Sunday, October 31, 2004
M: "For the LOVE! This computer is so slow, I could read War and Peace by the time it loaded."
R: "I dare you to try."
Saturday, October 30, 2004
Amsterdam #3 (Day One, Part Two)
So back at the hostel, Rachel and I grab cups of coffee and sit at a table in the courtyard. The sun is getting lower, so we are amazed that its still nice enough to sit outside. Rachel and I are famous (….among….ourselves….) for chats over cups of coffee.
After about 30 minutes, we are joined by Janine, the Native American/Canadian/Dutchie cleaner. She is lovely, and talks and talks and talks.. We learn all about her Russian boyfriend who just got his visa renewal to stay in London, where she met him in March when she was there working in Mailboxes, Etc. We learn about her adventures bartending in Greece during the Olympics over the summer. She catches a ladybug and plays with it for at least an hour til it falls asleep on her hand. (“It’s dead, Janine. You killed it.” “It is NOT!”)
We are soon joined by Mario and Geraldo (the Mexicans) and Dave (The Irishman). We talk for what seems like ages, and take photos on Mario’s digital camera. The guys make plans to head to a pub later that night. Eventually, Mario and Geraldo, after a series of whispers, say they will be back “in five or six minutes” and disappear for a lot more than five or six minutes. Eventually, Mario returns with a bouquet of Gerber daisies – which are, by the way, stunning – and presents them to Rachel under the guise of them being “get well” flowers, though she’s almost over her flu from a few days before anyway. He grabs Dave and runs off before there can be much of a reaction. For the rest of the evening, everyone asks Rachel where she got the flowers, she replies “Mario” and they either exclaim: “So YOU are the girl he likes!” or “I KNEW it!” (Apparently, Mario has been talking to a lot of the staff about liking a girl, without mentioning a name. It’s rather obvious though, and makes sense, since Rachel is fairly fluent in Spanish, from her time lived in Honduras. And she's a hottie.)
Eventually, Janine heads off too, and we get back to chatting, this time with soup in the staff room. After another long while, we decide to head to the staff house.
Now, I knew there were a lot of bicycles in Amsterdam. But I really had no concept of that idea til I came. They are everywhere. They say 40% of all traffic is on bike, though I don’t know how they actually came up with that number. Nearly everywhere you go there are bike lanes and lights. And they are all old-looking one-speed bikes. (Apparently, people have their “city” bikes, which are cheaper, because good ones are very likely to get stolen.) I am blessed with a loaned bike while I am here. Rach tells me the staff house is only about 15 minutes away….on bike. Now I have to admit, biking in one of the most densely populated cities in the world does not sound like an attractive idea to me. But I don’t have much of a choice, do I?
We cycle. I survive.
Actually, it’s a rather nice little ride. And at night there is little traffic anyway, on the route we take. I only almost sideswipe a car once. (And I mean, the damage would have been minimal anyway. Who really needs side mirrors?!) And by now (day two, as I type this) I’ve gotten quite savvy at the cycling thing. We cycled almost everywhere today, a whole lot, traffic and all. Those little bells give you quite a lot of power. Pedestrians quiver in fear.
My ass really hurts, however.
The staff house is pretty amazing. Its not entirely finished, as they completely tore it out and remodeled it. Rachel says she sometimes even feels bad, the place is so posh. It’s a bit like a brand-new college dorm, 2-3 folks to a room. With a really massive kitchen and two massive living rooms. And a decent-sized library when they are finished with it. It’s quite stunning.
(It’s also pretty much a mess. Ruth would go completely and utterly insane. It was even a bit much for ME. And that’s saying a LOT.)
Rachel’s Kiwi roommate Kim gets bored and duct tapes a circle around Jackie (American) and Laurie (Korean-American) who are busy doing things with markers and paper. Kim is a bit of a nutter. In looks, she reminds me a lot of my friend Moe back home. Except she listens to a lot more punk. And wears cotton loafers with lots of little Mickey Mouse faces all over them, in black and white. I like her.
Later that night, the massive ball of tape she’d left finds its way to the front door of Rachel and Kim’s room.
I get the tour, and I’m in the guest room. All to myself. It’s great, actually. My heater isn’t working, but with two large blankets and a pair of warm socks, I’m just fine. (Bonuses: Big fluffy armchair and complete blackout shutters. I didn’t even KNOW when it was morning. Score.)
With only two hours of sleep, and Rach being up early for work, we’re both pretty shnackered, so we went to bed at the decent hour of 11. (What am I, my grandmother?!)
And I slept like a BABY.
-I really wish I spoke Spanish. There are so many Spanish speakers here, especially at the hostel. I should have heeded the warnings of everyone, back in high school.
-Cute Guy is apparently a cleaner, not staff. And either rude or extremely shy or both. So much for that idea.
-I would very much like a pair of stripedy socks. I have ones, but they are toe socks, and they don't stay up. Rach and I keep seeing them around here, and we drool with excitement. (Actually, we just discuss how much we want a pair, but its almost the same thing.)
-Tonight, I saw a public urinal. All plastic, four at each station. Basically, holes in an X-shaped standing thing. (Think of each side of the X as one urinal, dudes peeing into the middle. Actually, maybe you shouldn't think about that.) I guess its better than peeing on the streets, which I'm fairly sure would and does happen pretty often around that part of time. And yes I realize I've gone into great detail over urinals. But they are quite facinating. I wish I could pee standing up. Maybe not in public, though.
-As much crap and depravity as there is in this city, there is also a lot of redemption, beauty, and hope here. There are a lot of successful ministries happening here, and a lot of Christians who really love these people. It's a really good thing to see.
Honestly? I really love it here.
Rachel Quote of the Day #1:
"You're miming! You must be a Christian!"
Rachel Quote of the Day #2:
"The ones in the windows with the blue lights are actually men. You know, just in case... you need to know..."
