Permission to laugh

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Eighteen days before the 27th season of Saturday Night Live was scheduled to air, the September 11, 2001 attacks took place in New York City. The season premiere went on as scheduled, with a special cold opening by then mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani. Flanked by the firefighters and police officers of New York, he declared that despite the terrorist attack, New York City would run as normal and Saturday Night Live will go on as planned. What I remember most about that opening was the question posed by the show’s producer Lorne Michaels: “Can we be funny?”, to which Giuliani responded, “Why start now?”

Overwhelmed by the pain and suffering caused by the natural disasters in Japan, deeply disturbed by the government of Libya killing its own people and feeling the weight of what seems to be nothing but bad news, I find myself asking the same question Michaels posed on SNL: “Can I be funny? (To which you may be thinking, “Why start now?”) Is it okay to write about all the stupid and ridiculous things I tend to gravitate towards on this blog when there’s so much suffering going on in the world?”

I think the answer to that question is yes. Because there will always be sadness and suffering in this world. There will most probably be moments in our lives where nothing seems funny. Last week I wanted to wallow in my sadness. Being stupid and ridiculous seemed just that–stupid and ridiculous. Not funny.

But you know what’s funny?

image from pyzam.com

Me wanting to wallow in sadness like some horrible suburban emo kid who ignores all the wonderfully beautiful things of this life. Things like making fun of emo kids:

That video still makes me smile.

A new take on the mustard seed

mustard seeds image courtesy of photobucket.com

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
~ Matthew 13:31-32

The lesson I’ve always drawn from this parable was that God can do great things even through small things. Whether it be our faith, our ministry, or our testimony. I still think that lesson is a valid one, but it wasn’t until I read Guerrilla Lovers: Changing the World with Revolutionary Compassion by Vince Antonucci that I realized there’s more to the story.

See, I read “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” and mentally stopped there. But Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.” I focused on the smallness of the seed, not the fact that a man planted it in his field. Why is that significant? Vince explains:

Remember, Jesus took center stage with the words, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” One hundred eleven times the Bible records Jesus saying the word kingdom. And now he asks, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?”

A mustard seed.

Surprise!

When a mustard seed grows it becomes a weed. It’s a vine-like weed which will grow and grow and will intertwine with other weeds. And they’ll continue to grow. And then they’ll come into contact with a flower, which will be overtaken by the weeds. Now they’re growing more. Soon they’ll touch a tomato plant, and pretty soon that tomato plant has been overtaken by the weeds.

In fact, Jewish law at the time of Jesus made it illegal to plant mustard seed in a garden. Why was it against the law? Because they knew that it would grow and grow, invade the vegetables and other plants, and eventually take over the garden. If you let mustard in, eventually you’d be left with only mustard. The secret to gardening for the Jewish people of Jesus’s day was: keep the mustard out!

I wonder how people reacted when they heard Jesus compare his kingdom to mustard seed planted in a garden. Did they just look shocked? Are you serious? Don’t you know about mustard? Or did they giggle? This guy is hysterical. I can’t wait to hear what he’s going to say next! Or perhaps they frowned and thought, Jesus, hush. We like you, and if you keep comparing your kingdom to mustard, you’re going to get yourself killed.

Jesus used a notorious, forbidden weed to describe God’s kingdom. He said God’s kingdom is like a man who planted a mustard seed in his garden. But people didn’t plant mustard seed in gardens. It was illegal. If you did, the mustard seed would grow and grow and take over the entire garden.

I’ve tried to think of modern-day equivalents. If Jesus was here today and asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?” what would he say next? What modern-day metaphor would make the same point and have similar shock value?

Maybe: “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a vicious computer virus a man sent out in an email from his computer, and it spread and spread and infected more and more computers.”

Or perhaps this: “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like AIDS, which infected one person but soon spread and spread and became an epidemic as scores of people received it.”

If we heard that, our heads would spin. We’d say, “What? Are you serious? And the people who heard Jesus back then would have reacted the same way.

