2 months are almost up

It has been three years since coming home from Africa. I wrote this toward the end of my partner’s two month furlough in the States. Alone in that dusty village for weeks, I discovered a hunger to write in my journal. I would fill pages and pages to satisfy my desire to communicate in a place where no one but my translator spoke english. If it seems unfinished, that’s because it is. I think the process of writing down a thought is never clean cut; it never ceases to move and evolve with every successive moment. I was merely trying to get on paper whatever was in my mind at that moment, and see where it went.

This is an excerpt from that journal, written on a day as mundane as any other. Reading it feels familiar. But also as if it came from another person, and perhaps a better one.

2 months are almost up.

Where does the time go? One year ago, I was stepping off a plane with someone I barely knew. Each day has felt long, yet looking back it seems a blur of emotions, weather, pain and joy, landscapes. We have a home now, filled with people and all the collected pets that attached themselves to our hearts like burrs on felt.

I’ve learned things. Even as recently as the last few weeks. My heart has transformed its shape too many times, more than I care to recall. The full spectrum of human emotion. Learning what to do with myself, a transitory creature. I mold and shape my life, or allow it to be shaped, in hopes of a place in my distant future, traveling a narrow road before I rest.

Faces clutter my mind. Old ones are within the deepest layers, but new ones crowd the surface. Men and women enshrouded in swaths of black cloth, adorned with bright beads, yellow, red, white. Gapped front teeth and outstretched hand in greeting, polite indifference. Not every tribe is hungry or waiting for the message of salvation. Salvation from what? They like their lives. They aren’t plagued with as much melancholy or self-doubt as a Western mind. They love the dancing, the controlled breathing, their flocks of sheep, goats, herds of cattle. White milk homogenized in large gourds, tangy, thick, on the verge of becoming yogurt, served in thin metal bowls. Honey, dark and sweet, that tastes like flowers.

It’s been a year of reflection, a flip coin of self-loathing and a realization of God’s grace. You can’t give what you don’t have, and so many people come to me, asking and asking until I feel devoid of everything, not only of monetary units of currency. Like a steady metronome, I feel my heart click back and forth between compassion and exasperation. Am I a missionary, or a benefactor? It would be all too easy to pack my things and fly home. No one would begrudge me defeat.

If that is all I am, all I will be, then it is meaningless. If I felt such an inclination to improve humanity’s condition, there are others worse off. No, that is not why I have come. I was sent, called, and not in the way people always talk about. “How did you find your calling?” I never received a celestial message informing me that I was supposed to devote my life to missions. No. For a long time my uncertainty ate me away, even after coming here, even after considering the circumstances that preceded my arrival.

These people don’t know Jesus.

That fact alone, I am not proud to admit, is often not strong enough for me, yet it’s strong enough for the God who sent me. And in my most desperate moments, that truth buoys, it transcends every petty, vapid thought I have that savours of lost hope and impatience.

When you pray that He will be strong in your weaknesses, He does not make you stronger. He rather uses your failings as a backdrop, a juxtaposition, for His light and wonders. The darker the night the brighter the stars, and I can see where my Father is present, why I can endure at all in a place so lonely and desolate. The fact that I am where I am at all is to His credit. When compassion wells up within me, after weeks of being asked and begging, I know where it comes from.

Because, you see, it’s a choice. Many claim that you can’t control how you feel, but you can control what you remember. My first reaction, weary after all this time, is to become tired and resentful. But then I choose not to forget my past debts that have been pardoned, How many times do I ask my Father for my needs? And in His way, He gently turns my heart away from myself  and to the those who are yet strangers. He waits for me, day to day, to remember what I need to know. I’ve grown calmer, on the inside. The edge is being worn off.

I fear judgement from others, and in turn God is feared by me; I don’t allow myself to hope for favor because I know what I deserve and have learned in life to keep my expectations quiet, to not make an opportunity for rejection.

You begin to see how weak I am.

But…but how can I convince others of a love I either don’t remember or lack faith in?

My peace comes in loving others, because then it makes it tangible. “This is how God has loved me. That is where I learned how.” Like sitting down to a grand piano and allowing your fingers to sink into ivory keys, listening to deep tones that resonate through to your bones. At that moment you remember the lessons, the tutor, the instruction. It comes back to you.

