Monday, November 24, 2014

Abundance

Yesterday was the final Sunday of the church year--Christ the King Sunday. It's one of those festivals I used to hate (because I didn't do my research) but now love because its the best kind of old school subversive. You can read a sermon I wrote a few years ago if you're curious.

This year, and many others but not all, the calendar has worked out such that Thanksgiving falls on the Thursday between church years. Yesterday, we said goodbye to a year of celebrations and lamentations; on Thursday, we'll declare our deep gratitude for our families, friends, communities, and nation; next Sunday, we'll begin the new year and the season of Advent, as we await the Christ child once more.

Poignant, I'd say.

Framing the transition from year to year around gratitude is what I'd do if I had it my way--this year, the calendar has done it for me. Thanks, Revised Common Lectionary and lunar whatever that placed Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of a five-Sunday November!

Looking back at the year and forward to the new centered in the communal giving of thanks, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the remainder of 2014 and the transition into 2015 will be plentiful and abundant--and that I will be able to recognize where my life overflows, even if it seems mundane or disappointing in some ways on some days.

Our country's and our Church's attitudes of scarcity are self-fulfilling. Entering the year with an attitude of abundance will cause us to recognize our abundance and share in our abundance. I'm sure of it.

I have more of everything than I need, and I want to share it all with you.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Clean out your damn desk.

"Clean out your damn desk" has been on my to-do list for roughly three months. It's technically not even off the list now because I only did a cosmetic job of it this morning. The drawers still lurk, over-full with maybe-dry pens and maybe-dead batteries and maybe-expired gum and maybe-salvageable post-it notes...it's been a decade-long dumping ground. You can see why I hesitate to dig in.

This morning, though, I went through the pile of papers on the surface and found the check I'd been meaning to deposit and the clothes I'd been meaning to exchange and the books I'd been meaning to shelve for a few weeks. I came across some half-full notebooks from ages past--I'd actually dug those up a few months ago in attempt one to clean out my damn desk, distracted myself thoroughly with the reading of them, and never put them away. Fortunately, that meant I had no interest in them today and was not similarly derailed. Putting them away, though, I found 7 empty journals I'd acquired over the years as gifts (and as unmet-goal purchases). I seem like a person who journals, I guess. All blogging evidence to the contrary, I am not really a person who journals. Amanda introduced me to the five-year journal, where you write just three lines a day for five years. I couldn't even keep that up consistently, and gave it up completely after like two-and-a-half. I have intentions of starting fresh in a new one this January 1. We'll see.

If you know my reading habits, you know that the stop-and-start journals are in good company. I found three books I'd begun reading and never finished--that means I'm wading in seven right now. I picked one and brought it with me to Pannikin this morning in order to dive back in. It's glorious. I'm not normal.

It's the inspiration for the post, though. I've been reading a lot lately: a few clever memoirs, powering through all six of John Green's novels (two halves to go!), and some non-fiction essay anthologies. I've been sort of uncharacteristically deep-novel-less. What I mean is that while John Green's novels have deeply influenced me--The Fault in Our Stars influenced my relationship with Jonathan literally overnight--they are young adult novels, and therefore aren't bursting with fanciful sentences like "The lamp hissed in the silence of the room, eloquent looks ran up and down in the thicket of wallpaper patterns, whispers of venomous tongues floated in the air, zigzags of thought..." that close a chapter, ellipses and all. I've re-entered Bruno Schulz' Street of Crocodiles, the impetus of Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes, which I wrote about here.

The authors I've spent the summer and entered fall with--John Green, Rachel Held Evans, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dave Hickey, Terry Eagleton, Elias Khoury--just haven't spoken to me in this manner. And in case you're somehow still curious as to how I feel about the act of reading, it is precisely these varieties and vagaries of literature that keep me alive.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two Alexes Are Better Than One Alex -- A&A 10/4/14

I officiated the wedding of my brother (Alex) and my now brother-in-law (Alexander) earlier this month. These are the words I preached about what their union could be like.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Much to my chagrin, today (like each day before it) is not about me. Today is about a God who has blessed two giant families with two wonderful men named Alex. And as our main man Ecclesiastes has just proclaimed, two Alexes are better than one Alex.

And Hafiz, who, in the 14th century, wrote the poem that Aunt Jackie read, knew that your union could be like this.

Alex and Alexander, you chose this poem, I believe, because of its extraordinariness and ordinariness. In the poem, Hafiz explains, “You felt cold, so I…” and “A hunger comes into your body, so I…” and “You ask for a few words of comfort and guidance, so I…” Hafiz responds to the needs of his partner, as you are promising to do. Here, you have recognized that this wonderful celebration (while the end of a year of planning and anticipating) is in fact the beginning of a lifetime of regular old togetherness. You will go through the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of life, now, together. You will make ordinary experiences into extraordinary ones, by your togetherness.

The Ecclesiastes reading dealt in twos—two Alexes are better than one Alex. If one falls, the other catches. If one is cold, the other warms. If one feels weak, the other strengthens. But then the last line suddenly mentions that a threefold cord is not quickly broken. It’s like, thanks for the advice, Eagle Scout, but what does that have to do with anything? It turns out that the relevant information in this passage is not just that two Alexes are better than one Alex, but that there’s even a third ply at play. Congratulations, y’all—it’s you.

Earlier in this very ceremony, you, the third ply, agreed to “support and care for them, sustain and pray for them, give thanks with them, honor the bonds of their promise, and affirm the love of God reflected in their life together.” You promised that. Thank you.