Amsterdam #2 (Day One, Part One}
So I arrived at the hostel at about 11 or so, and had to wait til 1 to hang out with Rachel, since that’s when she was off work. At request (“Rachel wants you to go see her”) I go to hang out at the front desk with her. We swap some great nose piercing stories.
Lunch is a free for all with the cleaners. “The Cleaners” are a group of folk who are paying for their stay at the hostel by working there. They are usually not Christians (whereas, the whole staff is), and so its just a great opportunity to minister to these folks. At the moment we have two Mexicans, an Irishman, a Japanese and a Canadian/NativeAmerican/Dutchie. There could be more that I just haven’t met. But they are lovely, and soooo fun. We eat lunch to the sound of loud Mexican music and some off-key live singers.
I am reminded of the beauty that is Dutch food. For you non-Douloids, when I was there, we used to get our packaged food in containers from Holland. (Is that still true, Amanda?) So we had our fair share of Dutch specialities such as ham and cheese (seriously, its EVERYWHERE) and chocolate sprinkles on buttered bread . And Egberts coffee. It’s lovely to see some of these things again, yet quite bizarre.
After lunch, Rach and I head out. Shelter City is right outside the Red Light District area, and is quite central. It’s a bit strange – you can go in one direction for the sex shops, another for the museums. (Or “everywhere” for the weed.) We decide to head to “the market” which is -you guessed it- a large flea market.
Despite appearances, the flea market isn’t that cheap. You can find some good deals, but most of the stuff is quite groovy in that “I live in Amsterdam and wear freaky vintage clothing” kinda way that I really like, so high demand drives prices up. However, I make the mistake now of transferring things to POUNDS, so everything seems cheap to me! I splash out 45 Euro on a coat…but in my defense, it’s a kind of coat (vintage sporty) that I’ve been looking for for AGES, and its really warm. And it fits perfectly. And in Pounds, that’s only like….30 Quid. And I DON’T HAVE TO JUSTIFY ANYTHING TO YOU! SO THERE!
I don’t have all the cash with me. (I’m smart enough to keep my cash in hand to a minimum when going places like these.) So I put in on layaway for a Tenner and will go back today for it. I’m so excited. The coat rocks.
Other purchases include a new thumb ring (pewter) that I ADORE, and a pair of wool mittens that “uncover” to become the kind of gloves with the tops of the fingers cut off. (Do those things have names?) They are so cozy, I want to wear them to bed. They will be POIFECT for Tea in the Park. And some bits of leather I’ll use for bracelets. You should be proud of me…there are so many things I want to buy but DON’T!
On our ring search, we wander into a tent where the owner – a tall hippie – starts loudly complaining that he’s lost his bag of weed. He shouts over to his West African friend at another tent that he still has not found his bag of weed. West Afican sends his apologies and commiserations. Hippie is so obviously high that he could probably do without the weed for a few minutes at least. He tries to talk me into a ring that is in no way worth the 19 Euro he’s trying to sell it to me for. I tell him that I’m still not going to buy the ring. “Fiiiiine” he says, “then put it baaaaaack.” And he goes back to searching for his weed.
We wander to the West African’s tent, which is full of amazing and cheap stuff. Here is where I find the ring I adore. In the meantime, Hippie shouts over: “I FOUND MY WEED!” and the West African sends his congratulations. The man has a kind face and very dark skin, and great dreads. As I have with a few people by this time, I ask if I can take his picture. After some talking him into it (everyone wants to have someone else in the photo, you know), he agrees I’m really hoping that it comes out okay.
Rachel makes impulse buy of a new bag. I approve, because its only 10 Euro.
We wander along for ages, til we finally head back. On the way to the Shelter, we hear children singing, and look up about 4 floors of flats to see….children singing. Two little girls and a little boy, singing LOUDLY for all on the busy streets, complete with a bongo drum. They see I’m taking their picture, and stop to giggle, and then continue with their public recital…
(To Be Continued…)
Friday, October 29, 2004
8:10am (On the plane...)
Started the morning off by ripping the crotch of my jeans. Yeah yeah, hardy har, LAUGH IT UP, KIDDIES! That's what I get for being nice, and picking up someone's ticket that they dropped when going through security. It was a very old pair of jeans, but my favorite. Had to fly all the way to Amsterdam with 4-inch hole in trousers, since I'd already checked my luggage. Luckily had a sweatshirt to tie around my waist. And I sat down a lot. It was fairly breezy.
I don't care what anyone says, EasyJet is just fine by me. Sure, you have to pay with your firstborn child if you want any food or drinks, but its only an hour long flight, for heaven's sake. And the groovy in-flight magazine covers over a multitude of sins. It's full of great info an quips such as:
"If you're eating, please heed this advice and stop reading now. We're going to talk about Michael Jackson and his revolting face. His former plastic surgeon has reportedly revealed that he once used some of MJ's ear to try and reconstruct his nose! Why this flesh swap should make his facial disaster any worse is a mystery, it just does."
And the aircraft itself looks positively brand-spanking new. Much newer than most domestic U.S. aircraft, anyway. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but the words "balsa wood", "paperclips" and "chewing gum" come to mind.
Take-off was hella scary. It was pissing down rain in the complete darkness, save for the white flashing lights outside my window ("THAT CAN'T BE A GOOD SIGN!")illuminating said rain and cloud. My heart was beating somewhere up in my ears and my seat was starting to feel a bit damp.(But of course now I had that handly little hole in my jeans. So the jeans were all good.) Note: Should have maybe told the stewardess that little fact before leaving. Ah well, the next passenger in row 5 window seat will get a SPECIAL surprise. Otherwise, the flight is lovely. The ring of faint rainbow just above the horizon at sunrise is one of my favorite sights in the world. It always looks like a miracle, no matter how many times you see it.
9:32 (Amsterdam Time) - On Approach
Keep hearing the voice of Eddie Izzard in my head, talking about British people who go to Amsterdam to get high:
"How long have you been here?"
