Posts Tagged ‘Calling’

Obsessing About My 1999 Honda

In Uncategorized on July 23, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

Don’t tell any prospective buyers, but our car is starting to go to shit. In addition to having to replace a side mirror – an unfortunately standard, New England winter, self-inflicted wound – we’ve had to replace an oxygen sensor, the catalytic converter, and a major hose over the last month. The latter part is the cheapest possible remedy to the infrequent and truly inconvenient stalling of our engine. If the hose doesn’t work, the cause is probably a difficult to detect electrical issue that will not only signal the end of our ’99 Honda, but will also compel us to trade the car in instead of selling it privately (and certainly pissing away vital resources in the process).

Since we know the ’99 is coming to an end, we’ve been looking at other cars, vans, and suv’s this week. We want something that seats six so that we can pick up our friend’s kids and our kid’s friends if need be, but we don’t want to go broke in the process. On the prideful side, I also don’t want to cut ‘em completely off by getting a mini-van.

Throughout this process, I’ve found myself on the verge of obsession about our next vehicle. Should we get a Toyota Highlander? If so, I don’t want one with the cooperative Hybrid drive. As dad would say, that’s just another thing to fix. I liked the Ford Freestyle and it’s renamed but virtually the same successor Taurus X. But the cheaper front end price results in a lower resale value and reduced durability. What about the Honda Pilot? We’ve had good experiences in the past, but can I justify spending $19K of a freaking suv?

This is not the first time I’ve obsessed about a potential purchase. I approached the long delayed purchase of an IPod – ended up with a 36 gig touch – and our new laptop – flirted with the mac, but wasn’t willing to pay a 66% premium over the Toshiba Satellite – as well.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a passionate proponent or frequent victim of retail therapy, but when I decide to buy something, the potential purchase often dominates my already limited cognitive space.

Why am I obsessed with an eventual purchase?

I’m starting to wonder if this obsession is a warped refraction of my calling to steward God’s creation. Since I’m not driven to plant and cultivate a garden or pursue shop class as soul craft, purchasing might be the passive, pitiful way that I try to express my agency and responsibility for creation. In my darkest, least reflective moments, maybe I am because I purchase, I am because I own, I am because my dining set defines me as a person.

I’ll probably never plant heirloom tomatoes, or be interested in conversations focused on them, or find satisfaction in being able to fit pipe to pipe in order to direct the flow of water and so responsibly dispense of my family’s waste. I don’t mean to denigrate those practices in any way. In fact, just this week when Preston decided to put an actual instead of metaphorical number 2 in the toilet and jammed up the works I wished I could have had as valuable a skill set – and the union wages of – as the plumber.

 But that’s not me. So in order to move beyond the trap of stewardship as shopping, I’ll have to keep trying to discipline mind and body to care for others by intentional accompaniment, provoking reflection and possibly encounter through the typed word, and skillfully working words and stories into doors that open into worlds where lives are not circumscribed by lonely, oversexed uncles and our days are not defined by purchases, but the investment of prayers, checking accounts, and listening ears in the broken but beautiful, half-whole yet potentially holy, lives of others. 


Stumbling Along

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

This morning I’m sipping black coffee out of my Soberfest® mug and thinking about the journey. This spiritual practice of sipping and reflecting is so central to my life that numerous communities I’ve served have sent me forth with both blessings and new mugs. When I left Riverglen in Milwaukee, years ago, I not only carried out the AA approved mug I’m using now, but I was also gifted with a beautiful steel tumbler that served me well for several years. Similarly, when I left L’Arche I was given a ceramic coffee mug that bore the names, in wonderfully diverse script, of core members and assistants who have been inscribed upon my heart forever.

But I digress. Probably because talking coffee is easier than opening a vein about the journey.

These last couple of post-Gathering months have been hard. Since I started following Christ intently when I was 19, I have always been aspiring towards something, whether it was a positions as a theology professor, a church planter, a preaching provocateur, or, perhaps most absurdly, a pastor. I still carry scraps of those dreams with me, but currently I’m a layman who is learning to fall back in love with God, while desperately trying to embody the love of Christ and incarnate the compassion of Christ on a daily basis.

In one sense, I’m fortunate. As Kellie reminded me last night, for four years I’ve had the privilege to walk beside the differently abled on a daily basis and watch them navigate, and sometimes overcome, barriers that would have long since brought me to my knees. I would never say that my daily work is pastoral work, but it is inspired by my belief that the whole life that the members of my community are pursuing is not all that different than the holy life that Christ followers aspire to.* Sometimes the work we do cuts so close to the core of what it means to be whole, and perhaps holy, that it has driven me towards fasting and prayer. The IMPACT:Ability comprehensive violence prevention program** that is contingent on funding we hope to hear about today, is definitely one example of an initiative that has rent my heart.  I told Kellie the other day that I like I’ve actually developed emotions*** throughout process of advocating for IMPACT:Ability and awaiting to hear about potential funding. When we hear about the foundation’s decision today – if we hear about the foundation’s decision today – I think that, regardless of the outcome, I am going to cry and need a couple days off. So I’m thankful for meaningful work.

In other senses, I’m fortunate as well. Even in these dry times, I’m being nourished by the life and worship of Christ Church in Hamilton Wenham. Throughout the week I find myself singing the liturgy internally or aloud, and I am grateful to sit under the preaching of Father Patrick Gray, who is one of the most gifted weekly preachers I have ever heard. I’m also playing on the Christ Church’s Crushing Crozier’s – feel free to ridicule – softball team. In so doing I have met a number of men from the church and finally made peace with the fact that my bat speed is gone and I never could hit. I’m having fun in the midst of my suck and that is quite an accomplishment for me.

Almost two weeks ago, our family had the privilege of accompanying our dear friends Callid and Kristina Keefe-Perry on a Quaker Retreat at the Powell House in New York. In addition to the blessing of spending time with Nahar, their daughter, during the retreat, we both had the opportunity to participate in Quaker worship and learn to listen to the Spirit who is constantly shaping us into disciples. Both Kellie and I found the worship invigorating. At one point I was overcome by the image of the burning bush and reminded that God’s revelation is ongoing and his presence cannot be consumed by my busyness, ignorance, or brokenness.

I’m also reading Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor. Peterson is clearly a true poet and spiritual pilgrim who is worthy of emulation. I’m tempted to provide numerous reflections on the book, but for the sake of space will simply say that his narrative has reminded me that as I stumble through this unknown landscape I cannot step outside of my calling.****I don’t know if I can lay claim to the function***** or the title of Pastor, since my gifts and practice have always aligned much more closely with Preacher. Nevertheless, I can hope and pray for the development of the former function and I have much to learn from Eugene’s journey.

That’s where I am at the moment. I’m not discouraged by this leg of the journey, just a bit baffled. If you’re the praying sort, I wouldn’t begrudge a petition for my direction. But you can rest assured that I am blessed as I continue along the way of living up and into the grace and calling which God has given me.

* Mrs. Riggs, I apologize for ending the sentence with a preposition. Sometimes it sounds so right.

** If you want to read another pastoral perspective on that project, check this amazing post out.

*** In addition to anger, which I’ve long cornered the market on (Sorry again, Mrs. R!).

**** Which is a gift, not an aspiration.

***** Which is always the vital thing, isn’t it?

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