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12.27.2007

Cat Nap

How I spent My Christmas Afternoon: I went in after dinner to get something, and spied my cat Pip still curled up on my bed. She looked so cozy and comfy...and the turkey and wine were making me sleepy...so I joined her.


























































12.10.2007

Busy!

Yeah, I've been busy lately. Not really an excuse for not blogging, though, since I've made time to watch things like the Heroes finale, the Tinman miniseries and the movie Enchanted (I loved it! I can't say it enough!!)

There are a lot of things I thought about writing about...but for now I'm going to focus on the things immediately at hand.

1) New Noel. It's this Saturday (the 15th). If you live around here, please come! 6pm, at Memorial Park Church. The theme is "Joy to the World," and we'll be looking at how Jesus' birth is good news for the whole world, and for us, too. There will be music, scripture, and videos, among other things. It's going to be fun, so plan to come.

2) Blue Christmas. It's the 22nd, also at 6, and also at MPC. This will be a very different kind of service, but I believe it will be equally good. It is geared more toward quiet reflection, acknowledgment of the things that often come between us and the Good News of Christ's Coming, and the Hope that this season brings. Christ came to be Human, to meet us in our brokenness. He came to be God with us, and that goes for everyone, whether we feel excited and happy about it or not.

If you know someone who is struggling with feeling joyful this year, or who is missing someone who has passed on, please invite them (and accompany them!) to this service. Let's take an hour (or two, if you come to both!) out of our crazy, hectic schedules to let ourselves remember what Good News this holiday really brings.

I've been feeling frazzled myself, and not really in the "spirit"...until last week, when I was caught off guard by Relient K's new Christmas album ("Let it Snow, Baby...Let it Reindeer"). In between renditions of familiar songs that made me just laugh out loud, were these poignant songs about how hard the holidays can be, but how there is still hope.

I believe that, or I would not be involved in either of these services.

I hope you'll come.

But if not, I hope that you find Hope and Joy this Christmas, wherever you are.

11.14.2007

Music is My Mood

So, just about ten minutes ago, I was browsing my myspace, and discovered that my [former] favorite band is releasing a new "Greatest Hits" album this month. I (a) cannot believe it is time for another one of those already, and (b) already like the two new songs that will be on this album (courtesy of their myspace).

I've been thinking about music a lot lately. It's funny, I never really considered myself as an overly musical person, even though I play guitar. Even so, I don't think of myself as a "musician." that's reserved for people who can actually read music--or write it, for that mater. People who know how to play multiple instruments or sing or can speak in musical terminology. BUT I have always loved music. And I did want to be a singer when I was about nine.

For most of my life though, I've been fairly sheltered in my selection of music. It's not entirely all my own doing; my parents got rid of all their secular albums (y'know,
vinyls) when I was a baby. They didn't want it to have a negative impact on me. It was okay, though, because Christian music was just starting to come into its own at that time. So I grew up on Maranatha, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Twila Paris, etc.

It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I voluntarily listened to the radio. True story. That's perhaps why I love 90's music so much. Anyway, in college I went through another Christian music relapse...but as it helped shape my understanding of worship, I don't consider that such a bad thing.

But lately, I've been branching out again. It's due to a lot of things. The Indie stuff is because of Brianne. The techno/alternative-type stuff is because of Kyle. The Obscure stuff is because of "Chuck" (on NBC before Heroes)...and the Classic/Rock stuff is because of Guitar Hero. You can't listen to those songs as many times as it takes to get them right and not start to jam to it just a little. (Do I like them
all? No. But more than I ever expected to, once again scandalizing the 16-year-old-me.) I'm surprised to find, for example, that I kind of like the Foo Fighters. At least a couple of their songs. And I'm really digging a song by the Eels that was on Chuck this week.

So I've been building my digital library lately, in hopes that soon I will be able to get a Zune (I'll save my anti-itunes rant for another time). Because CDs just aren't cutting it anymore. And music is useful for so many things: expressing feelings, keeping me on track when I'm doing mundane tasks, shaping moods, and helping me visualize a scene. I use playlists a lot in my writing. I kind of do this thing when I'm listening to music--I picture what is going on. Maybe it's due partly to growing up in the Mtv generation, and all the music videos. But a good song can often help me picture a specific scene in one of my stories. Sometimes it even changes or enhances the direction I was going.

But most off all, music just makes me feel good. Doesn't it? I love blasting a song in my car, singing at the top of my lungs, the bass thumping loudly, people in cars around me laughing at me. It's great. Music: What would we do without it?

10.18.2007

Yes, You're at the Right Place.

Notice anything different?

Yes, after more than two years, I decided to change my blog up a bit. As much as I love pink, I was getting a little tired of the old layout. And then I helped my dad set up and customize his blog (be sure to check that out), and it got me thinking about what I could do to customize mine a little more.

So I spent hours today--more than I'd like to admit--changing and rearranging. What do you think? Harder to read? Easier on the eyes?

The background, in case you're wondering (and hey, even if you're not!) is a unique, one-of-a-kind, custom-designed wallpaper...made by me. So when you find the flaws, please be gracious. I am neither a graphic arts major nor do I have a degree in web design. I'm mostly self taught.

Anyway...that's all I have to say for now...but while you're here, why not leave a comment, sign up for updates, check out my links, and play with "Scribbles."

And, y'know, have a great day.

10.08.2007

TV, and More TV

First of all, lest you should think that I am completely shallow and obsessed with nothing but pop culture, let me assure you that I have in fact been using my brain the last few weeks. Truthfully, that's probably WHY I watch TV. To make myself stop obsessing over things in my life that are out of my control (and some things that are somewhat in my control, but I haven't quite fixed yet).

