SPACIOUS has launched

JUBILEE YEAR readers, I’m excited to share a new site with you.  I’ll be blogging there from now on.

And the site is the place to go to explore and imagine a bigger life, with more recess and fun, more adventure, and relationships of depth where you are known for who you are and celebrated.  It’s even a forum for asking life’s “What if?” questions.

We plan events; we consult on making your events and workplace more spacious; we write and speak.

SPACIOUS emerged out of a blogpost written on this site a year and a half ago. Read that story in Joey Katona’s biography on our site.

Check us out at: http://spacious.me, and send your friends too!

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SPACIOUS

Readers… stay tuned.  Everything’s going to be moving over to the site of my new venture, SPACIOUS.  It’ll launch before long, and meanwhile I’m working on it 24/7 and writing things that’ll go there (as well as a book).  Hold tight.

Slowing Down the Jubilee Writing

Ah jubilee… my companion project for two years.  I set out to do a jubilee year at 48 going on 49, and I’ve just rounded the corner on a second lap, ending at 50.  And it’s been fun.  In the way that conviction is fun….  Fun as in cleansing and challenging and interesting and transformative.

The most important thing I learned in these two years of reflecting on Biblical principles of how to let the land lie fallow, how to forgive debts, how to make restitution, how to return the land to its original owners (and many possible metaphorical manifestations of this in my middle-class American lifestyle)… the most important thing I learned is this:

When we rely on the Holy Spirit for change, we really do care about the things that God reveals to us in Scripture as His concerns: the poor, justice, love.  And when we are living our normal, selfish lives (yours may not be; mine is), we don’t care so much.

I learned this from day one in the project.  I’m still learning it after two years.

There really is a mind of Christ, a new creation… and these are ours if we ask.  But apart from God’s infusion of His power and spirit, we live in our old minds and as the old creations we are… and in that mindset, I’d just as soon not share, not forgive, not love, not lean into God and let some things be.

Yet I think I’m changed as a result of this project in mindfulness.  I know the difference between when I’m me, and when I’m touched by God’s spirit.  And it shows in behavior.

I don’t know if Dallas Willard said this, or someone else, but it’s true: “If you want to change your life, ask for the grace to change your behavior.”  We are what we do.  Regardless of what we intend.

So thanks for reading.  And I’ll be interspersing some thoughts on this topic into my “other” (main) blog: www.holyvernacular.wordpress.com insofar as that one is about seeing God in the commonplace of life, in everything.  So just about anything fits over there.   And I think I’ve explored jubilee as much in writing as I should… it’s time to act, abide, act some more.

I’ll see you over at Holy Vernacular!

… and the rich get richer…

Let’s face it… most anyone with access to a computer is among the richest people in the world.  So just the fact that you are reading this qualifies you as privileged.  I know I am.

I have to admit that Psalm 16 is right when it says that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”  I whine way too much.  I complain and bemoan various things in my life… but I have a sweet life, a life that 99.9% of the world would want.  The problems I have can be classified as “rich people’s problems.”  And that’s why I’ve been writing this blog, or more accurately I’m writing the blog to hold myself accountable to my very real desire to examine my life, to become more grateful for it, to change it according to Jesus’ ways, according to the Old Testament jubilee principles fulfilled in Jesus’ new covenant for us.  I want to be part of redemptive efforts, if only in my own small ways, that His kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.

So I was doing one of my rich person activities recently, shopping at a Whole Foods store.  I could write multiple blog posts on that choice alone, for it is one fraught with ambivalence for me.  But let me just stick to this one story.

Last week I went to Whole Foods to buy groceries for several dinner parties I was having (batching them all together over several days so the flowers and food could do double-duty… thrifty huh?).  And the check-out woman rang up all my food (very slowly I might mention), bagged it all, and then she realized her computer wasn’t working right.  So she told me I’d have to wait a while as she rebooted and tried a few things.  She asked me if I was busy.  Have you ever heard an American say, “Heck no, I’ve got all day to wait here.”  My mouth said no.  My crossed arms told me (and her, probably) otherwise. Though I wasn’t all that busy or time-pressured, really.

Then she decided that the only proper way to pay me back for the loss of my extremely valuable (!?) time was to give me some free food.  Let me repeat that I already had a cart full of just what I “needed” (which is a spurious term in these circumstances anyway), and that included about 20 peaches.  But she insisted on giving me a new bag full of peaches, special “doughnut peaches.”

Which I told her would go to waste, which I told her I did not need, which I told her was unnecessary for I really didn’t deserve or require more food as a prize for waiting patiently.  But it only escalated.  She then insisted I should have some Odwalla juice for free.  I told her I don’t really drink juice, sticking generally to water or coffee (or margaritas, but that seemed excessive to report).  But she wouldn’t rest until she had given me a carton of freshly squeezed orange juice, which I don’t really love.  And then she wanted me to try it right then so I’d know how good it was.

Anyway, you get the point.  It was ridiculously excessive, born of the very reality that Americans can’t wait, don’t expect to, won’t do it patiently.  Is that it?  Is it really not an option for me to have to wait 15 minutes for the register’s computer to get fixed so I can pay for my expensive groceries and go home to prepare for my dinner party?

