Hello. Welcome.

I'm a very determined kind of individual. Sometimes my determination is misplaced and things get very ugly. But, sometimes my determination leads to laughter, deep thoughts, and words on paper.

I write everything. I'm not very good at filtering ... so you will see it all. Maybe there will be a little inspiration for someone else along the way. I hope so. My sister also likes to guest blog and I'm sure you will appreciate her wit and wisdom.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Links for MONDAY

Here are a few things I've been thinking a lot about lately:

Here's what it takes to get my "grande, half-caff, non-fat cappuccino:" Three Days Pay
Watch the other videos as well to learn about how you can support children all around the world.

Here's a sweet website, if you like to think

A sweet organization for battered women and children (the host site for our service project last Saturday)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

the fall of Prince Myshkin


He did fall quite literally. But, I don't see how he could be anything but elevated as a result of his conviction and love for the broken. Yet, as I read now, he is the brunt of gossip and turned-up noses. Without the slightest ill intention, Prince Myshkin watched in horror as his future unfolded in the angry conversation of two women.

Corruption fell upon the 'upper crust of Russian society' and Myshkin had not a hint of hesitation - he would stand in for a crazed, deceitful, and broken woman. He would suffer and sacrifice on her account, though he would gain nothing and lose the love of his life.

This story is no less captivating on page 527 than when I began. The way Prince Myshkin receives and comforts this battered woman is almost like an adoption.

Tonight the message at the gathering was about adoption. We looked at Paul's letter to the church in Galatia... his words to remember our place. We are, through Christ, made sons and daughters of a holy and eternal family. Not only do we experience redemption and cleansing from our sins, but we also have an inheritance. We are heirs to the greatest, most substantial estate ever there was.

I was pondering on these things. I was thinking about adoption and how I understand a child to become part of a family where s/he was once a stranger. But, I realized our heavenly adoption is of severely greater consequence. God wanted us to be a part of his family so bad that he was willing to pay any cost. He sacrificed his own son so that he could call us his children. What family do you know that would sacrifice one of their own to rescue even one orphan child? Only God has this capacity to love.

So, I'm eager to turn the pages and see the fate of dear Myshkin. Though I'm just sure he will be shunned by friend and foe alike, I am rooting for this underdog. He did exactly what was ill-suited, in poor taste, lowly, and base in the world's eyes. He made himself nothing.

How will I appear base to the world?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

lighter Saturday

Since yesterday's post was some of the heavy things I've been thinking about, I decided today to turn to something a little lighter.

Headbands; a very useful, very functional accessory to the female wardrobe. Though I have never been crazy about fussing over my appearance (thanks to my mom and a good dose of farms and fields growing up, I am not one to spend hours in front of the mirror), I am always open to a good idea. When you have long, limp hair, it is sometimes very important to make sure it stays out of your face. Some times when this might be especially helpful:

1. when you are taking an exam
(I remember having very little patience for flyaways when writing blue book essays. I think I would be more likely to just pull out the obstinate strays than fight with them until I've finished)
2. when you are working out
(It's so annoying - and almost impossible - to mess with nappy hair while you are on an elliptical machine. It's actually also very dangerous!)
3. when you are giving a presentation
(There's nothing more distracting then making a point to an important audience and your vision is blurred by one shiny sliver. Though you try to convince yourself that no one else can see it, it's virtually impossible to focus.)
4. when you are in an important interview
(I can see myself, cross-eyed and preoccupied, straining to answer questions about my strengths.)
5. when you are painting
(When the annoying strands become decorated with yellow, beige, and turquoise you can no longer convince yourself that you are the only one who notices.)

So, there has to be a way to keep these things from happening.
ENTER headbands.Today it was especially necessary that I don a sporty red, elastic headband to keep my hair out of my face and to keep the paint out of my hair. I accompanied a group of students to a local shelter to paint and clean.

By the end of the day (now, I guess) my head was almost throbbing. It could've been the paint fumes, but because this has happened before I know that it's the headband. For all its function, headbands seem to squeeze in just the wrong places (behind your ears) to cause a growing, painful headache.

postscript:
I have to admit, writing about headbands has so less a thrill than writing about what is real. I'll have to work on that.