I have had deep conversations with several friends on weighty (but non-essential) theological matters (like women in leadership, predestination, and the Emergent Church). Also, I'm in the midst of planning CW's Christmas services (yes, we are doing two--more on that later). And trying to write more. I've got a fresh batch of ideas.

But in my downtime, I find myself gravitating toward my TV. It is Fall, after all. Lots of new shows. ANd new stories on the old shows. Now that I have my own DVR, it's not hard to catch up on anything and everything I want to. And as I tend to eat my dinner (and other meals when I'm at home) in my living room, rather than my kitchen, it's a great time to catch up.

I know lots of people who are always telling me they don't have time for TV. I think that's great. Very noble. I am sure they are involved in a lot of terrific things. ...Hm. So am I, for that matter. I'm out a few nights of the week, with Church stuff, Practice, and Chinese Church. But I still watch a ton of television, maybe because I have a living room all to myself. But I don't consider TV to be a completely anti-social activity. In fact, one of my nights of the week is dedicated to watching a particular program with my family and friends.

Heroes comes on Monday nights, and it is such an incredible show. I've loved it from the first ep. But you know I have a thing for superheroes. And now, just before it, Chuck comes on. It's only been two episodes, but I already like that very much, too. It combines spy stuff with geek humor, which is a fantastic combination. And then there are the other comedies--like The Office (I'm missing the Jim-Dwight pranks!!), the new Back to You, and probably a few others I'm forgetting. I've also been checking out The Reaper on the CW (even though I swore I was done with that channel after they canceled Everwood AND Veronica Mars!!--Luckily, the plucky Kristen Bell will resurface on Heroes!!). It's an interesting show, full of moral conundrums and theological liberties, but I'm waiting to see how it develops, just like Pushing Daisies.

I'm also still watching Bones (Brianne got me addicted!!) and Ugly Betty. What about Lost, you ask? Still a few months to go before that comes back on. February, I believe. Psh. Not that I'm any less interested. I know a lot of people are on the verge of giving up on it, but I'm holding out. I have to know how they're going to play this out.

And then...I got sucked into this British mini-series my friend Lynne lent me. It's called The Forsyte Saga. It's basically a soap opera set around the turn of the century, revolving around the members of the wealthy Forsyte family. At least, that's how it was described to me. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but I am such a sucker for British stuff...I love the way they talk. And it did keep me wondering what was going to happen next. And unlike regular soap operas, there is an end in sight. I'm close to it! Oh, the feuds! The drama! The divorces, the affairs, the extravagance!

So yeah, all in all, I've been watching a lot of TV. But I'm not apologizing for it. I know a lot of people think that TV is kind of evil; or if not exactly evil, not a worthwhile way to spend time. Maybe not. I guess it depends. I'm not really of the philosophy that something has to be sanitized and religious for it to be watchable. Mostly because that's not the world we live in. I don't want to fill my head with garbage...but I don't want to ignore our culture, either.

I've said before, I think, that Stories are what I'm most passionate about anyway, and stories come in a lot of different forms. Including TV. So while it gives my brain a chance to rest for a little bit while I watch, it also keeps me thinking long after the show is done. About life, relationships--the way we interact with each other, and how things play out differently than we typically think they will. It makes me think about my own life, and about the stories I have developing in my head.

So, what do you think? TV: Good or Bad? You know my opinion. What's yours?

9.22.2007

Sayonara, Summer!

Some people I know look at the passing of summer with regret. They ruefully wave goodbye to days of sunshine and warmth; they heave great sighs when the temperatures take a final drop. Not me.


I revel in Autumn. I glory in it. I adore the change of the season. I’m ecstatic when I get to put away the tee shirts and capris and pull out the sweaters and jeans. Out come the scarves and hats and jackets. It’s great!


I know, I know…in a few months it will be winter. And I’ll be sick of the cold weather and snow by January, itching to bring back flip flops and tank tops.


But I just want to take a moment to enjoy the present. Let’s just revel in this moment, shall we?


...Oh, wait. Not this exact moment. For even though Summer is officially over, and Fall has arrived, our week here in Pittsburgh was still in the low 80's. That's right. Hmph.



Well, my consolation is that the evenings are cool, chilly enough even for, say, a fire; and soon enough the cooler days will be here, too. Days of air as crisp as gala apples; of trees filled with glorious colors; of crunchy withered leaves underfoot. There's just something so deliciously melancholy about this time of year--whether it's the blaze of color before everything dies, or the harvesting of the last crops before the ground lies fallow for winter, or the promise that stillness and barrenness, at least for a season, is just around the corner.



And yet, there's a richness to the season, too: the scents of cinnamon, decaying leaves, and smoky fires; the vibrant oranges, golds, and scarlets that adorn the trees , bushes, and our tables; the cozy textures of knitted warmth that we wrap around ourselves to keep warm. There is the giving of thanks, and the time spent with family. There are hayrides. Caramel apples. Trick-or-treaters. Scarecrows. Pumpkins. Pilgrims. Squash. Indian Corn. Plymouth Reenactments. Turkeys. Turkeys made from a traced hand. Leaf rubbings. Mashed potatoes. Bonfires. Leaf piles...to jump in. Colorful scarves.

...And so many other things. It's only just begun, and I'm already dying to take it all in.


*Sigh.* I love Fall. Did I mention that already?

9.09.2007

Dear Diary

Yesterday was the kind of day that almost makes me wish I kept a diary. I do write in a journal from time to time, but it's mostly filled with emotional and mental angst. Like the rest of my life.

But anyway, the day was kind of cool. I went out to the Highland Games up in Ligonier. What's not to love about a place and event so filled with people who share my deep and abiding affinity for all things Scottish? To quote a tee I saw several times throughout the day, "If it's nae Scottish, it's crap!"


