Last year, my uncle gifted me an old composition book that belonged to Grandma Jean long before she was a grandmother to anyone, a mother to anyone, a wife to anyone... she was little Jean Piersel, a teenager in saddle shoes, and she filled this little book with clippings about the movie stars of the 1930s and 1940s. Her own observations fleck the pages in girlish, oblivious script. It was a great insight into my grandmother and her youth.
If only she knew that I share her adoration of those golden years in Hollywood. If only she knew that I grew up gazing at a picture of her, nigh eighteen, golden hair sloping in perfect forties style and resting gently on her delicate, alabaster collar bones, and that I thought she was possibly the most beautiful human I'd ever seen.
At any rate, my Grandma Jean Campagna was a poet and an artist. Her playful watercolors captured seasonal scenes from her little town of Moline, Illinois. An ice skater with a blue scarf... autumn leaves in a collage on the ground...
Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Erik Reece, an author and English professor at the University of Kentucky. When he was young, he lost his preacher father to suicide. Understandably, Reece grew up at odds with a church which pounded fear and guilt into (and, perhaps arguably, out of) the hearts of its parishioners.
Reece's childhood church burned down when he was seventeen years old, and he took this to be an omen that it was time for him to follow his own path into the world, rather than walking in the well trodden footprints of his father and grandfather, a charismatic preacher. After his father's suicide, Reece's mother gave him the Bible which his father had kept close to him since his time in seminary. It had been on the table beside the bed where he took his own life, and the page where the bookmark had been tucked opened to Matthew 10.
34 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. 37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
This is a passage with which many Christians struggle. Christ, son of God, sinless lamb, bringer of a covenant founded on unconditional love, here proclaims his purpose to divide families and to bring a sword to the world. This is not the peaceful, arms-wide-open image modern Christians like to project. This Christ is, in the words of Erik Reece, an egomaniac.
If my blog is a testament to anything, it's to the fact of my own verbosity. (And "verbosity" is a testament to the fact that, when I run out of words, I'm not shy about inventing my own.) But a while back, I heard a fun, fascinating little story on NPR that challenged me to slow my verbal torrent for a moment and consider the following question:
Can you sum up your love life in exactly six words?
Well, gosh... Love is so grand, so big, so beautiful, so tempermental, so grave, so fickle, so overwhelming, so comforting, so eternal. This was going to be harder than I thought.
Smith Magazine put out this challenge to the masses and collected so-called "six word memoirs" for publication. The following is a list of a few of those "memoirs" which Smith Magazine accepted:
Red-eye. Him window. Me aisle. Love.
- Joanne Flynn Black
If I get Chlamydia, blame MySpace.
- Hanorah Slocum
Will government ever let us marry?
- Viki Marsh
Silently suffered his facial hair experiments.
- Elizabeth Minkel
What do you want for dinner?
- Drew Magary
If only he wasn't a Republican.
- Holly Fitzpatrick
Tried men. Tried women. Like cats.
- Dona Bumgarner
Funny, poignant, sad, true. It's poetry! And there's something peaceful about being given the parameter of six words. One of my favorite poetic structures is the Haiku, mostly because achieving something profound with only 17 syllables is thrilling for me. It's akin to bronc busting or raising a Bonsai Tree or caligraphy. It takes precision. It takes humility.
The following is my six-word memoir on my love life:
Running around the world, holding hands.
If you feel up for it, give it a go... just six little words, and a little bit of therapy along the way. (The complete article on the venture can be found here.)
My personal policy once I post a blog entry is to leave it exactly as I posted it, even when I later see things that ought to be changed... this keeps me accountable. I want to acknowledge right now that in my entry entitled Calling for The Symbiotic Life, I was making some very broad generalizations.
To which I reply, "Cedar Grove Community Church. It's the one on College Avenue with all the big trees."
In Livermore and Pleasanton, that response is met with nodding and smiling. People know my church. It's lovely. It's been there forever. It's experienced a lot of very public turmoil with its neighbors due to past desires to expand. But recently, expansion hasn't been at the forefront of CGCC's agenda.
Years ago, our church was thriving. It housed a church body of believers who happily attended services on Sunday mornings for interesting, low-key sermons and the opportunity for fellowship, but who were also fed spiritually by a set of small groups which met all over the community.
Our youth group was a place where teenagers felt safe, had fun, and wanted to bring their friends. Those of us in the youth group who didn't feel spiritually challenged on Sunday mornings were met with productive solutions... separate Bible studies and the creation of a youth missions board.
Bolstered by a calendar jammed with activities, a vibrant, well organized program for children, and an overtly welcoming atmosphere, CGCC's church family was growing rapidly, and a plan to move to a new location was born from that optimistic, joyful foundation soil.
A plot of land was purchased. Architectural drawings of the new building were placed in the lobby. Each elevation was crisp and sleek and bright, banked by panoramic views of purple vineyards and golden foothills, exactly the way a House of God should be.
Many of us can pinpoint the day all of those effectively-laid plans evaporated. It had to do with CGCC jumping on a bandwagon.
I've read parts of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and it's an interesting and inspirational consideration of the purpose of human beings. Congregations across America adopted the structure of the book in a movement focused on the Forty Days of Purpose and discovering church-level fulfillment, something that would, ideally, translate to discovery of personal fulfillment on the part of individual parishioners.