Friday, March 28, 2008

social JUSTICE activist

I just finished reading the Boundless article called, "Intruder Alert." It's not exactly a light topic to read over my short lunch break, but the jumbled argument for abortion sounded so much like conversations I've had lately about relativism, perspective, and rights.


Social justice is a buzz word. You've probably heard it, had conversations about it, maybe you've even been fired up about an issue or two. You are not the minority, it seems. You and everyone else are frustrated with the way things are.

If you ask a fellow frustrated trailblazer why s/he is passionate, one might say, "I believe we have the potential to make things better in this world. I really think that we can see positive change." The level of intellect varies, but the popular opinion of activists is that they feel called to take some action.

Hmmm. This conversation recently got me thinking. ... about definitions. My high school English teacher Mrs. Brown (though she might be horrified at my abuse of grammar) would be glad to see rhetoric forced to its definitions. Because, you see, in the words of my dear chaplain Trygve Johnson, "Words create realities." If we live in a world created by vague rhetoric, the reality is just as muddled. Empowering phrases of social change easily draw a crowd, but one has to ask what lies underneath.

JUSTICE
What is justice? Dictionary.com writes,
1.the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
2.rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
3.the moral principle determining just conduct.

So, I guess we define just as something right and good. I guess that would also mean that we've defined (by default) something as wrong and bad to say that it needs to be changed. I wonder if social justice activists see the world this way - that there are wrong things that need changing to become right.

CHANGE
Why do we need change?
Change doesn't have to be from something good to bad or from bad to good. Change can be from something to something different. This is the perspective I met in my conversation. This person held the belief that social change doesn't define actions as wrong, but merely suggests something different. Okay, I said. What need is there for something different? How do we determine what needs to be different and what needs to stay the same?

RESPONSIBILITY
If said social activists believe they are fighting for the rights of humans around the world, what is the motive? After my conversation today, my friend suggested that maybe life is absent of truth (its only perceived by individuals, through unique lenses) and all we are left with is cold, hard responsibility.

Another interesting thought. I guess then I ask - why are we responsible? What motivation do we have for doing anything good? Why not just be responsible for ourselves? I can determine my own absolute to allow all my vices, chide myself every once in awhile to make sure I have drawn the line somewhere, and live without worrying about the burdens of others.

I'M a social JUSTICE activist
The absurd thing... the ironical thing... is that I am a social JUSTICE activist. You see, I believe in justice by its definition. I believe that there are things I have done in my life that are wrong. I believe that I have done things in my life that are right (though precious few).

I believe genocide is wrong. I believe abuse is wrong. I believe child slavery is wrong. I believe the treatment of the beautiful Dalit people in India is wrong.

I believe that caring for the orphan and widow is right. I believe that loving one's neighbor is right. I believe that providing for basic human needs is right. I believe that my sponsored Compassion child Dinesh in India receiving education is right.

I am a social JUSTICE activist because I believe that is right as well. How do I know these things to be true - am I so presumptuous to think I have the answers? Absolutely not. I will never know why God poured out His grace. I will never know why He sent His one and only Son to redeem the INJUSTICE - everything wrong in the world past, present, and future. God sent His Son Jesus to be the ultimate social JUSTICE activist - that He would define Truth absolutely because He was Truth.

How else can we fight for change?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

grandfather's wisdom


"What decision can I make today that could draw me closer to God?" He asked. "If you think about that and have that in your head all day long, then you are bound to make some good decisions."

Wow. My grandpa Joe is a pretty amazing man. Tonight we talked about how hard it is to make decisions that really please the Lord. Sometimes we know God is calling us to do something - to obey Him - but we're unwilling to step out in faith. I ventured to say that our human condition thrives in the 'comfortable' ... but he said, "You know, the thing is that comfortable is boring."

How true that is! We are discouraged from boldness in word and deed in declaring the Lord's glory. Uncomfortable usually brings about what is most beneficial.

Oh! These thoughts could just go on, but the morning comes too soon and I must greet it as my grandpa will. ... and we'll be bound to make some good decisions.

a new tune

So I've been humming this new tune... I actually can't get it out of my mind. Last night at junior high youth group, we taught the 6th graders a books of the Bible song. It was one I found on Youtube of all places, but it's catchy. Now, before you think I'm pressuring these young ladies to memorize more things (on top of their already rigorous expectations), the girls actually asked for it.