I've never heard so much bagpiping in one day. I can still hear it in the back of my head, "Scotland the Brave," just like the ocean after a day at the beach. It was awesome! Also, it was gratifying to see so many guys wearing kilts. I loves the kilts! (Picture by Victornado, on Flickr)


We got to watch cabertossing and a rugby match. Both fun.


Also, I tried new things. On the tame end of the spectrum, I had some British candy. On the wilder, more adventurous end (but not really), I sampled whisky and tried es cargot. (We ended up at this restaurant called The Road Toad....the name is deceptive. It was actually kind of fancy. So much so that the prices didn't have dollar signs, and they wouldn't let us split the check.)


If you’re wondering what the verdict on my new experiences is, I’ll oblige: the whisky was strong and burned going down, but it felt good on my throat, which had been (and is still) scratchy, like I’m coming down with something. (Ugh! I hate getting sick.) The es cargot was actually pretty good…not something I would eat on a regular basis, but I’m glad I tried it.


And sometimes you just need to take a day like that and live life to the hilt, even if the next day you sleep in late and do nothing because you’re exhausted and getting sick. So I’m glad my Saturday was amazing and fun, and I wish everyone a Highland day once in a while.

8.28.2007

I’m Not Sorry

I have recently noticed something about myself. Every so often I go on these self-awareness kicks, trying to figure out who I am and why I do the things I do. And there is something I have caught myself doing quite frequently over the last few weeks: apologizing.


I must say “I’m sorry,” dozens of times a day. Often for things that are not my fault. Or, for just being who I am. And I’m tired of it.


I discovered this with the help of my friend Lynne, who also is a Recovering Apologetic. For most of our lives, we have apologized to the people around us for the most ridiculous things imaginable. We just had a conversation about it. I’ve apologized for standing in the aisle at the grocery store, for making people wait for anything for more than five seconds, for liking chick flicks and the color pink, for being passionate about stories, for basically being a girl, and in particular being me.


In fact, I had previously considered apologizing for the somewhat schizophrenic nature of my last two posts. But I’m not going to. Because they were honest, and true to what I was feeling at the moment I wrote them.


I know I’m not the only one who does this. Why are we so apologetic? Why are we afraid of making people uncomfortable? I worry over inconveniencing anyone at all. And why? Aren’t we all inconvenienced at some point? And don’t we all learn that it’s just part of life, and deal with it?


There is something to be said for honesty, even the brutal kind. I mean, I’m of the persuasion that all things should be in moderation, so I don’t think you can walk around being brutally honest all the time. There are times when tact is called for, and we should be considerate of people’s feelings. We should pick our battles. By the same token, sometimes you gotta speak up, and let yourself be heard.


There are a lot of things I’ve gotten from reading Eldredge, and one is the idea that we ought to be fully who God made us to be. We were made in His image, and we have a bestowed glory that reflects our Maker. But most of us, myself included, walk around shrouded. We’re afraid to let people see us as we truly are. We’re afraid of the consequences of letting people feel the full weight of who we are.


For women, this often means worrying that our feelings and emotions are too much for others to handle. We bottle it up, not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable with what we truly feel. You know what I mean. We do the whole “Oh, no, it’s okay. I’m fine. Really,” thing. We don’t want to be a burden to anyone.


The problem is, sometimes that means we miss out on calling forth the best in others. The bible says that iron sharpens iron, and we sharpen each other. We do that best when we are being honest with each other and not hiding. And not apologizing for being who God created us to be. He made us each to fill different roles, use different gifts, and be different parts of the body. And we need to stop apologizing for being the part He made us to be.


There are, of course, times when it is necessary to say “Sorry.” And sometimes that’s when it’s hardest for me to say! It’s much easier to apologize for things that aren’t my fault than things that are! But you can hold me accountable: from here on out, I only want to apologize for things that genuinely ought to be apologized for. I will no longer say I’m sorry for being who I am. If I can help it.

8.23.2007

On the Other Hand...

Maybe I'm wrong.

If I let my cynicism take over, there are days like today. When I think, who need this?

Maybe I'm stupid. Maybe Love Stinks.

Seriously, what am I doing, here? What am I waiting for?

Sometimes, it's really easy to get frustrated. I look at my life, and I don't see the things happening that I want to be happening. And yes, I know it's all in God's timing.

But some days I want to give it all up, lock my heart away. It's frustrating to care about someone who does not feel the same way. And it doesn't get easier. This just doesn't seem to be something I can fix or make better on my own. I don't know.

I've been working on a story for a few years now, and the main character, Anna, is in love with a guy for about seven years, the duration of the book. Obviously, I'm not going to tell you what happens, but the point is, I didn't give it a second thought when I put her through that. I just assumed she could handle that kind of emotional torment and anguish. Probably because I assumed I could. And so for years, she tries to reconcile the fact that she cares deeply for a guy who for the most part is unable to love her back.

Is it just me, or is that depressing?

Anna is brave, I'll give her that. I'm not sure I would really be able to do the same in her place. I'd like to think I could...but then there are days like today. When I wonder why I would do that to myself. Wouldn't it make more sense to spare my heart, if I could?

God has given us all sorts of counsel and direction in his written Word; thank God, we have it written down in black and white. ... The more that wisdom enters our hearts, the more we will be able to trust our hearts in difficult situations. Notice that wisdom is not cramming our head with principles. It is developing a discerning heart. What made Solomon such a sharp guy was his wise and discerning heart (1 Kings 3:9).
We don’t seek wisdom because it’s a good idea; we seek wisdom because we’re dead if we don’t.
Wisdom is crucial. But wisdom is not enough. Wisdom is essential . . . and insufficient. ...
It was dangerous advice, indeed, to send the young maiden before her king unbidden, and even worse to send a boy against a trained mercenary. And frankly, it looked like perfect madness for Jesus to give himself up to the authorities, let himself get killed....The Bible is full of such counterintuitive direction from God. (John Eldredge, Waking the Dead, pp 99-100.)

