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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

We Love the Great Pumpkin: On Liturgy and Scarcity

I am a huge fan of Halloween.[i]  Often, over the past decade plus, I have planned and participated in an event named HallowedWorship, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Interestingly, the last thing that happens at HallowedWorship is the showing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”  It happens after music and Scripture and preaching and Eucharist… after candy and games and Halloween stories.  It happens after everyone who has prepared for and worked the event is exhausted.  It happens with kids on a sugar high.  And to be honest, there have been some years when my family has been the last one standing (or sitting, or falling asleep on a Sunday School room floor somewhere), as it plays to a chorus of people leaving the room questioning whether or not it is really necessary.  We’re all tired.  We’ve seen this film before.

And so, there is a certain degree of irony to the fact that the whole Halloween celebrating world is up in arms about “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” ceasing to air on broadcast television after fifty-four years of consistency.  I’m seeing some concern over the injustice of this.  After all, not everyone has Apple TV+.  I don’t.  And actually, I want to freely admit that there were some years when I didn’t have access to broadcast TV, either, so I legitimately understand the frustration that comes with being left out of culturally significant moments in time which can only be experienced together through technology one does not possess.  I’m not making light of this.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Although, my lament of The Great Pumpkin runs more toward a sadness that we cannot gather around my aging DVD copy to share the story with anyone who cares to watch in community, whether or not they have another way to do so. 

But I’m slightly taken aback by the idea that people who regularly slipped away before the show might be the same ones who are crying out against its disappearance.  Slightly.  Ever so slightly.  OK, maybe not even that much.  It seems odd, but maybe it’s not.

People like rhythm and ritual, and even if they do not physically participate on a regular basis, they also want to know the option is available to them.  As humans, we order our lives around crisis moments and the regular patterns that happen in-between.  Perhaps more than any other year in modern history (or, at least, personal history), 2020 has robbed us of this sense of normalcy.  And “normal” is a word that is cropping up more and more, especially in the context of “a new normal.”  We have been resilient… or so we think.  We have made sacrifices and reframed our contexts for work and school and justice and politics and worship and family life.  We have quite literally framed ourselves in little boxes in order to continue to communicate with whatever invented version of body language and expression we can muster.  But the loss of The Great Pumpkin?  I mean, come on…  enough is enough!  Am I right?

Be kind to yourself.  This is not such an outlandish claim or feeling to have.  It’s fairly common for people who are in the midst of crisis to reach for the small, consistent pieces of their lives in order to cope with the things they cannot control.  Those who are suffering trauma might ground themselves with a blade of grass or a handful of sand.  When your house is burning down around you, the most devastating immediate losses and subsequent requests can seem strange and inconsequential.  But we thrive on embracing the ordinary when the world seems to be spinning off its axis.  It’s why we need to be able to sit with Linus in the pumpkin patch, this year, wrapped in his familiar blue blanket, even though we know The Great Pumpkin isn’t coming.  It’s why we need to hear Charlie Brown say, “I got a rock.”  This is quite literally a touchstone!

I knew it was serious when I did a quick search for "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on DVD today.  If you read that last line and were inspired to give it a shot, maybe don’t.  Just like there was a run on toilet paper and Lysol wipes, you will find the “shelves” empty.  I don’t really know how to fix this in the time of Covid-19.  Were it a more normal time in history, I’d probably just invite y’all over for popcorn and a movie.  Then again, we’ve been there.  If it were a more normal time in history, you might decline. 

Rather than being some sort of definitive treatise on the benefits and detriments of a Peanuts liturgy[ii], this is intended to create some space for the consideration of why this loss (and so many others) is significant… to you… to community… to the calendar… to the culture.  Allow it to sink in.  Tread softly. 


[i] No one gasps (see: girl who is most comfortable with lament, preaching funerals, Ash Wednesday, and All Saints Day). 

[ii] That sounds like a great piece for another time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

I Voted Today…

… and the honest truth is that I feel crappier about it than any other vote I have ever cast (and that’s saying something).

Take a trip with me, back to 2008.  If you’ve known me that long, you may recollect that I was a lifelong registered Republican, but I had bought into “Hope and Change.”  However, on the precipice of casting my vote for Obama, I waited with hopeful, bated breath for his VP pick.  And when it was Joe Biden, I said, “Oh, heck no,” and this voter swayed right back to the party she was registered to support (even though I didn’t have a lot of love for McCain, either). [i] 

Fast forward to the past year…

Much in the same way, I critically viewed all of the democratic debates and felt fairly sure that a candidate I could live with would emerge.  Having voted third party in 2016, and having decided (and declared fairly publicly) that I would never do that again (unless we come to some sort of ranked voting system at which point I will claim it is my prerogative to change my mind, given new parameters and information), I had essentially already decided that I would vote for whoever’s name graced the ballot for the democratic party this time around.  There were a few candidates I didn’t like, but I was fairly sure they would drop off in the early dropping off days (most did), and there were a few candidates I liked a great deal.  None of them were perfect.  I hold some positions that are apparently mutually exclusive with actually becoming a democrat (although, in full disclosure, that is how I am currently registered).  But looking at the wide field of possibilities, I felt pretty good about where things were headed.  At some point, I told my kids that it would be alright, because the only candidate left that I just couldn’t vote for was Biden, and it was never going to be him…

And then I found myself in an impossible situation, because I am 100%, without a doubt, a “nevertrumper” for life (please note, the very definition of never means never), I had made a really big deal about never voting third party again (see: definition of never), and I had also proclaimed that I would not vote for Biden and had backed that decision with my voting record, in the past.  Because I disdain lying and/or going back on my word; for the first time ever, I seriously considered not voting, but it didn’t sit well with me. I’m not a real fan of letting other people make decisions for me and living with the consequences.

