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10 Ways to Make The Most of Time

1. In a podcast interview, I was asked what advice I might give the 25-year-old version of myself. “I guess I would have said, ‘self, take yourself less seriously.'” I suppose this is to say, I would have cautioned him (me?) to take himself (myself?) less seriously. (You follow?) Would that me have listened to the present me? Probably not. I already had the law and the prophets.

1a. This is a confession.

2. If the 15-year-older version of me comes riding into town on a horse-drawn time machine, if he comes to my house and rings my doorbell, if I answer and the fabric of all space and time does not unravel on the spot (as if a meeting of my minds might cause such an apocalyptic breach) what would he (the 15-year-older me) say to the me of today? (You follow?) Probably this: “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Would I listen? Probably not–the law and the prophets and all of that.

2a. This is confession#2.

3. Today I’m making an attempt to heed my own advice. My current me is writing to my current me. (You follow?) This is what I’m saying:

“Today, listen to the birds. Walk around the block. Spin an old record. Eat local bread, maybe a piece of chocolate. Read a frivilous chapter in a frivolous book. Burn incense. Pet a puppy. Say something unintelligible. Gibble-dee wok the corduroy. Have fun in the garden. Do these things because time is not something you own, it is something that sneaks up on you in the end.”

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Justice and Mercy in the Disposable Marriage Era

1. This is the scripture du jour: “what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It’s been the scripture of the decade, perhaps of the millennia, and it’s made its way into our collective consciousness. Thousands of bloggers cite it each week. Preachers spur you to action with it. I saw it on a tattoo a month ago, with a minor artistic variation on theme–act justli, love merci, and walk humbli. (It was, I think, the tattoed’s attempt to embody the text, to say “justice, mercy, and humility start with I,” a statement which my inner grammarian rejects.)

Justice and mercy–they’re the darlings of our moment. (Humility seems to get the short shrift.)

But consider this: there is justice; there is mercy; then there is only the mere idea of justice and mercy.

2. I’m on the precipice of my fortieth year (a vertigo-inducing precipice to be sure) and so, I’ve now lived through a trend or two. Among them are these: the plastic and pink 80s; the grunge era; the back to the Back To The Land Movement; the sustainable everything decade; the new social justice movement; and the era of gnarly, unkempt beards (there are, of course, hundreds more, and some of these certainly intersect). In this–the year I cross the threshold of middle age–I feel as though I’m living through a new trend: the Disposable Marriage Era (let’s call it the DME).

(2a. That is not to say that there aren’t some very good reasons for couples to call it quits (and I know, I know–this is such an un-Christian statement). I’ve seen marriages in which the men abused the women (run, run, run, I’ve said). I’ve seen marriages in which the women abused the men (run, run, run, I’ve said). Cheaters have done what cheaters do, and how can any man tolerate that sort of pain? You may have lived through this sort of situation, and of course, this is not what I’m invoking when I write of the DME. There are reasons to head for the hills, to leave a marriage behind. Even the scriptures seem to indicate as much.)

3. The confluence of the Justice movement and the DME are a curious thing. After all, what could be more just than honoring your spouse? What could be more merciful that practicing forgiveness and walking into the light of the vows you made all those years ago? (Walking into vows is a continual, sometimes harder-than-hell practice.) What could be more humble that being splayed at the feet of your bonded lover? And yet, why do the marriages of the modern faith-bearers (sometimes justice seekers) fall to the firing squad of the DME?

4. I’ve heard it over and over again–I deserve to be happy or We’re both such different people now or I just need to be who I am. I’ve heard it out of one side of folks’ mouths, while out of the other I’ve heard these things–Buy fair trade fabric or Engage racial reconciliation or Love the orphan.

Happiness–as if that’s the highest ideal.

Change–as if our vows don’t follow us.

Self-actualization–as if we don’t lay some of that aside at the marriage altar.

5. So many of us work, work, work to reconcile the land, the races, society to the orphan, and these are good, noble, virtuous things. These things embody acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. But what could it look like if we treated marriage as a justice issue? How might we embody marital reconciliation even as we work to reconcile the land, the races, society to the orphan?

What if we asked the same questions of our marriages we ask in the pursuit of justice and mercy:

Am I (are we) versatile? 

Is our marital course sustainable?