The beginning

The wind deftly gathered her hair, swept it over her face. She closed her eyes, and listened to the boom of the waves as they came and went, over and over, endlessly. She could feel the clouds gathering above her, and she wondered whether she should move or not. As the light, cool rain fell on her hands and knees, she didn’t care enough to leave, so she hugged her legs to her chest and rested her head on them.

It was a bluff overlooking the ocean. The edge curved out over rocks and churning water some three hundred feet below, and one might have judged it an unsafe place to gather thoughts. Although she never gathered them there. She let them settle. Her musings, like so many small forest animals, were wont to wander without schedule or structure. The pounding of the water and the salt in the air let them rest. And as the noises faded, the quieter things would slowly begin to surface. Her heart would relax enough to reveal its answers, like a loosened grip that holds a starry gem.

Growing up, she and boy, a neighbor, would come with her to this place. Every summer when she would visit for her Grandma’s Birthday, they would slip away from the lemonade and the excitable dogs driven to madness by the seagulls that taunted them, all her raucous cousins, and would run to their secret place. Up a steep, rocky path they’d climb, grasping tree limbs and roots with both hands. When they had initially discovered it, it was partially hidden by a crop of thorny bushes and seemed long forgotten. But they spied faint traces of packed dirt that might have once been a trail, and so they had pushed through the protective foliage.

Their hearts raced at the vantage point, that first time. They had smiled at each other, both in silent agreement that this was something they would never share.

And she never did.

15 years later, her cares were a bit heavier than finding unbroken sand dollars and scraped knees. A new pain throbbed through her veins, overwhelming her heart as it strained to keep her alive. Her spirit was failing her, and it was time to say goodbye.

Her fingers pulled through the grasses at her sides, breaking the thin blades away from the earth and offering them to the wind, feeling as if she was offering the world all her years at the same time. It took them both, replacing the green, vernal life with air. Her hair and her sweatshirt were becoming soaked with the rain that steadily peppered her from the dark sky. She hadn’t been to this spot for a long time, but already she felt it working out the knot in her chest. The sea acted as a magnet; it’s own strife and movement drawing the anxiety out of her mind and into itself, leaving her empty. Lightening cracked, rain ran down her hair and cheeks, across her closed lids.

Without warning she remembered gray eyes and black hair, the tug of his hand on her wrist. She could hear his infectious laugh at her fearlessness, which was little more than innocence at that time. Sitting on small, white flowers that matted the nooks and crannies of the hard boulders.

She didn’t know what had called so far back to the beginning, to this place, as she  found herself at the end. she could remember the thrill of excitement when they first saw each other, and escaped to the beach before saying a word. Talking had never been a priority anyway; words had rarely been necessary. Their silence was their bond. The memories came so clear and sharp it seemed like yesterday, and she marveled at finding them so wholly untouched by the imperfections that plagued humanity.

She sighed. It grew still, then, as if she had moved into the space between moments, the part of the world that evaded time. Her flesh felt a weight being lifted, and light filled her mind, blinding her visions of the past and warming her through to the bone.

She stood. Reaching into her pocket, she brought forth a piece of something that shone a deep gold, a ring, a piece of her heart. With great carefulness she knelt and swept dirt away to make a shallow hole, and placed the weight inside, burying it. And she let him go.

The quiet

I’m leaving the country on Tuesday.

I went shopping yesterday, to pick up a few things. Toothbrush containers, earplugs, envelopes, a sewing kit. I almost bought a designer pair of tweezers. I’ve never lived in Africa, so right now it’s hard to imagine what I might need, and what would be superfluous. I’m just kind of slowly chipping away at the lists people have given me.

I decided I wanted some solid perfume, because, hey, maybe there will be times I’ll want to smell nice while living out in the bush. I stopped by a local shop called Northern Star. It’s one of those places you go to buy tie dyed tunics, ankle bells, incense, beads, and various religious Indian nick knacks. It’s kind of hippy central in there. They had a shelf with several dozen oil perfumes, and I think I sampled at least 6. A headache developed as the fumes from my wrist bombarded my nose. I bought the scent I already have, deciding to stick with the familiar, and left. But my arms, oh gosh.

My head pounded in the car as the scent from the oils wrapped around my face like a cloud. At the next store, I made a beeline for the restrooms and promptly soaped up and scrubbed as if my hands were  infected with anthrax, but to no avail. I smelled like grandma, roses, and a Hindu temple all combined.

