Sunday, October 28, 2007

promise and hope

Whew...what a week it has been. Watching from the sidelines as fires ravage your region is not something I'd wish on anyone. Such frustration--to see powerful destruction, and now that there is very little to be done to lessen its horror.

I kept experiencing the same frustration in others: a desire to do something to help, and an inability to find something that would feel sufficient. I went to the evacuation center at Qualcomm stadium--they were inundated with people wanting to help. And I marvel at how half a million people evacuated their homes, and found places to be. If Qualcomm held 10,000 of them, and felt like a massive operation, my mind reels at what 500,000 people seeking shelter there would look like. It seems incredible that so many people could find places to be--at evacuation centers, in their rv's in parking lots around the county, in hotels, and staying with friends and family. I like to imagine that the biggest number of people were imply absorbed (given shelter?) by extended family and friends. A vast informal network of people willing to provide hospitality and care to one another. A grassroots relief project that provided shelter on a massive scale, relying on people's basic decency toward one another...

In between my feelings of amazement and gratitude for how good people can be, though, I found myself braced for the possibility of loss. Our friend Mark lost his house--everything he owns, except for a duffel bag of clothes, his car, and the laptop he forgot at a friends' house. My thoughts are with him and so many others who've lost so much. Life, even.

We continue to spend much of our outside-of-work time up in Julian, building Matt's family's house that burned four years ago in the Cedar Fire. All that effort--the thought of losing it to fire again was, well, pretty crappy.

Thankfully, it did not burn again. And we got up there yesterday to do some more work--the power's back on, the water works, and the sky was blue. The autumn leaves are gorgeous. The neighbors even came by to say congratulations for making it through this one.

And, best of all, on the way home, we saw a rainbow. A big one, all across the sky to the east, over the desert. A double rainbow. And, it came with a gently sprinkling of rain. Promise and hope for my eyes and my tired, dry skin--how good it felt and looked! As if God was saying, "I know it's been hard. Just remember that you can never lose it all. And I will not destroy you completely. My promise is still here. You'll make it to a beautiful new possibilities, just ahead."

Monday, October 22, 2007


San Diego is surrounded by wildfires today. The smoke and ash in the air, and the still quality in the street oddly and immediately evoke memories of four years ago this week, when the Cedar Fire raged through the county.

It feels strange to have been up in Julian all weekend, working at rebuilding our family house there, only to come down the mountain to relive the crisis of an overwhelming wildfire.

Not again.

This time, though, the fire spread into the city during the daytime--and having been through this as a city four years ago, everyone is less surprised by the power of the fire. So, we watch, riveted to the news as this fire causes evacuations of more and more communities. And burns more and more houses.

We're not close to the fire's imagined path (and neither is the half-built house in Julian), so the danger feels less personal, but the heaviness of fears seems to match the heaviness of the smoky air.

So, we pray, and share food, and take walkers from the church closet to the evacuation site and the stadium.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

i *felt* crafty

Last weekend felt fall-ish, and I was feeling crafty, so I decided to try felting. The idea of turning old wool sweaters into cool new things has been tempting me. I gave into temptation.

What fun: a couple of washes in hot water, and knit things become all stuck together. Like felt. (Ok, so they ARE felt. Whatever.)

Here's my first felting project, a little purse made out of an old sweater. I even made a lining with *pockets* out of a cloth scrap I had.
I thought it was so much fun I decided to try more. And, I've been fixated on lately, thinking it might be fun to try selling crafty things. So, I went thrift store shopping...and found a few (er, twelve) sweaters I thought would be fun to play with.

(they were such a good deal. i just couldn't resist. and whose gonna buy wool sweaters in san diego, anyhow?!?!?)

Here's my pile of newly-felted sweaters, just waiting to be remade.
Oh, the possibility!!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

what the Bible tells us to love

It's been an exciting couple of days: an unexpected chance to see some of country radio's big names in concert, and a film about the Bible and homosexuality.

