Flashbacks


The neighborhood I work in is not the safest.  Neighbors warned us to be careful going to and from our cars – especially at night.  Crime happens in Chicago.  And yes, statistically speaking, it’s a rough neighborhood.  I just don’t think it really sunk home until today.

We often will take our kids to a nearby playground for a little exercise.  We were wandering over there on this crunchy sparkling fall morning, approaching the underpass before the playground when a firetruck pulled around the bend.  It slowed, the driver glanced at me, did a double-take, stopped the ladder truck in the middle of the street and hopped out.

“Whatcha doing here?”

“Just headed to the park for a little while.”

“Ya’ll live around here?”

“Just down the street…”

“Well, be careful out there.  It’s a rough neighborhood.”

“…thanks…”

And with that, he was back in the cab, and they were off.

I smiled, grateful for someone looking out for me, and realized the mix of emotions that hearkened back to my time in Rio.  It was practically the same reaction I’d get when I would tell someone I met where I lived.  “Manguinhos?  Jacare?  That’s up in the Gaza strip!”

Memories surface: walking down the street towards the Metro and noticing a police car driving down the road, shoulders tensing, forcing myself to walk casual, not speed up or look suspicious, knowing that just by being myself in this neighborhood I’ve already tripped their threshold for “not-rightness.”  Anticipating another conversation having to justify myself, explain that I’m not a drug dealer or a tourist looking for some adventures along with my chemically induced good times, respond kindly and compassionately and full of grace for the men who are supposed to protect this city, but may have been the ones who shot up my neighborhood the night before, and are now patting me down on the side of the road at gunpoint…  It didn’t happen every day – but it happened enough.

I thought I’d left that feeling behind when I moved – the mix of embarrassment at being picked out, understanding because on some level I don’t fit in where I’m at, compassion and frustration and rueful laughter and a hint of anger and recognition that thanks to my hair color and skin tone and gender I am distinctly privileged in the way that authority relates to me, and I didn’t ask for this…

But this is the way it is.  Which brings us to my question…  In light of this reality, how will I respond?  How will I live?  What will I do today, and tomorrow, and the day after that?  Because it’s little moments like today that remind me of the reality of the brokenness of this neighborhood, of this city, of this country, of this world…  And it’s moments like this that remind me how desperately we need hope – people who point towards hope, who live and breathe hope, who remind us that no matter the way things are, this is not the way things were meant to be.  Resurrection lies just over the hill.  So keep your head up

 


and suddenly, you're home…

It hit me out the blue today – but Chicago really feels like home.  A combination of thoughts as I reflected on today and the past week boiled over and left me feeling content, restful, and settled in so many ways.  Here’s a couple vignettes of why this place has all of a sudden felt like home:

– Sunday morning Dad and Heather came over to my apartment – we spent time getting food ready, the ham in the oven, and then off to church…  worshipping together in a space that celebrates beauty and truth, with friends and brothers and sisters – cello and bass and mandolin fusing with bagpipes and chorale echoing through the spacious cathedral, stained glass and liquid light and warm sound as we celebrated the victory of Life over death…  Then everyone back to my place for cooking and laughter and stories and an abundance of food – my heart overflows…

– Lunches at hole in the wall pubs and Jewish delis, cheese and wine with friends before small group, fasting and prayer and awareness of lack – and all those shared with friends old and new.

– A job that is challenging, growing, fulfilling, and loads of fun – newness and variety and opportunity – and all of that with a great fit for who I am, what I value – conversations with teenagers about what it was like being smuggled across the border, their families, their hopes, their fears, their problems and frustrations…  Laughter and games and bad movies and bad haircuts and temper tantrums and breakthroughs…  Amazing coworkers and laughter intertwined through it all.

– The lake – a running path from my door to the waves and the water, the skyline of Chicago floating behind me or before me, wind and sand and sky, races and smiles and the joy of movement…

– My church – small group – a people who value questions, and prayer, and food, and worship, and service, and action, and justice, and faithfulness, and each other…  Volleyball and soccer and teaching and praying – beauty and pathos – life…

– Friends – from roommates who have become like brothers to coworkers, people from school, church friends, and the like – helping move and sharing meals and laughter and prayer and movement towards the ineffable.