Earlier in the trip, I’d stopped by a salon and had my long hair trimmed. And by trimmed I mean they took away 6 inches. It’s still past my shoulders, but it was like I was Samson, and my strength was being stripped with each inch. It feels awesome, light, faster to wash (which was the whole idea), but I could hear Amy March’s voice in my head bewailing the loss of my ‘one beauty.’ And I didn’t even make 20 dollars. In fact, that’s what I payed.

So I’m driving down country roads on my way home, my hair significantly shorter, and I’m trying to sort out what that means. The window is rolled down even though it’s cold, because I can’t stand the smell of the perfume. My head hurts. I’m going to Africa in 5 days. My life is going through small and large changes in preparation.

It’s hard to imagine the arid landscapes I’ll be calling home. I’m convinced that there will be fewer ways for me to numb and distract my mind, and I’ll be drawn closer to that fountain which never runs dry. I know a year from now I’ll have seen it all made good, whatever the outcome.

I think about my dreams. I imagine my effort as a mere vapor, a drop that that falls from the sky and is soon absorbed by the desert ground that breaks its fall. But I also know that if every drop refused to fall because of it’s insignificance, everything would perish.

There’s a certain quiet that has permeated my life. I no longer feel scared or worried. I feel like I’m floating across a deep lake, and everything has settled into an indiscernible color, all the noise constrained to a hum in the back of my conscious.

I wonder if the silence is due to some fault of mine, or if it’s a time for me to wait, and listen. I wonder if this period of my life is the calm between the spaces where I’m stretched and tempered.

And then perhaps I don’t see growth because I’ve stepped off of the sand, a path where I could easily see the imprint of my steps, and have begun walking on stone. Eventually I’ll be able to look back and witness the height that I imperceptibly climbed. In any case, I am only a mere reflection of something greater. Like the moon, I redirect a source of life during my brief cycle in the heavens.

The cold finally got to me; I rolled up the window, and silently made my way home.

never forget

 

They have become almost like white noise to many. My own eyes assimilate their presence without true difference, so I am all too often guilty, myself.

Then that moment when you find one lying around, seemingly innocuous and common place: Hotel rooms, dollar stores, garage sales, coffee shops, the free bin outside the door of a local business;

When suddenly you can see the kingdoms rise and fall, the sun stopped in its natural course by the voice that formed it in the very beginning. You can taste the bread from Heaven, and the weariness of wandering through landscapes void of promise. The surge of the heart as cities are lost, but holiness is remembered, and a people wait for the redemption of their souls through centuries.

A king is born, the wise are made foolish, and the law comes to fruition. Love ravishes a world suffocating in darkness.

Words of sweet prophecy are fed to a man, and eyes turn heavenward to watch for the thief in the night. A bridegroom comes and receives the ready bride, making her perfect. Vast fields of golden wheat mature and wither in the ground, waiting on a harvester. Many sons are called into glory.

The light is passed from generation to generation, hand to hand, crossing borders and cultures. The more severe the opposition the brighter and truer it grows.

So sometimes I pick it up, and I feel the weight of it. Sometimes I hold it for a while in my hands, a thing I have done nearly every day for the past ten years, and I remember what it is, and what it’s been through. Reading it out loud to myself, I can form the words of Solomon and Paul with my own tongue, and the Spirit inside of me stirs to the message it itself inspired so long ago.

And I take courage. I take heart.

 

parting glass

Oh all the money that e’er I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all
Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
Are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had
Would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all 

 

Haiti

I remember  New York.

Finally free of the airport, we had walked out the doors and set our feet on American soil.

It was raining, and my teammates were crowded under the awning as we waited for our shuttle. Haiti’s February was far warmer and dryer, and we shivered in the embrace of our West Coast. Yet I couldn’t resist. With only a tank top, I stepped out…

I had developed a tan after a mere few hours working in the Port-au-Prince sun, and I payed dearly for it. When I arrived back at the house, people stared at me in surprise.  My skin, which was pasty Oregon white before I left, was dark and sun kissed, glowing. Even I was taken off guard by the face that looked back at me in the bathroom mirror. I had worn sunscreen to no avail, and no matter how exotic I looked, it didn’t change the fact that every inch of skin that had been exposed felt as if it had been scalded in hot water.

