Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Yardwork


Now, at the end of February, after an April-like December, it's finally snowing. Have you ever noticed that when you are shoveling snow in front of your house, pick-up trucks with plows attached to the front rev their engines as they go by? It seems a little smug to me. I don't expect them to stop and help, but really, do they need to rub it in?


I've decided I actually don't mind shoveling, but I like it better when it's a little more communal. Too bad people don't walk over to their neighbours' and help each other out with projects like this anymore, like they did during barn raisings and stuff like that. Maybe they do, somewhere. Not in this neighbourhood.


I don't know my neighbours. They don't know me. One time the lawnmower died on me and I marched over to the guy next door and asked for help. He was proud to put his knowledge of lawnmowers to use. But I haven't talked to him since. That was over a year ago. Also, every time Roommate-Sarah or I do any sort of yardwork, he comes out with his loud yardworking gadgets and works on his yard, too. This strikes me as an attitude akin to the revving snowplows.


Since we've been doing this Forty Days of Community thing at church, it has occurred to me that I can be a little more proactive about community, though, even if I never do really get to know my neighbours. There are couples in my church whom I would like to get to know better, but I keep waiting for them to invite me over for lunch or something. I'm a single person. Apparently, single people don't host families. But why not?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Keeping Promises

Although the church in which I grew up (and which I now again attend) is more liturgical that most Baptist churches, I mean, come on--it's still a Baptist church. I never heard of giving up anything for Lent until some time in late elementary school. Since I hadn't, I assumed when my friend Jackie told me she was giving up chocolate for it that either such a practice was evil or unimportant. (I spent most of my childhood operating under this "logic," which is why in third grade I thought "beer" was a swear-word. This detail is now rendered hilarious for multifaceted reasons. At the time, my younger brother would taunt, "Beer, beer, beer!" and I would say "SHHH!" in a very annoyed tone of hush.)

I don't remember ever having a conversion experience about it--a moment of time when I went from thinking it was not-okay to thinking it was okay. But I do remember when I decided to start observing some sort of discipline for Lent. It was when I lived in London and a once-Muslim friend said that the thing he missed most about Islam was the fast of Ramadan. And I thought about it and decided I'd probably disappear if I went without food for twelve hours a day for forty days, but I could observe the Christian tradition of Lent and it might be a good discipline and provide a sense of solidarity with other Christians. So I started.

Since then, I have found that I usually break my Lenten "promise" at least once during the season. It kind of bums me out when it happens, though I believe that it doesn't mean I'm going to Hell. On the other hand, I also believe there are some fairly serious implications to breaking a promise made before God, even if it's just giving up caffeine for a while. The thing is, up until this year, I don't think any of the things I've given up for Lent have really had a moral element. I mean, it's not like caffeine (in moderation, as they say) is bad. Mostly I've just given stuff up to remind myself that I don't need it, and for other beneficial psychological reasons like that.

This year I decided to give up saying mean things about customers.

I broke the promise three times yesterday, and it was only the day after Ash Wednesday.

This fact is making me take a long hard look at the Nature of Jenn. If you asked me point blank, I would say I'm not a good person on my own, but am a sinner saved by grace (or some less religious-jargoned phrase if I could think of one). But I'm pretty sure I really do think I'm a good person. It's mightily dismaying to find I have so little love to offer people who mostly just want their coffee and aren't really that in tune to anything else. Sometimes, granted, they aren't very nice about it. Sometimes they're downright selfish. But I think the reason I find this so offensive is because in fact I'm downright selfish--I'm just annoyed that they aren't thinking of me. Since I, however, am, I can say something bitingly funny about them behind their backs, all my colleagues laugh, and I feel better.

This is when I realise that Lent is about more than discipline. It's about repentance. It's about staring my own ugliness in the face and acknowledging that, apart from what happened at the end of this season--the death and resurrection of the Perfect Man--I'd be stuck with it forever. By which I mean forever.

