27 August, 2010

The Layers of Life

As I looked at the night stand, I wondered if it was salvageable. It looked ragged and worn, as though it had been through a battle. Scratches revealed raw red beneath the surface. Several gashes in the veneer reveal the old-style of plywood beneath.

This is the night stand given to us when we were married. It came to us well used. It was painted brown to refresh and renew it for our use. It had been in our homes for 26 years, carried through 11 moves, served as everything from a television stand to a dresser. It has lived a long life, served well in its role. It is time to retire it? Or will there be something beautiful and useful beneath all those layers of paint?

Drawers open, the workmanship is obvious: Dove-tail construction at all four corners of each. On the underside, paint splotches speak of some of the cover up time has dealt: brown latex covers a red, oil-based paint. One can only wonder what the wood grain beneath these looked like. Was the veneer finish sanded before that fire engine red oil paint was applied? Or was that step disregarded and the varnish left intact? The brown latex has peeled a great deal over the years; now I know why: Latex doesn’t adhere well to oil paint.

So again I wondered, “Is this tiny chest of drawers salvageable? Can it have a new life?” The only way to find out is to remove the layers of paint. Only then will the quality and condition of the wood beneath be known. Only then can its new future be revealed.

It takes a lot of patience to remove layers of paint. If one uses a traditional paint remover, there will be hours of careful scraping with a soft putty knife and then gentle scrubbing with fine steel wool. This is labor intensive and very harsh on ones hands. There is always the risk of scratching the wood beneath, or scraping off the veneer. Or, if one uses a “dip” or gel that simply “paints” on and changes color when the underlying layers have been softened, the putty knife will lift off the layers of finish very easily; however, if the veneer was sanded before applying that layer of red oil paint, the dip may also soften the hide glue that holds the veneer to the wood beneath. And regardless to the method of removing the paint, one has to be sure the wood beneath is worth the work of removing what covers it.

The time between pastors can be likened to my query about this nightstand. Evangelical church has undergone many changes over the years. Many layers of “paint” have been applied to what the founders of this congregation envisioned nearly 145 years ago. What was their vision? What was their purpose? What did they do as a community of faith and why? And what was the reason for the changes as they happened? How many layers of change have there been and what got covered over in the “remake.” Is there, underneath all the “stuff” that has happened, still a sustainable and promising future?

As the Interim Committee is formed and begins its work, we will try to gently lift the layers that years of use have applied to our community. We will be opening things up and listening to your stories as we interview members. We will be gently scratching off layers of old habits as we gather with you for Congregational Events. We will be looking for the beauty that peaks from beneath to reveal what God has in store for the congregation’s future.

My tiny chest of drawers turned out to be a real keeper. Its walnut veneer is beautiful and shines through its new finish; its sturdy construction promises to serve us well in a new way: as a focal point in our home. The work to reveal this new purpose was worth the steel-wool-raw fingers it took to bring it out. We are better off for all the hard work.

Our churches have some hard work ahead. There will be some rough spots to work through. There may be some sticky places where grace and gentleness are required. There will be some surprises at what beauty lay beneath the surface. And through it all, we will rediscover what God has in mind for this community of Christ in this place at this time. We will get through it by the grace of God and with God’s help.

12 August, 2010

Shocked and horrified.

I am shocked and horrified. One of my Facebook "friends" has been sexually harassing one of my relatives. The only thing the two have in common is my Facebook page. How did this happen? How could someone that I accepted as a contact, someone I have known in my life's journey, turn into a cyber-stalker and sexual fiend, someone who would go so far as to threaten to pay a visit to this relative if the relative dare tell me that the abuse was happening?
Further, how could this happen to two people on MY "friends" list -- when I am the one who keeps spouting on about how the privacy system on Facebook works well, that Facebook is a safe place for productive and meaningful communication?
First, let me say that I am appalled and dismayed that this has happened. I am absolutely disgusted by the behavior of this acquaintance toward a relative of mine. I would be disgusted if it hadn't been an acquaintance or a relative. The behavior reported to me by yet another relative is rude, lewd, disgusting, and just plain wrong. While I won't comment about possible legal action, the perpetrator is clearly in need of serious psychological counseling. This person, who has a family of his/her own, does know that what s/he is doing is immoral, unethical and flat out wrong. This person would undoubtedly be infuriated if his/her spouse or child was the recipient such behavior. Yet this person has continued to stalk and harass this member of my family.
So, how did this come to be? How did these two otherwise unconnected people ever make contact? Through my Facebook wall. My relative responded to a comment on my wall made by this person from my past. That person furthered the conversation through the Facebook inbox system. My relative responded in good faith; after all, if this person was a friend of mine, it must be safe to continue the conversation. The relative and this person established the Facebook “friend” status between them The conversation was not initially harassing or sexual, but this person became infatuated by my relative.
With “friend” status, more private information is available, including phone numbers and your address – if you are not careful to protect your information. With this information in hand, a person can contact you by phone, by text, by e-mail, and even – if you don’t protect the information – know where you live.
By the time I post this on my blog and in my Facebook notes, I will have contacted the person involved, expressed by disgust and anger, blocked him/her completely from my Facebook account and posts, and told others in my Facebook circle of friends of what has happened so they will be aware of the risk involved in choosing to “friend” someone they have never personally met. And my point in posting this at all is this: Protect you private information on Facebook by setting your privacy settings and being very selective in who you allow into your circle of friends. Learn how to make groups in your friends list and block those who might turn into your stalker.
And to this person who I thought I knew: please choose to get the psychological counseling you so desperately need, confess your wrongs, and make amends.