Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Jesus mix

On Friday I took the day off and made pottery all day. I need to bring a bunch of pieces to a workshop in a few weeks and I was behind.

I got to spend the whole day in the studio at Glen Echo, one of my favorite places, and sat at a wheel while various people came in, did their thing, and left.

One thing I love best about doing pottery at the studio is the combination of solitude and community. I am alone with the clay and able to lose myself completely. But there's a shared experience with the other potters, many of whom I learn from and share creative juices (wine!) with without even knowing their names.

On Friday afternoon one of the best potters in DC came in and, as I'd heard he was in the habit of doing, brought an ipod mix to play while we worked. My heart warmed to hear "The Dutchman", a song that brought back memories of singing with Pastor Bob on the mandolin.

The good songs kept rolling - and as it does, music started a bond. People hummed, our moods melded.

The potter announced he was nearly finished with another mix called the Jesus mix. I smiled secretly - he had no idea what I do for a day job.

He asked if anyone would be offended if he played it sometime. I replied no, I'd be curious.

When, after a bit of enthusiasm for our shared musical tastes, I confessed that I had a professional interest in the Jesus mix, he ran out to his car, barely missing a hailstorm, to bring in the computer with the Jesus mix.

It ran the gamut from Uncle Tupelo singing Satan don't let your kingdom come down ("If you have a Jesus mix you gotta have Satan too" said the potter), to the the Rolling Stones' The Girl with the Faraway Eyes.

We chatted briefly but mostly just shared the music and a little bond formed briefly over a couple of songs. As he got ready to leave I finally introduced myself by name, but that was hardly essential to the exchange. We remain essentially strangers, but as one of my favorite songs from the Jesus mix says, "Never know just what on earth I'll find In the faces of a stranger"

That sons is Jesus in New Orleans by Over the Rhine, full lyrics below.

The last time I saw Jesus
I was drinking bloody mary's in the South
In a barroom in New Orleans
Rinsin' out the bad taste in my mouth

She wore a dark and faded blazer
With a little of the lining hanging out
When the jukebox played Miss Dorothy Moore
I knew that it was him without a doubt

I said the road is my redeemer
I never know just what on earth I'll find
In the faces of a stranger
In the dark and weary corners of a mind

She said, The last highway is only
As far away as you are from yourself
And no matter just how bad it gets
It does no good to blame somebody else

Ain't it crazy
What's revealed when you're not looking all that close
Ain't it crazy
How we put to death the ones we need the most

I know I'm not a martyr
I've never died for anyone but me
The last frontier is only
The stranger in the mirror that I see

But when I least expect it
Here and there I see my savior's face
He's still my favorite loser
Falling for the entire human race

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy 100!

This is my one hundredth post - which gets me thinking about a not-so-favorite topic of mine right now: age.

According to Allure magazine (I read it as I got my haircut) the ideal age for women is 36. One reason? That's how old Marilyn Monroe was when she sang to President Kennedy. Apparently that's the high point we should be aiming for...

Still it had me breathing a sigh of relief (I'm 35 - the best is yet to come.). But what happens at 37 - over the hill then?

Oh, I realize this age anxiety stuff is as old as the hills (and some of them are really old!) but it's hitting me somewhere in the gut right now. As a colleague in her early 40s pointed out - somewhere in our mid-thirties women pastors go from being young, hip and interesting to being outdated and irrelevant. I refuse to let that happen! There's got to be something in the middle.

I wish I could get out of the age obsession I seem to be in now, but I find myself single minded. And its not only related to the old biological clock - thought that carries a bit of power.

Elena Kagan got nominated for Supreme Court and I skipped the parts of the article about her background, beliefs, influence. What I wanted to know first is her age (50). I heard a speaker last week and while she was a font of knowledge and spiritual wisdom, the thing I'll remember most is her age (45).

I even asked my congregation in church last Sunday to raise their hands if they were over 38. Granted, there was a good preaching rationale for this, but really, how much has this age thing gotten into my brain?!

This is actually nothing new for me, thought it's particularly powerful right now. As a small kid I was acutely aware that I was younger than everyone else in my class. Age has always been a big part of my identity.

Maybe that's why I fell in love with the Dylan song Forever Young. I remember where I was when I first heard it - in a muddy field outside of Duluth Minnesota. But eternal youth isn't the appeal. More, I like the message that we can live in a way that age has no ultimate say in our identity. Dreams can take root no matter your age. Maybe that's why the movie UP was such a success - it debunked the fear that as we age, we slowly fade into boring irrelevance.

So what's the opposite of age-obsessed? Something about eternal life.

Jesus preaches about how it can happen now. Maybe a sliver of that promise is that in an age obsessed world, God's grace cuts through the apparent limits of age and death. This is an offer to embrace eternal life in the here and now and give age a bit less power. To get there today, I'll just hunker down and listen to the gospel according to Bob Dylan:
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young