I guess what was hardest for me to think about is what would have happened if a hungry person walked into that store, looking bedraggled perhaps.  Would that person have had the option to say “Can I have a bag of fresh peaches and a carton of freshly-squeezed orange juice for free?  Just because I am hungry.”  Likely not.

But I got all that because I was deemed too important or busy to wait.  And then when I told a couple of people how much it had upset me, they said that they thought I should’ve gotten something free for my trouble.

It makes me rather sick.

Suicide Catcher

Who are we responsible to and for?  That’s been a question I’ve explored on this blog, which looks at the Biblical jubilee principles — forgiveness of debt, restitution, letting things lie fallow, and bearing one another’s burdens.

With that question in mind, I commend to you an excellent article in the May, 2010 issue of GQ (yes, Gentleman’s Quarterly).  Michael Paterniti wrote it, and it’s staggeringly beautiful and very important.  Please read it.  Even though it’s not online.  Go find it.  Jake Gyllenhaal is on the cover.

It’s about a man who is a gruff, self-appointed angel who attempts to prevent suicides on a four-mile-long bridge over the Yangtze River in Nanjing, China.  Apparently one-fifth of the world’s suicides are in China, about 200,000 per year.  And Mr. Chen, who keeps statistics on a blog and whom Paterniti visited for this story, has saved 174 people.

Paterniti describes Nanjing, a city of 6 million, thus: “Daytime temperatures regularly topped ninety degrees here — due to hot air being trapped by the mountains at the lower end of the Yangtze River valley… and, oh yeah, because all the trees had been chopped down — and the sun rarely shone.  Meanwhile, the city continued to explode in the noonday of the country’s hungry expansion.  The past was being abandoned at an astonishing rate, the new skyscrapers and apartment buildings replacing the old neighborhoods.  Everything — and everyone — was disposable. Schisms formed.  The bridge loomed.  Loss led to despair, which, in turn, led to Mr. Chen.”

And Paterniti described the community of those saved by Mr. Chen: “Of those he saved, some small number met near the bridge every year around Christmas to celebrate their new lives and ostensibly to offer their thanks.  As part of the ceremony, they calculated their new ages from the date of their salvation.  In this born-again world, no one was older than 6.”

And giving voice to Chen’s reasons for taking on the task of binocular-toting persuasion and suicide prevention, Paterniti writes, “The reason Mr. Chen was in the business of saving lives now was that, as a boy, he’d always gone unanswered. There is a saying in Chinese he used, that he never possessed ‘mother’s shoes.'”

He writes further, “It was from the incompleteness of his own family that he’d built this not-so-secret life as the defender of broken humanity.”

This, people, is a beautiful article.  I’ve only given you a taste.  Go find it.  It’s long, nuanced, important.

GQ has a lot more than cleavage.  I enjoy it immensely.  Don’t miss this article.

How Much Is a Portion?

I don’t remember where we got the phrase, but our family often asks when serving food, “Do you want a sliver, a slice or a slab?”  That relates to pound cake or just about anything.  And it doesn’t escape my attention that we do actually have such a choice.

We’re a slab country, with slab people.  There are sliver countries with sliver people (who didn’t choose this).  And there are sliver people in America.

Why don’t we all takes slices?  Would that spread the pound cake around a little better?

“Fatso,” by The Story

It’s a frequent theme on my blogs that I love it when artists use their platform and power to say something that matters.  Maybe everyone thinks they’re saying something that matters, and actually music can be great even when it’s not overtly telling a story, teaching a lesson, or doing something dramatic and overt.  When my children were little, we used to listen to classical music and talk about what mood it evoked (“Is this scary or happy?”).  Everyone of my age (50, give or take 37 days) who grew up in America probably learned this lesson via “Peter and the Wolf” (or was that only at E. Rivers Elementary in Atlanta?).

ANYWAY, I do love music that’s just about having fun (thanks Kool & the Gang for “Celebrate good times!  Come on!”).

But today I draw your attention to a song called “Fatso” by The Story.

Here’s a stab at the lyrics:

This is the last time, this time I will win
It took a long time to gain this weight,
It will take a long time to lose it again
I will have only water for a week, then maybe carrots,
and celery, and if I lose then Sunday I'll have brown rice
Because someone will adore me when my ribs show clearly
and I'm thin even when I sit down
Someone will admire my gorgeous arms and legs
when I'm only one hundred pounds
I bought a doctor's scale on sale today
It takes up half the bathroom, and it's really ugly,
but I know it's going to help me reach my goal
I get so dizzy when I stand up fast, and I don't feel like
dancing but I know I'm gonna do it this time, for sure
Now I walk past the fatsos eating doughnuts,
with cream filling, icing, jimmies, and I am so glad I am not
like them
Because someone will adore me when my ribs show clearly
and I'm thin even when I sit down
Someone will admire my gorgeous arms and legs
when I'm only one hundred pounds
Last night I dreamed I ate a chocolate cake, and when I
woke up I was sure it was true so I weighed myself just to
make sure and drank a diet coke
I want to be skinny (Oh I am so hungry)

I find this song hysterically funny.  And ridiculously sad.  Funny because I have lived it, and it's a joke.  And sad because I have lived it, and it's a joke.  

What's with a lifestyle that can have us needing to obsess like this?  The Story captures something important.