Thursday, December 27, 2007

For Unto Us a Child Is Born...

I haven't written much about Christmas, but I've been thinking about it a lot. Some people may know and giggle appreciatively or derisively at the fact that I've been listening to Christmas music since mid-October. And now, for reasons both experimental, spiritual, psychological and emotional, I'm trying to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas which begin on Christmas. So, when it's all said and done, my Christmas season will have spanned about four months; a literal season.

While there's a lot I could reflect on in regards to Christmas this year, there are two specific events that are impossible not to connect and wonder about. I'm not sure the best way to share them or really what I want to say, but I want to present them anyway. I also need to be sensitive to some privacy issues, so I'll do my best here.

The first event takes place on Christmas day in the evening. Enjoying the winding down of a wonderful meal at a friend's family's home, I wonder aloud "When do the games begin?" The answer, to my surprise, is that the game portion of the evening is being pushed back an hour or so because the game officiator (father of the house) has to go deliver a baby. He's on call. So a Christmas Party is interrupted by the birth of a new baby. How appropriate.

The second event begins on Christmas Eve. A young woman is part of a Christmas play. She dances the role of Mary every night. This year, her role of Mary is even more fitting because she's pregnant. Today, on Christmas Eve, she starts having contractions during the show. She heads off to the hospital. This would be another adorable annecdote, were it not for the fact that she's only in her second trimester. By Christmas, she has lost her baby. This will be her Christmas story for this year and every year to come.

Tonight, hearing the songs of that Christmas play, every lyric that sings of birth, the beauty of a baby, the gift of life, is singed with tragic irony. The singers must feel it too, though the audience thinks only of the nativity story. How will these songs sound to this mother who lost her child on the day we celebrate what is arguably the most famous birth in history?

It's no secret that Christmas brings up complex emotions, likely whether you celebrate it or not. The whole country seems to light up and demand that you do to. So what do you do with the empty manger? It's so different than the empty tomb. What do you do with the gifts you hate? Is it better than not receiving any? What do you do with the family you want to hide from? What do you do for those who have no family?

The glow of Christmas seems at times to shine the light on our deepest hurts and fears. Your unfulfilled hopes burn that much more cynically when you're surrounded by propaganda of love and joy.

But this year, I'm trying to cling to the hope of Christmas. The mysterious, chaotic dichotomy of divine life born in the stench of animal shit. Beauty cradled in poverty, A teenage girl nursing the Ancient of Days. Two mothers in the hospital on Christmas: one with a lifetime of birthday parties to plan, another, with unanswerable questions to face.

These are the images that stay with me even as I walk around shouting "Ding Dong Merrily On High" to anyone that will let me. The images stay with me as my eyes go dreamily aslant at the sight of a row of trees with white lights in their branches. The images are there as I sit by a fountain in the dark, weeping over my own heartache, wishing it was over. The images are there as I see 2008 approaching. The images are there as I kneel to take communion.

O come, O come Emmanuel...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Finally Done

With the completion of a take home Greek final, I'm finally, truly, absolutely done with school for the first time all year. Be it bad luck or bad design, both of my short short short breaks between spring/summer and summer/fall terms ended up being full of school stuff, the worst being the week break before fall term that was spent in a 5 day 9-5 class. Which means that as of today, it really is the first time I don't have schoolwork to be thinking about. Well, I mean, give it a week or two and I'll probably have some reading to do, but for December, I really do seem to be free. Not that I don't love school, I really do take ridiculous delight in research papers, but constant brain work definitely takes a toll.

Here's some pictures I semi-furtively took on the last day of Greek class. Everyone was doing their individual research/translation presentations, and contrary to what these pictures show, it was a really great class. What you see on these faces is BRAIN FRY, not boredom (at least more loopy or end-of-the-rope-ness, than boredom).

So with much love to my fellow M-Div-ers, hope you're getting some rest. And sorry I stuck these super-flattering pictures here without your permission.

Hearts and Flowers to you all.

This is also pretty good documentation of the "Apple" orchard that is the MHGS MDiv program. And of course the pictures were taken with a Mac too.

Also, considering the gorgeous adaptive-reuse Brick building that is our school, why does it look like our class meets in a church basement?

Friday, December 7, 2007

"What I Did Before Thanksgiving Vacation"

So I was asked to write something for MHGS' blog Elliott & Wall about a Thanksgiving service I spear-headed and co-created. It was kind of a big deal for me- stepping into some first experiments with what types of things I might want to do with this degree I'm working on (did you see all the parenthetical/passive/hypothetical language usage there? Clearly not ready to make declarative statements yet...). I was really pleased with how it turned out. You can read about it if you follow the link. I think it should makes sense to non Mars Hill-ians (though we run into similar "you had to go to Bennington to get it" kind of language and context barriers here too) but I'd love to interact with your thoughts and ideas about this kind of stuff, ie: worship, church, meaning-making, etc. There's no comment option on Elliott & Wall, so feel free to comment here if the mood strikes.

(Oh, and yes, there are some typos in that other post, unless they've been fixed by now. FYI)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

How Paul Simon Taught Me To Sing My Future...