Not-saying-mean-things-about-customers is kind of like a New Year's resolution, I guess. Because it's not like I hope to engage in a frenzy of customer-bashing at the end of Lent, like I might (but probably wouldn't) drink a triple espresso after giving up caffeine. I hope that maybe after forty days of trying to see people more as Jesus did (or to see Him in them), I won't feel the need to be cleverly malicious. But it's different than a New Year's resolution, too. This is me, trying to put a rather cherished habit on the line, before God, and saying I'm sorry. And asking Him to take it away. And I have to be intentional about it, because there's still a part of me that doesn't want Him to.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Season of Discipline

There's something good about Lent, too, though. Sometimes I give stuff up. Sometimes I try to start new, good habits. Either way, it's a solemn endeavour.

Sometimes I think my whole life is Lent. Not that I'm suffering all that much or anything. Maybe I'm just being grandiose. But sometimes you try to be intentional about "pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12.14, CJB).

And then you look around and it seems like no one else is trying to.

And then you feel like maybe thinking like that is just being judgmental. (Because it probably is).

And then you wonder if you have a completely messed-up view about what holiness actually is, and if you aren't trying too hard to live up to standards Jesus never even set--as if you left the room to go to the bathroom or something when they were explaining the rules of the game and when you came back, you tried to play by the rules you thought you knew but everyone else was playing by different ones and was secretly laughing at you and at how long it was taking you to figure it out.

I felt like that this weekend. And then I thought about it and prayed about it, and maybe I'm still wrong, but I still sense that I have to pursue whatever holiness I can manage to grasp. It's just that it's a discipline, which is often "not pleasant at the time" (Hebrews 12.11, NIV). But if there was no discipline during Lent, I might well be distracted from or immune to the riotous hallelujahs, the fulfillment of all holy hopes, that come with Easter.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pancake Day

LL Barkat of Seedlings in Stone (and various other places) wrote an excellent post about bidding adieu to our all-you-can-eat buffets (metaphorically speaking, as well as literally). I liked it. I agree with her. I think she's absolutely right that we get lost in our abundance of options, and that there's so much to choose from that we can't even differentiate ourselves as people anymore. (Well, I don't know that that's all she was saying, but that was one of the things I got out of it.)

But I really do like Pancake Day (aka, more seriously, Shrove Tuesday). And I forgot about it until I read Mariam's blog. Pancake Day is kind of about all-you-can-eat. Purportedly, the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was instituted (at least in Britain--maybe in other parts of Europe, too) in order to get rid of butter and fat before the fast of Lent. Now my British friends buy more of the stuff on that day so they can have parties where they make loads of crepe-like pancakes with a multitude of topping options. Last year I actually remembered Pancake Day ahead of time and had a party like that here. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, in spite of their all appearing somewhat bemused. I love it.

I don't think I'd love it if it happened all the time. I might think I needed it, but I wouldn't be happy and celebratory and grateful for pancakes if I feasted on them every night. I don't think gluttony is worth it. But it is nice to have a party on occasion.

This is one of the things I like about God as He is depicted in the Bible. He seems, in spite of moments of jealousy and wrath, to really like parties a lot. When He was giving the Israelites all those rules, He also told them to celebrate. I like His kind of parties, too, because they all mean something. It looks like usually they mean God is with His people and it's a joyous thing.

Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles to remember how God was with you when you lived in tents in the desert.

Celebrate the building of the Temple because it symbolises God's presence with you as a people.

Then He comes down here in person and there He is--at a party--when He does His first miracle. It's a wedding, actually, which is, as far as I can tell, the celebration of the relationship which becomes the holiest image we have for God's relationship with His people. (Celebrate weddings to remember how much God loves you and how close He wants to be to you.) He proceeds to use that image of a party (most often specifically a wedding) in a lot of His parables.

