Before the Fireworks

IMG_0184It was in August of last year that my beloved called from Kuwait to ask if I would move across the country with him. Only a few hours later, after I grappled with all that it would mean to leave my church and follow my heart, I said yes. I would go with him. I would move all the way across the country — back home — to make a life with him.

It was a few months after that that I sent him a link to the ring I had chosen for myself. Because we had already spoken about getting married. And we knew it was something we both wanted. It was about that time that he bought that ring.

It was in March that we packed our bags and moved. We settled into our new home together and I watched him freak out one night because he couldn’t find the ring that he had stupidly packed up with the movers. I knew it was in the house. I never went looking for it. But, I knew it was in the house.

I had told my love before we moved that I expected a proposal soon. I gave him a deadline. I never imagined that I would be the kind of girl that gave a deadline. But I also never imagined myself to be the kind of girl that would follow a man across the country. I never thought I would make that choice. So I gave him a deadline. He needed to propose by the end of June.

It was in the beginning of June that I started to freak out. Because we had reached the month for which the deadline had been set and nothing seemed to have changed. He was still telling me the same thing. There are steps, Elsa. There are steps, he would say. So I freaked out. I freaked out to my dearest friends. They heard me cry and wail. And yes, there really was some wailing.

It was about three weeks ago that my beloved and I decided we would spend the Fourth of July in New York City. We bought a Groupon for a fancy hotel. We made plans to see the Macy’s Fireworks and that’s when he said, “Oh. Fireworks would be romantic.” That’s when I knew that it would be that weekend. It would be that weekend that he would finally ask me to marry him. But, it didn’t happen under the fireworks. It happened before in a wine bar down by the South Street Seaport. It happened there over a bottle of wine — something we both love — that he told me he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. It was there that he gave me the the ring and I said yes.

Yes, of course I will marry you.

Because everything really does work out in the end.

Advertisements

Preaching Without a Community Text

For the first time in months, I’ve spent Monday morning studying. I haven’t been in the pulpit for nearly three months but on Sunday I will preach. I will preach at a church I’ve visited just once. It’s a church that I know very little about other than what I saw on that one Sunday morning. I’ll care for this congregation during worship while the pastor is away — but it’s the first time that I have ever really preached without a community text.

This is a problem.

There are many that quote Karl Barth saying that we must “do theology with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” That’s all well and good. But, that’s not the refrain that repeats in my head over and over again. Instead, I hear my preaching professor in seminary asking: What is the community text? Because the answer to this question is where the Scripture text meets the reality of the experience of this group of people. It’s how the good news becomes activated. As she explained to Ministry Matters:

the sermon is a meeting place between the Scripture text and the community text. Each text has a unique voice. Both the Scripture text and the community text must be exegeted with attentiveness and care, not in order to be “relevant” but in order to hear God’s living word in its depth and particularity.

I’ve done my exegesis of the Scripture. I’ve immersed myself in the amazing good news in 1 John 4:7-21. It’s one of my very favorite passages. I could say so many things about this good news. That’s what scares me. That’s why my cursor is blinking. That’s why no words are coming.

say-anything-1-435x580I could say anything — anything I wanted.

I could say anything.

This wasn’t a bad thing for Lloyd Dobler. With his boom box and even with his pen, he wasn’t afraid to use his words. Or the words of Peter Gabriel to prove a point. But, he didn’t say anything. He knew what he needed to say and he said it. He loved Diane Court. There was nothing that was ever going to stop him from loving Diane Court. So he made it known. That’s why it’s such an amazing romantic gesture that every girl my age secretly wishes would happen to her. (That was not a hint.) Because he knew what he needed to say. And he said it.

1 John 4:7-21 isn’t about romantic love and my sermon will probably not reference Lloyd Dobler. Probably. But, it’s about love. If there is a one word definition of what being a Christian is all about, it’s love. Love is from God. Let’s love each other. It should be an easy sermon to preach but I have so many questions about the community text. I want to know how this particular body of Christ experiences love. Are they one of those churches that relishes in their time together? Or is this a stumbling block because they haven’t yet created that sense of community? I want to know what they love and how do they love. Because I really don’t want to say anything. I want to know what needs to be said and say that. Then again, that will probably come from God. Not from me.

Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide

bridge-600510_1280Just recently, Time Magazine published an article entitled Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide With Stories. I love stories thought as I eagerly clicked on the article. Because I want — more than anything — to figure out how to bridge this divide.

For so many years, I’ve been a pacifist. That fact hasn’t changed. I’m still a pacifist. But, I fell in love with a soldier. I fell in love with a man who sees the world differently than I do. In the end, we want the same thing. We want peace. We want to believe it’s possible — but we see it coming about differently. I want to engage in conversation. I want to believe that war isn’t necessary, that are other ways for peace to come.

I fell in love with a man that has seen and done things that he struggles to share with me. Perhaps because this bridge is so far and wide. He sees peace differently so that sometimes this bridge seems so long and wide.

So, eagerly clicked on this article in Time Magazine to find a new old friend, Thomas E. Ricks. Ricks has written many articles for Foreign Policy Magazine that I’ve eagerly shared. But, this article — this article in Time Magazine — only posed questions. Questions I want answers to but this article refused to answer. I was not satisfied. So, I sent Ricks an email.

Because the article concluded in such a way that it made me believe that he had more to say.  I was right. He wrote back almost immediately. I was shocked. I was shocked that he wrote back. I was shocked he would entertain such questions from silly preacher. I was even more shocked by his answer. His answer was simply to ask questions. Ask lots of questions because there is so much that we can’t possibly understand about the soldier’s experience. I came to an even deeper understanding of this after reading Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like To Go To War. There are things that I knew. Things that I even thought I understood but it wasn’t until reading this book and asking questions of my love that I came to understand what he was afraid of telling me. There are things that I thought I was supposed to say to honor my love’s dedication but I didn’t really get it. I was too far on the other side of the bridge.

It was one thing to read about the perspective of two theologians in Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War  but only a service member can really explain the breadth and depth of moral injury. Only a member of the military can really explain what it’s like. It took falling in love for me to learn this. It took getting over my own ideas about pacifism and military action and let’s be honest some really bad theology to understand that there is more to this story. As much as we want to talk about post-traumatic stress, it’s much, much more than a solider returning from war that lashes out and drinks excessively. It’s way more than American Sniper. But, apparently, looks something more like Restrepo. (It’s streaming on Netflix. You should watch it.) This was assigned to me by my love. If I was going to understand this, I needed to watch this film. Stupidly, I did so while he was still deployed. Bad move. It is incredibly hard to watch but you should see it if you are like me. If you want to figure out how to bridge this divide between the civilian world and the military world, it requires becoming uncomfortable enough to watch something so brutal. Because — as my soldier has told me — it’s one of the only films that shows how it really was. Or really is.

This is the hardest part for me. It’s the reality that these stories didn’t end with Vietnam, the Gulf War or even Iraq. These stories are ongoing. And for whatever reason, especially post-9/11, civilians aren’t pay attention. We can’t grasp these stories. We haven’t even listened. I’m certainly at fault. I never thought it was my fight. I just wanted peace — but love is teaching me that peace comes from every side of the story. It doesn’t come from insisting that military spending be decreased or demanding that our troops be sent home. Some of that peace has to come from crossing that divide by uncomfortably asking questions you’re not sure if you really want to hear the answer. Some of it has to come from understanding what it’s like to serve a member of the military right now.

The best way to do this — according to both my love and Ricks — is to watch and to read. I now have a long list of books and movies to work my way through as I try to cross this divide toward peace.