Joy

In the midst of the craziness of life, when busy-ness threatens to overwhelm, one of my most useful disciplines is to slow down and name the things that are bringing me joy…  There are so many.

A few of them from the past month would include:

Tough Mudder (a 10 mile adventure race up and down a mud-covered hill, full of obstacles to climb over, jump off of, swim under, run through, slide down, and generally try to not hurt yourself too badly…  so much fun, and so glad to share the day w/ Josh.)

– The reminder that our world is bigger than I remember.  Wanna go explore somewhere?

– Rafting in Wisconsin w/ friends – laughing, swimming, telling stories, and enjoying being outside in the sun on the river (w/ my favorite part the waterfall at the end.  If you jump through the waterfall from the right spot, you end up behind it, feeling thousands of gallons of water pour down all around you, all noise drowned out by the roar of the rushing water…  and then you go under and it shoots you down the river so hard that you don’t pop up til you’re 30 feet downriver…)

– This, and what it represents about our world and the people in it…

– Celebrating life with family that I don’t get to see all that often.

– Freshness, newness, and continued hope as I step with eager anticipation into the next good things God has in store…

There is much to be thankful for.  And joy all around.  Even here, where you find yourself today, if you will only stop and look…

Sayonara old friend

My sophomore year of college, my dad bought me a guitar for Christmas.  It was a Seagull, one of the cheapest handmade guitars we could find.  I loved it.  Over the years, I took it with me everywhere.  I took it back to school with me, and started messing around with it.  When I went to Jerusalem to spend a semester studying abroad, my guitar came along with me, and we enjoyed playing for worship times and up on the roof of JUC.  When I went to Nepal later on that year to participate in a Servant Team with Word Made Flesh, I brought my guitar.  I strapped it to my back as I rode my bike through the traffic of Kathmandu on my way to Shanti Bhivan and the Missionaries of Charity, played with a hat pulled down low over my eyes when I had a nasty migraine headache, and was offered a gig playing Spanish music at the brand new Mexican restaurant that had just opened in Thamel.  It traveled with me to Kolkata later that year, and then back to the US with me as well.  Upon my graduation, I moved out to Breckenridge, CO and lived out there working with dear friends for a year.  The guitar was there as well.  And when it came time for me to leave and move to Brazil, she journeyed with me once more.

Rooftops

Playing alone or leading worship in our apartment soon led to taking it to the streets, singing and playing with our friends who lived there.  It would be passed around, and kids who didn’t know how to play would strum madly on it pretending it was a percussion instrument.  When I moved into the favelas, I found a new favorite spot to play – up on the roof, overlooking the city lights of Rio.  I took it with me to the beach, the forest, several islands, and all around the state of Rio.  On trips to Bolivia and Peru for staff retreats, the guitar was a travelling companion.  In keeping with the idea that the things I own aren’t really MINE, but I am merely a steward of them, I tried to take care of it, but also let it be used – and it was.  Over the course of the years, it suffered some dings and scratches.  I dropped it once on a bus and the wood split along the grain on the top, but I was able to patch it with some super glue (is there anything super glue can’t do?) and it still sounded fine.

Jamming

Then last year when I left Brazil I brought it home to the US with me.  I should have known better.  Last Saturday morning I was in the living room, still a little groggy and not quite fully woken up.  I stood to go into the kitchen and managed to trip on the power cord to my laptop.  This quickly woke me up as I jumped and spun to avoid pulling the laptop off the couch and bringing it smashing down to the floor.  Unfortunately, as I jumped and spun, I happened to put my right foot through the body of my guitar which was propped up against one of the living room chairs.  It was a tragic, sad, “oh no what just happened” kind of moment…  And I don’t think she can be fixed.

But I am thankful – for 11 years of music, of sharing, of laughter, of joy.  So I’m now in the market for another guitar.  Hopefully the next one will bring as much life to me and others as this one.  And hopefully I won’t destroy it by using my impressive ninja skills.

