Monday, April 29, 2013

Big

There are three movies I reference in my book, two of which are Tom Hanks classics – Big and Castaway.  For years I claimed Big as my favorite movie of all time.  I’m not sure if it really was my favorite, or if I just really appreciated the indoor trampoline and the big piano at F.A.O. Schwarz.  Regardless, Big was the first movie I ever owned, and I find great irony that I also ended up in New York City in my 30s, playing that same piano.


I dropped by that piano not too long ago.  And later on, I also dropped by Tom Hanks’ Wikipedia page.  Under his personal life, I was surprised to find summed up so succinctly what 10 years of theological training took me to understand – that our theological framework for understanding God MUST include mystery.

Wikipedia writes:

Regarding his religious views, Hanks has said, "I must say that when I go to church—and I do go to church—I ponder the mystery. I meditate on the 'why?' of 'Why people are as they are' and 'Why bad things happen to good people,' and 'Why good things happen to bad people'... The mystery is what I think it is, almost, the grand unifying theory of mankind."[9]

9 ^ a b Terry Mattingly (March 25, 2009). "Mattingly: Tom Hanks talks about religion". Scripps Howard News Service. Retrieved December 14, 2012.

Last July I wrote the final chapter for my book at Spring Hill Camps and my landing point, after much struggle, is the mystery of God.  Mark Olson, a former director of the camp, passed away at the age of 42, leaving behind his wife, 4 children, and these words:
 
“Where there is clarity, there is no room for faith and trust.  This life we are to live, Jesus called a relationship.  Within a relationship, there is always mystery.”
 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Roses

A week ago Monday I grabbed lunch at Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.  Following my meal, I discovered this sculpture not too far from the entrance to the subway. 
 


I stared for a bit, and wondered at the rose in the bird’s mouth.  I have somewhat of a history with roses.  5 years ago, while I was out running in Southern California, this homeless looking man came out of nowhere and placed a long stem rose in my hand.  For me, it was of great significance, because it served as a reminder for me that God is in THIS with me.  And by THIS, I mean the mess and chaos of life – when things aren’t going so well.  For me, a rose has become symbol of hope and encouragement - that God has good things in store for me and my future, and WE are in THIS together.

So I stood in front of this bird, and asked God for a symbolic rose – not the one I was staring at in that moment, but something else to remind me he still cares, and to give me hope for good things to come after such a tumultuous year and a half.  After praying the prayer, I wondered if I should have even bothered.  Because I quickly remembered praying that same prayer back in November after losing everything in the hurricane.  And the only “response” I received was a single, trampled rose lying outside of a Duanne Reade that same evening.  The rose looked like I felt.  It wasn’t beautiful; it had been stomped upon and crushed.

On Wednesday, as I drove out to Jersey to attend Brennan Manning’s funeral the following day, I explained to my friend Amy (from MI) on the phone how I had prayed this rose prayer, and that the symbol of a rose for me is also one of commissioning.  In working in Residence Life, from year to year, each current student leader (RA) would pass on a rose to the incoming student leader.  I explained to Amy, as I say my good byes to one of my writing heroes, perhaps his funeral is the symbolic rose I had prayed for on Monday.  And that I am to continue to carry the baton as writer. 

Thursday I attended Brennan’s funeral...
 
 
... at The Church of Saint Rose.

In his book Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning writes,

Send in the artists, mystics, and clowns.  Their fertile imagination pours the new wine of the gospel into fresh wine skins (Luke 5:38).  With fresh language, poetic vision, and striking symbols, they express God’s inexpressible Word in artistic forms that are charged with the power of God, engaging our minds and stirring our hearts as they flare and flame.  (74)

And so I will write.  And keep at this craft, for I know the significance isn't in the accomplishment of completing a book, but rather, in the words and stories that will touch, heal, and shape people's lives.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Neptune

This morning I woke up in New York City.  Tonight I go to bed in Neptune.

Sometime shortly after 2 AM last night I caught wind of the news.  After my run today, I knew I needed to hop in my car and leave the city immediately. 

About 3 years ago I had 2 amazing dates with a guy who changed my way of thinking in the short time we spent together.  He made me believe anything is possible.  AND he instilled in me the value to live life with no regrets.  This way of thinking is both wondrous, and perhaps slightly dangerous.  Because at times I have to tell logic to shut up, and simply go with my gut. 

Sometimes, when an opportunity presents itself, you just have to get in your car or book a flight and go.  Because to not go, you would always wonder what you missed out on.  And THAT feeling is to live a life of regret.  If it's moral and good, and God hasn't said no - then why not step out and move toward whatever it is that is drawing you in.

