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Of Guitars and Heroes…

Wow! What a weekend! What a week, for that matter.

It was New Noel this past Saturday. For those that don’t know already, new noel is Community Worship’s Christmas service. This year, as Interim Worship Leader, it was my responsibility to plan.

I hope those that know me well are at least smiling by this point, as that sinks in. I actually had a ton of ideas for the service—it was the pulling everything off that I was worried about. But pull it off we did—at the last minute, no less—and the evening went rather well. At least, people told me they really enjoyed it. I’m rather inclined to assume people were just being charitable, since they knew how hard I had worked…but I hope people really did enjoy it. Mostly, I hope that it was something unique and meaningful, and that it left them thinking about “God With Us.”

After that was all over, Sunday we had our 20somethings Christmas party. That was fun. It was a potluck (or “providence plate” as some are fond of calling it). We did an ornament gift exchange (most of them were home-made, and some were very cool).

After a little while, the guys (that includes my brother Kyle) pulled out the playstation. This is normally the point in the afternoon where I say “sayonara” and go hang with the girls. But…the game they pulled out was Guitar Hero. I had only played it once, very badly, and when I first heard of it I thought it was rather stupid. I play guitar. Why do I need to pretend on a video game?

But…I play guitar. I love guitars. Guitars used to be an obsession with me. I once had a pair of fingernail clippers shaped like a guitar (a souvenir from my Branson days). And the guys looked like they were having fun. So…I hung out a while longer. Some of the other girls came over (you need to understand that the rest of these said ‘girls’ are all married, and their husbands were several of the guys now clustered around the TV).

My friend Katie admitted that she had played a few times at home with her husband Josh and enjoyed it. So we decided to give it a try. I should also add that normally at this point, it is hard to get guys to give the girls a turn, but this was not the case. We were cheered on and encouraged; the guitar-controllers were joyfully handed over to us.

I did awful, as you might expect. Just as I was feeling like an idiot, my friend James commented to the rest of the group, “At least Jessica can take comfort in the fact that she can actually play the guitar. The rest of us can only play on that thing.” It made me feel loads better. (Thanks, James!) —By the way, James was undoubtedly THE Guitar Hero. He blew everybody else away. He and Kyle even played the “Trogdor” song on GH2, which is crazy hard (but so hilarious!!)

Yes, I can play the guitar (I prefer acoustic), but I can’t do any of the fancy finger work that makes for a good rock song. So it is kind of fun to pretend for a second that I could be a rock star. I think it’s that kind of fantasy fulfillment that makes the game so popular. I’m gonna have to keep practicing so that when our New Year’s Eve-Eve party rolls around, I won’t feel ashamed of my virtual instrumentation.

On that note (ha! bah-dum-ching!) I’ll leave you with this famous rocker quote:

“Be excellent to each other…


Thank you! Goodnight! I’ll be here all week!


Friday Surprise!!

Okay, I have something I would like to share with you. I've been keeping it to myself for a while, mostly to see how things would turn out. Now, before you get all excited, let me explain. It's just a blog.

You read that correctly: I have a new blog.

No, I'm not abandoning this one, not by any means. Why on earth, then, would I be starting a new one? The answer is quite simple: I was asked to.

I saw recently that an online music community called hearitfirst was looking for some blog writers. I "applied" so to speak, sending samples of my writing...earlier posts from this very blog. And they accepted me! I guess I'll be writing for them pretty regularly...they just published my first post, and I've already been given an assignment for next week.

Hearitfirst.com is all about Christian music (Sorry, Brianne! Maybe I'll find a way to mention Nickel Creek, Imogen or Damien yet, though). They have a few different blogs on different topics. The blog I'll be writing for is a "Spiritual Growth" blog. Does that sound as intimidating to you as it does to me???

Anyway, I just wanted to share the news. Happy Friday, Everyone!


The Boys Are Back

...And better than ever.

And now we come to the part of this blog where I treat you to my opinions on a piece of artwork—otherwise known as a review.

Now, you might know that I am typically disdainful of reviews, especially critical ones.

But actually, this is one area where I am known for being rather…biased.

A brief prologue: Since my high school years, The Newsboys have been my favorite band. They captivated me with their funny, funky songs and extravagant stage productions. I was a fanatic. In college, I was actually known for it. I hung posters up in my dorm. I converted people to being fellow fans by incessantly playing their music. I got people to come to concerts with me. To this day, college friends tell me that when they hear a Newsboys song, they think of me. Okay, prologue over.

Flash-forward to today. It’s been several years since the ’Boys have released a new album that wasn’t labeled “worship.” Don’t get me wrong—the worship stuff was good. But it just felt so…trendy. Everyone had a worship album at that point. And...call me sacrilegious, but I actually missed their snarky, sarcastic lyrics.

Now they’ve released “Go.” It just came out at the end of last month. I finally bought it the other night; the single had been tiding me over for the time being.

Yay! It’s so fun. I love those guys. They have such good music. Their melodies are catchy, their lyrics are witty, and their bass lines are thumping.

My favorites so far are: Wherever We Go, Your Love is better than Life, and Secret Kingdom. The others are also very good…but those are addicting. I play them at very high decibels, especially in my car.

Okay, so that’s my Newsboys plug. I love that band. You should check them out! They are supposed to be coming to Grove City College in February....I am SO THERE!!!

Want to come with?


Everything I Need to Know About Life, I Learned From...


As in, Anne Shirley. Well, Anne Shirley Blythe, eventually.

I’ve been re-reading the “Anne” books, from whence comes the origin of the title of my blog. “Scope for Imagination” is what Anne looks for in everything.

The books, penned by L. M. Montgomery, tell of the adventures had and lessons learned by Anne Shirley, a starry-eyed, dreamy, imaginative orphan, who brings joy into the lives of those who get to know her. I like to think of Anne as the Original Drama Queen. Anne—spelled with an E, mind you—has quite a knack for getting herself into humorous scrapes.

She also has a beautiful outlook on life. Anne sees the world as being full of glorious possibilities. And because of this, she brightens the lives of those around her irrevocably. Not that she’s a saint. She has a temper, and a tendency to let her imagination get the best of her. She has “down” days, like the rest of us, and she makes some mistakes that make you want to reach through the pages and shake her by the shoulders.

But as the books go on, we really start to get a glimpse of Anne’s—and presumably Lucy Maude’s—theology. L. M. Montgomery married a minister (as does one of her characters), and lived in a time and place where Christianity was taken for granted. But theology was strict, stolid, and “reformed.” People talk about things being “wicked” all the time—and they mean things like not thinking sacred thoughts on Sundays, and saying "darn."

Into this, Anne brings a fresh perspective. She says of her Sunday School Superintendent that he doesn’t pray as though he though God was really listening. Her idea of praying is to go into a field somewhere and look up to the heavens. As she gets older, she has some interesting (and radical, especially at the time!) ideas about Heaven. While her peers imagine it to be mostly like an Eternal Church service, Anne is fairly certain that there will be laughter, fashion (though it won’t matter so much), and the changing of seasons.