I had shared that I learned a rap for the books of the Bible growing up and still remember it. In fact, I remember and cherish all the verses I learned as part of the AWANA program growing up. (I recently decided that AWANA, or something like it, would definitely have to be a part of my kids' lives - it was amazing!) The girls looked at me and said, could you teach it to us?

It's so amazing when you see how simple things are - that we do truly want to know the heart of God - that the Holy Spirit stirs within us to treasure up Truths in our hearts.

Not that memorizing the books of the Bible is an end in any sort of way, but I am so encouraged that it can be a beginning. Take a peek - and see if you don't start humming a new tune!



This - such a small thing - brought laughter and community into our group last night. What a blessing to see how "hiding God's word in our hearts" will produce much fruit. ... even in the way the world looks when we wake up the next morning.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

testimony

Last night I shared my testimony.

I shared with my bible study girls on Monday that I was a little nervous, to which one responded, "Oh! Just don't be."
I came up with some sarcastic reply at the moment, but it was actually a great suggestion!

The more I thought about "my story" the more I realized how much I've made things about me. Just ask my family - I could talk for hours! The strange part is that my heart seeks to serve with humility... to love with abandon... to give without limits. It's just this flesh that gets in the way.

So, I stood up in front of the community that has been so, so precious to me this year and shared the glory of the Lord, as revealed in my life. I shared a story from this past weekend, when I was in church with my family. We were all having a hard time staying awake, but at the end of the service the pastor had everyone walk up to the front and receive an anointing of oil. Then the whole church gathered in a circle (it was a small gathering) and held hands and sang a song of redemption. During the song, we lifted up our hands in praise and the tears were streaming down my face. I was overwhelmed.

The glory of the cross. Jesus - crucified, dead, and buried - ROSE again for the redemption of our souls to the glory of God.

May I, like Paul, resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified!

why bus drivers are safe

I was talking to a friend the other day and we somehow got around to city transportation. It was probably because I have a sweet spot in my heart for mass transit. I didn't realize it until I moved to Chicago last year, but the conversations and relationships I made on those buses and subways are stories to share!

So, we were on the subject of transportation and I was lamenting Austin's poor system. I'm convinced they just don't want to think like a big city, though the people keep piling up. My friend said she observed that most bus drivers are creepily friendly.

I thought for a moment and then said, "That's funny. I always find myself making friends with bus drivers. Maybe it's because they are hardly intimidating - strapped to their seat and all."

Seriously, the bus driver is most knowledgeable about the city and they can't move! It's like the least intimidating and threatening kind of city-dweller there could be. Anyway, I thought that was funny.

Song to listen to: Bus Driver by Caedmon's Call

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

tears on a tuesday

A beautiful, inspired letter from my dear friend in Kenya.

This video from Rwanda.



I shed these tears on a Tuesday, sitting at my desk over lunch break, and know that I have barely begun. God is so much bigger than I've let Him be in my life. His heart breaks for His creation.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

michigan for easter

I hopped on a plane today, flew to Chicago, jumped on the blue line to downtown and rushed across the loop to catch the 3:58 south shoreline train to michigan city, where my dear friend and mentor picked me up. Whew!

We dined in a little town called Fennville at an adorable cafe/pub and finally made our way to Holland around 9:30 pm. What a day!

It's so exciting to be back up north - where I've made so many memories. This weekend will be a welcome thrill - precious time with family and friends.

On the way here, I spent most of the airport/plane time captured again by Fyodor Dostoevsky's Prince Myshkin. I find myself often and even wondering as he might at ironical or strange situations. Not strange in a conventional way ( if that is possible) but strange because something strikes conviction's chord. Something in me responds aghast at a person's (or my own) tendency to do wrong.

One thing I do love is the style of writing and conversation. The first time I read, "...we fell into talk," I knew instantly I would adopt the phrase. So, this weekend, I have many and great plans to "fall into talk" with loved ones here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

the small things

Today, after several meetings and several hours working at the computer, I walked out into the bold, Southern sun. What a joy to see Spring leap so decidedly and quickly. There is no hesitation about it.

