Thursday, February 24, 2011

A general apology

The Apostle Paul, versatile saint,
became all things to all men
so that by all means he might win some.

As for me, I have enough trouble
just being myself. Sometimes it seems
that I have become no one to no person
so that by all means I might
get more sleep.

I owe you all an apology.

I’m sorry, first,
to you, my love,
for not being more consistently
romantic submissive sweet;
for falling asleep during the stories;
for shining at times when I should
fade; for becoming invisible
when you need me stellar.

To you, my children,
when instead of being a sage,
I am merely a clown; for not
being as smart as you thought
I was (I knew you’d find out
one day); for losing some of
the memories; for growing too tired
too soon.

To you, my grandchildren,
for my lack of bright ideas,
my wrong choice of movies;
for old stories that are, of course,
boring, boring; for not being
plump and grey and aproned and
rosy-cheeked; for losing the rules
to Mexican Train and eating the chocolates
behind your backs.

To you, my sisters and brothers,
members of the household of faith,
for being a wimpy elder—age without
wisdom; for my waffling and uncertain
stride; for a whimper when you needed
a clarion call; for not calling;
for a seeming shrug when you needed
an action plan; for being neither prophet,
priest nor pastor; for my day-dreams
of defecting to the Catholics; for my
restless doubts and clawing prayers.

To you, my neighbors,
for not learning your names; for not
bringing you chocolate chip cookies;
for not praying for your salvation; for
not knowing, not knowing, not

To you, distant neighbors in Afghanistan,
for seeing my problems as larger than
yours; for not seeing that my problems
contribute to yours; for not sending
money clothes medicine—or for sending
them as a guilt offering; for my lack of tears
and my resounding silence.

To you, my Lord,
for being so intimate I forget
to tremble or being so busy about your work
I ignore you; for inattention even when
in your presence; for starving my spirit
while seated at your banquet table;
for not looking at the world
through your eyes;
for being so underwhelmed
so often.

To One and all,
a general apology.
Forgive me.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ferocious deliberations

I just received an invitation from the Lausanne Committee for Evangelization to a gathering in Orlando, Florida later this year, a “Leadership Consultation on Evangelism and Missions.” I am invited because of my “passion for Evangelism and Mission in our nation and around the world.” (Do they know me?) I am encouraged also to invite “other select leaders,” especially those under 40 years old. (No, they don’t know me.)

But the part of this invitation that stands out, partly because it is in bold print, is the description of what will happen at the consultation: “We will pray with intensity, deliberate with ferocity, make friends, form alliances, and bless each other in our Kingdom pursuits.” Friends, alliances and blessings are good. And I understand the part about praying with intensity. But what does it mean to deliberate with ferocity? I picture a room full of ferocious evangelicals, teeth bared, claws sharpened as the fur begins to fly. Praise the Lord.

Ok, so help me again, Mr. Webster. Here’s what he says: ferocious—“exhibiting or given to extreme fierceness and unrestrained violence and brutality.” See what I mean? Strong language there. At least it’s all for the Kingdom.

Alright, so there’s another secondary definition, one slightly milder: “extremely intense.” I suppose this is what the writer of this piece of publicity means. Extremely intense deliberations. I do wonder, though, why the prayer is merely intense, while the subsequent deliberations are to be ferocious?

And is this something I want to be involved in? As a Quaker is it even legal for me to get ferocious?

Currently I am serving as clerk of elders in our local meeting, and we are facing some difficult decisions as a community. It what has become a long, drawn-out, and complex process, I think we are slowly making our way toward some clarity. (This is really mild language, isn’t it? We’re as funny as “they” are, just at the opposite end of a continuum. The lions versus the lambs.) Some of our deliberations have seemed, if not ferocious, certainly intense. Yet our commitment to affirm one another, even when we differ, and together to seek the mind of Christ has held us through a tough time. I have hopes that some decisions lie in the near future, and that we can move on to being the church.

And it has been intense, at times extremely so. But we still love one another. No fur has flown, and none will. Our Quaker/Christian values help keep us in the path of peace, even while dealing with hard issues.

Actually, I appreciate the Lausanne Movement, recognize its contributions and benefit from fruit the movement has borne in the past (for example, the Lausanne Covenant, a faith statement that is holistic and profound). But I do get angry at exaggerated language, especially in Christian publicity. In fact, I get very angry.

But even so, I fall short of ferocity.

Monday, February 7, 2011

On giving a present to a nine-year-old

Not at all prepared, the Big Day
sneaks up and I have to buy
something, anything. So
I settle for a grab bag type
of gift—an assortment
of surprises. Why is it so
important that she like it?
Is this how she measures
my love? At nine-years-old,
perhaps. So I assemble, first,
a stuffed jack rabbit,
its quirky extended
front feet redeeming it
from the mass of beasts
already littering her room.
And the small glittering
butterfly broach, almost like
real jewelry. Good enough
for her? I hope so. For good
measure I throw in crayons—self-
sharpening—and an artist’s tablet
of blank paper, prods to her
imagination. Back home,
I realize I don’t have wrapping
paper, so the plastic bag
announcing “Staples” in bright red
letters will have to do. As I get out
of the car, I fret, “Will she like this?
Is it enough? Can she sense
how special she is to us?" Then
the relief, the silly relief.
“Grandma! Is this for me?!
I love his feet! How soft!
And this too? How beautiful!
Can I pin it on now?”
Such small things. I continue
to wonder, how does the love
manage to seep through?
Happy Birthday, Alandra.