Tag Archives: friends

sitting with friends of friends and friends


The world becomes small like a teak table in the backyard garden or the kitchen table with whiskey and ice remains taunting from the bottom of short, stocky glasses. 

The world too becomes expansive like the universe or the waters pushing friends over time zones, or the silence waging war on words desperately needing to be spoken, heard.

Sitting with friends of friends and friends over odds and ends, over last sips of whiskey and belly laughter, possibilities seem reachable and hopes seem connected and frustrations seem reasonable and injustices seem harrowing. 

But it is now shared. 

Shared among strangers strangely connected by that which we do our best sometimes to believe and our best other times to run like hell from. 

That thin and thick moment, then, the world is so small and so expansive and strangers make confidants, and space feels like home no matter where feet have landed. And life pounds maddeningly worthwhile and heartbreaking all in one sharp, softening, shared moment with friends.

One more tiny drink gets poured for everyone.

djordan

Belfast and Banbury

Tagged , , , , , , ,

an open letter to my students

i-also-remember-this

An Open Letter to My Students on the Eve of the Orlando Shooting.

June 12, 2016

Dear Students,

You likely woke up today as I did: late. You may or may not have turned on the news as is my morning wake-up custom, coffee in hand and multiple snoozes later. Within moments it became clear that there was yet another mass shooting while we were sleeping. This morning’s shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. Over 100 dead and injured.

I remember thinking ‘My soon-to-be godson is to be baptized today. My responsibilities seem yet-again larger now.’

I’m late to the service by a few minutes this morning; I know you’re not surprised. I stood too long at the television in my bedroom, clenching the wooden ledge on top of the dresser left in the room by my great, great-aunts who were the unusual of their era; they were highly educated, remarkably fashionable, and unusually independent women from a time where that was not allowed. No doubt they were recipients of both celebration and judgment. The dresser left in the bedroom of this house they used which I now sleep in has new fingernail marks as of this morning, left accidentally as I should have been dressing for a baptismal service but was instead being washed again in the blood of others.

“I also remember this, and wish I did not,” as Didion once said. I remember that I was not surprised.

Yet another killing, this time the largest mass shooting in our states’ history and the largest terrorist attack on US soil since my freshmen year of college when I sat in a lecture hall of Blanchard at Wheaton and watched the towers fall before my eyes.

I remember this morning thinking that I was surprised that morning as an 18-year-old hopeful, but that I am not surprised now as a 32-year-old hopeful. And it is the hopefulness of my better wiring which has been wanting to talk to all of you all day long today, even though you’ve managed to sneak away from me for the summer. I’ve managed to talk to you in one of our random, side conversations all day long in my head regardless. Then I decided that I hope you might hear it.

Many of you value your faith deeply; I do as well. Because of this, those who believe differently from you are owed your love and honor. The faith you claim has told you so; the faith leaders you are bothered by have challenged this. Follow your faith.

Many of you think
public policy,
issues of social policy and social welfare,
wealth and poverty,
emails to your governors and senators and representatives
(unanswered as most of them go…which you will remember),
childhood development and influence,
family structure and complexity,
group norms and roles,
mob mentalities and social capacities,
and research formulas and findings
aren’t connected in any real way
to your deep desire to help those who are in need.

The crimes of today should remind you that these things are all connected.

The language and now law signed in by Governor Bill Haslam in Tennessee that allow therapists to legally hate and discriminate by refusing counseling to those of the LGBTQ community affected by today’s mass shooting is an issue of policy, welfare, wealth and poverty, legislators who listen and those who ignore (and are paid to do so, which you will remember), legislation and its [silent] funders, biological development and its influences, structure, complexity, norms, roles, mob mentalities and social capacities, research and its findings…

This language and this legislation and these legislators and these voices are the authors of the men and women who will come into your offices and onto your caseloads wounded, orphans of those killed by this morning’s violence, orphans of those who had parents who lived lives of silence or submission to a norm, or stood silently in the back of your sanctuaries on mornings like these as you went to church and thought it was a regular Sunday morning.

I felt the need all day long today, now pushing the clock to make it honest, to let you know that I expect the world of you.

I am pretty sure I have told you this. You will be the best.

I expect a whole other kind of world from you. I expect you to wake up on days like today with the news of the moment and the heart of a saint that is both willing to break the rules and willing to break the norms to dig your fingernails into the wooden ledge on top of the dresser and be late for something planned and appropriate because you decided you had to stand up and speak out for something possibly inappropriate because it puts all of our humanity at risk.