I like Lent, too, this imminent season of austerity. I need to remember to pare down--to remember Who I am dependent on. But I'm really glad that Jesus told His cousin's disciples that while He was around, His followers did not need to fast. I'm glad that there's room in the Kingdom of God for self-discipline, self-denial, and also abundance.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Orthopraxy

Our church is going through the "Forty Days of Community" programme that Saddleback Church in California initiated. I'm not big on programmes. I'm also not big on Hawaiian shirts. Nevertheless, I have a lot of respect for Rick Warren, in spite of differences of personal taste and self-expression. He never says anything I haven't heard or thought before. He just reminds me that it matters and points me to Jesus. I think this is one of the best things I can say about a person.

Last week was our first week of this particular programme. It's about the community of the Church, and primarily, in context to that, about love. I realised that I really like the idea of love. I mean, I want to be loved. I also think it would be a great good thing for me to love other people. I'm all about this, and I ask Jesus to help me love people like He does. Then Mrs. Half-Caff Tall Breve Latte* walks into the store with her cell phone earpiece at the ready, and asks us to allow her, essentially, to cut the line. As soon as she leaves (which was pretty quickly, since she cut the line) we baristas all mutter our disgust to each other and I say, "I can't stand her."

This, I think, is not the best exhibition of Christlike character. Even if said latte-woman is no longer on the premises. Maybe especially then. Then I'm saying something malicious behind someone's back and everyone I'm saying it to knows I claim to be a Jesus-follower.

But I am being honest. Plus, everyone else agrees with me. That makes it all okay, right? In that moment, I don't want to be able to stand her, either. I like being appalled and disgusted that people think they can be obnoxious on a regular basis and still imagine that people like them. (Although maybe they don't imagine such things at all. I often find myself just as appalled and disgusted with myself when I'm being obnoxious--even though when I am I don't feel like I could be anything else.)

But Jesus--somehow He would find His own image in her and He'd know the things that had marred it in the particular way that it is marred in her, as it is in all of us. And He would love her. He probably wouldn't let her get away with her self-righteousness, but then, He would be equally unlikely to let me get away with mine. And He'd still love us both. I mean, He does love us both.

Imagine if He actually answered my prayer and got me to love like He does. That would be so amazing. I think I maybe want Him to now . . .

*Not her real drink.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

That's Not to Say that I'm Opposed to More Temporal, Less Cosmic Expressions of Love and Affection, of Course.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Valentines?

On Wednesday, the Old Testament passage for the day in the lectionary was Isaiah 59, verse 15 to the end of the chapter. It's a little violent, which seemed kind of dissonant with the pink-and-frilly sentiments associated with the day. That's okay. I'm not that into pink and frilly anyway. And I kind of liked reading about a love that would fight for something. It seemed appropriate somehow.

In the context of Isaiah 59, there's a description of the state of the planet. Everybody's killing and lying and cheating and hating and just generally turning their backs on God and each other. In verse 11, Isaiah says, "We growl like hungry bears, we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice but it never comes . . ." (NLT). The verse struck me because I felt it this week--this growling, moaning, cranky, grasping society to which I contribute.

This depressing description continues from the beginning of the chapter to the middle of verse fifteen, and then suddenly God steps in:

The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So He Himself stepped in to save them with His strong arm . . .

The first time I read this passage to notice, it was paired in the lectionary with Philippians 2.5-11. It's a crazy juxtaposition, because when you read them together it feels like you're reading exactly the same and exactly the opposite thing. In Isaiah, God's mad and comes down with fury and vengeance because of the brokenness of the world, to save the people who are true to Him. In the Philippians passage, we see that the way He did it was to "make Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (verse 7, NIV), and becoming "obedient to death . . . on a cross!" (verse 8).

I guess because I noticed it like that first, I can't read Isaiah 59, even in its anger and violence, without a sense of the deep and affronted love of God. Reading it on Wednesday reminded me again of that love, and it felt like a better Valentine than the hearts and ribbons.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

This Girl Sure Knows What to Talk About at Parties

Here is a rough transcription of a conversation (complete with my accompanying thoughts, in brackets) that took place at Holly-and-Matt's last Friday night.