I love Anne. I feel certain—and grow more convinced every time I read the books—that we would be friends if there was every the possibility of us meeting. It sounds silly, but if there are fictional characters in Heaven (and I can tell you, Anne would probably revel in the idea!) I mean to have a good long picnic with Anne. She is, though fictional, from another time and culture, a Kindred Spirit. When I read her stories, I realize just how “Anne-ish” I truly am.

Interestingly, one of the over-arching themes of the Anne books is the idea of Ideals, and how you sometimes have to let them go. Especially in regard to love. I have a sneaking suspicion that L. M. herself must have been swept off her feet unexpectedly by someone she never expected to have any interest in. This is of great significance to me at this point in my life. I’ve mentioned some of my ideals when it comes to romance and relationships, and it is as if Anne is gently reminding me that they are not all as important as I have made them out to be. Which is good, all things considered.

However, if I were to count up all the things that Anne has reminded me, or taught me, this post would be twice as long. I suppose (grudgingly) that it’s not the kind of book that everyone would enjoy. But I still recommend it—them; there are eight books—to everyone. And don’t be surprised if I sound a little...effusive in my next few posts. Anne always has that effect on me.


I <3 Quiz

So…I have this bad habit. It’s not bad as in, it leads to poor hygiene or moral decay. It's just a humongous waste of time.

There are, I suppose, many bad habits which waste time. There are some good habits which also use up time. Some of them are justifiable. This one, I’m afraid, is not.

I like to take quizzes. I do. I "heart" quizzes.

You know, those stupid, silly, little “What is your Inner Color?” or “Which Harry Potter Character is Your Soulmate?” quizzes—I eat them up. I could spend hours taking them. One quiz leads to another, which links to another, and so on. They all sound interesting, with their shiny titles and unspoken promises of self-awareness.

Except that they’re not; they are just for fun, and many of them are written by fifteen year olds who can’t spell. But there are a few fun ones. I actually like the idea of making my own tests up. I actually did make one, the LOST personality test. That was fun. And also, very time-consuming. (There are seventeen different characters you can be).

It seems that the internet universe is now filled with these magic tests which reveal little tidbits about your personality. But I got my start from teen magazines. With titles like “Does He Really Like You?” and “Is it Love, or a Crush?”, I was sucked in. Inevitably, I discovered that it was easy to cheat on these quizzes; most of the scenarios they described I had never been in, and was unlikely to ever be in. Even with my overabundant imagination, it was tough to picture myself doing any of the three ridiculous options provided to me.

But you know what? As flawed and flimsy as these quizzes are, I do still enjoy them. I love when I am able to get a tiny bit of a definition of myself. It’s usually never 100% accurate, but when is it ever? Although I hate being boxed in and labeled on one hand, on the other hand, I sometimes start to feel too unique, too out there. That’s when quizzes come in handy—to remind me that God made me special, but He also made me able to relate to other people.

So, this isn’t really an advocation of quizzes; but if you have a favorite, feel free to share it! Also, I came across this Johari window thing that looks interesting. So—feel free to give your input there. To Self-Awareness!—even if it’s only being aware of the silly parts of yourself!

Your Brain's Pattern

You have a dreamy mind, full of fancy and fantasy.
You have the ability to stay forever entertained with your thoughts.
People may say you're hard to read, but that's because you're so internally focused.
But when you do share what you're thinking, people are impressed with your imagination.
What Pattern Is Your Brain?

UPDATE: (10/31/06)
In my search for the perfect quiz, I recently came across this little gem. It's very enlightning.
It's called "The Ultimate Personality Test," and it's on a British site. Enjoy!


Sofa, So Good

Well, I’m all moved into my new digs. My pad. My flat. It’s great.

I don’t know if I mentioned it earlier, but there is a wall dividing my bedroom and my living room that is one big bookshelf. I love it. I love sitting on my bed and looking at all my books. (I have a lot of books. They took a while to pack and unpack, but they’re in now.)

Another perk is that I have my own bathroom. This is pretty significant. I have never ever had a bathroom all to myself before, and I have to say, it’s quite a pleasure. In fact, the only noticeable downside is that I don’t have anyone to blame the dirtiness on. It’s all me.

But the most amazing things about my apartment have nothing to do with the architecture or the things I brought with me. It’s the things that were given to me. Let me make this clear: I have a lot of stuff. But I didn’t have quite enough furniture to fill up an apartment. I didn’t have, say, a couch. Or a table for my kitchen. (Or hardly anything for my kitchen.)

Needless to say, I don’t have lots of extra moola lying around with which to buy said furniture. Which is why I feel so incredibly blessed right now. God provided for me. (Via my friend and coworker Mindy, who knows everything.) He provided people who were giving away furniture—for free. I received not one, but two couches for my living room. (They’re both sofa beds, to boot!) AND I got a table and chairs for my kitchen.

Let me explain my kitchen to you. It’s small. Very small. Which is fine, for just me. But I needed a fairly small table. I had already decided on the “theme” for my kitchen. (I like decorating in themes.) Then I heard about the table. “It’s a rounded square,” she told me. “It’s got a glass top. And the rest of it,” she said, “is bamboo.”

The theme for my kitchen? “LOST.” Jungles. Islands. Yeah. It totally works. It's perfect, actually.

Yep, God is pretty awesome. Couches, a table, a ricemaker, pots and pans, a reading chair, a lamp...I have no problem with second-hand stuff. And God knows that. (Now I just have to start saving up for my own computer, so I don’t have to wait for my turn….)

Come by and see me sometime…you can sleep on my sofa!


God is Better than a PDA

Gotta make this quick, kiddos—life is crazy around here!

One thing that is helping to keep me sane…or at least organized…is that I bought one of those nifty palm organizers. I’ve had it a week now, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. It is so good for me, because I have been even more scatterbrained than usual lately.

I have so much on my mind, what with three jobs, and moving, and all the writing I’m still trying to do…

I love that I can put all my little notes to myself in the PDA and it will keep it there, reminding me of what I still have to do. I really think it will help me cut down on all the scattered scraps of paper I have in my life. Who needs that, really? The Post-it company is going to lose money on me because of this little device, I’m telling you.

However, it occurred to me just the other day how reliant we are on electronic devices. I’m not saying it’s bad; I just think it’s interesting. I mean, technology is not really that reliable. It will only do what you tell it to. An alarm clock is only useful when you remember to set it…AND turn it on.

What I have found is that even when technology fails me, God does not. And I’m not just talking about Him not failing me in broad, generic, never-ending-love kinds of ways. I mean literally, He has reminded me of important things I need to do. He has woken me up when I have forgotten to set the alarm. Does he always? No. Sometimes I have to face up to the consequences of my own forgetfulness.

