The Line Link

I’m just going to cut to the chase: Our city has been through a lot this last year.

I’ve had a lot of mixed feelings about it. I’ve been afraid, angry, concerned, puzzled, disappointed and about 37 other emotions. I haven’t taken a side, I haven’t figured it out, and I haven’t understood everything.

But tonight, I can express what I’ve always known: I love this city.

As I stood in a line, about 70 people from the front, I watched the queue accrue as an almost-summer evening ticked along for an hour. There was foot traffic, paw traffic, bicycles, beat-up cars, souped up cars and enough of a breeze to keep the humid air cool. And as our time in line passed, I observed a vast array of human beings (well, and canines) accumulate in high spirits for a common cause: Free ice cream.

And this is important to note: Not one person was the same. It was a beautiful picture, a mix of colors and style and personalities and heritage with a backdrop of buildings and blacktop at Euclid and McPherson. I heard about friendships and days at work and collaborations and what flavor are you going to get and look at these books in the store window. The line kept growing, stretching more than a block, and there wasn’t a real sign of a reason to be down about something.

I’m so glad God made us all different. We can relate, determine a common ground, and like the same things and root for the same team, but we’re unique beings. As understanding as I try to be, I know I can never fully grasp what someone else’s life is like. You’re different than I am. That’s what makes us who we are.

Give us a foundation like free ice cream, and you see we really aren’t too different. You’ll pick a different flavor, maybe, or pick a sundae instead of a waffle cone, but we, as people celebrating ice cream, celebrated culture too. There was peace, harmony and a beautiful portrait too intricate to capture in a picture or painting.  We have a lot of work to do, us humans. But we have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to share. Thank you, city, for being beautiful.

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The Cupholder Contradiction

I enjoy coffee. We know this.

So when I am able to stop by Starbucks en route to this church I’ve been visiting for Saturday service, it’s a pretty great combination: Saturday. Starbucks. Service. Yeah.

The first time I visited there in awhile, I caught myself thinking, “Oh, man, it’d be nice if they had cupholders so I can make sure I don’t spill my drink.” I couldn’t remember from the other time I had been there if they had them. Cupholders, I mean.

At my church, the one I’ve been going to for more than 20 years now, we don’t have cupholders. Nope. There has been many a toppled beverage and sighs of relief when the knocked-over cup is discovered already empty. Or at least empty-ish.

But sure enough, to my chagrin, this church had cupholders. I could snuggle my coat in my seat, shove my purse under the chair and cozy up with my flat white from Starbucks and Bible app on my iPad. AND THEN, I could put my cup IN THE CUPHOLDER when we stood for singing with the blessed assurance my cup of coffee would not be kicked or shoved aside.

Comfortable. Easy. Quaint.

I found myself scrunching my nose in disgust. It has resorted to this. We live in a cupholder society, aiming to make things easy and convenient and comfortable and friendly. And that’s all right, sure. There’s a whole lot of good cupholders have accomplished. But it struck me how our comfort keeps us right where we are, in our cozy seats, more than out and about getting messy and making changes.

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t have a personal vendetta against cupholders, in the church or elsewhere. They’re practical, sure. I just mean, are we SO after OUR comfort and convenience that we neglect everything else?

I think God blesses us. I mean, there was a Promised Land, there’s eternity in heaven, and there are riches and beautiful things in this world and beyond us only God could manufacture. But it’s no good if we don’t get off our tails and make some messes here and there, meeting other people and sharing what we’ve learned from stepping outside and living life apart from the cush and the cupholders.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” — Isaiah 6:8

Are we going to go, or is it too comfortable where we are? Are we too eager to go, searching for something else, and God is telling us to stay put and minister to the people right in front of us? It goes both ways, but we’ve just gotta bust out of our comfort to see the really cool and messy stuff God has in store. We just gotta.

Pray for that, for me and for you and for all the people, to listen and go or stay, but not be too comfortable in our posh lounges and air conditioning and coffee bars. To enjoy the blessings, but not to count on them and find comfort in them, but in the Provider of those things. Yeah?

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The Sherlock Deadlock

Well, I got hooked on “Sherlock.”

