Category Archives: Sunday Sunday

Minnesota Minute

On July 11, I moved to Newport, Minnesota, famous for railroads, an oil refinery, a red rock, an early Methodist Church, and two parades a year, the Fireman’s parade and the Pioneer Days parade, which stops at the park right next to our new house. I have no job, no money, and no network, so to say I feel a bit lost is an understatement. What I do have is a supportive wife, lots of friends who love me, pets that are happy, an education and some experiences that surely someone will find worthwhile, and a little bat that lives outside the window of my tiny attic writing and art studio. At least, I hope the little bat lives there. She was there yesterday, but there was no sign of her tonight. I hope she comes back.

I spent the first day I was here sleeping all day long, because I was thoroughly exhausted from the drive, the stress of moving, and the joyful three-week-long sendoff my friends back home gave to me. The second day I spent at Starbucks using their free internet connection to fill out an application for a job that I found out has already been filled, and I drove all over picking up applications from places whose applications are not yet online. The third day I spent driving all over (again) to buy groceries, a grill, and other necessary items. Both Bec and I were so tired when we got home, we ate dinner, put in a movie and relaxed.

She fell asleep and missed the first parade of our tenure here at 597 4th Avenue, or The Flop House and Diner Too. I nearly missed the parade, too, the Fireman’s Parade, as it is called, because I thought for sure someone’s house was burning down just down the block. I had wondered for several hours why our neighbors were sitting in chairs outside in their lawn, but then I heard sirens, the sirens of many firetrucks, ambulances, and police cars. This parade was unlike other parades I’ve seen with their slow, ambling caravans of cars, bands, and walking floats. In fact, there was not one part of the parade that was normal. The whole of the procession was moving way too quickly to be considered anything but a group of emergency vehicles driving from point A to point B.

Really, the only bit of it that made me think parade was my neighbor, who my brother says reminds him of a character in Orange is the New Black, and her husband sitting out in their chairs with bags to collect candy. Each time a vehicle that looked like a potential candy dispenser drove past she would wave and cheer and collect her treasures, jumping up and down like a small child. By the end of the thing, they had collected a sizeable bag of cheap candy and grins from ear to ear. The whole picture was pretty amusing. (This same neighbor brought us a bowl full of her delicious organically grown raspberries and blackberries tonight.)

Today seemed more like a normal day, in that we went to hang out with the twins. They used me as a jungle gym for about two hours, we played tornado and rocket jump, both games I made up, and then I spent the rest of the day at Starbucks filling out more applications, while Bec unpacked more stuff, cleaned up the downstairs odds and ends, and hung artwork on the walls. To end the day, I cooked jambalaya for Bec, Ann, and me, and we sat on the porch for a good long time.

This whole moving process is teaching me things about myself and about other people, and I am grateful for the learning experience. My focus is changing from being so inwardly focused to being more outwardly focused. Aside from getting a job, I have only five goals for myself in the next year: (1) quit smoking and drinking so much, (2) eat a healthy primal diet, (3) swim, bike, and run, (4) give myself quiet time to read (both books and the Bible), write, and do art, (5) be gentle with others, bring joy and grace into the world. I have to give my worries away and rely on God and other folks to get me through sometimes, a task that is no small feat for me.

Sunday, Sunday: Some Thoughts About Lent

WARNING: This post is very disjointed. Sorry about the hop, skip, jumpiness of it. In the words of Nehemiah: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Apparently, I can’t write today either. Ha!

I sat in church today thinking about the purpose of Lent. I noticed a couple of things that I’d like to find out more about. We didn’t do the confessional part of the liturgy, I suspect because Lent is supposed to be focused on being confessional. Our retired Rector, Fr. Charlie, unintentionally spilled the water that is hidden under the lectern for the speaker or preacher of the day, I suspect to remind us all in a hilariously accidental way of our baptisms and of our own humanity. I learned a new term: Ember Day. With a quick Internet search, I found that ember days are for prayer and fasting, and they are days that mark the quarters of the Christian calendar. I still would like to learn more about this new liturgical observation.

For me Lent has always been a time in the liturgical calendar to pray, fast, and re-find myself in the face of Christ. This year for me Lent is the most wilderness it has been for a long time. Mind you, I have been so far from Christ for a few years that I haven’t really paid any attention to Lent other than it being a season in the calendar. For a couple of years, we haven’t really regularly attended church, so Lent was just the thing that lead up to Easter. There’s this idea that the way we understand ideas or concepts is by gaining a better understanding of the opposite, and I am pretty sure I fully understand the beauty that is Christ because of my propensity to wallow in the opposite. I know the wilderness. I know the desert. At points in my life, I’ve known the barren lands so well that I never thought I’d find my way back, or want to.