But I have actually said to God, “Five more minutes, please.” And He has woken me up in five minutes. Seriously. I know that sounds goofy…but ask yourself: what’s more reliable? If you answered technology, you need to rethink your theology.



Well, folks, it’s time for the update. Everyone seems to be asking me what’s going on with me lately. And for once, I actually have an answer. A good one.

1) One month from today, I will be the pleased-and-proud tenant of my very own apartment. Why is this big news? Because I’ve been living at home since I graduated from college. But now, I will be liberated!! Well…sorta. The aforementioned apartment is actually attached to a house that—you guessed it—my family will be living in. But the apartment will be all mine, the lease in my name, and I’ll have the joyous (?) responsibility of paying its rent and utilities. Yay me!

Now, none of that would be possible without God. Seriously. The very reason I’ve been living with my folks so long is because the rent is so cheap. But God has provided me with a new job. Which brings me to my second bit of news.

2) I have a new job! I’m still at the Pregnancy Care Centers, and the coffee shop (at least for now), but as of today I am employed by my church, Memorial Park Presbyterian. As what? I’m so glad you asked! I will be the new Interim Worship Leader for Community Worship, the “modern” Saturday night service that I’ve been volunteering with for the last year and a half.

And with these two new responsibilities, I feel like a whole new chapter of my life is opening up. It is both exciting and terrifying simultaneously.

The new apartment—I’m ecstatic about! I can’t wait to get in there and decorate it all my way, and (slowly) buy all the things I need. The packing, moving, and unpacking…that I’m not too wild about.

The new job…I am also excited about, but in a more humbled, nervous, awed way. If you think of it, I could use prayer for it. Often. It is going to be challenging…but in a good, growing way. And after all…it’s interim. As in, temporary until we hire a Worship Pastor for the church, and then to be re-evaluated.

Okay, wow…so that’s like the whole thing. Now you know. SO…if you have any advice—on worship, or owning an apartment—leave me a comment! Or say whatever you want. I’m cool with that. Later! :)


Happy Birthday, Blog!

Or should it be Happy Anniversary?

For ‘twas one year ago today that I first logged onto blogspot.com, at Brianne’s behest, to get myself a blog. And so the bright pink and link-ified “Scope For Imagination” was born.

This is my forty-second post. That means I've averaged a post once every 1.23....weeks.

I myself can hardly believe that I’ve actually somewhat kept up with it for a whole year. I was never great at journaling, if you must know (however strange that sounds). But I do love to write, and I also love to share my opinion on…well, anything I have an opinion on.

When I think about where I was a year ago, and where my life is heading now, I am quite amazed. God is Great!

I would write more, but there’s quite a lot going on at the Richards’ Residence these days. But don’t worry. I’ll fill you in eventually. All in good time.


Holding out for a...

Well, Dear Readers, it's time you knew the truth about me. So I'm going to come clean.



a Geek.

It's true. According to the McGill definition, geekiness is generally described not by level of intellect or how much studying you do. Instead it is defined by the level of your obsession and passion for something. Thus, geekiness extends to many areas of study (i.e., movie geek, sports geek, video game geek, underwater basket weaving geek, etc.). Characteristics include (but are not limited to): frantic shrieking and/or hyperventilating when the object of your geekdom is mentioned, ridiculously belabored conversations regarding the geek-worthiness of the particular subject, and large amounts of trivia, factoids, lines and lyrics being stored in your memory for handy dispensing on the uneducated, un-geekified masses. [Correction: the consise McGill definition of a geek is: "unhealthily obsessed." Also, please Nerds, do not take offense; I count myself among you, too.  {Nerdfighters, too.}]

Now, there are many areas I would admit to geekdom (and many you could probably guess without straining a single brain cell), but I'm here today to discuss one in particular: Superheroes. The truth is, I had no idea how geeky I was when it comes to comic book heroes. By no means am I nerdy enough to be an expert (geekiness doesn't require you to know things like the first ever appearance of Spider-Man was in what comic book released on what date, or who the original inker for the Fantastic Four was--though it often helps). When I went to see X:III with a group of people my age, I was surprised at how few others were outraged by some of the movie's blatant character redirection (don't even get me started, unless you want to see geek-fury). And certainly, if I may be slightly sexist for a moment, none of the girls seemed all that interested in the heated discussion that followed. Nope. Just me. Is it odd that I am into comic books? You would think not, in this day and age; but I still am a bit of a rarity. Truthfully, I'm about as geeky about superheroes as I can be without surrendering my second X chromosome. (And if you're curious as to why more girls don't read comic books, pick one up some time. You'll find less cleavage in a Victoria's Secret catalogue. Seriously. Don't ask me why—you already know the answer. I just wish they could understand how unrealistic that is...and how unappealing to a lot of females.)

I grew up being fascinated by heroes—any old swashbuckler would do in a pinch, but it was those masked men who really caught my interest. The intrigue of the double identity drew me in, as well as the daring rescues and commitment to helping those in need. I used to love to watch the old black and white Zorro show on Disney. And when I was a little older, I watched cartoons every Saturday morning—Batman, X-Men, and Spider-Man. I loved them. Now that I'm a lot older, I still find myself drawn to the caped crusaders. And not just in a hero-worship-fantasy kind of way. I recently read a fantastic book called "Superheroes and Philosophy" which discussed a lot of the philosophical, theological, and moral motivations behind what superheroes do.

In case you're wondering, yes, I do know that superheroes don't really exist. But it's fun to think about what it would be like if they did. (I've even written a story about it.)I've been watching the Sci-fi show "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" hosted by Stan Lee, since it premiered a few weeks ago. I know, I know, it's reality, and generally I really hate reality TV. But this one at least has challenges that are interesting to me. I still don't totally like...well, any of the contestants left, really. With good reason, I think. If nothing else, this show has proven to me that most people are not cut out for a superhero's life. Can you take a guess why?

Most people think about how cool it would be to have superpowers—like being able to fly, or turn invisible, or blow up something just by staring at it. The truth is, it wouldn't be cool at all. (Okay, maybe a tiny bit.) But most of the time it would freak other people out, so you'd have to keep it to yourself. And then you'd have to decide: are you going to use your powers for others, or for you? That's the difference between a Superhero and a Supervillain. And if you stop to think about it, what's the fun, really, in always being at the beck and call of a helpless humanity? That's why the Spider-Man comics coined the famous phrase "With great power comes great responsibility." And all heroes seem to struggle with the weight of that responsibility—even though they want to do what is right. It's not easy to put everyone else first.

And that, I believe, is at the core of why I love superheroes so much. Not because of how cool they are. But because they represent a struggle that is central to another group of people—ones that actually do walk the earth among us: Christians. We, as followers of Christ, also wrestle with our responsibilities. And have been from the beginning. (Look it up.) We may want to do what is right, but so often our desire to help others, to reach out to the lost, gets swallowed up.