"Have you seen the canals?"
"I AM A CANAL!"
Speaking of canals, they are quite impressive from the sky. A bit like Kansas City in flood season, only more tidy. Lots of water.
From the air, the housing in the suburbs look more American than in the UK, all neat and in matching rows. I secretly wonder how they manage this, since they are supposedly all doped up, all the time. Right?
11:23 Somewhere around Amsterdam Centraal Station
The trains here are so posh I thought I was in the wrong carriage and had gotten in a first class one. Some snooty possibly French couple sat across from me and looked at me as if I were a poor insane backpacker. I think I heard something like: "Le Rediculous, Non?" Kept sweating profusely each time someone walked by, thinking it may be the ticket man coming to send me to prison for being in the wrong carriage with the wrong ticket. Think up genius plan to claim to speak neither Dutch nor French. I will speak only Esperanto.
Upon leaving station I now find myself semi-lost. I say semi because I can see where I need to go, but these damn canals keep getting in my way. If you can ignore the really really crappy sex shops (not to imply there are GOOD ones, but you know what I mean), than the city is fairly beautiful.
Lots of bikes with those bells everyone had when they were kids. Dodge and weave, dodge and weave!
Yep, everywhere smells like pot.
11:48am - Near Newtmaarket, or something like that.
I hear a little ring-ring, and a "MICHAELA!" and see Rachel, who has spotted me on her way out the door to run an errand for her boss. I'm only a few metres from the Hostel now, thank goodness. We hug. I come into the shelter and check the place out, waiting for Rach to get back to tell the (American) girl at the desk where I'll be staying. (Staff house, apparently.) Hang out in the cafe for about 30 seconds, order a coffee til Rach bursts in to say that I'm her guest and don't have to pay anything. Get introduced to all her friends, whom I immediately like, and are so far mostly American and Mexican. Am not introduced to cute staff guy in the corner, because he's chatting to some hostel folk. Looking forward to that one, though.
And now, I wait for Rachel to finish workin at the desk...only a half hour to go. Me thinks I shall venture back to the cafe and make friend.
If you know what I mean.
Stay tuned, kiddies.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Well kiddies, I'm away for the weekend. I'll be visiting my friend Rachel in Amsterdam, who is working at the Shelter City Christian youth hostel. I'm actually really excited. Come to think of it, this could be the first time I've actually travelled by myself. (Aside from travelling back home. Which is a lot longer and more involved travel, but its all fairly familiar...and in English.) Not that its that difficult...I have fairly simple directions that include a train ride and a walk after the plane, and like I said, Rach will be there at the hostel to give me the heads up all weekend. But I kinda like the idea. I'm looking forward to it.
Thanks for those who have kept tabs on me lately. I'm doing mostly okay. I'm keeping crazy busy these days. I still manage what my dear Ruth calls "an epi" once in a while. And ya know, life hurts. It really does. But God is still good. I promise you that.
While Elin was here, we stopped in one of the card and trinket shops up my street. On browsing, I found a card that I loved. On the cover was a photo of a group of boys (who looked Filipino to me) on a dock, making faces with arms around each other and acting goofy. The quote at the bottom said:
"With true friends we can be ourselves." (Anon)
But I have to admit, I was instantly sad. I have good friends here in Edinburgh, but not a best friend. Not one person who is the first I call or calls me first, when something happens. Not really any that send cards like these I guess. And even though some of my closest (and even not so close) friends have really really come through for me, I could still really use a firm support here. (I type this through a few tears, for the record.) If you've been reading for a while, you might know that one of my biggest struggles has been that due in part to my job, I've not been able to plug into a quality church, and be surrounded with a loving church community. And so, at times it has been quite isolating, even during the times when my friends are closest.
And so, I was sad because I couldn't really think of someone who would send that card to me. I could think of people who might think that, and whom I do consider true friends, and vice versa. But the fact remained.
Well sure enough, Elin left yesterday morning. And she left me that very card. I hadn't even mentioned it to her at the ship. And even though I'd barely woken up, and was half asleep, I almost started to cry at the sight of it.
She also left me a tub of lip gloss -one of my addictions- that she knew I'd wanted.
It was a very big encouragement for me.
Have a good weekend, dudes. I'll be checking in here, since they have internet at the hostel. I hope you are well.
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home
(Rich Mullins, "If I Stand")
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
So that post didn't prove to be so popular, eh. I suppose I'll have to go back to the mundane.
This girl sometimes spells her name with the "a" and "e" all smooshed together. (I know what many of you are thinking...yes, like the Self-Titled Caedmon's album...) Kinda cool, eh? Maybe I should do it, maybe it'll make me hip and groovy. Like all the "Judi's" and "Vikki's", (etc) with unneeded changing of letters.
Just for kicks.
Letters on Healing
On a night not so long ago, I lay in bed in tears, contemplating my own relationship with God, specifically how that relates to my emotions. It was not a particularly nice evening for me. I prayed harder than I had in a while, with more honesty. I think its genuinely funny in a sad way, how we try and pretty our prayers up for God, as if he doesn't already know how we are feeling, better than we ourselves do.
I was praying for healing of emotions that felt like they were being further ground into my soul, making me harder and more jaded and less trusting. It wasn't a feeling a liked, this hardening fear. I wanted to release this before it pushed me further down the line to becoming one of those little old ladies who hate everyone and their little dogs too, and cannot remember a life of joy or youth. But as I prayed, I started to fear for my own motivations. Essentially, I was asking God to make me feel better. Granted, I wasn't asking God to take away the problem. But wasn't this me, once again making God into my very own genie, granting me wishes? In reality, on some level, is asking God to make me FEEL better really that different from asking him to help the Cardinals win the Series? In my honesty, I felt more screwed up than ever. Surely, a "more holy" person would be asking for purficiation, or perserverence through the trial, or one of many other "p" words that writers on doctrine and theology like to use.
