Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Celtics 17

banner 17More Than a Feeling – Peace of Mind – It's Been Such a Long Time – Smokin'– Let Me Take You Home Tonight...

It happened 7 days ago, last Tuesday, 17 June, and arrogantly or not, for the record I'm turning this past Celtics season and their spectacular triumph in the NBA finals into a fable to parallel my own apparently non-victorious situation of the past dozen plus years. During game 6 at Boston (TDBankNorth) Garden someone held up a poster with the equation:
celtics banner 17
17, 17, 34, oh, yes! Series MVP Paul Pierce, whose website features The Man | The Player | The Community was graceful energy and determination throughout. Being interviewed at game 4 the previous Thursday he essentially said you don't think of the score--you simply play the game and gave us another explication of the famous "losing hurts worse than winning feels good," though that was prior to Tuesday...

Given that I'm making this a parable for my situation besides rejoicing in the Celtics win, the commentator who observed during an earlier game how a particular habit or trait frequently is both a person's or a team's weakness and their strength could have been talking directly about me. Assessing and surveying these too many years it's easy to see how one and the same characteristic has helped me get through too many rougher than rough patches just as in some cases it may have carried me to that point or kept me stuck there. I prefer how the word vulnerability translates into an easily-to-wound spot to "weakness," but the difference is negligible.

I noted the quote but not the date he spoke, but I loved that Los Angeles Lakers' coach Phil Jackson said "We don't stand as individuals in this game; it's a team game" and he quoted from Rudyard Kipling's "The Law for the Wolves":
Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
Immediately after last Tuesday's game and after we'd both posted "CELTICS!!!" status updates, Mike Lewis from church and I wall-to-walled on Facebook; here's part of our exchange:
me: [responding to Mike's Celtics status update] Oh, absolutely ! Was that not the SWEETEST victory, and even on their home court! It doesn't get any better than that--isn't Paul Pierce astounding!! Here's a high 5 for all of us, but especially for Boston and the Celtics!

Mike: Yeah, that was quite the exclamation point. KG finally came alive tonight and what a difference he made, he was a formidable presence. And how about Rondo, that little guy really was pesky and got in the Lakers business all night, he played a key role in getting the Lakers off-kilter. And finally, Paul Pierce, who after years of suffering finally got his due and cemented his place in Celtics lore. What a great season, after all these dark years it's finally nice to celebrate again!

Me: I so agree with everything you've said about everyone--and how wonderful that some of the greatest of the greats, maybe especially John Havlicek and Bill Russell were there to savor it all! I've been making these finals (actually the entire season) into a parable for my own life, since I've taken a truly unexpectedly excessive ton of hits over these years, but not to be modest, like the Celtics by grace I've been able to keep on keepin' on, all the while honing my skills in a lot of areas, and I'm waiting for my own splendid victory...here's a Bed of Roses for Boston!

banner 17Mike: I think the main thing to takeaway from the 07-08 Celtics is the fabric of their team; they were many components that meshed together as one unit. Together, they became as one and were victorious. They surrendered their desires for a greater good and emerged victorious! It was a win for the ages and very satisfying to witness this year.
Paraphrasing again, as Oprah told the teenager you know you can't do life by yourself, on your own. My innumerable attempts to reweave the fabric of my life all have pretty much failed and I've spent far too much time crawling rather than limping (let alone walking), yet I've done a ton of teaching, written a few 100 pages of substantial theology, won several design awards and produced several 100 graphic design pieces, all stuff that's ready to take me almost anywhere and none of which was there in this kind of relatively polished professional form when the recall committee hit nor even during the life stuff buttonyears immediately afterwards. Though I'll readily admit I'd accomplished a fair amount in those fields and I'll include the Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle in that series, I still have 5 more to go before I can claim to play the entire cycle to public performance level...so true I've been chippin' away at Beethoven for a long time, but when serving a local church (teaching in a local school, being a caseworker, attorney or any of a myriad of direct-service oriented callings) one simply does not have much physical or emotional space to dedicate to projects like Beethoven. Just like Paul Pierce, for the most part I haven't been checking the score or adding up the years, though the few times I've taken a count I've gasped at the number of years traversed yet quietly rejoiced at the distances I've run. So who's even thinking or imagining "Lakers over Celtics" or "Yankees over Red Sox" or "World Out There over Leah Right Here?!" In Poetry Party 17 (there's that number17 again) at the end of April I quoted the lyrics and linked to a performance of Bob Dylan's "When the Ship Comes In." It includes, "And the words that are used for to get the ship confused will not be understood as they're spoken, for the chains of the seas will have busted in the night and be buried at the bottom of the ocean." Amen?! Amen!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sacred Compass 2