Superheroes aren’t just great role models for humanity; they’re great role models for Christians. (Okay, not all of them. The ones that top my list? Flawed as they are—Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Rogue, Nightcrawler, and The Thing.) They show us what it’s like to serve others constantly, and to struggle between being others-centered or self-centered. There are lots of reasons to love superheroes: this is just one of my favorites.



Hello. My name is Jessica, and I am a Movie Addict.

(This is the part where you say, “Hello, Jessica.”)

They say you have to admit a problem before you can fix it. The trouble is, I don’t know how motivated I am to “fix” it. Do I watch too much TV and too many movies? Yeah…probably. But I’m conflicted about whether that’s really such an awful thing. Certainly it has impacted my blogging time. *ahem!*

In the past month or so, I’ve been to the theater more times than was probably good for my bank account (because I often treated) and rented quite a few as well.

As I indicated in my last post, I saw Superman Returns. I loved it. I think it’s my favorite summer movie so far, and that’s including Pirates 2.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was good. I enjoyed it—but I didn’t leave the theater saying, “That was awesome!” or anything. And you know why? Because it’s the middle of a trilogy. Seriously. The second installment of any trilogy is notoriously darker and less beloved. Think Empire Strikes Back, Matrix Reloaded, and The Two Towers. They always leave at a somewhat bleak point; the story arc hasn’t resolved and so you don’t know how it’s going to end. Endings are key. It’s rare to like any story most of the way through but hate the ending.

I also saw The Devil Wears Prada. It was good. Not quite as funny as I’d sort of thought it’d be; but interesting none-the-less.

And I rented:

Yours, Mine & Ours—ehh. Take it or leave it. It’s family fluff. It was alright.

Just Friends—mostly stupid. A little funny, and a good ending, and I guess a good message, if there was one—but mostly stupid humor.

Just Like Heaven—way better than I thought it would be. Very cute, funny, and sweet. And a nice pairing of actors.

On a Clear Day—very good. This is a British film, set mainly in Scotland, so you know I like it. Good story, if a little choppy and disjointed in some places, but overall full of the importance of family, friendships, integrity, and purpose. Plus, Billy Boyd is frickin’ hilarious. I love him. *sigh.*

She’s the Man—if you don’t like Amanda Bynes, don’t bother. But I happen to find her very funny; and since the whole movie kind of hinges on whether or not you find her brand of improv, timing, expressions, and tone of voice funny…I really enjoyed it. I laugh at her if I even watch five minutes of “What I Like About You.” But also, it’s an interesting take on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” in the same way that 10 Things I Hate About You updated “Taming of the Shrew” and Clueless reinterpreted “Emma.”

Well, I guess that’s it…I did see most of Cellular on TV…that was pretty good. Intense. There’s probably something I’m forgetting, because this list doesn’t sound so impressive and time-consuming after all. Maybe it’s just that I’ve also been buying and re-watching too many movies, too.

I don’t know. I guess my feeling is that I “collect” good stories, and that includes movies just as it includes books. Sometimes you come across a good one, sometimes a stinker. Some people watch movies purely to be entertained. I look for meaning and depth and something that points to lager truths about who we are and what life is about. But that’s just me. And I like to laugh and be challenged in the process, if possible. Is it a waste of my time? What do you think?


I just saw Lady in the Water last night, and I had to blog about it.

I loved it.

A lot of people seem to want all of M. Night Shaymalan's movies to be just like Sixth sense...which is ridiculous. Now it may be partly because the ending was ruined for me...but Sixth Sense is my least favorite of his. My favorite was Signs. Until last night.

Lady in the Water was a perfect example of why I go to movies. It was beautiful; it had deep meanings and underlying themes. It spoke of purpose and love and redemption. I don't know what else to say. I was blown away by the movie. I don't want to rave too much and build it up too much...knowing that the critics are already griping about the movie. (So what if Night himself is in the movie? Is that so horrible? Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won a freakin' Academy Award for a movie they wrote and starred in. Geez. Give the guy a break. They just didn't like what happened to the movie critic in the story!)

Anyway--go see it, and if you disagree with me, tell me why. If you liked it, I'm also very open to discussion. I am already anticipating a long and probably geeky conversation with Brianne in which we both pull the movie to fibers analyzing it.



Oh, Shoot. I Should Blog.

Wow. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, shame on me. What on earth have I been doing?

Well, since you asked:

Yep. I’ve been busy.

I have seen a couple of good movies lately—Walk the Line was pretty good, though hard to watch at some points because he just wrecks his life for a while. Still—Joaquin and Reese did great jobs, both singing and acting. The Lake House was very good. I love Sandra Bullock, and I hope I don’t jinx anything by saying she’s one of the few actresses I unabashedly admire. (Now watch, she’s going to be saying in her next interview that she’s joined Scientology with Tom Cruise.) Well, anyway, the movie was good and I recommend it—if you like that kind of romantic movie type thing.

I’ve also been working on my DVD collection…I made a list of all the movies I own and all the ones I still want to get, and it was rather frightening. I already have close to a hundred movies. And the sad fact is, a vast majority of them are either romance-based or family fluff. However, that is not entirely my fault; in my house, my brother buys all the action/adventure/blow-em-up movies, so I don’t have to. Though I did buy Spider-man 2 and Batman Begins.

Speaking of superheroes, tonight we’re supposed to go see Superman Returns. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be good. You know how lame DC can be…okay, that was mean. What I meant was, some of the earlier Superman movies were kind of cheesy. So, we’ll see. If it’s good, maybe I’ll dedicate my next post to it. Or maybe just to superheroes in general. You know I loves my heroes!


Wild Child

Well, I did it. I went and got a tattoo.

What? This is not a belated April Fool’s Joke. I’m serious. I went to a tattoo parlor and got myself inked for life. Yes, me.

If you find yourself asking, Why?!? allow me an explanation.

I have not always wanted a tattoo. In fact, I used to think they were rather vulgar. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to do that to his or her body. But later, I met a few people who had tattoos, and they were pretty cool. So I decided maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I revised my legalistic attitude, and instead refined my objections to three (for me):

  1. It’s too expensive. (I’m notoriously cheap.)

  2. It’s too painful. (I’m a wimp, what can I say?)

  3. It’s too permanent. (I’m also very indecisive and somewhat picky. What if I changed my mind? What if I disliked it later?)

Then, one by one my objections fell. It started with the third issue: I suddenly realized exactly what I would get if I ever got a tattoo, and I knew instantly that it would be something I would not regret. Then I picked a place on my body: it had to be somewhere where I could see and admire it (otherwise, I just don’t see the point), but also where I could cover it up most of the time. I chose my right ankle.

After watching several episodes of Miami Ink, and talking it over with my brother and some other tattoo-minded friends, I decided that maybe I would look around for a place. I began to save up my coffee shop tips and other cash in a jar by my bed. First objection taken care of.