There are many things I would like to say about politics.  There are many things I would like to say about my positions and how I justify the decisions I make.  I could go on for pages and pages, but I suspect this wouldn’t make much of a difference, because the vast majority of us are reading and listening to the biased sources that we think are most legitimate, and one more liberal leaning, pro-life, doctoral student, pastor, mama of many[ii] isn’t going to sway anyone in a blog post.  However, if you legitimately want to engage in a dialogue, I am always willing to do so.[iii]

I recognize that no one has to disclose who they voted for, but my MO is to do just that, with transparency, in hopes that we can have that charitable discourse and also in hopes that we might recognize that voting doesn’t always fit neatly into some predetermined box and it’s OK to cast a vote for someone who doesn’t meet all of your expectations or for someone whose ideals and policies don’t align perfectly with your own.  Just keeping it real, how many people are there out there who would meet these standards?  If I made this my baseline, I could probably vote for something like two people on the face of the planet, and neither of them is running for anything!

I voted today.

I voted Biden/Harris, because it was the best I could do.

I feel kinda crappy.

I still hope you go do the best you can do, too.   


PS  I have a whole roll of "I Voted Today" stickers for those of you who are voting by mail, like me!  Just send me a message and I will get one out to you!

[i] Actually, these were probably not my exact words 12 years ago, although they would be close, today…

[ii] Oh wait, just me?

[iii] By this, I do not mean if you want to make attempts to trip me up or change my mind.  What I mean is that I am willing to share my reasons for my decision, and I will listen to yours, if we can talk charitably with one another.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The World Has Shifted

 “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

It’s a bumper sticker on my vehicle, but it’s more than that, too. 

For a variety of reasons, I have written and said precious little of consequence over the past few months.  To be honest, a great deal of my silence is simply due to my current position in life.  I’m a PhD student.  It’s exam year.  I am basically maxed out.  The other day, I told my kids I think I have crammed so much in my brain that it is starting to dump details that are no longer important or at least that are not vital in the given moment.  This life doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for engagement, and I’m OK with that, because I know it’s temporary. 

But there’s something I need to say now.  The world has shifted.

It’s certainly not the first time, and it won’t be the last.  If you know me, you know I like classic TV, and I can tell you that you need look no further than an episode or two of Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, or Full House (whew… showing my age if that’s now a “classic”) to see how families and worldviews and entertainment choices and relationships have changed from decade to decade.  And while I would not recommend trying to emulate the cultures of any of those sitcoms, I do find them an interesting study.

Many years ago, when my oldest kids (now adults) were little kids, I can remember my dad saying, “Well, you’re not raising them like you were raised, but you’re doing a good job.”  Not long ago, I heard a sentiment (paraphrased) that you can’t raise your kids the same way you were raised, because the world is not the same world it was when you were growing up.  It’s true.  It’s all true.  In fact, the world shifted again between the early childhood days of my oldest two children and the early childhood days of my youngest three.  It’s almost as if I could physically feel it.  And now, it has shifted once more. 

I suspect that the years between major world changes are getting shorter.  I could speculate on why this is, but if I do, I’ll never finish this post, and it will end up in the scrap heap with so many other ideas that I have never shared.  For the purposes of today, I don’t care so much about why the world has shifted but that it has.

There are basically two things you can do when you feel the ground move beneath your feet.  You can adapt… or not.  Both choices come with consequences.  I love the Maya Angelou quote, because I think if offers a certain degree of grace to everyone involved. 

Do the best you can…

I want to believe that everyone (or, at least most everyone) is doing the best they can.  It’s really hard when that’s not enough.  But for the sake of charitable discourse, let’s hold back on that for a moment and extend the benefit of the doubt to human beings, assuming that we are, indeed, doing our best. 

Until you know better…     

This part is tricky, too, because it requires teachable hearts.  It requires us to take a good, hard, long look at the things we believe to be best and to accept that they might not be.

Then when you know better…

But I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit, and I believe we can learn and deconstruct and reconstruct and accept that sometimes we were wrong, even when it was the best we had to offer at that particular time.

Do Better…    

I often say, “We have to do better,” but I have recently come to realize that, actually, we don’t.  We don’t have to do better, but we really should.  We should at least try.

It’s really hard.  It’s hard enough to transform and evolve when the people with all the power dig their heels in.  It’s harder still when the people we love do the same.  I get it.  I’m over her playing this very dangerous game of survival, just like the rest of you, and it’s terrifying, because I don’t claim to know what that even looks like for the coming days.  But I desperately want to be on the side of history that does just a little better than yesterday.  And even though it is my deep desire and a strong temptation to drag others kicking and screaming along with me, I think I’m at a place where I have to look at them, doing the best they can, even if they don’t want to know better, and wish them well, as I adapt to the earth moving beneath my feet.  Let's not dig our heels in.  Let's soar.