I mean, the character of Sherlock Holmes and his sleuthing adventures have been in my realm of interest since before anyone else my age knew who he was. He was my persona of choice for multiple Halloween endeavors.

Now, he’s been highlighted and molded by even more actors and embodied in countless interpretations. Partial to the steampunk pseudo-modern façade presented to us in “Sherlock Holmes” and “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows”, I doubted Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch could portray my beloved character in as appealing a manner as Mr. Downey, Jr.

So I didn’t dare watch BBC’s “Sherlock”—my now-fiancé couldn’t even convince me. Until there was a free showing of one of the pivotal (although, let’s face it, they’re all pivotal) episodes in the Omnimax theater in conjunction with the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the St. Louis Science Center.

The exhibit was my favorite ever and we spent three hours touring the memorabilia and solving the crime and easily could have spent much more time there. It was legit. So this episode, which is really more of a film at 90 minutes running time, had to be good for me to keep my eyes peeled that long if it was starting at 10 p.m.

That’s late for me now. I’m getting old.

Regardless of the curved viewing area in the Omnimax dome, and my drooping eyelids, I was Sherlocked before I got the inside joke of what it meant to be so. I enjoyed all of it, even though I didn’t understand parts of it that referenced prior episode plots.

So it didn’t take long for me to acquire all three existing seasons of the show and watch them through. Now that I’ve seen them all, it’s a bubbling topic of conversation between myself and fellow fans and I’m just devastated that I have to wait at least another year until there are more to watch.

HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO US?!

What are we supposed to do until then? Watch the seasons over and over again until we acquire the extreme observational skills and hunger for adventure and shenanigans ourselves? Discuss and theorize plots and conspiracies revolving around the characters and their possible victories or demise? Watch all the Cumberbatch possible until he dons that magnificent coat again for our viewing pleasure?

Isn’t that how we should feel (and then some) about um, I dunno, Jesus? We’re waiting anxiously for his return, right? He’ll be wearing a much cooler coat than Sherlock’s. He’s solved more problems than even the dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson could manage. He knows more about all the people ever than Sherly could deduce in a lifetime. Shouldn’t we be poring over the Bible and studying and sharing and discussing it with our fellow Jesus-following folk, engaging in activities of fandom and spreading how magnificent and glorious He is?

Yes. Yes we should.

How exciting. He’s coming back!

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.” — John 14:27-29

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The Playoff Proficiency

IMG_0031.JPGSo I’m sitting here watching the Cardinals play the Dodgers in Game 3 in the NLDS.

This happens a lot. And I love it.

For whatever reason, baseball has always been my favorite. I like to watch, to play, to analyze, to statistize (not a real word but it should be). Luckily I get to be a Cardinals fan and enjoy this sort of thing more because, you know, extra games in postseason play.

But as much effort as I exert into my fandom — strenuous cheering, apparel purchases, arguing over who gets to keep the sports section of the paper with Matt Carpenter’s fierce mug on the front page — I chuckle at myself later when I wish I would’ve taken that effort and tossed it toward someone who could use some help or encouragement.

Sure. I like tweeting at Adam Wainwright or showing off my Joe Kelly standoff-staredown autographed print (may his Cardinals jersey rest in honor), but I bet someone more on my level could use some cheering, too.

Because, really, we’re all pitching that crucial World Series game. The pressure is always on. We’re waiting to get out of a bases loaded situation, or scared of someone taking advantage of our mistakes, or hoping to capitalize on someone else’s. Sometimes it feels like it’s just us and the mound and that terrible thing we’re facing, all by ourselves, on our own. We can think we’re too good and occupied and don’t need anyone’s help, because we’re 21-game winners and we’ve got this. But we can’t toss no-hitters all the time, and we need to pep up our teammates, even if all they’ve done is strike out this series.

Chances are, you’re going to need the other players on the field to back you up, and they certainly need you, too.

“If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.”- Galatians 6:3

Ouch.

I mean, yeah, let’s root for the Cardinals or, you know, whatever other team you like. But let’s take some time to root for each other, too, eh?

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The Mess Monstrosity

I don’t like messes.

