Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Windy woods, the miracle market, and making disciples

Even though I lived there for a little less than a year - and about a decade ago - my mind often goes back to the time I spent in Sofarawayistan. It's not that I loved it or flourished there, but it was such an unusual and intense time of my life that it left indelible marks and memories.

The shady, somewhat public hazelnut orchard near our new house somehow evokes bog shamol ("windy woods" or "breezy park"), the pretty, shady place where friends in Sofarawayistan would retreat for a picnic - especially on a hot summer day. I need to ask a few more questions about the orchard. As in Sofarawayistan, my new hometown has somewhat vague boundaries for private and public. But I think I'd find the soft dirt will be easier on my joints for jogging than the neighborhood streets would be, and it lends itself to "laps."

Independent businesses flourish in my new hometown. One is a home improvement store called Jerry's. Don't go in if you aren't prepared to come home with things that weren't on your list. Reminds me of the hardware bazaar I used to walk past in Sofarawayistan. It was a man's place, there; I couldn't browse too long or often without drawing too much attention. But every corner offered a sense of possibility. You could fix or make anything with what you found at the hardware bazaar. I wonder how many guys could accurately identify what it all was? Someone once told me that the Russian name for that place translated "The Miracle Market." Does Jerry's hold the same promise for the handy handyman (or woman)?

The language of Sofarawayistan tended - tends - toward economy. Despite a long history of complex and gorgeous poetry, most of the time ordinary people in ordinary situations tend to use the simplest words available. Helpful for a beginning language learner.

Maybe that's how the word usta came to be used both for a handyman - the kind of guy who would shop at the hardware bazaar - and for someone who serves as a teacher or master. The first is a master of a trade, the second, the master of a body of knowledge. The same language describes someone who served as an apprentice to a trade and mastered it, and someone who was discipled and now makes disciples.

I like it. And shouldn't making disciples be like taking on apprentices and training them toward mastery and to make disciples of their own?

Gaining traction in ministry circles are variations on an approach called "T4T," training for trainers. Lots of people like to think they are being strategic by training up the next generation of leaders. Many mission agencies advertise themselves as focusing on church planting and leadership development. T4T challenges or focuses that kind of thinking. They don't try to train leaders. They train trainers. No one's a leader. Everyone is seem through the lens of their capacity to equip others. I'm not sure if that's an over-correction. It may be. Perhaps it's just a more disciplined, results-oriented way to look at the work of making disciples.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Joy, Peace, and Contentment

In light of the questions raised in my last post - words about the pursuit of happiness - I am meditating today on Paul's words from a Roman prison, penned to the people of Philippi:

Final Exhortations

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Thanks for Their Gifts

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pursuit of Happiness

I've long been interested, er, maybe a little obsessed, with the question of what it takes to be happy. Oh, I know, happiness is not essential. But just as love covers a multitude of sins, so happiness can buoy us high enough to float over many of life's rocks and wrecks. Of course it makes a lousy god.  But pursuing it can give us the edge we need to better pursue more worthy goals. Would you agree?

One complicating factor is that one person's pleasures are different from another's. Maybe that's why we end up telling one another, "I think you'd be happier if..." and "I was just trying to make you happy!" all the while missing the mark.

I often notice this when shopping for greeting cards. Seriously, your idea of a happy birthday means lots of alcohol? Casual sex? Shopping? Earlier this year I was seated behind a couple people on an airline who really seemed to hit it off. By the end one guy was offering to take the other out to get seriously wasted.

What about happiness and marriage? There's a book out now that teaches that marriage is to make us holy, not to make us happy. I haven't read it yet. But even here, I think, won't the happiness edge - when we can have it - spur us on for holiness? Wonder if I've got my priorities off-kilter.

I feel as if I'm starting to internalize the things that please C. He tries very hard to figure out how to please me. Both of us find it hard to talk about these things. It goes against the grain to correct or instruct one you love so much, especially over when you think the other person's ideas may just be better than yours; what right have you to ask for your way, if you even know what it is? My confidence flags at this so intimate level. 

This has come out somewhat in wedding planning. Chris and everyone else has ideas about what is appropriate. I get lots of conflicting advice. I'm not sure what I want, yet I'm hurt and sometimes even feel betrayed when I don't get my way. When people tell me it's my wedding and mine alone (!) and it should be just how I want it, that only makes flexibility and compromise more difficult. I'm stuck in my own head, and realizing how little I know about how to compromise. Uh oh; bridezilla!

Years ago I started noting the things I could legitimately manage to help my sense of well-being. Wondering how many of these I should cultivate now, versus leaving them behind. 1980 - a good book. 1987 - a hot bath. A cup of homemade cocoa. 1992 - buying someone flowers. Helping someone craft their communication and getting it right; the perfect sentence. Listening; drawing other people out and making friends. Getting eight hours of sleep was the revelation of 2002. I was so much better to be around! By 2005 I'd realized the real pleasure of knowing I looked good had to be sacrificed for staying comfortable; even in the heat of summer I'd protect myself from the annoyance of A/C by donning nylons or socks instead of sporting bare legs and sandals. And somewhere along the line I learned the strategic pleasures of eating right and exercise. Good music, time to write, time with friends. Getting things done. Did I mention coffee? And the deeper pleasures of knowing I have worked hard or done what is right, that's like gold to me.

What about time with others versus time alone? Makes a big difference in your content or sense of well-being, doesn't it? Yet the circumstances are often beyond our control.

I'm mildly extroverted, and came to the conclusion a couple years ago that I am at my best when I get at least two hours to myself every day, and at least two hours with other people. At times one is much easier to get than the other. When I gave up my cubicle and started working at home at the beginning of 2010 I was afraid I'd have trouble getting enough people time, but it ended up working out pretty well. At least until I left my roommate, church, and social network and moved to Oregon. Now, with marriage and family, I've already hit a season when time alone may be harder to come by - at least time that doesn't feel like it must be dedicated to work and school. So it's a struggle again.

I think I'm in the midst of a long, mid-life stage of recalibrating.

To think about:
1. How committed are you to pursuing happiness, and why?
2. What circumstances nurture your happiness? 
2. What can you do to be happy or content even under more challenging circumstances?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Just married at Bi-Mart

Forget the flowery vows or the marriage license, and never mind making it "Facebook official." Chris and I went to Bi-Mart yesterday and he added me to his account. It's one of those places like Costco where you have to have a membership to get in the front door, only it's a locally owned, independent version. And I didn't want to spring for the $5 membership fee!

So Chris added me to his account. Under my soon-to-be-new name.

Yup. I gave them my signature and everything. We explained that the ceremony and name change were a few weeks out, but they had no problem putting me in the database as the new Mrs. W. on the basis of our say-so (after looking at our photo ID).

Kind of a funny place to announce one's marriage, I thought!

In related news, Chris had a patient last week who just happened to sport the same handle - my new name. He called and told me about the 90-something-year-old biddy with the thinning hair, wandering mind, etc. "Probably incontinent, too?" I asked. Yup.

"I've just seen 'you' in  50 years!" he told me.

Never one to let a romantic opportunity slip by, he added: "And I'm still going to marry you."