Wednesday, May 28, 2008

lipstick smudges and humanity

Putting on lipstick is something I rarely do. I am more of a lip gloss girl...I toss it in my purse and put it on at stoplights. But lipstick? Not so much. I wore some for a wedding recently, and the slick berry pigment slid on, reminding me why I dislike it so much. It's thick and sticky, and every sip of water tastes slightly waxy. But there's something about lipstick that reminds me, even amid wax-flavored sips, that I am a girl. There's something feminine, even romantic about old-fashioned red lipstick. Rob Bell reminded me of this when he talks about the experience of Colonel Gonin's experience in the Bergen Belsen concentration camps in WWII. The colonel remembers "It was shortly after that the British Red Cross arrived that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. It was not at all what we wanted. We were screaming for hundreds and hundreds of other things...I dont know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of sheer genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets but with red scarlet lips. You saw them wandering around with nothing but a blanket, but with scarlet lips. I saw a woman dead on a table, and she was clutching a piece of red lipstick. At last, someone had done something to make them individuals. They were no longer merely the number tattooed on their arm. The lipstick gave them back their humanity. "

We don't think of these things unless we read about it. I wasn't in Bergen Belsen, I cant imagine the suffering that took place in those walls. But lipstick, I can envision. I can imagine being a girl in that camp, and sliding on that scarlet lipstick. I can imagine the dignity given back to the girls who had been stripped of their femininity. Isn't it funny how lipstick can be about something else? It wasnt about the lipstick. It was about the dignity wrapped up in that little tube of scarlet makeup. I think thats what life is sometimes. Its about loving people, through things that arent even about that. Sometimes I have coffee with friends, at starbucks.

It's not about the coffee.

It's about the humanity wrapped up in that tiny mocha. God uses things to show's not about that. It's always about love. It's ALWAYS ABOUT THAT. Rob Bell calls it "bringing heaven crashing into earth." He says "I have a new hero. Her name is Lil and she is in her late fifties. Early in their marriage, her and her husband decided they would adopt. As they became familiar with the foster care system, they found kids nobody wanted. So they asked for the kids with the most pronounced disabilities, the most traumatic histories. So they have raised over twenty children. When Lil got to this point, she reached down and patted her daughter and said 'this is Crystal. She is 27 years old, but will be about six months old for the rest of her life. She cant walk or talk or move or do anything by herself. She will be like this forever. And I love her so much. My family cant imagine life without her. She makes everything so much better.' What is Lil doing? She is bringing heaven to earth. Instead of labels like 'invalid", 'reject', or 'invalid", Lil sees only 'human'. She has only one response. Love. It makes all the difference"."

See? It's about that. When I go to Starbucks (which, I have realized, is the stomping grounds to learn real compassion for strangers. I am pretty sure God planned it that way. We may think we are just getting a frappachino, but we are really getting a lesson in Love, Jesus style.) There is a guy there, named Downtown Dan. Im sure that Dan has been the brunt of many jokes, and many stabs at his often-funny antics. I have been the producer of such thinking, I admit. But my friend Will captured a moment a while back, a moment captured with film, that changed my thinking about Dan. It's the photo at the top of my post. Look closely, he's reading a book called "crisis".
I dont think the book was about anything really important, but its not about that.
I love that photo. It moved me to tears. Because here is the resident homeless man of Medford, reading a book called Crisis. I hope it hits you as hard as it hit me.
Who has given him his humanity back?
Who has brought heaven crashing into his hell?
Who loves him?
See, like Rob Bell points out, there are "moments when the "enemy" becomes just like me. When a soldier becomes a son. When a prostitute becomes a mother. When they become we. When those become us. When he becomes me. Moments when all the differences dividing us disappear. We are faced with the fact that we are humans. In this together. Marine. Iraqi. Orphan. Family. Pastor. Prostitute. We could be them." I'd add: Middle class college student. Homeless Man.
Them becomes We.
Lipstick hands back dignity.
A handshake to a homeless man gives him back his humanity.
Thats what Love is about.
Its' not about the coffee. or the lipstick. It's about bringing heaven crashing into earth.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

stop and search

the artwork above and the title artwork in my blog is from an artist named banksy. you probably haven't heard of him, mostly because no one actually knows who he is. he paints his murals (graffiti-style) in the dark on the streets on London, and only his art dealer knows his true identity. His evocative pieces poke fun at commercial American, including a child being dragged away by Mickey and Ronald Mc Donald, and tons of rats on a red carpet holding a sign that says "it is not a race". it is modern art at it's finest, with hard hitting pieces that will hit you at your core, and some that will simply make you laugh.
I have recently picked up the book "Lord Save Us from Your Followers", by Dan Merchant, recommended by my friend Matthew Turner. It is a social commentary about the views the world has about Christianity as a whole, and it asks the question "Why is the gospel of Love dividing America?". In it, Merchant sets out to set the nation on fire, by asking questions some of the church would rather not ask. In perhaps the most poignant chapter, called "confession booth", Merchant invites homosexuals to dialogue with him about the way Christians have treated them. It will make even the most stout republican cringe. He DOES NOT condone the behaviour, or insist it is not sin, but rather apologizes on behalf of the body of Christ for forgetting to love the people God has called us to love. If we are truly overflowing with the love of Christ, then it cannot be exclusive.
He says
"Gloria's round face quickly dissipated my apprehension. "This is my first time in a confessional, so I thought I would confess." I managed with a nervous laugh. "Okay", she said with smiling enthusiasm. I took a deep breath. "I'd like to confess on behalf of the church, a church I love and am a part of, for letting you down, in light of what Jesus has done for us...which is to love one another. our church hasnt done that, and I havent done that." I said in a steady voice. "Oh!", she exclaimed, "Apology accepted". "Next I'd like to apologize for pretty much ignoring the aids crisis." I heard my smooth baritone roll on. I was quickly becoming a spectator to what God was doing here. "Not only did we ignore the crisis, but we cast condemnation on thosewho were hurting and dying. So I'm sorry for that too." "You;re forgiven", my new friend whispered with a nod. "Thank you", I squeaked. "Lastly, I want to apologize for not living up to what Christ has taught me. I'm to show compassion and not judge, the bible says "He who is without sin cast the first stone", and my sins are numerous. I apologize for all the people I have driven away frm Jesus' love through my poor example. I'm sorry." A hot tear streamed down my cheek. "Absolved. You know, Dan, one of the things that kept me from becoming a Christian was being treated so poorly by Christians. And though I am not a Christian, I appreciate the words you are saying to me today". " -Confession Booth, LORD SAVE US
What does this have to do with mystery artist Banksy? Because the title of his piece above is 'stop and search'. I think Dan Merchant got it right. He stopped and searched. He dug down deep. He reached out where Jesus called us to reach. He didn't condone, but he loved.
Stop. and Search.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

