Friday, July 31, 2009

Thanks Be to God

I watched a small movie tonight about an orthodox jewish woman and a muslim woman who are elementary school teachers in New York, and who are both expecting to enter marriages arranged by their parents & community. In the movie, the two young women become friends and allies in a very fresh and unique way. Rather than being intrigued by the differences between my culture and theirs--I found myself taking a deep breath of relief as if someone was telling me something important about myself. I feel like telling you about how this movie got me thinking.

Firstly, this movie is a story about orthodoxy on the surface, but in the middle of that story you find out that it's really a story about individual faith. But that story, after you peel it open a little, becomes a story about uncertainty, and the uncertainty opens up to uncover a story about destined relationships. But that story of relational destiny is really just a story about miracles and about God bringing good things to the people who love Him and honor Him.

I'm watching this movie, seeing these layers peel away in the characters' lives and I'm noticing that these layers are like boxes within boxes or rooms leading to other rooms. I see that each of us approaches the miraculous through a series of rooms or boxes, one opening up into another. What is it that our generation thinks about orthodoxy? That's it's passe? That's it ignorance? That it's heretical?

It takes courage to live orthodox for any faith in a world that praises and rewards the indifferent and apathetic. Having the courage to live orthodox gives us the freedom to explore our faith without first passing it through cultural and psychological filters. This is what we do sanctifies us so that we're strong enough to ask ourselves if this is who we are.

The courage it takes to live out our faith, in purity and honesty before God, with faults, blemishes and shortcomings open not only to God, but to our own, searching eyes--makes it possible for us to encounter true uncertainty about the things that terrify and disturb us in our deepest cores. We enter into a clean, white room in our hearts where we can drag from the dark corners of the world everything black and grey and putrid smelling--and the white room closes in around us and pours water over those things for hours, sometimes days, sometimes years--until we understand them rightly, not as we first saw them, but as they truly are.

The uncertainty keeps our hearts open to hear from God--keeps us in a waiting, listening posture, as we search out how things truly are and how things truly should be. Each opportunity that arrives, like a messenger bird, carries on its legs the object lesson and answer from heaven. Or at least we think it might; we're looking to see if it does. Brushing by a stranger in a grocery store is destiny. God is intervening. Getting a letter from a brother in the mail is destiny. God is speaking. Feeling an urge to call a family member late at night is destiny. God is working. In subtlety and obscurity we're experiencing these sparks of destiny lighting our way down some eternal pathway.

The path is a miracle. The miracle isn't obtained, but lived. These rooms that enter into other rooms. This guided life: a miracle. Not just healing of the woman with an issue of blood or the cleansing of a leper. This life, these destined interactions, this hope trained by trusting: a miracle. The last door, to the outside world, armed with love and guidance. Filled with trust and patience. Guarded by orthodoxy. Inspired by faith.

It's not that I don't care about what we think of God or how our world-view defines us among our peers. It's more that I want us to ask ourselves how God would have us honor His presence in our lives, because I think He should have a say in this--I'm asking us to approach holiness as He has defined it and us, with open hearts and determined purpose. Not to receive a miracle, but to live the miraculous lives that are the mark of the people of God in every generation.

Suddenly I'm grateful for small things and receive them as miracles. Suddenly I'm asking God to lead me far away from temptation. Suddenly I hear myself saying, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, O Lord, that I might not sin against You," and thanking God for His Holy Spirit.

These are my thoughts for tonight, in total. Nothing more or less. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A New Leaf

I was so sure that I would turn this blog into an intellectual mining company. I could smell the oil greasing the drills.

But in the very deepest part of me, as it turns out, and as my closest friends probably already knew...there is no David Brooks lurking around. There isn't even Chesley Lately, or whatever that funny late-night woman's name is.

If I dig down really deep, I most often will find a Far Side joke or something that resemble a Some E Cards postcard.

But this is my life, not someone else's, and it's best that I settle into the fact that I'm not as smart as I would like to be and I'm too smart to be comfortable where I'm at. I want to say extremely relevant and informative things, but I just don't have any things like that to say.

End of story.

