A dungeon

Last night, among other things, I dreamed of a sort of dungeon.

We were in a very large building. Perhaps I was a researcher, an intern, a journalist, a new employee, or had some other reason to be given a tour and to be learning about what happens in this building, what this organization is about. It might be a college. It might be some kind of research and development think tank or something.

The part I remember is being shown to another stairwell — not the pretty kind intended for visitors, but the back corner kind, with all sorts of exposed pipes and ducts, industrial paint, very narrow, with narrow and steep stairs, many many floors down and down below the earth.

We were going to where the really bad stuff happens. The stuff that should discredit the whole organization. The stuff they would say is necessary and fruitful despite its appearance of evil. I’m expecting rows of solitary confinement cells — torture — that kind of thing.

But down there is just one large room — plain, bare — tables and chairs, no windows, nothing to do. It is a little like a day room in a psych ward, except no tv or board games or magazines or anything. Several people are sitting around doing nothing. They are all mentally retarded, or suffering from mental illness. The person giving me the tour sits down — does he engage them in conversation? or just sit there? I can’t remember.

Later in the dream there are two other parts whose relevance to this part I’m not entirely sure of.

One is a large public square kind of thing, surrounded by tall buildings with balconies. “The Jews” are gathering here, planning something or coming to discuss something that needs resolution. There is anger, anxiety, urgent concern. I think I have information that is important to the topic at hand. I think I am helping, even though it feels awfully dangerous, and even though I am uncertain of the information I have.

The other part seems much less immediately relevant, but perhaps is connected anyway — perhaps by contrast. I’m in a light room, getting out of bed, choosing a light sweater to wear, getting ready to go join some people, for breakfast perhaps.

Church sketch 12

I had a dream last night that, among other things, included me saying “I want to be in a boat on the edge of rough water.” It was one of those things highly invested with feeling and meaning, even though the words don’t seem to say much on their own. It might have to do with trepidation mixed with yearning — on the edge is safer than IN the rough water. In the dream, though, I seem to remember that the rough water did NOT stay safely near the boat — I think the waves crashed in, and perhaps even swept the boat away or overwhelmed it entirely.

The song lyrics in the water are from the first song in the service — I think — “One thing remains” by Jesus Culture Music on their Come Away album.

The sermon was another in the series on choices. It was based on 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter that talks about love as the top priority. There’s a clanging cymbal there, with a drum beside it, and a high horse for all sorts of arrogance and jealousy and rudeness and the like. For our pastor, Scott, the message seemed to especially hinge on prioritizing family over work. I think for other folks it might be about other things — it makes me think, for example, of the Chick-Fil-A controversy, and the way we can get so caught up in a cause that we stop seeing — and loving — people.

A bit of humor — family IS important, but not at all mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, nor in the two greatest commandments. We do well to remember that our neighbor can be a family member and not just the objects of our ministry people we desire to reach in our ministry.

Random cat doodle that started with a lidded eye. It is interesting to consider where “random” doodles come from — what sparks the various ideas that pop up, what influences which we choose to follow, what influences how a doodle progresses from its beginning.

The last song was “Behold our God” — which brought to mind these other two songs. One by a local band in the 80s called Saved By Grace: “Here we are — standing by the throne; it’s so good to see you, Jesus.” The other, from college InterVarsity meetings, “Behold, bless the Lord, ye servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord…” I was singing this one on my way home from picking green beans in the dark at our CSA farm Friday evening.

“Phone calls”

In last night’s dream, among other things:

I went to the fitness center for Tuesday’s noon class. I saw some folks sitting in the center of the floor, garbed in garish 80s garments, and a pile of more off to the side. I asked Shaina what the class was today, and she said it was “Phone Calls.” She got distracted in the middle of saying “If there aren’t enough…” and I stayed off to the side to observe and figure out what was going on. Apparently, you put on 80s clothes and sing random words to a hymn tune, as if talking on the phone. Mmm, exercise.

Preparation

He was a cross between Mark’s boss and Richard Branson. He was our contact, our host, and our leader for the work in Africa.

There was a lot of packing. One bag for books — didn’t even zip — this was for advance loading on the train. Another container — a whole room at times, other times something smaller — held a sewing machine and innumerable other things tightly and carefully arranged. I bought bananas — to make banana bread? And foolishly chose very ripe ones, which would be fine if making the bread that day, but not so great for bananas to be packed up and shipped to the Africa work. Mark chose a better one — which was suspiciously pumpkin-shaped.

Finding our host’s home was challenging. Did we arrive in the middle of the night and have to find our own rooms? I remember finding the extra pillows and telling Mark about them.

Breakfast was provided at the house — in a kitchen with a long serving bar — there was one section of all kinds of pulled meat — the usual beef, pork, chicken, plus pulled lobster (!). Several Asian fusion sorts of things.

