building

I built this yesterday.

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My dad and I worked on this project together. It was my idea, and I pleaded and persuaded, and suddenly we were at Home Depot trying to figure out how many pavers could fit in the car before it was too heavy to safely drive.

Dad is the engineer of the family. It’s his job, but more than that, it’s the way he thinks and sees things. He helped me carry all of the stone pavers and sand to our backyard, and then told me how to build the fire pit.

I knelt on the ground, and with my own two hands, I built a thing.

And check it out: it even works!

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Well, okay, tonight is the night I figure out that building a fire may actually be harder than building a pit to contain it, but I am filled with satisfaction. I had a few s’mores, sat by the fire with my mom and proved that this structure isn’t about to fall down. I sit here now, my feet propped on the stone lip, typing away in the very limited light of a fire that won’t rage, but won’t quit either. It’s refreshing to take a pause from words written, customers served, miles logged, and see something tangible that I have done.

I have built this thing, and there is more to come.

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Evangelization at the Movies

Here is that post I was teasing last night.  It actually works out a lot better to write this tonight.  Father talked about evangelization at Mass tonight, and now I’m watching the Oscars.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of these topics, mostly because I have a theology degree and work in a movie theater.

Oh yes… and because we’re currently showing Son of God in my theater.

Confession time: I really dislike the weekends when we’re showing “religious” films.  Is that bad?  Should I be happy that we have a movie about Jesus showing in one or two of our twenty auditoriums?  Does my disgruntled attitude betray a lack of priority (maybe) or a lack of charity (probably)?

As a creative person, I love the idea of using art to evangelize, and I do consider movies to be art.  I think we need to reach people using the languages they speak, and film is such a common language these days.

I am perhaps disappointed in the quality of most of the current offerings, and I am suspicious of the motives of most people involved.  This video review by the critic “MovieBob” Chipman sums up my feelings rather accurately and amusingly (note: this video carries a language & attitude warning.  If you don’t want to watch, the key phrases to note are “bad, boring and laughable,” “blatant, cynical cash grab,” and “just read the book”.).  Church groups buy out entire showtimes for Son of God and similar offerings, but they don’t necessarily fill the seats.  That’s more money for everybody up the supply chain.  

The majority of the customers who attend the show are polite, kind, cheerful people, but there are some who act as though a Christian has never walked through the doors of the theater before.  Some of these people, it seems, are attempting to inflict God upon me, as though He is a weapon.  One such customer pointed out to me that the soft drink cups advertising the next big release should, instead, have Jesus on them.  I did not reply with what I was thinking.  I am all for making God more visible, but I can think of better ways to treat my Savior than slapping His face on a disposable pop container.

When it comes to evangelization, these efforts seem to be failing.  They target an audience who is already so in love with God that they are willing to pay weekend theater prices to watch a bland film they have probably already watched on television.  They aren’t reaching anyone who hasn’t already heard the message.

Why, instead, don’t we spend our money and our creative energy on truly imaginative efforts?  Let’s tell stories that are deep and beautiful and charged with the grandeur of God.  Let’s be true and honest and heart-breakingly open and reflective of grace.  Let’s not just spout out, again and again, the verses we all have memorized, but let’s find surprising moments of sacrament and faith.  Let’s be like Darlene Love belting out a hymn in Oscar acceptance speeches.  Let’s be like Sr. Helena Burns pointing out authentic love in movies.  Let’s challenge our own preconceptions and sneak that message out to the audience that least expects it.

The movie theater is definitely a place for evangelization, but it doesn’t happen because you buy a ticket.  It happens when I’ve been smiling at customers for six hours straight and am so tired, but one man says to me, “I can tell you care about people.  Keep loving!” and I am inspired.  It happens when a lady asks an employee to exchange her ticket for a different movie, because she walks out of any show that takes the Lord’s name in vain three times, and that employee himself starts making the effort to choose different words.  It happens when employees start talking among themselves behind the stand about where they worship and how they pray.

Evangelization happens when people make an authentic connection and notice that God is in their midst.  Whatever facilitates that connection is necessarily a good thing.  I just think there are better ways to do this than we currently have up on the big screen.

My Older Son Moments

Oh, friends, I am so excited for Sunday’s gospel reading.  We’re hearing about the return of the prodigal son this weekend, and I am so ready for it.

Obviously, this is a perennial favorite, and a parable I’ve known for a long time.  I’ve been reassured for years through the common focus of the exegesis surrounding this story: no matter what we’ve done, God will always be looking for us to come back to Him so He can celebrate.

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Thing is, I’m looking to this story for a bit more about now.  I’ve been experiencing a lot of what I call “Older Son Moments”.

I’ve been wrestling a lot with these the past few months.
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Rainy Afternoon

It’s raining outside.

After an overlong winter, the steady rain is a relief.  While it does rain a substantial amount in the fall, I somehow always associate it with spring and summer.  Maybe that’s because spring doesn’t seem to officially arrive until after the first thunderstorm.  Maybe it’s because of summer nights I huddled in the front seat of my boyfriend’s car when pouring rain drove us away from our bench outside the library.  Maybe it’s because the final days I spent at home before going away to college for the first time are punctuated with rain in my memory.

Maybe it’s just because fall isn’t as important to me as spring and summer are.  I was born in the spring, a season filled with tulips and possibilities.  My goddaughter was born in the same season this last year, and I wonder if she and I will share delight in new gardens as she grows.

If spring is the potential, then summer is the realization.  I fell in love in the summer, each and every time I fell in love with my boyfriend.  We held hands at the carnival and read to each other in the middle of the woods.  He first kissed me on a July evening.  It wasn’t raining then, and as the sun set, everything was bathed in my favorite shade of golden light.

I believe that summer will forever be my favorite.

I don’t like being cold.  I tolerate it, for I live up north, and snow has a certain charm, as do outdoor football games and Christmas light shows and thawing out indoors afterwards, with lots of blankets and hot chocolate.

I don’t like being cold, but I don’t mind being wet.  In the summer and late spring, it’s warm enough outside for me to go out in the rain and not be miserable.  Rain changes every activity, walking, gardening, swimming, listening, and every activity becomes something just a little bit different.

The light itself is different, and I find it healing when I’ve been overwhelmed.

I love watching water, water in oceans, water in rivers, water in puddles, water falling from on high.  I love feeling it on my face, I love listening to it, I love being close to it and being separated, warm and distant.

Above all, I love doing what I’m doing right now, sitting with a mug of tea, working on a small project of some sort, staring out the window, with my rainy day music playing softly in the background.

I wish you rain in your day as well.

Resignation

Today, Pope Benedict XVI steps down from active ministry.  This is my response.  It is the longest and most honest blog post I have ever written.  Thank you for reading it.

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On Monday, February 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign from his active ministry at the end of the month.

This news was met with waves of emotion from across the world.  I was woken at 6:00am by a text from an aunt announcing the news.  By the time I fully awoke for the day, I had heard from several others.  The first of the blog reactions were already posted.  I read messages of shock, confusion, sadness, abandonment and tremulous hope from the faithful.  The Church’s opponents were just as loud in their anger, glee and distrust.  The sheer weight of the world’s reaction caught me by complete surprise.

I myself felt only a profound relief.

It was a week to the day since I had resigned from my own position in ministry.

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