Category Archives: Series: Signs of the Kingdom

crossing the street to find your way home | thoughts on “the hundred-foot journey”

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Our greatest fear, of course, is that we might be viewed as in some way similar to the “them” to our “us”. We’ve worked desperately for centuries now at defining clearly and bloodily who we are with and with whom we are not. Who we are like and who we are not like. And when the “us” and “them” becomes less theoretical and more the new next-door neighbor, less conversation and more colleague, less hypothetical and more here-and-now, we find our heart-pounding pulse and back-of-the-neck skin overrun with the fast-beating terror that there is no longer enough space between us and them.

In terror and anxiety, thus in our most not-yet moments, we move on anxieties and insist certain actions that involve thinking, moving and working in ways which keep the lines clear, humans separated, and enemies inhumane are needed. We have to keep the peace by keeping the road as clear barrier between our home and theirs, and the hundred-foot journey in between.  

But once in a while, perhaps because we have a kind of holy blood in us because we are human, we can’t help ourselves. We cross the street, take one-hundred steps, (counted in fury and scheming at one point and now counted in calm humility and prayerfulness), and appear at the front door of the other, the non-separate, the human beings across the street. The front door of his home, bearing witness to his family and their dreams, their hopes, their stories, their legacies, their fears, their burdens and their dirty spots. We appear at the front door, newly-terrified and deeply-anxious, but already too far across the street, already there, already one-hundred steps too many in to turn around.

So we meet our neighbors. We learn their names. We hear their stories. We sing their songs. We sit at their tables and we eat their meals. 

And absent-minded of our terror and anxiety, we realize that in traveling the distance we have found our neighbors, in making the journey we have found our place, and in crossing the street we have made our way home. 

We pray that our new neighbors would move in, and that we would cross the street to find ourselves. As we are bold to pray for terrifying things because we’ve been taught to do it, teach us what it means to come home in your kingdom. 

djordan
Pine Tree

Don’t miss The Hundred-Foot Journey on the big screen. If you miss it, you’ll regret it…and so will your neighborhood. 

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burnt burger buns

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They are a large part of what made me so grateful for the evening.

It was also fun that the three-year old kept asking about the “toast” in the oven. It’s not fun when the car breaks down, when questions linger in the air about bills and responsibilities and logistics. It’s not fun when things feel like they are spinning faster and faster and if one thing goes they’ll all go most likely. And normally a day like today closing out with burning burger buns would not be fun at all. But burnt burger buns and a three-year old asking about toast while the “adults” spill out their own worries and concerns and forget to notice the toast in the oven that will soon sandwich the burger beams helpful.

The laughs oozing from simultaneous exhaustion and relief over the dinner table are also part of what made me grateful for the evening. They were present not because it’s all figured out, not because things are resolved, not because the car is fixed, the bills are paid and the plates are stacked rather than spinning. But fun instead because after a three-year old prays, his tiny, waited-for and prayed-for face now here in the room with us hovering over those burnt burger buns he tried to tell us about, there are people sitting around the table eating, laughing, worrying and living forward. And doing it together in one way or another. It makes the day worth a toast again.

The burgers were delicious, by the way.
But it was the burnt buns that will make me remember to give thanks and pause for good moments and great friends.

djordan
Pine Tree

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the funeral laugh

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You know it.

And please.
Don’t act like you don’t know it.

Don’t act like you don’t know what the funeral laugh is. If you pretend that you don’t know it, I’ll know you’re lying and that’s an entirely different thing to address. We’re together here, you and me.

We all know what the funeral laugh is.
And we’re all guilty.

That inappropriate laugh in the moment where we are faced with the reality that the clock stops ticking one day. The clock stops ticking and the reality rushes in that we are more time-limited than we are prepared to admit. And we don’t know why things happen the way they do, why pain and progress get shaped and honored and forgotten the way they do; why pain lasts and hope lasts; why the possibility of something different for the future can operate with larger and stronger and broader strength than the reality of the way things have been in the past.

That completely inappropriate laugh that surprised us as much as anyone who heard it before we muffled it with a cough or choke or some other lame cover.

We can pretend as though we are wired for money or wired for sex or wired for love or wired for prestige.
But we can’t pretend for long.
Because once we catch anything we chase,
it sheds its skin
and we realize that we are naked and selfish,
insecure,
hopeful,
and powerless in more ways we care to consider.

