not.)

I miss laying beside someone in a field under stars and weaving dreams of a better world.

God is good and faithful in all things. This I know. That doesn't always make it easy.

And maybe you feel that way too, maybe you know exactly what I mean by this +1 attack, maybe it just happened to you this morning.

There's hope. There's friends. There's the clearance section of Nordstrom.

Or Baby Gap. If it's that kind of wedding ...

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the wild fields of belief

There has been much talk lately about the historical Adam. Around the blogs people have gone back and forth asserting varying positions of belief, of necessity, of scientific fact. At the heart of all of this is the question of creation, if we and all this are truly formed from the spoken words of God in a sequence of days or if we are formed from the spoken words of God in a sort of progressive revelation of being, spanning millennia, evolving to the state we have now. I, too, have been thinking about this. I sit under the canopy of stars, which fill the cosmos with their songs of praise--a scientific fact, not just a good metaphor, I should note--and I marvel at the vastness that is being. Being in this great, erupting abundance of life and glory. I wonder to these questions of Adam, whether he ever was or if he is, simply, archetype, character, and that is the best we have, which is still quite a lot.

I am not a scientist. I am a writer, a poet, and though I recognize the art of science and the poetry of it, though I recognize that artists and poets do not have to agree with me and are probably better for it, I have trouble denying the idea of the historical Adam or the six day creation.

Why?

It has something to do with how much I love Story.

This shall be a weak defense to many, but you have to remember two things as I write this: I am not a scientist, as I have said, and I do not pretend to be; I am not particularly bothered if I happen to be wrong, which I am willing to assume I very well may be.

But for me to create, for me to write, oh, well, the image that God hath spoken all this beingness into its place, into its appointed time, needs to be there. Leave aside arguments of historicity and the ever expanding trove of contradictory facts that we can surface to prove nearly any theory, come sit with me on the sands that God spoke to Abram would be like the number of his descendants. Feel them shift and team, think on the great, impossible order of Genesis 1 and the cacaphonous harmony that is Genesis 2 and dare to suppose that between them there is, indeed, a fullness, a compliment, and an answer more beautiful than we are ready to see.

And yes, I am biased in this regard, but if you adamantly disagree with me, there's a place for you on this shifting sand too. Right beside me. But you have to bring the snacks.

It may turn out--and it may be quite likely--that I am wrong. It may be that evolution was really the answer, that we are now as we are because we came from things that have sense been. It's easy to see the Divine hands in that, too. So when Christ our Lord and I go on our walks in Paradise, which is a feature I sincerely hope for, but this too I am hard-pressed to prove, we'll have a nice chat about it, I'll laugh at my silliness, but I imagine He will understand.

Because for me, in a personal, indescribably deep way, in order for me to write, to create, to compose, I need to be left in the wild fields of belief, where this universe, abundant and brilliant, can be explained with as simple an answer as He spoke it into being.

Or sang. I do love thinking that it was sung.

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the twenty-second formica friday

It's that time again, after a three week hiatus while I was away in the UK, it's another Formica Friday, a treasure trove of hodgepodge, random tidbits, and a bit of this and that. In particular, it is the place where I can celebrate the best posts I read this past week and want to share with you. What exactly is Formica Friday, you ask? Check out the tongue-in-cheek, I got away with this?, definition from the first post.

A quote:

True theological discourse, true theology, asks Christ to come and abide with us, [to stay a little while at our table].

-- Peter Candler, Professor of Theology, Baylor University's Honors College

 

A list:
  • returning to my roots: poetics, creation, and Word
  • realizing the unspeakable joy in a simple table, set at the end of the world
  • copper wash tubs, glass milk bottles, ginger jars, and icons
  • celebrating the abundance enjoyed by others, especially friends
  • text messages, email, and leaps of faith between sentences
  • proper coffee, at last
  • early mornings, common prayer, and uncommon people of prayer
Posts, websites, trinkets, and the Internet week in review revue (after the jump):
  • It's funny, how some people can in the simplest ways put the most fundamental roots of all that we hope in and trust. This is a gift, not simply to write, but to behold Mystery and articulate Wisdom. I am so overjoyed to know Max's words, words that will not always treat you kindly with their truth, but haunt you, like the face of Christ, demanding that you make a confession for or against it all. "Your best life isn't now. The best is yet to come."
  • I am still green to Stephanie's words, but I am each time grateful for the grace she builds with them. She offers just a bit of herself each time, taking your hand gently and asking you to consider the deeper things in the ordinary moments. This, too, is a great gift. "How often are we so unknowingly close to eternity?"
And, as always, an old post from me:
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Have a post from the week you'd like to share? What was your best post this week? Or did you read someone else you just have to let us know about? Leave me a note in the comments below!

in which i may be the very worst theologian

You may have noticed that I have a slight tendency to speak as I find. I am opinionated, sometimes brash, staunch in conviction, and sure of everything I say.

That is, I am some days.

You may have noticed that I have a slight tendency to silence my certainty.

I am reflective, sometimes wavering, calm in doubt, and questioning of everything I see.

That is, I am some days.

I have come to understand my particular faith as a peculiar thing.

It is a faith that oscillates, sometimes hourly, between righteous indignation and abundant grace.

In the same service, the pouring of the water into the chalice before the wine may send me into a car-ride-home-rant about the necessity of being proper with our symbols, while the screaming child that the mother decided to leave in the service instead of taking out, distracting everyone, may find me staunchly defending the need for these interruptions to be met with tenderness.