This Kid Tim: Hi, Jenn? I'm Tim. Nice to meet you. What do you do?

Me: I work at Starbucks, actually.

TKT: Oh, really? I heard that's a great company to work for. So, are you a student, too, or something?

Me: [No one can believe that a) I am in my mid-thirties--which is probably why this 23-year-old is talking to me, or b) that I would actually make Starbucks my life's work, as it were.]

We make a little more small-talk about how great a company he's heard Starbucks is and how I'm not a student, and somehow, though I can't quite remember how, it comes out that I once lived in London, and then came back, ostensibly to get a Master's degree in counseling, which I started, and then quit.

TKT: Why?

Me: [This is going to be tricky to explain without bringing in all the "I think God . . ." reasons, which are hard enough to explain to people who think more or less the way I do.] I just felt like it wasn't for me. I mean, the people I actually wanted to help are people who wouldn't be able to afford counseling anyway. And besides, I realised that what I like most, and am better at, is just being friends with people--you know, hanging out and talking with them over coffee and stuff. So I got a job where I can hang out and talk to people over coffee all day.

TKT (for whom this concept is clearly computing even less well than it does for most people): So . . . what do you talk about, then?

Me: Um . . .

There is a long pause while I try to figure out how overt I can or want to be about this. Then I bite the bullet.

Me: Okay, so actually, when I lived in London, I was a missionary, and I realised that I really just like talking to people about God and faith and stuff, and so . . . that's the kind of stuff I talk to them about here, too.

TKT (after a split second of a pick-and-mix of facial expressions): So, you just hand them their coffee and say, "Hey, do you want to talk about religion?"

Me (laughing): No! I talk about that stuff more to the people I work with, really, when they bring it up.

TKT: They just bring it up?

Me: Yeah.

TKT: You just have random conversations about religion.

Me: Yeah.

TKT: How does that happen?

Me: [Kind of like this, actually.]

He then proceeded to ask me about faith "versus" science, and Christianity "versus" other religions, and Jesus, and whether you can know if you're "right" or not. This all took place before dinner. Well, before our dinner. Everybody else was milling and eating and trying to ignore and not interrupt our clearly not-polite-conversation in the corner by the time This Kid Tim took a breath and turned around to notice. He took this moment of observation to extract himself from the conversation I had been trying to avoid and which he himself had embroiled himself in.

The weirdest thing about this is that I have this kind of conversation a lot. I almost never look for them. I just sort of collide with them by accident. But do I ever love it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Comfort and Carefreeness

On Wednesday (the same day I wrote about "almosts" and "at leasts"), I got an email from Peter, who shall until further notice be referred to as . . . Peter. He asks interesting questions. The one he asked that day was for an image that would show what gave me "the most comfort and carefreeness."

That was a tough one. Sometimes I feel comfortable--or comforted--but I was hard-pressed to come up with anything during which I ever feel carefree, exactly. I was about ready to settle for a photo of my family and me having dinner at an Afghani restaurant. We joke in my family that the only pictures we ever get of all of us together involve us sitting around a table with food on it--and one of us always has his or her eyes half-closed. This is one of those kinds of pictures, and I thought it would do the trick because I do feel at ease with my family, and I love eating food from other locales, particularly with them. But I don't actually have that photo yet, so I shut down my computer and started getting ready for work.

As I was engaged in this activity, I became aware of the fact that a Kirk Franklin song was going through my head. As the realisation dawned, it kind of took me back to when I used to be in Gospel Choir in college. I started humming one of the songs we used to sing there, instead. The choir is having a 20th anniversary celebration/reunion in April. I can't go to it, but I can remember stuff even though I'm staying here.

I remembered singing with my eyes closed and my hands raised and clapping so much my palms cracked, even though I had never attended particularly demonstrative church services before that (though I did afterwards).

