the dust of the Tetons

March 20, 2010

Rob Bell has this thing – I guess you’d call it a “signature talk” – titled Covered in the Dust of your Rabbi.  In it, he describe the path to being a rabbi, which includes following said Rabbi so closely that you become covered in the dust his sandals kicked up.

What really stuck with me was the experiential nature of the lessons.  Sure, Rabbis talked but for the most part, disciples would glean wisdom and knowledge from just observation and participation.

I realized the other day that I’m covered in the dust of the Tetons.

About two weeks before I shipped off to London to start my MBA, I was visiting my friends parents in Jackson Hole, WY.  We went for a hike on a trail they had been wanting to try.  We knew it was going to be challenging from the library of books and guidemaps they have about the range.  I remember praying that morning – and really that whole week leading up to the weekend – that God would give me an insight, a peace, a word, or anything to hold on to about the forthcoming academic dive into grad school.

While I somehow managed to pull it together and get accepted into a Top 10 MBA program, I’ve NEVER felt smart.  Actually, I can only remember from pre-k onward feeling very very very stupid.  I struggled in school but for a variety of reasons, personality, pride, absent parents…I was able to slide by without anyone ever knowing.

So I was nervous about starting school, at a really good school. Terrified actually.  And off we went for our hike.

To be honest, I think I was expecting to have some grand chat with them.  They’re always the right mix of encouraging and challenging.  But, part of me just didn’t want to bring it up and part of me just didn’t feel like it was the time.

So up the mountain we hiked.

and then we got lost.

for six hours.

Now, at this point, I didn’t have the heart to explain to my Harvard-educated friend’s dad that we were probably lost for a purpose so he probably wasn’t going to find the right way any time soon.  I knew this day was answering some of my most difficult questions.

Don’t we all struggle, and I mean, viscerally, with whether or not we have what it takes?  I’m sure a lot of people with many initials behind their names could explain why this is, but I’m more interested in the reality than the theory.

I stare at huge mountains everyday that I’m desperate to climb – and there is almost always a voice saying “yeah, right, this is you we’re talking about.”  I’ve tried so many things – convincing myself other people or circumstances are the blame as to why I haven’t conquered; I’ve rationalized that maybe I really don’t want to go that high; I’ve taken a few steps and asked who I am kidding for even trying.  But the reality remains, these proverbial mountains are deeply seeded desires that I didn’t make up.  Assignments, callings – name them what you will – but they are there and they are not going away.

And I constantly feel the weight of the distance between me and the summit.

Had you told me that morning the endurance and physical strength it would have taken to hike, I would have told you I didn’t have it.  And I probably didn’t!  Because, as I learned that day, the conversations we have at the bottom of the mountain are important – but even more so are those that we have on the climb.

But that day, after wandering through the woods, my twice repaired leg twitching and being totally lost – I realized I have no idea what I’m capable of – UNTIL I try it. I realized I tell myself the most horrible things the second something gets hard and I might fail.

I was stuck on that mountain.  The only way I was getting off without becoming a moose snack was to keep going – to fight through conversation in my head about the inadequacy of my efforts.  And you know what I found  out?

I’m more than able.  Everything I believe about myself was untrue.

The introduction of that kind of cognitive dissonance has literally reshaped my experience at Duke.  It’s not just a school – its travel – its people – it’s time management…and since that day in Jackson, I have literally watched EVERYTHING in my life be stretched to the absolute  limit.  Mentally, emotionally, financially, professionally, relationally, personally, physically, – name it – and the past 9 months has taken it right to or over the edge.

And I go back to that day.  I sometimes look at the running shoes that are still brown because I wouldn’t let my friend’s mom wash when we got home.  I remember what I know or think about myself may be the most evil attack the devil has ever waged and the only way to learn the truth is to stay close to Jesus, to follow Him into the crazy situations and places He’s leading – and let experiences, not information, instruct me about who I am.

I’m covered in the dust of the Tetons.

my pet rock

March 14, 2010

In the center console of my car is a small rock.  It’s smooth, clean, nothing terribly remarkable – although my friend Derrick did once ask why I had a pet rock.

When I fly to foreign countries, I take it with me.  No pomp or circumstance, I just slide it into my backpack and inevitably run across it while I’m running across the globe.

Yeah, I know it’s weird

But, it’s my boundary stone.

