Matt King

For all of Matt’s community at DCF and all of Matt’s community here in Charlottesville at All Souls and Eunoia, we remember this:

We do not mourn as those who have no hope. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, death has been refused the final word. Matt’s final hours were spent serving @ The Haven, a homeless shelter where All Souls serves breakfast each Monday. He was always there, smiling and ready to work and love all around him.

Death is swallowed up in victory. {the apostle paul}

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are easter people, and hallelujah is our song. {pope john paul}

~You can enjoy Matt’s excelllent photography here.
~Information on the memorial service in Charlottesville is here.
~The funeral will be in Summerville, SC on Saturday @ 11

If you would like to leave a memory or a prayer, feel free. We will collect them and get them to Matt’s parents and brother.

Culinary GameChangers

I can find my way around a kitchen. I may not be as fussy about cleaning up as Miska would like, but on the whole, I do alright.

Allow me to share with you three kitchen gadgets that have changed my world.

[1] Double-walled tea cup. I love tea cups without handles so I can cuddle with the warmth. However I do not like first-degree burns on my palms and fingers. With this cup, burns begone.

[2] Egg-Perfect Egg Timer. We eat lots of boiled eggs in our house. And everyone in the fam likes theirs cooked differently, which provides a problem for someone as haphazard and chaotic as me. This little beaut is a godsend. With lines inside indicating the various preparation levels (soft / medium / hard), all you have to do is drop the timer in the water with the eggs and watch it do its magic. As the timer heats up, the color changes in sync with the level to which it has cooked. I can not tell you how amazing this is.

[3] Pampered Chef Butter Softener. First off, two words: Pampered Chef. ‘Nuff said. You are welcome to invite me to your party anytime. I love butter, real butter, like the stuff that actually traces its roots back to cows. I love soft butter, the kind that doesn’t require a hacksaw to spread evenly on your bread. However, I do not like margarine or anything that surprised me that it is not butter. In other words, I do not like to eat plastic. This little culinary marvel allows you to drop your (real) butter inside, pour a little water in the lid (don’t ask me how this works) – and sit this technological miracle on the cabinet (yes, cabinet – it doesn’t even need to be refrigerated). Then, sweet mary! whenever you have a late night hankering for toast, you are one happy little chef.

Any marvels you care to share? And if you know a way to salvage the train wreck that happens every time I try to peel the shell off our boiled eggs, I will rise up and call you blessed.

Dance.

I saw this tonight, and I’m not ashamed to say I cried. Since Buechner says to pay attention to our tears, I will. I pray that all my family and friends, my community, my city and neighbors – myself – will know this kind of free joy, celebration, such reckless eruption of undeniable life. And I love that this was at a wedding, a moment of beginnings and beauty and goodness.

May you dance. Free. Me too.

Oh – and I love how the (slightly elder) pastor/priest was getting her groove on too. Joy is infectious.

peace – and dance.

Wyatt the Brave

Wyatt, our oldest son, turned 7 today – and he’s lived every bit of his 7 years, then some. Recently at All Souls, we passed out those little 12 inch wooden manikins, the ones that have joints and can be manipulated any number of ways. The project was simple, for each of us to paint or construct or do whatever with our manikin to represent our sense of what God is doing in us, redeeming in us, calling out of us. This was to be a reflection of our hope, which is to say – this was another way of praying.

As Wyatt worked on his, two of the words he said his manikin represented were “brave” and “strong-hearted.” Well, people, let me tell you – there we have a prayer where the answer is already in the works. I see it in him. I live it with him. He’s on his way.

One of my favorite stories with Wyatt this past year was from his first semester in first grade. Apparently the discipline system works like this: each student has a paper balloon beside their name; and each time they get in trouble, they have to move their balloon. With each balloon move, the consequences escalate. Much too far into the year, Wyatt informed me that he had yet to move his balloon, not once. That would never do. As one (me) who has often been far too concerned with making mistakes, I hope for Wyatt to be more free with chaos, more okay with not meeting up to every expectation laid upon him. So, I made a deal with Wyatt.

Wyatt, I’ll pay you a dollar the first time you have to move your balloon.

It didn’t take but a day or two – and Wyatt came home with the news that, sure enough, he’d been reprimanded at school and (shudder) had to move his balloon – and that I needed to hand over a green one.

I did, gladly.

Happy birthday, son. Let’s be brave together.

Torture

A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that white evangelical Christians are more likely to support torture than people who rarely or never attend religious services. (from CNN)

And we say we live for another Kingdom?

God help us.