I remembered feeling like my friends and I--mostly White given the demographics of the college, but also Black, Latino, and Asian--were imaging Heaven a little bit, all standing and clapping and dancing our love to Jesus, looking at His face. After I had graduated and been away from that for a year, I went back and attended a concert. The choir alumni were invited to sing with the rest of the choir--a song called "Omnipotent." I wrote a sonnet about it, which wasn't very good but demonstrates how I felt about it and went like this:

Epilogue

With great and goofy grins, we craned around
To see each others' faces. Joyful, sang
To the Omnipotent, and while the sound
(Echoed of shell and stage and rafters) rang
Throughout the Chapel, still we smiled, for there
We were who'd travelled, laughed, and learned the Love
Omnipotent together. In the Here
And Now, however, where we live and move
And moving means we must leave some behind
To praise in othere Wheres, the singing's not
Complete; geography (at least) divides
The Church, and Holy's hid. But when He's brought
Us to His presence, we'll be all, not some--
Still grinning singing all together Home.

And then it hit me.

This is when I feel the most "comfort and carefreeness." This is where I feel the most grateful to God in spite of all the stuff. This is where swearing just doesn't even seem remotely appealing. This is where I feel in community--and in communion with God: singing truths about Him with a bunch of other brothers and sisters, especially through Gospel music. I know it's not just college-nostalgia, because though I don't make it to Gospel choir concerts very often, when I do, if there's a hint of true love for Jesus there, I feel the same sense of--well, "comfort and carefreeness" every time.

Most of the time, I'm pretty self-conscious about my singing. I can harmonise, but my voice is weak and unfortunate. I have rhythm but absolutely no coordination, so I don't dance very well. But put me in a Gospel choir and I forget all that. I belt out the music as loud as I can (which still isn't very loud, but it stops mattering), and I sway and clap and dance. I am part of this great God-worshiping organism, and God is more than enough.

This (part of a sign I made advertising one of our concerts one year) is the image I ended up sending.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Almost . . . Grateful

After signing off last night, I felt somewhat smug I guess, because I had just gotten swearing off my chest and managed to be funny about it. (At least Stacey thought so. Thank you, Stacey.) Then it hit me that I had completely neglected to say anything about the last part of my intro verse, Ephesians 5.4--the part about substituting thanksgiving for crassness and nonsense.

Apostle-Paul just kind of slips that in there. You might not even notice. On Sunday when we talked about it, I posited that gratitude is presented as an antidote to lazy speech because lazy speech usually focuses on the negative, and if we are instead focusing on thanking God for stuff, it's harder to be negative.

Then Phone-Company-Ray phoned this morning. He is, clearly, the one on whom Phone-Company-Andrew dumps his less pleasant duties. Perhaps Phone-Company-Andrew didn't want to have to admit to me that he isn't as omnipotent as he billed himself to be, but the fact that he has someone to whom to delegate the message implies that he still wields some sort of power. I've never met this poor Ray fellow.

Anyway, Ray was calling to tell me that my little outpost-town is "not close enough" to the Phone Company's "central headquarters," but that they are "constantly upgrading," and if they "upgrade to our area" within "the next six months," they'll give us a call. All that to say that DSL is out. Oh expletive. Roommate-Sarah says, "I could have told them that." And there was that part of me that knew she was right in her skepticism days ago, but I was trying so hard to be hopeful, which is something that both does and doesn't come naturally to me at all. So it's still a blow.

This just adds to the feeling I've been operating under lately, that my life is a series of "almosts." I almost meet guys who almost like me enough to date me; I almost get promoted; I almost get published; I almost get DSL. And when you feel like that, it's hard to feel grateful. A better defense seems to be to get extra bitter and start swearing, or to get really really funny. Or both. Never mind that neither of those actually are better defenses. Sometimes feeling safe is enough. Gratitude isn't safe because it's so closely tied to hope, and hope, in my experience, is so easily crushed. Which means I am.