Today I'm blogging in growing green of Ordinary Time and starting with a backtrack from my Sacred Compass blog 1:

Sacred Compass is the latest book by Brent Bill, my friend who's a Friends (Quaker) pastor who lives in Indiana and sometimes hangs out on Facebook. Brent blogs at Brent Bill dot com and at the highly sacramental-sounding Holy Ordinary. Since I posted my first Sacred Compass blog Brent has started a Spiritual Discernment Blog; amazingly, blogger had reserved the Sacred Compass name in advance! I'd asked "is 'serendipitous' biblical theology?" I think maybe it is!

edited later: sacred compass blog spot no longer is active, so you can claim it for yourself.

Sacred CompassBrent is doing a great job keeping his book before the public and I want to be a loyal fan; after all, I'd like a few groupies surrounding me when my book (the one I haven't worked on at all for ages) debuts.

As we humanoids often observe, life is a long, strange trip. To name a handful who have walked in trust, like Abraham, Jacob and Paul and exactly like Bonhoeffer and MLK, those of us who commit to an often precarious path quickly discover it's far stranger and way more exciting than any human could invent.

Brent mentioned Mother Teresa's now-famous lack of conventional faith, suggesting her initial call to the ministry she performed may have been so blazingly glorious that almost everything in its wake plain lacked flavor. But was the Saint of Calcutta's experience unique or even unusual?? We all walk by Spirit-inspired faith rather than being led by physical human senses and plodding reason and in order to not stay stuck, everyone frequently needs to follow what seem like illogical signals. Amidst these discerning days I'm constantly reminding myself, "I'm a theologian! I can do ambiguity and paradox!" But living theology visibly out loud still take guts and generates anxiety.

What similar illuminations have I experienced?

In my first blog I quoted from one of my old commonplace books: "You won't know where you're going if you are always looking back!" And also cited a car commercial: "The need to make it home is basic, instinctual, undeniable..." on the same page of the same yellow-covered notebook I filled with mostly green writing, I wrote The road that leads you away will turn and lead you home.

In recent years a pair of extremely significant homecomings have happened to me and for me, despite my ongoing restlessness and doubts.

The first is (notice I'm present-tensing) a turning twisty road I walked in order to spend the last 18 months of my mother's life with her, a narrative easier to relate face-to-face than on paper or on the computer screen. I now recognize many of the ways God and circumstances were preparing my heart and my head to do what I needed to do and finally wanted to do.

The second road that led my heart home is the one I followed finally to become the graphic designer I'd aspired to be as early as pre-kindergarten. In my other blog I wrote:
I'd planned to become an artist, ideally to design textiles. I constantly feel and think in color and obsess about typography and I've taught art and freelanced some as a designer, but my narrative includes telling people "a greater Love than art found, claimed, and continued drawing me."
Precisely so, but I also think of the two scholarships to art school I received, along with my reasons for not going, and then the sudden opportunity I had to complete a certificate program in interactive media and graphic design. That kairos timing allowed me to gain proficiency and exposure to current softwares, something that wouldn't and couldn't have happened ages ago, and makes that part of the story very cool. Needless to say, I've had to keep updating my skills, but as an artist and designer I've come home to my heart to a satisfying degree. And as I noted, the intervening years were not artfully devoid in the least, so my experiences teaching and freelancing and always thinking in color, line and type prepared me well.

As a somewhat compulsive theologian who absolutely loves to read, study, write, teach and preach, the witness of scripture is huge in my life and world, especially as it reveals Jesus to me (of course) and particularly its revelation of how God has walked before other saints and set them free to hold wilderness feasts; I'm finally starting to own that story.

Recently I added to my list of quotes on Facebook from C.S. Lewis' Dawn Treader:
...said the Lamb, "For you the door into Aslan's country is from your own world." ... "There is a way into my country from all the worlds," said the Lamb...and he was Aslan himself...
Sometimes by radically rooted trust and sometimes with reasonably clear vision and hearing, often by gracefully perceiving subtle signs and signs, I've been making my way into Aslan's country, but the past decade has been lonely beyond description. As part of this current discernment phase I'm praying to discover a community that will welcome me into its journey, a people who will take time to learn who I am and celebrate my gifts and sense of call...

...another big "thank you," Brent!

my Amazon review: circles, angles and trajectories