That night, I sat in the dinning room, silent, watching some of the girls getting their hair cornrowed by the Haitian workers who helped out with the preschool, waiting for my burns to calm down. Later that evening,  I remember curling up on a leather couch with my Bible, feeling a good sort of tired.

And the other things I remember will always be numerous…

The mosquitoes that ate me alive.

Crawling into cupboards to wash out rat feces.

Giant spiders that ran faster than my eyes could track.

The fear of Cholera in every shower,  making sure none of the water reached inside my mouth.

The deep gutters that held a soup that looked far more mysterious and dangerous than the stuff in those blue portable bathrooms we rent for concerts and parks.

Carrying buckets of rocks on my shoulder down a hill with the guys; my arms crying out in exhaustion, but my pride and determination pushing me forward.

Sunscreen. So much sunscreen.

The aroma of the bakery as we waited outside for our bread.

The outfits we had brought with us from the States, and the sight of all the little shirts, skirts, pants and shoes lined up on a big dinning room table, name tags on each one.

Dressing the preschoolers in their clean, new outfits, and watching them smile and smooth down the soft, new fabrics…Praying that their parents wouldn’t sell the clothes for food.

Sunsets, a glorious backdrop to a landscape ravished by heat and and heartache.

The value of clean water.

A sea of beautiful, dark complexions.

Colorful Tap taps and run down trucks weighed down almost to the breaking point with passengers.

The smell of diesel running through the exhausts of engines that require regular gasoline, and of burning trash on every street.

The men and women walking through the dirt-packed roads in immaculate pressed white suites.

Being able to hear Haitian Christians singing praises in church from over half a mile away.

And that moment you realize they’re singing of happy things because they are truly already familiar with brokenness and suffering. They have no desire to cry in order to feel spiritual.

The sweetest mangoes spritzed with lime.

Washington apples in the local grocery store.

A people indifferent to their own poverty.

Cool tile floors.

Oil based paint, and my subsequent appreciation for latex based ones.

Workers at the missionary’s house sitting beside you as you’re dipping your feet in the pool, showing you their cherished English vocabulary book.

Looking into the face of long term missions, the many hardships and trials, yet also appreciating the eternal vision. This, too, shall pass.

Raw sugarcane.

Leaving the city, a place where traffic is at a constant gridlock, a mile taking an hour,  and relishing the wind in your face as the truck drives a remarkable and unbelievable 50 mph.

Ragaman. An energy drink that looks like an Asian beverage, tastes almost like an apple Jolly Rancher, and was initially unimpressive. By the end we all considered it the most delicious drink we’d ever had.

A bottle of Haitian vanilla extract. Pampered Chef: 18$ Local Haitian market: 2$

The off-tune version of the Titanic theme emanating sadly from the water trucks, heralding their arrival dawn to dusk.

Arriving to white walls, and leaving them yellow.

A small, quiet child crawling into your lap.

Toppled buildings, men separating caved roofs and toppled cement walls over a year after the earthquake.

The New Jerusalem, a desert city of tents and stones reaching as far as my eyes could see.

Handing out our water and snacks, feeling like we gave a man a fish for a day…

 

I stood there at the JFK airport, in the rain, feeling it sooth the hurting and raw outward part of me that had felt the country deeply. I wanted it’s comfort more than anything else. I remember leaving a country that was not my home behind; two boys running after our truck as we departed our last work site,  stopping eventually because we were going to fast to follow any longer, waving as we drove farther and father away. I easily boarded a plane, and left behind a place people have given their life to escape. And I understood that I had just experienced a metaphor more powerful and simple than any other I had been confronted with before, one that reflected my future:

As I had left Haiti, I had also looked back over this whole world, and I knew one day, near or far, I would leave all of it behind, and I wondered what I would do with the time I had left.

I wondered how many I would take with me.

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A story about Brother #5

I have 5 brothers. Actually 6, because my sister got married.

Boys are so much different than girls. I would never say in bad ways, but  sometimes I wonder about them. Their lack of fussiness, one of the many reasons I love them, at times has provoked a face-palm or two. Like just a few days ago…

I was in the kitchen, probably cleaning; it gives me more satisfaction to make the kitchen clean than to eat breakfast (I can’t enjoy food if the place where you prepare it is dirty. I just can’t), so I often find myself with a cup of tea in one hand, putting away dishes and sweeping with the other.