We’re gathered here today as people of a variety of faiths, cultures, and political persuasions. And we’re gathered here today because Alex and Alexander are our beloved brothers, sons, cousins, nephews, friends, colleagues, classmates, comrades. We’re gathered here because we believe—or are coming to believe—that this marriage is about love and commitment and joy, and that this union does nothing to threaten anyone. The only thing this marriage threatens to do is celebrate in the midst of those who would tear it down.

Because while we—all of us present today and all those who will be present later this month in Sterling Heights—are that threefold cord, we find the strength to be so because God, too, is with us.

For me as a Christian, the most important words I ever preach are, of course, the greatest commandment Jesus ever preached—love one another. That’s what we’re here to do today. We’re not here to do anything if not to celebrate love and multiply love. This is radical and this is exponential.

Like you promised, when you support and care for Alex and Alexander in the coming years—as you have always done—that will radiate. When you pray for them—as you have always done—that will radiate. When you give thanks with them—as you have always done—that will radiate. When you honor the bonds of their promise, and uphold yours, that will radiate. When you affirm that love of God reflected in their life together—the love of God will radiate.

When I look at your faces, Alex and Alex, my dear ones, the love of God radiates. 


Thanks be to God! Amen!

Monday, September 8, 2014

October is NDVAM

I know it’s just barely September, but preparation involves advance notice, and so I’m here to talk about October—National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. You’ve probably seen and read and heard a lot about verbal and physical violence against women lately—conversation about sexual assault (especially on college campuses) and the new domestic violence policies in the NFL have been center stage. There’s a lot you can do to educate yourself about what’s happening in your community and communities around the nation and world—this month, next month, and every month.

Are you a student? Think and talk about the violence against women on your campus.
Are you employed? Think and talk about the violence against women in your workplace.
Are you a voter? Think and talk about the violence against women in your government.
Are you a sports fan? Think and talk about the violence against women perpetrated by professional male athletes.
Are you a person of faith? Think and talk about the violence against women in your sacred texts, your denomination, your congregation.

Where I live, the organization my family and I routinely support is the Community Resource Center—check it out, especially if you’re in San Diego.

Wherever you live, somebody is working to end violence against women and children. You can, too. Start with these websites if you don’t know who the changemakers are in your community. 
Find out what you can donate, when you can volunteer, to whom you can listen, to whom you can speak out. Let me know what you find.

www.ncadv.org
www.nomore.org
www.ncdsv.org 
www.thehotline.org 
www.incite-national.org 
www.futureswithoutviolence.org

www.vday.org 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lost and found and lost and...

This is me, fourish years ago, during my first year of seminary:

I'm at the Albatross--our walkable bar--with my friend and classmate Sara. I weighed 233 pounds the week this photograph was taken. Look at that face. If you can tear yourself away from the fact that my tank top will not contain that torso (those boobs). Did I say that out loud? Technically I typed it.

This is me, a yearish ago, about to start my fourth year of seminary:


We're at the wedding of our dear friends Gretchen and Jill. I weighed 171 pounds the week this photograph was taken. We're looking at adorable baby Gabe, but you're looking at my surprisingly small waist and great shoulders, am I right? 

This is me, a few months ago, just before graduating from seminary:


We're celebrating/lamenting everything that comes with graduating and moving and getting jobs (or not). I've weighed between 176 and 184 pounds in the weeks since this photograph was taken. A couple of weeks ago it was 177, this week it was 181. Most weeks I don't weigh in. The weight is going to go and come and go and come. That's life.

Why am I posting about this now? I hit the 50lb loss mark almost 18 months ago, and I've been hovering in the vicinity of that pretty much since then. Some weeks, I go to the gym every other day and I kick ass and take names and love myself and everyone else. Other weeks, I drink a lot of wine and bake more than one batch of cookies and think more about the blob (that's what I call my fat, because I'm hilarious and terrible). My mom made her world-famous (people who moved to other nations have eaten it, so, technically!) macaroni and cheese a few nights ago, at my request, because it is so freaking delicious. In the leftovers that I've had each day since then (that's what's up) I've cut up some kale and thrown it in there, so I can feel better about consuming it. 

It was tonight, as I was pouring a glass of wine and looking at the cookie jar, that I thought UGH Kloehn you haven't been to the gym enough this week what are you doing? Do you really think throwing some kale in that mac and cheese makes it okay? 

But then I though about Kelsey and Jocelyn. Kelsey and Jocelyn are two (out of three) women I'd identify as my best friends on the planet. When it comes to health and happiness, these two are bursting with both. They run marathons, bike centuries, verb triathlons, mix margaritas, bake cookies, inhale avocados, and love me to death. Their moral support was unmatched during my "I JUST WANT TO EAT ALL THE OREOS" phase(s). They also helped me tremendously when I needed stretches for my newly sore muscles and opinions on the new dresses I could fit in. They're the best.

Before them, before this whole adventure, I would have believed that you could lose weight by eating one salad, and gain weight by eating one cupcake. I would never have considered throwing a handful of kale into my mac and cheese--although living in Berkeley may have as much to do with that as being friends with Kels and Joce. I would have believed that it wasn't possible to feel beautiful and fun and full and healthy and energetic and thin and awesome all in one moment! There are many moments where I don't feel great. I'm writing this post because right now is one of those days, and I need this reminder. I need to look at those photographs to see where I've been and know where I am and see where I can still go. 

I have love and support from Kelsey and Jocelyn and all the other loves of my life. I have parents who schedule dinners around Zumba classes; and a boyfriend who loves to eat cookies for breakfast before a hike; and a brother who's a dietitian; and friends who walk to the gym with me, then meet up for a pitcher of beer after dinner; and you, all of you, who love me all the while. Thank you, for who you've been. Thank you, for who you've made me.