A couple of weeks ago, the topic came up again—mainly because, for me, it was something I wanted to do for my birthday. Of course, if you read my last post, you know I did no such thing on my actual birthday. But in talking about it, me and my bro and a few friends thought it would be fun to all go someplace together. In the end, only one friend came with me and Kyle. And she was the first one to get inked! She got a trinity symbol on her wrist. It is very cool. (But then, she’s already pretty cool. How many girls do you know who can play guitar, bass, and drums? Seriously.)

Then it was my turn. I was nervous, because of my second objection—the pain. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. It did. But not so bad I wanted to cry or anything. Just enough for me to clench my teeth and fists and be grateful whenever she stopped. But when she was done, I had my very own ultra-cool tattoo. Right now it’s just the outline. Eventually, I might get it filled in. We’ll see. The lady who inked me said to us, “Careful. They’re addictive.” I don’t plan on getting any more tattoos…I can’t think of another suitable spot, let alone another thing I would want to have on my body for the rest of my life.

But the Red, Rampant Lion that now adorns my ankle….if you haven’t already guessed, is Aslan. I took the design straight from the LWW movie. If you read either of my Narnia posts when the movie came out, then you have some idea of how important the Chronicles of Narnia are to me still—and how fundamentally they shaped my faith as a child. Aslan is to me, the best symbol of Christ. And now I have a visual reminder of that every time I look at my leg. (It’s also a teeny bonus that it very slightly resembles the red, rampant lion on the Scottish royal flag.)

It’s still sinking in that I did this, that I actually went and paid money for some woman to stick needles into me. But I like it, I really do. It still is a little tender, and right now the lines are raised and it looks a little like someone decorated my leg with icing—like a cake—instead of a tattoo. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, I didn’t go against my parents’ wishes and I am well over the legal age, anyway. My dad actually thinks it’s pretty cool, and my mom…well, I have a feeling she likes it better than the nose-ring idea I still have.

So, yeah. I have joined the tattooed masses. What’s funny about it is how it really does make me feel a little different, at least on the inside. I feel bolder, more daring. Even though most people will probably never see it, might not even guess that I would have one (and I toyed with the idea of keeping it to myself, but I was too excited), it’s there.

A fun, funky piece of body art? A permanent mar on my body? A testament to my favorite books? A symbol of rebelliousness? My tattoo might be all those things—and more. Like all art, it is what it is to you—but to me, it’s My Faith. All summed up in one little picture. Forever on my right leg.


In Memorandum

Well, this last week saw The End come. It’s over. Finito. Completed. Done.

Of course I’m only talking about TV shows, nothing serious. But Monday night was the Series Finale of Alias. No. More. Alias. Ever. *sniff.* It was good though, even if there were a few tearful moments. It ended on a very good note, I thought. I shall miss it!!! But at least it ended neatly, instead of slowly dying off.

Wednesday was the season finale of LOST, my other great TV obsession. Brianne and I blogged all about what we thought about that on our Lostaholics blog (if you’re curious). But I had a lot of fun getting ready for that. I threw a little party; I confess, I might have gone a little overboard. There were seashells strewn all over the living room, and decorations consisting of palm trees, fake pineapples, and netting.

But I didn’t stop there. I decorated a bunch of cookies with things like the Numbers, waves, palm trees, S.O.S.’s, “Dharma” and “LOST.” And I couldn’t resist covering a bottle of Pepsi with a “Dharma Cola” label. I know, it sounds very silly, but I had so much fun doing it. I had the soundtrack from season one playing, and my brother even tried to use his smoke machine to add atmosphere (my mom nixed that pretty quick).

I so seldom throw parties, so it was fun. And I mean, it was a very small gathering. Which is probably why it wasn’t highly stressful.

Speaking of parties, I celebrated a birthday yesterday. My party was going to The Olive Garden. Mmmm. Love The Olive Garden. Love the music, love the soup, love the salad, love the chocolate lasagna….

For a while I was kind of depressed about my birthday (which sounds ridiculous, I know, I’m not that old), just feeling like another year has gone by without any big goals reached. Yes, of course, I’ve gotten a book into print, and I totally appreciate anyone who has bought it and read it. But it still seems like there could be more I’m doing with my life (perhaps instead of watching TV finales?). I thought I was alone in these kind of feelings, until I read the Bridget Jones books by Helen Fielding. Bridget obsessively recounts in her diary how much weight she’s gained or lost each day, along with how many cigarettes she’s smoked, how much alcohol she’s drunk, and any other habits, like thinking bad thoughts or checking the British equivalent of *69 to see who called her.

Actually, it was quite reassuring, reminding me to put things in perspective. And it was further reinforced by the message by our new Senior pastor at CW last night. In the spirit of Memorial Weekend, he encouraged us to be more thankful. That was something I kinda needed to hear. It’s so easy for me to look at my life and see so much left undone and unfulfilled, instead of remembering all the good things that have happened in my life so far.

I have a wonderful family who encourages me in my dreams of writing; friends who I can talk to about anything from TV to spiritual crises; a church where I am involved and am using my (meager) gifts to serve, and who also supports my writing; a new book out; a pair of cats that make me laugh; at least one job that I don’t dread going to in the morning; a car that works considerably well; a room crammed with books; a college degree that I’m not still paying off; and a relationship with my Creator and Savior that always amazes me.

So what if I’m in my mid-to-late twenties, still living at home, don’t have a boyfriend, could stand to lose some weight, haven’t been to Europe yet, and have a messy room? Are those things really as important as I make them out to be? I have been blessed in so many ways throughout my life. It’s always easy for me to see the negative, the areas where I fall short. But today, I celebrate the amazing life I’ve had. I don’t want to wait until I’m old—really old—to appreciate the good things in my life. So here’s my memorandum of 27 pretty amazing years. Thanks, God!!


The Angry Song

Remember about, um, ten years ago, there was this cartoon called “Anamaniacs”? I used to love that show. It was really funny—well, silly—and it had these three siblings who ran around and pulled pranks and sang songs about the capitals of the 50 states. Once, they sang a song about being mad. At least, it started out about being mad. It was like, “I’m mad, I’m mad, I’m reallyreallyreally mad…”

Well, yesterday that song was stuck in my head.

Why? you ask. What made you so mad that only a song could capture your turbulent emotions?

Well, it’s been building. I was forwarded a link to something Donald Miller wrote—about President Bush, republicans, and conservatives in general. His timing could not have been worse as far as I’m concerned. I’d been reading his “Searching for God Knows What” and that already made me more than irritated. I actually had to stop reading, put the book down, and move on. Breathe. Write. Vent.

I mean, okay, everyone’s entitled to an opinion. Obviously. I mean, I love giving my opinion on things.

But I was severely irked by Miller’s attitude. If you want to, you can read his article. But if you are conservative, be warned: you, too, will be singing the angry song. I went to a place where you could post comments about the article and proceeded to do so.

It seems to me that there is something going on within Christianity. A division of sorts. A chasm, if you will. A rift this deep has two distant sides, and, so it seems, no middle ground.

