Wild the World

Before anything else: I am 2/2 for cute Chicago Airbnb cats, this one was so very bedraggled and old and too precious for this world. We had us a good snuggle.

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This past week, I attended the Q Christian Fellowship annual conference in Chicago. And it was a lot. Basically, a bunch of queer people and allies talking about Jesusy stuff. I’ll tell you a little about it, and my feelings about it, but then I want to take some time to tell you about one of the main things that I heard and want to remember.

So. I drove down Thursday morning, arrived that afternoon, met people and did stuff and kept doing that until Sunday morning when I left. It was pretty non-stop. I didn’t go in with super high expectations for two reasons: I’m not really connected with the organization itself much and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be; and conferences in general aren’t typically a format that I love, especially when I barely know anyone there, because big groups are a strong no from me usually (this conference was ~1,400).

In the event, I was pleasantly surprised by the conference part–the general sessions, the breakouts on various topics, the activities and organized things in general. I wouldn’t say that I was deeply moved by much of it but it was well-done and I enjoyed that part more than I expected to.

The meeting people part was difficult, of course, because that’s how I do, but I think I managed alright. Met in-person a number of people I kind of knew online, so that was nice, and met some other people for the first time in any context. Hopefully, at least a couple of those relationships will continue/grow. It would be really nice to have friends, real friends, that I talk to regularly from this group. Getting there.

I won’t list for you here the topics and specifics of the things that I did, though you’re welcome to ask me. I’ll just take a sec to try and describe how it felt being there and then finish up with the thing I can’t stop thinking about.

It was kind of like Pride–but with an even smaller and more specific affinity group. In other words, there was a shared experience that connected us implicitly with nearly everyone there; that connection is something that I rarely feel in my everyday life and I recognize just how precious it is. To hear the thoughts I’ve thought in my darkest moments spoken by another, to feel a thousand hearts that have hurt and beat and come alive just like mine.

We all live unique experiences, of course, but occasions like that make me feel known and un-alone in deep and powerful ways.


One of the sessions I went to discussed the formation of an ethical framework. The speaker used two lenses to describe how it might be done: bounded or centered. Bounded being where behavior is circumscribed by rules and centered where behavior is evaluated based on core values. She had two metaphors for this. The former is like livestock in pens–moving, eating, drinking is controlled by fences that also protect the livestock from the dangerous wild animals outside. The latter is more like a watering hole–animals come and go, their movement and behavior is unrestrained, but all must come to the water because it is the source of life.

This idea kind of radically changed the way I think about things–not because I was suddenly thinking differently but because I finally had a comprehensive way to think about things I already was moving toward. So that was cool. Lots of things to think about this. I actually drove back on Sunday and immediately went to lead an small group where I kind of co-opted the topic to bring this up, had some great conversations.

But in the midst of explaining this metaphor, the speaker said something that has been echoing in my mind all week.

God is re-wilding the world

I don’t even know if I can tell you how much I am in love with this idea. It builds on so many things I think and feel.

In the most direct context, she was talking about how God is in the work of freeing us from our rigid, legalistic fences and allowing us to live together in diversity by acknowledging the core values we share and the centrality of Jesus to all of us. That’s awesome, especially because the conference itself contains such diversity on pretty much every aspect of life.

But I believe it can be expanded further. Another idea I heard at the conference, as a part of talking about queer theory, is that a queer lens, like feminist and Marxist ones before it, offers a way to interpret the world that upends existing systems of power. Ethics is not the only area in life where people erect fences. There are labels and containment structures all over the place–gender and sexuality, of course, and race and ethnicity and nationality and ability and education and politics and age and socioeconomic status and so on and so on and so on.

Part of the gift that I bring to God’s kingdom and to the world as a queer person is my ability to re-wild some part of the world. I very much think that God is in the business of erasing our artificial and often harmful, if sometimes convenient and useful, barriers. God is not a God of walls. He invites us, ever so gently and graciously, to come drink at the watering hole and welcomes us gladly whenever and however we may arrive there.

