Tuesday
Apr282009

« Into The Wild New Yonder »

Yeah, I know. There hasn't been a lot of really current stuff here of late. Then again, it's not like you people are beating my door down for new content either. Most of the stuff that defines life for me right now is pretty positive, and on some variety of fronts. In real and abstract terms, I am trying on new clothes in life. May as well start with the real terms.

Today I weighed myself and was delighted to see for the first time in what must be nearly a decade, my weight was 219.7. To see it at 220 has been a thing lost to time, certainly before the Kelli years, which earlier blog entries record as being quite sedentary due to rampant unemployment and the discovery of the computer and all the wonders that once brought. I peaked and plateaued around 240 for many years since about 2002 and it has changed little in that time. But, the biking and constant hustle of work has helped, as has a doctor-supervised attack on the food nasties I once took for granted: the stuff that yields too much cholesterol, sodium, and fat. So, with the last eight months or so on some track toward changing that, I have lost some pounds, and gotten some tone from work and biking. And now, a bunch of pants don't fit right anymore. I've hit some thrift shops to pick up some new things now and then on the cheap while I transition into whatever might come of my weight. Already, I've lost a pants size or two. Today I went to the doctor and he reported that the cholesterol was improved, and was glad to see the BP leveling off at a more favorable level, if a bit higher than ideal, but not as bad as when I went in to see him last September.

And that visit was because I had an appointment to finally get my wisdom teeth pulled, but had BP so high that the surgeon declared he could not work on me. He assured me that the BP was beyond even what one would see, given the stressful anticipation of surgery. It was about that way in December 2007 when I got my gums worked on. I barely got that done, and when it was done, it was in four treatments, not two like planned. So last September, I headed straight over to the doctor's from the oral surgeon's office, drugged and fasted as I was, and said, 'I have to get this done, so what does it take?' That began the last several months of increased activity and drug treatment and diet attention. I have had hardly any pizza, no burgers, barely a couple of my beloved breakfast burritos, no sodas, and have cut down a lot of other dietary woes. Eating veggies helps. I am not really strictly vegetarian but there has been far less meat for me, but when there is, it is far more likely to be chicken or turkey, fish. But burgers, steak, pork, and pig bacon have mostly been out, as have most shell eggs.

The good news is that I've had a chance to practice cooking more, and have whipped up some tasty dishes the girls pretend to like. (We got a new oven at Thanksgiving, and I got a new set of kitchen knives to replace the toy set that we were given for our wedding. It helps to feel like your tools are working with you instead of against you.) Working around food, chefs, kitchens and all gives me a chance to poke my head in and get ideas, and just try to take a guess at what is going on, and to emulate it. It is the intangible benefit from the work I do. I suppose if I worked for a meat wholesaler, I'd be gleaning info on how to grill and barbecue, but as such, I am placed where I need to be, among veggies.

We planted our garden for the summer. This is the fourth year I've done gardening, and the third at the same place. There is still a lot of guesswork to it but even when it is poorly done, there are things to learn and knowledge to accumulate. I wish there was space and time to do more and to do it more seriously. The economic woes of the world outside have been deepening my sense of that. For now, I labor at my job, which isn't the same as gardening for self-sufficiency, but it does relate to it, and I do feel there are good lessons to be learned about food. Maybe gardening isn't going to be my thing, but cooking has been a nice thing to pick up, untutored as I am at it.