And that’s when in stings.
It’s gonna be the funeral laugh or the funeral wail. One is coming out and we can’t help it.
We are at the funeral. We know that the person in the casket is highlighted by a story that now has defined lines of what was and wasn’t accomplished.
And we are terrified.
And rightly so, because we are afraid of what the present reality means for us when we shove it up against the reality of the future.

But, it’s that laugh that comes out. And in the same way it’s poorly timed and poorly placed, it’s also unexpected and sends a surge to the abdomen which sends a surge to the brain. And the surges remind us that we are, today, in this moment, alive. And we are alive in a place that is filled with people on the edge of laughter or tears, people ourselves included, who are still making the little choices one after another because our clock is still ticking. Our story still has options.

So we remember our inside jokes and laughs.
So we send cards to the mailbox with stamps and seals that say thanks again for everything.
So we let the other person in front of us in traffic, in line, in thought.
So we pause and raise a glass to make a toast that’s more a prayer than the blessing would have been.
So we make a decision to risk admitting we are powerless and hope that something rises to catch us.
So we wear party hats when making grown-up decisions that aren’t fun because we are alive and here to make them.

So we decide to choose the laugh at that inappropriate time that’s marked by real and gritty silence and seriousness. We know that we will wail again in a moment, and we know that both are actually fine.

But right this second, we choose the laugh. And then it won’t stop. We can’t stop it.

At this funeral, in this thin space where we are asked again that huge question about what it means to move forward in the world we will stop moving in, for a time, one day, we choose the funeral laugh. Because we can. And because we must.

djordan
Pine Tree

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signs of the kingdom: returning to the courtroom

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There’s poetry of space. And poetry of context. And poetry of memory.

Sitting in the City’s courtroom, where one of my Drug Treatment Court clients reminded me is where the District Attorney’s table is usually placed, I sensed a strong push to remember that holiness shows up in the places we forget to look. And when it shows up, it reminds us that we often look for truth and good gospel news in places that, while religious, are dry and sterile and only shadows of the actual good news. And then there are these other places, where we anticipate the bad news and the emptiness, that we discover the thick and sticky good news that we couldn’t not notice even were that our intention from the beginning.

And in that poetry of space and context and memory, I sit eating a meal and celebrating process and progress with those at all stages of recovery from addiction. Recent drug dealer sitting next to the city mayor. New addition to the Drug Treatment Court program sitting next to the judge that made an offer to seek treatment in lieu of jail.

I find myself sitting next to program participants, grateful for their insight, their courage and the ways they push the truth of the church into my own heart and head through their recovery-minded honesty, acceptance and perseverance.

And the poetry of space and context and memory seems to be ringing louder and louder every time I scan the room. The poetry of people landing themselves in the courtroom after committing a crime in the wake of substance abuse. The poetry of other people, long on the road to recovery linking hands and holding out hope for a future of clarity that seems impossible at that dark time. The poetry of sitting in the very place where you were once sentenced and forced to stare, maybe for the first time, the ugly truth and lies of addiction and powerlessness and unmanageability in the face, now sitting in that very place to celebrate your sobriety and recovery with those ahead of you and those walking in the path left a little more believable in your wake.

And you breath it in deeply because it’s easy to forget when the music isn’t as loud and the poetry isn’t as bold. The day to day and the task to task and the decision to decision doesn’t feel like it’s actually saddling up next to transformation of whole persons with the whole of the good news. For the clients, for the families, for the therapists, for the attorneys, for the judge. The one step at a time mentality feels like it’s actually leading absolutely nowhere.

And then you sit in the room where people were once on trial, convicted of a crime, and watch them now celebrate their newfound strength and resilience, sharing a meal with the ones who made the arrest and the sentence as they cheer for each other.

It’s a sign of the kingdom, no doubt. A sign of the hard work and tested patience of transformation of whole people in communities with the church finding them rather than waiting for them to show up to  building. A reminder that we find Christ all over again when we do life with each other because we find him when we look the truths and the lies in the face.  The sign of the kingdom stands as a reminder that the presence of the church better be in every crack and cranny of every need in every community before we rest, because there are great opportunities and great stories to be told and great poetry to be created. In our own lives and the lives of those in the margins. Even in the courtroom.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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