I looked over, and Jaiden, the youngest at 9, was pulling homemade jam from the baking cupboard.

“Stop.” I commanded.

He paused and looked over at me, half empty jam in his hand.

“What?” (Jaiden is the best at saying this with the most deadpan expression)
“Is that jam?”
“Yeah.”
“IT WAS IN THE CUPBOARD?”
“Yeah?”
“You can’t eat that!!”
“W-why not?” he asked in great consternation and frustration.
“Because it doesn’t go in the cupboard!!” (I thought that was obvious. Whatever.)
“I-I didn’t put it in there! That’s just where I found it! Someone else put it in there!”

I snatched the jar from him. It wasn’t cold,  just mildly clammy. Thawed juice sloshed around the stuff in the middle that had a canned cranberry sauce-like consistency,  and I didn’t trust it at all.

“I don’t care, Jaiden. Jam is made of fruit! It goes bad when you leave it out! It has to go in the fridge! I’m throwing this out. Go find some other jam.”
“But-but (he talks so fast he gets ahead of himself- it’s not a stutter.) There’s no more jam in the fridge!”

Jaiden says lot if things like this: I don’t have a single pair of clean pants (that’s why I’m wearing my brother’s).  That lost library book isn’t anywhere to be found in the entire house. I’m so hungry I feel sick. There’s not a single portion of jam in the fridge. And he usually knows all this without even looking, too.

Without saying much, I opened the fridge door. After 4 seconds of looking, I grabbed the jar of jam that was on bottom shelf, right in front, and handed it to him.

“Oh, thanks.”
I continued cleaning, thinking, You’re gonna need a wife someday, pal.

Boys.

Going Back

So I’ve moved away from Seattle.

I’m okay with this for a number of reasons. I’ve sat through my fair share of traffic. I had a moment in the car this summer, parked on the freeway, where I looked around at all the commuters with indifferent expressions and thought, Oh my word. I don’t think I consider this a massive waste of time anymore. I’m actually, truly, one of those people who considers it completely natural to wile away my life in my vehicle, and I’m not even depressed about it…

It was a poignant moment, my friends.

I burned through two whole cars this summer. As I watched the tow truck wheel away car #2 to the junkyard, again I had thoughts, and they went something like, screw this. I’m buying a bike. 

It was painful leaving the life I had cultivated for the past two years. I had good friends, a solid church family. I just miss Washington in general, too. I’ll miss driving over Lake Union every evening on my way home, and I’ll miss my breath catching at the sight of the Olympics and Cascades, Mount Rainier. I’ll miss the lights of Seattle made brilliant by cloudless, black nights. So many things clutter my heart in regard to that place, and I think that’s why I left. It was growing too comfortable. Too dear. I had to start running again.

So I moved back home. It’s been good. It’s quieter here. There’s no bustle and fuss of the city overpowering your senses, making you lose track of what’s important. I had forgotten that I come from a big family, and that I unconsciously crave human interaction, even if it’s simply knowing that someone else is at home, and that I’m not alone.

My sister and brother in law invited me along on their weekend getaway. They run their own business selling their wares. Kevin is an excellent engraver, and also designs beautiful Celtic knot-work designs. You can check out some of his stuff HERE. Staying true to his Scottish heritage, they travel around the Northwest setting up their booth at Highland Games. It’s been awesome camping out with them in their giant box truck, feasting on cold chicken and potato chips, serenaded all day by bagpipes and the sweet, constant whine of  Kevin’s dremel. This weekend we traveled to Yachats, OR, for a Celtic music festival. My neighbor was a guy named Shane who was selling, and demonstrating, didgeridoos. Celtic? Probably not. Interesting? Heck yes.

Our first morning we picked up some coffee and sat on a bench overlooking the ocean. As I stared out onto the familiar waters of the Pacific, I emotionally exhaled. It wasn’t so much that I was carrying such a heavy burden…no. I have a good life. The yolk I carry is light. But in the midst of moving, of contemplating the purpose of my life, hearing the sound of the waves crashing against themselves and the unforgiving rocks was like someone familiar slipping their fingers though mine and holding my hand. It was just nice.

It was so good, and I thank my Father for it.

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Lost

He sat down on the cold marble, and he waited.