When I try to be grateful in the face of "almosts," what I come up with are things like this:

  1. Well, at least I have dial-up--and a computer--which still allows me to post things here and write to my friends.
  2. Well, at least I'm not with the wrong person.
  3. Well, at least I've got a good relationship with my family.
  4. Well, at least I'm not starving to death or living in a wartorn country (although just by being an American I suppose I am contributing to the war tearing at some countries).

All of these things are really and truly things to be grateful for, and I would like to be grateful for them, and if I keep thinking about it, I'll probably get to that point. But the way I'm thinking about them initially doesn't really add up to gratitude. It feels more like making excuses. If gratitude is the prescribed remedy for crassness, then it seems like it needs to be bigger and stronger and more glorious than the simpering stuff that often passes for it. Maybe something like what Christy (who has lived through more horror and angst than I can dream of) says and demonstrates in a recent post. Maybe something like the young African-American woman who used to come to our store would say every time we asked her how she was: "Blessed."

That can be said tritely and as an excuse. It can be a way to avoid and push down our darkness. Or it can be a defining word, said in the face of obstacles no one else knows about, one that you grab onto with both hands and maybe your teeth because it's true even when the broken world is trying to shake your foundations. Or even just when battling the "almosts."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I Swear . . . !

You can interpret that how you want to. You'll probably be right.

On Sunday night our young adults' Bible study was looking at Ephesians 5.3-7. Given that it was verses three through seven, the passage logically included verse four, which says:

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

We talked about this for most of the night, and I kept thinking about it beyond that, and it reminded me that I had wanted to write this post sometime last year. It is a little dismaying that I can still say pretty much exactly the same thing now that I was going to then.

There are a lot things one could ponder in connexion with this verse, but the thing I'm pondering has to do with my confession at the top of this post which is that I swear. I would here like to blame my friends at Starbucks and even more the ones from the law office where I worked part-time for nine months a few years back . . . but that wouldn't be fair or even accurate. It is accurate to say that I did not utter the vocabulary usually classified as "swear-words" until after my law-office adventures. Nevertheless, no one has ever shoved sharp objects under my fingernails, or even so much as laughed at me, for not saying them before. And suddenly I say them.

This afternoon, for example. I made a really stupid mistake with my cash register at the end of the day, and the timing for it couldn't have been worse, because I had just been given a "verbal" corrective action this very afternoon for a less stupid and smaller mistake a few weeks ago. My reaction to this was repetitive utterance of a mild obscenity relating to bodily functions. It didn't fix the mistake. It didn't even make me feel better. And I'm pretty sure it didn't make me look cooler, either.

Because here's my theory about cursing: it doesn't fix anything and it doesn't make you look cooler. (By "you" I mean me. Or anybody.) It might possibly make you feel better until you get in the habit of doing it. Which is what usually happens. Because here is my real theory about cursing: it's word-cancer.

You're sitting in your office, dutifully typing up title reports (which are only occasionally made less onerous by an unusual name or an alteration in the title because one of the owners of the property has had a sex- (and therefore a name-) change), but you can't help hearing your colleague turning the air blue on the phone in the cubicle next to yours. Then you accidentally give yourself a paper-cut and you think one of the unmentionable words she just said. Really. You just think it. You would never say anything like that. The problem is, if you start to think like this, eventually you're going to slip and say it. (Jesus wasn't kidding when He said that out of the heart the mouth speaks.) And then you're going to say it more.

Or maybe you have decided that even though you're a Christian, you don't want to be all repressed and traditionalistic, and plus, they're just words. Who made them worse than any others? So one of your coffee-shop cronies starts talking to you about the pain in his life and wants to bring home to you how little use God has been to him, and he swears and looks at you to see if you're offended or shocked. And you're not, but you want to show him just how unoffended and unshocked you are, so you look him straight in the eye and, because you're an active listener, you restate what he's said but leave the obscenity intact.

Well. Those are my reasons, anyway. But I think they're kind of dumb. And the problem is, that now that I've started swearing, I do it quite often. The more I use those words, the more they seem to eat up the words I used to use, which were maybe less easy and automatic, but more expressive and interesting and creative ways of exclaiming over pain and frustration and bad luck. They're cancerous in this way. I don't remember, a lot of the time, what I used to say before.

