Thursday, June 25, 2009

Community amidst Disunity

One of the things which bothers me the most is I perceive that those of us living today live much more isolated lives than generations before us.
We are strong independent lonely people.
Each of our families live in their own house, with a closed door. People need permission to enter into our space.
When ever we venture out, we get into our own cars. We drive our cars on roads, alongside of countless other people all in their own cars driving where ever it is they are driving. Each of us alone amongst the throng of people who flow down this very stretch of pavement each and everyday.
Perhaps some of us ride public transportation where we share our traveling space with others, but even though we are sitting touching people on either side of us we are completely and utter disconnected from them.
We stare forward, trying not to really look at anyone in particular, perhaps reading the advertisements on the wall over and over again so as not to invade someone else's personal space by looking at them.
We go to stores and various other places where other people are but do we really interact with any of the other people who are shopping all around us.
We may talk to our cashier as we purchase our items but that is only what is necessary in order to make the transaction. We may never see this particular person again anyway, so who ever they are not individuals whom we deem worthy of investing our time or breath.
It seems to me as we march forward though time the things which are invented do more to separated us than they do to bring us together.
This is why sometimes I am surprised when our technology brings us together.
This week is the General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene, huge denominational wide conference were "we" gather together to make important decisions about where our denomination is going and who we plan to be a people.
This assembly includes six worship services.
Many people from all over the world are gathering, worship, and making decisions together in Orlando, Florida, but not everybody does not get to go.
I being one of them.
The powers that be have decided to live stream the six worship services.
Last night while watching the service (and admittedly doing other things as well). I jumped on my friend's Facebook page. Where four or five of us chatted about the service as it was going on.
We made up a sort of invisible pew where we all sat and experienced the service together.
We were sitting at computers hundreds of miles apart but we were all together watching the service and making little comments to one another (whispered behind our hands so as not to disturb the row in front of us - although I am sure the lady with the flamboyant hat kept looking back and glaring at us).
We were each alone in our own little houses in front of our own little computers but we were at church together experiencing it together. United, connected.
In a world which does its best to create disunity we used the very vehicles which so often separate us and cause us to be alone (seriously my husband and I will sit in the same house not talking b/c we are both on our computers making use of the vast resources at our disposal which can be found on the world wide web) to unite us and create a small even if transitory community who shared a moment in time together, who laughed, shared and enjoyed each others company at an even none of us were attending.
United in being separated.
A community amidst the disunity.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I've Never Seen the Mona Lisa

So we went to the R.M.V. (Registry of Motor Vehicles).
A wonderful place full of lines and amazingly pleasant state workers.
The great State of Mass has the smarts to put all things which need to be done in one building, which is great but it is not smart enough to invent a system which does not include, "now you have received your plates return to the end of the line to begin a new process to get your license."
Not to mention (although I am - Jon :D) they must have 84 different items to prove your identity and that you live where you say you live, some of these items are hard to obtain if you live in a parsonage, don't have a renter's agreement, mortgage, utility bill or other such indisputable proofs of your residence.
Funny side note: on item you can have to prove you residence so you can get your license is checks with your name and address pre-printed on them. It took a long time for my new bank to want to take my money b/c they wanted me to have a MA license to prove I lived where I lived. You need a check to prove residence to get a license and you need a license to get a bank to give you a checking account. Hmmmm.
So after three hours, with two pre-school children, and handing over quite a bit of money, my husband and I are now bona fide residents of MA.
While we were in the line the second time a lady offered to let my children listen in while she read a really cute book about a duck and rat and their adventures in Paris.
Seriously sweet and thoughtful.
The story was adorable and had all these little statement which only the adult reading the story would get - they went to Notre Dame and met the hunched over bell ringer (ala The Hunch Back of Notre Dame).
When these little gems would come up she would look up at us and smile or make a little comment on our behalf.
At one point the duo went to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, at which point the sweet lady looked up at Mike and I and said, "I have only been to Paris twice and neither time did I manage to make it to the Louvre." and then went back to reading.
There was no value judgment in the statement.
Nothing snotty or uppity.
But Mike and I both felt inadequate.
We have never been to Paris and seeing the Mona Lisa is not even on our radar of things we missed out on doing thus far in our lifetimes.
I am not saying anything about this lady.
She was kind and generous.
She simply made a statement to us, which she thought we could relate to but were completely unable to do so.
She was trying to connect to us. But she failed.
Visiting Paris is simply not something our lives and lifestyles have allowed us to do.
But her statement made me wonder.
How many times do I say things to people and unintentionally make them feel small, inadequate, or less than myself?
Do we in our attempts to connect to people actually am doing things to push them away?
Is any of our well intentioned friendliness actually alienating the very people we are trying to include?
How do we know when/if we are doing this? And how do we not?

Friday, June 12, 2009

nest in a box

We just moved.
"Just" as in four weeks ago.
We are down to about 10 boxes left to unpack.
These things take longer than one would expect.
As we have unpacked our boxes we have stacked them up on our back porch. . . behind our porch. . . next to our porch - all around our porch.
We have A LOT of boxes.
It looks really bad.
I feel sorry for our neighbors who can see this horrible pile of trash outside of our house.
I hope they don't worry that we will just leave it there.
I know I should not worry about "what they will think" what they think is their own business.
But we really just want to take one day cut the boxes up, tie them with twine and then as space in our recycle bin allows put the stuff out to be recycled (yeah for curbside recycling!)
So we have this largish pile of cardboard boxes exploding off our porch.
But not so badly that it covers our whole yard.
But an eyesore nonetheless.

Yesterday, the sun was gently making its way through the cloud cover.
I was working in the kitchen.
I had the back door open and the storm door shut.
I would look out and look at a out small but beautifully green (I just moved from Kansas) backyard.
As I did so a sparrow landed on the top of the boxes.
She looked at me and I looked at her.
My mother has instilled in me a love for all things bird and I was thrilled to see her.
I noticed she had some twigs or whatnot in her beak.
As I watched her, she hopped inside a box.
That is when I noticed it.
She had a built herself a nest inside one of the boxes on our back porch.

Here I am feeling bad because we have this horrible eyesore in our backyard and within is this beautiful little nest.
What I think is a horrible thing on my back porch, she saw as wonderful, perfect and safe.
She is willing to build her home in my eyesore, lay her eggs in my eyesore and raise her family there.
I am embarrassed by it.
She believes it to be wonderful and safe.

(brief interlude where I sing, "His Eye is on the Sparrow" in my head)

Her little nest in my "trash" makes me wonder.
Is there beauty in all the "trash" out there?
Are we too quick to judge that something or someone as useless?
When all it takes is a different person with a different eye to see something completely different, something completely perfect?

I look at my life.
Often my life if it is not trash, is so filled with trash, my trash as well as the trash from the world around me.
Trash with which I have filled my life.
As well as trash with which others have filled my life.
What does God see when looking at me and my life?
Does God see all the trash?
Does God see the mess that I have made of my life?
Or does God see something perfect, something wonderful?
Is God like this little bird?
Willing to make a home inside that which I see only as a huge mess?
Willing to dwell within the mess I have made of my life and by inhabiting me, making something (me) that would otherwise just be a huge mess made from the turmoil of life into something beautiful and wonderful.
Using me, making me into what I am not. Perfect.

Update: June 16th - All the boxes but this box are gone from my porch and the nest now has eggs!