Thursday, March 28, 2013


I believe, like most things, our best intentions can become idols.

Somehow it seems to me that we have come to a place in the American church that once we affix the correct adjectives to an idol we are satisfied to be fooled into believing it is a valid pursuit. But an idol is an idol. Putting the 'right' language around it is just like dressing pigs up in fine silk. It doesn't change what is underneath the polished veneer.

That said, I fear 'community' has become idolized. Questions have surfaced in my heart and mind around the importance of it, the definition of it, and the overall place it does or does not have in my life, as I have heard it defined and referenced in the Evangelical church scene. Community captures the essence of our innate need to interact with other people, not only for our own growth and edification, but also to give something of our lives as an offering to be used and utilized. It is magnificent, and has the ability to create a 'thin space', where as mere humans we see a glimpse into what Heaven must be like. However, I can't help but wonder if it is just one more thing that, while in it's essence is beautiful and pure, has been put on a pedestal, so in prideful pomp we wear it around as a shiny religious medal.

I've been trying to reconcile this, and then yesterday afternoon, I had numerous interactions that might have looked random to the anonymous observer, but after each one there was left a sweetness in my soul. A gentle reassuring whisper seemed to say, "that's what I meant by 'love your neighbor'." 

  • The barista at my favorite coffee shop has become a genuine friend, with whom I get to celebrate the purchase of his first home. He shared with me the landscaping projects he has planned and the fact that he's within a few weeks of moving in.
  • I noticed a new hair cut on an employee of my favorite resale store. As I mentioned it, her face lit up, and she told me all about the experience. Then we stood there laughing about bad hair cuts and swapping advice about what product is best to use on pixie styles. 
  •  One of my neighbors happens to also work at an outdoor store I frequently visit. So instead of just a trip to get a new pair of swimming goggles, I was welcomed with a huge smile and warm hug. And then I learned more about my neighbor and his life growing up in South America and the swim team he was a part of.
  • I only know him in the context of his place of employment, but yesterday I was able to be the anonymous listening ear he needed as a form of 'cheap therapy,' as he called it. All I did was ask how he had been, and I learned his father recently passed away and how hard that has been because they were so close, and how work is helping to keep his mind off of it for right now. 
  • A friend came over to drop off some excess eggs from his son's chickens, but ended up sharing some very exciting news with my husband and I, instead of just the 'drop and run' he said it would be.

The whisper in my soul is helping me to recognize this as my community.  These authentic, organic, every day exchanges of joy, love and compassion. And what if that is what the whole thing is about? The 'worry' might be that these are all surface level interactions, never really challenging or growing me. But what if these conversations did just that? What if these different lifestyles and belief systems (represented in each of these individuals), challenged my prejudices, increased my capacity to love, and prompted me outside of my comfort zone? Wouldn't that be just as beneficial as a structured, predetermined, 'programed' community?

I would argue that it is even better. Even more fulfilling of the call on my life as a follower of Christ, to be light to the world. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gus and Bolt: the shortest lived pets, ever

As soon as we drove away from Wilco, a local farm store, I uttered these words:

"Babe. What did we just do?"

Though the question was rhetorical, the reality was that my husband and I, after nearly three years of marriage, had purchased our first pets. Two very adorable, but very young, ducklings.

Yep. Ducklings. A black one for him and a cute little brown one for me.

Um. What?!

We had been at the farm store looking at rain barrels. In my husband's ever present clever manner he wanted (and still wants) to create a rain catch barrel in order to water our back porch container garden that we will inevitably plant this spring. We had a great garden last year (giant tomato plants, lettuce, and even some cucumbers) but it was annoying to water because our apartment was not fitted with an outdoor hose spigot. So we made six or seven trips back and forth from the kitchen sink with a watering can, twice a day. Instead of that experience repeated, the hubs would like to make a catch basin that will use gravity to ensure proper water pressure through an attached hose, which will then water the veggies. Great. Lets go to Wilco.

Well, who knows what is at farm stores in the spring? Yes, that is right. Chicks, ducklings and poults (baby turkeys). And who knows how adorable these little animals are? Me. I know. They are so stinking cute that I returned to the store three hours after our initial visit and we picked out two, even while knowing that the hubs and I live in a one bedroom apartment with a 5ft by 10ft patio that doesn't even have a hose spigot anywhere near it.

That's how cute these little buggers are. See? I'm not insane. They're adorable.

But what I failed to heed was that part of myself that was logical and looked at my living situation, my current pet situation (which was none) and my lifestyle. If I had stopped and thought logically about those three things alone, I would not have purchased who became Gus and Bolt. But I didn't listen to logic. For one of the few times in my life, I let my childish emotions make a decision for me.

Gus (the brown one) and Bolt (the black runner) out on our patio. It's tiny, and not suitable for ducks of any age.

And it was a mistake. A big one... But also an incredibly raw learning experience. Which is why I am writing about it. Let me explain.

We got the new ducklings home and filled our spare laundry tub up a few inches with the bedding pellets we had purchased at Wilco. We put in the water dispenser, a dish of food, and the ducklings.

"Welcome to your new tub of a home guys! Hope you like it."

They didn't. They chirped and cried and freaked out for what seemed like hours.

Again, these words:
"What did we just do?"

And then guess what we did? The hubs went to watch some UFC fights at a friend's house and I went to an event at the local high school. We left our brand new pets to themselves. (I felt like an awful owner, for this, if you couldn't tell). Sure they were still alive when we returned, but my stress level was already higher than it had been just a few hours before that fateful purchase.

I'm sorry to say the ducklings only lasted 48 hours at our house. After two sleepless nights and an epic tension headache, we realized (and finally admitted to each other) that it was a bad idea. All was not lost, as my brother is a veritable hero when it comes to animals (has pets already, lives in a place suitable for animals, is a vet technician by trade, and is generally a rock star when it comes to all kinds of creatures) and he graciously took Gus and Bolt in. We drove them down to his house, with all their trappings, including a brooding box, and my little brother was glad to have them. I know they will be well taken care of. And I will miss their chirps and waddles, but not the stress.

So here are the bullet points of what this experience taught me in just two short days:

  •  I care a lot about the things I take responsibility for, and do not want to fail. Even if I make myself sick in the process, I will make sure everything is ok.
  •  I live an active, on-the-go lifestyle. And I love it that way.
  •  While still incredibly cute, ducklings take a lot of effort.
  •  My husband is willing to try anything, if he thinks it will make me happy. 
  •  I cannot exploit this amazing attribute of his personality, no matter what.
  •  At some point, I do want to have chickens and ducks, but when we're in a better home to host them.
  •  My husband is a softy, and I tend to worry. A lot. 
  •  I still care a lot about what people think of my life and the way I live it.

This last point is the biggest one Gus and Bolt taught me.

In the grand scheme of things, who cares if I buy two ducklings? What does it matter in the universe if I have a pet? It doesn't matter. And yet, somehow I wanted, and in a way needed, the people I shared this with to approve and support me. Some did. But some did not. And the ones who doubted inevitably made me doubt myself. This is something I do not want to experience again. I believe that my husband is the only human I truly have to stand in agreement with in my life, and yet something inside me still desires the approval of friends, family, coworkers, and even acquaintances.

I could go into how social media has created an unnatural platform for our lives to be on display, or how people should judge other people's lives less. But I won't. All I know is that deep things were revealed through two very unlikely little creatures, and if that was all that this experience was about, that's ok with me.

Plus, nothing quite compares to being snuggled by baby ducklings. They're unexplainably precious.