Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Montreal Reflection (#2):The Two Halves of Life

I wrote down many things that Mark Scandrette told me in my journal shortly after our meeting. He definitely had wisdom and I was hungry for it. Still, what he told me about the 20s, about that season of life being inevitably concerned with the ego, put a bit of a damper on all my wisdom-seeking. I believe I was 26 at the time (apparently right in the middle of the ego-trip). Although it was discouraging to hear this at a time when I was hoping to skip over all that growth and development crap and get right to the good stuff (i.e. sainthood?), it was also a relief to hear such a thing. After all, he not only said that it was just a season but also quite necessary. Was it necessary to retain some selfishness, to even build on that selfishness, for this part of my life? Wow! I think this was a bit too much for me to take in initially. However, as time has gone on and I've come across other people suggesting something similar, this perspective has begun to sum up a lot for me and this Montreal experience.
One example would be Richard Rohr, Franciscan priest and renowned authority on spirituality. He has spoken and written a lot about what he calls the two halves of life (www.fallingupwardbook.com/video). When I attended a retreat lead by him last November he made reference to this many times. He explained it primarily through a diagram with a mountain on it; the upward slope signified the first half of life and the downward slope, the second half. The first half was inevitably about creating your own identity, defining your place in the world, distinguishing yourself from others. The second half, the downward slope, was about letting the identity you've created crumble and be replaced by an even deeper identity founded in a sort of weakness and surrender. Sounds easier said than done, but, according to Richard Rohr, this is the pattern of a life well-lived.
I found this pattern well-illustrated in a quotation I very recently read by Peter Coyote from an interview with him that appeared in the June issue of The Sun Magazine (thesunmagazine.org). He said, "I've reached the place where I do what I do, not because I think I will win, but because it's the only way I know how to be human." There you have it! The two halves of life! The first half about winning, the second about just being, being human.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Reflection on Our Montreal Experience (#1)

A couple summers ago, after our first of three years in Montreal, we were in San Francisco for my cousin's wedding. I had recently heard about a man in San Francisco named Mark Scandrette who had visited the church we were part of in Montreal a few years ago. Without going into much detail, he was a man who seemed to follow in the footsteps of Jesus with a uniqueness and intensity I'd never encountered before. Needless to say, I wanted to meet this guy! I emailed the organization that he started (Reimagine.org) to see if I could meet with someone from there. I was delighted when Mark himself responded and agreed to meet me at a cafe in the Mission District while I was in SF. It had the makings of meeting a guru in an ashram. So, I sat with Mark in this cool cafe located in an ethnic melting-pot you only find in big cities. We talked for 2 1/2 hours or so and I asked him about anything I could think of. One thing he said, that has continued to come up in my mind from time to time, has particular insight and relevance concerning my reflection on our Montreal experience. He told me that as long as you're in your twenties, you can't get past your ego. You can't skip over this part of your life where the world still more or less revolves around you. There are no easy shortcuts. It is a necessary season of life.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Adventures!

If you're still out there somewhere, hello! and thanks for your perseverance through a long blog drought, possibly the longest on record since we started this three years ago! Our apologies for keeping you waiting. So, yes, it's been three years that we've been out here in Montreal, and I'm sure by now you've heard that we'll be saying goodbye soon to our adopted city and heading back to our California roots. Preparing for such a transition with two young kids on our hands is an immense task, as I'm learning more and more with each day that passes.
As of now, our plan is to fly to Arizona on June 11th to spend some time with Lauren's parents, Sarah and Randy, and then drive to California in Lauren's car (which her parents kindly kept for us!) a week or so later. We'll then stay with my mom and brother (full house!) while we start looking for jobs and housing. Our hope is that we can move into an apartment in Long Beach (Belmont Heights area) in August. Of course, heading home with two kids, no jobs and very, very little money to our name makes it a bit discouraging/frightful when we look at the numbers. So, I'm doing what I can to get a teaching job next year (I know what you're thinking...) and L has a few tricks up her sleeve as well.
We're trying to strike the age-old balance between faith and initiative, "God will provide" and "God helps those who help themselves". Two adages that seem to conflict, eh?
Anyway, that's the plan for now and, as usual, we appreciate your prayers and support. This already is and will continue to be an exciting, exhausting transition into a new season of our lives, and we welcome the continuing adventure despite the challenges therein.