Through my tears, and sudden guilt, I gave it some thought. I was quickly relieved of this guilt, when I remember that God is a God of compassion, and of healing.
A few years ago, when I was on the ship, I was going through a rough time. Now, to be honest, when I'm having a hard time, my friends generally know. If people ask how I'm doing (*really* ask), then I'm inclined to actually tell them the truth, instead of hiding. But during this time, I was trying to hide it as best I could. I don't remember why. I remember vaguely not really wanting to burden people, and not really wanting too many people to know about my hurts (hurts that really are nearly universal, but that everyone thinks is specific to their own heart).
So I was certainly surprised when a note appeared from a girl named Christine, in my letter box.
Christine and I had been work-mates at one time. She was one of those people whom I didn't NOT get along with, but I didn't get along with swimmingly, either. We never really got into deep talks, and our interaction was based very much on work. I would have considered her an aquaintance, rather than a friend.
Christine had written me a two-page letter. She said that she felt like I was maybe going through a rough time, and that she needed to let me know that she was praying for me. She also shared one of her favorite Bible passages, From Luke 8, one that has remained one of my favorites ever since....
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
"Who touched me?" Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you."
But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me."
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."
I remember reading this passage over and over, being awestruck that she had taken the time to write this, feeling as if Doctor Luke had written this down just for me to read later.
There are so many important details in this story that would take pages and pages of writing to discuss. Like the idea of woman in the society of the day, and how shocking it was for Jesus to have allowed a woman to touch his cloak, let alone praise her for it. Or the knowledge that she'd been bleeding for twelve years before she had a chance to be healed. I suspect most of your hope is gone after twelve years. And besides all this, she was an "unclean" woman according to Jewish law, making her essentially an outcast of society for all those years.
But what I find most interesting in this passage, and many others, is the idea of touch. She KNEW...not suspected, not wondered, but KNEW that just by touching his clothing, she would be healed...healed from a sickness that had left her without hope, as an outcast for over a decade. Jesus asked "Who touched me?", not because he did not know, but because he was requiring a further act of faith on behalf of the woman - he could have easily gotten her into a lot of trouble. But yet, she trusted him to respond in compassion.
In other healing passages - almost all, if my memory serves me - Jesus is recorded as actually TOUCHING a person, to heal them. Jesus, being Jesus, did not need to do this. He could have chosen any other way. He could have waved his hand, or blinked three times. But instead, he chose the most powerful way he could have healed each one, by just a touch of his hand. Many of these people - likely the woman included, along with those with skin diseases, disability, and other such hardship that had forced them to be on the fringe - had not been touched in YEARS. What a powerful visual of such amazing love - healing by touch.
And so, I was reminded that God is a God of healing. I was reminded that it was by faith that this woman was healed, through the compassion of a man that would have appeared to be too busy for her, but indeed dropped everything to focus his attention on her. Her years of suffering were healed. She was not condemned for the asking, but praised. Not only that, but her story was recorded for future followers to gain a better understanding of who Jesus was, and how we are to relate to him.
And I no longer felt guilt for asking God for healing, and being thankful for seeing that come quickly. I reveled in the fact that God chose me to grant his amazing and undeserving grace to, because in the end, the touch of that grace is enough for me.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Party On, Garth.
Well, I do apologize for my lack of posting. I've been blessed these last few days to have my good friend Elin here visiting me for a week while she's on break from work. Elin and I were friends back on the Doulos, and we have fantastic memories of long singleton talks over large cups of coffee in comfortable seats at Starbucks after (and before) messy breakups. We haven't seen each other since December of 2001, though, so its been great to be able to spend time together again in person. I've been giving her the Poor Persons Tour of Edinburgh. This tour, however, has included a trip to Bizarre Ink to put a hole in my nose (again). Don't tell Mom. ;) Photos might come soon, if you're lucky. But we're just having a great great time. I love having her here so much.
More to come soon.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
I'm learning that for all my journal writing over the past few years, I'm thinkin that perhaps a greater gauge of my life and thoughts at a particular time can be found in my notebooks. Journals are daily records, but notebooks hold my sermon notes, quotes found, phone numbers, writing ideas, lists of things to do, Bible verses read, and letters never sent. I recently uncovered a notebook of the time just after I left the ship, and mostly before I moved here to Scotland. I was reading a lot of Kierkegaard at the time, and Lewis. And so for your enjoyment, a few notebook excerpts from that time...
"This much is certain: the greatest thing each person can do is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally - weakness, fears and all. For God loves obedience more than good intentions or second-best offerings, which are all too often made under the guise of weakness." (Kierkegaard)
"The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism - no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel - mediocrity, served up sweet. There is nothing that so insidiously displaces the majestic as cordiality. Perpetually polite, so small, so nice, tampering and meddling and tampering some more - the result is that majesty is completely defrauded - of course, only a little bit. And right here is the danger, for the infinite is more disposed to a violent attack than to becoming a little bit degraded - amid smiling, Christian politeness. And yet this politeness is what our Christianity amounts to. But the very essence of Christianity is utterly opposed to this mediocrity in which it does not so much die, as dwindle." (Kierkegaard)
Oh give me back my joy again; You have broken me - now let me rejoice....The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:8 & 17)
"But as for me, I will sing about your power. I will shout with joy each morning because of your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety in the day of distress. O my strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love." (Ps 59: 16-17)
"By God's grace, remain faithful." (Acts 13:43)
"We must not cease from our exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time." (T.S. Eliot)
"I didn't read the Bible today. I am not very good at being religious, and I don't really feel too bad about not being too good. I do wish I loved God and his creatures more...." (Rich Mullins)
"If you live real good, I can guarantee you are gonna get beat up real bad...." (Rich Mullins)
And one of my favorites, that I'd forgotten about:
"Even when I was engaged - I had a 10-year relationship with this girl - I would often wonder why, even in those most intimate moments of our relationship, I would still feel really lonely. And it was just a few years ago that I realised that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things and loneliness live together in the same experience." (Rich Mullins)
Monday, October 18, 2004
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
text: George Matheson
music: Chris Miner
1. O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer fuller be.
2. O Light, that follow’st all my way,
I yeild my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day,
May brighter, fairer be.