Tonight I sat with eight of the most wonderful sixth grade girls in all of Austin. We read the account of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. My, what minds they have! I danced inside, as David did, as I listened to their wisdom and insight. Prince Myshkin (from Dostoevsky's "The Idiot") is deeply convinced that much is lost when children are not invited into the conversation and I wholeheartedly agree!

"Why did the people choose the killer Barabbas instead of Jesus who was perfect," they asked. The group pondered and decided that the crowd was jealous, suspicious, and misunderstanding of who Jesus was.

Hmm. It's foolish to not see the similarities today. Those who are positively convinced that Jesus is a farce, Christianity a crutch. We have missed the message; we have misunderstood what is salvation. At exactly no cost we are offered grace, provision, and LIFE.

What a story to tell!

And the small things, like the hope in these 11-year-old eyes, are more than amazing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

links for monday

After quite a weekend, I return to my desk.
Here are some interesting links for you on this Monday:

What I wanted to read after listening to "Walk in the Word" on the radio this morning - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
A sweet on-line read that will make you think - Boundless
A little Irishness for St. Patty's Day

I'm off to a Campus Crusade dinner with some of my favorite St. Edwardians!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Compassion

CompassionMake a DonationSponsor a Child Get this widget!

I'm a Compassion Advocate. Sometimes this admittance is sad, because I feel like I have so failed. Well, after my regional team meeting yesterday I have new energy to do what I can to speak for those who can't speak for themselves.

I'll have to expand more ... but check it out!

little cabin in the woods

Here are some pictures from my trip to Medina, Texas!
For some reason, I had a really hard time getting to the right place in 10 seconds!


I finally figured it out!

This is my beautiful friend Dawn. What an amazing woman she is!


This is a video documentary that we did while we were out there. A local TV station heard we were going and asked if we could do a little story on the cross that we found at the top of the little mountain. As you can see, we are both extremely experienced. (Notice the creative angles)
video



This was just one of a few creepy companions who stayed with us in the cabin:)

This is a video tour of the cabin!
video

restlessness

I wrote this poem in response to the previous realization and also as I trudge through the muddy waters of decision-making for the next phase of my life.
--------------------------------------
restlessness tingles
spreads out from within;
desperate anticipation,
impatient to begin

the less-traveled-trail keeps secret,
stories hidden mark the way;
eyes jump from each attraction,
distracted feet tread astray

unshakable conviction
pleases the listening ear;
whitewashed foolishness
turns honey-shed tears

escape, come quickly!
to rescue this mite
overwhelmed, the longing
for wings of flight

sunlight bursts and shadows fall
darkness exposed these haphazard walls
painful discovery, a helpless wretch
pleading now mercy's net to catch

restlessness tingles,
but what is a sign?
let me not be unsure
that the True object is Thine


true sounds allowed voice

I did a lot of journaling while I was away. You know, the paper and pen kind? Though it seems archaic, there is something you can't find while pressing detached keys and staring at a computer screen. I wrote pages (and you will be glad for only a summary), but I wrote as I sat, a small solitary figure in a vast landscape, "I feel as though I am in a vacuum - where the world's noise is shut out and true sounds are allowed voice."

That seemed to be my own introspective experience as well, away from the bustling sounds, clutter, and routine.

I spent much time "being." I cannot find other words to describe the stillness - physical and spiritual. I had no place to be, no schedule, no expectation of time. There was only the choice of how to live those moments. I thought. I read. I journaled. I prayed.


Something rose to the surface in the quiet of my heart, serenaded by winds and birds... Something I had read in C.S. Lewis' book "Surprised by Joy."

For brief moments in his life, Lewis experienced this other-worldly thing well up within him. I say thing because we can hardly describe it as happiness or a rush of feeling or any sort of emotion, but I suppose it was really all those things coming together in kind of a combustion of creation. Something inside of him recognized and responded to creation in a way that was intensely thrilling. He remembers a few moments as a child, one as he gazed at the English landscape and another when his brother brought inside leaves and plants to create the setting for their fantasy land.