I, like many of you post-Gen-Xers, grew up listening to Paul Simon's "Graceland" album. It's an album (perhaps the album) that I recall as a constant in memories from various parts of my life, from being a kindergartner singing along to it with my brother while being driven to our grandparent's trailer on a Minnesota lake, to the nerdy kid on my bus in fifth grade who brought a boombox everyday so that all of us could listen to it on the forty-five minute bus ride to our magnet school, to singing along on a walkman in high school, to a friend in college requesting that we not listen to it on the drive to New York city. No matter how far back I go, "Graceland" is there, and I'm singing along.

Well, that's what made it all the more shocking the other week when someone explained a lyric to me that I had never connected the dots to. In the song "That Was Your Mother" which is a zydeco hybrid, I'd always assumed every street and building reference in the song was about New Orleans. This was in a no way a stretch of the mind, since the second refrain says "I'm standing on the corner of Lafayette, state of Louisiana..."

As I was standing with Garth, in NY, around Astor Place across the street from the building we'd worked in together over a year ago, which sits next door to The Public Theatre, he quoted the first verse of the song (which I've known the words to since I was at least six) where it says:

"Well I'm standing on the corner of Lafayette, across the street from the Public, headed down to the Lonestar Cafe..."

It was like footlights exploded in front of me or something. There we were, standing on the corner of Lafayette, across the street from the Public, a few blocks up from what was once the Lonestar cafe. How many times had I stood on that corner, coming back from Staples, passing Philip Seymour Hoffman and Liev Schreiber taking smoke breaks in front of the Public Theater, then lugging bags up the fourth floor to our wacky non-profit cubicle? How many millions of times had I sung that lyric, without ever considering that the song was partially about New York? It was spooky and freaky and surprising and awesome. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but at that moment, it was this realization that I'd spent my childhood unknowingly singing about a place I would spend a large chunk of my life. And not just the city, but singing about a specific spot on a specific sidewalk of a specific street in a specific city. That is just too crazy. And I only learned of the connection once I had moved away from New York. I'm just glad the revelation came while I was standing there on Lafayette at least. (You know, where the Walgreens is now that used to be the Astor Wines & Spirits that's now across the street by the Public...)

Somebody please agree with me that this realization is cool.

Monday, December 3, 2007

If Everyone Jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge...

If someone tagged you on their blog...
I guess the answer is finally "Yes, I'll do the mental work to respond to a Blog Tag. I mean, my favorite thing to do is fill out lists and questionnaires about myself, so why has it taken me this long to finally repsond to one of the various blog tags I've been tagged with?

anyway,Kim tagged me, these are the rules, and I'm giving it a shot.

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

I have not worn matching socks in 18 years. This is not so much a philosophical issue, but really just a time saving device. Why bother matching what no one will see? And when people do notice, it always kind of takes me by surprise, like "What? You mean you actually bother to match your socks? Why would you do that?"

I really, really want to stay in a Scandinavian Ice Hotel, and have drinks at a bar made of ice and sleep in a room made of ice and be surrounding by rosy-cheeked Swedes wearing sweaters (I think I'll fit in).

The fact that I've never been able to name what exactly it is I want for a career (how do you say "I want to make collaborative performing art that both transforms and reflects contemporary culture) has led me to fantasize for years about being either A) a cross country semi-truck driver who eats at truck stops and listens to books on tape, or B) and orthodontist's assistant who has a definable, hire-able skill that can have a salary in any town you live in.

Four: I write in all CAPS but insist that my two-lettered initial name be spelled with a lower case j.

Five: I have a red belt in Taekwondo.

So now I'm tagging
Lucy, who has tagged me with quite a few good tags, and I never had the wherewithall to give it a go. I don't think she holds a grudge.
Mackenzie, who's known me since fourth grade and probably has a lot more than five disturbingly random notes about me. And I, her.
Sarah Courtney Tudor, who may or not mind that I have called her "Miss" since she was nineteen.
Cabe, who is the least likely to do this.
Katrina who watches the NYC sunrise on the way to work everyday

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"Snow" A Very Good Poem by Katie Swanson

(in honor of the first snow of the season, yesterday on December 1st, which continues to this moment, falling outside my window)

I like snow.
Really, I love snow.
Snow is beautiful because it makes you feel magic
Snow is special because it only happens sometimes.
I love snow because it comes in winter.
I do not like spring or summer because they don't happen during winter or fall and I love winter and fall.
Snow makes me feel very special.
I was born in Minnesota and it snows there a lot.
I grew up in San Diego and it only snowed there once on Valetine's day when I was riding my bike to school in fourth grade.
Snow makes my cheeks rosy.
Pretty much anything makes my cheeks rosy, but snow is my favortite thing that makes my cheeks rosy.
Snow makes me feel like a princess.
Snow makes me feel like I'm in a Charlie Brown special.
Snow makes me feel like I'm in Narnia.
Snow makes me feel very, very young, and quite old.
Snow makes me feel like something special is going to happen to me.
Snow makes me fall in love and I fall in love with snow.
Snow is my best friend.
Snow doesn't care that I don't have boots anymore.
Snow doesn't care that in Seattle, the city shuts down in fear of snow.
I welcome snow with arms open wide.
I welcome snow with mouth agape.
I welcome snow with singing and clapping.
I welcome snow because snow welcomes me and tells me who I am and who I can be and whom I have been.
Snow is nice.
I like it.
I love snow.