It’s Thanksgiving. Although we have a historical reason for such a holiday here in the United States, it really boils down to recognizing our blessings and remembering to be grateful.
Last year I wrestled with the dirty bird blues. This year I enlisted Mr. Sparky’s assistance when I spatchcocked and dry brined the turkey. It came out beautifully, to say the least. Cooked perfectly in about 70 minutes, moist and well-seasoned with crackling crisp skin.
I bit my tongue really hard whilst chewing my dinner and I have to admit, I’m not particularly grateful about that. I am grateful for the dinner, and even for the opportunity to prove that while Mr. Sparky has picked up the bulk of the every day cooking around here, I am still quite capable of reducing my family to a symphony of contented sighs and groans of I-ate-too-much-but-it-was-so-good misery.
While I puttered around in the kitchen this afternoon, my people watched the extended version of The Return of the King and I watched from across the counter. I’ve actually never seen the un-extended versions of any of the LOTR films, so I don’t know what other folks might be missing. All I know is that is one incredible film, with an amazing story. Except for that scene where I have to leave the room because I don’t do little spiders…and so I surely don’t do giant nuclear mutant spiders who chase hapless little hobbits around a dark twisty cave. That scene alone is enough to make me glad I didn’t attempt to see this film in the theater. I would have been traumatized.
But the rest of the film is awesome.
Tomorrow I haul myself out into the crazy world of Black Friday retail. Not to shop. To work. This will be my sixth Black Friday, although to be fair my first one in 2010 was cut short because I was really sick, still battling the vestiges of good old-fashioned flu, and while I had the sense to not even attempt to call out on Black Friday, my co-workers also had the sense to send me home as soon as possible. This year I am grateful for health, and a job, and a vehicle to get to the job, and gas to fuel the vehicle, and coffee to fuel me. I am not very grateful that the air-conditioner is broken at my place of employment. It is late November and I will be dressing as if it’s early August…in Florida. But I have clothes.
I reckon everyone ought to be grateful I have clothes.
I drove to work during a tornado warning today.
You know how drivers are always admonished to “KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE ROAD!”?
I was not doing a very good job keeping my eyes on the road. I was keeping my eyes on the sky. The dark, twisty, sullen, ominous sky that had already produced at least one water spout in the Gulf of Mexico, and apparently also one in Choctawhatchee Bay, I later heard.
I didn’t see anything, to my relief and slight disappointment. But I drove through mucho raino, which did have its dramatic moments.
What is it about the sky? What is so magnetizing about it?
On days like today it’s a no-brainer: the sky has the potential to produce a monster, and so we watch it for signs of swirling anger. But even on beautiful days we gaze into the clear blue, or at the puffy clouds. We marvel at rainbows and sunsets.
It’s just as good at night. We stare into the heavens, gaping at constellations and planets and the cold burn of faraway stars, gasping at the flash of meteors streaking to their doom, burning out bright.
Perhaps it’s because it’s so vast. Perhaps it’s because it is varying and unpredictable.
Or perhaps it’s because we’re earthbound, envious of the birds who, with the flick of a feather, defy gravity and soar far above the petty grievances, desperate heartbreaks, and soul-numbing tediousness that taints life on this whirling ball of dirt.
What is it about finding out that you can’t get something that makes you obsessively want nothing other than that thing you can’t get?
Sometime during the middle of last winter, my beloved polar fleece booties gave out. I have worn polar fleece bootie slippers for decades. They are like pacifiers for your feet, making them feel all comforted and happy. Mr. Sparky hadn’t really liked the redesigned pair from Lands End, so he gave me his barely worn pair. They were fine except for one glaring issue:
They weren’t red.
Don’t be laughing, now. It matters. Red is warmer. Mr. Sparky’s pair is navy. They are dignified and manly and very un-red.
By the time I needed new slippers last year, the stock was getting low and so I decided to wait until this year to get new ones since there would be a fresh selection of designs and colors. Little did I know, Lands End would not be offering the polar fleece booties this year.
So I checked out L.L. Bean, which is indeed offering the booties in the design I actually like best (although they call them slipper socks for some odd reason). This would be exciting except for one problem.
You guessed it. No red.
L.L. Bean is offering their booties in two colors: navy and dark gray.
I just can’t.
I’ve scoured Al Gore’s internets and dang it all if I haven’t come up empty-footed. I don’t want polar fleece socks. I don’t want moccasins. I don’t want crafty booties that are polar fleece on the bottom without a real sole of some sort. I don’t want booties made of sweater knit, fur, satin, or quilted stuff that looks like the Stay-Puf marshmallow man. I definitely don’t want granny scuffs. I would consider settling for another color if it wasn’t so…drab. But $40 to settle for drabness?
I just can’t.
It’s a first world problem. I have the slippers Mr. Sparky gave me last year, and I can probably get another season out of them. I have awesome fuzzy socks which are fun. And I live in Florida, which means my risk of frostbite on my tootsies is quite low. I’m blessed.
I don’t know what it is, this thing that drives us to want what we can’t have. Maybe it’s just human nature. Maybe it was the chink in the armor that the snake exploited in the garden of Eden. Whatever it is, it’s so much deeper than a pair of slippers.
Because it’s not just that we want what we can’t have. We also obsessively want what we think we can’t have or what we perceive is being withheld from us, even if isn’t really. And if we think we can’t have it, then we’ll almost certainly entertain jealousy towards those who do have it. It’s a nasty cycle that perpetuates a very distorted concept of justice and fairness.