I'm trying to figure out what God wants from me in this situation. It always seems like, at the end of the day, His words to me are, "Don't give up." Don't close off your heart. Don't become a cynic. Don't feel stupid for loving. Well, today, Love does feel stupid. And quite frankly, I'm not even sure if Love is the right word for anything that I"m feeling. What do I know about Love, after all? What do I know about relationships? What do I know about truly caring about someone other than myself?

Nothing. So, apparently, I've got a lot to learn.

8.18.2007

A(n Unfinished) Love Song

I’ve never been great at writing songs. I’ve tried my hand at it a few times. Some of my worst were attempts at writing songs about love. Or at least, my limited experience of it.


There are millions of songs about love. Have you noticed that? Songs about good love, bad love, crazy love, desperate love, obsessive love, and—my personal favorite—unrequited love.


The point of writing a song about love, I presume, is to capture an emotion in a few simple lyrics that will resonate with listeners everywhere. And in these millions of songs, there are a lot of bad philosophies. A lot of bad advice. A lot of bad attitudes.


Now, granted, I don’t know a whole lot about love. I do know it’s more than butterflies. It’s more than chemistry. It’s more than how someone makes you feel. It’s more than looking into someone’s eyes and getting chills.


And yet, those things are a part of romantic love. I just think that at the end of the day, if all I’m looking for is a thrill, well…what happens when the thrill is gone? Or I feel it for someone new?


So it’s gotta be something deeper and longer lasting. I admit, I haven’t quite figured this all out. I don’t mean to be a scientist about this, trying to define and dissect something so complex. It’s just, at this point in my life, I wonder: will I know Love when it finds me? Or will I be too busy looking for what I think Love is to recognize it?


I have few theories about Love. One is that it has to be fearless. Another is that it has to be selfless. And wouldn’t you know it, those are two of the hardest things for me to be. Thankfully, God is working on me!! And thankfully, I have relinquished my standards of perfection. So, I know I’m going to mess up, but that’s okay. I think it’s one of those things that you have to practice in order to get better. And I spent so much of my life holding back out of fear.


I’m still scared. And confused. I think I always assumed that by this point in my life, I would have figured this kind of stuff out. And I’m surprised at how baffled I still am over guy/girl relations. Of course, part of my problem is that I overthink everything. But it just seems to come more naturally and easily to some people, and I can’t figure that out.


Love is a mystery to me…how two people can come together, and decide to share their lives with each other. The give and take. The letting down of barriers and being Real. It’s all so foreign to me.


In fact, the only part of Love I’m familiar with is the pining away part. THAT I know very well. I know how to love from afar. (If such a thing is even possible.) I know what it’s like to feel the crush-rush of emotions—euphoria, and disappointment.


And I worry: what if all my years of watching chick flicks have warped me? It’s only in recent years that it has occurred to me that the guys in chick flicks don’t exist in reality. For the most part. I’m not saying guys can’t be romantic. I’m saying, those guys always seem to say the right thing. They don’t give up very easily. And besides all that, the whole courtship is condensed into a couple of hours. Movies leave out all the moments when nothing exciting or romantic happened. You don’t get to see all the nights the girl stayed up till 3 in the morning, trying to figure things out. You don’t see her obsessing for hours, begging her best friends to help her make sense of everything. You don’t see her make mistake after mistake and beat herself up for it afterward, wondering if she screwed things up for good this time.


And you know what? I don’t think I’m meant to figure this out by myself. I don’t think it’s possible. We’re not meant to navigate life alone, anyway. But Love—well, that’s the ultimate cooperative experience. I love to hear people’s theories and experiences with love—the good and the bad. I think we should share them with each other to help us all make sense out of it.


Which is why, in the end, I keep watching movies and listening to songs about love. Even when they get it wrong. I’ve gotten it wrong before, too. Many times. Sometimes I’m tempted to give up…because love is hard sometimes. It hurts. But even I know that anything worth having in life requires work. Including Love.


So this is my unfinished song about Love…and I’m sending it out into the world.

8.05.2007

The Pursuit of Perfection


So the other night I was up late, working from home. I had the TV on, and somehow I got watching this show on VH1 (which I never watch, honestly, but I had gotten sucked into an I love the 90’s marathon…). It was called Scott Baio is 45 and Single. I don’t know what got into me. I normally loathe Reality TV, especially ones featuring celebrities.

Let me just be clear—my interest in the show had nothing to do with Scott Baio. I’m a little too young to have been a fan. (Although technically, that didn’t really stop me from my whole MacGyver phase…but I digress.) What intrigued me was that as it turns out, S. B. is on a self quest. He hired a “life coach,” and is trying to determine if he can get married to the woman he loves…or not.


Like the rest of us, S. B. wrestles with commitment issues. Unlike the rest of us, he’s had his pick of pretty much any and everyone over the past 30 years or so. He’s been with one gorgeous girl after another, and notice: he’s not happy. He’s not satisfied. One of his exes described it to him this way: “You’re always looking for the next best thing.”

—And that was what kept me watching. There was this repeated, underlying theme about the pursuit of perfection. I can just imagine all these frustrated girls feeling not good enough because he moved on to the next model/playmate/actress.


It’s funny, because my friend Lynne and I had a conversation just the other day about this same kind of thing. Her mom was trying to get her to meet this guy in his late 30’s who is still single; and Lynne said, “What’s wrong with him, Mom?” And then she added, to me, “I can say that, because pretty soon, people will start saying the same thing about me: ‘What’s wrong with Lynne? Why is she still single?’”


