Friday, September 24, 2010

Pull Out the Crayons

Last night I started a 4-week learning lab on creativity with ReIMAGINE. Creativity is one of the 7 vows that we take together to live out the teachings of Jesus. We believe that living artfully helps us to live out God's unfolding story in our cultural time and place, and that when we exercise creativity we are reflecting the Creator.

The particular team who put the creativity learning lab together decided to roll with creativity as "child-like wonder, creativity, and faith". So we are doing kid things. For example, during our lab time last night dozens of grown-ups could be found sprawled out on the sidewalks and in Dolores Park doing "rubbings" where you place your paper over objects of different textures, then "rub" the crayon over it so you get that shape on your paper.

We are all keeping a daily journal for the duration of the learning lab-- but not an ordinary grown up journal. It is a "doodle pad" (mine has a happy turtle on the cover) and we have agreed to use only crayons in our journaling. I happened to have a mega-box of crayons in my closet, so I enthusiastically got them out and dove right into crayon journaling this morning.

Crayons don't flow like a nice Bic rollerball pen does. Crayons are chunky and imprecise and wrapped in paper that you have to keep peeling off. But on the other hand, they smell like childhood, and I have 64 colors to choose from with names like "spring green" and "mulberry". Bics come in red, black, and blue. Period.

Jesus said "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Will journaling with crayons help me live my life more like Jesus? That remains to be seen. But in the meantime, I did catch myself sticking my tongue out in child-like concentration a couple of times.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Ass of Grace

My friends Ed and vicki!—in moment so silly I can’t even tell you how it came about—challenged me to write a blog post called “The Ass of Grace.” “The phrase doesn’t even make sense” I protested, but in an optimistic act of bravado they upped the ante by promising to donate $100 each to my travel fund if I end up going to Haiti. So here goes….

The Ass of Grace
My friends use the word “ass” a lot. There are the common phrases having to do with ass, such as:
Nice ass
Move your ass
Kick ass
Haul ass

But my friends have come up with some hybrid ass-phrasing that is a regular part of our conversations and I’ve come to realize that many of them are strongly related to the concept of grace.

If we define “grace” as receiving favor that you don’t deserve or haven’t earned, then many of the ass phrases embraced by my friends have grace-full meanings.

We’ll start with an easy one. If someone looks at another person and says “what an ass!” (but not in the good way like they have junk in their trunk and look good in their jeans) and this person is shaking their head and casting a disapproving look, they mean the person has misbehaved in some way. Who needs grace—free favor—more than someone who is misbehaving?

When someone “falls on her ass” it is quite literally and figuratively a grace issue. If she literally fell on her ass—say whilst skating at a roller rink listening to "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees—then this illustrates lack of grace in the sense of ease of movement. But if someone “falls on her ass” in the figurative sense, it is rather about failure or being unsuccessful, as in “she blew that presentation and fell on her ass”. Who needs grace—free favor—more than someone who has failed miserably at something?

My friend vicki! uses the term “show your ass” quite often, as in “he went ballistic when we broke up, and really showed his ass”. When you “show your ass” you are unveiling the undesirable things about yourself; there are no pretences, no hiding, just the reality of who and what you are. Who needs grace—free favor—more than someone who has hung their worst bits out there for everyone to freely see and judge?

When referring to someone’s “sorry ass” it means that something pathetic has inadvertently been revealed about you, and someone is calling out your “sorry ass” with a tinge of disdain in their voice, as in “take a shower and get your sorry ass over here”. Who needs grace—free favor—more than someone who is acting pathetic?

Last but not least, my friends frequently use the term “foot up your ass” which means to strongly motivate someone. For example, when my friends vicki! and Ed set up a date to meet with me to follow-up on my desire to travel to Haiti, they threatened me that “these two Filipinos will have our feet so far up your ass that you will burp adobo!” This is how my friends talk. I don’t make this stuff up. Anyway, who needs grace—free favor—more than someone who has another person following up with them when they may or may not have finished or carried out the thing that the person is following up with them about in the first place?

Now I ask you….do Ed and vicki! both owe me $100 for my Haiti trip? You bet your ass.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mom's Mispronunciation Disorder

My mom: "So when are you going to Tahiti?"
Me: "What? Tahiti? When did I say I was going to Tahiti?"
My mom: "You know, in October."
Me: "Oh. You mean Haiti, not Tahiti."

Five minutes later.

My mom: "How far away is Hades?"
Me: "Haiti, mom. Hades is hell and I'm not going to hell."
My mom: "Well how far away is it?"
Me: "Haiti is below Florida".
My mom: "Oh, so it isn't too far away."
Me: "No, but these conversations will drive me to Hades."

The Push and Pull of Haiti

A week ago I got an email that froze the blood in my veins like water pipes in Antarctica. It was an email informing me that my October teaching trip to Oregon had been canceled. The reason I reacted so strongly was because I knew there was a trip to Haiti planned for the same week, and the only thing that had kept me from signing up for Haiti was this other commitment.

Knowing that I was now available to go to Haiti, the first thing I did was to quiet myself in my big easy chair, and pray about it. I felt a strong inclination to go. So I emailed Beyond Borders, to see if they were still planning a trip for October, and they said that they were not going to offer the trip in October, but there is a possibility of one in November, and probably another in late December. There are a lot of extraneous details about specific travel dates and people going to and from Haiti, but that is not what I want to write about.

What I want to write about it the push and pull of Haiti.

The Pull of Haiti
One of the biggest things pulling me to Haiti is that I want to say “yes” as an act of obedience to the Voice that has been calling me to go to Haiti. I don’t know why I have Haiti in heart. It’s just there. As I’ve written before, my interest was roused when I read about Haitians making dirt cakes to fill their bellies, and my sense of sadness and outrage has continued. But unless I actually get on a plane and GO, I am never going to know what the heck that Voice was all about.

The Push of Haiti
Haiti is a developing country that struggled through hard times long before January’s earthquake made things even more difficult to live and survive there. In my past travels to developing countries I’ve paid a high emotional toll-- and perhaps spiritual toll— equal to at least one million trips across the Golden Gate of my heart and spirit. It’s hard to be around the poverty, the crime, the dirtiness, the weariness from being on guard against being hustled, scammed, cheated, and stolen from. I hate walking around developing countries imagining locals looking at me like a walking ATM machine.

The Pull of Haiti
Through the Transformational Travel program, it’s kind of Beyond Borders’ job to make Haiti and the Haitians more approachable and welcoming to the people going on these trips. Traveling with a program like this would be a much different experience than my usual method of showing up somewhere alone with my backpack and passport saying “here I am!” In this rare case, am drawn to the facilitated approach where I can meet and make friends with locals and be exposed to the amazing work being done in collaboration with Haitians.

The Push of Haiti
Parting with $2,000 for program fees and flights is a terrible idea at a time when I am underemployed and my current consulting opportunities are scarce at best. Not only is my financial budget going to suffer, but my time budget will also take a hit. Since September/October is the start up time for a lot of the programs that I work with, Fall is a awful time for me to go running off for 1-2 weeks. I’ll be scrambling to catch up when I get back.

The Pull of Haiti
There is something to be said about the appeal of saying YES to an adventure in the midst of countless unknowns and fears. At my age most people have families, jobs, and mortgages, and they have defaulted to a safety zone that they call their life. To drop everything and go to Haiti is adventurous, hard core, crazy, exhilarating. This is the way I want to live.

I believe I’m called to go, so I will go. The details of when, what, who, and how will be revealed in their time.