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Several Versions of Freedom and Whole 30 (Later)

I was supposed to spend today grading, but I decided to spend the day doing things I love, instead of the one thing I have to do that I don’t necessarily like to do. I started the day with a bike ride with a good friend and colleague. When we started riding, there was an almost non-existent mist that slowly turned into a full-on ice-cold rain. By the time we parted ways, we were drenched. We had great conversation and so much fun. It’s good to be adventurous, even if that only means two grown women riding bikes in the rain. Freedom.

After the bike ride, I took a nice, long, hot shower to warm up. I savored the warmth and the smell of my coconut body wash. Sometimes the smallest things make me smile. Mint shampoo and coconut body wash. Smiles. I won’t be needing the mint shampoo again any time soon, because I cut my hair.I just couldn’t take the fluff and stuff anymore, even though one of my high school students just told me on Friday that my hair was bad ass. I could be the queen of bad-assery, but it was also annoying, so the hair had to go. And, as another friend just commented on my Facebook page, maybe my this will “shave” a little time off my swimming laps! Freedom.

March 5: Mohawk

April 14: No Hair

After my hot shower, I put on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt and went out on the porch. I sat there watching the rain fall. I prayed the morning prayer for April 14 from Common Prayer. I read from Exodus where the Israelites are beginning to make the tabernacle in the desert and from Thessalonians: “We had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others […]. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.” (2:3-8) I love the last little bit there: sharing the gospel and our own selves.Is it freedom to share yourself?

Right there, early this morning, I was challenged to think about the ways in which I may share the gospel, but not necessarily share my own self.

I was forced to ask myself: how can you share the gospel and yourself?

I also spent a little time reading from Reluctant Pilgrim, and I ran across this passage, which so eloquently explains how I feel about communion, or the Eucharist: “I wish I could string together random beads of words to illustrate what it means to me to take Communion. Each time I walk up  the aisle to the communion servers, I always feel like I am walking up to meet Christ. And there’s a weird mixture of awkward embarrassment, longing, joy, relief, and anxious impatience swirling around my insides. I feel terribly unworthy, greedily hungry, and deeply grateful all at once.” Yes, that’s exactly how it is. Such a humbling experience. Tangible grace. Palpable peace. Freedom.

Throughout the day, I made guacamole and lemon-coconut chicken soup with kale, spent time with Bec grocery shopping, took a nap, and then cooked dinner. We had minimally-processed grass-fed sirloin steaks, broccoli and cauliflower, and salad. I had an Angry Orchard Ginger Hard Cider to drink, which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t delicious. I give it a C. I love cooking the steaks on the grill, and we’ve been using nice hardwood charcoal in combination with some hickory wood, so the steaks taste like they’ve been cooked over a campfire. These steaks were particularly tender and juicy. Delicious.

Angry Orchard Ginger Cider

Yummy Din-Dins

Finally, I have decided to wait until school is out to try the Whole 30. I just can’t have the stress of no sugar and no alcohol on my body while I am in the most busy part of the school year. I know the end result will be much less stress on my body, but I’ve cut things out before and known the way it can fuck with your normal, every day bodily functions, and I don’t want to try to deal with all of that while grading, planning, and trying to discipline for the next to last month of school. I know it will be good for me, and I know my body will thank me once it’s cleansed, so I plan to spend the month of June detoxifying my body. I am hoping to lose another 40 pounds over the summer by eating amazingly well, organic, fresh, local, and all that. But I also hope to do two-a-days, running and swimming in the morning and in the evening. Not as punishment or even as “training,” but just for fun. I love using my body for the purposes it was intended for, and summer always seems to make me feel so much more alive. Freedom.

(Holy) Saturday Between Death and Resurrection

The Saturday between Holy Friday and Easter Sunday is usually a day I spend wondering what exactly Jesus’ death on the cross means for us. Does it mean that God was “dead” for a day? Or does it mean that Jesus, the human, was dead for a day? Does it mean both? Does it mean neither? Did Jesus descend into hell? Does hell really exist? What did the disciples, both the men and the women, do for the day? What does anyone do when they are mourning the loss of a friend, a mentor, a love, a son? Did any of them anticipate what was coming? Did any of them have any foresight of the resurrection, since all the clues were  there? What does it all mean for us as Christians? What does it mean for anyone else? Basically, I usually spend Saturday worrying myself into a mess of emotion by the time Easter comes and I can celebrate the risen Christ.

This year was no exception. However, I found several meaningful distractions for myself, which took the pressure off of this Saturday.

By 7:30 in the morning I was picking up a couple of my students, so we could go run a trail race at Mounds State Park in Anderson. Neither one of them had ever run a trail race before, so the car was all full of nervous energy and excitement, as we discussed the possible layout of the course and strategies for running longer distances (they were running the 15K). We talked about all types of other things, too, which always makes driving more fun. When we got to Mounds, we registered, got our bibs, and went back to the car to change. The weather was freezing. Literally. The race started on slick, frost-covered grass. They started at 9AM, and my race, the 5K, started at 9:10.