So what was Jesus trying to teach us about the kingdom of God?

The Jesus revolution is subtle. It starts small, like a weed in a garden, but it spreads. It reaches out and everything it touches it grabs and pulls in. It spreads one life to another, more and more people getting pulled into it. And the harder you try to get rid of it, the faster it spreads.

I think Jesus is teaching us that the revolution is meant to be viral. It spreads like a disease. It’s a disease you want to catch, but still it spreads like a disease. When you hang out with someone who has the flu, you catch the flu. Jesus is saying the revolution should be sneezable. The revolution should be contagious, and when it comes into an area, it should grow into an epidemic.

But it will only grow into an epidemic if it’s done right. Weeds don’t come in and announce they’re taking over the garden. They don’t invite all the other plants and vegetables to a meeting and ask them if they’d like to be taken over by the weeds. They don’t hand out tracts explaining the benefits of the garden overrun by weeds. They don’t wear weed T-shirts. They don’t put a billboard up for all the vegetation to see: “For the Gardener so loved the garden, he gave his one and only weed.”

No, a weed comes in unannounced, popping up very subtly, and it starts to grow. Then another weed pops up. And if these two weeds meet up, they’ll get enmeshed, and then they’ll intertwine with another weed. Soon they’re pulling in flowers and plants, and eventually the entire garden is taken over by the weeds.

And Jesus teaches us that this is the way of his kingdom. The way his revolution is intended to function, the way it grows best, is not through public meetings, billboards, and TV. No, it’s a love revolution that spreads person to person, one individual to another. And when we try to make it something it’s not, it just won’t work quite right. But when we live it out as it’s supposed to be, watch out.

So what do you think?

Have you ever thought about the the parable of the mustard seed in this way?

Do you think it’s significant that the parable of the weeds immediately precedes this parable in Matthew 13?

Lake Somerville

I’m still not myself. As Matt aka Seeking Pastor put it, I feel as though I’m still wandering in a fog.

Thursday morning didn’t look very promising. It was rather cool and windy with lots of gray clouds in the sky. But the forecast called for sunshine and temps in the 80’s and we had made plans to spend the day at Lake Somerville with friends.

When we arrived at the lake, it was even windier, cloudier and colder than it was back home. On the plus side, we were one of the few boats on the water. We practically had the lake to ourselves. After about 30 minutes driving the boat through choppy, cold water all eight of us were cold and wet.

My daughter and friend trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid the cold water spray

Some of us more than others. As much as I enjoyed the company, the conditions weren’t helping my mood. Just as I was about to suggest we give up and go home though, the sun started peaking out from behind the clouds. Not much at first, mind you. Just enough to make us hope for more of the warmth it provided, followed by more clouds and more blasts of cold water spray from the boat hitting the choppiness of the lake. But we hung in there, and just as promised, the sun came out, the seas calmed and it was a beautiful day.

A day I very much needed.

A perspective I very much needed.

Clouds may sometimes envelope our lives, but they give way to the sun eventually. We must experience both to understand and appreciate either.

Two of many very cool rocks we found exploring one of the islands in the lake. Do you see a heart and a cross?

Lunch after the tsunami (by A Simple Country Girl)

image courtesy of A Simple Country Girl

For those of you who don’t know, Darlene aka A Simple Country Girl, is taking a break from posting at her blog Aspire to Lead a Quiet Life in order to recover from a back injury and concussion. She did, however, manage to write this short story and has been kind enough to allow me to share it here. Please pray for continued healing and REST for my dear friend. Thanks again, Darlene.

Lunch after the tsunami

I mix frozen apricots with honey, spices and the morning’s leftover oatmeal. I slide the pan into a preheated oven as split pea soup simmers low. Cabbage, red bell pepper, celery, tahini paste, olive oil, and teriyaki sauce marinate cold in the fridge. For lunch I eat this food with thanksgiving and guilt. I find that the two opposites coat my tongue as if I had shaken them in a jar like I do my homemade vinegar and oil dressing.