Personally, I am tired of the grand, sweeping, generalizations being made. I don’t like being lumped in—I never have. I’m sick of feeling like I have to choose a side, that I’m in a tug of war between Hilary Clinton and Jerry Falwell. I really don’t want to be associated with either of them. I don’t think I completely agree with any political party. You know why? Because nothing is perfect. And you know why that is? Because no one is perfect.

Salvation is not found in a political party or in its leaders. Or in its followers.

And everyone is going to have an opinion. Usually it will be in conflict with someone else’s. Does that mean we can’t get along? If I met Donald Miller, would I be able to have a civilized conversation? I would like to think so. We are, after all, brothers and sisters in Christ. I know we must have some theology in common.

The truth is, we have all been burned by those whose opinions were different from ours; we have all had those frustrating conversations that end up being a one-sided rant by someone who refuses to listen or think about anything other than what he has already made up his mind about. For me, those conversations have come from both sides of the political and religious spectrum. I’ve been just as frustrated by some conservatives I’ve known as I have with some liberals. Being annoying isn’t a trait exclusive to either party, unfortunately.

But what really gets me is this sudden, vicious turn of popularity against Conservative Christianity by the “relevant” and “post-modern” branch of Christianity. I’ve heard a lot of things lately that have really set my teeth on edge. Like I said, I’ve had my share of things that have bothered me about the conservative church. However, both of the good and the bad I’ve experienced has been the result of individuals. You can’t lump an entire branch of Christianity together and label it all “bad” or “malfunctioning.” That won’t solve anything. Actually, it creates problems: alienation and division.

We as a body ought to stop focusing on our differing political views. We are Americans, so we have an obligation to be involved in our country. But when it gets in the way of unity, perhaps we need to step back. At the end of the day, I think we all want the same things. We may go about it in different ways, but we are all reading the same Bible. We may have different interpretations, even different focuses, but the bottom line is, we’re part of the same Body. We have to work together. It’s not an option. Jesus, our Head, is already at work making us unified. Fighting over political stuff just gets in the way of that.

I could go on and on; but I won’t. Any more and I’d be on a rant of my own…and just doing the same thing I got so mad about. 

[Edit: I've since reconciled my opinion of Donald Miller...I think it's safe to say both of us have grown and been stretched and developed a little more grace & humility since these words were first written.  I would recommend "Blue Like Jazz" and "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" to just about anybody.]


An Excerpt

In honor of my book being made available in print at the beginning of next month, I decided to give a little teaser taste of the story. This is about halfway through the book.

From “Found Phoebe,” Chapter Nine

In the bathroom mirror, Phoebe eyed herself warily. She had gotten ready as quickly as possible, wanting to sneak up to the attic while her cousins were still downstairs eating breakfast and watching cartoons. They had gotten up just as she had returned from her own breakfast.
She critically surveyed her outfit and hair, frowning first on one side of her mouth and then the other. She paused for a second and leaned in a little closer to the mirror to examine her ears. Not the slightest bit of pointiness; they were completely round and normal. For some reason it slightly disappointed her. She shrugged it off and continued her scrutiny of her appearance. She twisted and turned and cocked her head. Finally she sighed. It would have to do.
She wanted to look nice, even though the time was past for first impressions. She had the idea that it would be rather like the first day of school, and she wanted to go into it looking nice. She was wearing, in fact, the same outfit she had worn the first day of seventh grade. The last two times she’d been to FSHQ, Phoebe had been attired in overalls and a tee shirt. Now she was wearing a white blouse and navy cardigan, with a red, green and navy plaid, pleated skirt. She was worried she looked too “prep-school.” And she wished, not for the first time that morning, that she’d either noticed what the other fairies had been wearing, or at least thought to ask Pip what she should wear.
She tugged on her hair, once again styled into two plain braids, and bit her lip. If only she had some make-up…she didn’t dare borrow any of Lisa’s, although she knew where she kept it hidden. Oh well. She was running out of time, so she’d just have to go as she was! She carefully picked up her rolled up application and stepped into the hallway.
Phoebe tiptoed to the attic door, trying to avoid the spots that creaked. She could hear the Pack munching on cereal and arguing about which show they were going to watch. She hadn’t seen Aunt Roberta all morning, and she didn’t want to start now. She also didn’t want to run into her grandmother again. She pulled the attic door closed and exhaled. So far, so good. This time she had stowed a tiny keychain flashlight in her skirt pocket. Phoebe refused to wear anything without pockets, because she was always cramming things into them. She carried all kinds of things that she thought she might need, like wadded up tissues, half-melted lip balm, or battered, foil-wrapped pieces of gum. In a way, it reminded her of the conversation she’d had with Pip about not feeling prepared for FSHQ; she knew she couldn’t be prepared for everything, as her friend had pointed out, but she still liked to keep things that might come in handy later. She also had her two keys slung around her neck, and she was pressing them to her chest so they wouldn’t clink.
She shone the dim, miniscule beam of light around the attic until she unlocked the tiny door and then slunk through, activating the torches as she passed. She hurried down the stairs and it occurred to her, as she came around the bend and found the hallway, that each time it seemed to take less time.
She stowed her unnecessary flashlight and walked past the other fascinating doors, stopping only once to glance out the garden window. She sighed, then continued straight down the hall, pulling out the golden key. She had kept it carefully hidden, and now it gleamed in the warm torchlight.
A flutter of excitement went through Phoebe’s stomach. Up ahead, rippling into view as though it had been veiled by an invisible curtain, the gigantic ruby door appeared. She stopped in front of it, once again awed by its size and intensity. Now that she was facing it alone, she had more time to take it in. The strange, Tolkien-esque letters at the top fascinated her. She would have to remember to ask Rueben or Twitterly what they meant. She ran her fingers gently over the smooth, shimmering surface. It was warm, she realized in surprise, as though radiating some kind of power.
She drew a deep breath, her heart beginning to quicken. This was the moment. With the key in her hand, she knew she had a choice. She could go back to her attic, go downstairs, watch cartoons, and live a normal life. She could forget all about this place and pretend she just dreamed it up when she was a child. She would never have to deal with Swothley, she could make up answers to her questions, and she could convince herself of how silly it was to even imagine that she had fairy blood in her. She knew she could do those things. There was a part of her that was fearful enough to shut all this mystery and magic out.
But just as she knew all that, she knew she would never be satisfied living that way. She knew that in the back of her mind she would always wonder. There were too many adventures waiting for her, too many questions that needed to be answered truthfully. And why should someone like Swothley have the power to keep her from living her dream? There was a path she was supposed to follow, and she felt strongly that it lay beyond this door, just as she’d told Pip. There were friends waiting for her there, not only enemies. There was a chance for her to do something beyond her wildest dreams. How could she give that up? Despite her fear, despite the fact that she knew in her heart that it would not be always easy, nor always fun, she knew that she belonged there.
Just as they had on the day she’d discovered the tiny door in her attic, Phoebe’s stomach was churning and her hand was shaking as she held out the key. She’d known then that her life was about to change. And she had been right. Now she was choosing to continue that change, no matter what lay ahead. The key turned smoothly in the lock, and the door swung open almost effortlessly toward her.
And she was inside.

