All that Glitters
I like shiny stuff.
When I was growing up, sparkles and blingy clothes and jewelry were reserved for fancy evening events. Not so any more. I think it's neat that little girls get to wear sparkly shoes and tutus and women can wear spangles and sequins on ordinary days. Boys and girls get to dance around in shoes that light up! Yes! Sometimes you just need to shine a little.
And yet nearly every day I'm confronted with things that are not so shiny, and the sparkles seem frivolous.
It's a delicate balance. The world is very beautiful and also quite broken. It is important to remember both of these things and to be able to appreciate and embrace both the serious and the silly. We do not live by locusts alone but also sweet honey. Love is beautiful but it is also really hard.
The Ukraine is on fire. Graceful and highly skilled athletes dance and jump and go very very fast in Sochi.
For a long time I've been an admirer of The Rev'd Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene House and Thistle Farms. I've written about her work before - here and here and here. Somehow Becca has found a way to do serious work while not being a humorless grind. I was thrilled to be able to meet her a couple of weeks ago when she came to our town and preached in our church. She is funny and smart and she is dead serious about her work.
Lately, I've discovered the Soup Kitchen at Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. You can learn a lot about Holy Apostles by reading through their Twitter feed. Unquestionably, they do beautiful work, even though the fact that there is so much need in New York to help a dizzying number of hungry and homeless people is seriously depressing at best. Their volunteers play the piano and lead current events discussion groups and fix good looking healthy lunches and also, no doubt, see and smell and hear the misery and shame and heartbreak that comes through the door every day. It cannot be easy.
As the saying goes, if you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig. You can't just put glitter on top of a desperate situation and call it a success. But somehow we are called to be joyful in our faith and also to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and turn the other cheek and give to anyone who begs from you (as we will read this Sunday). We are called to be willing to see and be present to smashed up disasters and to still share the love of Christ with both humility and joy. We are called to a vocation of healing and reconciliation if we are to follow Jesus, but that means we must wade into brokenness and conflict and lack and mental illness and meanness and blood and sweat. Nice things probably don't need healing.
Simply seesawing back and forth between despair and giddiness is not the answer. (I always have loved this quote: "I know there is a middle ground - I've seen it as I swing back and forth on my pendulum.")
And so I struggle with that balance. In the meantime, the work of Holy Apostles and Magdalene/Thistle Farms inspires me.
I hope their work inspires you, too.