By the time I made it into the woods and off of the grass, I was wheezing and coughing. So much for the honey helping with grass allergies, though it has worked wonders for the tree and flower allergies, because I haven’t been nearly as congested or wheezy as I was last spring. So, I ran coughing and wheezing into the woods, and I realized that everything I told the boys about the race was wrong. The race organizers used every hill at the Mounds, which is a lot of them, and the course was really challenging. The end of the 5K went up the 80 steps to the pavilion, and my legs burned and my heart felt it might explode by the time I crossed the finish line. But let’s go back for a minute: somewhere in the middle of the race, I decided I should walk up the hills and careen down them, which is a tactic I’ve never used before, but I thought it might be helpful in this race. Then, I thought, if I am going to do that, why not be playfully contemplative. So as I ran, in my mind I thought about the Jesus questions, while using my body to respond to my fears and doubts in a playful way. I had more fun and learned more about myself in that race than in any other I’ve ever run. And, I used the time to do my usual Holy Saturday reflection. As I crossed the finish line, the clock read 00:52:53.0. I had finished this grueling race in about 17 minutes a mile. I was pretty excited.

Fred, Me, Logan: We Pretty Much Rocked

I cheered for Logan and I cheered for Fred. And then I realized, after they finished, that the time clock was set for the 15K. I could take 10 whole minutes off of my time. I had finished the 5K in my my best time ever—00:42:43.0! I considered this a pretty decent accomplishment, since that meant my average time per mile was 13.68 minutes, and I hadn’t run a mile in thirteen and a half minutes in about 9 months. And this was on crazy terrain! Now I was elated. I was more elated when I realized that Logan came in second and Fred came in fourth in their age group. At their first ever trail race. I was really proud of us. You can see our times by following the links here.

Sierra Nevada Porter: The Beer of the Personal Record

I also distracted my self from thinking too much or too seriously about the death of Jesus by going to some friends’ house for a bonfire. We drank some beers, ate some wieners, and roasted some marshmallows. We also burned a stool, talked about theology, sports, and life, and decided to attend the outdoor Easter sunrise service together. The evening was a usual amazing night with two great friends.

This was one ridiculously hot fire.

Lent Day 25, 26 & 27: Lost a Few Days in There

I think I must have been being too joyful over the weekend, because I lost a few days in there somewhere.

For today’s meditation I want to focus on the present, and not in the cheesy way that an email I received encouraged me to: they call today the present, because it’s a gift. Um, yeah. Pema Chodron writes: “One can appreciate and celebrate each moment—there’s nothing more sacred.There’s nothing more vast or absolute. In fact, there’s nothing more!” I spend too much time, in fact, most of my time, focusing on what comes before each moment and on what comes after each moment. I don’t regularly savor each moment as it happens. Too frequently, I waste the moment by thinking about what I could have changed about the past or about how that present moment will impact my future. In general, I don’t just stop and think about how truly beautiful, or how truly sacred, each moment can be or is. I find myself trapped in the past, looking toward the future, and forgetting about the present, the right now, the “moment” of which “there’s nothing more vast or absolute.” I just squander the sacred beauty of what is.

On Saturday night, I had the privilege of attending Mass at St. John’s in the big HC, my home town. I find myself wondering, in a good way, how people can be Catholic or Orthodox. How can they be in the very real presence of Christ every Sunday and be able to stand it? Whenever I think about the fact that Jesus body and blood are literally ingested into the bodies of the followers of those two denominations, I always wonder if they recognize the beauty, the sacredness, the absolute wonder and majesty of that idea. Jesus is real, he is present, and he is giving, yet again, his body and blood for our consumption. I, for one, can only be in that very real presence of God every so often, because I feel so small in comparison, so unworthy, so ignorant.

Communion

On Saturday, I wondered how this glorious and holy mystery impacted those people who shared in the Eucharist. I, of course, did not because I am not Catholic. I do believe in transubstantiation, but I haven’t been baptized in the Catholic church, so I always abstain out of respect for their rules, expectations, or whatever. It’s probably for the best, because I am not sure I could stand it. When the Fr. Dave was emptying the bowl that the body had been resting in, and combining all of the blood into one chalice, I began to think of the sacrifice. It’s Lent, who wouldn’t think of the sacrifice? But when he lifted the chalice to his lips and swallowed down the rest of the body and blood, I lost it. I always tear up in the face of great reverence. How purely beautiful to not want any bit of your Lord to be wasted, to take in all of that pain and suffering and redemption!

On Sunday, I had another great moment with God in nature. I know, I know, a good protestant (forgive me I think I was a nun once in a former life) experiencing Jesus in the Catholic Church and then again in Nature?!? Ack. Maybe I’m not such a good Protestant after all, but how can you not experience God in this:

Beauty at the Mounds

Especially with the flowers and the grass poking through the dead leaves and winter decay, how can a person not experience God?

