Finding the Art in Everything

17 May, 2013

Where God Has Curly Hair, Wears Running Shorts, Loves Tea & Oreos, and Knows That We Need More Beer & Men

A portrait - Coffee, Tea, and Sisterhood

I am wracking my brain right now for good stories about my  life in Northern California that don’t feature at least one of these girls. I don’t have many.  

This is for three reasons:

  1. I  met them 6 weeks after I got here.
  2. We’ve spent an insane amount of time together.
  3. They are always God incarnate to me. And if I surely have to be where God is, I go where they are.
With these girls, God revealed His extravagance. I am astounded that I got a second set of sisters.

 And I mean sisters.

As we sat at breakfast the other morning, we were reflecting on how different we really are--how surprising and wonderful it is to be so close. There is a lot to suggest it shouldn't be that way. Our friendship spans almost ten years-- from 31 down to 22. The four of us are very, very different in how we communicate, how we see the world, and how we love. We are dreamers and doers and writers and artists and athletes, split evenly introverts and extroverts, evenly thinkers and feelers, administrative and relational, passionate and reasonable. These differences make us a really powerful unit, but they can also make close life together pretty hard. We have had days where we thought the bond would break.

But we know better. We don't have to be afraid of the mess.

I'd like to say I knew better all along. Days when I doubted it were only days when I wondered if we were friends or sisters.

You see, my first set of sisters taught me about the bond of sisterhood.

Bad days, sharp words, woundedness, weakness, poor planning, selfishness, annoyance, messiness, forgetfulness, frustration, and insecurities don't break that bond. In fact, they strengthen it. At the end of a day that involves all of it, you know she's still your sister. And it's all of those that remind you you're sisters. This is no ordinary friendship. Only sisters see that stuff.

No matter what happens, she's still your sister. 

Sisters see you no makeup, in your gave-up-on-life pants, crying about the self-induced misery from your own folly, and they get right to work:

1. Put on the kettle and grab the oreos, (or coffee and ice-cream, or tequila and chocolate)

2. Call for backup. 

3. Smack you and tell you to get it together.

4. Make a plan. (WITH you.  Starting with your drink and lipstick)

My moments (or days, weeks, months) like that is when God used my sisters, both blood-related and adopted, to reveal His grace. No matter what happens, she's still your sister. At the end of every bicker, squabble, disappearance, or flat-out fight, she's still your sister. They are the grace that celebrates your strengths, covers your weakness, and finds you the scarf (from OUR collection) that finishes that outfit.

There's God's gift of Hope in that kind of sisterhood.

Its been my greatest gift to be on a mission with these girls for the last two years. We have worked hard together to love God, each other, and our community better each day.

The closeness and dailiness of the sisterhood this time around is as life-altering as it was to have my first set of sisters.

In fact, it was Life -altar-ing. 

It was the place I came again and again to make sacrifices and worship God. To dwell richly in His Presence. 

The sisterhood and daily routine of it gave us the opportunity to be ever as we were doing.

Relationships like these were not about the lists (though we we are champion list-makers)--it's not about the finishing and the accomplishing. Our work here is never done.  It's about living. And living together Where together is what makes it truly living.

As we're present to each other, we're fully present to Jesus who is Present to us.

When we are together, God is in our midst. Where we are, He is.

And if you can see past the piles of books, clothes, scarves, sports gear, lip-gloss, photos, empty teacups, misplaced keys, chiming cell phones, long hair, and high-heels--if you can hear yourself think over our blaring "summer soundtrack"--you'll find Him there, abounding in Love and Celebration.

Being Present

14 May, 2013

Where Some T.S. Eliot Lines are Just The Thing

From The Four Quartets , T.S. Eliot

East Coker  III

O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away-
Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations
And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence
Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing-
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

13 May, 2013

Where I Abide in the Vine

It’s May, and this month does something to me. I think it’s tied to the change of seasons, saying hello to summer and goodbye to a school year. It’s tied to the Graduations that come with that. It’s not like it used to be when I had a full-time classroom, but the season still gets to me.  All the “lasts” for the year, the deadlines, the goodbyes for the summer,  celebrations, plans for the future—all day long, everything means everything. 