I can be especially skilled at creating them. Mount Laundry Basket happens at least once a week, and then I tackle it, but it resides in my closet until I feel brave enough to climb it and fold the clothes. All the clothes.

I’m also great at creating stacks which then, always, manage to smush together without my supervision. But they’re there, on my desk, all stack-like. And smushed.

As I was moseying around looking for this-and-that at a recent event, I came across plenty of messes. We had transferred the church carnival inside because of a threat of rain. There were a lot of people there regardless. Truly, it was great, but I was hoping the popcorn dotting the floor wasn’t off-putting for a visitor.

Seriously. Popcorn. Like popcorn should make or break a person’s belief.

In my high-tech, cushy world, I want comfort and cleanliness and ease. I want the graphics I make to be clean, the website coding and tweets to be errorless. But I realized the visible tape on the carnival signs and the popped balloons dangling from a string did not matter. The popcorn on the floor and stickiness on the tables from residual cotton candy were all right. They were adorable. I loved all of those bits, those bits of heaven and of life that showed that, through wear and sometimes tear, these things were enjoyed.

I’m stupid in thinking that God’s idea of perfect is the same as ours. He made everything perfectly, but our bumps and bruises and curves and edges (sorry, John Legend) are what makes us who we are. We’re messy and we’re broken and we’re living. 

We’re sinful, too. We make messes and we mess up. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves to clean up the messes we can’t scrub away. With the tragedy and confusion and chaos of late (and always, really), that idea hits literally closer to home. When I don’t feel like I can do anything, with myself or for someone else, I know for certain I can always pray, and I know that from there, the next step starts with me.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

(Psalm 51:1-3)

I’m learning to appreciate the messes, the moments, the little joys, while also remembering to ease up a bit. Thank God He doesn’t expect me to be completely tidy–I’d never make it.

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The Stuck-in-the-Snow Snag

Yeah, so, here, it snowed again. Like, enough to make it look like you’re launching into hyperspeed on the Millennium Falcon while you’re driving.

And I had almost made it home without a hitch, excepting some slick spots and clenching my steering wheel the majority of the journey.

I took the turn, up the hill, the hill I have to turn on every day. I was more than halfway up. Slowly, but reaching the top of the hill. The mountainous, snow-covered peak.

And then my car stopped going anywhere.

Ughhhhhh.

I looked beyond the snowflakes pelting my windshield, past the all-too-near mailbox to my right, and in my direct view was my house. It was there. There was a straight and narrow path, albeit covered in snow. I was stuck.

I revved, I turned, even went in reverse and forward again to try for a boost, but my “oomph” attempts failed. I pushed into the steering wheel (like my exertions were moving the car forward) and nothing. Cue hazard lights.

Side note: Can’t we all just use our turn signals correctly? I mean, it’s a brilliant thing.

I had been listening to the good ol’ Christian radio station in town the duration of my hour-plus journey. Yeah, there were the traffic updates, but I also really didn’t need the junk of other songs pummeling at me while I was trying to meander cautiously and avoid colliding with a tractor-trailer. Or anything, for that matter.

Instead, I welcomed the happy, sometimes sad or more convicting and reflective music. Even though I’ll continue to pick on the repetitive use of the same four chords over and over again, or even Chris Tomlin’s occasional over-usage of crackly timbre at the beginnings of phrases (“Uhhhhour God is greater, uhhhhour God is stronger…”–don’t worry, I still like Chris Tomlin), it’s nice to not hear someone dropping a bomb every 11 words (or less) or bragging about “gettin’ it” or “drankin'” or “smokin'” something.

Regardless, a familiar voice popped on the radio to share a testimony. I knew the voice. He was sharing his story of how he came closer to God through a really tough time, even though some really good things were about to happen in his life.

I knew the story because I had heard it before, but when you hear your former youth minister on the radio you kind of have to stop what you’re doing and listen in. Or, you know, continue to sit in your stuck car on the top of the hill less than a quarter-mile away from your house.

I’ve felt disappointed lately because hiccups had occurred in plans, bubbles with hopes hadn’t smoothed out and wrinkles were still in place with other things (metaphorically speaking, even though my pant legs were admittedly crinkled from my snow boots today).

