Big News Week

Zimbabwe’s far. My mission pastor hubby John has once again made the 30-hour trek, this time with a planeful of energetic, ready-to-change-the-world teenagers and some pretty cool ready-to-change-the-world adults.

Relieving the sting of his absence, my friend Megan and her baby have flown out from New Mexico to hang with us. The baby is darling and has my boys enraptured with his little face, little hands and little Nikes. Having another mom on hand is of course, a Godsend. She has unending energy and instinctively bends down to tie a shoe, reaches out to hold a hand, jumps in to cook dinner, gives the mom-style laser eyes when mine are tired, and has been trying to help me figure out why the airbed keeps deflating and swallowing Jacob in the night. Megan’s a pastor’s wife too, and has been a source of comfort and understanding through both of our families’ wacky and fun-filled transitions into ministry.

Last night, with the boys tucked in, we watched Strictly Ballroom, and then she sat patiently while I tried to talk her into watching Twilight with me, which she won’t. Though we don’t have Masters of Divinity degrees like our husbands who were seminary classmates (and have apparently mastered divinity), we still find ourselves casually chatting about church polity and theology while sitting on the couch in our pajamas. If you can’t watch Twilight, theology and polity are the next logical choices.

And there’s been a lot to talk about. This last week or so, churchy news has made it into mainstream media something fierce. First Anne Rice denounces Christianity by way of Facebook, which if you are going to publicly and erroneously accuse an entire group of being hate mongers, Facebook is the way to go. And then there’s the big piece in the New York Times on clergy burnout which got all of the clergy types’ collective undergarments in a bunch. OK yuk, nobody wants to talk about clergy undergarments.

Now when this stuff comes out, there are countless platforms and forums and venues where we can virtually all jump in and talk at once. My instinct is to argue & defend when I feel wronged, and then reason & explain (which I’ve done this week), but that’s exhausting. It only goes so far, and in the end, just adds to the noise. Instead, it seems like a better idea to just let people know that right now, at this very moment, there are bright, talented, dedicated teenagers who are spending the last days of their summer thousands of miles away from home, carrying bricks, building pre-schools, and passing out shoes. As John very eloquently says, these are the kids who, in a blink, are going to be doctors, policymakers and world leaders. They’re bypassing the noisemakers – stepping out in faith and taking their big hearts, bright smiles and beautiful souls into the world to do something and show some love.  And not even Anne Rice can argue with that.

’til it sticks

When I talk, it’s kind of like throwing spaghetti at a wall. I’ve been known to talk and talk until, mercifully for the person I’m talking to, something resembling a point comes out and sticks.

There’s an obvious hazard of this quirky and downright adorable communication style – something really stupid is also going to inevitably come out. And, unlike writing where you can enjoy the heady luxury of a healthy edit, once you’ve said something inane, it’s out there, man. For a, uh, prolific talker like myself, you have two options: you can suddenly see something far away that needs your immediate attention (pre-schoolers are especially handy for this) or simply start talking again until the stupid thing has been erased by 10 more somethings. Quantity here, not quality.

 Apparently, this rapid fire verbal assault doesn’t do it for everybody.

 Last week, I accompanied a couple of colleagues down to a two-day seminar where we looked at our strengths, and the benefits of working with the strengths God gave us instead of futilely toiling away trying to correct our weaknesses. (Take that, math!) One of my strengths turned out to be my ability and interestingly enough, desire, to chat up strangers, get their story and quickly find some level on which we can relate. Huh.

We all had to stand and share about our strengths and ourselves. When it was my turn, I may have been a touch animated and incorporated a half-fist-pump, but did my best to keep it simple. When we were all done, I turned to talk to the ladies behind me. I had noticed our strengths put us on opposite ends of the spectrum personality-wise. The woman with the curly hair smiled sweetly, and appeased me with polite conversation. The lady with the ponytail and the death grip on her study guide looked me straight in the eye and said, “people like me run away from people like you,” not cracking a smile and effectively ending the conversation right there.

I spent the afternoon chewing on this. Oh no – I’m scary.

What would happen if I spotted serious pony tail death grip lady (SPTDGL) on my church patio at coffee hour? There I would be, lumbering over in movie-style slow motion with her locked in my sites. With this attractive visual in mind, I pictured what might be going through my head as I tried to make conversation with her.

