Monthly Archives: November 2010

Back in the Game

“I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything.  This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with.  The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.” ~Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz


 

Compared to some people, I may be considered “cool”.  But, more and more, I’m realizing that this is far from the truth.  I depend on my friends to keep me in-the-know with fashion, music, trends.  In fact, I rely on a particular friend to burn me cds because clearly the radio and People magazine don’t inform me of the best music in the market.  I usually download music weeks after it’s been on the charts, I watch tv shows once they go to dvd because I wasn’t aware they were they were a must-see.  I read books like The Da Vinci Code years after their peak of popularity.  I’m not that “with it” as it may appear.  Case in point: I just picked up Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, 7 years after it’s publication.

This past weekend, Josh participated in a camping trip with some dudes, titled “Meat Ball 2010.”  I spent the weekend cleaning and organizing the house, an ongoing task that will only end when I’m old and in a nursing home. Even then, I’ll probably find counters to clean and cabinets to organize.  Josh brought a sleeping bag, his Bible, and some hard cider on his trip, and a great deal of his time was spent discussing theological concepts like limited atonement.  When he was giving me the shortened version of his weekend, he told me that one of his buddies asked him, “Does Becca like to discuss stuff like this?” and his response was a quick “no, no, no…”.  He was right in the sense that the concept of limited atonement was boring me just a bit, but there was definitely a part of me that was engaged enough to want to reach an answer to an exhaustive, age-old question. I remembered my Hope College days as a religion minor, and how much energy I spent philosophizing, theologizing, and head-scratching…earnestly seeking answers to the deepest questions of life.  I had the ability to exhaust rabbit trails of thought; that is, until my faith collapsed on me, leaving me burned and empty.  Since then, I’ve been slowly rebuilding what once stood firm.  The coffee shop and classroom-type debates and discussions about religion and theology disinterested me for a long time.  They felt stale, heady, unhelpful, even selfish.* I didn’t know what I believed in many ways, but I retired from the debates to figure it out.  Perhaps this is why Josh so instinctively said replied “no, no, no…”.

Brian Aulick, our pastor at Engedi, preached yesterday from 1 Peter about Christians’ responsibility to think, challenging and forming ideas, always looking to Scripture for guidance and Truth.  He made the point that Christians are often seen as intellectually flawed, even ignorant, because of our dismissal of arguments and debates our culture engages in.   We can be seen as lazy and foolish because our faith is blind and we often avoid difficult discussions that challenge our faith.  We need to be…we are called to be…people that not only participate in difficult discussions, but that initiate them.

When reading Blue Like Jazz, I felt pulled into a greater discussion.  I feel like I’m back in the game, able to come to the table to discuss hard stuff.  In the chapter “Problems”, Miller writes:

Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me.  I knew it was everybody.  It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance.  It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul.  It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression.  It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went–at the store, at home, at church; it was ugly and deep…It was as if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up…From a very early age our souls are taught there is a comfort and a discomfort in the world, a good and bad if you will, a lovely and a frightening.

It doesn’t take long when you have a child to realize that we are born into sin.    If you’re not a Christian, perhaps you put it this way: we’re not all good.  And the biggest theological questions, for me, seem to be best summed up here in Donald Miller’s point: something isn’t right.  The world is a scary place with a current that flows toward a sea of pain: “loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression”.  At the deepest levels, I believe all humans know that the world is not supposed to be the way it is.  My friend Linda recently found out her 18-month-old, Isaac, has leukemia.  My sister-in-law was, in a sense, abandoned by her dad, my father-in-law.  Jackson often decides he will get pleasure out of pulling my hair or giving me a good slap.  Things in this world are not the way they are supposed to be.  Which is why every human being–undeserving–needs a Savior.

 

*I still believe Christians need to be more cautious about theological debates. Oftentimes, this is more for our own benefit of being right rather than earnestly and sincerely attempting to build up God’s Kingdom of believers.