put your left foot in...

I have read all of Matthew Turner's books, and they have evoked lots of tears...and lots of laughter. But until Hokey Pokey, they never evoked the curiousity and wonder that I am pretty certain my friend Matthew intended. Well written and intruiging, Hokey Pokey seeks to offer my generation a freedom to follow the oft-intrepid path of God's purpose for our lives. Chock full of Matthew's signature wit, this time the book follows in the trenches of storysmiths Donald Miller and Rob Bell by invoking Matthew's newly honed storytelling skills. Before you know it, you will have read another chapter, unaware you just might be learning something abut yourself, about God...while reading a simple story. Perhaps it's because we identify so well with honesty and community that when we hear stories, instantly we connect. Matthew skillfully draws his reader in, even moreso than previous works, by appealing to our natural curiousity, by simply telling the stories of other "curious people". For those looking for a cut-and dry manual to finding God's purpose for their lives...dont waste the 13.99. But for the rest of us, people eager to put effort into life and "shake it all about", then pick up Hokey Pokey with the realization that there is no formula to find the perfect purpose, but rather it's how you live your life and use it to the glory of God. so go ahead. Put your left foot in. All the way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the kite runner

for those of you looking for a good book (all five of you reading my blog, that is), please pick up the kite runner. however, if you are looking for a sweet, happy ending this is not the book for you. for readers seeking a sweeping, evocative portrait of a country at war, for those of you who are willing to be uncomfortably jarred out of middle America, this is the book for you. there is a beautiful movie of the same name, based on tbe book, but its well worth it to read the book first. the movie is well-made, impeccably cast, and painfully raw.

another great movie i have seen of late is "bella", another foreign film, also very moving, and tinged with a realistic pro life message. camera work is brilliant and the storyline is deceptively simple.

both breathe plots seeping with redemption, forgiveness, and true compassion. what does it mean to be a friend, what does it mean to love someone?

how far will love go to seek and save? be reminded how far Love went for His friends.

Friday, May 9, 2008

spirituality of the cell phone

I recently heard a talk by Shane Hipps on a podcast from Mars Hill Bible Church. He was talking about how we are so quick to use our cell phones to communicate, and it will never really replace real relationships. Now, I am preaching to myself here...I text people ten feet away! I am constantly "talking" with text messages, carrying on full conversations with just a few taps. But I have come to realize what Shane was pointing out, that it will never replace our need for fellowship. And as Christians, and as a church, we are made to be communal. Our hearts thrive on fellowship, and community. And the cell phone can actually enable us to become distant and detached from people we should be face-to-face with, by enabling us to skip the conversation and get right to the message. A friend of mine once said "I love texting, because you can just skip right through all the 'how are you's' and just say 'meet me at 7'." At the moment, I thought that was accurate, even correct. But I have changed my mind.

A friend of mine recently lost her dad. I found out the same day it had happened, and I was going out the door to have coffee with another friend. Instantly, I thought 'I need to be with her" and the next thought was "Are you kidding? What are you going to say?". Fear crept its way into my thinking, but I knew I still had to go see her. So I swallowed hard and chose some flowers at Safeway to take by. The whole way over, I was fighting God. How dare He call me to go see her. I was so inadequete. I was tongue tied just thinking about it. How do you go comfort your twenty year old friend, when she has just lost her dad? I had hardly recovered from the shock of his death, and was in no way equipped to extend compassion or love to her. My well was dry.

But God's grace is sufficient. He overwhelmed me with extra grace and love. And when I knocked on the door, I found no words were even needed. I opened my arms, and we cried.

It was enough.

Shane talks about a similar incident in his podcast, and he notes "How do you say that with a cell phone? Just heavy breathing? A blank text message?" No. You cannot substitute community for technology. Never will a text message telling me "meet me at 7" substitute for crying with a friend who needs open arms, not an open cell phone.

So dont let the cell phone become a voice. Often extending my faith to my friends means shutting my mouth and moving my feet. Being love, being compassion. Often it means shutting my phone and getting in my car and going to meet a hurting girlfriend. Or having honest dialogue with a non christian friend.

So I'll continue to text. But when God calls me to reach...I'll hang up.