Rain cascaded down the glass, rivulets and streams gliding down to cement making small lakes, forcing people to maneuver to reach the double doors and enter the hotel.

Even after all this time, his jacket still smelled faintly of his sister’s cigarettes and orange blossom perfume from when he’d taken her to the symphony. He’d asked her a thousand times to quite smoking. Now the traces of it clinging within the folds, the collar, were an anchor.He sighed and leaned back against the wall. He was tired, but he didn’t allow himself to close his eyes. He might miss it. Today was his only chance. He felt around in his left pocket, eventually pulling out a tooth pick which he put in his mouth and worried with his teeth. He hated waiting. He hated rain. He hated the feeling his heart was making in his chest, which made him hate everything, which he hated.

He inhaled deeply and adjusted the collar of his wool sweater. It was hot. The walls were covered in a rich red velvet, a fire had been stoked and patrons were gathered around it pulling mink lined gloves off their hands, giving directions to bell boys, drinking hot tea. They all spoke languages he couldn’t understand, all from a different world, a world he never should have known. And suddenly, in that moment, he knew he would give anything just to be free.

His shock of blond hair fell across his eyes, and as he brushed it aside he saw it.

Sprinting up, he overturned a serving oval carrying hot chocolate and coffee, causing the server to curse. He had also startled an exceptionally small dog who was not fond of tall men or coffee, and it began to bark fervently at him, windmilling his little legs at a tremendous speed as he strained to chase the man upsetting his calm.

Leaving behind the bustle, he had made it out the door, oblivious to everything except a yellow pair of rain boots. The revelation of color had flashed through the glass doors amid a sea of legs, and was gone. He ran out to the sidewalk and searched desperately, determined but lost in the waves of movement and rain.

From inside the hotel emanated a sound that pierced his heart, and suddenly the whole street stopped. The dog had worked himself free and sprinted for the hem of a leg pant, and was promptly run over by a bellhop cart. The ensuing wail from it’s owner, a sharp keen of pain and loss, made everyone pause. The dog turned into vapor that rose to the ceiling and disappeared. Everyone stood still for a moment, half a moment, and that was all he needed. He kept his eyes locked on a small, sleet gray cloak, and he ran. As the crowds recovered and proceeded forward, he grasped and pulled the hood back, and found himself face to face with a young girl.

She had dark, dark eyes that seemed to look through him. A small thing with black hair and sweeping eyebrows, dressed in an unassuming  black dress that reached to her knees. But those boots, the yellow. He forced himself to stare into her gaze, his pulse filling his ears, and waited an eternity. But nothing could make him look away, not even her, this sentinel. He would wait forever, and she understood. She lifted her small fist up and opened it; a silver key. She blinked without expression, waiting for him. He took it. She turned around and disappeared into the bustle.

He crumpled to the ground, cradling the small key to his chest, and finally allowed himself to dream of home.

It’s A Real Place

I decided to take the scenic route home, today.

On my way from Greenlake to Rainier Beach, I passed through downtown Seattle, China Town, Columbia City, and Hilman City. Some things I passed on the way that  grabbed my attention:

The man, the legend, Mark Driscoll

driscoll

Before I moved to Seattle, I had no idea who this guy was. After I moved to the Emerald City, a friend asked if we could go to Mark’s church for good Friday service, and my reaction was “Mark who?” I’ve never been one to spend time and energy searching out contemporary preachers and evangelists; Joel Olsteen’s smile was like swallowing a mouthful of sugar, and something about Rob Bell’s eyes and manner of speech made me uneasy– there was something going on behind them that didn’t quite match up, like he was making something too easy and complicated at the same time. And most of the time there’s a reason why men grow to be famous. Every time I sit in service at a mega church, I wonder to myself, alright. What kind of white bread are we going to be served today? 

But I’ve since learned more about him, and even though I’m not entirely on board with the massive scale church model, having had some first hand run-ins with MH burnouts, he’s surprisingly grounded. Sure, it’s dangerous when thousands of people gather to witness one man preach and not because they’re seeking opportunities to serve their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, to build the Church body, but somehow he wins you over. Maybe it was the t-shirt he sported with the virgin Mary that said, “Mary is my Homegirl,”  or perhaps it’s his evident sensitivity, respect and love for women, or even his boldness to hold men and husbands accountable for their relationship with their families as spiritual leaders. And then, most importantly, there’s the powerful command he has of the Scriptures. And maybe it’s the weathered quality of his words, like he’s been and seen it all- I live only blocks away from his childhood neighborhood, and I understand his stories. I get the rawness, the depravity.