Thanks for reading! If you're interested in reading more, the first chapter is on my website...and the entire book will be available from redleadbooks.com NOW!


About Time

I know what you’re thinking. You’re rejoicing that I have finally gotten around to posting a new blog. Not because you are riveted by my every post, but because you are just sooo tired of seeing my cats.

Well, so was I.

There really are any number of things I could have blogged about between then and now. My brother came home from a three-month-stint in Texas, for one. He subsequently went with me to the movies, me for the first time since Narnia, to see “V for Vendetta.” Could have done a whole post on that. Kyle then proceeded to get me hooked on Firefly, the Best Canceled Show In Existence. I could go on about that as well…but I won’t. I also keep toying with the idea of doing a MacGyver Tribute…but alas, that too will have to wait.

Really, this post is about one thing: celebration. That’s right. Not only is today Easter (or as we call it in my house, ‘Resurrection’), the day celebrating Christ’s triumph over death (Hallelujah!), but it is also the end of Lent. Woo hoo!

Those last few days were really hard, because the end was in sight. And also because I could not believe it had been so stinkin’ long since I’d picked up a book.

The first thing I did this morning was crack open Blue Like Jazz while I was in the bathroom (where my mother left it after she finished; our shared loo is a veritable library. You wouldn’t believe it.). I’ve already read it, but it just felt so good to be holding a book in my hands again.

After that, I went straight up to my room and compiled a stack of books to last me the next few weeks. (I didn’t trust myself to do it on my fast.) First on my list, by Brianne’s recommendation, is Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. Just below that is a YA novel I picked up at that garage sale earlier this month, called The Boggart, by Susan Cooper—good fluff reading. Plus, they go to Scotland!!! My internal list is very long, but as I’ve been so deprived, I probably will read what ever I feel like, whenever. I’m working the closing shift at the coffee shop tomorrow, and it will be so nice to have a book during those slow hours. My only trouble will be deciding which book to take with me!!

So, what exactly did I learn during the last 47 days? Discipline is hard. I generally don’t have enough of it. Obedience is costly, as Oswald Chambers would say. I really don’t know what else I learned…or if I was meant to. Will I ever do it again? Well…a month and a half is a long chunk of time out of every year to not be reading. But that bottom line is, if I get the nudge again, of course I will. The whole thing was an exercise in obedience to Christ—sacrificing something to show homage to He who is truly Lord of my life. Why else would I give up reading for 47 days???


Pip and Phoebe

Okay, you know if I’m actually going to write a whole post about my cats, there must be nothing going on. And by that I mean not only activities in my life, but also nothing going on in my head.

But I simply cannot go another day without blogging. I must talk about something. I was just browsing a couple of other blogs, and I felt deeply disappointed that I didn’t have anything profound to say to day. But, oh well.

So I have these two cats, Pip and Phoebe. Well, they belong to my whole family. They are sisters, and they are beautiful. We had to buy them together, which turns out to have been a good thing.

I would like to point out that I did not name these cats—at least not directly. I wanted to name them something like “Arwen” and “Eowyn,” or perhaps after characters in Narnia, like “Jewel” and “Fledge.” My parents rejected these. But then they said, “What about the girls in your book?”—meaning, of course, “Found Phoebe,” which is soon to be available for purchasing. And I said, “Phoebe” (of course) “and her friend’s name is Lunissa, but she goes by Pip.”

Thus the cats were re-christened. (The names they came with were atrocious. Honestly.)

Some people are not “cat people.” Due to allergies, or bad experiences, or a dislike of animals in general…but I love my cats. And what’s fun is I like them for different reasons.

Phoebe is a baby. Seriously. She will periodically walk around the house meowing incessantly. She rarely sits on anyone’s lap except my mom’s, and she is very jumpy. When we first brought her home, she hid under beds and couches for the whole first week. We thought she might not make it. But eventually, she came around. And now, she is so affectionate, she purrs almost the minute you touch her.

Pip is the “older sister;” she is bigger and more maternal. She doesn’t purr as quickly as Phoebe, and she doesn’t like to be held very much. But she is affectionate, and she has this itty bitty meow she does when she wants some affection. She’ll jump up on the chair behind me while I’m sitting at the computer and beg for attention. She’s also most likely to curl up in bed with me on mornings I sleep in (or days I stay home sick).

Right this minute, my dad is playing with both of them, which they love. And my parents are arguing over who loves them more. But the truth is, it’s just so nice to have other animal life around. My cats are funny and sweet and skittish, and I’m glad they are here. Even when they run away from me. Y


Trials and a New Toy

So, I got a new phone last week. It’s pretty cool. It’s one of those ones you’ve seen on Verizon commercials, where they play music for someone. Yes. It plays music. It is very cool. I do not have any kind of MP3 player yet, so I’m enjoying the three songs I’ve downloaded. I’ve spent the better part of my free time this week just exploring the coolness of my new phone.

I love when I get something new, and the newness is part of its appeal, and I spend many hours admiring my new thing—whatever it may be: a haircut, a pair of shoes, a CD…. I am also not one of those people who see in evil in new technology. Take the internet, for example. The internet has become something of a tragedy, at least morally, because of i-porn. Yet the ease of communicating with people all over the world, and the amount of knowledge contained on virtually any and every subject, makes it a worthwhile tool.

Technology is like anything else man-made: it has the potential to be used for good, and an equal (perhaps some would argue greater) potential to be used for evil. Telephones—and cell phones—allow us to talk to people all over the world. But they also interrupt our lives with sales calls, and keep us occupied when we ought to be focusing on the world in front of us instead of the person on the other end of the line (*ahem! Drivers! ahem!*). Still, I know that I would have been pretty lost these last few years if I hadn’t been able to communicate—by cell phone—with my best friends from college. Who all live several states away.

Even though I have been pretty occupied with my new “toy,” and enjoying it very much (my default ringtone is the chorus of David Crowder’s “Turkish Delight”!!!) I still have had other things on my mind this week.

One is, I recently had the most challenging day of Lent so far. I was at my Pregnancy Care Centers job, working, I might add, on a major database transfer, because we are switching programs, when we decided to take a tiny break and go take a peek at the yard sale that was going on just around the corner and up a flight of stairs from our office (which you may remember is located in the same church building where my dad works). I was looking around at all the stuff—typical yard sale stuff: stuffed animals, old happy meal toys, mismatched glasses and plates, etc. Then I saw the table of—you guessed it—books. I was immediately drawn to it, thinking surely it couldn’t hurt to look and see what they had. I hadn’t brought any money up with me, so I didn’t get anything—then.

