Ten on Tuesday

A rich lather of lateral thought, all wrapped up in a top ten list:


1. Click here for my first byline with Religion Dispatches! (And welcome to any RD readers clicking over here.) We Presbyterians were even the lead story for a brief shining moment, but alas, that Michele Bachmann is an unstoppable force of nature!


2. I'm also excited to be writing the Fellowship of Prayer for Lent 2012 for Chalice Press, my publisher for The Sabbath Year. I'm thankful for the opportunity to get my name out there just a few months before the book will be released... because I know that people are very attuned to the authors of those things, aren't they? Aren't they?!


3. We had no water in the house when we got home from our vacation. This was the second time in less than a week that I've gone without water (the pump that services several cottages in Maine was hit by lightning and had to be replaced). It really is a gratitude reset. Even when we were without water last night, we were better off than a significant percentage of the planet: we have a great plumber, and neighbors who let us fill our camping jugs during the meantime.


4. I'm going to follow up Mt. Washington with Old Rag this fall.

There's something very powerful about climbing up something tall and finishing a book manuscript in the months leading up to my 40th birthday, coming up in January.


5. What kids of different ages do upon coming home from a long trip:

three year old: gets reacquainted with the cars and trucks he left at home

five year old: goes with her dad to liberate the cat from the vet

eight year old: calls BFF, plays piano


6. I finished three books during my trip:

Bossypants by Tina Fey: So, so funny. So, so good. Here's a great review.

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Morgan Cron. A funny, touching and exceedingly well written memoir about the author's father, who lived a double life as a CIA agent and was a raging alcoholic to boot---as is Cron himself, though now in recovery and an Episcopal priest.

Angels at the Table: A Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat by Yvette Alt Miller. I'll be reviewing this for the Englewood Review of Books.


7. Yesterday morning I discovered in my Google Reader two distinct posts about fear, from Seth Godin and Donald Miller. I've been thinking about fear ever since my hike. Going up Mt. Washington is a pretty minor thing on the fear scale, but there definitely is some danger involved. Tuckerman's Ravine is rather steep and many of the rocks were slippery from a recent rain. I found it easy to get into a fearful place, especially as I plodded up the mountain while people lightly picked their way through the rocks all around me, breathing easily as they told each other their life stories. (Seriously. VERY little heavy breathing from the tanned and toned set. We hate them.) About ten minutes after my boot self-destructed on the way up, we ran into a family with a ten year old girl coming down, and the girl had just bruised her leg scrambling down one of the steep, slippery sections. She was crying in that "I am DONE" sort of way. I hear ya sister.

But you can't stop.


8. I sure would love Google+ to really take off so I can get off of Facebook once and for all. Here's a slogan I proposed last week: "Google+. For people who want 47% less sleaze in their social networking company."


9. The fear thing is powerful on many levels right now, because our congregation is discerning what to do with our manse, and one of the options is to renovate it for use as affordable housing as part of the campaign to prevent and end homelessness in Fairfax County. This feels like one of those heck-yeah-Jesus things and is SO much more compelling and life-giving than simply fixing it up and renting it out for $2500 to help us pay our bills. In terms of living a good story, a gospel story, there's no contest in my mind. But it's hard. And the anxiety and fear over money may be too great. Or it may not be ours to do for reasons having nothing to do with fear. So it's feeling a bit like picking our way over Tuckerman's Ravine.


10. I leave Sunday morning for Minnesota, where I will spend a week writing at the Collegeville Institute. Again I am filled with gratitude---thankful for the opportunity to return to that lovely place for a second year, grateful to my spouse for supporting me in these damn fool idealistic crusades, and heck, grateful to the inventors of Skype and FaceTime so I can see my kids' beautiful faces each day.

Photo: the view from my apartment in Collegeville last summer.

She Don't Care Your Point of View, Now the Mountain's Part of You

Some random metaphors... How mountain climbing* is like a marathon:

It's actually more mental than physical. (So I've been told on the marathon part.)


How mountain climbing is like labor:

It's intensely physical, and you can get through the challenging parts by resting afterward and saying, "Well, I never have to do that one again." (Even if you hike down the same way, it's not really the same experience, is it?)

Also, the hardest part is at the end.


How mountain climbing is like a vision quest:

The demons visit you on the mountain. The discouraging voices that tell you that you'll never make it, that other people's bodies are capable of such things, but yours isn't.


How mountain climbing is like writing:

I like doing it, but I really like Having Done It. It's all about the verb tenses.


How mountain climbing is like life:

Knowing people you love are rooting for you and waiting for you at the top makes it easier. I'm not too proud to admit that towards the end I was chanting my children's names with each step... and I couldn't think about Robert too much or it would make me want to cry for wishing he was there to keep me going (though my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were great company).

The kindness of strangers saying, "You're almost there. One step at a time." is a gift of grace.

Walking the last bit hand in hand with a loved one makes it all worthwhile.

If your equipment fails, you make do.


How mountain climbing is like my least favorite hymn:

I've never liked "Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley." I think it's bad theology to say, "You must walk the lonesome valley. You've got to walk it by yourself. Nobody else will walk it for you." I'm a big believer in community, and the Spirit is with us so we're never alone.

That said, with half a mile left, straight up, and two swigs of water left due to the pump at the AMC halfway hut not working, two failed boots, and terrible fatigue, and no choice but to continue, I TOTALLY get that hymn now.


How mountain climbing is like Outward Bound:

"If you can't get out of it, get into it."


*I'm calling it a climb rather than a hike because 2/3 of our time was spent scrambling up boulders and picking our way through rocks.

Title of the post is from Billy Jonas's song "Old St. Helen." Another Billy Jonas song was in my head for most of today: "Anyway you go you're gonna get there... lean a little bit to where you're gonna get." That was what today was all about.