But the good things are here. And more good is coming. We get stuck sometimes because we have to remember that, instead of forcing our way through something on our own, God can get us unstuck. We’re convinced that, if it’s our plan, it’ll work out, but it’s really more like, “If it’s God’s plan, it’ll work out.”

It’s like this prayer from Solomon:

“May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors.” (I Kings 8:57-58)

Maybe you’re not supposed to be with that person. Or go to that school. Or have that car yet. Or move there now. But you are supposed to talk to God about it and seek His plan. Just pause, take a break and focus on Him. Don’t get to the point where you have to be stuck in order to talk to Him. Don’t lose sight of the good, but remember the journey you’re on and who is there with you.

If you care, yes, I did eventually move. It was interesting, but I got unstuck. Now, I just need to get unstuck with the other stuff.

In addition to getting stuck on tops of snowy hills, here are some other things I don’t recommend:

  1. Watching “House” while you’re eating
  2. Watching the VMAs while you’re eating
  3. Not eating the box of raisins sitting in your lunchbox for a month, which is then inadvertently left in reach of your dog who proceeds to eat the box of raisins (raisins are like, not good for dogs)
  4. Washing your clothes with chapstick in the laundry
  5. Eating pickled okra
  6. Wearing white to an Italian restaurant
  7. Painting your nails lime green with cheap fingernail polish
  8. Viewing “Prisoners” at night
  9. Stubbing your pinky toe
  10. Not checking to make sure your alarm is set for a.m. NOT p.m. Can I get a witness?

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The Snowfall Speculation

Well, there’s a bunch of this white stuff falling from the sky, draping exteriors, making its way offhand and off-foot into interiors, and halting plans.

Today, aside from church (which was cancelled), I had no plans. It’s a sit-around, reflect, be productive day for me. But I know that’s not the case for everyone.

For me, it’s interesting to pause and sift through the score of changes that have popped up in the past year or so. There have been plenty, but I have more blessings to count than changes. Changes have brought some frustration, difficulty, uncertainty, discomfort and a slew of other things, but through those times I’ve come to know new people, see exhibits of strength, grow in my own, and remember to pray.

Here, with the pure snow letting gravity do its thing, I think about the amount of prayers we submit, as though every snowflake that lands on something is a prayer to be answered. We can judge it in comparison to how much we think others pray, or how much we think we should pray, but the entire premise of prayer is that it’s communication. With God, it’s a special case: He knows what we’re up to regardless of whether we shoot Him a text or email or slap something up on our Facebook Wall.

But doesn’t it feel exponentially more special to hear something from someone personally, themselves? Even if it’s a problem they’re going through?

I suppose I subconsciously drift out and think that it’s arrogant of me to think that an all-knowing, all-powerful God could want to hear of my puny wants and needs and requests. But that’s just dumb, flat-out. In fact, it’s more arrogant of me to think that I don’t need to share those things with Him at all. Ouch.

So this year, you can say I’m resolving to work on that. Except I don’t think it’ll be a just-this-year thing. If we’re close and desire an intimate relationship with a person, we don’t just not talk to them. So why should I just not talk to God?

Yeah, I don’t have an answer for that.

Here’s a prayer from David after he heard a revelation of God from his pal Nathan:

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human!

“What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. …” [II Samuel 7:18-22]

The passage goes on and is a beautiful prayer. If a King can make that kind of an honest, humble prayer, I can certainly divert my brain long enough to talk with God on my own behalf.

And now, I jest, because what’s snow if you can’t have a lick of fun with it? Some tunes I recommend as we begin this year:

  1. “Falling” by HAIM
  2. “The Walker” by Fitz and the Tantrums
  3. “Fall in Love” by Phantogram
  4. “Paddling Out” by Mike Snow (ha snow)
  5. “Breezeblocks” by Alt-J
  6. “Thunder Clatter” by Wild Cub
  7. “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” by Switchfoot
  8. “Pompeii” by Bastille
  9. “Center Stage” by Capital Cities
  10. “Reflektor” by Arcade Fire

Happy New Year!

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