I have so many thoughts, metaphorical and concrete, about what this may look like and what it means for us. But I am reminded of something a pastor of mine often said growing up, in reference to the communion table: Come not because you must, but because you may.

So come, let us drink from the watering hole, and let us make the world a little bit more wild.

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Unnecessaries, Treachery, and Idiocy

There was snow on the ground, several inches, when I returned to Michigan. And in the ensuing days, more snow has accumulated. Because. So temperatures are cold and snowfall is yes; it must be January.

In other news, the earth is still round and the sky is still blue.

I do not have overmuch to share this week, as happens sometimes, and I struggled to come up with anything at all worth writing about. Throughout the day today, I had an odd song stuck in my head, as I often do, and I thought I’d share it with all of you. Not sure it’s actually worth writing about but it’s happening so you know, whatever works.

It isn’t really a song, even, it’s a weird remix of a portion of a newscast that was a little bit viral while I was in Ireland. And it’s really not that funny except I just rewatched the video and I still find it unaccountably hilarious. So here, watch it.

Get ready for it, because I’m gonna bring you three takeaways from that song/broadcast and they’re going to be wildly outsized philosophical musings for something that is barely humorous to most people.


“Don’t make unnecessary journeys.”

I’m not sure how I feel, philosophically, about this line. Because when I was in Korea, I said that sometimes the most important journeys are the ones you didn’t mean to take. Letting your feet run away with you is a great way to experience new things, meet new people, and grow in ways you could not expect. Variety is the spice of life, as I’m fond of saying, and sometimes you should balance out planning and necessity with spontaneity and unnecessaries. Like chocolate. Chocolate for me is often a spontaneous, unnecessary delight.

On the pro side for this quote, though, is the idea that on other occasions, we are not equipped or prepared to make any other journey than the one that we are already on. When we’re tired and just slogging onward through the Dead Marshes, as it were. Muddling along with enough oomph for one journey and that journey alone, no side quests. Wisdom may be knowing how much oomph we do or do not have for unnecessaries.

“Don’t take risks on treacherous roads.”

I am likewise on the fence about this one. When things are looking grim, it’s often best to buckle down and just survive. Whether it’s stress or crises of a more overt sort, getting through it is sometimes the best you can manage. That’s certainly true for literal, actual treacherous roads.

But also, I feel, if you’ve been trying to solve a problem and you haven’t yet met with success, usually what’s needed is another approach. Something you haven’t done before, something that may be more or less ‘risky.’ Hard to say. Wisdom in this lens, I guess, is knowing which kind of road you’re navigating: is it treacherous, brooking no room for risk and error, or merely difficult, in which case risk may be the very thing that helps you break through.

“Their actions are idiotic.”

I don’t really have anything for this line, I just felt like I should probably mention the President’s national broadcast. Nothing to add that hasn’t been said really, just reiterating that it’s idiotic. Here, I suspect wisdom is at once simple and unachievably mysterious: don’t be an idiot.


Anyway. I’m driving to Chicago today, for a non-spontaneous but unnecessary journey that I think may brush the edges of difficult but should mostly just be enjoyable. The roads themselves, given the weather of late, may be a little more treacherous. But I scouted out a little yesterday and they seemed well-cleared already and the forecast is on my side, so I don’t anticipate any shenanigans in that department.

Here’s hoping. May we all have such balanced, three-pronged wisdom.

 

Such Sunrises as Have Not Yet Been Seen

Happy New Year! It’s 2019, for good or ill. I had a pretty low-key celebration but I’m all about that so it worked. I hope the year is off to a good start for you but even if you’re in a tough place, it’s only January– plenty of time for things to turn around. See what I did there? Best of both perspectives.

The past year, as I said a bit last week, has been a bit of a whirlwind. It didn’t usually feel like that–the pace often seeming to be more like molasses–but I was on three continents! Two of them for quite extended periods. Five countries. Two jobs. There was a lot going on. I don’t really feel the need to reflect on it all that much again but I couldn’t avoid having a bit of a new year look back.

