Friday, September 22, 2006

Inner Housework

Yesterday I opened my browser, and these six jolly headlines, all right there, right in the top third of the MSNBC page:

Woman slain, fetus taken
Toys recalled after two tots choke to death
New deadly TB strain gaining ground
25 die in German train crash
Two more possible spinach deaths
Astronaut collapses during welcome-home ceremony

For crying out loud. I’m waiting for someone to come around the corner of my house with a big cart, yelling, “Bring out yer deaaaad…”

Then again, there’s the rub. There was a time five or six hundred years ago when life was kind of a big pile of death and disease and killin’ and mean and nasty kings -- like, all the time. Kind of like, now.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of beauty and joy and good stuff in my life. Some of it is downright miraculous. But more and more, I wonder whether I don’t just have my finger in the dam. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I’m guessing it’s a size 20.5, filled with lead.

I imagine that there are lots of reasons I feel this way, and I am guessing I’m not really alone, given headlines like those all day, every day. Still, there’s something kind of sad in feeling that, when your garage door stops working, you’re relieved that at least it’s good weather and the car was outside. Like it’s a bonus.

This was the kind of week that left me feeling like my life is nothing but a series of small catastrophes avoided. Some of it was externally driven, some internally driven. Some is being churned up by the work I’m undertaking to make a few permanent changes. It’s like moving the couch when you vacuum. You know it will make you feel better, but it sure looks nasty.

Inner housekeeping is hard for most of us. It's a lot easier to avoid it and all the stuff it brings out. Much easier to keep it all swept under the rug. But how long before that big bump trips you on your ass?

I realized I had neglected my inner housekeeping when I was treated to some unexpected company. The experience made me realize that it's not how tidy my table is, but how ready I am to open the door to my world and welcome in experiences and people worthy of my respect and love.

Let me be clear: this has been coming a long time. This week probably was just more difficult because I have been pulling up a few rugs, looking into the dark corners and in the places my foundation was damaged, and so I'm more keenly aware of the imperfections. But as one dear friend likes to say, perfection is boring.

This is a great old tune, which I first heard on a live Hot Rize album. My favorite iteration is when Tim O'Brien sings it as he accompanies himself on the fiddle in such tight harmony with his own voice that it puts people who can pat their heads and rub their bellies right to shame. It really is about working on that inner building, maintaining and improving the infrastructure that supports how you act in the world, whether you extend your best to yourself and to the people around you, and if it matters to you, to God. So don't forget to check your gutters and clean your filters.

Working On A BuildingFrom So Long Of A Journey(Trad., Arr. Tim O'Brien (Howdy Skies Music/Forerunner Music, ASCAP))

Working On A Buliding

Well if I was a sinner I tell you what I would do
I'd quit my sinning and work on a building too

I'm working on a building
I'm working on a building
I'm working on a building
For my Lord for my Lord
It's a holy ghost building
It's a holy ghost building (hallelu)
It's a holy ghost building For my Lord for my Lord

Well if I was a gambler I'll tell you what I would do
I'd quit my gambling and work on a building too


Well if I was a drunkard I'll tell you what I would do
I'd quit my drinking and work on a building too

Well, if I was a preacher I'll tell you what I would do
I would go on preaching
And work on a building too.


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