So in class, when I hound you and harass you and rap at you and sing at you and yell at you and take points from you and even when I feed you in an effort to buy you, please know this: I do all these things so that some day, some Sunday morning when someone is waking up and committing to go to church and pledge gratefully to be a godfather for a young man or young woman who has not yet learned to distrust the world…

I do all these things so that you will remember that it will never be okay for us to not be surprised at this kind of hateful news that greeted us this morning.

I’m counting on you.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

flipping out the lights

ordinary-evening-header

It may be as much the ordinariness that renders an evening memorable as it is the actual memorability of it.

An evening, a cocktail, an honest confession buried in a ridiculous joke.

Ice cream, a kiddie pool, a new hip hop album with Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, and somebody’s cousin named Nicole.

The fierceness of time pushed days into months at some science-fiction speed only noticed when finally cleaning the car out to discover planning notes for things long accomplished or given up on and fancy chocolate turned a new shade of cloudy.

A list of items to accomplish between the alarm and the sun’s disappearance turned into a scribbles on the back of a take-out menu from another city, also now suggesting passage through a time-warp dumping me out several months later looking around, wondering what happened and where I am.

So it seems likely, then, the ordinariness of the friends on time, and the friends on time in their lateness, that seemed to make the evening memorable.

An attempt at a fancy drink resulting in sticky counters and simple syrup on the shirt now soaking in the laundry with crystals of OxiClean I dug out of the rug where I spilled the entire container.

A pregnant friend making ice cream, testing the water out to determine it’s too cold even for you, and deciding who knew of the artist first.

ordinary-evening

The contrast of time slowed down, now with heavy eyelids a new list of scribbles that daylight tomorrow is supposed to bring, compared to a blur of months upon months where the piles in the car and the piles in the inbox stack up is stark and poignant.

No lesson to be learned. No meaning to be gleaned. Just the reality that an ordinary evening put months of blurred hustle into perspective suddenly while closing the dishwasher, turning off the music, and flipping out the lights.

thurman

djordan
Pine Tree Drive

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

that’s a gift

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 10.58.49 PM

To stop wondering
if what you have to say
is valid, acceptable, reasonable, or appropriate:

That’s a gift.

And to say something
because you need someone who knows you
to hear it
and accept it
and after hearing it reply to you
saying

“I hear you”

without solving it
without explaining it
without answering it:

That’s telling the truth.

And the gift and the telling the truth together:

That’s friendship on a Sunday night
over bourbon and crying babies.

And it’s a sign that the kingdom of heaven is real.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

carry on, warrior

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 10.05.10 PM

“People hurt the things they fear,” has become for me one of the most haunting lines of Glennon Doyle Melton’s not-so-new book.

And I’ve tried about ten times now to type out how Carry On Warrior has made me exhale so strongly and peacefully over the last week as I’ve been reading it. Her words have been a kind of subversive undertone to everything else I’m seeing and reading as the news unfolds.

Something in me is pushing hard against the rhetoric of hatefulness and fear, of greed and warmongering I hear predominantly from Christians as each day breaks across the globe. Something in me is pushing hard against this fear of neighbor, fear of other, fear of different. Since when did Jesus say kill for my sake, hate for my sake, marginalize for my sake? Something in me is pushing hard through the psuedo-christian noise for voices that speak to something altogether clear, and noble, and lovely, and gracious, and simple and beautiful. I don’t feel the need to kill the person who threatens to kill me; I feel the need for peace. I don’t feel the need to hurt the person who has hurt me; I feel the need to forgive. And I need to know other people feel that need too. And I need to know how to move into that need.

I don’t know how, though.

And Melton doesn’t claim to know how either, but somehow her words in Carry on Warrior actually begin to do it. Honoring a kind of David-like offense to face the giants of anxiety and fear and terrified christian culture, she manages to walk to the middle dropping one piece of heavy armor after the next knowing that it might be her end.

But also knowing that it might be her only chance in hell at an actual beginning.

I’m envious, really. But hopeful. I’m working to lean in to the call to be honest and hospitable when it means standing with those the church is screaming at and setting targets on. I’m working to lean in to the challenge to show up and do my best to return justice for injustice, generosity for stinginess, and even openness for rigidity and fear. It’s infuriating, and then again completely freeing. Something as if from another world altogether.

People harm the things they fear, she says. I’m doing my damnedest to stop being afraid.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

To follow her blog, visit momastery.com, and click here to find “Carry On, Warrior.”

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

when time sticks together

the-base-of-the-tree

He stood closely to the base of the towering tree, him at about three and a half feet tall. His father was on the phone in the front yard for some privacy, but just called him over to see. After hurling my luggage into the trunk of their car so they could deliver me to the airport, I walked over to see what had caught the attention of both boys, now studying the bark.