Supposedly on our way to our train, our host instead took us to some ridiculously fancy restaurant. We had already eaten dinner (at another one, I think), so I didn’t really want anything. Accepted the waiter’s offer of some cheese. He brought a tray full of cheese slices individually wrapped in silk napkins. The slice I chose and started nibbling had a $5 sticker at the bottom. I could not believe I had just bought a paper-thin slice of $5 cheese. I was also very nervous that we were dawdling at this restaurant instead of going to get the train — would we miss it?

For whatever reason, I had to drive myself to several places. I made wrong turns. And where I was supposed to turn left, at a light, all I could see in the darkness was a short turnoff that seemed to suddenly turn and descend out of sight like a tall playground slide. It seemed far too narrow and far too delicate for a car. There was a sign but I couldn’t read it. I didn’t turn, but kept going, looking for another left — the next was the same way. Skipped it, too. The road began to spiral down… and I did end up back at the host’s home eventually.

A few thoughts on Wednesday morning

1. I dreamed that Mark and Amy and I were “still” living with my parents in the house I grew up in. While we were talking about Amy going to preschool, we were also considering me going to graduate school. I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t want to go to that graduate school. And I was also starting to realize that maybe it was time for us to try to buy a house of our own. I wasn’t sure my parents would be ready for us to go, and was surprised and a little taken aback when they agreed rather huffily, as if to say “finally!”

2. We all seem to be over the hump of the stomach bug. I need to take things slow, still, though — I tried a bowl of cereal with milk this morning and my stomach is not particularly pleased. I am supposed to play music with my friend Beth at her church tonight, background music for a time of confession; I haven’t practiced since we’ve been sick, and now that I’m mostly better I need to make time to tune and practice today so I’ll be ready.

3. N. T. Wright said somewhere in Jesus and the Victory of God that “wrath” generally refers to armies that are attacking. That thought has rumbled around in my head since I read it weeks ago. It makes me wonder about the interrelationships of the words “wrath,” “hostility,” “anger,” and “hatred.”

I can only think of one statement in the Bible about God hating anyone — God saying “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Even then I wonder if the emotional content is what we would expect — maybe it’s metaphorical just for God choosing Jacob over Esau. In other words, maybe it’s not that God rejected Esau because he didn’t like him much — maybe he rejected him for his own reasons and described it as hatred.

There’s also Cain — God doesn’t just reject Cain’s offering, but “had no regard for Cain.”

What bothers me about the idea of the wrath of God is not so much that he judges (he is just — all deserve wrath, and it is his mercy that he chooses to forgive anyone — although yes, even that still bothers me, since he is powerful enough and good enough to choose to forgive all if he wants to) but that I can’t figure out his attitude towards the judged — does he still love those who are not elect? Does he love Esau even as he hates him? Is there a just reason for him not to like Cain?

Wright’s idea allows a glimpse of this language as more metaphorical, and less emotional.

Stuff to chew on.

People eat me

“People eat me because they are overwhelmed with / by food,” he said to me.

He was my new husband, in my dream last night. The ex-husband of the mother of someone I know. The wedding had taken place a week or two before, but we finally moved in together the night of the dream.

I was nervous, suddenly realizing his age, and worrying about the fact that his ex-wife was still in our circle, not wanting to cause her or my acquaintance pain by having married someone they cast off.

But he turned out to be younger, and beautiful, and amazingly loving.

I think maybe he was a chef or caterer or something, and saying that his food was different somehow from what most people find to eat, and that it was refreshing, truly nourishing, simple, real.

I think he’s Jesus.

“I have food to eat that you know not of.” (John 4:32)

The ominous stair

I woke up at 3 am too scared to get out of bed — the childhood nightmare type of scared, where bed is the safe haven and getting out will sic the monsters on you.

The nightmare? Bizarre.

I was drawing pictures, and / or taking pictures, and / or telling / reading a story to Amy.

The picture was of a red barn-like building, low to the ground, with a tall black roof. Off to one side, a stairway stuck out of the building — enclosed — ending in the air. It might have been in a spooky thin-trees-forest swampy environment.

It’s the stair that escalated the fear.

I can’t tell if I was trying to tell a scary story, or if it turned scary in spite of me.

Then I was inside (our house? the barn?) and in the stairwell, and flipping light switches, and I accidentally (?) flipped on the switch that starts the scary sounds. And I couldn’t believe I’d done so, and cried out in even greater fear, “Mark, oh no, I’ve done it again!”

When I woke, I was surprised at the strength of the don’t-leave-the-bed feeling. I haven’t felt like that in ages.

I tried to say “there are no monsters,” but it felt like bluffing — how do I know there aren’t any monsters? That’s not the point, anyway. To get up the courage to go to the bathroom, I had to talk to myself about how God is not safe, but good. Even if I died on my way to the bathroom, God would be good to me.

During all of this, I was also aware of how strange and amusing it all was. And how strong a theme the dream had of my own complicity in my fears.

Very interesting.