2009 in Haiku: A Contest

Let’s have some fun looking back on 2009 together.  Write a haiku (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) summarizing 2009 in news/pop culture. The author of my favorite will be added to the list to receive a free signed copy of Evolving in Monkey Town in July.

Here’s mine: 

2009
“Opposite Marriage”
Hiked the Appalachian Trail,
Got mauled by Tiger.

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On New Year’s Resolutions and Channeling Henry David Thoreau

I take my New Year’s resolutions way too seriously, and it’s all Henry David Thoreau’s fault.

Every student of literature  goes through a phase of romanticizing the Romantics—memorizing “The Raven” even when it’s not been assigned, keeping a copy of Leaves of Grass on one’s person at all times, feigning interest in Moby Dick,  resolving to name one’s first child Pearl, writing Emerson quotes on note cards and sticking them all over the place.

While my phase came and went before I graduated from high school, there was one American Romantic I never fell out of love with.  So obsessed with Henry David Thoreau that I convinced my parents to take me on a pilgrimage to Walden Pond in Massachusetts, I vowed never to live anywhere without keeping his famous quotation in a place of honor.

And so about this time every year, I go into my office, stand before my cork board, and read Thoreau’s most celebrated words:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Then I ask myself, am I living deliberately?

Living deliberately doesn’t necessarily mean living alone in a cabin in the woods. (Little known fact: Thoreau’s cabin was within walking distance of his home, and his mom did most of his laundry for him!) Living deliberately means living on purpose, living with intention, living mindfully. It means refusing to simply accept things as they are or bow to convention. It means asking hard questions of yourself and your culture, resolving to intentionally do away with those things that are not life-giving, important, and meaningful. It means actually choosing to live rather than just letting life happen.

This is why every year, my New Year’s resolution is to lose ten pounds and live deliberately.

The living deliberately part takes on a different shape each year. One year it meant finishing my book. Another year it meant quitting my job. Another year it meant trying to take Jesus more seriously.

This year I want live deliberately by reexamining the things I think I need.

This is what I mean: It seems to me that there are all of these voices telling me that I need certain things—privacy, boundaries, a 3-bedroom house, a two-car garage, clean neighbors, cool friends, fashionable clothes, TV, junk food, exercise equipment, a plan, a religion, a career, certainty, approval, stacks and stacks of books, and lotion that gives my skin a healthy-looking glow. Rarely do I stop, take stock of how I spend my money and my time, and ask myself—Do I really need this? Is this really essential? What is its purpose?

Donald Miller put it this way:

The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life (A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, p. 124-125).

Shane Claiborne said it like this:

One of the things I think Jesus is doing is setting us free from  the heavy yoke of an oppressive way of life. I know plenty of people, both rich and poor, who are suffocating from the weight of an American dream, who find themselves heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we put upon ourselves. This is the yoke we are being set free from. The new yoke is still not easy (it’s a cross, for heaven’s sake), but we carry it together, and it is good and leads us to rest, especially for the weariest traveler (The Irresistible Revolution, p. 137).

I think that perhaps the biggest hindrance to living deliberately is allowing the invisible strings of perceived needs to move us around like puppets. My New Year’s resolution is to shake free of those strings—even if it means losing my house, losing my routine, losing some of my privacy, losing some of my stuff, losing some of my friends, losing my pride, losing my fortune, gaining my soul. My New Year's resolution is to front only the essential facts of life so that when I come to die, I will know that I truly lived.

...That, and lose ten pounds, of course.

What are some of your New Year's resolutions, both grand and simple?  And what do you think it means to live deliberately?

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The Sign

The Sign

You will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes
Wrapped in flesh
Wrapped in blood
Wrapped in bone
Wrapped in the calloused hands of a carpenter’s son
Wrapped in scandal
Wrapped in genocide
Wrapped in poverty
You will find Him

You will find Him lying in a manger
Lying in stench
Lying in sweat
Lying in forgotten places 
Lying in a disheveled heap on the street corner
Lying in newspapers
Lying in garbage
Lying in urine
You will find Him

You will find Him
Wrapped in swollen bellies
Aching for food
Wrapped in wrinkled hands
Clinging to subway seats 
Wrapped in dimpled skin
Shivering, exposed
Wrapped in flesh
Wrapped in blood
Wrapped in bone

And this will be a sign to you
You will find Him

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Merry Christmas from Monkey Town!

I brought presents!

For moms—a beautiful poem by Cheryl Lawrie about the missing verses between Luke 2: 6 and 2:7.

For my part-time theologians—an interesting conversation about universalism over on Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog.

For folks who need a break from all the annoyingly perfect family photos sent with Christmas cards—AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com.

For social justice advocates—Global Exchange announces their 2009 “Heroes At Home," and if you haven’t already, you MUST check out Kiva.

For social justice advocates who like to drink—a bottle of Fledgling wine supports literacy initiatives for children.  (There’s nothing quite like advocating under the influence!)

For my fellow blog addicts (from xkcd):

For music lovers—Grooveshark (Dan says he thinks it’s legal)

For list lovers—Time’s “The Tope 10 Everything of 2009” 

And finally, for Learning with Lawrence fans—The Christmas Special (complete with my favorite Lawrence moment EVER!)

I’ll post a poem on Christmas day, and will be back to blogging on Monday. Wishing you all a beautiful holiday, surrounded by lots of food and the people you love most!

Got any online goodies to share?

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Still Waiting

“O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, o Israel”

I never really understood the significance of Advent as a season of waiting until this year, as Dan and I have mourned alongside a dear friend recently devastated by the betrayal of someone close.

For three weeks now, we have been waiting—waiting for word, waiting for an explanation, waiting for direction, waiting for even the smallest sign of hope.

Nothing.

We have prayed that God would bring about repentance, reconciliation, and redemption.

Nothing.

We have prayed for patience, for wisdom, for a miracle.

Nothing.

Often I have thought about the people of Israel—mourning in lowly exile, waiting for the Messiah to release them from captivity. And often I have thought about the Church—waiting for a second Advent, waiting for all things to be made new and for the Kingdom of God to reach fruition.

This year I understand better what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”(Romans 8:22)

Encountering once again the devastating effects of our broken and sinful world, particularly this time of year, has stirred inside of me a strange sense of solidarity, and a surprising sense of hope. I don’t know how this specific situation will be healed, but Advent reminds me that God rewards the patient in unexpected and beautiful ways.

To those awaiting a military victory over their enemies, He sent a Messiah who taught liberation through forgiveness and peace.

To those awaiting political victory, He sent a King who was crucified on a cross.

To those awaiting wealth and power, He anointed a Servant to “preach good news to the poor…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

And to those awaiting a mighty and vengeful God, He sent a helpless baby.

God’s ways are always unexpected, but always right. He answers our prayers, not by giving us what we want, but by giving us what we need. At Advent we remember that God will make good on His promise to redeem this screwed up world, even if He has to squeeze Himself into flesh and blood to do it.

But in the meantime, we wait.

And sometimes waiting sucks.

***

In what ways are you waiting this Advent season? What have you learned about patience and hope this year?

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