And moving toward the abstract new clothes in life, the big thing is that I am about to join Mission Hills United Church of Christ next month. It isn't new to me anymore. Kelli did her internship there and I stayed on the sidelines during that time. Then, to greater or lesser degrees, for the two years since, I've gone mostly regularly, and taken part in some groups (bible study, spiritual development, young adults), but most of all, have found a few key folks who I trust and have been able to connect with as I navigate an odd relationship to church as a male "pastor's spouse" who fell out with his home church and who has some unusually progressive notions of what church should be in the world, economically speaking. But, after an eight month spell in 2007 to get the old church out of my system, I experimented with a couple local UCC congregations, and settled on MHUCC. It is odd to consider, but it makes more sense upon reflection. The congregation has a great openness to people of all stripes; indeed it is perhaps the most gay-inclusive of the UCC churches here, and has a range of programs and groups to participate in. All this while retaining a membership of a manageable family like size (about 175 on Sundays), while not being so small and inbred feeling like my old church got to be (with maybe 30 core people who make the service on Sundays). MHUCC has many areas of ministry that keep people in touch and feeling connected, something which I did not feel was present at the old church. A lot of people from various backgrounds like the place—those who have never done church, those who have done too much church, those who are done with their old church, etc. People find it to be a healing place where a radical inclusiveness embodies what Jesus was about in the first place. So it has been good. And biking there has been one more way to get healed—with muscle power and a bit of sweat. I find it good on a lot of levels. So after dabbling for a year and more, I've decided to join in as a member, and not sweat the business of having to leave eventually when Kelli receives an eventual call from another congregation in who-knows-where, at who-knows-when. After a lot of angst in the separation from the old church, I feel it is okay to join in on this, even though I was sure I did not want to join a congregation before Kelli was to be ordained and called to a new congregation. I now reason that that would be her deal, not mine. Not that I would not go; of course I plan to go where she goes; it's just that this is my decision to make the next move after the bitter departure from the old church.

I've been immersed in a lot of reading for understanding about Christianity and its roots, and more usefully, what it all means today. Some of my influences have been Marcus Borg and his books on Jesus, his historical context, and how there are many ways to awaken the faith from a slumber of orthodoxy so that it might be fresh and relevant today. There is also a splendid video series called A Crisis of Faith which delights me in its human portrayal of Jesus—his totally grounded humanity illustrating what we call the divinity of Jesus. The Urantia Book also puts Jesus in a cosmological framework that presents him as the model for God's knowable attributes, and the ones we would do well to emulate. Back on earth, but still nodding to the cosmological quake that was Jesus, I have been greatly interested in reading the Bible through the lens of what it says about economics. Indeed, that is the most radical way to read it because it really slams the book on everything this nation's economy stands for. I encountered this a couple years ago through Lee Van Ham of Jubilee Economic Ministries, and lately I have had a resurgence of interest in this approach, reading more material in light of the economic mess that has been unfolding before us each night on the news. This approach has been the engine to lead me to bike more and drive less, eat more plant-based food, use a credit union instead of a bank, change churches, and to fight the consumer addiction the best I can in whichever way I can. It has been quite a unifying approach to life.

Of course, not everyone is ready for whatever transformation is demanded in this historical hour. Kelli and I took a stroll through a major shopping mall in town here today and the place was just painful for me—the people milling about pointlessly with plastic in hand and cell phones at ears. Call them zombies, call them consumers, but they all looked miserable there. What will they turn to when the plastic is useless, or there is nothing to buy because places don't make things like we take for granted? What life is beyond all that emptiness? Or, we cut through Nordstrom's and made mischief as we booed and hissed at labels that reflected Chinese or other exotic factories, and prices that represented exploitation of both the sweatshop laborer and the consumer alike! But that sort of fun is good only for so long with me. It just grates on me and I just want to get out of the Seven Circles of Hell. People make talk about how the ancient religions are useless and can be discarded. Well, consumerism is the new religion and is worthy of being discarded even now before it does any more damage.

Christianity is about transformation above all, out of the old and into the new. It isn't possible to do that at once; incremental change is the principle. One death leads to new life, which sparks more of the same in other aspects until eventually one is fully morphed into something new. It isn't about do's and don'ts, or any other legalistic formula. It is about moving toward something better in an action that is part magnetism and part striving: being drawn into it while wanting it too, until the line between those is blurred and the movement happens organically. Science tells us that the cells of our body are all exchanged for new ones in something like seven years, so that in that time, we are not even biologically the same as when we started. So it is with moving in the way Jesus demonstrated for us, that change is afoot toward something whole, something deeper and more grounded than what we were when we began. In that regard, nothing is disposable and even the forgettable and erroneous bits matter to in their ability to narrow the path worth taking. Indeed this is the meaning of the cross anyway; that your whole experience is yours to be carried, right or wrong as it may be, but not to let it ruin you in the process.

For the present, I feel that I am more or less on the positive phase of the waveform, getting some health matters in order, and finding a new church. And it is this that paves the way for the negative phase that invariably comes at some time. But when that next negative phase comes, I won't be the person I was when the last one was in cycle.

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