As I eat my flavorful, nutrient-dense meal, I wonder what nourishment, beyond that of calories, is found in rescue-worker handled, Japanese rice balls. I sip very hot soup from a small spoon. Do the tsunami survivors drink water that is lukewarm? If it’s not from a bottle, but perhaps from a swimming pool like I saw in that on-line image, do they drink it anyway?

How dare anyone, anywhere, complain about food too bland and then have the audacity to ask for Tabasco sauce when across the ocean blue a black-haired mother tries to remember her daughter’s face, the very smiling face she gently cupped in her hands as they touched noses. That beautiful face is one that the mother tries to remember before the earth broke loose and waves swallowed her kin wholly away. Who dares think of hot sauce while countless mothers heave with unimaginable loss?

image courtesy of A Simple Country Girl

I swipe at my face with a folded cloth napkin and I watch my son soak his bread heavy with split pea soup. As he crams his mouth full over and over again with lunch, I wonder how many people in Japan are saying prayers of thanksgiving over sticky balls of rice. Do they know the God of heaven and earth? Have they met Him on bended knees? Will they see miracles in the madness that will lead them to the cross of Calvary?

I pull the bubbly dessert from the oven and as the door snaps shut I doubt hard about having lead anyone to Christ.

Then I think of the mother whose grip slipped and I wonder, would I, a Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, would I have tried to outrun the tsunami? Or would I have turned and faced it with screams of delight as it launched me into eternity? The taste of my apricot dessert soon fades because the flavors of thanksgiving and guilt are way too strong.

And I need a glass of water.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Here but not

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Monday was the first day of spring break. Everyone’s home. We have some minor adventures planned, but no real traveling to speak of. The rest of my family took advantage of the time off  to sleep in Monday morning. I’m not much of a sleeper-inner. I awoke an hour later, but only because my body clock hasn’t adjusted to the time change.

Like most mornings, I made a pot of coffee and after waiting impatiently for it to finish brewing, I poured myself a cup and enjoyed the silence of my office for a few minutes. No television, no computer. The only sounds came from a cat demanding my attention and distant thunder from above. I’ll turn the television on soon enough, the computer, too. But these brief moments are the only time my thoughts don’t overwhelm me. If my day were to have a soundtrack (and many days they do), the background music would be Unashamed Love: “You’re calling me to lay aside the worries of my day. To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place.”

Or so I’d hoped. I didn’t have my quiet time. I wanted to turn on the TV and see what else had unfolded in Japan. I wanted and hoped to hear and see some good news, even though I certainly wasn’t expecting any. I regret missing my quiet time now.

The news wasn’t good, just a continuation of the devastation I’ve been watching for the past several days. I wanted to turn off the TV and…what? What did I want to do? I think what I wanted was to be alone in my sadness. But by this time, I’ve turned on my computer and my kids are awake and wondering what we’re going to do on this rainy day. They understand something bad has happened in the place where their grandmother was born, but it’s not really real to them. I can understand that, and I certainly don’t want to burden them with grown up stuff. I didn’t. Not directly, anyway.

Instead I spent the day here but really not. Trying unsuccessfully to be engaged when my mind was elsewhere. Things I should have done went undone. But tomorrow’s another day. A new opportunity to try and do a little better than the day before. Grateful for grace and hopefully showing more of it than I did today.

Ever had one of those days?

Kishi Kaisei

image courtesy of foursquare.org

I can’t effectively put into words how much my heart breaks for the people of Japan. I’ve raised the question here before, Are we inherently prejudiced? Perhaps prejudice is not the right word. Maybe it’s that we feel more for people who are more like us. Without going into too much detail about my family history, I will tell you that I’m sure I have aunts, uncles and cousins in Japan whose names I don’t know. Probably will never know. And I wonder if they’re safe. I wonder if they’ve had food or water in the past few days. If they’re searching for loved ones.

