Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eye see you

When I was younger, I was a pirate. Granted I lived in Jackson, Tenn., which – while rhyming with it – is hardly part of the open sea. And I never hijacked anything, except maybe my little sister’s toys. But I was a pirate – I had the eye patch to prove it.

A few months after I was born, I was diagnosed with amblyopia with strabismus – gigantic words for “a lazy eye and muscle problems.” I had surgery on my eyes at 6 months and began wearing a patch on my left eye (my good eye) in order that its sluggard partner would begin to pull its share of weight.

I remember makings lots of trips to the eye doctor – one in particular who did not appreciate shy, terrified 4-year-olds and would send me out into the waiting room until I was ready to” show him some respect” (speak in his presence).

It’s all part of a world I don’t think about often. But, yesterday during a chat with a friend, I realized it is a world that impacts my life daily.

As a result of my pirate days, my eyes don’t quite work together. My dominant left eye still carries a larger percentage of the seeing burden and, as a result, depth perception is apparently not one of my strong suits. I say apparently, because as someone who doesn’t know any different, I don’t know exactly what kind of depth perception I’m supposed to have.

My friend Jennifer (yes, ANOTHER Jennifer) mentioned that she thinks this causes issues for her with things like parallel parking. I really like that excuse.

As I drove home, I found myself wondering what kind of adaptations I’ve made without ever knowing it. Or what insecurities have always had a medical reason behind it (my feeling the need to be extra-cautious while going down flights of stairs or inclines in the dark, for instance).

I see the world differently, in ways I may not ever comprehend; in ways I never would have known if someone hadn’t pointed it out.

Perhaps there is something metaphorical in there, too. Jesus spoke of those who see. Those who thought they could see were always the ones stumbling at the (lack of) sight of his words. How much do we miss that we never know about? Just what can’t we see?

PS: my new FaithLab post is up

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Developing 'golden retriever mind'

This past weekend, I participated in my first contemplative retreat at Mystic Trace, the home of my friends Tom and Kathryn Boone.

The weekend was certainly a learning experience for me. Contemplative practices have both scared and fascinated me, as they don't tend to be encouraged in my Baptist tradition. And having pure-O OCD certainly doesn't help with the quieting of the mind.

But I found the weekend enjoyable. Tom, who is essentially my spiritual director, is good at granting permission and reminding me that there really isn't a "wrong" way to be contemplative. There are no set guidelines to follow, and God isn't sitting somewhere pointing a long finger at me and grimacing because I didn't meditate correctly.

Over the course of the weekend, I read a lot about "beginner's mind," the idea of approaching life not as someone who has it all figured out, but as someone open and eager to learn.

After my recent Faith Lab post on an encounter with the Boones' dog Bob, someone suggested that "golden retriever mind" may be the way to go.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share another story from my weekend here. This is from my retreat journal:

Even here, isolated as I am, it is hard to allow myself to rest fully. I think about my apartment, miles away, and how I need to clean or do laundry when I get home. I think of the stories I need to finish for the next paper. I think about the fact that I am thinking about home and work. Learning to be is hard. I've so long equated being with doing that I don't quite know how to separate the two.

Pixie, the Boone's tiny, easily-excited dog, seems to have it figured out. She runs up to greet me, believing my purpose in being here is for her enjoyment. She then rushes over to my backack and shoes to sniff. When she is satisfied, she bounds into the bedroom — presumably to do the same with whatever she finds there. Out she runs again, pauses to look at me, and disappears down the stairs.

Pixie doesn't take the time to analyze what I think. She doesn't care. She knows who she is and lives in that reality: excited and all over the place.

Perhaps contemplative prayer is less about learning to be silent than it is learning to live excitedly and all over the moment we find ourselves in.

Friday, May 1, 2009

An experiment in faith

What happens when you gather a group of goofy, ministry-minded techies, photographers and writers and ask them to create? The Faith Lab.

I've been a fan of the site for awhile and just became part of the creative writing team. My first blog post, "I Like Dandelions" is now up on the site. Check it out — and wander around the site for awhile. There are some fantastic photos and insightful (as well as laugh-out-loud) reflections.

From the main page, you can see how to become a fan on Facebook and follow The Faith Lab on Twitter.