And once again, not a particularly clear idea of where I’ll be this time next year but whatever. It’ll be fine.

Before I go any further, it is of course important to start this twelvemonth with some very cute cats. Taking advantage of their uncle and aunt cats’ tree gifted to them.

Now that you’ve gotten a bit of a kitty fix, I will also share my baking adventure. Didn’t do a whole lot this Christmas but I did, just on Monday, make my first Yule log. Simple conception, kinda tricky execution, wonderful finished product, if I may say so. The recipe told us not to worry about the cracks, they add character, and I concur. A definite snow-dusted log of happiness. Such a lovely, airy, seasonal kind of dessert. I’d strongly recommend giving it a try. So long as you’re game to get stiff peaks in your egg whites.

Yes, it was very delicious.

I’m flying back to Michigan tonight, ensuring an adequate buffer between my return and the return of students on Monday. Plenty of time to readjust to Eastern Time, reacclimatize to the cold, and mentally prepare for the next six months. Yech, let’s not think that far ahead yet. June, what’s that.

Anyway. I’ve said before that I’m not really into resolutions and, surprise, I remain uninterested. All I’ll say, I guess, is that I hope each day to love more people more.

And this title, what’s with that. I don’t know, it sounded kind of poetic at the time and you know I’m a sucker for the poetic. But it’s true: each day is a day that has never happened before. Every moment of a moment of fresh opportunities.

Even when life is pretty mundane and pretty monotonous–that precise moment has never happened before, if only by reason of the date of its occurrence. And shouldn’t that be something to savor? I’m no advocate for change in life because change is hard but newness, that’s something I can get behind. Not necessarily to do new things or go new places, though those are good as well. But to do the same things in the same places and still feel that they can be new.

It is good to cherish the new, I think, and good to recognize the new in the familiar. Value time itself; it will not come again.

The sunrise can be beautiful for its color and majesty, of course. And there’s something incredible unique about each one, from each place you may stand to view it, for each second it lasts. Not something that can truly be shared, even with the most talented photographer.

Time is a weirdo so we should probably live and love in the moment. Each one is precious and can take you anywhere. I’ve no idea what adventures may await me but I’m confident that they are indeed awaiting. I’ll keep an eye out and let them take me by surprise all the same.

Fast Away

I hope you all have enjoyed your Christmases, if that’s your thing. I certainly did. Plenty of running around and about but also plenty of time together and hope and joy and love. Obviously, lots of singing of Good King Wenceslas, especially yesterday. It is just the end all, be all of awesomeness that God is with us. How neat is that? Yay Christmas.

Important gifts received include several books that I’m very excited for, you know how I do. One of them is the final installation of a trilogy, so I obviously have to reread the previous books and so it’s really like a gift of three books in one. Yay books. But also, of course, the love language I like to receive is quality time so that was the most precious gift to have.

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The Princess on the Feast of Stephen

Being home has been really nice. First, just to get away from Michigan and work for a sec. Green. My home is green. Second, to relax in a place that I just know. There’s a certain level of know that comes from just being in a place for years and years and, for right now, Gig Harbor is the only place I have that with. I can remember the turns to a house I haven’t visited in ages with a spare moment’s thought–even with my disastrous memory. I can sit on the couch and exist in a place that I’ve existed in for a long time before.

It hasn’t even been that long since I was pining for a way–any way–to get out of here. And Michigan is not that far away. Even so. There’s a special joy in leaving but there’s also a special joy in coming back. Even back to places you don’t want to stay.

But New Year’s, wow, 2018, am I right. This year has dragged on for ages, let me tell you, but the end of it has snuck up on me rather abruptly. A lot going on in the world but let me have a sec to make it all about me. It is hard to recall that I was in Korea, went to the Olympics, went to Australia and New Zealand, spent a long time living at home, then moved to Michigan all in the first eight months. That’s wild. My year-in-review thoughts are honestly all over the place. But I guess I don’t really need a year in review at this juncture. This time is ending.