B-

I had a friend in college who used to make me laugh so hard I felt the sides my stomach cramping so tightly that I needed to do a back-bend to even out the pain.  For some reason, we decided that if we were to grade our lives, after all careful assessments are tallied, we’d end up with a B minus.  The humor, for reasons more apparent in college than they are now, lied in the fact that a ‘B-’ is actually the worst grade of all.  An ‘A’ had it’s obvious benefits.  And at least a ‘C’ would cement you in a category of “average”, thereby not requiring much change or improvement.  But a ‘B-’ is exhaustingly mediocre without being totally average; I’d rather take an F, accept a C, or conquer an A.  But a B- is stale, immovable mediocrity.

Of course, I’m remembering the B- jokes on a day when I feel nothing more or nothing less than a B- myself.

What do I mean by this?

I’m making my fourth fabric organizer for a dear friend.  I’ve been so proud of the others I’ve created, and I’ve gotten lots of feedback about how cute, creative, and functional they are.  The first one I made definitely wouldn’t sell on Etsy, but the other two show some skill.  Each time I design the pattern myself, resorting to sophomore geometry as often as I have to in order to make right angles and perfect rectangles.  I know which stitches to use on the machine, how much interfacing I need, etc.  Of course, today, when I’m actually making an organizer for a friend and not for myself or my immediate family, I can’t sew a single straight line.  The fabric folds and bunches no matter how much I guide it.  I run out of felt for the back cover.  At best: B-.

Another example: I posted on Facebook a few nights ago about an Epic Fail I had while making dinner…one that my husband had to rescue me from otherwise we’d have to eat fast food.  I purchased Jessica Seinfeld’s new cookbook “Double Delicious”* and was dying to try a new recipe.  I chose “Lemon Chicken” because it was simple and I had the ingredients.  Nevertheless, I appeared as if I’d never used a saucepan before in my life.  I couldn’t measure anything properly, I burned myself with hot oil, and even put a large saucepan over the small burner…scratching my head over why the chicken wouldn’t cook.  To compensate, I turned up the heat and burned the outside of the meat.  Thankfully, Josh came to rescue me by clarifying the recipe and salvaging our chicken.  It was absolutely delicious despite the horrific preparation which is why this experience receives a B- and not an F like I expected.

If you know me at all, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I forget things, I’m scattered, I get lost and confused and flustered more quickly than most.  My brain has these black holes that details fall into somehow and I spend so much of my time trying to find them.  I’m constantly fixing scheduling mishaps, apologizing profusely for actually forgetting that appointment, playdate, phone call, or conversation.**  It’s true that details do not find a home in my head, but rather jump ship as soon as they climb aboard.  This alone makes me feel like I’m constantly in the B- range of life; immovable, stuck.

Which is why I’m going to stop and celebrate for one small, tiny second 10 things I do that are somewhere– if not far–above a B minus.

1.  I can make Jackson laugh, roar, jump, or run in a split second. And I usually join him.

2. I hit up the Halloween clearance sales to get a plastic motorcycle helmet, police hat, cowboy hat, and clown hat for the long, winter days of playing dress-up with my son.

3.  I can convince you to take a half day off work and turn it into a much needed therapy/laughter session.***

4.  I shop for my friends and their children.  For no reason.  Just because I love them so much and can’t bear to leave the store without something gift-wrapped.

5.  I turn ordinary, empty-calendared days into nature walks, picnics, photo shoots, leaf piles, gymnastic contests.

6.  If it’s your birthday, I’ll make you a cookie sheet cake and spell out “Happy Birthday” in m&ms.

7.  If you ask for a special ordered headband, and you live far away, I’ll make two the next day and have it in the mail.

8.  If you are my friend, and you have a baby, there’s a good chance my love for your child will be indistinguishable from my love for my own.

9.  If you are married to me, chances are I’ll believe in you and express this in the form of cheerleading, exhaustive kisses to the face, and jumpy hugs.

10.  If you ask me to decorate for a party, I’ll order enough balloons to lift my house off the ground.

My life is going to continue whether my memory improves or not, whether my attention span increases or not, and whether this black hole of details implodes or whether it contains my unexplainable mishaps until the end of time…

Still, if I can stay focused on lists like these, I think I’ll be okay. And maybe someday… I can give myself an A.

* I definitely recommend Jessica’s new cookbook already.  I even was inspired to make a rainbow of purees, from red peppers all the way to purple cauliflower.

** If you’ve ever been on the other end of my forgetfulness, just know that I’m sorry. It’s not you; it’s me.

*** Stacy, my days with you are an A+.