Friday, February 28, 2014

In which I fly on airplanes and live to tell about it

It's hard to imagine that I will ever not be afraid of flying.

I'm afraid before I fly.  I'm afraid while I'm waiting for the plane to take off.  I'm afraid while we're in the air and I even have a tiny bit of dread when we land, knowing that in a week or a month, I'll have to do it again.

I don't want to be afraid.  I have all kinds of brave and rational things that I say to myself that do help a little bit and sometimes a lot.  When we're taking off, I pray a little bit, in an embarrassed but desperate way until we get into the air.  After one minute, I remind myself that we're past the point at which most plane crashes happen and I relax a little bit.

When we hit a little turbulence, like we are right now,  I remind myself that if I were on a bumpy bus ride, I wouldn't be scared at all and this is exactly the same thing.  Except at 30,000 feet.

And when the pilot comes on the intercom to tell us that we have mechanical problems and we're turning around to land where we just left from and the flight attendant sits down looking tense, I tell myself that I am safe in the hands of God, no matter what happens.

I even kind of believe the things that I say to myself, which is what keeps me from grabbing the hand of my seat mate or curling into the fetal position and keening.

I always feel a little queasy and sometimes nauseated with fear or with that sinking elevator feeling, which I hate hate hate.  Sometimes I want to cry.  I always want to talk to someone for the distraction, but not if I'm going to cry, which means I often just distract myself with a book or a magazine.  Fiction is better than nonfiction.  I should probably try something more suspenseful and riveting than my usual fare.

What I really want is powerful drugs to knock me out for just exactly the length of the trip.  I have never ever slept on a plane.

Sometimes I know I'm such a baby and I feel embarrassed and ashamed.  But sometimes I feel like the bravest person in the world because I keep getting on airplanes anyway.

Monday, February 24, 2014

"We did it!"

As far as I'm concerned, the best moment of the Sochi Olympics was when Noelle Pikus Pace realized she had just won the silver medal in the skeleton event.  She climbed the fence separating her from her husband, threw her arms around him and said, "We did it! We did it!" over and over while he held her tight.

No competitiveness, no keeping score, just pure teamwork.  

These days, there is a lot of blather in the evangelical world about what women should be allowed to do in the church and in the world, how wives should give up their own dreams (unless their dreams are to be mothers and nothing else) and support their husbands without reservations, how men who support their wives' dreams are "man fails."  (Yes, that really happens.)

In the secular world, the conversation is often different--how husbands and wives have to angle and compete for power in the relationship, how neither can really be trusted to meet the needs of the other, how sacrificial love is for suckers.  

That's why it was such a joy to see the moment of triumph when the dream that a husband and wife dreamed together comes true.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bread and Wine

This morning, for the first time in my life, I walked forward for communion in a Baptist church I am a member of and received the bread from the hand of a man and the cup from the hand of a woman.  And then I sat in my pew and sobbed.

I truly didn't know it would affect me the way it did.  I didn't know the deacons who were offering communion.  I didn't even know that we were observing communion this morning.  But as I stood in front of the woman who held the cup, something broke wide open.

Our pastor had just reminded us of Jesus' plea that when we take the bread and the wine, we remember him.  He was a young man who knew he was about to die and in that moment of vulnerability, asked his friends, "Don't forget.  Remember me."  As I walked back to my seat, I was overwhelmed by the memory of how Jesus loved women, how he loved us in a culture that, even more than mine, didn't love women.  Just two weeks ago, I preached about one of the women that Jesus loved and the way she loved him back.  Today, I felt the impact of it.

When I was in seminary many years ago, I was warned that if I wanted to continue to pursue a call to ministry, I would need to change denominations.  C and I both love our Baptist heritage and we truly believed that the fundamentalist takeover would be temporary.  We never imagined that almost 30 years later, the role of women in Baptist life would be even more rigidly defined than it was in the mid-80s.

Personally, I committed myself to "submissive subversion," believing that I could work within the system to demonstrate what a woman called and gifted looks like, in ways that people could accept. My ordination was one deeply healing affirmation of that and I will probably write about it soon.  Today was another.

I believe with all my heart that men and women together represent the image of God.  I believe that communion offered from the hand of a man and the hand of a woman is a beautiful expression of the unity to which we are called.

The body of Christ.  The cup of salvation.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Eleanor and Park

I've decided to say something about the books I read as I read them, rather than waiting until the end of the year.  This is what I want to say about Eleanor & Park:  I loved it.  Or rather, I loved them.

Eleanor is big, awkward, jaded by life.  Park is sheltered and shy.  When they find solace in each other, both have to learn to love and to be loved and to face all the insecurities that go along with that.  This is a book about vulnerabilities and a reminder that every kid who gets up every day and gets on a school bus and goes to high school is a hero.

This is a young adult love story . . . sweet, sexy, sad.  The pace is realistic and slow with most of the action going on in the lives and homes of the two friends.  They are drawn with so much resonance that, as I turned the last page, I felt as if I knew them both and wanted to find out more.  I wondered, though, if I would like them if I knew them in real life.  Each of them has an inner world that is so much more meaningful than their awkward exteriors (like all of us) but I'm not sure I would know that if I met them, say, at church or next door.  That's challenging.

I don't read a lot of fiction and when I do, I tend to choose books that are a sure thing.  For me, anyway, this one is.

*If you don't like the idea of teenagers using bad language and thinking about sex, this isn't a book for you.