March 2011


Some of my favorite moments are when I catch my housemates at home and we have a chance to talk. I had taken Friday morning off from work and was thrilled to find that I wasn’t home alone – Michelle was on the blue striped couch with a tall pile of thick books in front of her. As we caught up, my fellow Hollenbeck-House-resident-Christian-feminist mentioned one of the books she was reading was by a Westmont grad. As she had been reading about this woman’s life in which most of the time she is a stay-at-home mom, she was surprised when the author mentions out of the blue that she is an ordained minister. We both laughed; surprised at what seems ironic superficially.

Interested in this woman, I picked up the same book this evening and part of a chapter caught my eye.

“One of my favorite Celtic ideas is the concept of thin places. A thin place, according to the Celtic mystics, is a place where the boundary between the natural world and the supernatural one is more permeable – thinner, if you will.
Sometimes they’re physical places. There are places all over Ireland where people have said, if you stand here, if you face this direction, if you hike to the top of that ridge at just the right time of day, that’s a thin place, a place where the passage between heaven and earth is a short one, a place where God’s presence is almost palpable.
Thin places: places where the boundary between the divine world and the human world becomes almost nonexistent, and the two, divine and human, can for a moment, dance together uninterrupted. Some are physical places, and some aren’t places at all, but states of being or circumstances or seasons.”
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

Something about the concept of thin places resonates with my soul. Thin places, to me, are incredibly elusive. Those split seconds in which I freeze and realize, “That’s how this was intended to be.” They are glimpses of shalom¹ in a broken world. Usually these moments take me by surprise, but I wonder what would happen if I lived looking for them, expecting them to be just around the corner.

 

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¹Shalom: “the way things were intended to be,” wholeness, completeness, peace, reconciliation, healing.

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Last night I had a friend from church over for dinner. We had a GREAT time and she introduced me to Banksy, a mysterious and elusive British street artist who was in LA in February during the Oscars (not actually ‘in person’ introduced me, of course). While he was here, he dropped in on Boyle Heights – literally less than 2 blocks from my house, to be exact.

I watched this clip of Exit Through the Giftshop, a documentary Banksy directed (and was nominated for) and my friend showed me the two spots.

Unfortunately, the spots in Boyle Heights we visited are already gone – defaced, cut out, painted over.

About this particular image: “Now synonymous with illegal immigration, the sign has been claimed by artists, immigration restrictionists and immigrant advocates, most recently by supporters of the Dream Act, some of whom have sported t-shirts and put up posters portraying the family as cap-and-gown wearing college graduates.” From here. It makes a huge political statement for the image to appear in Boyle Heights.

1st and Soto (photo by Ted Soqui):

Defaced and being cut out (stolen in broad daylight? – found here):

As I saw it:

Pleasant and Cesar Chavez (from here):

Apparently it was defaced with a “$” sign, and painted over. As I saw it:

Apparently, there is another one on Washington and Flower as well (from here):

These last two are speculated to be copy-cats, as only the first image appears on Banksy’s website.

This morning I went on a hunt to find other art pieces of Banksy’s.

First stop, Washington and Compton:

Next, Broadway and 9th:

I trekked out to Westwood (Westwood and Kinross) to see this piece, but it had been defaced and then painted over already (from here):

As I saw it:

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to be more in tune to the street and graff art in LA from now on!

Check out this blog to find out what’s happening.

“The feminism I ascribe to and work for involves more than women and our fictional representations simply acting like men or unquestioningly replicating archetypal male values such as being emotional inexpressive, the need for domination and competition, and using violence as a form of conflict resolution. In my feminist vision, part of what makes a character feminist is watching her struggle with prioritizing values such as cooperation, empathy, compassion and non-violent conflict resolution in a world largely hostile to those values.”

This woman is brilliant.

Tugged the moon into the ground
Turned this bedroom upside down tonight
Took my faith and i breathed it out
Then walked right through a cloud of flashing lights, bright lies.

Pain takes my heart’s place
The love we made, we cant erase it, don’t wanna face it

Pitter pat, the angel on my shoulder
Is haunting me tonight
Tick tock, the clock is getting louder
Ready for me to decide

I’ve lost my sense of right and wrong
Well-justified my soul to carry on
It feels so damn good to write off the rules
But when a new day breaks, I’m left a fool I’m such a fool

Pain takes my heart’s place
But your sweet sweet love,
oh I can taste it but still can’t face it

Pitter pat, the angel on my shoulder
Is haunting me tonight
Tick tock the clock is getting louder
Waiting for me to decide

The sun is coming down on me
Could fate be so unkind?

Pain takes my heart’s place
The love we made remains

Recently I’ve been meditating on the concept of living in tension. Not tension as in anxiety, but as in an “in-between” or “balance”. …but not balance without movement. I’m imagining a teeter-totter that goes back and forth, never stopping completely parallel to the ground. Or a tug-of-war where the cloth tied on the rope signifying the middle goes back and forth over the ground marker as the teams pull back and forth. Or a clock pendulum like the one that my Mom’s parents had in their house.

I think this concept comes out of my previous meditation on balance. I used to say and think that a lot – “everything in life needs balance”, “it’s all about balance”. But this concept brings to mind images of someone carrying a tall stack of books that is teetering and the person is trying everything they can to not let the books do so. Or someone on a tightrope who has to walk a narrow cable with disastrous consequences if they fall.

And I realized that my viewing life as “balance” was related to how I viewed grace. How I viewed grace wrongly, that is. Because for me to insinuate that life could eventually come to this perfect medium of balance is faulty. Let’s get a few things straight: life is messy, and perfection is impossible to achieve. I thought that with hard work life could level out. With that philosophy I was substituting meritocracy¹ for grace.

Grace. It’s one of those words that are used (and thrown around?) a lot in the Christian community. Which makes sense as to why I understood intellectually what grace was growing up, but I’m not sure if I really felt grace until my fourth year at Biola. Oh, I understood mentally that I was saved by grace. But I didn’t allow myself to feel the presence of grace in my life. And once I felt grace, I also began to feel freedom.

How did I feel grace? I learned how to say no. And by that I mean, a few times in situations where I was pretty sure I knew what the “right” decision was, I would willfully choose to do the opposite. And then I would sit and claim grace over my decision. Sounds crazy, right? Now, before you think “disobedient!” and “you’re not a true Christian!” know those voices were already yelling in my head loud enough for my whole neighborhood to hear. Learning to trust that God knows the condition and intentions of my heart regardless of my actions is a lesson I’ll be on for a while.

There are a lot of individuals like myself who grew up in the church and have a difficult and frustrating time owning and experiencing their own relationship with our Savior. My journey of ownership began in 8th grade. Since then I’ve continually had to reexamine and deconstruct everything that I’ve been taught growing up. I literally have to relearn it all. And it’s tricky and challenging because there are beliefs I’ve found in myself that I didn’t realize I was taught – like how I viewed and experienced grace.

I’m living in tension between…

Legalism and antinomianism.
My and others’ expectations for myself and God’s expectations of me.
Being responsible for or to someone or something and not claiming responsibility.
Living to gain material wealth and living simply, generously, and sacrificially.

…and a whole lot more, of course.

I’m coming to terms that I’ll never be in perfect balance. Hopefully as I swing back and forth I will eventually not swing so far from side to side, slowly making my way closer to the middle, the perfect balance. I know achieving that will not happen in this lifetime though. So for now I will live in tension, and live in grace.

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¹Meritocracy: Believing that the harder one works, the more he/she will be rewarded. That success in life is directly correlated to how hard one works.

Ophelia and the concept of Ophelia began my gender journey. I just realized this.