Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thanksgiving stress

Going full Martha: some Thanksgiving advice

Later today, we are going over to my cousin’s house for Thanksgiving. We’re bringing some food. See, we are inconvenient guests— my wife is gluten-free, and my daughter and I are both vegetarian— so it’s easy to feel like we need to go the absolute limit to keep our hosts from feeling imposed upon.

Thanksgiving as a holiday is complicated, and I don’t have space here to go into all the reasons why. (For example, my church this week hosted a 3-hour support group session for those facing difficult family situations at the holidays.) However, there is one source of stress that, in my experience, is often self-inflicted. More than any other holiday, I think, Thanksgiving tends to bring out the raging inner Martha.

A quick recap for those who don’t know the story: Jesus was coming over; there was a ton of work to do. Martha was running around the house completely frantic to get it all done; Mary blew it off and just hung out with him in the living room. Jesus said, “Mary’s got it right.”

For those of us celebrating with family and friends today, don’t forget that the main point is to celebrate with family and friends. If the turkey gets dry or the wine runs out or the napkins are paper, it couldn’t possibly matter less. In a real sense, it couldn’t possibly matter less.

So, as for our Thanksgiving: last night we could have driven ourselves late into the night, cooking & cleaning in a never-ending loop to manufacture all our own specialty food. But we didn’t. It’ll be OK; Thanksgivings have plenty to eat.

Instead we got to a point where it was close enough. Then we went to bed early, read a story with the kids, watched part of our favorite Christmas movie, and fell asleep in each others’ arms. In that moment, I truly knew what it was to be thankful.

 

P.S. Apologies to those who thought this was going to be a post about Martha Stewart.

rainbow after the storm

“Nothing to shout about”, or, my four-month break

It was July 4th. That was when I decided I needed a break. Four months. Important things have happened in that time. Much of it never made the news.

  • We found a new church home. My daughter was hugely relieved as she gets attached easily and “church dating” has been really hard on her.
  • I returned to Yosemite for the first time since my childhood best friend was killed there in a rock climbing accident in 2005. It was even more beautiful than I remembered.
  • In Monterey, my wife and I spent 10 hours battling seasickness in a tiny boat to see an actual, live albatross in flight overhead, something I had wanted to do since I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at age 12.
  • Within three days in late September, two of my favorite bloggers each posted that they are hanging it up, one for a break, and the other, for good.
  • My family witnessed, together, an outcome in the World Series unprecedented since before my daughter’s great-grandparents were born.
  • And yes, our country chose a new president, and I have sat with various friends through all their different reactions: some elated, some terrified.

I have posted before about sabbath: how important, and yet how little valued it is in our day. Especially for those who believe in their work, it is easy to justify the never-ending, bit-by-bit deplenishment of spirit that comes from doing just one more small thing.

Important things have been happening in our society. I know what I’m supposed to do if I want to be a successful writer: I need to write about what’s hot. I need to tap into the zeitgeist. I can only be relevant by connecting with an audience, and if this is a hard, cynical age, marked by division and mistrust, then I need to toss a coin, choose my side, and start shouting.

That is what I could not bring myself to do. As I stood on the sidelines these past four months, witness to all the sound and fury, I could not help remembering the words from Shakespeare’s King Lear: “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”

I care passionately about what is happening in our society. I believe this is a historic moment. And I believe, at a time like this, that some things— like how we treat those who disagree— are more important than which side wins.

Some hear me calling for reconciliation and mutual respect, and they hear only the voice of white privilege, brimming with complaisance and naïveté. Some hear the voice of betrayal. Some hear nice words but with no real power. But I do not believe that Christ was complacent or naïve, or that bipartisanship equals betrayal, and as for those “nice words”: history has shown they are the only words with any real power to heal.

Where does it end?

Where does it end?

It is the day after the election, 2016. As predicted, one of the candidates won.

There is no redemption, no repentance, no rejection of the nastiness with which this campaign has been conducted on both sides. Nobody made up their mind to do better or differently next time. If anything, we will see everyone trying to do even more and out-nasty each other even worse the next time.

It is a sad day for those of us who value civility, decorum, peace. Regardless of the outcome, it was always going to be. This is a time for those who want war. Where will it lead?

How horrible to each other can we consistently be before we reach the breaking point? At what point does it become meaningless to say which of the two roosters “won” the cockfight? At what point have we sunk so low that the ugliness and the nastiness consume us? If the only way to defeat nastiness is by being even nastier, then where does it end?

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Proverbs 14:12