Wednesday, September 20, 2017

When Pumpkin Spice Lattes Invade

The world seems to be crashing down--out there. Somewhere. I wonder if this would feel different if we didn't live where news makes its way quickly from one part of the globe to another. Yes, here in the US, you might not hear a whole lot about the Rohingya being displaced, but you might, too. It depends on how much you're paying attention. Harvey and Irma are storms you recognize; Maria, too, is wreaking havoc. Those names remind me of a decision several years ago to diversify the names of hurricanes, replacing the lost list of very white sounding names. It seems to me we might have done well to keep the names as a reminder of all the destruction of white people, but I digress.

Earthquakes get numbers, not names, but Mexico is is clearing rubble after two different earthquakes. Who knows what comes next with North Korea. A man at my church said that a Trump presidency means another war; I fear he is right.

And I'm over here missing Fall. Somehow, all those things are related.

Die-hard Arizonans will tell you we get four seasons. It's quite true in higher elevations, but even some folks here in the Valley claim there are four seasons. After a few years here, it's true that you own pants and long-sleeve shirts and a few sweaters. A crackling fire on a January night might even be nice as you sit outside. Although temperatures are getting cooler, it's dropping from 100 to 90 right now. It will be October before we stop hitting walls of heat when opening doors.

The desert has a beauty of its own, to be sure. The cactus bloom and there's life in unexpected places. Crops grow here, but in the winter months, not the summer ones. Right now, plants are going into the ground, with no harvest to safely gather in.

I miss trees with changing leaves and needing a jacket. I miss the change in the air and spiderwebs dripping with dew. I miss the trappings of fall, in all their Pinterest glory. I don't even mind the invasion of Pumpkin Spice everything, too much, if accompanied with cooling temperatures.

Pinterest, like most things, is a sales pitch. The same could be said for Facebook or Instagram or Buzzfeed, for that matter. While I love Fall, I also love the idea of Fall. What's being sold at every turn is comfort. We might say coziness, instead, but that's not far away from comfort. Warm blankets and warm sweaters, hot drinks and hot soups, fireplaces and candles, all point to comfort. Fall, it seems, is the season to be exceedingly comfortable in your own space.

When the world is crashing down outside, comfort becomes even more appealing. I'll stay here, with my blanket, sipping a hot drink, reading a book instead.

I confess that I am torn. There is a part of me that thinks there is Gospel in choosing to remain calm, where you are, satisfied. This reaction is the story of Jesus calming the storm, when he is asleep in the boat while the storm rages outside. The disciples must wake him up in order to calm the storm and he says, "Do you still not have faith?"

Then, there is my deepest belief that we are coworkers with God, participating in the divine will and bringing about the reign of God now, here, right where we are. Jesus healed, so we offer medicine. Jesus fed people, so we do, too. Jesus hung out with the poor, so we eat dinner with our homeless neighbors.

Here is where I end up: is your world the one that is crashing down? If so, by all means, choose comfort. Take the offered blanket and hot soup and curl up somewhere with a book that whisks you far away. Find the way to be calm in the midst of the storm, to have faith that there is One who will somehow help carry you through.

Is your neighbor's world crashing down? Then help. Take that soup, if it's a next door neighbor, or send the check if it's a neighbor far away. Do the thing you'd long for if your world was crashing down around you. Do that thing with great love and many prayers.

In some ways, the sales pitch of Fall intersects well with the Gospel: we all long to be comforted, to be safe, to be nourished in body and soul. Breaking from Pinterest, the Gospel pushes us to create that world for everyone, not just ourselves.

I'll probably still be annoyed when the temperature hits 100 today, though.