I CERTAINLY am not implying that there in fact IS something wrong with a person who is single (any more than there is something “right” about a person who is married…no matter what our culture says). But if you were to ask me, I could readily recite a list of my flaws. Are they the reason I’m still single? I don’t know. But I do wonder sometimes if my perfectionistic tendencies hinder me.


In a way, I’m on my own self quest; and I think I often get caught up in the pursuit of perfection. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do your best, I suppose, as long as you don’t take it too far. Just tonight I was talking with friends about the little voice in my head—you know, the one who voices a steady commentary on all the things I do wrong. Everything I mess up, every little flaw or failure, every time I fall short of perfection (which is ALL the time)—I hear about it. And it’s hard to get that voice to shut up, am I right?

And I think sometimes I let that little voice dictate areas of my life. That Inner Critic begins to point out not only my own flaws, but everyone else’s. I think I generally have more grace toward other people, but it can be hard when I’m noticing all of someone’s shortcomings.


The worst, I think, is when considering dating prospects. I can be so picky! And I’m not really that fussy of a person. I don’t think. I mean, there are definite things I don’t like. I remember I took that free eHarmony profile test (don’t rag, I never joined!) and there was this one section where it asked you to check off ten “Must Haves” and ten “Can’t Stands.” It seemed like the “Can’t Stands were harder to limit. Why is that?


Because then a guy comes along into my life who I technically shouldn’t like—someone who isn’t the right age…or isn’t, say, Scottish…and who has too much facial hair. Or doesn’t play the guitar. Or isn’t a mushy, hopeless romantic. And I mentally cross him off the list. Or do I? Sometimes those standards just seem to be excuses—things to hide behind. Sometimes it comes down to something that isn’t definable. And in that moment, maybe Perfection is not only irrelevant, but undesirable. If I were to somehow meet my “perfect,” ideal guy, would he be as good for me as I imagine? In Reality, isn’t everyone going to be an adjustment? Don’t all relationships take work? Like I said earlier, I’m not exactly a picnic myself.


I don’t know if this is Age talking; because when I was younger, I seemed to care much more about my Standards than I do now. Maybe it’s Experience; maybe it’s Realism (or Cynicism). But I seem to be giving up the pursuit of perfection. Truthfully, nothing in this life will ever be as good as it could be. Wow. That sounds depressing. I just mean, I should stop being so hard on myself, and everyone else, because we’re all on our way to perfection. We’re just not there yet.


And that's not such a horrible thing, after all.

7.17.2007

Blah!

Okay, honestly, I've had a lot more going on in my head these past few weeks than you would guess. I kept meaning to get it out, post it here, but I just haven't. I don't even have a really good excuse!!

Even now, though, I don't really have time to spill stuff that's been rattling around in my brain. Just know that I've been wrestling with things like:
  • Vulnerability
  • Love
  • Honesty
  • Patience
  • Friendship
  • Personality Types and Temperaments (try my quiz!)
  • and the Themes embedded in the Harry Potter stories. (Did you see the latest movie? Wow! There was some powerful stuff going on there. That's all I'm saying for now.)
But see, my second favorite thing (well, possibly tied for first, even) to do with these issues, besides writing about them, is talking about them with other people. I love to hear what other people think about this kind of stuff.

So, if you have any thoughts, post 'em! No joke! I wanna know--we all wanna know--what you've been thinking about.

6.15.2007

Redeemability

I must confess something. When I was in High School, I was…a bit of a prat, actually. Kind of a Goody-Two-Shoes. It’s true. I kind of had to be, just because I lived in California, and everyone else seemed so…well, I want to say “damned,” but trust me, I never would have used that word back then.


I was one of those kids who didn’t believe in Santa Claus, ever, and didn’t celebrate Halloween. I didn’t listen to secular music. I was a staunch little evangelical, and a Republican, to boot. I also disliked peace symbols (a broken, upside-down cross) and yin-yangs.


You know yin yangs—those swirly little symbols with a little dot of the opposite color on the inside of each half? I didn’t like them because I read that they symbolized that there is a little bad in every good, and a little good in every bad. And, being the rational child of modernity that I was (and still am, in many respects) I concluded that this was false, since God clearly had no evil in him, and the devil clearly had no good in him. So. Yin-yangs=taboo.


Even now, I shy away from peace symbols and yin-yangs. But I must admit my feelings have changed a little. After all, outside those two absolutes I mentioned, God and the devil, isn’t everything else in this life kind of…mixed? I mean, even as Christians, as new creations, don’t we still wrestle with our sin nature? And in those who are not yet saved, despite being lost and fallen, isn’t there something that Christ, through us, wants to redeem?


Redemption is a tricky, sticky thing.


It’s one of those things that sounds easy in theory, but is harder in practice. Common Christian knowledge would have us believe that Maturity, growing closer to God, means pulling away from the world. Being sensitive to things that would grieve Him. Cutting out bad things in life. And that’s true—to a point.


Consider, though, that Christ spent his ministry years among the poor, broken, and degenerate of his society. He didn’t keep himself away from all that might taint Him. Instead, He was able to see so clearly and Love so fiercely that even today He is redeeming the Lost.


It’s hard, sometimes, I think, in this world that is so mixed, to find the redeemable. We’d like to draw very clear, dividing lines to say This is Sacred, and That is Secular; This is White, and That is Black, This is Good, and That is Bad. This is Christian; but That is Not. Certainly we have been given standards and rules and guidelines on how to keep ourselves pure and set apart. But when we try to apply these things arbitrarily to something like, movies—for example: Rated ‘R’ movies are Bad!—I think we run into trouble.


Does Redeemability apply only to people? I don’t believe so. I think Christ came to redeem the whole earth. And we know one day, Someday, He will. Until then…what?