But now I am here. In the symbolic wilderness of Lent. I feel the sadness. I feel the temptation. I feel the loneliness. I feel this in juxtaposition to the joy, the warmth, the holiness, and the grace I have felt in Christ since the first Sunday of Advent. I feel like I have been called home only to be cast back into the dark. The cross is covered. The baptismal font is gone. The confessions are removed form the liturgy. We are in utter theological darkness. This concept, as I tried (but poorly) to articulate in my post about the road trip, has never been so clear to me in my life as it is in this particular Lent season.

Because of our impending move, this Lent season brings for me lots of last moments. Yesterday when we were at the Mounds, I said to Bec, “Later this spring, I’ll bring you back and we can walk the route of the race I just ran, because it’s beautiful.” Only I won’t, because she’ll be in Minnesota. Later in the say I said to my brother, “Next year when we run this Shamrock Beer Run, we’ll know to get here really early or really late to avoid the horrible bottle neck at the start line.” He said back to me, “Only you won’t be here next year, you’ll be in Minnesota.” True. My parents brought Bec and me a few dozen eggs, and I thought to myself that pretty soon I’d not be getting delicious farm fresh eggs every week, nor would I be able to just call them up for a coffee or to see me run a race. So far this Lent I’ve had the intense pain and pleasure of having many lengthy conversations with both friends and family to help me discern my future.

Who am I? Who is God? Where do I find my worth? What makes me live? What is my calling? What brings me joy? What vexes me? How can I reconcile the various facets of my life? What the fuck am I doing? Why? Am I seeking God’s will? These are just a few of the questions I’ve wrestled with over the past few weeks.

At church this morning, the Eucharist had a different meaning for me, and I can assume for Bec, since we both shed a few tears when we went back to the pew to kneel and contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ body and blood. She carefully thread her arm through mine and held my hand tightly. I am not sure if it was for my benefit or hers. We both know this time of transition will be more difficult and longer than we’d like. At any rate, the Eucharist today gave me an intense hope in the future. The Eucharist has a beautiful of doing that: reminding me that God is bigger than the wilderness. No matter the darkness, no matter my lostness or helplessness, God is there. Christ is real and present in my friends and family. I am not alone in this journey. Jesus is there. With me. In the wilderness.

I love the season of Lent, because I allow myself time to think about the darker more mysterious parts of my Christian faith. And I hate the season of Lent for the same reasons. Perhaps this is why Easter brings such joy. I cling to this hope. I cling to the promise of a risen Christ.

Sunday, Sunday: Full Report, Each First Sunday of the Month

So, here’s an update for My 20 Before 40:

1. Run a marathon. I signed up for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon on October 5, so I have 230 days to get myself to be able to run a 6 hour or less marathon. Still working on this, and it’s going better. I’ve run or walked at least one mile every day for 14 days in a row. Woot.
2. Finish the Racine 70.3 on July 21 in under 8 hours. I have signed up for this, and it’s 153 days away. My goal is to finish the 13.1 mile run in under 3 hours. I’m planning to get on the bike this week on Tuesday and Friday.
3. Swim a 500 in 7:30 minutes. This needs some work. I will get back in the pool on Monday, March 17 for two workouts each week, so this is in progress. I’m hoping to make it to Florida to swim at the beach before I move north as well.
4. Do yoga every morning. I’ve been doing balancing exercises, using poses from yoga, because I’ve read that balance can have a lot to do with injuries and plantar fasciitis, as well as just not looking cool when I fall over while standing still sometimes.
5. Do a 30 burpees in 30 days challenge. I am going to start this on the day after Bec moves to MN. I figure it’s a good way to work off anxiety. I’m also adding in, slowly but surely, other body weight exercises, so I can build a bit of muscle to try to burn off some of this fat.
6. Ride a century ride on the bicycle. As soon as the registration is up, I am going to sign up for the Headwaters 100, which rides around the headwaters of the Mississippi, something I’ve wanted to to do for a long time anyway.
7. Meditate for at least 15 minutes each day. I’ve started walking a 1.6 mile loop and then meditating for 15 minutes every day during my 9AM prep period.
8. Eat mindfully and with joy.
9. Try foods that aren’t the usual things I eat. I am eating Greek yogurt for breakfast and trying new ciders and beers.
10. Visit Indiana state parks and Indiana breweries with my brother. This weekend we visited Black Acre brewery with his friend Jenn and Becky. We had sampler flights, and they were pretty tasty.
11. Learn to cook one new thing each month. We’ve had oxtail stew and shark. I was going to try to make haggis, but all the recipes I find require a sheep’s stomach, so I am going to make marrow bones one day instead.
12. Do not drink alcohol and be paleo the 30 days prior to any major sporting event.
13. Read the whole Bible. Working on it.
14. Draw every night before bed. This will become much easier once I cancel the cable and internet.
15. Finish my master’s degree in creative writing. Publish. Yeah. This. Class.
16. Post a blog post every Sunday. I’m posting on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Two weeks in a row now!
17. Get a new tattoo. I’m going to do this after Racine 70.3.
18. Lose 60 pounds. I’ve resorted back to the panopticon called My Fitness Pal. Ick.
19. Find a job doing something I love. This may be a pipe dream, but I hope it works out.
20. Read a new book each week. I am slowly making my way through books… Slowly.