But on a brighter note, I called Cameron in Cape Verde this evening and got to hear his dear voice for approximately seventeen minutes before my money ran out. Seventeen minutes. I suppose someone else could say a lifetime of important things in seventeen minutes. But I just stood silent outside of Mafiaoza's, listening for the sound of his voice, wanting him to tell me the way everything is for him. What is his island like? What are the color of the walls in his room? Will it ever rain there? Is he scared or maintaining sanity or feeling crazy?

Seventeen minutes is longer than it takes me to shower or cook breakfast or drive to the freeway. But it's not very long when Cameron is on one end of the phone and I'm on the other. This Peace Corps thing is a good idea. It is. It is. It is.

Losing two people at once, it's hard to understand distinctly the loss I'd feel if they vanished in different periods of my life. Right now, I have this colored mixture of grief and sorrow, partly for Dad, who I cannot accept is gone at all, and partly for Cameron, who I cannot believe is gone. I feel the loss of Dad anew every time I sense the loss of Cameron in my daily routine and I sense the loss of Cameron most painfully when I'm surprised with the realization that I've lost Dad.

The only thing distinct is the ache itself.
I mean not to write about Dad. But I think about him.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Just a Republican...

"A conservative independent is just a Republican who’s had his heart broken." -Gail Collins for the NYTimes

I was musing to myself recently that I tend to assume that the entire human race is on the same journey as I am at all times. Everybody on Earth, from the recently born to the aged, have all just turned thirty this last year and have finally come of age, so to speak.

How self-centered, right? I know differently if I think about for more than five seconds. But naturally, as a way of handling world events and human diversity, it seems much easier to imagine that every single person on Earth is someone just like me, dealing with dangers and opportunities on every side, tempted by the absurd and delicious, and chastened by life's disappointments.

Perhaps it's loneliness that causes this. Isn't it wonderful to think of the over six billion people on this planet getting inspired and disillusioned by the same hope and failure at the same time for the same reasons? I wonder if we weren't created with a need for unity? I crave unity and harmony and the down side is that I find it intolerable to be pressured to bluff harmony when all I feel is dissonance. I want true concord, real connection.

I want to be connected to people through a common sense of like and dislike, through hopes and disappointments, through joys and terrors. I want to work alongside people I admire toward a common and wholesome goal. I want to do the things that are considered good works, regardless of whether a person is red, blue or purple (or green, for that matter). At the end of the day, politically, maybe I am just a Republican who's had her heart broken. But maybe that's true about me in more than just politics.

I do know that I find points of unity on both sides right now. Beyond the things we have in common, I'm going to have to find a lane to swim in, so to speak. Whatever it is that I think I must do, I have to find the people who are doing that very thing and get involved.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Death & My Gentle Giant



Early Friday morning my dad passed away.
My right hand held his right hand.
My left hand held his face.
Life support was turned off and like a lightning bolt disappears into the dark storm, the man who was my dad vanished.

He loved my blog, the other one that I shut down last month. In one of the last conversations we had, he sheepishly asked why he couldn't read it anymore. It seemed silly to me that he was reading my blog. Now I wish that I had written more for him to read.

The truth is, my dad was is my biggest fan.
From the time I was very small he would take me on drives with him to the bakery or to the grocery store in the San Fernando valley, and he would tell me that there was something very special about me, very unlike other people. He often would tell me that even though I was having trouble fitting in, there would be a day when I came into my own and didn't mind being me.

He called me sweetheart, lambchop, pumpkin -- and over the last two years, he would sign his name in emails to me as "Daddy Dearest" as an homage to my Allie, Dearest nickname.

He always called me during the week while he was at work to tell me how my mom was doing or how he was feeling or how much work he was taking on at NASA. He loved us. He loved me. He was gentle and mostly a pushover, which is why I've always been so hesitant to ask him for help. I never wanted him to feel used or manipulated. But he has saved my toosh so many times.

I don't want to say more right now about my dad-because so much of my love for him is private and therefore sacred to me. But I wish that each of you could have known him the way that I did-he so amused me.

I love my dad.
God grant him rest and peace.
I will see him again when my turn comes--a joyful day of celebration for us both.
I wish he were with me now.