Let me first say that I don’t have all the answers. But here’s what I think. I think sometimes we get so caught up in seeing the bad in things that we write them off. We throw everything out—bathwater, baby, and all. I know sometimes it might seem like there is precious little good in something. But I still say you never know what God may use.


This could be said of so many things—situations, movies, books, even people. It’s so easy to disregard something because it looks ‘bad’ at first glance. I’m not advocating filling our heads and hearts and lives with garbage just to sift through for a little treasure. All I’m saying is that it might be nice if we kept our eyes open for the good we can pull out of things. As Arthur F. Holmes says, "All truth is God's truth." He has given us so many glimpses of Him throughout so many areas of life. There are fingerprints of our Creator left on the entire universe. Perhaps we can use those things to point others toward Him.


Just a thought.

5.30.2007

Oh, Eh?

Well, I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

I did. I spent mine in Toronto. It was a Girl Trip! ...That pretty much says it all. It involved museums, walking around downtown, fun restaurants, gelatto, shopping, lots of laughter, new nicknames, running jokes, a chick flick, a tiiiiny bit of alcohol (now, don't be all scandalized!), and a cute waiter.

Our first stop was the Bata Shoe Museum. It was actually very cool and we all found it fascinating. It was there, from a display on Chinese fashion, that we got our nicknames. It was from the Chinese Calendar (okay, zodiac) and what animal and element we are. (I'm an Earth Sheep, if you're interested. Mine was eerily close to my personality. Go figure.)

But as I said, we also visited a couple other museums, such as the Spadina House, and Casa Loma. They were also a lot of fun. We spent hours looking around at everything, and heard some great stories.

We also walked around quite a bit of downtown TO, just trying to find places to eat dinner. There are, of course, tons of restaurants, but the four of us (as relatively easy-going as we all are) still had to agree. Sunday Night we spent the better part of an hour trying to find just the right place (for my Birthday Dinner). We ended up at an Irish pub which somehow suited us all perfectly. It was also the source of the cute waiter--who incidentally, was also too young for any of us.

Well, anyway, I had a lot of fun. It was just a great weekend. I hope yours was, too! Here's to mini-breaks!

5.11.2007

Sick Day

I started this post, but apparently I was too sick even to finish it. I decided to publish it [aug. 08] instead of leaving it a draft. Just as a testament to the unfinished things we often begin with good intentions but get derailed from completing.


So.
This week I had to take a sick day.
It seems like a long time since I've had to do that. I mean, I was sick. Like, lie-around-and-watch -TV sick. Eat-nothing-but-saltine-crackers sick. Fever-over-one-hundred sick.
It came out of nowhere.
And you know what I did? I tried to fight it. Deny it. Pretend I was fine.
*shakes head* I know. Silly.
I don't know why I get like that. Like the world won't keep spinning if I stay on my couch watching Dharma and Greg reruns for a couple of days.

4.30.2007

Not About ME

"God works in mysterious ways."

We've all heard that expression. Many of us have used it, too. It's sort of a catch-all phrase for the funny, quirky ways things work out in life. Sometimes it's meant to be an encouragement when things don't go as planned.

Like so many sayings, it's so common today that the meaning is often tuned out. But it is, in fact, true. Romans 11:33 says,
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!"

That goes for the big things in life, as well as the small.

This past week, I went to go see a movie with a friend. I see lots of movies. Movie watching is basically a hobby of mine, because I love stories. This story was about a Bengali Indian family living in America, and it was good. (It was called "The Namesake," if you're curious.)

Anyway, in the course of the movie, a couple of tragic things happen to the family (as with all families). The son, Gogol, the titular "namesake" of the story, says something both times, to two different people. He says, "It's not about you." The first time it is to a girlfriend, who doesn't understand his change in attitude in his grief.

Somehow, that little phrase stuck with me.

It made me think (as I believe all good stories do). How often do I make myself the center of my problems? Whatever I'm going through, there are other people being affected. But I usually look at it from my perspective alone, what my needs and desires are.

The fact of the matter is, it's not always about me.

In a way, that's a relief. I tend to internalize so much, take things so personally, over-analyze things to death. I know that I do this. But hearing a phrase like that reminds me that I don't have the whole story if I'm only looking at a situation from my perspective. When I shift the emphasis, I am freed of that burden.

With friends, for example: it can be so easy to take things personally if someone doesn't call, or seem to notice if I'm upset, or listen to me. And certainly I believe all relationships need to be about give and take. But I should be free to give, without expecting so much of others. Remembering that it's not about me does just that. It frees me to care about my friends and family without needing something in return.

So am I saying God spoke to me through a movie? And a secular one, at that?? Oh, yes. The line "It's not about you," came at a very timely moment for me, and was then backed up as I read my assigned scripture for my Bible Study.

Oh, yes. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

4.18.2007

All The Time

Well, it's amazing.

I know I've been mentioning my struggles lately, my stress and frustrations (as much as I can on a blog without dragging out all the details!). I hope I don't sound like I'm complaining.

The truth is, Life is Hard sometimes. And I know I'm not the only one who can attest to this.

So, there are these things, these areas of my life that I've been wrestling with. Just so you know, I'm on top of the "Christian" thing to do. I pray and pour my heart out to God. And I've already mentioned that I'm trying hard to do the "praising in the hard times" thing. I'm still working on it. Can you feel completely miserable and still profess to believe that God is God, and in control? Well, if so, I'm slogging my way through it.

I don't share this stuff just to vent. I mean, I do think it's important to have people in your life that you can tell things to. For me, talking it out with others really helps me get things in perspective. (Because again, things are always worse in my head than in reality.)