Or vice versa.

On the same day.

In the same breath.

(Seriously, ask my poor friends about what it's like to go to church with me. Any church.)

Little things, these, so why do they matter?

Because it's not just the little things. There are days when I can't bring myself to call the Eucharist the Eucharist, but hold strong to Communion. There are days where the bread is but bread and not a greater substance, while on other days the lived metaphor of that bread as the Body is just shy of Substance that it could reach out and touch It.

And while I cling to some personal, deep absolutes, like how the bread no matter how sanctified or how holy is never the literal, transubstantiated Body, I live in a state of flux as to what else it may be. I know where my final line is, but before that line, it depends on the day. It depends on my morning. It depends on if I have been reading O'Conner or L'Engle or Wright or Descartes or Wharton or Eugenides or Aquinas or text messages.

So ask me in the morning what I feel about street evangelism and you'll have one livid, impassioned response decrying the whole affair, where by the afternoon I'll be out there with them suited up and riding a bike with an impossible smile on my face and tract in hand.

Well, perhaps not that far. But the idea is true. I'd likely be buying them Common Grounds and asking if we could sit down, if I could listen to them, to understand.

I wonder why this is.

I think of how strict many people are when it comes to their beliefs, how they see necessity in right doctrine, while my idea of right doctrine may on Sunday morning be the need for stained glass windows in the sanctuary and steeples outside, but by Sunday night may be about coffee houses and candlelight.

One minute, The Message is a lovely translation of the Scriptures for everyday people and the King James is too confusing, the next, the King James preserves the art of the Scripture and The Message is a filthy rag.

All the while, the rooted faith, the desire to glorify, love, and serve the Lord remains.

The doubt and questioning have nothing to do with Him, but with practice. And feeling. The terrible, beautiful gift of feeling.

Christ our Lord, what's to be done?

I believe there are, in fact, absolutes. But exactly what all of them are, I have but a handful. I believe--oh how I believe!--in one holy, catholic, apostolic church. Just don't ask me to be consistent as to what that means. It doesn't change much or often, but it changes just enough that I can't make a codified statement. Unless, of course, it's on a day where I am feeling very black and white.

I frustrate a lot of people because of this.

I make the very worst theologian.

I am always in flux, learning new things, seeing new angles, writing new stories.

I think that in order to write fiction well, you need this kind of theological momentum. God did not call me, thank mercy, to write a systematic theology. He called me to weave narrative, to sub-create within the infinite bounds of His creation. So some mornings I need to be a bit more Catholic (big C) than others. Some evenings a bit Puritan. And every so often, rare as it is, a Presbyterian.

I rejoice in those who He has endowed with the gift to logically organize their beliefs. Barth, Augustine, Williams, and many others litter my shelves and I read little passages of their ideas daily in turn, sit back with a cup of coffee, and think to myself how amazing the fabric of our family is. Our big, strange, loud, crazy family of believers.

Well, that's on what I consider to be more of a good day. On some days, there's a lot of angry, "NO!"s written in the margins and furious texts to my best friend about the latest bit of heresy I have uncovered.

But I'm getting better. I am learning, in the good words--and today, I am thinking of them as good words--of Mary Oliver, that it is best to live in such a way where you speak softly and bow often. I can still cling to my absolutes, but I cling with a certainty that they are, not a certainty as to what they are.

And yet, this is only true from time to time.

I keep glimpsing pieces of who I want to be in who I am. I keep trying to encourage the former to spend a little more time at the kitchen table of my soul. Maybe one day he will.

Maybe that's the point of it all. Or, better said like this:

In Easter, we light the paschal candle, white and proud, that retains its light through the year. I reflected on this yesterday evening when I went to St. Paul's here in Waco for an evening Mass. (That's the word that came to me. Really, it was Eucharist. For my parents, it would be Communion. But Mass was the word that came, so there it is.) I thought of the resilience of the paschal candle, how in the way it symbolizes Christ, resurrected and whole, glorified and triumphant, unwavering and bright, He is the absolute of our faith. The pillar. Ultimate, present, and yet mysterious.

But the candles on the altar, the place where sacrifice is still symbolized, where we come up to relinquish ourselves unto our Lord, upon the altar the candles with their flames dance and waver and billow. They flit this way and that, but they cling with desperation to the source of their light. They shine bright, despite their dance, and in their dance still keep their hold upon their source, regardless of how they turn.

I am not the paschal candle, but a light on the altar. I am laid forth in the sacrifice of my self to the lordship of Christ, dancing in frenzy, holding fast to the Source, until such a time as my sacrifice is made complete and I am snuffed out. Snuffed out to be united, at last, to the paschal candle Himself, to know as I have been known, and there to find an unwavering peace.

Grace and peace, my friends.

(I'm glad I wrote this today. I probably will disagree with it tomorrow.)

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And this, my friends, is but a bit of imperfect prose ...

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So what about you? Are you one of those horrible black and white people that today I just can't stand? Or are you one of those awful, wishy-washy people that I'll dislike tomorrow? Or, like me, have you found a peace in flux?

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A special shout out to Jamie, the very worst missionary (according to her), whose blog title inspired the title of this post. I am new to her blog, but quickly falling love. Please pop over and tell her hello!

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