Which is why I'm now in Neptune.  To clarify, IN, not on.  I did not board a space shuttle to go on a trip to the outskirts of our solar system. Rather, Neptune is the name a coastal city along New Jersey's shore. 

I'm here because late last night I learned that one of my writing heroes passed away Friday morning at 12:02 AM at the age of 78.  AND that his funeral would be held tomorrow, here, in New Jersey. 

What's odd, is that very same night he passed, I couldn't sleep, and so I was up, considering some of Brennan's words from his book Ruthless Trust, wondering if I could intersperse some of his quotes throughout the book I am writing.  In chapter 2 of my book I discuss Brennan's work, and how another hero of mine died at the age of 42 to cancer.  Brennan's book Ruthless Trust was handed out to everyone who attended that funeral spring of 2001.  Over 3,000 people showed up at Spring Hill Camps to pay their respects to Mark Olson and everyone left with Brennan's words in hand. 

Not too long ago I explained to another writer (i.e. the author of Finding God at Harvard) that my book titled I Hate Books on Christian Dating is my memoir journey towards ruthless trust.

Last Thursday night/Friday morning - at 3:30 AM - as I was up considering my work and Brennan's words, I tweeted, "It requires heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens to us."  ~ Brennan Manning

I tweeted Brennan's words, just hours after he had died, unaware of his passing.  As I noted on facebook, Brennan Manning may have passed, but his words and influence live on.

I had to drive to Jersey to say good bye.  To not, would leave me wishing forever that I had.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hello Astoria

"You have nice teeth.  I want to kiss you."

My hot lawyer friend clarified, "Did you just say you want to kiss her?"

"Yep." 

I was the "her." My hot lawyer friend is Teresa, and we were innocently enjoying our shakes at Shake Shack Sunday evening when 3 slightly intoxicated "men" decided to pull up chairs and join us at our table.  It's not like we were out clubbing, or even at a bar.  Shake Shack is not your typical go to place for picking up girls.

Teresa and Katrina * out and about in NYC last spring

But this is New York.  And anything goes in this city.  There is the potential to meet ALL sorts of characters ANY where, which makes every day in NYC a grand adventure.

I'll admit though, I can be slow when it comes to guys.  For instance, Saturday afternoon friends from my church celebrated a birthday at the Brass Monkey in Chelsea.  Before joining everyone on the rooftop, I stopped by the bar to grab a drink.

I find an open space to stand to place my drink order and beside me is this guy who I notice has some sort of lighter beer.  I inquire with him about his beer, and he offers to let me try it - which I do.  I like it enough, so I order the same, and when I receive it we clink drinks and say cheers.

I then take off for the rooftop to join my friends and on the way, it hits me.  Waaaaiiiiiiiit a second.  That guy with the beer was good looking.  AND the door to continue conversation with him was wide open.   But instead of chatting, I disappeared.

I find my hot lawyer friend on the rooftop and lament, "Teresa, what is wrong with me?"  I explained what had happened, regretting that I was so focused in my mission to get my beer that I failed to even notice Mr. Good Looking standing right beside me. 

But then Teresa and I and this other chic start chatting about how maybe it's because subconsciously I'm already convinced this man is unlikely to share the same faith as me.  And that it is unlikely for anything to evolve with a random stranger that I meet a bar.

But then again, that's how I found my church in NYC.  Almost exactly 2 years ago, I met someone standing at the bar at a friend's birthday party.  And that guy offered to buy me a drink, and later on pulled me out on the dance floor.  A few weeks later we attended my now church together.  As I recently explained to someone else, it didn't work out between me and the guy, but it did with me and the church.  And for that, I'm grateful for that bar meeting in Brooklyn 2 years ago.

* For the time being I'm staying in Astoria, Queens.  Tonight I'm writing from Ditmar Station Pub & Restaurant.



Thursday, April 11, 2013

9 Months

9 months.

That's the full term length of a human pregnancy.  

That's also the length of time I've been bouncing between LA, New York, and Michigan, without an official residence to call my home. 

After loosing nearly everything in Hurricane Sandy, the little I have left is stashed in a corner of my parents' basement.  For the most part, I've been living out of suitcases.  Tomorrow I pack up my car Machi (he's part Romanian, part Japanese) and drive into the unknown.  I'll be heading East, but I don't know how long I'll be away.  I don't know if I'll be in the city for a short visit, or if I'll be returning there for the long term.  I admitted to the guy from down the shore I am scared to go back, but I know I need to go.  My health has wavered the past few weeks, and so have my aspirations and dreams.  I'm no longer certain I want New York - and you have to WANT New York in order to make it in New York.  Although I look forward to returning to my church community, I'm hesitant to return to city life, where the seemingly simplest of tasks, like doing laundry and getting groceries, are a near nightmare.  But again, I KNOW I need to go. 
  