Being You (and me)

On my last birthday, a friend sent me a card. She said some kind things, but two simple words sunk deep: Be you. I’ve heard it before, haven’t we all? But this time I found my heart grabbing at the words, clinging to them, knowing they were more true now for me than perhaps they’ve been before.

I live in a city with a load of history, an inspiring narrative – but a narrative that also lends itself to some degree of pretense and self-importance. Like any city, we have gatekeepers and elites and those who are “in” and those who are “out.” I want to be “in.” But I know the truth: Be you. And come what may.

Also, my writing – it’s been stuck for a while. The books I have published have been read by a few, but only a few. If I allow myself (and I do sometimes), I take measure by other writers I respect, other writers who seem to me far better at our craft. Then I start to scratch and claw to assert myself as a serious writer, so people will, you know, take me seriously. But I know the truth: Be you. And come what may.

A couple weeks ago, I heard civil rights icon John Perkins speak. This seventy-eight year old man has vigor and wisdom – I could listen to him for days. His passion and his life’s work raise vital questions of how the message of Jesus radically alters our views of justice, particularly the rejuvenation of forgotten neighborhoods. This topic pushes theological buttons for me, such as my firm conviction that Christian faith has embedded implications many of us have chosen to ignore. In good ways, this conversation pushes into other places – asking me what my responsibility is to my neighbors and to justice, asking me how my resources and skill will join God’s work of making all things new.

But these conversation also go someplace else, someplace hard to describe in words – but a place I know well. Most of my life, I’ve had an independent streak; sometimes good, sometimes not so much. But I’ve also had a strong impulse to meet expectations, to “get it right,” to not be dismissed by another because I don’t live up to whatever it is I presume they want me to live up to. Exhausting.

So, I hear stories of heroic lifestyle choices and noble justice work and radical communal life/integration; and I notice how my life is more vanilla, more middle class. And I feel guilty. Not open or curious or (healthily) wondering if God might be pushing me somewhere new. Just guilty.

My heart must have been moving toward that guilty place as I heard Perkins because of how I responded when, in one moment, he grew emphatic: “This is a call. You have to ask God what your call is. And then live it, whatever it is. Don’t live my call. And have some common sense – don’t be stupid about all this.” And I felt tears. I felt hope. Again, in my soul, I heard these words: Be you.

Not John Perkins. You.

For me, a whole host of names could follow the “Not” and come before the “you,” names from my story, from my profession, women and men I respect:

Not Frederick Buechner. You.

Not John Collier, Sr. You.

I’ll stop with specifics here because the list could go on and it could get embarrassing.

Truth is, though, God already made a Buechner and a Perkins and a Collier, Sr. They have their story, their path, their gifts (and their demons). The world doesn’t need another them. The world needs one (and only one) of me.

Here I pause, shrinking back from my word choice, typing “needs” in the sentence previous. Needs? Perhaps I’ve gotten carried away. Perhaps a backspace for a few strokes could clear up the damage. No. Needs does just fine. Of course, the world would survive without me. The sun would still shine and the rain would still fall. But (and I’m going to type it loud, if there is a way to do such a thing): without me, the world would miss something particular, something unique that God intended to be here.

And without you (typing loud again) the world would be an uglier place, a hollower place. I’m glad you’re here, just like you are – why don’t you be glad too?

So, let’s make a pact together, what do you say? No more comparing. No more self-cannibalization as we wonder if we are good enough, beautiful enough, generous enough, green enough, witty enough, smart enough, artistic enough, kind enough. Enough.

Let’s Live from our heart. Be curious about what God might be up to around us. Step with courage into those places that God and our heart tells us are true. And live.

Be you.

Fish and Eagleton

The recent God-debates (Hitchens, Dawkins, D’souza et al.) have, if nothing else, raised again the question: what is Christianity good for? And that is a question any of us who claim the faith ought care about.

Stanley Fish’s recent piece in the NY Times, God Talk, interacts with Terry Eagleton’s book, Reason, Faith and Revolution. Without adhering to any version of Christian orthodoxy, Eagleton has little patience for the triumphant, absolutist pronouncements of those who dismiss faith to the intellectual backwaters, certain that there are more productive ways to find human guidance. Essentially, Eagleton suggests that all other options (capitalism, democracy, modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, science, reason – you name it) simply don’t deliver. “What other symbolic form,” asks Eagleton, “has managed to forge such direct links between the most universal and absolute of truths and the everyday practices of countless millions of men and women?”

Take a read. Tell me what you think. And if you need another teaser:

A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.