Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Defining Word

I’ve been reading a book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia. (Thank you to my roommate, Johnna, for giving it to me for Christmas!) While her search heads in quite different directions than mine, it is the search itself that I connect with. In one section she writes of the different words that capture the heart of various cities… “sex” for Rome, “fight” for Naples, “power” for the Vatican, “achieve” for New York, “succeed” for Los Angeles, “conform” for Stockholm. She then considers the word that might define her family and herself. I think “quest” might describe mine. Or perhaps the word is “contentment” or “truth” expressed in the quest. And not truth in the sense of various absolute truths or provable facts, but rather “the truth,” some concept of truth in the whole that makes this world and my place in it make sense. Perhaps, as so eloquently put by my pastor, Paul Corner, this morning… “the truth” in the sense of “the way, the truth, and the life,” a truth that can only be embodied in a living being, in the living God, in Jesus Christ.

I love the quest, but the restlessness is driving me crazy. Forever searching. Forever seeking. Eyes always forward.

Interestingly, for me, the quest also involves a clear sense of the now. I am always seeking something better, but always in light of a very realistic assessment of the present. It is amazing how little we truly see of the now. How much we resist or deny the realities around us. To be truly attentive to the reality of the here and now is to allow the pain of this world to touch us, the poverty and illness, the war and violence, the greed and entitlement. Yet I cannot look away. I do, on a regular basis, look away. I can’t deny that. But the quest involves trying to keep my eyes open wider and longer… The whole truth… the way, the truth, and the life.

I wish I could say that my word was “Jesus” who is the way, the truth, and the life, but I think that would be claiming too much. Rather, I am grateful that our gracious God has allowed the word that defines me to be the pilgrimage that draws me closer to the divine.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Excuse

I am so sorry! I know I haven’t written in months! I have a really good excuse for missing September and October. November and December I have an excuse for, but it would be just that… an excuse.

My last post was at the end of August. The following Monday, Labor Day, my really good excuse took place….

Every Monday evening during Daylight Savings (or is it when we are not in Daylight Savings? I am never sure. I just know we start in the Spring the Monday after we change our clocks forward an hour and we finish in the Fall when we change our clocks back again.) a group of us gather in Peterson Park to play Ultimate Frisbee. Apparently some amalgamation of this group has been gathering at this time in this particular park for about 15 years. I think it began with a group from North Park University, but it has expanded and shifted over the years including people from North Park University, North Park Theological Seminary, North Park Covenant Church, Covenant Offices, friends, family, and those who simply saw us in the park and asked to join in. Much like an amoeba, the main body of the group shifts each year enveloping new people while others move away or on to other responsibilities.

This particular year the main body of the group was composed of faculty and students from North Park Theological Seminary as well as their friends and families. For the first time in became a truly intergenerational group with many their children to join in the game. One of the things I loved about this summer’s Frisbee was the attitude of the game. It has always been a fairly competitive group, but also a very inclusive group. Our play is marked by respect for one another and the sheer joy of the game. A joy that we want everyone on the field to share. This means teaching good sportsmanship, helping younger players develop their Frisbee skills, and helping growing bodies learn to play in a way that is safe for all.

We didn’t do so well with this last lesson on Labor Day of 2006. The game had started off fairly aggressively with two North Park University soccer players leading the way. And while I am generally extremely attentive to other people on the field, I can also get a little aggressive in my play. In a moment of weakness, I went for a Frisbee that I should have left alone and ended up flat on my back in the middle of the field.

I remember it vividly and, of course, in slow motion. The other team had made a bad pass. I thought I could block it. I started across the field. The moment I committed, I saw the receiver to my left out of the corner of my eye. He was a young guy who plays in a pretty competitive city Frisbee league and he was focused on catching this Frisbee. So focused that he came at it at full speed and didn’t even see me. I saw him, but there was nothing I could do. Momentum had taken over.

I didn’t feel anything when we hit. It seemed as if we collided and then I just laid down on the field. I didn’t move for a few minutes. Just laid there taking it all in. I knew I was hurt, but didn’t know how bad. Finally, I reached up and touched my shoulder. No pain, but a familiar bump. I realize now that it was the same bump I always felt on my dad’s shoulders, the shoulders he had separated when he was in his twenties and early thirties.

The ER doctor confirmed the diagnosis and a few days later an orthopedic surgeon provided the details. I had completely separated my left shoulder. I would spend the next six weeks in a sling and two months in physical therapy. So, no typing for quite a while. There… my excuse for having abandoned my blog back in September. There is a lot more to say about the experience, but perhaps I’ll just stop here for now. And promise to try to write again soon.