The Oblivious Angel.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The Oblivious Angel.
Jonathan's Sunday school teacher tells me that she appreciates how Jonathan is always eager to participate in the class...what she doesn't appreciate is how hard it is to keep a straight face sometimes. She relayed this to me last week.
The children were gathered around the teacher on the rug, listening carefully to the story. The teacher spoke of Abraham and Sarah, and of their trust in God, and of their obedience. She told how God blessed them with almost everything they could want: land, animals, servants.
But there was one thing that Abraham and Sarah didn't have, one thing they wanted very badly. The teacher made her arms into a cradle and gently swayed back and forth. She asked the children, "What do you think that one thing was?"
Jonathan applied all his mental capabilities to the task, thought hard for a moment, and said, "I know! A robot!"
Shared by Dana at 6:44 AM
Sunday, October 29, 2006
In the 8 1/2 years that we've been married, Steve and I have regularly attended and/or joined no less than 6 churches. Before you label us "church hoppers," please know that the majority of these church changes have had to do with either a) moving or b) Steve's career change.
And you know what? It's not easy to become integrated into a church community. People in churches already have friends who know them, who have a shared history, who can share jokes over coffee after the worship service. And the newbies, if they're anything like me, will stand awkwardly in the crowd for a few minutes and then bolt out the door. Honestly, that time of "fellowship" after the service can be brutal for a person who is new to the congregation.
It was always nice when people introduced themselves to us and welcomed us to the church. But often, what happened (and please, I know I'm guilty of this, too) is that the brief introductions were as far as it went...the next Sunday, the people were back in their circle of friends and we, the newbies, were bolting out the door, too intimidated to break into the tight-knit group.
But here's what made the difference: People invited us into their homes. I was always thrilled to be invited, thrilled that someone cared enough about getting to know me and my family that they would extend the invitation. When people invited us into their homes, they made themselves vulnerable to us--see, this is where we live our lives... this piece of furniture that was my great-grandmother's, this piano that I never play in public, this dog with the obedience issue, these books that I read, this room that hasn't been redecorated for 15 years...And in response to this gift of hospitality, we felt more comfortable sharing our stories and our lives. I couldn't have cared less if the plates were chipped or if they were fine china. The food could have been frozen TV dinners, and it wouldn't have mattered. What mattered was that we were becoming part of the community.
I'm thinking about this today because Steve suggested we invite an acquaintance to our apartment for dinner, and my first reaction was, "No way. Our apartment is too small. We don't even have a proper table to eat on. What would I cook in this tiny kitchen that could possibly impress this man?"
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Was I actually going deny this man hospitality because things wouldn't be perfect? In my pride, I easily forget the power of Christian community.
I've enjoyed a book, Re-imagining Spiritual Formation, which tells the story of Solomon's Porch Community, a church in Minneapolis. In this book, Pastor Doug Pagitt and the SP members talk about their Wednesday night dinners, which are large, informal gatherings that happen in members' homes. What I remember clearly is how Doug explains that they intentionally leave tasks incomplete--the table unset, the salad untossed, that sort of thing-- so that anyone who wants to can join in and be part of the group effort. Perfection is not the goal; building community is. It sounds lovely, and I would love to invite myself to a Solomon's Porch Wednesday night dinner sometime. Better yet, I'd love to start something similar here.
Shared by Dana at 4:36 PM
Friday, October 27, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
If you find yourself missing Dwight Schrute or Michael Scott, and Thursday just seems too far away, check out this link.
Shared by Dana at 4:30 PM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Last night, someone suggested that we plant a church in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan. Hell's Kitchen is named as such because there is a warm wind that tunnels through the neighborhood in the summer months, but Hell's Kitchen was also a not-so-nice place for a time. It's changed a lot in the past decades and more families are starting to live there.
Both Steve and I find the potential for a "Hell's Kitchen Community Church" quite intriguing.
It's a "wicked" juxtaposition of words and concepts.
Shared by Dana at 1:14 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Recently I've had an interesting ongoing conversation with a girl (she's the same age as me, probably qualifies as a woman or something equally mature, but I don't feel old enough to be called a woman, so Girl, it is) re: the role of comfort in Christian community. It all started when one of the moms in our Wednesday morning group called and said she wasn't going to come anymore; she just wasn't comfortable there. Which made us all feel a bit sad for her and disappointed that we had failed to help her feel comfortable.