Are we creating something lasting, something with longevity, perhaps something permanent and beautiful?

This, I think, might be the way to draw us from the DME and into something with sticking power. It might turn our mass-produced and plastic vows into something more elemental, more life-giving, more human.

 

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A Non-Anxious Presence

Here is the thought I can’t seem to shake: we are a people aflutter, flitting from hate to hate, from conflagration to conflagration, from anxiety to anxiety. We are a people on fire–skin, heart, solar plexus, brain, everything. Is it any wonder? The world is on fire, and we take that fire by contact.

Twitter, Facebook, the local coffee shop, every small group at church, the conversation on aisle 6 at Kroger–everywhere I go, the people carry political anxiety. Russia, Paris, North Korea, North Carolina, Covfefe (huh?). In the news, another black man’s house is defaced because he was a black man with an extravagant house (aren’t the small-minded prone to burn down every holy place?). Before I can process the politics, the house burning, CNN streams images of people attacking people–men attacking women, race attacking race, straight attacking gay–and now my head whispers to my inner ear.

“Humans are intent on burning each other down.”

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The Telepathic Man

Yesterday, an older gent said, “Young fella, you know you don’t have to save the world, right? Peace, peace, peace.”

I didn’t respond, but in the recesses of my noggin, I said, “older fella, thank you. How did you know I needed to hear that?”

The older gent must’ve known my thoughts because he said to me (without moving his mouth), “young fella, I’ve been a young fella before, too. It’s the trying to save the world that put this crook in my back and this cane in my hand. Peace, peace, peace.”

Again, I was silent and a bit mystified, and he musta picked up on it because while I was staring at him, eyes wide as moons, he said more words, words I’ve heard on a thousand Sundays, but this time he says them all telepathic-like, and he winks, and somehow that gives the words heft and meaning. He says to me, “stop striving. You ain’t God, or a god, or demigod, or even some kind of nano-Bono.”

It’s the nano-Bono thing that got me, if I’m honest. And so, I looked at him all bumfuzzled and smiled.

I love that old gent, with the crook and cane that is somehow a comfort. His wisdom is older than the dirt under my fingernails. It’s better than my best intentions, too.

And so, in light of his instruction, I leave you with the same encouragement: peace, peace, peace; in all things peace.

 

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My Priestess

It’s a season of unexpected motion, of movement. Amber, my wife of nearly 18 years, has reached the end of a sort of wrestling down her identity, or maybe it’s just the beginning. She’s been my girl, my beauty, my prophetess for all these years. She’s been the thing that’s brought me to salvation again and again, even in the bleakest seasons. What is a lover but a type and shadow of divine love? Lover–I could use this could be a sort of holistic nomenclature, but is this who she is?

She’s been my lover, yes. She’s been the mother to my children, too. There were years of sippy cups, diaper changes, and late-night feedings. The years that followed have been filled with other things–comforting hugs, words of discipline (perhaps frustration), gut laughs. What is a mother but a shepherd? Mother–this is also a facet of who she is, but it hardly names the gem.

She’s been a friend, a giver, an encourager. She’s been faithful to minister Word and sacrament to her people, I suppose. Maybe more, she’s been faithful to the ministry of flowers, one of the unsung ministries of friendship. What is a friend but the embodiment of Word and sacrament? What is a friend but the gift of flowers. Yes, a flower knows a flower; a friend knows a friend, but even these are not taxonomy enough for my lady.

She’s lived into all these roles, roles that fit in her skin like a soul. Even still, she’s wrestled down her Who Am I? over these last 18 years, and she’s come to know this for sure: she is a chosen, a royal priestess, a peculiar woman. In this, she’s found a new sort of calling, one that’s taking her to seminary, to training, to stepping into the thing that so many have said she can’t, woman as she is. She’s walking into holy orders, maybe, and in that, she’ll preside over so much life and death, weddings and funerals alike. She’s accepting the role of shepherd, teacher, perhaps evangelist and prophet, and wearing these roles like some brilliant stole. And here’s the humbling beauty lacing it all–there may come a day when others come to see her as my shepherd, teacher, evangelist, and prophet. (This is what happens when your wife is a minister.) They’ll ask me how I feel about that, I suppose. I’ll smile, wink, knowing this isn’t the whole of who she is, and I’ll tell them this: “She’s always been all of this and so much more.”

 

 

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