The old year passes. Greet the new.

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And Bubba all curled up

I’m not sure what to expect for the coming year. I’ll be in Michigan to June, at the very least. So that’s about six months settled. But after that, it’s all fairly uncertain. Again. It’s a state that I’m kind of uncomfortable with–generalized uncertainty–but also at home with.

I’ve done a lot of relatively short stints in fairly diverse places since high school. And I just don’t really mind it, as much as I’d like to find a place I love and put down roots. It’s mostly been routes thus far. I may be staying in Michigan for another year. I may be elsewhere in the US. The dream, of course, would be another intercontinental move. Europe, maybe Oceania. Hard to say.

In the midst of uncertainty, the few things that are sure increase in value. And those things, for me, are the things I’ve been celebrating all week. Friends and family who love me and whom I love. The comfort and position that I have been blessed with. The consequential, profoundly true knowledge of an unconditional, boundless love from a perfect, omnipotent deity.

Some people live lives that are more predictable than mine but, in the end, precious little is truly certain. So I’m greeting the new year in a spirit of adventure, as every day should be met, because possibilities are endless when every moment is a moment that has never come before.

Anyway. Happy New Year. Fa la la la la la la la la.

His Law is Love

Although I’ve been anticipating Christmas for some time, it has once again kind of caught me off guard. Snuck up on me. How is it so soon? In Korea, I could understand, but how am I not prepared? I mean, I am prepared in the most direct sense but I feel like I need another couple weeks to really be adequately mindful of it. Alas, I guess.

Anyway, I will be flying home for break which is very nice. This week here has seen almost all the snow melt away so I don’t think I’ll be missing out on a white Christmas. Importantly, the Christmas party that I could not hold last year has been reinstated. So that’s a yay.

I have some thoughts below and they may be a little scatterbrained but, like Thanksgiving, I feel like I ought to say important things to indicate how important Christmas is to be. So I try. That’s all that can be asked. I hope you have had and will continue to face a lovely holiday season.


Phrase that I heard this week which moved me: participate in love. I’m not sure why it struck me so, it’s not an unfamiliar concept to me. But here I am, deeply reminded. Love takes work. To take part in loving is to exert effort to make that love blossom. Doesn’t matter if it’s romantic, platonic, familial, neighborly. It’s not enough to refrain from roughness, one must be tender. It’s not enough to allow relationship, one must pursue it.

I think I’ve mentioned before that my favorite carol is O Holy Night and my favorite part is the title of this post. Lately, I’ve been pondering theology a bit. Not reading and researching but more just evaluating where I’ve come from and where I think I might be going. How important is it to me that other people believe exactly as I believe.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the only thing that matters is love. Christmas brings to my mind the immediacy of love–the whole premise of Immanuel, it seems to me, is giving us as much evidence of God’s unconditional and incomprehensible love as we humans can handle. Jesus fulfilled the law. The time of the black/white, yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad dualism is over. This is not to say that moral relativism is the point of Jesus. I retain a moral and ethical framework that I have developed and am still developing in response to faith.

However. We tried a system of ‘rules first, love second’ and I don’t think it worked well. Let’s try love first and see where that gets us. Because honestly, I can’t conceive of the desperately irreligious nature of casting out your own children because they’re gay (or whatever the case may be).

And let’s be mindful of participation in love. Love cannot be expressed passively. One must do in order to love. It does not always have to be big–loving cats does not generally require a great deal–but sometimes it does. Sometimes loving requires enormous sacrifices, sacrifices of time or of money or of vulnerability. Love asks much.

But one of my favorite things about being a disciple of love is that it is patient, it is kind, it forgives. In the end, love actually requires nothing. It may ask but mostly it gives, and gives generously.

When I say the law is love, I do not mean to imply that there are criminal proceedings and punishments when we do not succeed in loving well. I mean more that love is the color of the universe and to grow close to its creator is to paint with that color as beautiful a picture as we are able.

