Thursday, April 28, 2011

gavel not included

I don't know if there's something in the air, but over the past few days I've been shocked by the hurtful judgements I've seen levied against other bloggers by people who are "just being honest."  MckMama was taken to task for not caring enough about her cat, while a single Dad received death threats because the new dog wasn't getting along well with his son so he took the dog back to the pound.  Meanwhile Brad Bell, better knows as Cheeks, gets a stern letter for recommending too many things in his own tweets.  Do people honestly have nothing better to do?

It seems that as humans we find casting judgement just about as easy as breathing, and far more entertaining if the sheer volume of it is any indication. I used to think that this sort of thing was a phase you grew out of, but the older I get the more I realized that we don't stop judging, we just change the topics that we care about enough to mention.

As a single adult, I get why aren't you married/ don't you want a husband/ are you gay/ have you tried xyz dating service/ you should pray more/ just wait for Jesus more/ stop thinking about getting married and God will surprise you with a spouse when you least expect it.  I've been given unsolicited and unwanted dating advice in all sorts of places, most notably at the funeral home during my grandfather's funeral. (I wish I was kidding.)  But of course if I do get married one day, it won't stop there.

Friends of mine who have faced infertility have had unspeakable things said to them. One family who was blessed with quadruplets gets "wow, isn't that a lot of children?" while yet another friend, a mother of twins, has perfect strangers asking about her medical history. If you have one child people want to know when you're having the next one but for goodness sake don't get pregnant too quickly, or wait too long.  What is it about us that makes us think we have any right to ask, let alone any claim on the answers?

I was talking to Dallas today and he said, "in the old testament we used stones, after the curtain ripped Jesus allowed us to exchange Rocks for words".  He was joking around when he said it but it struck me how much truth is in those words.  We so easily throw judgements around but they are not little harmless pebbles, they are rocks.  Jesus said that whoever was blameless was allowed to throw the first rock and I think it would be good to keep that in mind when it comes to judgements too.  If I am faultless then I am qualified to judge, but until then I can only hope to become well versed in the language of mercy.

Shakespeare spoke of mercy dropping like the gentle rain of heaven.  Mercy is often associated with weaker words but there is an incredible depth of strength in it.  To be merciful I have to be secure enough in myself that I don't need to take anything of yours.  Mercy comes out of our excess.  It is a generosity of spirit, of choosing not to take the cheap shot and the cheap thrill that comes with it.  Mercy says, "I don't need to point out your faults, or prove to you how smart I am".  Mercy is the one who is there to help clean up the mess without commenting on how the mess got there in the first place.

I still remember, four or five years ago now a good friend of mine showing up to church heavily pregnant and unmarried.  As she stepped into the sanctuary someone made a horrible comment to her as if she did not know which choices lead her to where she stood.  It was hurtful and so very unnecessary and the one and only time I have ever really wanted to punch someone in a sanctuary.  She was like the poor man with only one lamb in the story Nathan used to rebuke David in 2 Samuel 12.  She was feeling pretty alone but she came to church hoping for a little support and received harsh words instead.  It would have taken so little for this person to simply say "Good morning, I'm glad you're here." Where else should she be on a Sunday morning?

It's always a tricky business talking about judgement because it's pretty much impossible to be anything other than judgemental while doing so.  So let me say it here, "mea culpa".  I totally do this too.  Why do we do it? Well tell ourselves that we're just trying to help but that's not true. If we wanted to help, really and truly, we would do a lot more listening and a lot less talking.  We would make a meal for that new mother instead of berating her for not breastfeeding.  We would offer a little comfort instead of kicking the person who is obviously down.  We would remember that only God can cast the first stone, and then we'd go back and read that story again and remember that He choose not to throw a stone at all.  Instead he said, "neither do I condemn you." Now there's words to live by.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

the sound of music in the dark

If you ever get the chance to attend a Sing-a-Long Sound of Music, say yes. Say yes quickly. And prepare to be delighted.

I first heard about the show a few years ago from a friend of mine. I always thought it sounded like a riot.  Imagine my glee when I found out that the show was coming to Vancouver. I was slightly less gleeful when I realized that the one and only show was the night before the Sun Run, a 10km trek I had already committed to but someone pointed out that it would probably be worth it.  He was right.  It seems that my year of proving that "sometimes it is absolutely necessary to do the thing that makes no sense" continues.

So Saturday night found me back at the RiverRock casino, full of memories of the last time I was there to see Adam Lambert and missing my Boston girls something crazy. It wouldn't take long for this night to kick up such a party of its own that there was no time left for reminiscing.