All three of our faces now––nearly pressing into the tree’s trunk––were studying the creatures. At first glance, it was the same old bark towering up into the leaves as I had likely stood staring at over twenty-five years ago in that same yard. My mysterious and celebrated great, great-aunts likely then inside the house speaking poetry or reading Spanish and cooking spaghetti sauce. The one gracefully and quietly grinning as the other loudly laughed, the elastic waistline of her skirt bouncing up and down even with her navel where it rested.

Leaning in closer, the bark was a layer of cicadas woven golden-brown into a pattern mimicking wood chips. I’ve heard them for days now outside, but had not registered the source until this very moment. I flashed back to my own front yard over twenty-five years ago. Standing with my brother and another neighbor on the wooden ledges that formed the flower box squaring out the trunk of a towering oak just outside my bedroom window. We were filling a gallon-sized glass jar with cicadas that morning. I don’t know if we finished or what was done with our collection, but I remember that moment all those years ago as crisply as I remember this morning in my own front yard under the shadows of my great, great-aunts’ tree.

One white cicada stood in the middle of all the other golden brown creatures climbing around the curved sides of the tree. It stood out now boldly, or was now finally noticed to be standing out boldly.

The father is now back across the yard for his phone call, the son is now being directed by his mother back into his carseat rather than the road, and I’m now scanning through a mental list of things not to be forgotten before weeks away from home.

For a moment there, though, decades worth of time stuck together and I was reminded to look and see.

djordan
London

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

kingdom comes over hot chicken

10906123_10153007402159443_4467631661083573300_n

Several weeks ago it was at a greenhouse under the South African sun. It was with two friends, one from South Africa and one from England, both in Cape Town now chasing the kingdom hard and fast. One works to transform the way housing is addressed for those living in informal settlements by way of valuing inherent wisdom, skill and reality. The other is working to address issues of gang violence, trauma, and youth development not only in Cape Town but in the hearts and plans of those around the world.

A few weeks later, it was in Nashville, Tennessee. We were talking about whether hot chicken was hot enough or too hot as we prepared for a wedding a few hours later. Friends without the pretense of worry of doing it right or doing it fancy, it was a celebration of choosing to do it and do it together. Friends willing to push through the new uncertainty of what it means to be a community surrounding those who are choosing to do life together. Friends who will argue over the heat of Nashville’s hot chicken in the morning, pretend not to cry at a lifelong commitment in the afternoon, and dance like no one knows what dancing is supposed to look like in the evening.

And this week, like last week, and like the other weeks in between was at the altar rail at a little church on the north side of town. Hands out, breath held, eyes up, it all swelled together. I’ve heard my priest and favorite friend say before that when we kneel at the rail, we share in communion with those with us in that moment, those who are gather at Christ’s table around the globe, and those who have both joined the table in centuries past as well as those who will come after us with the same assurances and the same uncertainties as we knelt at the rail today.

This morning, hands out, I joined them. I joined my brothers and sisters in Cape Town. I joined my sisters and brothers over hot chicken in Nashville. I joined my own local church community, and all those who were at their own churches both in my own city and in cities around the globe and through the ages.

I’ll work toward justice tomorrow and push against institutional power and greed.
I’ll seek beauty and laughter and silliness tomorrow with adults who hate it and children who love it.
I’ll do paperwork and billing tomorrow and wonder what I’m doing and why I care.
I’ll push a few steps forward into and few steps back from the kingdom of God.

And I’ll only be able to do anything at all tomorrow by the mystery of
the power that somehow shakes the rail every time I kneel,
whether at a nursery in Cape Town
or over hot chicken in Nashville
or the altar at my little church.

His kingdom comes.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

thickness of thin space

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 7.42.53 PM

Here I am in an empty church. In it, between the rows of pews, on the tile floor, under the silent cross, I walk along a boundary, a place in between heaven and earth. The Celts called it thin space….The church calendar calls into consciousness the existence of a world uninhabited by efficiency, a world filled with the excessiveness of saints, ashes, smoke, fire; it fills my heart with both dread and hope. It tells of journeys and mysteries, things “seen and unseen,” the world of the almost known. It dreams impossibilities: a sea divided in two, five thousand fed by a loaf and two fishes, a man raised from the dead. 

– Nora Gallagher
Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith

It seemed as though every few breaths had to be wrestled quietly to keep exhales from becoming tears. I don’t think tears of any kind of sadness, although some seem wrapped together with a letting go of things that no longer fit but were desperately and perfectly holy when they once did. Others pregnant with promises that are only clear today after all this time of begging for clarity. Others coated in laughter of flying monkeys and brave children.

After being on the road––or in the air––for nearly a month, I returned to the desks and sessions and meetings and paperwork and conference calls of the work week last Monday. With the promise of daylight savings time still a terribly long week away, I traveled back from exhilarating speaking and learning with stellar servants in Seattle and Memphis and the slow and holy days of the beach with lifelong and new friends, to the pounding of alarms in the still-dark mornings of my own still room.

