Monday, May 20, 2013

The one that got away--part 2

Of course, it wasn't really the house on Lacyberry that broke my "wanter."  

Probably it was already broken by the time I started wanting the cereal with the toy inside instead of the cereal that I liked. What was I, five?  Definitely it was broken by the time I decided I HAD to have the white canopy bed with the pink satin bedspread in the Sears catalog.  I still remember the picture and how many times I was absolutely certain that my life would be perfect if I had that bedroom.  My mom handled it perfectly--no canopy because of my dust allergies and no satin because it wasn't practical--and I still got the pink and white gingham bedspread with the ballerina sheets and I actually was really, really happy.

Anyway, swimming in the water of consumerism broke my wanter long before the house on Lacyberry.  

Here's another example:  It wasn't until about the third time that I walked through our new house (the one we'll move into FRIDAY!) that I noticed that parts of it have a cottage-cheese ceiling.  For just a second, my heart sank.  Not because I hate cottage-cheese ceilings; I'm actually pretty neutral about ceilings.  I grew up with cottage-cheese ceilings and so did just about everyone I know.   And these ceilings are really clean, really white.  But they're . . . you know . . . dated.  I was disappointed in ceilings I didn't even care about because someone, somewhere decided that they were no longer stylish.  

Fortunately, my disappointment was short-lived.  But that's what I mean when I say that my wanter has been broken for a long time.  

It seems to me that one big step is learning to see past the pages of magazines and the endless commercials and this season's "in" color and learning to see my broken wanter for what it is and to call it out every now and then.  Another step is cultivating gratitude and another step is learning to appreciate the non-consumer things in life which every generation has known are the really important things.  Another step would be learning to make do with what I have but I don't see that happening anytime soon.  But hey, I'm in love with a house with cottage cheese ceilings.  That's a start.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The one that got away

When we moved to Houston, we knew that we wanted to live in the city (as opposed to the suburbs) and we knew that we were committed to staying well within our budget and we knew that we wouldn't be able to find anything nearly as nice as the house we had in Austin.  And that really was okay, you know?  We had lived in smaller, older houses before and we were okay with doing that again.

And then there was the house on Lacyberry.

Oh, my.  You really can't even imagine how awesome this house was.  Perfect location to both our offices.  Brand new (meaning nothing would break for a long time). Dark, hard wood floors throughout.  Completely open floor plan (something I love but impossible to find with older houses in our price range).  Huge kitchen with tons of storage.  Downstairs master bedroom.  Amazing master bath with shower and tub and two sinks.  Exactly the top of our budget but not over.

There were multiple offers but we made the high offer.  And we still didn't get the house.

That was disappointing but that wasn't the big problem.  The big problem was that the house on Lacyberry broke my "wanter."

The houses that had seemed just fine before now seemed second-rate.  What had felt like contentment now felt like settling.  Nothing measured up to what we could have had.

My grandmother has told me about living in oil company camp housing for the first couple of decades of her adult life.  My father came home from the hospital to a one-room camp house where he slept in a dresser drawer (no, that's not just a cliche.)  At least once, they lived in a tent.  I asked her once about it and she said that she never minded because everyone else had exactly the same house, so there was no comparison to make her want something different.

I've done nothing but compare for two months now.  Of course, I can't help but compare every house we looked at with the house on Lacyberry, although that got a lot better with time.  But I compare the floor plan of this house with the floor plan of that one.  This one's yard compared with that one's indoor space.  This location versus that one.  The amenities of this house up against the different amenities of that house.  And, of course, we know that no one gets everything they want and we won't either.

As a marriage counselor, I strategically joke about that with couples all the time, trying to offer a friendly reminder that no one gets everything.  That you can't have the husband that is sensitive and compassionate and then have him turn into John Wayne when you want him to.  That you can't have the wife who is spontaneous and fun and also expect her to keep the house perfectly.  Once we know that we can't have everything, we can relax and enjoy what we do have, especially when it is what we fell in love with in the first place.