As I passed by the library,

Danger, Will Robinson.

Danger, Will Robinson.

choosing not go in because pretty much every visit ultimately turns into a 40 dollar overdue fines collections envelope on my doorstep, I was suddenly presented with this epic building:

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On the side is the permanent inscription, First United Methodist Chuch. New banners now proclaim the installation of Mars Hill.

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Stunning, is it not? Let’s pray that the worship offered inside is as beautiful as the vessel which contains  it.

So I continued on what turned out to be an epic journey. Sometimes I forget why I always take I5, and then I remember- it’s so I don’t grow old and senile in my car singing Killing me Softly with the Fugees. That’s why.

Next was China town. Shops full of fruits and vegetables, rice cookers, whole roasted ducks hanging by their necks, french pastries,  dilapidated used tire centers, lucky waving cats, Buddhas, statues and idols reflecting bright red and gold stacked to cover the window from flow to ceiling. My friend, Patrick, and I went out to eat Pho, pronounced ‘fuh’ (I know), in the international district a few months back. It looked sketch, like most places in Chinatown (there’s a pet store in an ally I’ve always wanted to check out), but it had gotten good reviews. It was delicious.

Literally the biggest image I could find.

Literally the biggest image I could find.

Patrick, who lives in Portland (a place Mark Driscoll claims is so white it probably only sells white bread), remarked, “I was walking up the street to find this place, and I realized I was the only white person I here.” That made me laugh. Rainier Valley is home to the most ethnically diverse community in the US, and I’ve enjoyed living in a place that helps curb my hunger and anxiousness to travel the world.

And another reason I love living where I live? Why, it’s because I can always satiate my cravings for marijuana.

Healing herbs? Sounds wonderful.

Healing herbs? Sounds wonderful.

I can’t tell you how many dispensaries are littered throughout Seattle, how many I passed on my way home, because they have become as the Israelites; like the stars, you cannot number them. Heck, there’s one half a mile from my house. I can start out my mornings with a run to the pot house and be back with brownies before breakfast. And in case you ever need a guide to pick out the best ones, Seattle’s here to help:

At last, a guide.

At last! A guide.

Like we’re not easy going enough. The last thing the Pacific Northwest needs is pot. One of my profs from Bible school was from Pennsylvania, and he flat out told us he was put off by the chill, ‘hang out dude’ attitude of the West coast. Where he was from people had things to do, and they did them. Apparently we just don’t have enough things to do over here. Obama can put that on the top of his check list: “Give West-coasters something to do.” Maybe I’ll write him a letter about that.

Denoting or relating to meat prepared as prescribed by Muslim law.

Denoting or relating to meat prepared as prescribed by Muslim law.

Oh, Halaal markets. Buildings the size of closets packed with everything you need for life.

I see these places and things while driving down a street called Martin Luther King Jr. Way, because there’s a large enough African American population for that name to actually mean something. A far cry from the bland Corvallis I grew up in, or from the entire state of Oregon, for that matter. Seriously. Where I live there are a lot of Muslims. A lot of people from places like Ethiopia and Somalia. One of the guards at the museum I worked at was from Somalia, pressed to leave country of birth his because of the escalating violence. When we (museum) catered for big companies like Microsoft, we’d always end up having to prepare separate Kosher and Halaal meals. Men wear tunics that reach past their knees, women cover all but their face and hands. Sometimes all I want to do is pull over in my car and tell them how they can be covered by the perfect love of Jesus.

I’ve enjoyed Ethiopian cuisine, and it was quiet tasty — but the injera made it’s presence known in my stomach. *sigh* Bread, you coy thing. You’re always keeping yourself just out of my reach.

injera1

Yes, please. I’ll take all of it.

And soon I was on the home stretch, and to my left I spied a place Rainier Beach can truly be proud of:

And yes, folks, it’s very much a real place. Excellent donuts, tasty teriyaki, and so far I’ve managed to clean all my clothes at home, so I can’t put in a good word where the laundromat is concerned. But that’s okay with me.

And then I was home!