3. O Joy, that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
4. O Cross, that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red,
Life that shall endless be.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
And you know what else?
I now really REALLY want a dog. A cat would do, too. (But I like dogs better.)
My birthday is coming up....
and all of this heartache and all of this pain
better be good for something more than feeling this way
Of the many “gifts” of sorts I’ve received from friends recently, I was thankful for Geof recommending Jeremy Casella’s “Faith and Heartache” album. I’ve not been able to get ahold of it yet, seeing as I live in the UK of course, but I’m working on it. Til then, I have the opportunity to listen to large sound clips from the album (like, half-songs), from the website, along with just reading the lyrics. But Jeremy wrote and recorded the album after his first engagement fell apart.
Surfing the site, I was eventually led to this interview, from Grassroots Magazine, which is short, but I found to be a blessing right now. It was the second time I’d read the word “cathartic” today, and even though I know what the word means, I did a bit of a silly thing and decided to see with the specific definition was. (I was actually wondering if it differed from “therapeutic”, to be honest. I’m a bit of a nerd.) Merriam-Webster, of course, leads you to the word “catharsis”:
Main Entry: ca•thar•sis
Inflected Form(s): plural ca•thar•ses /-"sEz/
Etymology: New Latin, from Greek katharsis, from kathairein to cleanse, purge, from katharos
1 : PURGATION
2 a : purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art b : a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
3 : elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression
I was struck by the second part of that, in italics. “A purification that brings about spiritual renewal.”
The last few weeks have not been fun. And for all my talk, I both cling to Christ, and yet turn away in sin, every single day. And at the end of my falls, both of my own fault, and some that are not, Christ is still there. I once said here that my relationship with Tim was teaching me more and more about grace. And that was true. And now, at –and through- the end of it, God is still teaching me grace. And I rest in the fact that God knows every step and misstep I will take, and yet he has still chosen me, and he remains. In learning more about having grace and forgiveness for others (and myself), I learn more about God’s grace and forgiveness for me. And vice versa.
Casella says, in his interview, just about how I feel:
“I wrote 'Walking on Water' in the car on a trip from Pennsylvania back to Nashville last fall. I was thinking about how crazy my life had been and what faith felt like in the midst of that. Lyrically, I drew a lot of ideas out of that song from different angles, but most of what I was trying to say is there in the chorus. Faith can feel like dying. It will take you to your lowest of lows because you lose your right to yourself. God is not so interested in our happiness as much as He is in holiness. The other end of that is the exhilaration of what it feels like to be totally enraptured and caught up in something bigger than yourself, something that completely disarms you, empties you out, then fills you up with what you need. So it's a song about being a believer and holding onto your faith as you grow older, to keep walking, even when you don't feel like walking.”
What I love, is that God does empty us, to fill us with what we need. And that may not coincide with what we think we want. Without the shade, we would never appreciate the sunshine. Without these sorrows, we would never be able to appreciate the joys. And through the shade and sorrow, God strips away what we were clinging so tightly to, in order to give us his absolute best. And between what we thought would be best, and what is our best, we are blessed with this spiritual renewal that would not have occurred in any other way but this.
Months ago, I remember talking to Chrissy, and relaying all the fears that I had, all the possibilities of things going wrong. (It’s so easy, when things seem to be going well, to be waiting for things to go wrong.) “What if he moves here…and we break up?” I said to her then. Chrissy said, wisely: “Then God will still be there.”
And she was right.
I am reminded that I am by no means the first to feel this way, nor is this the first time even I have felt this way. I remember after I left the ship, and a relationship and my friends that were there, I felt so empty. For months afterwards, I felt like my primary job was simply to heal. I would often go to Borders for a cup of coffee, and a with my notebook, and pour over books. I had no idea what I was going to be doing in the fall, if I should go to college or where. All I knew was that I missed my old life. In this time, I found Thomas Merton’s “Dialogues with Silence”, which included this prayer:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does actually please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I never do anything apart from this desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may not know anything about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, even though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are always with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Theologically, I trust that as a child of God, he will lead me even when I don’t desire him. Because he will call me back to that desire in his time, and for his purposes. But this prayer has remained with me, and I still love and appreciate it. “I will trust you always.”
Because it is okay that I don’t know what I’ll be doing one year from now. And its okay to be lonely and its okay to feel quite helpless, because these are the only times that I – as a stubborn, hardheaded, and independent girl – feel desperately in need of God.
I have to admit though...what I would love right now would be my car, a full tank of gas, and a big open stretch of highway back home.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Okay so I'm going to try something I haven't tried on here for a VERY long time.....
This is a stream of conciousness post....
So here we go.
I'll also give you a running commentary on the iTunes mix music that is playing....
(Starting Song: *"Shape of my Heart" by Sting*)
First off, do any of you - and by any of you, I really mean Kari - remember the "Random Posts" I used to stick up on the old Guild Board? Back before blogs really even existed? Yeah, those were the days. I miss them. I'm not so sure how I managed them. I think these days my head has been shaped into "essay form", in the sense of....I have to order my writing and such. They do say that nothing is really random ANYWAY. Being a good Calvinist, I would have to concur. (Except for this post, I guess.)
You know, a great way to gain a little perspective on a recent breakup is to have a chat with another, previous ex-boyfriend. Somehow, things come into focus a bit, even if only slightly. (Because, you know, what is right in front of you, what you are going through AT THIS MOMENT will always cloud your vision.) And you might even have forgotten that dude was once funny! (He's still funny, I'm just saying. Jon never reads this, so I'm pretty sure I'm in the clear and can say pretty much whatever I want....) The depressing part comes in the fact that you also remember you and the ex couldn't actually be friends til over two YEARS later. But I suppose you can never really compare relationships. Much.