Anyway, I digress.  I'm not thinking about marriages so much these days.  Instead, I'm obsessed with houses.  And how you fix a broken "wanter."  By the way, gratitude seems to be as good as duct tape and spit for that.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Well done, good and faithful servant

It's hard to imagine that Dallas Willard is no longer in this world, that his gentle smile and his brilliant intellect and his warm and loving heart are now part of the past.

Those who were with him at the end have said that his last words were "thank you."  If I could have been there, those would have been my words to him as well--words of gratitude for profoundly challenging my own spiritual formation and for making the evangelical milieu in which I live a kinder and gentler place.

There have been some wonderful tributes online.  This one is my favorite, I think, written by Dallas's dear friend Richard Foster.  It's hard to imagine that without Dallas there might not have been Celebration of Discipline or Renovare or any of the rest.  This one is by my dear friend Matt Rosine, and describes perfectly the gratitude of those of us who loved Dallas from a distance.

People have also been describing their memories online;  I personally have two.  One is from more than a decade ago, when we had all first read The Divine Conspiracy and were still unsure of what we had read.  My father and I attended a Renovare conference together and at the end, we stood in line to have our books signed, something that was uncharacteristic of my dad.  As I handed my book to Richard Foster, I glanced over as Dallas Willard put his arms around my father in a gentle embrace.

The last is especially poignant and is the first thing I remembered when I heard that Dallas had died.  Last year, my friend and I drove to Wichita again, this time to hear Richard Foster and others, and learned that Dallas was recovering from very serious surgery.  Richard said that he had visited with Dallas shortly before the operation and that Dallas had gripped his hand and said with his characteristic gentle smile, "Whatever happens, my friend, it will be glorious."

It seems that God gives every generation of his people a few of his servants they don't deserve.  Usually, it seems, they end up ignored or shouted down or martyred.  For some reason, though, Dallas made it easy for us to hear him even though what he was saying wasn't always easy to hear.  Here is a sampling:

We are becoming who we will be forever.

Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

God does not love us without liking us.

"It is not the rights of women to occupy "official" ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so: obligations which derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting. It is the good they can do, and the duty to serve that comes from that, which impels them to serve in all ways possible. Women and men are indeed very different, and those differences are essential to how God empowers each to induce the Kingdom of God into their specific life setting and ministry. What we lose by excluding the distinctively feminine from "official" ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. That loss is one of a few fundamental factors which account for the astonishing weakness of "the Church" in the contemporary context."

"I am thoroughly convinced that God will let everyone into heaven, who, in his considered opinion, can stand it. But 'standing it' may prove to be a more difficult matter than those who take their view of heaven from popular movies or popular preaching may think. The fires in heaven may be hotter than those in the other place." - 

In the United States, of course, he would tell us about the “good Iraqi,” 
“good Communist,” “good Muslim,” and so on. In some quarters it would 
have to be the good feminist or good homosexual.... All of these break 
up pet generalizations concerning who most surely is or is not leading 
the eternal kind of life.  In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus not only teaches us to help people in need; more deeply, he teaches us that we cannot identify who "has it," who is "in" with God, who is "blessed," by looking at exteriors of any sort. That is a matter of the heart.... Draw any cultural or social line you wish, and God will find his way beyond it. "Human beings look at the outer appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart" (I Sam 16:7). And "what humanity highly regards can be sickening to God" (Luke 16:15).

"We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink tiny droplets of soul-exhilirating joy, God continuously experiences in all their breadth an depth and richness." 

Repentance is thinking about your thinking.

Don't ask, "What would happen if you died tonight?"  Ask, "What if you don't die tonight?  What happens tomorrow?"

We are better at making good church members than we are at making disciples of Jesus.

Don't announce the revolution.

And then there's this (Scroll down to the video with Dallas Willard and John Ortberg and watch all the way to the end):