Thursday, April 27, 2006

Starting this fall, I will be working for a Masters of Divinity at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Whew. It's done. For now.

Thanks everyone. I would write more words, but I can't.

As they say at Pilgrim Lutheran Church here in St. Paul,

"Jesus came to be the Word, because our words weren't enough."

Peace, peace, peace.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I just finished reading my previous entry, and it strikes me as extremely funny. Over the last 6 days, I have received information from the three seminaries to which I applied, and the time for decisions is, quite amazingly, right now.

I could use this time to talk over my decisions, to mull over my prospects. But I have done this for the past 36 hours, in my head and in conversations with many different wonderful people in my life. They all listened, gently offered advice, softly asked questions, and drew out the information from inside of me.

This still doesn't mean a decision has been made, but progress has been made.


I just finished with a long, heart-to-heart, get-it-all-out conversation with friends for whom I would do anything, and the realization that that sentiment is reciprocated is a source of great joy for me. And it reminded me of something:

In the end, I may look back on these days as "not that big of a deal". But there is NO shame in jumping head first into these situations and treating them with the weight they deserve. This is my life, and it's not trivial.

That basically goes for everyone.

By Friday, I will know where it is I am headed next year for seminary. That is no small thing.

Peace. Peace, such as the world cannot give. Peace.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I'm just tired.

I'm tired of not knowing anything. I haven't made decisions; I don't have the information necessary to make those decisions. Everything is in this potent "blah" state. I haven't decided on which seminary to attend, or even if I WILL attend seminary this coming fall. We haven't decided (aka 'been told') when we will be moving out of our LVC house - this year is the last year Beth Shalom will be in the Frogtown section of St. Paul. I have no idea what's going on with my mom. She's already gone, but how long will she stay here?

Today the weather has decided to stay in step with me: the warmth, though extremely welcoming, has backslid to the 50s. It's escaping into a hole, mirroring my own desires. (There IS a chance of thunderstorms today, however, which admittedly cheers me back up.)

It's all relative. These aren't horrible things going on in my life - they are just unknowns.

I spent the last year of college admist a mode of thinking that emphasized the 'unknown.' If you knew anything for sure, you weren't fully opening yourself up to the world around you, and letting it all "soak in." Sure, the world was one big black-and-white picture for some, but if you truly understood yourself, you would personally overwhelm that picture with a million shades of grey. You must do other things, too, like "open yourself up", "take your time", and the ever-present demand to "live in the questions."

I am almost positive that a lot of my questions at this time in my life are the reason I have gone through periods of stress, depression, and downright angst. I don't want to live in them, I want to answer them.

Foolish optimism, you may say. I would agree, in part. We can't answer all the questions. But there is a point where you need to sit up, open your eyes, and start living your life. I spent college covered with a huge metaphorical poncho drenched with droplets of the unknown. It never stopped raining, but I stubbornly kept wearing that damn poncho. And now, fresh out of college, I find myself half-wanting that poncho back, and half-wanting to just step out in the rain and throw my hands up in a liberating, quasi-Shawshank Redemption fashion.

This is the point where I would politely give a caveat for my previous words. I would say that I understand the viewpoint that embraces the grey. And I do, don't get me wrong.

But living in the unknown in college is one thing. Trying to do it beyond college is something altogether different.

I can't capitulate and go back on my words. I DON'T think that living in the grey is this glorious and wonderful thing. At some point, (and I shudder to type this) we have to grow up. I can't continue to ski in the liberating sea of the unknown, especially when I have loans to pay, details to work out, vocations to choose, and sanity to keep.

Dear God, I just sounded like my father. Well, I'm not advocating a conservative political viewpoint, nor am I bashing those still in college. I will cherish that time in my life like no other. It's just a whole lot different out in the rain without the poncho. It's both freeing and scary as shit.

I will go forward in this time of unknowing, confident that the One who created me will always be with me.

Earlier in this post, I may have made it seem like there are only two choices - the black-and-white picture, or the grey one. Well, I am sure there is a beautiful third option. And I am sure that option...must include...color! Yes, a huge, interwoven, inter-dependent mosaic of colors that adorn a massively warm quilt. It's a feast for the eyes, but also scary at the same time. How can we ingest all of those colors?

As if I haven't butchered enough metophors in this entry, allow me to say this: We don't ingest, we don't complain, we don't protest its lack of grey-ness. We just cover up in it, feel its warmth, and say softly, "It's all gonna be okay."

And then we sleep.

Monday, April 17, 2006

So I'm realizing that I don't have a lot of time. For anything.

This realization has partly come about because of other people. Some have told me, "You always seem so busy", "Why are you always in a hurry", and "I hate you, Jason Chesnut. I hate you." Okay, maybe not the last one.

But the sentiment is still there. And although I am not going to necessarily defend myself against these charges, I promise to...wait, wait a second. This is my blog, for God's sakes. What else am I going to write about?