And here's my final observation. I haven't honed my opinions about how obscenities and profanities make people look who don't profess a relationship with Christ, although I think the look is at least "smudged," because it is word-cancer after all, and they're just using easy words when they could use other ones. But I'm good and certain that for someone like me, who does profess a relationship with Christ (though I never did claim it was all it should be), it just makes me look silly. Okay, I mean stupid. If I'm trying to shock the people I go to church with, it only sometimes works. And if I'm trying to be edgy and have a voice with people who wouldn't camp with the Evangelicals, it really doesn't work at all. I can tell you right now that if my Starbucks friends are ever impressed with me for anything, it absolutely isn't because I can utter a few words on the mild end of the swearometer. And I'm about 99% sure that if I turned it up a notch, the impressometer would drop, if anything.

I want to tell you that I promise henceforth never to swear--but that would be a kind of swearing, too, and I would probably break my promise, which would only make matters worse. But I am going to work on it. You can even remind me if you want to, although don't expect an immediately positive response. But really. I just want to get my words back.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Further Announcements

Philosopher-Journalist-John has started a blog! To get in on the discussion in which he and I engage on a pretty much weekly basis, click here. There's some sort of endorsement of me and whatever over there, too, but you can just ignore that part. I mean, not that it isn't nice and complimentary and everything. And not to undermine his nice-and-complimentary-ness.
Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have . . .

icicles!

Yes indeed. On the day when the Groundhog did whatever he does that is supposed to mean that winter is almost over, we had our first actual snowstorm of the season.

It was really really beautiful, although it made my commute home after work that night take an hour instead of just half of one. It was also the perfect snow for packing. Now it seems that all the moisture in it which made it good for snowball fights and bad for driving has evaporated or drained into the ground or something, and what's left is a crunchy shell of white all over everything. Which is a shame, because now--now that the snow's been around long enough for this to happen--we have icicles, which would be perfect for making snow-unicorns and things, like Dad and Dave and the neighbour kids and I used to make when I was nine or so. But you couldn't pack this snow unless you were driving over it a couple times with your car--in which case it would still be hard to make snow-unicorns.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Travelongings

The Mysterious Justin recently asked me the following question:

"If money & time were no object, where would you go? What would you do?"

It took me a while to figure this one out. Actually, I don't think I really did. But because I like to travel, I liked the question, and here, with some editing, are the general points I came up with:

If time and money were really no object and I could go anywhere and do anything, I would volunteer for a Christian aid organisation and bring humanitarian and spiritual goods and services to people around the world. That way I would get to see a lot of places, and help out in a good cause at the same time. I would tell you which organisations I am considering, but then I'd have to kill you. Oh, wait--that doesn't sound right.

Then, of course, there are the non-helping-people options. Not harming people, either, but just the things I was thinking about while trying to leave out the aid-aspect. I realised part of my trouble nailing down an answer to the question was because I've actually already been to all the places I would have been disappointed not to see if I died first.

Places on the tier below that ( i.e. places I'd love to visit if the opportunity allowed, but which won't make me feel unfulfilled if I don't) include Mongolia, Nepal, Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Italy, Spain, and oh . . . maybe Kenya. I don't have an agenda for any of them, though. I mean, there are things you "just do" if you go to those places (Mongolia: look at yaks and ride wild horses--well, maybe they don't let tourists do the latter; Nepal: visit temples and ride elephants; Iran: try not to get blown up; Egypt: visit the pyramids; Morocco: um . . . what do you do in Morocco?; Italy: stay in a villa and drink wine; Spain: run with bulls; Kenya: go on safari), but there isn't anything out of the ordinary really--except that these things are all out of the ordinary.