Books I am currently reading: "Letters and Prayers from Prison" by Bonhoeffer, still. "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend. (Though I may just skim that.) (*"Maybe" by Alison Krauss and Union Station*) and "Abandoned To God: The Story of Oswald Chambers" by someone else. And Genesis (Joseph....facinating dude...).
I'm realizing that I miss things about Missouri in the Autumn. I haven't been home for Fall in five years. FIVE. Once in a while, I'll get just a hint of what it smelled like as the colors were changing back home, but it's never quite the same, and it hardly ever lasts for very long. Back home, it lasts from September to November, right into my birthday.
Oh! That reminds me....My birthday is now less than a month away, kiddies! November 9th is the day. (*"Turn of the Century" by Pete Yorn*) I say this now, so that you guys have PLENTY of time and NO excuses to not send me gifts. Or, at least a nice card.
College is going well, by the way, thanks for asking. While I'm dreading "Quality, Evaluation, and Measurement", I do like the lecturer, whom I know fairly well from a youth camp we did together last year. He's a good guy. Not so sure about the "Counselling" class, which is now no longer actually a counselling class, but they are being very vague about what it ACTUALLY is. I'm less excited about "The Church: Meaning and Mission" as I thought I would be, but I'm wondering if that was just because I was too tired to really tune into it last week. That and this class is done by the Open Theist lecturer that I disagreed with so much from last year who uses unneccessary big words.
Let me tell you though, I am STOKED about my class on "Paul's Gospel and Mission". (*"Long Way Home" by Bebo Norman*) I really have been waiting two years to be able to take this class, and I really liked it today. Great subject, great lecturer, great discussion. Those are the classes I really love to take. And the essay is an exegesis, something I actually really ENJOY doing. If I haven't mentioned before....If I had to do it all over again, I would have taken the BA Theology major instead of BA Youth Ministry/Theology. I just love theology classes SO much more. I really do. But then, I only have 9 more months to go and then I'm outta here with a degree under my belt, and the option to take post-grad somewhere in deeper theology and such.
I finally am the proud owner of the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" DVD. For those of you who haven't read it here, I actually watched it four times in the theatres. It MIGHT just be my favorite movie. Which is a very tall order. I like a lot of very good movies. But this is just brilliant. BRILLIANT. (Meg! Back me up, here!) The commentary leaves maybe a little to be desired, however. Kauffman isn't a talker, while Gondry is, and all I hear is a big thick French accent. (*"The Bomb Was Brighter Than The Stars" by Cush*) The soundtrack, story, cinematography, themes, they are all amazing. If you haven't seen it, you should. Apparently, no one went to go see it. That is painful.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is your favorite OBJECT that you keep in your room? (Comments, kids.) Me, I'm going to go with my grandmother's quilt, on my bed. I've only had it here in Scotland since last Christmas, and it is just perfect. This quilt is what has made me decide that one day soon I shall learn to quilt, if only to make sure my kids and grandkids have a piece of home and comfort to take with them.
For the record, my second-favorite object might just be my Kermit the Frog.
Okay I think that is enough for tonight. My eyelids are suddenly reminding me that I have now been awake for 20 hours, with only about 5 hours of sleep before that.
You kids have fun. Don't take any yellow snow. Don't eat any wooden nickels.
Or something like that.
(Ending song: *"I Am" by Further Seems Forever*)
Monday, October 11, 2004
Chocolate and Prayer
One of the blessings about a breakup is that suddenly, you have friends coming out of the woodwork that you'd stopped investing in, because you were investing so much in the relationship. (Thank you, friends.)
And one of the blessings of these friends is that they bring a LOT of chocolate.
So far, I've accumulated: 3 bags of Reeses (though Grandma sent those before the breakup), 1 bag of M&Ms, 1 bag of Minstrels, 1 pack of Reeses, 1 Hershey's Kiss Bar, 1 Hershey's Cookies and Cream Bar, 1 Hershey's Cookies and Chocolate Bar, and 1 bar of Belgian White Chocolate.
I've also been blessed with (as a direct result of the breakup, believe it or not): 1 pack of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles, 1 bottle of my favorite Organic Cider, 1 bottle of wine, 1 cup of coffee, and 1 Homstar t-shirt.
So I figure, everytime I start to run low on food, I should breakup with someone.
On a serious note, I'd like to recommend John Piper's recent audio sermon from his "How to Fight For Joy" series, called "How To Keep Going Pt 2". Seriously, I love the fact that I can download his sermons, and just stick them on while I'm cooking dinner. He's such a man of humility and passion for Christ, and such a sound teacher. His words have been a great encouragement to me, especially over the past six months or so.
Of course, I am so thankful for the chocolate and chips and shirts and alcoholic beverages from so many friends and family. But I'm even more grateful for some of your kind words, and even MORE grateful....so much more....for your prayers. For the first time, in a long while, I feel completely covered in prayer, both by myself but also by my Church family. And in the midst of whatever crap, that is a very safe and comfortable place to be in. In complete honesty, that is when I feel the most loved. Your prayers are most certainly working, I just wanted to assure you all. It's through those that I do indeed actually *feel* (not just *know*) that God's grace is sufficient....
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)
I had forgotten how much I loved that verse!
Saturday, October 09, 2004
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah
I am not often at a loss for words. This medium is fantastic for so many different forms of writing and communication, but it fails in many ways. There is not a lot of precident for this kind of thing, few rules and regulations except how to do right by the people you speak of, especially if that person is someone you love, and especially if this is the medium through which you met in the first place.