My heart breaks for all people who are suffering, regardless of race, creed or color.

God forgive me, it breaks a little more as I watch the disaster in Japan. It’s not something I’m proud of. I suppose the old saying holds true that blood is thicker than water, even if that blood flows through the veins of family I’ll never know this side of eternity.

But I also know the people of Japan are strong and resilient. They will recover and do so with honor and dignity.

Long long way to go (Phil Collins)

While I sit here trying to think of things to say
Someone lies bleeding in a field somewhere
So it would seem we’ve still got a long long way to go
I’ve seen all I wanna see today

While I sit here trying to move you anyway I can
Someone’s son lies dead in a gutter somewhere
And it would seem that we’ve got a long long way to go
But I can’t take it anymore

Turn it off if you want to
Switch it off it will go away
Turn it off if you want to
Switch it off or look away

While I sit and we talk and talk and we talk some more
Someone’s loved one’s heart stops beating in a street somewhere
So it would seem we’ve still got a long long way to go, I know
I’ve heard all I wanna hear today

Turn it off if you want to (turn it off if you want to)
Switch it off it will go away (switch it off it will go away)
Turn it off if you want to (turn it off if you want to)
Switch it off or look away (switch it off or look away)

Switch it off
Turn it off

While I can turn off the images flooding my TV screen, the ones in my head play on. My prayers are with the homeland I’ve never visited and the family I’ll never know.

起死回生

kishi kaisei

(Wake from death and return to life)

An open letter to the clothing industry

Dear people who make pants:

Why do the pockets on so many of the jeans and/or capri pants I find have flaps on them? Was there a great outcry by women demanding flaps on their back pockets? Was there an increase in the number of women carrying men’s wallets in their back pockets looking for increased security via a flap and a button? Because I think I can speak for most of the women I know when I say I carry my wallet in my purse.

It’s not that I’m anti-flap per se. It’s more about me being anti-ironing-clothes-that-you-shouldn’t-have-to-iron. How is it that we can put a man on the moon, and yet can’t seem to make a pocket flap that doesn’t do this:

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C (notice how flap ear is more pronounced while the pants are being worn)

Please people who make pants, either stop with the flaps or maybe weigh the flap corners down with some fishing weights. I, for one, will be extremely grateful.

And while I have you here, I’d like to address another issue with pants. Actually, I would like to generously offer my unsolicited advice (isn’t that the best kind?) about more specific labeling on low rise jeans. Because let’s face it, they are not equally low rising. There should some type of international visual standard by which an educated consumer might determine how low they should go.

I have put great time and effort in determining three subclasses for the low rise jean category and have also provided detailed artist’s renditions of what would be the proposed internationally recognized symbols for these subcategories.

To establish what “low rise” equates to, the first sketch identifies what is universally accepted as “regular fit” jeans:

regular fit blue jeans

From there, we can move to the first category of low rise–Level One. I think this particular jean can be worn by most women.

Level One low rise jeans

Level Zero is next. I think many unsuspecting women buy this particular type of low rise jeans, but for whatever reason do not have access to a full length mirror, live in areas where wind drafts are uncommon or non-exisistent, and never keep their receipts.

Level Zero low rise jeans

Level Negative One is the final subcategory. I assume women who buy these type of low rise jeans know what they’re buying, but perhaps having a tag on the garment as a visual reminder might deter some from proceeding with the purchase.

Level Negative One low rise jeans

One final suggestion. On the opposite side of all of these proposed hang tags, I would also like to suggest you print the following warning. This would protect both you and the consumer from embarrassment and possible future litigation:

Proposed warning for all low rise jeans

In conclusion, thank you in advance, people who make pants, for your thoughtful consideration in this matter. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

katdish

The Way of Walking Alone (repost)

One of the great things about being me (of which there are many) is that I have the honor and privilege of reading some fairly stellar writing before anyone else does. This week I’m doing just that. Which is why I’ve been a little absent around the interwebs as of late. It’s also cut into my writing time, so I’m serving up leftovers today. If you’re new here, I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into my family history. I hope to be back to my regularly scheduled programming very soon.