Last summer a friend told me it seemed like I was 9 months pregnant, ready to give birth.  I wondered for a second if it was her polite way of telling me my stomach looked a bit big, and should start working my midsection more, instead of just going running.

But rather than recommending a work out plan, she continued on to tell me it seemed God was getting ready to do some great things in and through me.  And that this new season of life was about ready to burst forth.  She insisted, it wouldn't be long now before I'd be giving birth.

I considered her words in November as I scavenged through my basement level storage unit in New York, trying to salvage anything I could.  Everything had been submerged by the rains and overflow of the Hudson River, mixed with sewage and whatever else happened to be on the streets of New York that Tuesday the hurricane hit the city.

As I sifted through the mess, I considered, if I was pregnant, perhaps this hurricane was my water breaking before giving birth.  Perhaps.  But it seems my "pregnancy" is more like that of an elephant's - which lasts nearly two years. 

I head back to New York tomorrow, and maybe this will be THE beginning of this new life.  We shall see... an interview on Monday, and a few other important meetings and interviews over the course of the next few weeks.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013

subli M inal

Coming Soon: The story of how I ended up at the University of Michigan

It took me far more time to decide on a cell phone plan than it did for me to decide on a college to attend.  I went on a nearly half dozen cell phone company visits, and 0 college visits.  Every college I applied to accepted me, but cell phone companies kept turning me away.  The Verizon man at the mall refused to give me a phone, explaining they didn't offer service to people like me who lived in remote locations.  He said something about the numbers of bars and even though I told him we had two - Jerry's Pub and the Onsted Bar - he smirked and said two bars wouldn't work.  Looking back, perhaps I should have filed a lawsuit for the rural racism I received in trying to acquire a phone.  It doesn't seem right that Verizon would give everyone else and their mother and brother a phone (they advertised all sorts of family plans), but withheld the right to own a phone to me.

Finally, I stumbled across All-Tel and they readily accepted me without any questioning.  A friend told me they were far more friendly to country folk like me.  The phone still didn't work where I lived, but at least they gave me one.  All-tel eventually merged with Verizon, and so despite Verizon's disliking of me, they were forced to take me on.  Ha!  Serves them right to be forced to charge me a monthly fee.

But my college decision - now, that was easy. 

 The Sacred M * Summer 2012
To Be finished... SOON!!!   :)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tweet and Retweet

The other day I retweeted a man named Simon who I met at a dinner party some time ago. 

He tweeted and I retweeted, "The passion to change the world for the better is a more powerful force than the defense to keep it the same.”  His tweet reminded me, I can and WILL push past these days of fatigue and migraines to make a difference in the world. 

But how I met Simon...
That night at the dinner party someone asked Simon, "So what do you do?"
He replied, "I inspire people." 

With his response, I immediately I wanted to talk to him. Inspiring people for a living sounded like a fascinating career - one I wouldn't mind exploring.  I manage to gracefully join the conversation already started and then the two of us continue talking after the third party excused himself.  As we converse, I keep thinking his voice sounds familiar.  Finally I start to put the pieces together and I inquire, "Have you by chance ever been involved with any of the TED conferences?"  He smiled, and acknowledged, yes, he had been a speaker for TED on more than one occasion.  Ah, that's why I knew his voice.  I explained to him we used one of his TED talk clips at our student leadership training for the university where I worked.  In learning I worked with college students Simon offered to speak to my student leaders in person. 

Some time later on Simon took the floor to "inspire" everyone at the dinner gathering.  He considers himself a non-devout Jew, yet had attended church that day with the hosts of the dinner party.  He explained, that when you have a good friends like Scott and Vik who embrace the Christian faith and you know it is meaningful for them, you have to at least check it out.