In case you haven’t guessed by now, Tim and I have broken up – unofficially a week ago, officially, yesterday. There are no stones to throw, I assure you. The split was friendly, and unavoidable, and no one’s fault. I venture to say there were many things we failed at in the relationship, and we wish we would have done differently, but there’s no way of knowing if that would have changed the outcome. And I must say, I know I’m biased and all, but I have never had as much respect for Tim as I do now. After all the dust has fallen, there could have been no better way to handle the past week than how he has. I trusted him with my heart, and he has proven to still be the most trustworthy man I’ve ever known. So take note, ladies – a lovely man is now back on the market.
Those of you who are close to either of us probably have questions, and we’re probably more than willing to answer them for you. As far as I’m concerned, you are free to email me if you’d like, and this is probably true for Tim as well. Not all is lost of course. Tim is not going back to Australia early, but will remain here until January as planned. (C, we still want you to come visit, and we are still planning on having a great time!) We remain close friends. This also makes things quite complicated. I know from previous experience that the best way to go about things is when you break up is pretty much to cut off all contact. While I’m sure it could be arranged, in many ways it isn’t really a luxury that is afforded us at this time. Besides, it isn’t what either of us want. (Then again, is it ever, in these situations?) Neither do we think it is what we should do in this situation. We have prayed our way through this break-up, and will continue to through our friendship, be it 15-minute-walk away from each other, or 12,000 miles. But we realize this will be hard on both of us.
So I’m not sure what to expect of the next three months. It is not how we planned for this time to pan out. While we realized the possibilites of our decisions, it wasn't something that we were expecting. It does hurt, and at times will hurt. But despite that, I am glad he will be here for a while. I’m glad my best friend will be around. I’m excited to see how God will use this break-up in both of our lives. I know that sounds funny, but in so many ways, this last week has been really great. I’ve learned more in this last week than in many months. My relationship with Tim had, in many ways, wrongly taken the place of my relationship with God. And God is a jealous God, and our priority should be our relationship with him. So I am excited to have that back, because I missed it. I’m excited to see how Tim and I will be able to relate as friends now, pressures and expectations shattered, as God changes our hearts to match our new status. (“Because when you both know its over/ suddenly the truth comes out/You can talk about your secret passion/you can talk about your restless doubt”) I think we both missed talking – actually communicating – to each other. I am excited to see where God will lead each of us in the future, now that it is up in the air again.
I’m happy that I seem to have found my words again. I hadn’t written anything in a while (journal or poem or otherwise), which is uncharacteristic of me. I simply couldn’t find the words. And now, they’ve returned, even if under less-than-fantastic circumstances. I guess that’s what it takes sometimes to fix a classic case of Writer’s Block.
As you may have been able to tell from the last few posts, over the last week, I found my joy. I was happy before, do not get me wrong. But joy is different. In the same way that “perfect love casts out all fear”, I do not think that fear and joy can coexist in most situations. I was so afraid of what I knew I was losing, and that fear is gone. It was a fear rooted in lack of trust in my Father God, who not only knows what is best, but had it planned well before I was imagined. He has done (and of course continues to do) His job, despite me, and it is absolutely, without a doubt, what is best. Confusing as it may sound, he is less concerned with my short-term happiness as he is with my long-term holiness, because he knows that true happiness is only found in him. It is a joy that can still be found in the walls of a prison, or after the death of a loved one, or after a difficult heartbreak.
I started with a loss for words. I now apologize if I said too much.
Come, let us return to the LORD .
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us; he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
Friday, October 08, 2004
Of all the people in the world, I think Charles may be one of my favorites.
Charles is a guy I know from college. He's one of a number of African students who have often given up their enitre worlds, including their families, in order to follow God's calling to Bible collge. Charles is quite short (maybe 5'6) and from Burundi.
And he just radiates joy.
Part of what I'm rediscovering about life as of recent, is we so often are blessed with moments of joy, often in the form of other people, in the middle of the mundane, or the less than joyful.
Yesterday at college, during chapel, a group of the African men got up to sing a few African praise songs for us. (For the record, one of the new guys, from Zimbabwe, is called Fabulous. That really is his first name. He's HUGE and is just about the sweetest and most softspoken one of the bunch. The name is so perfect.) The drums, guitar, and swaying-in-time were all broken out in full-force. Charles was one of them of course. And the rest of the college watched, and joined in with clapping, and all grinned like parents of kindergarteners at the Christmas pageant. It just felt like the room was filled with joy and praise. And I was so thankful. I love how international my college is, bringing together so many people from so many places with so many histories and backgrounds. When you stop to talk to some of them, they've come from some horrible places - civil war, famine, genocide. And yet, they are some of the most joyful people I have known, because they have found the Source of joy.
I later caught Charles, just to thank him so much for the singing in chapel today, and to tell him I loved it. His eyes looked red and tired. I asked how he was and he admitted he needed to be getting to bed earlier ("Me too!") and that he'd not been feeling well due to the anti-malaria medication he'd been taking due to just coming back from visiting home in Burundi. (Which I could also relate to, having taken a few rounds of it on the ship...its not fun stuff.) But he said he was mostly good, and was happy. A handshake and a smile from Charles can vastly improve my day, and mine was already going okay. It doesn't take much, really. He's just someone who radiates joy.
And Charles is one of many, many people I'm thankful for.
You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD ,
make me dwell in safety.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Movie Making At Its Finest
You know, let it never be said that my friends don't know how to cheer ya up.
You must watch this. The WHOLE thing. Seriously, the ending is the best part.
It's so beautiful.
I almost cried.
Thank you, Shua.
(If you want to see some REALLY good stuff, go check out some film clips from Garden State. My favorite is "Let's just talk about good stuff." But they are pretty much all good. The song is "Fair" by Remy Zero, and I loved it so much that I downloaded it from iTunes.Too bad I have to wait til December for it to be released here. )
So Monday was my first day back at college - the beginning of my third and final year. I wasn't sure how into it I was going to be, but I was pretty happy to see some of my friends I hadn't seen in a few months. And I was definitely glad to get back to my Fellowship Group, which has always been a big blessing to me at college. They are just a great group of people that I really enjoy spending time with. Well we welcomed two new girls into our group this year, and so we were doing the introductions. "Introduce yourself, tell us what you do, and tell us why you should be allowed to stay in the Fellowship Group", the leader said. Which we thought was fairly funny, making reference to Big Brother (and pretty much every other reality TV show).
