Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Ministry of Paying Attention

I've stopped scrolling the news first thing in the morning.

It's no noble thing. It's not because I wanted to stop. Left to my whims, I open my mouth at the end of the spigot and nearly drown from the outrage. I love knowing what's going on in the world. I love throwing my anchor into the sea of controversy and claiming ground somewhere just below the surface.

The problem isn't that I don't like a steady stream of turmoil or that it isn't good for my soul.
The problem is that I like it too much. (And it isn't good for my soul.)

This morning I brushed my teeth, signed permission slips, passed out meds and admired Silas and Ruby, both decked out in new Wal-Mart pants. We walked to school unaware of the trouble brought with this new day. I turned myself around for the walk back home, just like I always do.

I was almost home before I realized I hadn't taken a picture, as I normally do. I hadn't heard God in the train or seen him in the broken glass I'd just stepped over. Nothing had caught my eye or my attention.

It rattled me, because it's happening more often these days.

Back home, I read about Las Vegas. My capacity for true empathy was tender as a hummingbird. What does it meant to keep on caring from afar, pinging concern South, then West, back again, never stopping, never breathing? What should it look like? How can it possibly be real? Why does it matter when the hurricanes keep coming, addiction keeps dragging folks under, and privileged men sit in windowsills aiming assault rifles at strangers?

I fear I'm reaching a breaking point in bearing and digesting sadness and loss.
And then there's the matter of my everyday, ordinary life, thick with court dates, phone calls, unpaid bills, insurance adjusters, medications, reading logs, notes from the principal, and garbage bags filled with other lives and stacked in my garage.

I texted a friend over the weekend, "I keep realizing over and over and over that it never ends and it never gets easier. And in some ways I'm so mad. And in some ways I'm so grateful and relieved. AND THAT IS WEIRD. I simultaneously want to run far away from home and never leave its walls. What are we supposed to do? Because all I do is fantasize about vacations I never take."

What are we supposed to do?

I don't think the answer is another "thing". It's painfully clear that I'm at capacity. I've been given all I need - every single thing. I can receive that as truth, or I can try to strong-arm God into more, like I used to.

The only "more" I need is Him.
Christ already alive in me. The only hope I need. (Colossians 2:27)

The question is, can I let it be true?

Last year I was taken by the way of Jesus, here on earth. True, he was God. He had resources we plainly don't have. But he was also here to show us how to illuminate the world with God's love, reflecting light just like the moon, our steady morning companion.

The life of Jesus tracks a sensory-rich narrative. We read in Luke of burning incense, chanting crowds, angel voices booming. Dusty roads, mangy shepherds, and a young girl, "obviously pregnant." Heaven came down as a baby with dimpled hands and a dark swirl of hair and soon, men were tracking the night sky, wide wake with wanting.

He grew. He was drawn to the wildest ones, those most likely to be written off as unfit, unworthy, needing a lesson or ten on the ways of blending in with the religious culture surrounding them.

The world looked at John the Baptist and saw crazed, insane, disgusting, and disrespectful. Jesus saw a worthy protest, choosing him as his line in the Galilean dust. His "official" ministry was beginning, each domino pitching into the next; scandal, story, mundane, and miracle. It was John who plunged Jesus' head into the water, upsetting authority and the cultural code. This is no mistake.

What follows is sensory overload on repeat.

"As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, 'You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.'" (Mark 1:10-11)

He saw.
He heard.
He lived as one dearly loved.

Jesus came to us as us, a man with eyes, ears, a mouth, a nose, fingerprints and hair follicles. He cried. He feasted. He walked until his feet ached. He reached back after a long day and squeezed the tension from his own tanned neck. He got goose bumps. He took naps. He felt alone sometimes, because he felt alive.

He experienced the world around him by simply paying attention. He's asking the same of us.

So, that's how I'm spending my October and I'd like to take you along with me. I don't have a schedule. I'm not making a particular commitment. I'm not beginning on October first. I don't know where this will take me, if anywhere. I only know I'm up for the journey.

I want more of God, and he's already here, crammed into this quadrant of city blocks I rarely leave. He's here in the faces and the stories, but the only way I'll be changed is if I hush up and listen. I don't want to be numb. I don't want to settle for blending in.


Windows open. Breeze stirring the curtains. Leaves mostly green, just a few rustling brown on the sidewalks. Sunlight holds the last of the hot pink roses. Pine-Sol drifts from the bathroom, just scrubbed. Pears ripen in the bowl. One street away, a siren peels by.

This is Monday and I am very much alive.

*My hope is to write these then post them the following day. My hope is also to keep them brief, but we'll just have to wait and see about that.