The old testament has a lot to say about stones.  It’s bizarre actually because you think God would have a lot more to talk to us about than rocks.  But no.  I have a favorite rock story too.

Yeah, I know it’s weird.

In Genesis 28, we interrupt Jacob on a journey.  He’s left his family and his home in search of a wife.  You can tell he’s nervous.  A kid that age at that time wouldn’t really leave his family.  Communities then were about more than just friendship, they were about physical safety, financial security, and spiritual consistency; but, Jacob had a rough home life and everyone figured it would be best for him to get away for a while.  At one point, he curls up for the night using a stone to rest on and has a dream.  It’s a wild dream; a vision of God like no one has seen yet.

He sees a God that is for him.  A God that knows him.  A God that is making a way for him. A God that says He’ll lead him…back home.

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

This is a radically personable God and Jacob knows it.  He immediately says “Surely the Lord is in this place…” and he takes the same stone he slept on, sets it up…and calls it the House of God.  the Gateway to Heaven.  And then he continued on his journey

It must have been some rock.  I wonder if it’s still there.

My rock is in many ways the same as Jacob’s.  I picked it up a few years ago out of a stream bed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I was there because, like Jacob, I had to leave home too.  Mine no longer existed – it crumbled a long time ago.  I found myself there on the road to somewhere else.

My best friend’s mom had gone into town and her step-dad was working in his office inside.  I started throwing rocks down a frozen stream and discovered the coolest noise.  I ran inside and got him.  You HAVE to hear this!  I’m sure I sounded ridiculous.  He obliged though.  We probably hung outside for an hour – we made a competition out of the rock throwing (he won) – we talked about the weekend – about some decisions I had coming up; about some bad ones I had made – about everything and nothing…

It was the most ridiculous and childish thing.  Had I actually thought about it before I dragged him outside, I would have.  It was uncool, unpolished.  That’s the kind of thing you do by yourself.  You know, the awkward, nerdy, unpresentable side of yourself….you don’t invite someone into that.  But as soon as I realized how I’d epically failed at being acceptable in his eyes – I realized he was right there with me anyway.

And I finally got God.  The God of Jacob who says “I am with you…”  The one who shows up in the middle of a road to somewhere else and totally redirects.  Sovereign.  Kind.  Engaged.

And with a promise…”I’m here and I’m not leaving.  I’ll lead you on an incredible path.  I’ll bring you home.”

That’s the thing about God.  He’s always in it.  He knows why we’re not where we should be and all the stuff that led us there.  He knows the person we are trying to be and the person we should be.  He sees the distance between the two.  He gets its.  But he’s unfazed.  And he’s there.

I didn’t really get that until that day.

So I grabbed a rock and slipped it in my pocket.  I keep it with me.  Because sometimes I just need to remember He’s here with me – even when I didn’t invite Him or think that’s the case.  It reminds me He can interrupt at any time because He knows EXACTLY where I am.  It says I can try to fool everyone else and pretend I have it all together, but He’s never confused about who I am or why.  It lets me feel evidence that He’s orchestrating time and circumstances to shape me into the person I need to be – and that He won’t leave me until He’s done what He’s promised…

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”

casting

March 10, 2010

There’s a part of the bible that gets tossed around from Sunday School to senior citizens, “Cast your anxiety on Jesus because He cares for you.”

Maybe it’s spun as “cast your cares” or “cast your burdens” but it’s the same deal…and I’ve heard it ad nauseam.  It’s just one of those things church people like too say

Too bad I haven’t ever really known what it means or what it actually looks like to cast anything (except a fish net)…

My hesitation is that cast denotes an abdication of responsibility.  Where’s the line between my personal responsibility as someone made with infinite creative potential and my rights and privileges as an heir of God?  What do I have to do myself and what will He do for me?  Surely, you can’t just say “ok God, I have cancer, so I’m going to cast that on you and not worry about it.”  I’d probably just go to the doctor, you know?

But yesterday it came together.  Buz is the dad of the Turner family.  The Turners aren’t my family but they are pretty close.  In 5 years I’ve learned more about the way a family acts, reacts, and interacts that I could have ever imagined.  They’ve welcome me, challenged me, comforted me, corrected me, pissed me off, celebrated with me, and given me more than I will probably ever give back.  They are a family in the best sense of the word.  And Buz is the rock.  Quiet, smart, loaded with common sense and a work ethic that would blow your mind – he’s even. Always.  Nothing phases the guy.  I’ve seen the craziest things happen and every time he remains freakishly calm and says “let’s do this”.  Every time.

