Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Angry Conversations with God

Little known fact: for someone who majored in English in college, I'm not a very well-read person. It's not that I don't see the value of literature or think it's important. It's just that I'm usually too distracted to finish any book I start.

Little known fact #2: I have not fully read the majority of books on my bookshelf. If you look closely, most are bookmarked a third or half of the way in... books I started reading months, even years ago, and put down because something more interesting or shiny came up.

Usually, the books I actually make it to the end of are the ones I read cover to cover in one or two sittings-- on a long flight or while babysitting for a hippie Seattle family without a TV. But lately, thanks to the inconsistent schedule of my illustrious career as a teaching artist, I've finally had a lot of extra time on my hands, and instead of wasting said time away parousing facebook or watching TV, I'm trying to dust off some of the unfinished reads waiting around on my bookshelf.

And wonder of wonders, my plan is succeeding so far. Between a long bath last night, and a morning in bed today, I finished a book! A full two hundred and forty pages! (It's good to know that I'm not actually illiterate, as I feared for a bit there..)

It helped that the book, a memoir called Angry Conversations with God, was one of those "just can't put it down" type of reads. It's by an actor/writer/comedienne (hey, that sounds familiar) named Susan Isaacs, who spent most of her adult life trying to figure out how to pursue her dream of working in film, while also pursuing God. Substitute theatre for film and I'm pretty sure it could be the story of my life.

It was an emotional read for me-- probably because the hurts that she so vulnerably confesses: the inner turmoil an artist feels trying to squeeze into the mold of a churchy, happy christian, the struggle of seeing friends succeed in a tough business and feeling like your own career is going nowhere, the frustrations and confusion of singleness and dating when everything you understand about sexuality and relationships is also tied to your understanding of God; these are all things I'm grappling with on a daily basis.

I've spent a lot of time lately wishing God had made me different: more rational, less analytical, certainly less emotional. It would make it so much easier to feel comfortable at church. And to find a husband. And to pick a career. If only I were uncreative and unemotional and content with simple answers, life would be so much easier...

But then I read a book like this, so creative, so well thought-through, and clearly written by someone whose personality, and thought life, and emotional sensitivities sound quite like mine, and I know that he's made me this creative, artistic, blubberingly bizarre human being for a reason. And that he will walk alongside me through whatever struggles lie ahead.

I'm not so naive as to believe that it won't be a difficult journey. Like Susan, who had her fair share of turmoil (eating disorders, alcoholism, terrible relationships and break-ups), I know I will run into plenty of pain in this world (As she puts it, "we live in a fallen world, and it sucks"). But God's given me no other choice than to keep climbing the trail to the top of his Everest (I got that metaphor from the book, too). Some days, I'm terrified of what lies ahead, but as Susan writes in her final chapter, "I'd rather die on the mountain than lie around in Death Valley."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Buns!

Being that I work in an industry that doesn't exactly slow down for major Christian holidays (the show must go on, right?), I'm working a double shift as a house manager at the theatre today. So, in lieu of attending any sort of Easter brunch, I decided to bring the celebration with me and baked two dozen resurrection buns for my staff!

What's a resurrection bun, you ask?

One part metaphor and one part yummy sweetness, it's basically the most delicious way to celebrate the risen Lord!

Here's how you make 'em:

1. Take the "body" of a marshmallow and "annoint it with oil and spices" (dip it in a mixture of melted butter and cinnamon).

So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
John 19:40

2. Bury the "body" in a flattened biscuit (I prefer grands jumbo buttermilk biscuits... they stretch out and wrap around the marshmallows best)

And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock.
Mark 15:46a

3. Seal the tomb (press together the edges of the biscuit so that the marshmallow is sealed tightly inside). For good measure, I also like to "annoint" the sealed tomb.

And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
Mark 15:46b

4. Bake according the the instructions on the biscuit can. While you bake, the marshmallow will "rise" and melt inside the biscuit. until...

5. You bite into the cooled biscuit and BEHOLD!! The tomb is empty.

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
Luke 24:2-3

He is Risen

He is Risen, INDEED!

Happy Easter, Everyone!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

For the past 38 days, my church in Seattle has kept a prayer room open. For every hour of Lent, at least one person has committed to pray in that room. Sometimes groups came together, sometimes families, but for the past 928 hours (and for the few that still remain until Easter), at least one person has been in that room, praying for our church, community, nation, and world.

Today, from 1 to 2pm, I spent my hour in the prayer room. From the moment I opened the door, I was met with a sense of God's presence. A sign on the wall told me to remove my shoes before ascending the staircase into the small attic loft where I would spend the next sixty minutes. At the top of the stairs, I found bibles, journals, prayer books, soft rugs, candles, a prayer bench, and a comfy chair-- all different aids to prayer. But the thing about the room that immediately struck me was its walls, on which the people of my church had written out scripture and prayers with colorful markers.

What stood out most to me about this display was the vulnerability it revealed. On our "wailing wall," my congregation held little back. People wrote down their hurts, their worries, their loneliness, their anger, their fears. And in reading and praying over the walls of that room, I, for the first time in a while, stopped feeling so alone in my own pain, fears, and worries.

This must be what Good Friday is about. In so many of the prayers I read today, there was a sense of pain and frustration at the sheer injustice of the world. I can only imagine that the followers of Jesus must have felt the same way when they saw the most innocent and loving man they knew put to death for a charge he was never guilty of. And I can imagine that's what Jesus felt when he cried out in agony "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

But that is the beauty of the cross, that we who follow Christ serve a God who knows what it is to suffer, a God who took pain and injustice and brokenness upon himself for our sake.

Theologian John Stott puts it this way: "I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it."

Of course, the real beauty of this season comes Sunday, when we see that He is risen, and that our trials, our pain, our suffering, we can leave crucified as we walk towards a new, resurrected life in Christ.

But today we mourn for our broken world, and we place our pain upon the cross, where Christ hangs, grieving with us.