Kazuko Hosokawa Dishman (aka - my mom)

I am proud to call myself an American first and foremost. My ancestors on my father’s side arrived and settled in what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia in the 1600’s. But that’s only half my ancestry.

My father met and married my mother in Japan. She was born Kazuko Hosokawa. The Hosokawas were one of the ruling samurai clans of Japan for many generations, and the family coat of arms (my mother was happy to report after a recent visit) is proudly displayed in the Tokyo National Museum.

So, while I am VERY much American, I am also very proud of my rich (albeit somewhat savage) Japanese heritage, and I wanted to share a little of it with you today.

Miyamoto Musashi

In the second month of 1641, Miyamoto Musashi (considered to be the greatest samurai who ever lived) wrote a work called the Hyoho Sanju Go (Thirty-five Instructions on Strategy) for Hosokawa Tadatoshi. This work overlapped and formed the basis for Go Rin No Sho, more famously known as The Book of Five Rings.

The Way of Walking Alone
(or The Way of Self-Reliance)

Do not turn your back on the various Ways of this world.

Do not scheme for physical pleasure.

Do not intend to rely on anything.

Consider yourself lightly; consider the world deeply.

Do not ever think in acquisitive terms.

Do not regret things about your own personal life.

Do not envy another’s good or evil.

Do not lament parting on any road whatsoever.

Do not complain or feel bitterly about yourself or others.

Have no heart for approaching the path of love.

Do not have preferences.

Do not harbor hopes for your own personal home.

Do not have a liking for delicious food for yourself.

Do not carry antiques handed down from generation to generation.

Do not fast so that it affects you physically.

Do not be fond of material things.

Do not begrudge death.

Do not be intent on possessing valuables or a fief in old age.

Respect the gods and Buddhas, but do not depend on them.

Though you give up your life, do not give up your honor.

Never depart from the Way of martial arts.

Second Day of the Fifth Month, Second Year of Shoho (1645)
Miyamoto Musashi

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse.” – Don Juan

Dear Future Mark:

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I’ve thought of you often over the past 20 plus years. I’ve even tried to track you down a couple of times without success. I’d hoped to see you at one of the two high school reunions I’ve attended, but I don’t suppose you had much interest in seeing most of those people. I’ll let you in on a little secret–me neither.

Even though we attended the same high school, I’ll always remember you as Junior High Mark. The guy with the horn-rimmed glasses and the army green backpack. While the rest of us stuffed our backpack into our lockers, you carried that thing with you everywhere. I’ll admit it came in handy, like the time you hit me with it.

What I’ve wanted to tell you all of these years since junior high school is this:

You’re a big part of who I am today. I know you’re probably scoffing at that, based on the way I treated you. Of all the many regrets in my life, not being able to tell you “I’m sorry” and “thank you” still make the list.

We were both picked on. Me because I suppose some half-breed Asian girl isn’t supposed to have a big mouth and is expected to keep her head down and not have an opinion about anything.

You? You were called that most hurtful and horrible of names: Retard

I suppose we both would have been better off in the short term by doing what they all expected us to do: cower down and not fight back. I fought back because, as I mentioned before, I had a big mouth and an attitude. You fought back because they were just flat out wrong about you. You were not, as they so cruelly labeled you, a retard.

You were the smartest kid in school. I don’t know the reason for your speech impediment, but I knew you enough never to consider you mentally challenged. I also knew a thing or two about false labels and assumptions based upon personal experience.

But back to the apology:

I’m sorry I joined in with the others when I should have stood up to them, for looking down on you because you were different. That day in the cafeteria line when I pulled on your backpack? You did the right thing by smacking me with it.

That was the day you smacked some sense into me.