Sunday night, we went to see Brooks & Dunn AND Alan Jackson in concert. Every song was a top hit with lots of radio play--it was hours of sing-along fun. I love sentimental songs whose choruses include finding Jesus, drinking beer and wrecking cars. All in 2 lines. Really, it was fun--Boot Scootin' Boogie-ing, Chattahoochie-ing good times.

It helps that these 2 acts have the post-9/11 patriotic anthems I can most go along with. (And, we all know that a good country music concert has to feature 'em. Sometimes they make my stomach hurt bad.) Unfortunately, their staging and order reinforced what my good friend, Christian Left, was saying just the other day. In an encore that started with a gospel invitation to believe in something more than what we can see (and with a shout-out to red letter Christians), they followed this moving gospel number with (you guessed it) patriotism. And they used a song about USAmerica as a land of opportunity (a swell idea) as stage for a visual tribute to the Marines. As if the only thing better than believing in Jesus is America. And the real America is military America.

My Dear Husband, though he shared much of my complaints about the staging, said they had to do it so they could end on a rockin' number. Maybe Jesus could be last if his songs rocked more.


Tonight, my adventures in Jesus and America continued. Differently. I went to see "For the Bible Tells Me So," a documentary about the Bible and how it's used to form our beliefs about homosexuality in USAmerica. It is playing here in SD this week. I went with some courageous and beautiful people who are trying to build a community of support for LGBT folks at a conservative Christian college in town.

It's always hard to watch reminders of the spiritual and physical violence done to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in the name of the Bible. It's been far too much, and far too destructive.

What made me cry, though, is the bold witness of families and parents who are being "church" much more daringly then most of our churches are. And the folks in the film certainly aren't the only ones: so many others are putting themselves out into the world as witnesses to a Gospel call to love.

I'm just worried, tonight, about how horrible the whole things looks from the outside.

We've gotten so easily deceived into believing that homophobia is a holy obligation--that it's the Christian expectation. Which makes we wonder how we're going to get beyond this. For a culture that finds religion more and more optional, and that may never have the kind of rich and formative experiences of being raised in a nurturing church community, I wonder what reason for joining a church community one would see.

I want to be a part of church communities that proclaim by demonstration a love that comes to everyone and changes the world.

The choice isn't whether or not there are going to be gay and lesbian people in the world. (There are.) We need to choose whether the church is going to be open to all children of God. And, eventually, we need to choose if we're going to be relevant to a world that loves its gay and lesbian sons/daughters/mothers/parents/brothers/neighbors/co-workers/teachers.

Or just look afraid, ignorant and hypocritical.

At least, that's what I'm thinking tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the little things

Today was a frustrating work day. Miscommunication, impatience and not honoring each other threatened to destroy far too much.

Then, the little things saved the day.

See, the toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom I share with the finance office (I know, I know: I'm spoiled. A private bathroom at work...) has this toilet paper dispenser that will never give you more than one square at a time. The roll gets jammed, and then you have to reach your hand up into the narrow area on the edge and get your thumb to inch the roll around so you can get more paper. It's annoying, but never so annoying that I stop to do anything about.

But, today, our head custodian, Paula, turned the rolls around so the flap comes into the middle of the holder and the rolls can spin freely. Life is good. Bathroom breaks have never been better.

And, then, at Vespers, a man whose spirit is still heavy with grief for his wife joyously told me that he's already saved 45 pounds of greenhouse gas since his solar energy system became operational yesterday.

And, another man shared the story of his visit to a dying friend: watching a television commercial that advertised coffee drinks, the friend lamented that he'd never again share one. Undaunted, the visiting friend immediately decided that this visit was not at all a visit to share last moments, but one in which to share cappuccinos. And they did.

Plus, the olive tree just outside our sanctuary window captured the most amazing light show during the organ postlude at Vespers. As if the God's grace had the cues all lined up to end the day.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

optional side-tours on the odyssey?

An op-ed piece in the NYTimes today caught my imagination. Not because it was anything particularly new--it just seemed well-said. Or, perhaps, fit well into stuff that's been bouncing around in my head.

