“Some people forget they were born up a close.” Why we tell our stories how we tell our stories

My mother watches me put my tea back in the microwave after it’s grown cold–a disgusting habit to her mind.

“Well, you come by it honestly,” she shrugs. “Your father will make a cup of tea and sit down in his study, playing on his computer, and he’ll pick up the tea an hour later and take it through to the kitchen to reheat it. Then he’ll do it again. By the third time, the mug just stands up, says, ‘thanks, mate, I know the way myself,’ and carries itself off to the microwave.”

This is about on par for my mother’s storytelling. My father used to correct details in her stories but got tired of the refrain, “yeah, but it’s BETTER the way I tell it.” (more…)

On earbuds, harassment and not wanting to block out the world. (And on Mrs. Hall and “Seeing a Woman.”)

I use earbuds now. I use them reluctantly but at full volume, ever since a woman shouted out the passenger window of a passing car at me, “eat more salads!” And when I pulled out my earbuds (softly playing This American Life), thinking it might be someone I knew, she hollered, “you heard me!” and laughed maniacally as the light changed and her friend pulled off. A congregant said loud music in her ears all the time was how she drowned out the harassment–and to her, anyone she didn’t know talking to her constituted harassment.

Extrovert and optimist and deeply connective person that I am, I wanted to keep the world buzzing in my ears but eventually decided I get less bruised when I drown it out periodically. So, when it’s daylight and I’m walking in a safe neighborhood, in go the earbuds.

But sometimes the world slips in through the earbuds. That happened today. (more…)

To everything… a reflection on seasons of a radical

I gritted my teeth as she said it. A colleague I deeply respect was speaking at a luncheon, and she, with the full force of her Memphis charm, put forward this statement: “When I was twenty, I wanted to change the world.” She paused for dramatic effect. “When I was thirty, I wanted to change my community.”

I could see the punchline coming, and I knew it would win over the baby boomer-plus crowd in ways that left the young folks on the fringes again. “I just turned forty—and forty looks GOOD on me”—she flashed a smile that could melt butter as I balled up my little fists—“and now I just want to change me.” (more…)

Consensus, my congregation, and a miracle in progress

“I can’t wait to tell my friends back home that I’m a Quaker missionary,” said my co-pastor at the end of the meeting. Born into the Friends tradition, he had just led us through a Spirit-based consensus model for decision making as the second half of our meeting to determine what our next steps together would be. “In all my years living in this model, I have never seen consensus done better than what you did today.”

“Suck it, Quakers,” I cheered quietly. (more…)

What do we communicate when we communicate?

I’m smack dab in the middle of a weekend-long course on communication offered by Landmark Forum. (And yes, I have done several Landmark courses over three years, and yes, their sales pitch is a little overbearing, but no, they’re definitely not pitching any cult stuff. And so far everything I’ve gotten, which is quite a lot, has been a combination of cognitive behavioral psychology and zen Buddhism, and everything can be found in the bible. In fact, it’s surprising how often they make some profound statement and I find myself thinking, “Jesus said that!”)