This accusation concerning a lack of time mostly comes from my school days, when most times you could find me walking rather briskly down the sidewalk. There are many possible reasons for this:

1. I'm late for class.
2. I might be just in time for class, which means I might not get my coveted seat in the back middle row (or right next to David Booher, so I could watch flash movies on his laptop).
3. I'm early for class, but I need the time to
a) study for a test
b) do the homework that is due
c) read a PHENOMENAL book
d) eat the food that's clearly occupying my hands
4. I just look damn sexy when I walk fast. there.

This brings me to another point of mine - when do we NOT want more time to do something else? I'll admit, when I started LVC, I thought the whole 9-5 gig, without classes (or, consequently, anything to do on the weekends) I would have LOADS of time, so much time - in fact - that I would walk slowly wherever I went. So slow, I would look...well, like the tortoise. A sexy tortoise.

But, no. I normally get home at about 5.30pm, and we are eating by 6.30pm (if I have cooking duties, work starts right away). If I don't, I may clean up afterwards, which lasts until about 7:15-7:30. It is at this point that I spend the requisite amount of time sacrificing the necessary chicken to the Sun god Ra. (It's only fair.) Either way, before you blink, it's 8:00pm. I have been (trying) to go work out with my roomie every morning at the Y. We wake up at 5.30am in order to do that. Thus, I start getting tired right around the ripe old time of 9 in the evening.

As you might be able to see, my time is mostly limited. The above description only happens on the days when I don't have anything else going on, like choir/drum practice at church on Wednesday night, women's drum circle on some Thursday nights, and community nights interspersed throughout.

When is there time to do things I want to do? I can't even write in this blog unless I'm spending time at work (covert time, obviously). I don't call people on my phone, since most free time starts after 9pm - at which point I am near comatose. I don't hang out unless it's on the weekend, and even then there are things that are going on.

Why do I walk fast everywhere I go? Because I want more time to spend wherever it is that I'm going. Yes, I realize that the journey is half the beauty, and I try very hard to intentionally slow down.

But, sometimes, I go fast SO THAT I can slow down somewhere else. We work and earn money SO THAT we can have time to play and relax. Do the means justify the ends?

Discuss. I'll be back later.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Today, it will reach into the 70s. This is more than a miracle: this is, I guess, the reason people stay true to places like Minnesota.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I have missed the sun and its warm rays for a long time. I am definitely fond of this new development. I don't want to fall back into the trap of romanticizing the wintry past (although, by all accounts, the intrepid long-time Minnesota citizens have assured me that this past winter was "weak" and "disappointing"), but after spending so long in darkness and frigid winds that whipped past my face with brutal and bone-numbing laughs, I welcome the sun with open arms like a father welcomes home his prodigal son. Yes, the sun wasn't the greatest companion - even when she showed up, she shooed away all the clouds in the sky, thus preparing room for the wind to kick up such suicide-inducing temperatures as 20 degrees below zero. But, dammit, she's back now. And as Ben says, we have to forgive her absence.

On another note, it is Holy Week. There are, coming up, some of my favorite worship services in the Lutheran tradition - especially Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Saturday night...and, of course, Easter morning...okay, basically every single service is going to rock, and I'm looking forward to them with great anticipation.

The excitement is NOT about the fact that Lent is coming to a close, which means my edict to my stomach to refrain from consuming meat is soon coming to an end.

But I cannot wait for the services, especially Good Friday, which ends with (at LCR in Wimberley, Texas, at least) a complete stripping of the altar and the deep purple that characterizes Lent. Jesus is dead, and he will not appear until we shout on Easter morning, "Christ is risen!" Now, we know how this story ends, and we know that God will not let us live our lives without the hope and love that Christ brings. But, as we wait for God to BREAK out into the world, as the curtain of the temple is torn in two, we celebrate the stories of God's people at the Easter Vigil Saturday night.

So many stories adorn the Bible, reminding us that God does not let us - God's people - down. In fact, we have the promises that God loves us, and will be with us always FOREVER, eternally at our fingertips in that sacred document. The stories push themselves out of the last 2000 years, however, and appear today - as 30,000 people marched from St. Paul's cathedral to the Capitol building yesterday in Saint Paul to protest and call attention to the xenophobic, defensive, and downright racist legislation that has been proposed in the House of Representatives. "Si, se puede!", we shouted in unison, a huge throng of people moving together down the street, gyrating to the rhythms of multiple, diverse voices, becoming like a heartbeat of humanity.

But, we do not have to walk in that darkness after Good Friday for long. Soon, we shout, "Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!" "Si, se puede!" We are empowered to be a force for positive change in this world; in God's world. We are given hope over cynicism, life over death.

Thanks be to God. Thanks, indeed!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Here's a news flash for all those who know me: I don't like to work.

Actually, I should preface that statement. I like to work, all right. But I don't have this freakishly strong work ethic, where I work 70 hours/week without breaking a sweat. 40 hours is enough for me, and even that is a bit too much. Maybe 6 hours a day TOPS, and four days a week. And that might be a little too much.

Here's the rub: The people with whom I work love what they do, and they are damn good at it. I don't want to rag on them. I admire their strength, especially considering the mission of the organization. But as much as I want to be a positive force in the world of social change - and I find the Lutheran Volunteer Corps to be a great experience for a year - I do not have this incredible need to work all the time.