[David Brooks certainly doesn't tend to write political columns I agree with. But here he quotes Robert Wuthnow, so what the heck... ;)]

Brooks makes a case for a new stage in life--between adolescence and adulthood. In that fuzzy area we UM's call being a "young adult." Rather than writing it off as a period of aimlessness, he describes the intense "improvising" that tends to go on as young people look to make sense of a world that less-and-less fits into neat, easy boxes. He says this is good for knitting circles and bad for churches.

I agree that it's "bad" for churches in the sense that it makes it hard for young people to fit into the church in our current forms. (I mean, how do we count members if people are transient? Or unwilling to sign on for joining institutions that are homophobic, or that seem to be worried mostly about their own self-preservation?) But it seems like it could be incredible "good" for the church, if we can only figure out how work with this "odyssey."

On our best days, odyssey characteristics like "uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering" are exactly what our church life ought to be about. At least, they're what draws me into it. (They seem to me to be things that Jesus was all about--questions assumptions, daring to include the excluded, answering easy questions with stories, and always doing so with love.)

I haven't found the right metaphor--"tour guide" seems far too much like we in the church should have things figured out. But perhaps the church can be like optional side excursions--helping give ways to deepen the experience of the questions, exploration and engagement. Or like a community journal, providing a context in which folks can reflect on odyssey-ing. Or like time on the tour bus for building community with others.

So many possibilities.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

california dream

I finally got myself one step closer to that California dream: I tried surfing today.
I know, I know: I've been here for over 9 years now. It's about time this Nebraska girl who grew up with grade school fantasies of life with the Beach Boys in California carried a surf board under her arm and into the water.

And I have to say that it was SO not that bad.

Being not naturally gifted at anything athletic and prone to clutzy moves even on solid ground, I was (I admit...) leery of the prospect of standing up on moving water.

Don't get your hopes up. I didn't do a whole lot of standing up on moving water today. (Maybe 2 seconds on itty bitty waves in foot-deep water.) But, more importantly, it wasn't horrible and I didn't feel like I was going to die at ANY point.

Also, I was impressed by the warmth of the rented wetsuit. It really was warm.

My only time in neoprene before today was when we went hiking through the Narrows in Zion National Park. There, the 50-degree water combined with fear of flash floods and the bloody reality of a rock that knocked my dear husband out cold. I wore neoprene socks with my hiking sandals as we slogged that endless journey through the river, and my feet were freezing pretty much the whole time.

Turns out that a whole wetsuit in ocean water (that's significantly warmer than that Virgin River water) is pretty darn warm. Who knew?!?

I don't think I'll early the title "surfer girl" anytime soon, but I'd be willing to give it another go... Thanks for inviting me, Jen.


An unrelated highlight for the day was watching a giant poster for Duncan Hunter's presidential campaign receive "boos" as it roamed through crowds at Oktoberfest in La Mesa. I mean, if folks in his East County home aren't even enthusiastic, that makes his prospects pretty weak, right?

Friday, October 05, 2007

planting things

On Monday, the garden club met for some planting fun. C, the 7th grader, got a head start by sticking a handful of pinto beans in a plastic pot with some dirt. They'd all sprouted, and the 30 or so plants in the little pot were getting, now there's a line of pinto bean plants along the fence, happily transplanted with a whole bunch more space. We planted other beans and peas, too, plus some sweet peas. And moved some strawberries, which are the consistent favorite of R, the 4th grader.

Making the labels was a favorite activity. It was pretty exciting (as you can see from R's punctuation choices for the sweet peas!!!)

Then, for my favorite part of the meeting, we picked some of the basil and a ripe tomato. I got to introduce them to one of my favorite summertime treats. (I know, I know: it's fall now. One must gather her basil leaves while she may.)

Yesterday, some new packets of heirloom seeds arrived in the mail--my clever use of some birthday money. ;) Now, we'll see if these new-to-me kinds of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage like City Heights life.

What fun.