Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Lesson In Grace

I must say, I've known the insult "spoiled" in a very personal way. For a long time (and it hasn't stopped just because I'm 23 years old), my sisters have seen the help I receive from my grandpa - be that financial, moral, or logical - and have responded, almost always, in the same way:

"You are so spoiled, Jason."

I was always angered when I heard it, and that just fed into the well-known stereotype of the youngest in any family: "First he's spoiled, then he throws a tantrum. All he wants is attention."

But I appreciated - and still do - the help from my grandfather, and although I never thought I deserved it, I accepted it without question. Maybe that's the reason my sisters still drop that accusing word in my presence. (Lord knows I provide enough of a reaction that it makes sense for them to say it, even if the situation hardly calls for it.) I never turned down help, which goes against the West Texas grain by which we were all raised. Make it on your own, we were told. Don't put anybody out. Don't be a burden. Stand alone.

Good advice in certain circumstances, sure. But on the whole it stinks of the overwhelming need in America to 'go it alone' and achieve some super-independence from the rest of the human community. I never got that. I was - and still am - a "Momma's boy", and whenever I received help, I took it. Of course, I still had an incurable urge to pay them back, and I still - subconsciously - keep miniscule tabs on favors done and favors received.

But that's the crazy thing about grace. It is given to us, no strings attached, and the hardest thing we have to do is accept it. Nothing is needed in return. We are loved simply because we are. What a wonderful thing it is to be loved! Surely we don't need to 'pay someone back' for loving us. It's so grace-filled of an action that it's against our nature to understand it.

Yesterday, I was informed by the co-chair of the organization for which I work, Jeannine Janson, that she wanted to purchase a new laptop for my coming excursions in the world of graduate school. My jaw dropped. I cannot POSSIBLY accept this, can I? How can...what...there's no way that....oh, man.

But that's the crazy thing - as much as I feel I don't deserve this uncontainable kindness that IS Jeannine, it is so exciting and liberating to just say YES. Can I ever repay her? No. But that's not the point. To look to repay is to look in the wrong place. Can I ever rejoice enough? No, but I will definitely try.

Am I spoiled? I think I'm just open to receiving grace in this imperfect world. I wait for the time when I am in the position to give someone a gift like the one I have been given. I wait for the moments in life when I experience grace so wonderfully as in the limitless generosity of my friend Jeannine.

Thank you. That's really all you have to say. It's not being spoiled; it's being loved.

Grace be upon us all!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Unforgiving Mother of a Morning,

OR How I Learned to Never Judge Anyone Getting On A Bus


After paying $2 for a rush-hour ride on the Twin Cities Metro Transit, I got off my first bus to catch the second bus on the way to work. As I step off the No. 65, I see the No. 21 speeding by in the opposite direction.

"No way," I say (or something similar to it) calmly (relatively speaking), and I start to book it. I'm not paying $2 for a trip that gets me halfway to work.

I ran, folks, for FIVE blocks (and not the short ones), and then the bus was in my sights. It was stopped at a red light. And yes, you guessed it, the minute I was at the back of the vehicle, the light turned green. After this massive marathon, I wasn't about to give up my rights to that ride.

I stopped the bus in mid-intersection. From the amount of screaming that later occurred, I almost wish the bus driver decided not to stop. But I wasn't so lucky.

"You are lucky, son, because I'm NEVER gonna do that again."

I nodded my head, mostly too tired to speak, and fumbled for my ticket.

"I'm sorry," I panted.

"'Sorry' won't help you when you're dead."

Damn! A little bit melodramatic, perhaps? But the people in the front seat were backing her up, heaping moral insults on me, asking themselves - aloud - why such dumbass kids exist in this world. Plenty of time to think it over, I had an ample assortment of ideas to say back to this group of lecturers. But I didn't. I mumbled, "I feel bad enough already, okay?" and went to the back of the bus.

In my mind, I was angry enough that I had JUST RAN FIVE BLOCKS and barely missed the bus in the first place. As they were vocally molesting me, I am sure my ears flamed, my face became red hot, and I started to fume. It was seconds before a flat-out tantrum would take place.

And, then I remembered: Weren't there times when I was sitting on the bus when someone got in, fuming, and began to yell at nobody in particular? Or perhaps a young kid had caught up with the bus and got the same talking-to that I just received? I am sure I was tempted to do the same presumptuous moral bashing that happened today.

But, I guess you never know what someone is dealing with. They may have just RAN FIVE BLOCKS in nice shoes. Maybe.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


1. One who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard, or experienced: a witness to the accident.
2. One who publicly affirms religious faith.