There is much to do, I agree with that. But when it hits 5pm, I am out of this door, and done working. This has absolutely nothing to do with my love for what we are doing. I'm just pretty sure that work is not something I can do at all hours of the day.

When people talk about a 'work ethic', I interpret that to mean a willingness to be at work on time and to not slack off. I do this with vigor - I can't stand to be late to anything, and I try and not become too bored with my serene office job. There are always things to be done at work, but it's hard for me to not wander online to, facebook, or - of course - my precious blog. But does this mean I have a crap work ethic? Or simply that I cannot force myself to work consistently from 8-5?

I remember college (oh, so looooong ago), when I felt like I 'worked' almost all day, with some naps and movies in between. I was up for class at 8 or 9am, and I got back to bed at maybe 1 or 2am, if I was lucky. There was always so much to do, to be involved in, and to enjoy. This new world (ironically, a "volunteer" world) is simply exhausting, and I - on the outside - seem to be doing nothing but work.

It's an interesting dynamic. I feel like a bum because I work with workaholics. I'm always afraid I'm not working enough, but on the other hand, I feel like I am a solid volunteer who is never late and always "works hard" (whatever that means).

All of this is to say:

30 hours/week. Maximum. Europe gets shit for not working as long as American and Japanese workers, but is that so bad? Is our only measure of happiness the GDP? I imagine working 30 hours, and I get pretty damn happy.

But that's me. And maybe this is our generation. Or maybe it's post-college blues.

Back to 'work'. :)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The hallway smells of urine. I really can't stand it, so I breathe out of my mouth. We go through two doors that require a 4-digit code. We step into a small room with 10 tables full of people waiting to be fed. The nurse on duty shuffles back and forth. The people mosey, saunter, or generally wander aimlessly. Some are talking to themselves; some are running into the walls; some are sleeping or staring straight ahead. There's a lot of things going on, but it's still sleepily quiet.

I look around the room, but I can't find her. Then it dawns on me: I'm looking for her, for my mother. I'm not looking for the person who sits directly in front of me, but there she is. Sitting in a wheelchair, she resembles a Nazi war camp survivor. Bruises adorn her arms and hands. I touch her right arm, and I can barely feel any skin that is still hanging on to the bone. I can fit my index finger and thumb all the way around her upper arm.

No solid hello will be in this greeting. She doesn't look at me, instead proceeding to get out of her wheelchair, dust off an invisible particle from the table, and then sit back down. She doesn't smile. During one of the 14 different conversations she's having out loud to people who exist only in her mind, she mentions men who are in the room and are actively trying to kill her. It's as if she is fighting a constant battle, and doesn't have the luxury to take a break.

I try to calm her down, but I can't get in a word edgewise. She will not stop talking. I try to make any sort of eye contact, and I say,

"Mom, it's okay. I'm here."

She makes a face, squinting her eyes. This was not the right thing to say. She starts shaking her head, looking as if she's about to cry. I put my hand on her shoulder. She immediately grabs my hand.

This woman of barely 80 lbs. is displaying a death grip I NEVER saw or experienced in 23 years of knowing her. I'm losing the blood to my fingers. I struggle - a pure, unadulterated attempt - to pry my hand loose. She's not having any of it. For five minutes, I can't get free. In the midst of complete sorrow, I almost laugh. This is phenomenal!

After 5 minutes, my hand tastes freedom. My mother, however, is far from it. The untold number of imaginary stories and scenarios are playing over and over in her head, and she tries to give them voice. She struggles with her words, sputtering them out like a 5-year old who's learning to use big words. She screams to nobody in particular, and cries to no avail.

I try to prevent the onslaught of raw emotion, but it hits me before I even know what's going on. I fall into complete idiocy, naively believing that, any minute now, Mom will snap out of it. She gave me birth, gave me life, raised me. Surely this is not how I will remember her. She'll snap out of it any second.

Another 5 minutes. No pure, person-to-person conversation ever happens. It's time to go. I long for the real and romanticized goodbyes that are shown in Hollywood movies and recounted by real people with real sorrow the world over. No such luck. My goodbye doesn't even phase her, and she continues to mutter under her breath and wipe the table clean again, and again, and again.

"Bye, Mom. I love you."

Again, the "mom" title doesn't help the situation. She frowns, still staring straight ahead.

"No, no. I don't have a baby. I promise, doctor. I promise."

I have no idea when this scene took place within the expanse of her shattered memory - or if it did at all - and I turn the other way, wishing I was anywhere but there. I don't look back. There will be no realization, no recognition. My mom is dead. Why must she still live?

I was asked by my candidacy committee, after telling of my mother's illness, where grace was in that situation. I answered that God was present in our suffering, and that we can be assured that our tears are colored with the presence of the divine. We are not alone, I said.

Of course, I'm sure my (almost) initial response, the first thing that came to my mind, is just as real and true and valid:

"Where is grace in this? I have no fucking clue."

I would hope and pray that God exists even when we say - and mean - things like that.