I do my best to avoid rolling like that, but just to be safe, do a sister a favor and don’t be gloating if you have red polar fleece booties.
Unless you can tell me where to find a pair for myself, that is.
It came like a river and washed me over.
I would like to say I waded in, but nothing could be further from the truth. One moment I was on dry ground, and the next I was in over my head, tumbling and turning and hoping my head wouldn’t get bashed upon the rocks, although for that matter I don’t even know if there were any rocks.
Funny how the speed of the suddenlies can convince you you’re surely about to die, and it’s probably going to be violent and gory. Surely it will be tomorrow’s headlines, and what if someone posts an unflattering photo of you dying with your mouth open, looking silly?
Or worse yet, what if nobody even notices you’re gone?
But I didn’t bash my head on any rocks. Instead, I discovered that beyond the panic there was a rhythm to the flow, furious and relentless as it was, and I didn’t have to be a victim of its raging torrents.
Better yet to face forward and learn to defy gravity.
Some may call it swimming, some may call it flying. Some will surely stand at a safe distance and call it chaos, although it is actually anything but except to those with an unhealthy attachment to dry land.
I thought I would write a blog post tonight.
That is before I actually sat down to do it. Now that I’ve sat down to do it, and have continued to sit here staring at this screen for over and hour, I’m not sure why I thought that.
Once upon a time I knew a lot of words. It was fun to string them together and see how they sounded, what sorts of twists and turns they might make. They could make stories and rhymes. They could chat about the day. They could tickle and punch. They could sing.
On occasion they still do.
But these days they are more likely to dotter and slouch. They slip on a pair of scuffed corduroy house shoes and shuffle out to get the paper from the front stoop, dragging the untied belt to a bathrobe, and mumble through the funnies and the want ads, making that horrible throat-clearing noise. I don’t think they’ve combed their hair for months.
Nobody knows quite what to do when the shine wears off.
Just a smidge over three weeks ago I returned home from Brazil.
The trip was beyond amazing, as I expected it to be. I reunited with probably close to two dozen folks I’d met last year (if you include leadership), and I met at least seventy new people on the team.
For nearly two weeks we did life together, 24/7.
Doing life together in Brazil on a Global Awakening trip is community life on steroids. We all came for a unified cause, although the reasons we did it were as varied as the zip codes and the colors of our passports.
For nearly two weeks we shared hotel rooms, meals, and bus seats. We visited churches together, we worshiped together, we prayed together, we interceded with and for one another, we ministered with one another.
We learned one another’s habits. We began to understand who liked a little extra space, who preferred to listen even when they didn’t say much, who could entertain a phone pole with jokes and schtick, who greeted life with a constant smile, and who was going to be last to get on the bus every single time.
We invested in one another. And now that we’re home, we’re still invested.
During a personal message exchange today, my friend Paul said this:
“It will be awesome to see how things continue to be revealed and developed through this group. I am thirsty for what happens next within this team. Isn’t it interesting that even though the trip has been over for almost a month that I still have this sense of “team” and that our trip has only begun?”
The truth is, most of us would say we feel this way. I am confident the team I was with in 2014 would agree.
I have to wonder if this sense of team and traveling together isn’t so much about spending two weeks in Brazil together but how we spent that two weeks. We were immersed in concentrated multi-faceted community and kingdom business with one another.
This is no small thing.
We operated in risk and vulnerability with one another. We shared a deep hunger to see God move in one another and through one another. We were there for each other’s sacred moments. We witnessed and celebrated some team members have their first experience praying for someone who was healed on the spot. We cheered each other on. We rejoiced over victories together, and ached over defeats. We watched one another confront fears and anxieties, stepping into new levels of kingdom realities. We were there as Holy Spirit touched some of us with laughter…and some with peace…and moved some to deep tears…and blasted some with overwhelming power. And we joined in the laughter, blessed the peace, handed out tissues, and helped wobbly legs find their way to chairs and beds.
We lived as open treasure boxes with one another, and held little back. It was two weeks of wildly joyful, deeply poignant, and outrageously fun holy ground.
This is life in the kingdom at its best.
The most challenging part about these trips is coming home and realizing the folks around us have no grid for what we’ve just experienced. We can tell the stories—and boy, are there ever stories to tell—but it is exceedingly difficult to express what really happened to us there. Something fundamental in us changed and the only people who really understand are those who experienced it alongside us: the team. And so pieces of our hearts remain tied to a scattered group, and we have a vision awakened for a present community around us that operates in the same kind of authenticity, vulnerability, bravery, and determination.
In our day-to-day lives we long for this kind of team…this kind of community…this kind of church.
Because isn’t this what the church is really supposed to be?
I know, lousy photo. Late night, terrible lighting, iPhone operator refusing to use flash. Ansel Adams I ain’t.
But look at him. All curled up in his little bed, all 14 POUNDS of him because the once 12-pound wuss dog is getting a little tubby. Guess having nine bad teeth pulled gave him a renewed appetite. He is particularly fond of cat food. He also licks his bed.
I know he looks all sweet and cozy, tucked into a little ball like that. But do not be deceived. Jake the Jerk-Faced Dog is suffocating in a cloud of his own pfffft!
How do I know? That little bed is three feet away from where I am sitting and typing right now, and I have decent hearing.
I also had a decent sense of smell until about five minutes ago.