So we get around to my friend Stuart, and he says "My name is Stuart, I'm a 4th-Year Honors Theology student and I should be allowed to stay because I read Bonhoeffer." Which we all thought was pretty much the best reason.
I then remembered that as much as I keep wanting to, I have never gotten around to reading any of his writing myself. Seeing as I'll soon be busy with college reading, I figured I should pounce on this opportunity. So I checked out "Letters and Papers from Prison", partially because I love reading correspondence (see: "Letters to an American Lady") and partly because "The Cost of Discipleship" was only a 3-day loaner.
One of the things I like most in these kind of books is the ability to show vulnerability. Obviously, it was not written to be a book. And it seems a bit voyeuristic to be reading letters meant to be read by his best friends or parents. But it is also so amazing to see his attitudes and moods and enthusiasm change, depending on who he is writing, and where he lets his guard down. Through almost all his parents letters, he assures them that he is doing great while imprisoned. (For those who don't know, Bonhoeffer was a German Christian pastor, and a leader in the resistance movement against Hitler in WWII. He was imprisoned in 1943 and hanged two years later.) And I was convinced. I really thought he was as happy as Paul in there. And I think for the most part he WAS content. But later, when writing one of his closest friends, he writes:
"I often ask myself who I really am. Am I the man who keeps squirming under these ghastly experiences in abysmal misery? Or am I the man who keeps scourging himself and outwardly pretends to others (and to himself as well) that he is a contented, cheerful, easy-going fellow, and allows everyone to admire him for it? I mean, admire him for putting up this theatrical show, for that is what it really is. What does behavior really mean? In short, I know less than ever about myself, and am getting more and more bored with psychology and fed up with introspective analysis..."
I relay this not, of course, to encourage you all to stop being introspective, or to rip open your heart to the world and pin it proudly on your sleeve. But what encouraged me here was the humanity of Bonhoeffer. At other times, he talks of prison life, especially its effects on others, and reforms. But he also talked about the good things he was afforded. But here, I witness a man known as a "hero of the faith", who is admitting brokenness and weakness to one of his closest friends. He was suddenly not the Untouchable Spiritual Master of the first 1/4 of the book, he was someone who struggled in many of the same ways, at times, as we all do. He WAS a hero of the faith, and I value his words on theology and ethics, but I also very much value his candor in his most desperate times.
All this is to say, I highly recommend you read some Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Maybe we'll even let you in our Fellowship Group at college.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
In Tiredness, and Admiration
You know, I have to admit that I don't keep up with a ton of blogs myself. There are some that I see more often than others, but on the whole, I don't scan a lot of blogs these days. However, of those "more often reads", they are generally people I know and usually people I respect or enjoy reading. (Makes sense.)
The Sage (Mark) and the LSW ("Long Suffering Wife" Karyn) are two people whom I've known from internet world for a couple of years. Of all the married couples I know, they probably hold one of the higher positions of respect in my book. Together, they lead a life that I desire to lead. They are godly people who genuinely care about others and deeply love each other. In 30+ years of marriage, they have never owned a house. They just want to serve God. At the moment, they are studying ....together... at Westminster Theological Seminary, which I also highly admire.
In catching up with The Sage's blog tonight, I was greatly inspired by a recent post of his, though it was not pointed at my demographic of course, he said some words a lot of people, including myself, need to hear. I'll post it here, and hope he doesn't mind, because I'm really too worn out to come up with anything good on my own this weekend....
"Dreams of the Everyday Housewife"
The photograph album she takes from the closet
And slowly turns the page
And carefully picks up the crumbling flower
The first one he gave her now withered with age
She closes her eyes and touches the house dress
That suddenly disappears
And just for the moment she’s wearing the gown
That broke all their minds back so many years
Oh, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife
You see everywhere any time of the day
An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me ~ Glen Campbell
Recently I expressed some concern to some friends over the blog entries of a couple of young, married women. These women seem to consistently write about feelings ranging from malaise to near-depressive. These emotions seem to stem from worries about personal worth, loss of friendships, housekeeping abilities, and lack of fulfillment.
The responses of those I shared my concern with almost uniformly expressed that I should not be overly concerned, that these are fairly normal feelings for 20-somethings out of college.
The discussion has made me aware that I never had the experiences that many of these young people are going through. Karyn and I married when I was 20. We never experienced the loneliness and aimlessness that many of them spoke of. Part of that may be that we married with a very real sense of calling and mission…that our marriage from the beginning was about a display of the glory of Christ expressed through ministry and service to others. Maybe it was just part of the ’70s Jesus movement culture we came out of, but we never aspired to “careers” and owning nice homes in the ‘burbs and such. We owned a home once in our lives, and it was the biggest source of stress in our marriage we ever had. Anyway, I guess I’m trying to say that lacking those expectations may have saved my wife from some of the “good housewife” anxieties that other women experience.
That being said, we’ve had plenty of stresses of our own, usually more related to church life and ministry than “is my house nice enough” or “do my friends like me.” At the root, it’s all the same. Where ever we have been unable to rest in Christ and worship him above all earthly treasures, we have reaped a harvest of sadness and discontent. For some, the distraction might be homes and friends, for others it’s something else.
The fact is we all fail at the ideal, and this causes heartache in our lives. That’s where grace steps in. Tonight in our Dynamics of Biblical Change Class, we heard that our expectation in this life can’t be perfection, rather it should be an increasing desire and ability to fight the idols that challenge God’s rulership in our lives, with the recognition that it is really God who fights for us.
Saturday, October 02, 2004
Am I the only one who's not seeing the whole page load here? Please let me know. (And tell me what Browser you're using.)