But then this new, wise friend of mine asked, "Is that what it's about? Feeling comfortable?"
She explained that she deliberately chose to attend this particular group even though there was another group with more people like her, more people with the same ethnicity and similar backgrounds. And she told how the first few months at this group were hard and she felt out of place and didn't know what to talk about and many times ended up sitting alone during the social portion of the morning (I nodded my head yes and yes; I'd been sitting by myself for a time that particular morning already). "But," my friend said, "if I only hang around with other Christians that are just like me, how am I growing? If we're all just like each other, our Christianity becomes more of a cultural thing than a true community thing...we talk the same, we do the same things...we sin the same, and who is going to call us out on that when we're all in on it?"
"True," I said. Then I thought of the woman who was no longer going to attend our group and asked, "But how can growth occur if someone is feeling so uncomfortable that they are unable to participate, if they're so uncomfortable that they dread interacting with the group and make excuses to not attend?"
And we talked more about how Christ never promised us the kind of comfort we were talking about (pretty much the opposite, really), but we are still social human beings and have a strong need to feel accepted and Part of the Group. And we wondered, when is it OK to be comfortable, and when is God asking us to be uncomfortable so that we may grow and better contribute to His kingdom?
No one had a straight-up answer.
Like I said, this is an on-going conversation. Go ahead an join us if you'd like.
Shared by Dana at 1:53 PM
Friday, October 20, 2006
Earlier this week I hopped on the subway to travel downtown to put in my volunteer hours at Chloe's school. With each stop more people clamored aboard, and after 2 or 3 stops the train was so full that there wasn't room for one more body. I saw a teenage boy hurl himself through the open doors into the mass of people only to be crudely ricocheted back onto the platform. It was that full.
I found myself in the middle of the jumble, trying to find an appropriate place to rest my eyes....
I'll tilt my head this way...no, I don't really want to look at that woman's rear end for 15 minutes
Maybe if I turn over here...*cough* that's some coffee breath you have, sir
Here, perhaps...no, my face is so close to that woman I could accidentally kiss her cheek if the train jerks
You get the picture. I ended up looking at the ceiling and at my neighbors' hands grasping the bars above their heads, noticing how much a good manicure can do to make a person's hands look decent. I also started thinking about the rules of etiquette in regard to public transportation. They are as follows:
- Pretend with all your might that you aren't pressed in on all sides by complete strangers.
In other words, being polite means ignoring people.
This idea wouldn't fly too far in the Midwest, where making small talk is a sign of friendly respect. Steve and I, being the Midwestern extroverts that we are, test the boundaries of this rule of etiquette regularly. We're learning, but it wouldn't be so bad if we don't learn it too well.
Shared by Dana at 7:26 AM
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
A glimpse of our dinner conversation this evening:
Dana: Chloe, anything interesting at school today?
Chloe: We had Bible.
Dana: Oh yeah? What story?
Chloe: The tower of Babylon and the story about Joseph. Not the Joseph that had a baby, you know, with Mary, but the other Joseph.
Steve: Oh, the Joseph with the jealous brothers?
Chloe: Yeah. And God was going to kill all the little babies in Egypt.
Dana: I think you're talking about the story when Pharoah was the one who was going to do the killing...
Jonathan: Yeah! All the Israelites were going to die because...they were Israelites! And Jonah was going to kill them! With a HUGE whale!
Chloe: (with scorn) Sheesh! Jonah was a GOOD guy. He was a prophet.
We've got some excellent PK's in the making.
Shared by Dana at 6:57 PM
Monday, October 16, 2006
I have a deal. As in, "Dana, what's your deal?" which was asked ever so lovingly and not at all accusingly by Steve earlier today.
I have been a bit snarky the last few days; it's because all the adrenaline is gone, and I may have been a bit addicted.
The apartment is settled and cozy.
Chloe is tucked away safely at school and is flourishing (I think one of the little kinderboys may even have a crush. She's been getting notes and he pulled out her braids).
Steve is officially ordained, working hard and working well.
Jonathan is his sweet, funny self, making me laugh all day long.