Someday I would love to eat at a really posh restaurant and include a bottle of wine and all possible courses, but I wouldn't like to do that on a regular basis because I can think of all kinds of charitable organisations that I would rather spend the money on, and plus I actually have done that a couple of times--all of which were very enjoyable and memorable flukes. And also, you can do that without going anywhere exotic.

The thing is, I prefer community to tourism, and so I typically only visit places where I know people. This does have economic reasons, too, but I honestly think that even if I were independently wealthy, I would still want to travel to where I knew people, because I'd rather see how everyone actually lives in other places, than visit all the tourist hotspots. I heard some probably-19-year-old on the plane the other night talking about how her goal was to be all "worldly and well-traveled" and have a photo taken of her in every bar in every major city in Europe. Personally, I prefer being able to say things like, "I spent my 21st birthday stranded in a bungalow in central India during a monsoon." I like knowing a little about the different rules of etiquette that go with eating with one's fingers and how the rules change depending on the region of India that you're in. I like hanging out with the late-teens in the local pub in a Slovak village and letting them ask all manner of amazed questions when they find out from our mutual friend that, at age 27 (well, it was a while ago), I am a missionary but not a nun, and what do I believe anyway--and why on earth do I? I like walking down to a local non-Starbucks coffee shop in Santa Barbara and watching the morning rush and the kinds of people that are in there and feeling the city wake up.

The part of me that's at the forefront of my wanderlust says I would rather go back to a place I have already been, the top 3 being India, Turkey and of course London. Well, or maybe I'd trade Hungary for one of those. And if time and money were really no object, I'd not just go back to visit one of those places, but I'd try to relocate there.

The thing about second-tier tourist longings, however, is that they're probably worth pursuing, because you might find a country you just love which you would have missed otherwise. For example, I would never have known quite what "wild" means if I hadn't had a three-day layover in Iceland and soaked in the otherworldly scenery. And I never would have known that Budapest, Hungary, is one of my favourite cities in the world if I hadn't gone to visit friends there whom I had once known in London.

Anyway. Those are my thoughts on the question. What would you do?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

We Love to See You Smile

Here's a silly little game you might want to play, suggested in the blogpost for today (1 February, in case you missed it) at InterVarsity Press's Strangely Dim blog.

And furthermore:

RABBIT.
Connexions

I just love those. I'm sure I have some better ones than this, but I just got off the phone with Phone-Company-Andrew, and I'm kind of excited.

Phone-Company-Andrew has been buying quad espresso macchiatos in tall cups at our Starbucks for at least six months and probably longer. Still, it was only two weeks ago that I found out he works for a prominent Phone Company. This Phone Company provides me with a phone line which allows me to use this very slow internet connexion so that I can email my friends and write nonsense here. Every so often this Phone Company also sends an advertisement trying to entice Roommate-Sarah and me to get DSL.

We're enticed, all right. It's just that the very same Phone Company doesn't actually offer DSL in our area. It's "livewithable," but still kind of annoying. For example, if someone tries to phone one of us while I'm on-line, I have to log off and out of everything and call them back. Or if Sarah wants to use the internet herself, I am often a hindrance. We could get cable, but that has its own set of annoyances, and it's kind of galling to know we could get a package deal including phone, internet, and TV, except that our area is apparently a black-out zone.

Last week I was in the back room at work and I overheard one of my colleagues asking the man who was then only Quad-Espresso-Macchiatto-Andrew something about this particular Phone Company. I charged back onto the main floor and said, no doubt with a hint of desperation in my voice, "Wait--do you work for that Phone Company?" (Well, I actually said the name of the Phone Company, but you know.)

"Yes," he concurred.

"When is DSL coming to My Town?"

"You don't have DSL?"

"Nope. It's really annoying." (Can you tell I find this really annoying?)

He then proceeded to hand me his business card with instructions to phone him and let him know my home phone number so that he could "get something set up." This afternoon I phoned him. "Okay," he said, after I gave him the requisite number, "I'll set something up and call you back tonight or tomorrow."

What? It was that easy?

I love connexions.
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