Monday, November 26, 2012

The Transcendant Ordinary.

A seasonal re-post.  I still wept. 

Why I Wept...

It comes unannounced. It has no warning signs.

You may be driving and you find yourself miles from the last remembered intersection. You realize at odd times that you have been staring through someone, the bank teller, the cashier, or your spouse sitting across the dinner table. You may be washing your hands and look up into the mirror. For a moment you see someone else, a stranger with your face. You may be holding a half-ripe tomato at the produce counter, and somehow, somewhere inside you go empty, empty as a beggar's plate. There comes a disquieting want within you. It leaves you hollow for a moment and then is gone. You make the turn, cash the check, dry your hands, and you shake off the feeling like a cat-nap and go on, distracted by a magazine cover, a familiar tune, a hastily engaged shallow conversation.

This feeling, like all inexplicable feelings, weaves itself into the fabric of your days. It may be a brief sigh, a momentary sadness, sometimes a deep weariness of the heart. It is not quite darkness. It is not truly light. It is not quite despair, it is not hope. It is not quite fear, it is not peace. It is a vague notion that you once possessed something precious and it is now missing. Or perhaps that you were once possessed by someone precious and it is you that is missing. It is a twinge of homesickness, a feeling that you belong somewhere but are not there; or that you belong to someone but have lost touch. This fleeting melancholy is easily dismissed in the frenzy of the day because it does not paralyze you or cause you to break out in uncontrollable weeping. It can be evaded by turning up the radio, finding a conversation, making the phone call or searching for the perfect tomato.

But in the night, when there are no distractions, no tasks, when there is no one but yourself and all that is in you and all that is missing within you, it is then that the feeling is no longer a vague notion but a troubling and persistent void. It is then that even if you claim to know no God you have within you an empty and hungering place that you fear to name because to name it would be to know to whom it belongs and for whom it hungers. You know with fearful certainty Someone precious is missing. You almost know for whom it is you are longing. It is a lover whose face you would know if you saw it, whose name you would recognize if only you could hear someone speak it, whose heart you know is longing for you.

In perhaps such a night the night the Shepherds, wearied from the ordinariness of thousands of days walking the same hills, lay staring, like thousands of nights before, into the vast familiar sky. And in the night comes one who is unfamiliar, whose presence is at first strange and fearful. But it is an Angel and the fear breaks into wonder.

And the stars begin to sing.


From somewhere in the ordinary, familiar sky breaks forth Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim six winged, many eyed, soaring aloft on their wings singing "Hallelujah!" for into the vast ordinariness of our existence the One for whom we long has come to take a face, to have a name, to be bread to fill the hunger, to be light to shine in the darkness, to be wine that makes glad the troubled heart of man. "Hallelujah!"

There is one born who lies among the lowliest of all, unremarkable, indistinguishable from ten thousand other humans born in the same night. And yet the angels sing, Hallelujah, Glory to God in the highest!

The transcendence of the ordinary breaks forth from within the ordinary. The glimpse of eternal heaven shines forth from the mundaneness of the earth. Peace and goodwill among men is both within each and in the face of every human.

It is for this we are preparing. We prepare for the transcendent by attending more closely to the familiar and ordinary things of life, to food, to the hungering, dirty face of our neighbor that is before us every day, to our own inner longing for peace and joy. And perhaps on one ordinary day, in an ordinary place, among ordinary people there will perhaps come one who cries "Hallelujah!" and the heavens will break open and all that is ordinary around us and within us will stand up and sing in wonder and glorious unexpected joy.

I think that is why I weep when I watch this.
(For full screen video click HERE)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dodging Bullets, Jumping on Handgrenades, Etc.

Well, it has been a while.

I've been pretty much still working 7 days a week, day job and side jobs on nights and weekends to try to make enough money to pay off the IRS. (On a side note, an "Our Life in Christ" listener sent me a very generous "thank you for what you did for me" that put a significant dent in the IRS ding. I'm still flabbergasted and grateful.)

A couple weeks ago our school district "riffed" about 1/3 of the office staff and some teachers. The Superintendent called an impromptu meeting one afternoon because the cat had gotten out of the bag and he told everyone the rumors were true and within 48 hours we would each know if we had a job or not. It really didn't bother me because I had six jobs lined up that I couldn't get to. But, I didn't get laid off. So I called the waiting clients and told them I wouldn't be able to do their jobs. There were just too many jobs and not enough hours in a week or weekends in a month for everyone. This weekend I'm finishing up a big painting project I've been working on every weekend for 8 weeks that should pay off the IRS (or get me REALLY close to it.)

After the dust settled from the layoffs I talked to the Principal of my school and told her that I knew sooner or later, with all the layoffs, that new positions would come open as things progressed. I told her that, at my age, this is not a "Career" for me, I'm way past needing a title, a new business card and a small raise to validate myself. I like what I do, I like having a finger in the pies of curriculum, technology, special education, marketing and staff development but I don't want to run any of it. So basically I'm willing to help out, be on committees and "teams" but I'm not looking for a promotion or a raise especially since I can make what they would give me in a annual salary raise in a couple weeks in the summer. It is nice to have freedom from ego and financial need. She was very understanding and grateful for the conversation.

We took "Thanksgiving" to my parents' house so we wouldn't have to go to the Casino again for Thanksgiving supper.  It was a gift this year.  Every time I visit my parents they look older and weaker.  It used to be years or months between visits, now it is weeks and the changes are obvious.
They put in one of those "staircase chair escalators" for my Mom. I've been trying to talk them into it for a year and they finally did it.  They said, "We're not moving out of this house..." I think they are facing their realities and limitations squarely now. 

So, all in all, life is going on.  When I get home from work sometimes I think, "Hm, maybe I'll record a 'Steve the Builder' podcast"... but I never do.  Maybe some day I will again.  But it's just not a "career" for me and I'm way past needing to talk or be heard these days.  But on the other hand, I still have some latent Protestant guilt for not "fulfilling my ministry" (the parable of the talents thing, you know)...  And frankly, I'm not sure if that is real or not, the jury is still out.

Oh, and the other thing that has happened, and I'll probably write about it later, is the Wifey and I are "Empty Nesters" now.  At age 60, our last one flew the coop.  It is a strange life now.  More on that later.

Thanks for checking in.  Not much Pith here, but it's late, it's been a long day/week/month/year/life.