That was the day you gave me permission to be different and to stand up to those who are threatened by anything other than the status quo.

You may think I left you alone after that day because you stood up to me, but you always stood up to everyone. Probably still do.

No, the real reason I left you alone was, to be honest, I was sort of in awe of you. You taught me something crucial that day. Something life changing:

True strength and depth of character is found when we face adversity and refuse to lose a part of who we are in order to be part of the crowd, that if you walk to the beat of a different drummer, you should do so unapologetically, and most importantly that oftentimes the most memorable heroes in this life are the unlikely ones. Thanks for being my unlikely hero.

Gratefully yours,

Kathy Dishman-Richards

“What you really have to do, if you want to be creative, is to unlearn all the teasing and censoring that you’ve experienced throughout your life. If you are truly a creative person, you know that feeling insecure and lonely is par for the course. You can’t have it both ways: You can’t be creative and conform, too. You have to recognize that what makes you different also makes you creative.”

– Arno Penzias, 1978 Nobel Prize winner for physics

***

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Future hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To check out more posts on this topic, please visit his website, PeterPollock.com

The Get a Job song

The year was 1986. Twenty year old me was very much attuned to the music of the day: from Heart to Huey Lewis and the News, Stevie Nicks to Little Stevie Windwood. I was down with Peter Gabriel, INXS, The Dire Straights, Van Halen, Human League, ZZ Top, Sade, Bon Jovi, Level 42, Madonna, Prince and yes–even Scritti Politti. I’ve always had a rather diverse taste in music. Still do.

Whenever someone would ask “Have you heard that new song by so-and-so?” Typically, I had. If it was on the radio, MTV or VH1, it was a pretty safe bet I’d heard it. (Remember when they actually played videos on MTV and VH1? Ah, good times…) Even if you didn’t know who the artist was or the name of the song, all I really needed was for you to sing a few bars, and I would know which song you were talking about and who sang it.

Which is why I was completely perplexed by my friend Kim one day. We were sitting in her apartment talking when she asked me if I’d heard this new song. “I know you’ve heard it”, she said. “They play it on the radio all the time.”

“How does it go?” I asked her.

Get a job…”, she sings.

“What???”

“That’s all I can remember, but I KNOW you know this song. Get a job…”

At this point, I’ve move past being perplexed. I’m simply laughing at her.

“Are you sure those are the words? Get a job?” I ask her.

“Yes! You’ve heard it! I know you have! Get a job…”

“Um…yeah. Have you been drinking? I don’t know the Get a Job song.”

The funny thing is, I did know the Get a Job song. And when the Get a Job song came on my car radio while driving home from her place, I had to pull over because I was laughing so hard.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Get a Job Song:

Also known in some circles as “The Way It Is”, it was the first hit for Bruce Hornsby and the Range.

I found it funny that Kim would remember that one line in the song, because it only appears in the first verse. Not in the chorus, not in the bridge. Just the last line of the first verse. Had she sung, “That’s just the way it is”, I would have known what she was talking about immediately, because duh, that’s the name of the song and the first line of the chorus. It’s part of the central message of the song:

That’s just the way it is
Some things’ll never change
That’s just the way it is
Ha, but don’t you believe them

Why would she remember that one line? Who knows? Maybe she had been drinking. Maybe she remembered it because in the context of the song, the line was pretty outrageous: “The man in a silk suit hurries by, as he catches the poor old lady’s eye, just for fun he says Get a job.” I won’t argue that the line is a powerful one. It helps set up the central message of the song, even though when I heard it out of context it made absolutely no sense at all.

Is there a point to this walk down memory lane? Actually, yes.

If you’re going to argue what the central message of a song is, it’s probably best you know the song yourself in the first place, instead of hearing it second hand and assuming your source of information is correct.

And if you don’t know the entire song, you should at least know the chorus.

A final charge to Timothy from the Apostle Paul:

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:10-17

And that’s all I have to say about that.