I share it because it's Real, and it's what's going on in my life, and I don't think that praising God through the bad stuff means that you act like everything is great when it's not. When I pretend like I'm fine, as I'm prone to do, to avoid pity, I am depriving others of the Reality that Life will get rough. I can't act like things are great all the time and that I never wrestle or struggle, or those who are struggling will think there is something wrong with their faith. And that's simply not true. Every person in the Bible who had an active relationship and vivid encounter with God also had times of hardship and struggle. It happens. And we could get into theological discussions of why--whether God is testing us, or allowing it to grow us and bring us closer to him (hard things to tell someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, and not very comforting), or if it is the work of this fallen world and our Enemy. But the bottom line is that God is still in control.

He is sovereign. He is in the big things and the small things. And most of all, he is good.

I started out my day stressed, frustrated, and tired. Things were weighing heavily on my heart. I was wrestling with my situation and circumstances, and things that are simply out of my control. And yes, I was praying, and acknowledging God's control. But I was still under attack.

Then, in a heartbeat, just when I needed it most, I received encouragement. This is the other reason I share about my struggles. To show how God works through them. Not one, but two people reached out to me with very needed words of encouragement. God is good. So very good.

And isn't it amazing how He uses us, as flawed and selfish as we are, to lift others up? That is so very important, such a vital part of our purpose here on Earth. Just being there, being available, listening to a friend--it sounds cliche, and yet it saved me today. God knew just what I needed. And so I praise Him.

God is good--ALL the time.

4.04.2007

Stress and Blessings


I love this time of year. Honestly, I do. Spring is my favorite season. I love seeing everything come alive again.
Right now, at my desk, I have a vase full of daisies and daffodils. I bought them for myself on Monday...because I was completely stressed out.

In the midst of this wonderful time of regrowth and renewal, we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus (commonly called Easter). It's such a beautiful holiday, so profound and soul-stirring.
And because I have to plan and participate in the worship services this week, I haven't given it hardly a thought.
Stress!

I love being involved with worship. I truly do. But some of the more Administrative (as opposed to Creative) duties are just draining. Stress!

On Sunday, I admitted my stress to my 20somethings group, as I stood in front of them, leading worship, just me and my guitar. I didn't really want to admit it. I didn't really particularly want to say anything to them, because I didn't want to draw anymore attention to myself. Yet I found myself sharing about my struggles and stresses, because I believe that in order for worship--any worship, not just the singing kind--to be authentic, it had to be honest.

You know what happened? My group prayed for me. (I shouldn't call them "my" group. I just meant the group that I am part of.) Blessing!

The last song we sang was "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord," in which we sing that no matter what we're going through, we will praise God. It's a profound thought, one I have already admitted I struggle with.

So, I wonder: was the stress in my life a blessing in itself? Or was the response of the Body of Christ the blessing?

Afterward, I went out with a friend of mine; this very friendship is what I called "a God thing," because He brought it about so unexpectedly and suddenly. It was so nice just to have some quality girl time. Talking about relationships, eternity, struggles....and when I think of just over a year ago, when I hardly had anyone--outside of my family, and here in Pgh--to even begin to discuss such things with, I am amazed. Blessing!

BUT were the years of loneliness in themselves a blessing? Or was it a blessing to see God's hand bringing people back into my life?

I don't pretend to know the correlation between Stress and Blessings. Certainly it is Biblical to look at the struggles in our lives as something of value, because of what they will produce in us. But we don't want stress in our lives. We don't want struggles and hardships. I know I don't! And yet...and yet. If I could do it over again, would I want the easier road? If nothing else, dark times give us the opportunity to see God at work in our lives more clearly.

I don't have the answers. But it is something on my heart, something that keeps coming back. What do YOU think?

3.21.2007

LOL! :)

Okay, I needed a good laugh today. I found some jokes online, and I'm going to share them with you. Actually, they are those "bulletin bloopers" from church bulletins--typos, etc. I've read a few of them before (and you probably have, too) but they still made me laugh. So, here you go:

  • Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.
  • Announcement in a church bulletin for a national PRAYER & FASTING Conference: "The cost for attending the Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals."
  • Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall - Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
  • Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.
  • The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
  • Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
  • Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
  • Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
  • For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
  • Next Thursday there will be try outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
  • Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack's sermons.
  • The Rector will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing: " Break Forth Into Joy."
  • Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
  • A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
  • At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
  • Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
  • The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
  • This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn sing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
  • Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.
  • Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
  • The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
  • The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge ! - Up Yours!"
Okay, enough hilarity. I don't know why but some of those really tickle my funny bone. Lately it seems like I've been so serious and contemplative and doing all this soul-searching and journaling and working and examining my life...and I just needed a laugh. I love to laugh.

My family all loves to laugh, too. I like to think we all have a pretty good sense of humor the majority of the time. LOUD laughter is encouraged, which is nice. For some reason, I became self-conscious of my laugh in college. Or maybe it was high school. At any rate, I would do this thing where I'd cover my mouth to keep the guffaws in.

And then, I met Brianne. And Laura. And Brianne's roommate, Lindsey. Brianne--whom you will remember as a bestest friend o' mine--has a wonderful laugh. You could be anywhere in our cafeteria and know exactly where Brianne was sitting. Laura also has a powerful laugh. When the three of us got going...watch out! Or rather, cover your ears! And Lindsey taught me that it was okay to snort while you laughed. We referred to it as the "anoinking." (She was AG. Little church humor, there.)

Anyway, may you find something to make you laugh today (if the above typos didn't work). Take a deep breath, enjoy the sunshine when you find it, treat yourself to some daisies...and let yourself laugh out loud.


Your Bumper Sticker Should Be:

If you can read this, I can stop suddenly and sue you.

OR:
Buckle up - it makes it harder for aliens to suck you out of your car.

What Bumper Sticker Should Be On Your Car?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

One more thing: I heard this joke tonight--from a Scottish professor at PTS.