But there was a book called “Colourful England” with pictures of old buildings (my boss showed it to me) that I wanted to come back for. She offered to spot me the money to get it, anmd I should have let her, because when I came back to get it, I ended up with an armful of books. Fourteen, to be exact. (But I got them all for $3.00!!) And as I’d stood there, pawing through the bins, glancing at the titles and occiasonlly the back blurbs, I suddenly got a sense of what it was I’d committed to for the Lenten season.

I bought a boxful of books that I cannot read, not for another twenty-eight days. I thought for the first couple of weeks that this would be no big deal, because even if I was giving up books, there were still movies to be watched. And there were always things to read in magazines, and in articles online; I hadn’t given those up. But being at that yard sale was a challenge: it was like making dinner for everyone, and tasting a tiny bit to make sure it was okay, but not eating any yourself.

I was challenged again, later that night, at the Chinese Church. It was, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, and I brought a little book to help them understand who he really was and why we have a day to celebrate him. I consulted with God on the way there if it would be okay to read it to them. But once there, I asked if anyone else would be willing to read it to the class. Several of my students took turns. (This was very hard for me because I love reading books like that to kids, and you know how children read.) When I had to help Stephen pronounce an Irish word (“shillelagh”) a couple of my kids reminded me that I was not supposed to be reading books.

Just before Lent started, I had been reading “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” to the PCC kids. They were a little dismayed when I told them of my vow to give up reading books for the next forty-seven days. So that later, on the same night I’ve been describing, I asked if anyone else would like to read a chapter to the class. No one did. I asked them if they still wanted to hear some of it. They did. I asked them if they thought it would be okay for me to read a few pages to them. They did. So I read a chapter. I’m not sure if I ought to feel terrible about this; after all, it was only a chapter, and it wasn’t for me, it was for the kids.

But reading is so…part of me. I had to remind myself this morning of why it was that I gave it up in the first place. I’m not going to exaggerate and tell you that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done; it’s not. Even though I am surrounded by books that I would normally have no qualms about snatching up and reading for several hours, it’s been nearly no trouble at all finding other ways to fill up my time. I have a sneaking suspicion that quitting the TV would be much harder, and that worries me just a little.

Well, this post is long enough for now, even despite the fact that it’s been a while since I’ve written. If you happen to see someone reading, perhaps you could offer up a quick prayer for me, that I’m learning what I’m supposed to be learning through this time. Thanks! 


American Opinion

Okay, so I have to confess something: I watched American Idol tonight. And any post of mine that would start with such a trivial bit of culture surely can’t be deep. For some reason, my parents have begun watching it this season, before we watch Lost.

The show gives me a stomachache.

First of all, I’m not a huge fan of competition. I’m just too soft-hearted, I guess…I always feel bad for the losers.

Ironically, shows like that always bring out my inner Critic. I may not know a much about music as an industry insider, but I know what I like a much as the next person. Fortunately—or unfortunately, however you look at it—so does everyone else.

The problem with—or beauty of—a show like American Idol is that everyone gets a say. And it must be nice, really nice, to get paid big bucks just for being mean to everyone. *ahem! Simon. ahem!*

But what it comes down to, really, is opinion. Personal preference. I mean, there’s a certain amount of technique and talent that is taken in to consideration, but at this point in the show really all the bad singers have been weeded out. Now the judges just sit there and say, “I didn’t like that song,” or “You kind of bored me,” and crap like that. Yawn.

Then the rest of America gets their say. That really is a matter of personal opinion. Popularity contest, that’s what it is. Ehh. I’m not invested enough in the show to have a favorite, anyone in particular I’m rooting for. I just think it’s interesting that really it’s all about what you like. Isn’t that what America is all about?



Today, as you may or may not know, is Ash Wednesday. The first Day of Lent.

Now, when I was growing up, my churches never really did much with Lent. I was never encouraged to give up anything. I think it was generally considered a Catholic practice. It wasn’t until College that I ever really even paid attention to this season on the Church calendar. My freshman year, three friends and I all decided to give up sweets. That’s a pretty popular choice these days. It was hard, and I remember we had trouble with grey areas like sugary cereal and pop-tarts. But we did it.

I had one professor at C of O who was particularly in tune with the practices of the church, whether ancient, modern, contemporary, or postmodern. My senior year I took his class on Christian Worship and the class was divided into groups (were we in the same group Brianne? I completely forget!) to prepare and provide a Lenten service, one group a week. Again, prior to that, I’d never really paid a whole lot of attention to Church seasons, least of all Lent.

At the beginning of this year, I was reading a book I got for Christmas. It was Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God. (Yes, the same Lauren Winner I got to meet and hear at Jubilee as I discussed in my last post.) She writes from a background in the Jewish Orthodoxy and mentions how they use a calendar of seasons to guide their worship. Most churches don’t seem to do this as much anymore…but her current church, which is Episcopalian, does. It was one of the reasons she was drawn to it.

There is a chapter in GMG where Lauren relates a conversation with her pastor just before Lent. He asks her what she is giving up; she tells him she’s going to fast on Fridays. He then asks her to give up something in addition: books.

When I read that, two things happened to me.

One was, I think my heart stopped. I was dismayed beyond words at the thought of giving up something like that.

The second thing was, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit.

Now, if you’ve ever felt this kind of nudge, you know what I mean. It’s a kind of spiritual elbow to the ribs. I’ve felt it before; it usually accompanies something I really don’t want to do. Something I feel I shouldn’t have to do. Something I could probably justify not doing. But when you get that nudge, there’s really only a couple options: obey, or disobey.

I know from past experiences with the said nudges, that if I do the thing I don’t want to, if I obey, it is usually to my benefit. It might be hard, even painful, but good comes out of it.

So I began by telling my family I was giving up reading books for Lent. They responded with surprise, even a little skepticism (as I said, we never did much with Lent) but eventually encouragement. I told Brianne; she too was encouraging but also a little surprised. If you know me at all, you know I read. If you know me well, you know I devour books. I read all the freaking time. I always seem to have a book stashed somewhere—in the bathroom, in stacks by my bed, in my purse….

But I know that God is not just calling me to give up reading because it takes up so much of my time. I know it has to do with obedience, and keeping my love of books from becoming idolatry. So I will be obedient. It is nerve-wracking, quite frankly, to realize that I will not be picking up and reading any book at all (except the Bible) for the next 47 days. Especially after I bought all those books at Jubilee. I already have a considerable list accumulating of books to read when Lent is over.

It sounds crazy, even to me. But I don’t share this story to say “look how holy I am,” I share it so that you can participate by encouraging me. This will be a challenge, I know, and it’s only day one. You can pray for me, that in the absence of my reading God will show me what he wants me to learn, and that I won’t just fill it with something else. Like TV. Even though I did just get season 4 of MacGyver.

Books are a big, dare I even say HUGE, part of my life; but God must be bigger still. I look forward to this time of Lent with anticipation and trepidation both; who can say but God how I will emerge? What will God teach me in the next 47 days, about discipline, obedience, and grace? Well, when I find out, so will you!