My inner monologue would go something like this: “I’m relating to you right now. I’m making you more comfortable by talking and asking you questions about yourself in a totally healthy, hospitable, not-weird way. Ok, what I just said might be oversharing, but by being upfront about my faults, maybe you won’t think we’re all goody two shoes. Are you looking at my feet? I know my shoes don’t exactly match and this ‘luminous’ self-tanner is making me glitter like a disco ball. Note to self, ‘luminous’ = glitter.”

See? I’m nice, authentic, and most definitely not scary. With this silent conclusion, I triumphantly looked over my shoulder at the lady, who wouldn’t meet my gaze.

Hmmph. It’s you wily stoic ones that make me nervous. Yes, wily. I’m onto you – you’ve learned to masterfully use your silence to make yourself seem wiser and more thoughtful than the other folks in the room. A skill that is enhanced into a superpower by the presence of a talker.  You are able to simultaneously lull others into submission and bubble up their self doubt with the simple and artful act of not saying anything at exactly the right moment. That leaves the talker to do what they do best, fill the silence. If for some bizarro reason, I ever end up in your interrogation room, all you’d have to do is sit across from me, silently smirking. You’d get everything you needed to know, and then some.

Uggh, that isn’t right either. Ok, well, parts of it are.

With a new resolve, I made SPTDGL my new personal project. I was going to literally talk her into liking me. (Um, seeing that in print makes me realize I may have other issues I need to explore – but that’s for another day.)

 The next day she showed up in a Mickey Mouse watch and jacket.

 A-ha!

I can talk about two general subjects intelligently and with aplomb. The first is pop culture – scripted television, celebrity gossip, movies. Secondly, and more importantly, Disneyland. I stood determinedly in front of her, arms folded, and said simply “I see your Mickey Mouse jacket and watch.” She started to squirm and squinch up her face, eyes darting around desperately looking for an escape route, until I belted out “I LOVE DISNEYLAND!” and threw in a subdued fist pump for emphasis. Her shoulders relaxed, and then it happened. Her frown relaxed…all the way into a sorta, kinda half-smile that was ambiguously pointed in my direction!

And on that day, in that conference room, whether she liked it or not, she shared an authentic moment with her admittedly worst chatty luminous nightmare.

WTF: Why the Fulcrum?

Truly, it’s a miracle to be here. And I don’t mean that in any philosophical way. Getting this blog thing set up just about did me in. By the time I will actually get this posted, if in fact, I do, I will have ignored my children, stomped around the house growling, delayed cooking dinner and questioned whatever small dose of techie acumen I thought I had, as well as any qualifications that would allow me to even think about having a blog in the first place.

Thanks for coming.

Well, let’s start with the ridiculous title: The Fulcrum Chronicles. Again, I’d like to underscore the extent to which I do not enjoy being overly philosophical about anything. It’s obnoxious. However, I do think about faith, and God, and church…..a lot. I kind of have to. I’m a pastor’s wife, and a ministry director at our church (oddly, not my childhood goal).

 I’m not an engineer type, but I keep coming back to the idea of the teeter totter & the fulcrum. Life moves you in both directions, but the thing that keeps you in motion is that one ever – important point – the fulcrum. I like to think that’s where God is….encouraging you to kick off really hard with your feet when you hit the ground, and then celebrate with a whoop when you reach the sky. I also like to think that God would kindly re-direct the big mean kid on the other end of the teeter totter who keeps you trapped on your end with your feet dangling. In my imagination, it’s a scratchy pencil-drawn kid, and a pencil drawn teeter totter, and I have freckles and a bow in my hair, but that’s beside the point. You can picture how faith and God keep you balanced/centered/grounded – or not – in your own way. A beautiful bird? A sturdy boulder? A mighty oak? I don’t know what that would signify – it’s your visualization technique.

 The Chronicles part. Well, my kids (there are two) and husband (one of those) are really funny. My career choice, and our life choice – or calling, as they say in the biz -lends itself to wacky misadventures, an eclectic collection of friends, poignant moments, and instances where you’re ready to altogether give up on humans. So I’ll probably write about that stuff…to the extent where I won’t actually be outing anyone specific as being a jerk.

So that’s it for now. Fingers crossed, and a little prayer that this works, that it posts without incident and that I won’t have to break out my own personal brand of swearing that makes my kids laugh. “Jimminy Christmas!!” happens to be their favorite. (The thing is, I am REALLY mad & frustrated when I say that stuff – so the tone &  fury with which it comes out is actually super-, I think, -offensive, but nobody else does, which is almost, well, offensive.