Last Saturday, I spent about 45 minutes with two Jehovah's Witnesses, who came to my house upon my invitation. I had wanted to direct the conversation, since the interest I expressed was solely of an intellectual curiosity of mine - I had never had an extended conversation with a Witness before, and I wanted to know how they came to this specific point in their faith journey. I was also none-too-shy about exploring their unique theological perspective.

It was, however, somewhat difficult to differentiate between being supremely curious and appearing to want - somewhere deep inside - to convert to the Jehovah's Witnesses. This difference was crucial, and something I believe was lost on the two people who sat across from me in my living room.

The woman I met on the street and with whom I struck up a conversation was engaging, especially when she directly asked, "Have you thought of the Kingdom of Heaven?" At this point - reviews of that sorely disappointing film by Ridley Scott notwithstanding - I knew this was no ordinary exchange. I dove into it, however, realizing she was a Witness - and before I knew it, I had made a date for her to meet me a week later.

Luckily, a good friend and fellow LVCer - Julie - was hanging out at Beth Shalom (our LVC house) from the night before, and stayed for the conversation. You see, this woman had brought someone else, and I could not expect to direct any conversation when I was outnumbered 2-1. Even so, after 20 minutes of these people opening themselves up to my somewhat pointed questions, the game eventually ran out of steam. They took control, and began to open up the Bible. And here's when the party started.

In my Intro to Theology class during my freshman year of college, we did an exercise where we had to come up with positives and negatives for each of the following categories of religious people (with respect to other faiths not their own):

[Forgive the less-than-academic definitions - thanks David]

1. Exclusivist (My way is the only way.) *Jehovah's Witnesses
2. Inclusivist (My way is the only way, but deep down it's possible that your way is actually my way.)
3. Dialogue (I'm going my way, you're going yours. Let's talk to each other and learn more.)
4. Relativist (We're all different paths up the same mountain, all going the same way.)

Now, for me, the downsides to exclusivism were easy. But since we had to come up with positives, the one that stood out to me was a single word: passion. You have to hand it to people that are so zealously dedicated to something. You may not agree (and I don't) with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but they are definitely authentic and driven.

But there's the rub, when it comes to fundamental interpretations of religion. These people were looking at me and thinking, "You poor thing." And I was looking right back and thinking, "You poor things..." They weren't going to convince or convert me, but their passion was so fierce that I felt inappropriate saying, "I'm just not interested."

So, there you have it. No shouting matches, no drama. I didn't argue a single theological principle with them. I listened, as they listened to me.

In the end, did I get what I wanted? They opened up to me, exposing a side of themselves I don't think I would have been comfortable doing. Did they get what they wanted? Well, that's the thing. I didn't convert, and I'm pretty sure that's a failure in their book.

What an amazing array of different paths that have been born from a single person and his message of peace!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


So, I was sort of kidding with the previous post on the claim that "nobody reads my blog." I realize this is a falsehood, but I was trying to get my point across about my question.

And, after the 5 posts so far, I must say one thing:

Very Bad Things was full of...very bad things.

That's all I'm saying. Maybe the "very bad" part of it was what it meant to be, thus being very good for being so very, very bad.


Either way, I promise a post on something other than that damn movie or my devastating choice for showing it that fateful night so very long ago.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ok, so I've had not-so-few comments on the movie I once picked to show people called Very Bad Things.

I'm not going to try and argue the finer points of this film, mostly because I am tired, it's a Monday, and I know David would tear me a new one...electronically-speaking, that is.

I WILL say this, though: I only received three REAL suggestions for a first-date movie, and that's kinda sad. I thought people read my blog. Shit, even KARLYN posted something. (Of course, she posted so she could rip on me and make me cry, but still...)

Coming tomorrow (work-willing): The report of the Witnesses of Jehovah that came to my house on Saturday, per my invitation.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I need to stop taking things personally. I think I may go insane.

Okay, fun little event for today:

Tell me...the best movie to take a first date to see, in your opinion, and why.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Dalai Lama draped a silk scarf around the archbishop's neck and presented him with a Tibetan butter lamp: the Light of Truth Award from the International Campaign for Tibet.

In his speech, Archbishop Tutu paid tribute to his friend.

"I give great thanks to God that he has created a Dalai Lama," he said. "Do you really think, as some have argued, that God will be saying: 'You know, that guy, the Dalai Lama, is not bad. What a pity he's not a Christian'?"

A preacher with the timing of a stand-up comic, the archbishop continued: "I don't think that is the case - because, you see, God is not a Christian."

-from here.

Amen, Archbishop Tutu! Amen.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

And here it is, your moment of zen...

On the subject of fundamental and radical religious sects,
let us gaze inward for once.

Over 20,000 people practice polygamy in these United States.

For further exploration, read Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer.

Now, back to your daily lives.