An Irishman walked into pub, and ordered three pints of Guinness. The bartender watched in surprise as he drank all three by himself, all at once.
"You know, you don't have to order three at once," the bartender told him. "You can order them one at a time so they don't go flat."
"Oh, I know," the man assured him. "But you see, I have a brother in Australia, and a brother in America, and we always used to have a drink together. So I'm drinking these in honor of them."
The bartender was satisfied and said nothing more. But a few weeks later, he noticed the same man come in and order two pints of Guinness. "Oh, dear," he said to the man. "I'm terribly sorry. Did something happen to one of your brothers?"
"Oh, no," the man assured him cheerfully. "They're both fine. It's just that I've given up beer for Lent."
:)

Apparently, I'm Teal.

You Are Teal Green


You are a one of a kind, original person. There's no one even close to being like you.
Expressive and creative, you have a knack for making the impossible possible.
While you are a bit offbeat, you don't scare people away with your quirks.
Your warm personality nicely counteracts and strange habits you may have.
What Color Green Are You?


Is it weird that I actually feel like that kind of fits me???
Plus, I love teal.

What Jessica Means

What Jessica Means

J is for Joyous

E is for Enlightened

S is for Shocking

S is for Skillful

I is for Impressive

C is for Charming

A is for Adaptable

3.04.2007

Let’s Hear it for Pain!


(Note: this blog is also featured on Hearitfirst.com this week.)

“Yay!”

Raise your hand if that’s your first thought when things go wrong.

Didn’t think so.

You know all those verses in the bible that talk about rejoicing in the midst of trials? I’m terrible at that. In fact, when something goes wrong in my life, I’m rarely thinking, “What is God trying to teach me?” It’s usually something more like “God, why are you doing this to me? Why did you let this happen?”

It’s something I’m trying to work on.

A couple years back, I was having a miserable time in my life. Honestly, 2005 was one of the worst years I’ve ever had. My mom had cancer, my dad lost his job, we had to move out of the one house I’d ever gotten attached to, I had one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had, and my grandma died. It was really just a rotten year.

But, I survived it. And as things began to get better, I found myself thanking God for moving me out of that dark and dry time. I suppose that’s a better response than not thanking him, but it occurred to me that I could have had a much better attitude during the whole thing.

I’m not one of those people who thinks that being a Christian means putting on a smiley face no matter what’s going wrong in life. You know what I mean. There are people who will always say they are “Fine, thanks,” when you ask them how they are. Although, I admit, I don’t exactly like for people to see me crying, either. I say I believe in being authentic, but I don’t like to let everyone see that I’m hurting.

Yet the Psalms are full of laments. A lament is when you cry out to God in the midst of your troubles. And I was so relieved when I learned that being honest with God was okay. I pour my heart out to Him all the time—and I especially did that Awful Year. BUT I neglected something very important. A Psalm of Lament, no matter how bad the situation was, ends in praise. The Psalmist would break off from his pleading and moaning and end up steadfastly trusting in God’s ultimate goodness.

That’s the hardest part, at least for me. I have a hard time seeing past my circumstances, and trusting that God has something good for me. Oh, I believe it, deep down; but I don’t usually feel it.

The other day, I found out something that troubled my heart. It hurt—even though I truly know that it was good for me. It was not what I had in mind for me, but as I thought about the situation, I realized that it was a perfect opportunity for me to praise God, even when I didn’t feel like it. Understand, I wasn’t mad at God, or shaking a fist or anything; I just felt deeply disappointed. But, I praised Him anyway. And though I don’t actually feel a whole lot better today, I do have a peace about the situation.

It's one of those things where God is trying to teach me not only patience, but to be present. Remember in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, where, where Luke goes to see Yoda? And Yoda says about him, "A long time have I watched this one. All his life as he looked away...to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing."

That's me. I don't know if it's because I have a good imagination, or because I love stories so much, but I have such an easy time picturing what I think God has in store for me. What I wish God had in store for me. And it's so easy for me to be focused on the things to come that I forget to pay attention to what I'm supposed to be doing now.

And when things are a little difficult, like now, it's even easier to wish away the hard circumstances. And that's exactly what God is trying to break me of.


It isn’t easy. But it is good, because God is Good. All the time, as my pastor says. All the time, God is good. Especially today.

2.23.2007

QT

Several years ago, when I was in college (and I don't really feel like saying how long ago that was, as it is beginning to depress me a little) there was a popular book about relationships. (Actually, there were several, including I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Passion and Purity, and Lady in Waiting...good books, in their own way, I suppose, and though I have some on my shelf, I must admit I haven't been tempted to reread them in a good while.)

The book I'm talking about in particular here is called "The Five Love Languages" by Dr. Gary Chapman (not to be confused with the former husband of Amy Grant). It proposed the idea that there are five basic ways in which we both give and receive love.
They are:

1) Acts of Service

2) Receiving Gifts

3) Physical Touch

4) Words of Affirmation
and
5) Quality Time.

The idea was that while you may be trying to show someone you care about them by getting them Gifts, but their love language was Acts of Service, your message was not as likely to be received.

After thinking about this for a while, I came to the conclusion that my Love Language was primarily Quality Time. Words of Affirmation is a big one, too, what with words meaning so much to me and all--but it's QT that really fuels me.

It's funny...because I think that includes quality Alone time, as well. But it extends to so many areas. Perhaps "quality" is a relative term; I know for me it includes good conversation. And laughter. Or even just sharing good stories (including movies, etc). Sometimes it's a three hour phone chat with a friend I haven't talked to in a while...sometimes it's watching reruns with my family...sometimes it's grabbing a coffee (or tea, in my case) with someone I'm just getting to know.

It's been years since I read that book, but for some reason the idea has come back to me. I think it's always good to look around you at the important people in your life and think about what their LL might be, so that you can love them better.

So what about you? What do you think your Love Language is? Let me know! I really am curious.