To participate in love takes work. But Love is not a demanding god. It is not laborious drudgery but a work of joy, peace, hope, and faith.

I’m really wandering now but I hope you get the gist. Love is just so important to me. And if God really is love, then I will always believe in the power of the love that came down at Christmas.

Alter

I don’t really have much to put into this post. I usually have lots of good ideas (or “good” depending on your perspective) for Christmastime blogs but this year, it seems, festive ideas are just out of season for me. Genocide was a real heavy hitter to start of with. And, honestly, I’ve been very tired this week. Not anything in particular, just not sleeping well.

But, in the spirit of combating the vibe of recent weeks, I have this inspirational quote for you, from someone who would know. Samantha Power said, “It is easy to get used to the morning news, habituated. But don’t. The morning news is yours to alter.”

The big question, of course, is how. And, like I said, I’m too tired to tackle that. Even so, I can know that it is possible to change the world. Somehow. Things are not set in stone. Or, if ancient Egypt can teach us anything, it’s that even if things are set in stone, they are not unchangeable forever. As I book I read recently put it, stone crumbles.

I want to offer you Christmas cheer. And I do have plenty to share. But I’m writing this late Wednesday night and the words just aren’t happening. Awake until 1 am on the reg is not my optimal sleep cycle, no matter how late I’m able to stay in bed. Nothing life-threatening, just not ideal. Psh, what’s ideal. I know that many are feeling it, this time of year. Tired, that is. Lots to do and high expectations of doing it all and doing it right.

So here’s my thing for today, I guess. It’s okay to do little, and it’s okay to do it half-bad. It’s okay to have some meh in your life if it means that you have some space where you can just kerflump when you need to. Worry less, rest more, relish calm when you can. We can alter the course of the world. But take care of yourself, too.

What the Locusts Have Eaten

FIRST: A CHRISTMAS PET PEEVE OF MINE. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days following the holiday, not preceding. December 25th is the first day of Christmas. Every time someone talks about the twelve days leading up to Christmas, I die a little. Anyway. The more you know.

SECOND: I accidentally talked a lot about Good King Wenceslas again in this post. I’m not sorry about it.

THIRD: Last one before actually getting to the post: cat gallery.

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Nora

And you thought ‘gallery’ was an exaggeration. All the cats this week.

So. Last week’s post was a bit of a tough time. Understandably. And it’s hard to follow up something like that. I think, however, I can draw upon the inspiration of a few Advent things that I’ve encountered this week to offer some small encouragement.

There is a passage in Joel that I recently contemplated as I read this little reflection. It is describing a time that will come after–perhaps long after–a great calamity, where God will make things right. This is just a bit after we are entreated to rend our hearts and not our garments ( a phrase I have always found deeply moving). God declares,

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

All that has been lost will be restored. It will not be–cannot be–erased, our wounds and the wounds of the world will not simply disappear. But there will be a truer restoration than anything we have heretofore known. The true peace. More than not-war, more than inner calm; true peace is deep and abiding relational harmony. As in positive peace, the correcting of systemic violence (which is injustice in any form).

That, at least, was the theme of the sermon at church this past week. That the peace so many seek comes less from within and more from doing right by one another. To paraphrase loosely, we do peace by taking care of those around us, in large and small ways. As I have said before, and the lyricist of Good King Wenceslas said before even that, “Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.” As a matter of fact, rereading that post, I am just impressed with how well it’s held up. It’s a good one and it explains what I like about that song really well, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

Anyway. The point is this: in the midst of the despair of pain and death and things literally called ‘crimes against humanity,’ there is something else as well. Something, as Samwise would say, worth fighting for. And it is in the fighting that we fan the ember of hope into flame.

There is precious little we can do about the enormity of the problems facing our world. But, I believe, we are called to face them nonetheless. It is not said, ‘Blessed are the peaceful.’ It is said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’

May we all make peace as we can.