For a photo retrospective of her through the years, check out the memorial slide show by clicking on the picture below:

Oops

I’ll miss you…

Thanks Chicago

So I’m sitting in O’Hare – at a cool picnic table in this atrium, listening to a band play some fairly sweet jazz…  And it just makes me happy to sit and hear them.  Most people are in a hurry and just walk on by.  Every now and then someone will stop and stand to listen to their banter for a moment – the slick, smoky sound…  Even rarer, someone will stop and take a seat and listen for a few – smile a bit…  heads bobbing, feet tapping, smiles breaking out…  little grins and eye contact made between the band members and the few of us who are sitting in the “audience”…

They’re playing “Signed Sealed Delivered…”  and doing a prety good job of it too.  There’s a little blond boy down the way who’s running around, dancing circles aroudn his stroller…  A young girl in her 20’s sitting at a table looks like she wants to get up and dance.  She’s practically floating in her chair, loose and smooth.  The round TSA guard with a bleached mohawk stops and breaks into dance while his partner shakes her head and grins.  An older woman with a Rudolph the reindeer headbanc is sashsaying up and down the terminal while she talks on her phone, just feeling the music.

And me, who’s sitting here in the middle of the concourse, at a picnic table painted blue that kind of reminds me of “Starry Night,” listening to talent and joy and beauty in the midst of the busy-ness of O’Hare…  my head’s bobbing, grin’s cheesily and sits at the back, observing, and taking it all in.  And in this moment, they’re giving of themselves, and we who sit and listen are recieving it.  There’s a unity there that I love.  And now, in the contentment of this moment, before I walk down the terminal with its flickering, flourescent lighting, I’m going to put the computer away and just listen for a few more minutes of peace…

Thanks Chicago…

Bleeding daylight

Something about Tuesday nights makes me want to sit down and write… (that’s not entirely true. I may not want to write, but it’s times like that I need to sit down and make myself tell stories and share life, thoughts, and ideas.)

That said, I manage to put it off to super-late, and am falling asleep… so, in light of that, quick vignette for the day…

Dang it. No vignettes for now… I think my problem is that lately I have been seeing connections everywhere – I haven’t been able to take things in isolation – and the individual instances of the day to day aren’t representative of the whole – of what moves my heart, excites me, challenges me, relaxes me, makes me angry…

I was reading recently that writing is about making choices – beginning with a blank page (or screen) and filling it – choosing which words go where, what stories to tell or not tell, what details to fill in or leave blank… and my choices have been paralyzing me lately.

—–

I’ve been re-reading Gary Haugen’s “The Good News about Injustice” with this Servant Team who’s now here – this morning we say down and discussed the first part – I forget how good it is, and the hunger for justice that it wakes in me… Since then, a couple of songs by different Bruces have been resonating with me…

Bruce Springsteen singing a classic from the great depression – sung again shortly after Hurricane Katrina… the chorus is simple, poignant, and true “How can a poor man stand such times and live…” – and at the end the Boss sings “gonna be a judgement that’s a fact, a righteous train rolling down this track…”

Bruce Cockburn (a favorite, and proof that good things can come from Canada) has some great songs – two in particular have played over and over in my head today. In one (called “If I had a rocket launcher“), he sings “I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate. I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states… I wanna raise every voice. At least I’ve go to try. Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes. Situation desperate, echoes of the victim’s cry…”

“Water rises to my eyes…” When I walk the streets of the favelas, and truly see what is going on like I did tonight, water rises to my eyes. Longing for hope, longing for change. And we do what we can. It is so little, and the need is so great. Many refuse what we do offer – an evening off the street, some food, talking, medical care, prayer… and yet, we keep offering.

Ran into a young boy named Tiago* who used to be on the streets downtown. I hadn’t seen him for almost a year – he’d graduated from the downtown streets to the favela streets. That means more drug abuse, more violence, closer ties to traffickers… I stopped and talked to him this evening amidst the smells, smoke wafting, crack, coke, and marijuana mingling as pushers yell out and offer free samples to 10-year olds… My heart burns. When I call him by name, he smiles, and is shocked. “You remember me. You remember…” it’s not enough to pull him away from the crack, but for a second, he is touched.

Bruce Cockburn has another song (“Lovers in a dangerous time…”) – in it, perhaps my favorite line in any song, ever…

– “When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime. But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” –

That’s what I’m still doing here in Brazil. Kicking at the darkness…