He’s the person I’m least anxious around.

The only way I can explain it is to say I feel safe riding in the car with him.  I know, I should feel safe riding in the car with most people – but I don’t.  When I got a car at 15, I never looked back (yes I drove w/o a license for a year).  Finally, I was independent: in charge of my destination and the way there.  Ever since, I have HATED riding with other people.  Where will they take me?  What if I need to stop? What if I want to go a different way? What if they leave without me?

I get anxious thinking about it.

Counting on other people to consider me, my needs, and do something about them isn’t exactly an instinct of mine. It’s not something I plan on; if anything, I actually plan on people NOT considering my needs and having to fight for them on my own…life leaves a residue like that, you know?

So when our neighbor and I went to meet Buz for dinner last night and he said he’d be there a few minutes before me – I got it.  Things would be handled.  He’d get a table and probably order me water – we’d sit down, order, talk…  I knew the drill.  He knows me well enough – I know him well enough.  Time builds relationship and relationship builds trust and trust builds predictability.

Exactly.

Scripture isn’t talking about some back-door plan for us to have all of our problems fixed by God if only we’d “cast” them on Jesus.  Too often I’m guilty of thinking and praying from this place of “if only this was set-right, I’d be at peace” when in reality, nothing can be further from what God’s trying to say here.  But maybe (hell, mostly) God isn’t trying to fix our problems at all.  He’s trying to fix us.  Casting requires us to direct our anxieties toward God and in doing, we engage in a conversation with God about really visceral things.  It strengthens a muscle.  We have quirks and we voice them.  We get to hear His response; His heart toward us; His character.  We get to know He has heard…

In that interplay I see Him differently; and I even start to see myself differently too.  And that changes everything…

Over time, the feeling that I have to fight for my own way in life, that no one will take me into consideration has waned.  It folds somehow into a God who calms me down not as much by His actions but by His character, by the value He continues to insist I have.  My anxiety has decreased not necessarily through circumstance; but through the confidence I have in that relationship with Him.

There are definitive times I’ve prayed about something bugging me and miraculously, supernaturally, it’s fixed.  Other times, I have a clear sense that I need to get myself together and do something about it.  It’s the same way with Buz.  Sometimes he just takes care of stuff for me if I ask him, and other times he laughs and says, “grow up.”

Oddly enough, if you read the verse in context (1Peter 5) it’s talking about the relationship between young people and old ones.  Like “hey, trust the elders, they’re wise – they love you, so trust that they’re good people because it’s not so stressful when you know someone’s there to hold you and lift you up.  someone good. someone who loves you.” (sarah revised version!) And then Peter says “cast your anxiety on Jesus” so I have to imagine there is an invisible LIKE YOU DO THE ELDERS right after…

You know, as much as I want everything hard in my life to just go away, God never billed Himself as a magician or a winning lottery ticket; He said He was our Father…a perfect one.  And I’m discovering how calming that fact really is…

Sexy Bitch

March 9, 2010

So I’m at the gym this morning, and “Sexy Bitch” shuffles on my iPod.  It’s one of those songs I listen to and think, “I probably shouldn’t like this song.”  But, it’s good and I do…

not to mention it takes my workout up a level or two

i get the song.  I mean, I doubt Akon and David whatever-his-last-name-is had any intention of creating a larger sociological conversation, but that’s what this song is.

Girls are funny – and one of the best explanations of my generation and younger is in Courtney Martin’s book, “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters.”  All told, it is a book about eating disorders but it speaks to a much larger thesis that our mothers (of the feminist movement), after fighting for women’s rights essentially said to the girls of our generation: you can do anything.

we translated it: I have to be everything

It’s a brilliant book – but the problem remains.  Or should I say the larger problem remains, we can’t be everything!

Yet we live with a deep defeating sense that we aren’t enough.

We must be pretty, smart, athletic, successful, a good mom, a great wife, personable, social, musical, well-read, funny, the best – at everything – all the time.

Who are we kidding?  Nobody but ourselves…

but we keep going, to be “nothing like a girl you’ve ever seen before”

even if it makes us a sexy bitch