Tonight, I’m thankful that this place is becoming home…

Play

Saturday was a gray, chilly, cloudy day, but after 9 hours at work indoors, I felt the need for movement, for outdoors, for fresh air and open skies.  There weren’t many other people out on the lakeshore – which meant that my favorite method of running wasn’t really an option.  (I motivate myself to run by running imaginary races with the other runners – and try not to forget that they don’t know they’re racing me, so it’s bad form to taunt them when I pass them…)

Horizon to horizon was shades of gray – gray green lake with billowing waves, overcast sky of slate and smoke…  The air was steely, biting with each breath, and it felt cold (especially after the heat wave of last week.)  But movement and the swish of feet played counterpoint to the spray of waves breaking on the storm wall, and I danced.  2/3rds of the way through, I found a miniature tennis ball that some dog had brought, played with, chewed up, and left, and I spent the last 2 miles dribbling and spinning, remembering the kids from Rio who would play with whatever they could find.  I left it by the tunnel under Lakeshore Drive for someone else to find.  I felt so content.

This afternoon I went out again – the day was sunny and warm – brilliant golds and greens and blues threatened to overwhelm the senses, people crowded the path, and the beat was infectious.  And sitting by the underpass was my little red and blue tennis ball from Saturday.  I kicked and chased it for a mile or two, then carried it the rest of the way over the sand and along the stone.  For some reason, finding that little ball made me feel free – and chasing it towards and around all those serious runners who were in the business of exercising reminded me of the joy that I feel when I’m out there.

How did you play today?  And if you didn’t, how will you play tomorrow?

New favorites

The last two months have felt like trying to ride a bike on a treadmill – fun, but you just know it’s going to end badly.  Lots of stuff on my plate as I transition slowly from and to: complicated (in good ways) by beginning school again, work, and the delightful visit of my favorite Korean speaking sister (which included bike rides through the woods, visits to the apple orchard, road trips to Indiana, Peruvian food in Chicago, and lots of laughter and good conversation.)  But in light of all that (plus a few other things here and there), I haven’t made time to write.  But here’s the deal…  I want to.  I need to practice gratitude – search for beauty in my daily life – and live intentionally – and writing here helps me do that.  So, in light of all that, here’s a few things I have been delighting in about this transition:

– fascinating classes, exploring family dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and delving into theories of the mind…  challenging both my mind, heart, and spirit.  I’m loving it.

– four fun guys to share a home with – an oasis (and occasional place of celebration) in the middle of the city and the busyness.

– runs down by the lake, enjoying the play of colors on the water, the way the city looks like a different place depending on whether it’s a gray rainy morning, a blustery fall afternoon, a crystalline sunset, or the contrast of city lights shining in the darkness – the interplay of light and shadow…

– a cohort of solid, passionate, compassionate students who are learning with me.

– the gift of being with people who know you and know you well, even if it’s unexpected and short.  Spent a weekend w/ Liz and Car – we’ve been present in each other’s lives for over 20 years, and sharing a plate of ceviche and lomo saltado while savoring a pisco sour just made it that much sweeter.

– glimmers of community, belonging, rootedness, worship, and a place of service that I’m VERY excited about.

– reminders of beauty, hope, adventure, laughter, community, creativity, and play, such as this video by Ben Howard:

 

 

– near daily reminders and challenges (both in class and out of class) to take risks, to engage, to move forward, to enter into relationship and life with others, and not simply be content with safety and comfort…

Today in class, we talked about C.S. Lewis (in The Four Loves), who says:

          “To love at all is to be vulnerable.  love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Sobering words, as I ask myself, what do I really want?  Comfort?  Safety?  Normalcy?  Complacency?

Or do I want risk?  Adventure?  Movement?  Growth?  Discomfort?  Failure?  A life lived for others?  Giant slip-and-slides down mountains?

Yes.

I’m thankful for the big “Yes” that this transition has been so far.  And I’m excited and eager to see what unfolds as I continue to respond “Yes…”

 

Wonder and Nature

So I just moved into Chicago about a week ago – the start of a new beginning, of good things, of growth and challenge and adventure – and I’m excited about what the future will hold.  However, even in light of the move and the rightness that I feel about it, after watching this video on Yosemite and climbing, I’m about ready to pack up and drive out for a visit…  Anyone want to join me?  (I’ll bring my guitar, and we’ll eat tacos at least once a week.)

On Assignment from renan ozturk on Vimeo.

(Although, maybe I need to get into climbing shape before I attempt any of those slack-lines…)