Sunday, Sunday and Mystic Monday

Well, I know you’re surprised that I got a bit behind, but, well, it happens. My mind races 90 miles an hour, but I’ve always been a slow moving person. The combination can be almost deadly. I’m a sloth with ADHD. Not pretty.

Sunday, Sunday

Since I forgot, or didn’t have time or motivation, to write yesterday, let me just mention briefly here that several of my goals go hand in hand and they are slowly beginning to be realized. Here are the goals, then I’ll tell you how I am realizing them: run a marathon, finish the Racine 70.3, ride a century ride on the bicycle, and swim the 5K at Big Shoulders in Chicago. This may seem like a lot to accomplish for most folks, but for me, the only one that even makes me nervous as far as completing it, since I’ve never completed one before, is the marathon. I swear on all that’s holy (sort of) that if I start this marathon in October and don’t finish . . . I’ll just try again next year. I’m nothing if not resilient. Or dumb.

I’ve signed up for the Medtronic marathon in the Twin Cities, the Racine 70.3. When I get paid on Friday, I’ll sign up for Big Shoulders and Headwaters 100. Of all of these events, I look forward most to Big Shoulders. I’ve never swum a 5K before, and I’ve never swum in Lake Michigan by Chicago, so it’ll be all kinds of new stuff. I’m most worried about Racine 70.3 on a “how will I look level”, because I think I’ll have to rent or buy a wetsuit, and squishing myself into a wetsuit is conceivably my very worst nightmare.

Imagine if you will: a giant caterpillar trying to shed its skin swimming in a lake.

Body segments and all.

That’ll be me in a wetsuit.

Eek.

I’m getting ready to ramp up my activity to train for all this mess. In fact, I’m adding swimming and biking back in gradually, so I can move up gently now that I am no longer sick. I swear I’ve felt drained for about three weeks, and I was really sick for about four days, which is really unlike me. It’s cool. Now if I can get some of this weight off and keep my foot from hurting, it’ll be a miracle.

Mystic Monday

“Listen. Look. Suffer and be still. Release yourself into the light. See with intellect. Learn with discretion. Suffer with joy. Rejoice with longing. Have desire with forbearance. Complain to no one. My child, be patient and release yourself, because no one can dig God out from the ground of your heart.” —anonymous, “The Silent Outcry”

I’m not really sure what to make of this little pamphlet of guidance. I understand what each sentence means, but when they’re thread together, I get nervous about what the writer means and how her advice might affect my daily life. I have no problem listening and looking, but that’s about where it stops. When I read “suffer and be still,” I think of people with mental illnesses who think suffering in silence is their best option, and I want to scream out, “No! Don’t suffer and be still. Tell someone you’re suffering.” I suppose, however, this writer refers to a spiritual suffering, not an emotional one. In which case, what does it even mean to suffer? I am unsure that I have ever actually suffered. For anything. In any regard. I move forward in the text and see three phrases that intrigue me, but mystify me as well.

“Release yourself into the light” could mean a variety of things. Does this text refer to the moments just before death? Given that the hearer is asked to listen, look, and suffer in silence, possibly the writer is speaking about death. But We can do all those things while wholly alive and well, too. “See with intellect” and “learn with discretion” appeal to me in every sense. And, of course, it reminds me a bit of the transcendentalists, who ask their readers to really see things, to look beyond their mundane usefulness and to locate the beauty, to really see the objects and to really understand them.

The writer then brings the text back around to suffering, longing, desiring, and complaining. The long and the short of this bit of advice seems to me to be that we should revel in whatever is happening around us, that we should simply be grateful we’re alive. Additionally, this part of the text seems to highlight our human need for binaries: suffer/joy, rejoice/longing, desire/forbearance, and complaint/silence. We’re to fully experience both emotions, so that we can rely on God. The last line of the excerpt above illustrates where the readers strength is supposed to come from: “no one can dig God out from the ground of your heart.” You may suffer, you may rejoice, you may experience desire, and you may not be able to tell anyone, but for certain, no one can dig God out from your heart. Like Psalm 1 says, “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.” Likewise, contemplatives, mystics, people who seek to follow Jesus are like those same trees planted by the waters, wherein God is also like who is planted inside them. Listen, look, suffer and be still. Let the silence break the silence and rejoice in whatever comes your way.