And I am already a meaning junkie—already  driven by passion and curiosity and affection and hunger—surfing my highs and lows is not for amateurs. I am the North Shore of Oahu, and in May, we’re Big Wave Surfing.     

Sometimes I make it through the tunnel. 

Sometimes I don’t. The growling white foam drags me in and has its way with me. 

When that happens, my closest friends are like lifeguards—they pull up on their yellow jet skis and tow me in to shore. Back on the beach, some of them hand me a towel, some of them point at the sign that said “No Surfing. Dangerous Swells.” 

It doesn’t matter. We all know I was made for this beach. 


It feels like I can’t do this anymore, Jesus.  I can’t keep hunting  for communion there and coming up empty. Each failure rouses the monsters who roar terrible things. I’m tired and discouraged, and I thought we were on to something here.  Something different. Something better. 

Like Annie Dillard, I’ve “reeled out love’s long line alone, stripped like a live wire loosing its sparks to a cloud, like a live wire loosed in space to longing…”

I feel the need to wind “love’s long line” back up. That much I know. 

But I don’t know if it is You telling me to do this, or if I am letting the fear win again. 

If I let the fear win, I become my own worst enemy. By yielding to the insecurities,  I’ll miss the chance to love and bless and I might miss the chance to be loved and be blessed. And that will hurt, too. 

Maybe you are pulling me back into safe territory. Maybe you are going to work on stuff I can’t even see.
Maybe the kind of work you’re doing depends just as much on absence as it once did on presence. Maybe You are winding me back in, if I participate, so We can reach out elsewhere and truly connect this time.

Jesus, all I know is that I’m doing my best to listen to you. I’ll do what I need to make space for that. I will try to obey. I’ll try to be honest with my motivations. I admit I still probably have a lot of this wrong, and that I’m screwed up in ways I don’t even know about yet, but I trust You. I trust Your grace. And I trust that it’s enough to cover all the ways I have messed up and will mess up. 


Psalm 16
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.[d]
8 I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


I have been riding a particular wave for the last few months that was probably too big to take—which makes no difference now. You can’t change your mind about it when you’re already sliding down the inside wall. You just fight to maintain your balance and focus. You fight the fear.

I just about made it through the tunnel, but on Sunday, I wasn’t fast enough. One minute I’m fine. I see it all narrowing, but I’m not worried.   A  split-second later, I’m pummeled and reeling and dragged under and the water doesn’t have a surface any more. 

The growling is now roaring in my ears—roaring a dissonant chorus in 4 nasty parts that I know all too well: “You don’t belong here. Your work doesn’t matter. That love and celebration you experienced wasn’t real—you imagined it.  You will always be this lost and alone.”

Stay calm. Hold your breath. I know what to do here.

The reality is that even the biggest wave doesn’t hold you under longer than you can hold your breath.

The reality is that God knows me and knows my heart. He knows what I want even more than I do. When that doesn’t show up or drifts out of reach, He is still Lord. And He loves me. He who didn’t spare His own Son promises to give me Good things. And a glorious future.  This day is His. This LIFE is His. And that roaring is not God’s voice.

I tell all this to a friend who pulled up on her jet ski: “Want to go run some errands with me?”

There are no answers. There is only my friend. I’m choking and sputtering, but I’ve found the surface. We make a plan for the rest of my day.

The wave is a Gift.

So is the wipeout. 

I couldn’t have made a more perfect Sunday afternoon. If I had fashioned each minute myself, they would have all gone as they did. 

It turns out that I needed to go “home” more than I needed anything else. Home to my people. Home to (some) of my local family I already know beyond all doubt love me. 

And they love me well:  Brothers who have Ritual coffee, guitars, laughter, and theology at the ready. Brothers who play my favorite songs (which are favorites because the Brothers play them). Their parents who offer me a deck for reading, a big table to study, and encouraging talk that brings hope and a future. And a family dinner.  And great leftovers. 

I also needed to study. A lot. I needed to prepare for an exam and write some position papers. I have been like a racquet ball this week—each new thing a backhand that sent me bouncing off walls and the time was up. I needed to land these ideas about God and the Church. I got nearly all the writing done.
These are my people. This is my work. 

This is today’s cup, which has been filling for more than two years, and it overflows.