I wrote on some of what Simon shared in a grad school paper that explored the possibility of salvific generosity.  The excerpt is as follows:


The 50 some of us at Scott’s paused to hear Simon speak about his recent experience in Afghanistan.  He was invited there to encourage the troupes, but while he was in country his return flight got canceled, and where he was located was becoming more and more unsafe – too unsafe for his liking.  He explained to us that suddenly he could only think of himself and he became desperate to get back to the states.  But he was stuck – stuck in Afghanistan, and stuck in his anger and self-centeredness that he had gotten trapped in such a precarious situation.
But then he shifted the story, explaining how he eventually realized he could be of help, and so he starting serving with little things here and there.  And, he explained, “As soon as I started serving I had this peace come over me.  And that peace stayed with me as I continued to seek ways to help out and serve rather than wallow in my less than fortunate circumstances.”  He continued on, “That trip changed me, and since I’ve been back I’ve decided that I want to commit my life to serving those who serve others."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Letters

He wrote back, inquiring about my health.  I should explain, the following facebook post is what prompted him to send me a message:

if you would, please pray for my health. i'd prefer not to go into specifics, but i've had health issues for well over a year. i started to get better in december, but recently relapsed. my dreams are on hold until i can get back to being me. please pray i get better speedily. thanks!
And so I explained...  
In September I participated in a day-long Bible study in LA called Letters.  The day started at 10, and wrapped up sometime after 4.

That night I was zapped of all energy and rather than going out with friends in Manhattan Beach, I curled up on my friend’s couch.  The next day I still felt fatigued, but still went for a mid-morning jog, and then spent the latter part of the afternoon writing at a coffee shop, processing what I had learned the day before.  An hour into my writing, a migraine headache set in, and I switched from productivity to facebook browsing.
Eventually I packed up my laptop and headed up to Hollywood for evening church.  But as I drove, the migraine worsened.  In fact, the pain in my head got so bad I had to exit the freeway and find a place where I could safely vomit in case the nausea feeling in my stomach progressed to that point.  Rather than making it to church, I spent the next hour crying through the pain, as I sat hugging my knees, on some dirty LA sidewalk. 
The migraines were nothing new - I had been experiencing them since January 2012, when things got REALLY bad at work.  I thought they’d let up after I left the job, but instead my health got progressively worse over the summer and into the fall.  After my doc’s testing –an echocardiogram in the spring and an EEG in the fall – it was confirmed, my health issues stemmed from other matters.
So I started counseling in September and by session 3, we figured out I sometimes get migraine headaches when I am treated poorly.  Normal people get angry and express that anger in a variety ways, but I don’t think to get angry, so instead my body takes the hit, responding with physical pain and the claim, “This is not okay.”  After I lost nearly everything in hurricane Sandy, I was able to identify I also get physically ill in facing loss.  To identify potential causes for my physical ailment seemed like a HUGE break through.  And, after my post -Sandy major migraine episode in November, I’ve been “clean.”
Until… well, in February I participated in that all-day Bible study again.  And, once again, I was zapped of energy and felt miserable for the next 24 hours.  I wasn’t well enough to hang with friends that Saturday night or to go to church the following day, but it wasn’t anything extreme, so I didn’t think too much of it.  But then in March, St. Patty’s Day weekend, I participated in Letters for the 3rd time, live streaming from a Starbucks in Michigan.  And, once again, I was disappointed that I didn’t feel well enough to meet up with friends that night.  But the fatigue got me thinking – wait – this has happened to me all 3 times I have participated in Letters, and not only that, but in August, when I participated in Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit  - again, the same thing, plus migraine, happened. 
At 3 AM I couldn’t sleep, so I called my friend Amy who lives in Hawaii, and explained how I had discovered this correlation between hearing good teaching and then getting sick.  And she started talking about some of the hardships she has been facing, and then mentioned she feels like it might be spiritual warfare.
I was lying down in bed, warm and cozy under my covers. I wasn’t chilled at all, but with the mention of spiritual warfare, I felt chills go up and down through my entire body several times.  It was as if those chills confirmed Amy’s suspicion that the forces of darkness were somehow targeting us.  I don’t pray over the phone a ton, but with that freakish sensation, I told Amy I am going to pray for us.
Before it seemed I'd get migraines as a result of the bad stuff happening to me.  Now I get sick when I expose myself to what is good.  And not just with Bible studies, but even things like spending a fabulous day snowboarding with my friend Lisa.  The next day I was in bed with pain so bad I was unable to eat, and had to take occasional trips to the bathroom to vomit.   And even this week.  I had a fun evening with my friend Emily, and then was taken out with a migraine for the following 48 hours.  It’s like living life with a really bad hangover without ever getting shit faced from drinking too much alcohol.  The source of my physical ailment, at this point in time, appears to stem from my pursuit of what is good.
I’m near finished with a book that I know has the potential to make a positive impact in people’s lives.   And that’s just book 1.  And then there’s this nonprofit I am hoping to start.  And then I’m hoping to rewrite the female metanarrative… and well, there’s just a whole lot of good I’d like to do in this world that I can’t do when I am stuck in bed, or vomiting into a toilet.