Later in life he realizes (eloquently, of course) he highly desired this thing, this intense thrill. He tries and fails to capture the thing by re-creating moments similar to those he experienced as a child. Lewis purposed to rush after the thing. He made up his mind to find and capture what had made such an impression. Yet, when he was just close enough, the thing escaped, smothering true delight with disappointment.

Then, the surprise comes just as a dawn breaks the line on the horizon.

This thing (or anything for that matter) is impossible in strategy to attain. It's absolutely elusive to method and unresponsive to determination. You see, the object must be Divine; the object must be Christ. The intense thrill, the deep response in one's inmost being is merely peripheral. In light of the greater glory, we may not even stop to revel in the reflections we find here on earth.

Friday, March 14, 2008

weekend respite

I'm off to a remote cabin today. On a little dirt road near a little town in Texas... and I couldn't be more excited. Well, if not for my sore muscles and sleep-deprivation, I could probably show a little more enthusiasm. I am excited, though, because a road trip means precious thinking time. I can't bury myself in a book or get distracted by something on a to-do list... road trips have a way of keeping one still.

Since this cabin is tucked into a valley of the west Texas hill country, I won't be writing on a computer or talking on the phone. But, I hope to venture off like my friends Thoreau and Emerson... where I will purpose to be intentional about my thinking and determined about my reflection. I can always anticipate meeting God when I leave the distractions of this world. I'm sure this will be no different.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Prince Myshkin

Lately, I've been falling asleep in the cities of Petersburg and Moscow. I've been dreaming of princes and inheritances and wealthy families and love's irony. All this because I'm in the middle of Fyodor Dostoevsky's famous work, "The Idiot."



This prince, dubbed the idiot in the first pages, has officially stolen my heart. What a character he is! Social mores have no consequence and certainly no hold, though I am at times perplexed by the flush in his cheeks. He is a man without presumption.

I cannot follow in this bold claim. I see how alltogether presumptuous I am. Ironical that though I am fully aware of this tendency, I still live with a certain snobbish air. How ridiculous it sounds even as I say it! But, it is sadly all too true.

I am on page 181 and the adventure could not be long enough for me. Have you ever absorbed some form of art and desired so intensely to understand it completely that you rush to finish? I'll try to explain. Whenever I read a C.S. Lewis novel or listen to one of my favorite Nickel Creek songs, I am impatient for it to finish so that it can be known - part of my life repertoire. It's like eating a delicacy, so good that you stuff your mouth, only to find that it's over too soon and you now have indigestion. I suppose it's as hard to articulate as it is for me to explain.

I just know that my desire for art, philosophy, and literature seems at times to jump from book to book, page to page in a kind of ADD rhythm. I can hardly focus on the fascinating work in front of me, but upon finishing all I really want to do is go back and absorb it all over again.

If literature were chocolate, I would always have a sweet, sticky face and a tummy-ache. I shall try my best to enjoy Prince Myshkin to the most while I have him.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

just a wednesday

Today, a Wednesday, is no special event.

Though it is Spring Break, the Office of Student Life persists tirelessly in preparation of the post-break wave of involvement. Several weeks ago, I was strangely (if not typically) ambitious and decided to design and implement a new set of service projects for Spring Break. I was thinking it could be the other Spring Break alternative, you know? So many people take flight for this short week, impatient to forget the local roots in a search for sun, adventure, and the infamous road trip.

So, three themes emerged: environment conservation, housing equality, and homelessness. Yesterday was environment... and we made the short trek to the nearby nature preserve to prepare the way for a natural spring to gurgle up from underground. We were quite a mess by day's end, but there is something purely human about working with hands (by design, I'm sure).

So today, a Wednesday, was spent at the single resident occupancy housing development... learning about affordable housing and placing toiletries, irons, ironing boards, and alarm clocks into the rooms.

Tomorrow will be spent serving breakfast to the homeless at 13th and Lavaca, then back to campus to make homeless care packages for those panhandlers on Ben White, IH-35, and at that dreadful triangle by Mopac.

There's really nothing magical about it. It's just doing what needs doing. I guess it's strange then, this need to explain. It's less an addition to life and more the stuff of it.

My grandparents went to a revival last night. And I think that's the stuff of life, too. I wonder why we think they are exceptions. Service and revival, could that be indeed what it is all about?