The show started with a costume competition, a hilarious hodge podge of Marias, nuns, goat herders and a very memorable group of ladies draped in a green cloth who turned out to be the hills, alive with the sound of music.  We received our instructions: hiss when the Baroness is on screen, bark for Rolf, salute the captain, say Awww for Gretal. They showed us how to use the cards for "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" and told us what the little piece of cloth was for.  Then they dimmed the lights and from the very first note the entire room broke out into song.

There is something truly magical about a group of strangers singing together. You can see it in the way people respond to flash mobs, and it is stunningly illustrated in California composer Eric Whitacre's magnificent Virtual Choir. There is a freedom in singing with strangers, a joy that is uncommon.  You can see it in karaoke bars the world over and it was fully on display at Sing-a-Long Sound of Music.  

This is, above all, a participatory show.  You can't just show up, you sing.  You agree to be silly, you wave your cards in the air, literally and figuratively, and there in dark you admit that you are definitely NOT too cool to sing out loud.  I hope that we are all able to remember that come Monday morning.

Lou Holtz said, "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." At Sing-a-Long Sound of Music we all had a song and we sang it, with vigor. The day after my throat is sore from laughing so much and singing so loudly. Proof of a very good evening in my book.   We speak of play as the serious work of childhood, so why do we so often forget the importance of playing as grown-ups?

I was reading something the other day where one character asks the other, "What do you want from me?" and the reply comes, "I want your song. I want you to sing for me."  The idea is a request for knowledge, I want to know the real you, I want to know what comes out when you can't stop it.  I wonder sometimes how well I know the words to my own song and how willing I am to sing it. It can be so tempting to be quiet, or to sing someone else's song or sing what we think the moment needs. I think that honesty is serious work of adults, figuring out who we are in the dark and what, in this whole wide world we plan to do with it.  I think if we could figure that out, the hills really would be alive with the sound of our music.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How to Vote in 10 Minutes or Less

Every time an election is called I hear people talking about not voting and I get a little rant-y. This year I'm going on the offensive and saying it early: YOU HAVE TO VOTE.  Don't let yourself play the "it's too complicated" or "I don't really understand the issues" or "politics is hard" card. You live in a democracy. If you like hospitals and roads and not getting shot at, then you need to vote. It's pretty simple.

Refuse to be disillusioned. There are no perfect politicians just like there are no perfect dentists or project managers or cupcake bakers. Politicians are people and just like you and me they are flawed. Refusing to vote because "everyone is corrupt" or "all politicians lie" is basically saying that you're waiting until you can vote for the Easter bunny. You're a grown-up now.  Vote.

So now that you've decided to vote, choosing WHO to vote for doesn't have to be that complicated.  In a perfect world we'd all be totally informed and up to date on all the issues at all times. But for everyone who isn't a political junkie trying to figure out an entire governmental system in the weeks - ok let's be honest, the days - before an election is a daunting task.  Instead of getting overwhelmed and "forgetting" to vote, here are four easy ways to choose a candidate in 10 minutes or less.  The internet-savvy among us can probably do it in five.

How to vote in 10 minutes or less:

1. Join the party.  Take a quick online assessment to find out which political party best lines up with your own political beliefs.  Vote for the candidate in that party.  I like this one. (fixed the link)

2.  If you can't think big, think small. Research your local reps and vote for the person who's in charge of your own back yard.

(2. Alternate) Think even smaller. Choose the one issue you care the most about and   do a quick Google search to see where the local candidates stand on that issue. Vote accordingly.

3. Borrow someone else's vote.  Go to someone who's opinion you trust and ask them who they are voting for and why. Add your voice and your vote to theirs.

4. Close your eyes and point. If all else fails, show up on election day and randomly select a candidate. Voting for the wrong person is still better than not voting at all.  At least you showed up. You participated.  Next time, try options 1 through 3.

Above all, remember that in a democracy not voting is not an option. It's like being the roommate who never ever ever does their dishes, the parent who refuses to change a diaper, the freeloading friend who never grabs the check. You don't want to be that guy.  If you truly cannot with good conscience vote for any of the candidates then spoiling your vote is a valid option, but only if you show up at the voting booth and do it officially.  

We're Canadians, we show up when things are hard, we pitch in where there's a mess.  Voting is a privilege that was hard won on the backs of someone else's loved ones.  Voting is how we begin to say thank you for that. Don't let the chance pass you by. See you at the booth! (We can go for Tim's after.)