#AdventWord 2018, Week 2

#Wild

Today’s #AdventWord is ‘wild,’ and—with apologies to the theologians who made the selection—I’ve watched too much MTV over the years to associate that word with anything but a good time.

Pictured here: Andrew WK at The Showbox, Kultur Shock at The Crocodile, and IDLES at The Sunset Tavern—these are some of the wildest nights I’ve had in this city thus far. They are also some of the most life-affirming artists I’ve ever seen in concert, who left me with a strong sense of their genuine love for their fans.

Not pictured here, however, is probably my most memorable night yet. . . The night when I was casually walking to Whole Foods and somehow ended up meeting Shirley Manson and getting on the guest list to see Garbage the next day, because Annie is an absolute hero and this city just makes things like that happen.

“Welcome home!”—that’s what Annie said after I laughed about having to get used to that sort of adventuring, now that I live in Seattle. Feeling at home in the wilderness—that’s a thought to feed back to the theologians.

#LiveLikeYouLiveHere 🙏

#Cry

“Storytelling is a foundational way in which a community manages change so that its members can work toward a future in which the community can flourish … Distortion is inevitable in practices of memory, because hierarchies of value organize the ways in which communities think about who they have been and who they are. Not all experiences are deemed worthy of remembering; some memories are considered too dangerous to preserve. Those with less power and those who are actively disenfranchised within a community may find their truths and experiences ignored, downplayed, or relayed in distorted ways. In any community, there are storytellers who feel compelled to speak other truths, who dissent from the official version of a group’s history. The practice of dissent—of challenging official narratives and reframing a community’s stories—is vital for the healthy articulation and amplification of a community’s self-understanding.”

(Carolyn J. Sharp, in ‘The Hebrew Bible: Feminist & Intersectional Perspectives’, pp. 41-42)


I read this while preparing for a weekly class at St. M’s called Education for Ministry. The course was designed by the good people of Sewanee Seminary & that quote is from a book published by Fortress Press—an imprint on the back cover that I hadn’t noticed until last night, when I listened to a podcast on the story behind their publication of Greg Boyd’s ‘The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.’

That coincidence brings me to today’s #AdventWord—‘cry’. People have shed tears in this class, as our clumsy wrestling with difficult texts brings out still fresh memories of shame, heartbreak & exclusion. Theology can be soul-crushing, and The Episcopal Church in particular seems called to be a safe harbor for those sent adrift by other communities of interpretation.

What is theology anyway? A story we tell each other about ourselves & our God, yes, but also a cry—sometimes no louder than a sigh—against the mere all-there-is.

I pray that we continue to welcome those ignored, downplayed or shut out elsewhere, while listening closely for the times we’re meant to hear that dissenting cry call out against us, as well. . . . Amen.

#Grow/Go

Through a happy accident, today’s #AdventWord was both “go” and “grow,” a nice bit of wordplay that makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve long—and somewhat problematically—associated growing with going, changing with moving on, and developing with leaving something behind.

That kind of pulsating energy still makes sense for my life here today, but it’s also a posture that I’ve been gradually counteracting, like an asana, through an increased appreciation of community and rootedness.

That’s not the sort of feeling I was expecting to have so quickly in my adopted home.

Whether at RVC’s affinity group last Friday, or among YPIN’s board tonight, I’m grateful for the way that this city has helped me find stillness on the go. A lot has changed and continues to change in my life, and yet, the genuine care and camaraderie I’ve been experiencing across different pockets of Seattle have brought moments of profound pause within the frenzy.

I genuinely didn’t expect that. Happy Holidays, my friends.

#Rough

Today’s #AdventWord is ‘rough,’ and I’m thinking rough patch, rough time… rough parts of town. The parts of town where the coarsest language you’ll come across will probably be on Foursquare or Next Door, where helpful strangers will leave droll warnings about “feeding the wildlife” (read: talking to other human beings) or leaving valuables in parked cars. The parts of town where stratification is literally upvoted.

I’ll stop myself there, before I get too salty.

“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:4)

#Smooth

Today’s #AdventWord is the continuation of yesterday’s—from rough to ‘smooth’. These tactile images come out of the Gospel according to St Luke, who recalls the Prophet Isaiah’s promise of comfort to God’s people; the point Luke is making is that this promise was coming true through John the Baptist’s ministry. A chapter later, we read about Jesus making an equally bold claim—that Isaiah’s promise of “good news to the poor” was being fulfilled in his presence among his people. That episode didn’t go well for Jesus, who was quite literally run out of his hometown for his audacity.

The #WayOfLove rests on a very similar claim: that the reign of Love incarnate is already here—that these promises are still being fulfilled in our very midst. This claim is probably just as outrageous now as it was in Nazareth, way back then. Where on earth are the oppressed set free?

That’s the paradox of Christian hope; the new world is now, but also not yet. We are called to participate in its coming, knowing that all our visions of justice, all our revolutionary movements, all our rights won and liberties gained are ultimately penultimate—the best is yet to come.

In the meantime, we’re to work towards smoothening out our internal & relational “roughness,” and to take part in the movement of societal “leveling,” though our solutions are incomplete and our abilities are inadequate. And thank God for that.

#Prune

Today’s #AdventWord is ‘prune,’ and I’ll admit it—there’s nothing I loathe more than self-improvement. I don’t want your motivation-inspiration. Your achievements don’t drive me to do more. I don’t want to be all that I can be, tbph.

Thankfully, this growing thing ain’t up to me. Most of what I am now has had very little to do with my self-contained autonomous choice, and most of what I’ll continue to become probably won’t be to my present liking either.

I do have to push myself, obviously. But lasting inner change comes from without—from the permission I give myself every now & then to be transformed. And not through effort, but through letting go. I hate letting go. And thank God for that too.

Today’s Advent word was brought to you by the yogic yama of “controlling vital energy.” .

#Namaste ✨🙏

#Prepare

Today’s #AdventWord is ‘prepare,’ and after last night’s power outages in Seattle, which very nearly—but didn’t!—shut down a friend’s gig, I’ve found myself down the rabbit hole of “emergency preparedness” again.

I wasn’t aware of this set of practices & generalized state of mind before speaking with Katie of CPREPNW some months ago. It was for a Cascadia Now blogpost, to be published in the new year—we missed a window before the holiday season, when fundraising & festive vibes made the topic seem out of place & kind of a bummer… And yet, many would argue that Advent is paradoxically a great time to be somber—to face up to the fragility of life on this thin crust of our world.

Today’s photo is from my community’s emergency hub. It’s a gathering space that looks so… ill-prepared for the “Big One”. It’s this quaint little p-patch versus the Cascadia Subduction Zone..?

Any brief reading on the subject will bring up visions of pure Armageddon, but that’s exactly why preparedness is so important—we’re supposed to do things now to increase the chance of recovery later. Cascadia Prepared has a lot of tips about individual ways to prepare, and Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management has neighborhood-level resources mapped out too. I’ll add a link to my bio for a couple of days, if you’re curious.

But what’s most fascinating to me is that most of what we know about the last mega-quake comes to us from indigenous oral tradition—the coming destruction is as mythical as it is certain.

In this way, preparedness is a leap of faith; it’s to believe in this little garden & what it represents of the power of community. It’s to believe in the kindness of those actual neighbors that you can’t always stand; those people who don’t say hello when you say hello—yes, those people.

I’m not worried. From what I’ve experienced here so far—including that tiny glimpse of infrastructural collapse last night—I believe that Seattle has what it takes. But we shall see!

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