Public transportation is no longer intimidating.
I can make my way down crowded streets with the best of them.
My New York drivers license came in the mail, making me an official resident of the Big Apple.
Things are good.
Things are as settled as they've been in a long time.
And I'm not sure what to do with my Type A self.
I recognize the irony in the fact that I've come to bustling NYC to learn how to slow down. It's a lesson long overdue. It will be my challenge to be a gracious student.
Shared by Dana at 6:56 PM
Saturday, October 14, 2006
This evening the family detoured to Dylans Candy Bar, a two story cornucopia of all things sugar (they even have imported Cadbury stuff, Clayton. One more reason you need to get here...). Steve and I gave the kids each 3 bucks and told them to go wild. We spent a good hour looking and relooking, until Jonathan decided on Jelly Bellies and Chloe went for the (less than) appetizing Make Your Own Gummy Pizza.
It was in the check out line when Chloe leaned in close and whispered,
"Mama, this place is my wonderland."
In that case, it's my wonderland too, Kiddo.
All in all, a good way to spend a Saturday night out.
Shared by Dana at 8:07 PM
Our small group morphed again last night and we welcomed 3 new people into the group. As we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, shared something interesting, small group small talk, etc... it became apparent that out of the 6 people in the room, a total of none had been in the city longer than 3 months. Which caused us to ask, "Of all the people you've met here, how many of them have been born and raised in the city? All boroughs included?"
One guy could think of one. I could think of...one.
People love to make sweeping statements about New Yorkers. And they're not always complimentary.
New Yorkers are rude.
New Yorkers are disillusioned.
New Yorkers say it like it is.
New Yorkers are...whatever.
But who are these rude, disillusioned, straight-talking New Yorkers? People are arriving here every day from everywhere in the world, and they are taking with them their own cultural values. These values may or may not be in line with the New York stereotypes. Chances are not.
And if indeed the city as a whole promotes a certain attitude or worldview, how long does it take for someone to adopt that worldview, if at all?
Who is the quintessential New Yorker?
Shared by Dana at 4:46 PM
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Chloe picked out some irises for my birthday from this corner market.
Chloe tells me that rolling down the knee socks is all the rage with the kindergarten girls.
Shared by Dana at 4:30 PM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
You may be wondering if we were close to the plane crash that happened here in the city today...Our apartment is on the other side of Central Park from the site, about a mile north and 2 miles west of it. It's terribly rainy and windy here, and the weather conditions are hampering the recovery and clean up. I wonder how many people were not allowed back in their homes tonight because of it?
Shared by Dana at 9:45 PM
Monday, October 09, 2006
We were in Michigan ever so briefly this weekend for Steve's ordination and installation. We rented a car, drove through the night on Thursday, spent some beautiful fall hours with our families, were honored and humbled by a beautiful ceremony on Sunday, and arrived back in the city this morning at 6:15.
The ordination and installation were moving. The gravity of Steve's vows settled in on both of us, but it was accompanied by a thrilling awareness that we were supported by both the Spirit and the community of believers. At one point, Steve knelt at the front of the sanctuary, and the elders and pastors gathered around him to lay on hands. Steve disappeared from sight, enveloped by people of faith who affirmed and upheld him. It was a fitting picture...a vision of Christian community.
So the whirlwind was welcome. But it's good to be home again.
One more thing. It surprised me how the fall colors in West Michigan were on full display. The trees here have just begun to turn.
My parent's backyard, this weekend
Riverside Park, today
Shared by Dana at 5:51 PM
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
In Central Park with our new friends Matt and Margaret and their beautiful brood of 4
We took a tour where we learned of Seneca Village, a community that was located in Central Park before it became Central Park
And made toys out of sticks and strings, just like the kids in Seneca Village
And played with a storyteller who did
magical things with imagination and scarves
SundayWhile Steve was learning of leadership, the kids and I wandered down to the boat basin near our apartment
And conducted scientific experiments complete with hypotheses: Would this acorn, crabapple, piece of concrete, etc. float or sink?
And watched sailboats glide by
And played "New York Gift Shop, would you like a t-shirt or a mug?"
And teeter-tottered until my legs couldn't take it anymore
Shared by Dana at 9:24 AM