The threat would be, of course, that the magic only happens when things are outside of the routine. Only with toes buried in the sand and waves ruining the back pages of novels do we cross into the thin spaces. Only with lecture halls and presentations and learning credits pending do we feel the rush of the practice and the theory. Only with the frantic boarding runs do we surmise that we are living something exciting.

But then, on a Monday morning as regular as any other, the shower makes us look a little more alive than we feel, the coffee makes us a little friendlier in a few short moments, and the first meeting, the first client, the first conference call reminds us that we love what we do and the people we get to do it with.

And the thin space becomes so thick we can taste it and name it and break it as if it were in itself that holy meal.

So today, a week later, with more travel on the edge of the next few days, I’m giving thanks for a week of clients, a week of paperwork, a week of surprise parties and the lies they require, a week of out of town guests and in town friends over drinks.

So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar, imagining that table that spreads all the way to family in Nicaragua and all the way to family in Cape Town, and all the way to family who have already moved a little closer to something better on the other side of time, and I was wrestling breaths in order to exhale without bursting into tears. Tears of letting go and holding on. Tears of the promise that I have no idea what I’m doing, but somehow I feel alive while I’m doing it and I feel loved getting to do it with such incredible people, and I feel honored doing in on behalf of those so often not welcomed at the table.

So today, a week later, I find myself at the altar recognizing that the thin space has become so thick at this particular moment in time, that I let it win and with the tears that hit the hands that hold the bread and the wine, I give thanks that he withholds no good thing from us.

Not a thing.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

the era at hand

photo 2

At about a hundred miles an hour it came crashing into my chest this morning, moving up quickly to my throat where it stole my breath and then my eyes which began to pour. In the wind, behind sunglasses and under one of my grandfather’s many straw fishing hats, I was skimming quickly to our next drop in spot with three buddies as the sun was coming up over the gulf where we’ve been staying these last few days. The boat’s captain letting us know how far in to drop and what was likely on our line before it ever came into site was scouting out our next most likely location.

The four-word refrain came to mind. I followed it just under my breath to see what song it was connected to, and then, the crashing. First chest. Then throat. Then eyes.

sad fruitful broken true
sad fruitful broken true

I didn’t realize until this morning out there on the dramamine-calmed water that this is the first trip to the beach I’ve been on since losing both grandparents who taught me to love traveling here, feeding the birds, chasing the fish, eating out, cooking in, and laughing hard. As time passed, so did their health, but the beach would still happen. Moves from porch to den to restaurant  became slower and slower, but each still an important move worth taking the time to make.

This morning, out there on the water, still burning by the sun under his straw fishing hat, I realized that it has been the years and years of family and storytelling and value-passing that makes me fight, over and beyond fighting for meaningful work and meaningful impact, for meaningful friendship and meaningful experiences. To see and to feel and to taste the holiness in clinking glasses in my own home or half a world away. To honor and to savor the time spent with and the time spent where.

And in the hurricane of memories that stormed perfectly over and into me this morning, I was at once overwhelmingly grateful and overwhelmingly heartbroken. To have the privilege of three decades filled with enough love and honor and legacy to miss so deeply all at once left me exceedingly grateful and sad. The era of those kinds of gifts has passed. Forever. It’s almost too much to take in.

There is, however, the era at hand. It is in these days, then, that reveal the ways in which I choose to remember all these good things that have in no way been withheld from me. It is in this era that I will either wake up before the sun and meet my buddies to fish deep in the ocean, or I will only mourn the loss of the days that have already passed. To truly mourn, to truly grieve and to truly honor all that is lost must, in the truest of ways, involve making deep and rich meaning of all that is ahead.

And must acknowledge the ripe and possible realities of the present moment. Crashing in and all.

+++

The words I found after chasing the refrain are from the Sara Groves’ song This House are listed below:

it took me by surprise
this old house and these old feelings
walked round and looked inside
familiar walls and halls and ceilings

where I’d dream and plan
every moment of sunshine
this was my whole world
it was all I knew
like the hull of a seed
this old house cracked wide open
as I grew

hadn’t given it much thought
hadn’t been back here for a while
everything looks so small
seen through the memories of a child

who would dream and stare
from that second story window
that was my whole world
it was all I knew
like the hull the of a seed
this old house cracked wide open
and I flew

sad fruitful broken true
sad fruitful broken true

memories for miles and miles
summers falls winters and springs
Ruby you take it in
see he’s withheld no good thing

+++

djordan
723 Whiskey Bravo
Seagrove Beach, FL

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

burnt burger buns

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 12.09.08 AM

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,