So then tell me how is it with all of these bits of heaven presenting themselves to me, how is it that I can still get side tracked by thoughts such as these from Psalm 73?

For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

How can I be persuaded to compare myself to others? How can I let what other humans do bother me? I think it’s because

I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

And that’s not likely to change any time soon. But, by focusing on the present, not the past and not the future, maybe I can become less and less of a brute beast (see that future focus?). And maybe I can escape the past of dwelling on what seems unfair or irrational. I’m trying. Let’s hope it works.

Peace.

Lent Day 18: Your Kingdom Come

“Through our lives and by our prayers, may your kingdom come!” —Midday Prayers

I sometimes forget, when I pray the Lord’s prayer, that the way God’s kingdom will come here and now is through those of us who believe in Jesus, who are part of the body of Christ. (If you know me well, you know I don’t discount the inherent goodness of humanity, but this specific Jesus kingdom, I think, is ushered in by those of us who are Christians. Good thoughts and actions come from all kinds of people.) God’s kingdom comes through our lives and through our prayers, and I love this midday reminder.

Too often I sit around, navel gazing, wondering why the world isn’t a better place, and I spend too little time consciously going out and making the world look like God’s kingdom here on earth. It’s easier for me to think about and write about how God’s kingdom works, than to make the necessary strides for it to actually happen here on earth. Sometimes it simply takes too much energy. Sometimes I just get overwhelmed by all that needs to happen to make this earth look like the Kingdom of God. Sometimes I am simply too self-focused to help others. Sometimes I flat out don’t feel God. Sometimes, though, I simply feel like I am stuck in a situation where I can’t really bring the Jesus to party, because I can’t figure out how to get past the injustices, the inequalities around me.

For example, I was having coffee with a friend of mine the other day, and she very seriously said to me, Corby, I don’t think you’ll ever be happy. Everywhere you work, you’ll always see something wrong. Everywhere you look, you see the negatives. True story. I don’t think she meant it as a compliment, but I sort of took it as one anyway. I don’t want to be happy, which I think in the above sentence really means complacent, within an institution that is corrupt. I want to be able to see those points of injustice or arbitrarily laid out hierarchies, and I want to have the wisdom and the grace to change them. And, yes, I will likely not be happy until we bring God’s kingdom, which looks so much different than what we’ve got laid out before us right now. And, no, I probably won’t be happy untilall people have equal rights, equal access, equal respect, or simply put equality. As Jesus said in Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” May your kingdom come.

*

As usual, my day in photos:

A Pretty, Mossy Stump by the White River

A Little Brook at the Mounds

Man Only Chapstick: It sits flat in your pocket, so your bros don't know you like soft lips.

A Circle Window at Gordy's Framing

Replica Canoe, I'm Driving

Obsessed With My Own Shadow

Twentieth Century Flats B & W

Twentieth Century Flats

 

Lent Day 16: Do the Best You Can Where You Are

We are all complicit in the world in which we live. Unless we live completely off the grid, self-sustaining, and 100% independent of anyone else, we are complicit in what US culture (or global culture for that matter) has become. Wealth is made on the backs of the poorest and neediest. We criticize even those who try to make a difference. Perhaps because they aren’t making a big enough difference in our opinions. Or maybe they aren’t making the right difference in the right way.

What I learned in a succession of strange and serendipitous interactions today is that we each have to do the best we can to live our lives in a way that we can live with the choices we make, in a way that we can live with ourselves, in a way that we can look at ourselves in the mirror and not feel ashamed.

For some people, that way of living may be completely and totally morally reprehensible to someone else. For example, my Starbucks habit may make Fair Trade only coffee drinkers cringe. Someone else’s insistence on wearing Nike (or insert other brand) tennis shoes may perk up my sensors for labor abuse. People may look at my Mac and curse my choices, and I may see their copy of The Purpose Driven Life and question were those profits are going. Each of us has a commodity-related Achilles heel. Each of us has a love (or necessity) that is bound up in immoral and unethical practices.

But, if each us will do his or her little part to make the world a more ethical place, instead of continually judging each other for what we’re not doing, then we will see much ethical and moral growth. With each person making small strides, together we’re making great strides, right? I realize this is a little more pie-in-the-sky hopeful and optimistic—and even quite a bit cheesier, possibly a bit preachier—than my usual posts, but we have to start somewhere. If we start somewhere, it’s better than simply sitting around finger pointing, right? Right?

Now I’m respectfully stepping off the soap box.

*

A good portion of the beauty of today (and every day) was in simplicity.

A Twin-Yolked Egg and Yummy Bacon

Little Purple Spring Flowers Growing Up Among the Brown Leaves

A Bridge I Walk Past Every Day, But It Looked Especially Artistic Today

Cod Fish Stir Fry

A Man Fishing, But I Am Not Sure He Caught Anything

Kayaking the White River: Looking at the Ball Mansions

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”—Toni Morrison in Rita Dove’s Grace Notes

I, too, always feel as if I am trying to get back to where I was. In a way, we are all trying to get back to where we were.