Saturday, March 31, 2007

Private Property

In spite of the fact that attempting to walk with Jesus lands you smack in the middle of Mystery, I feel that Christians really have no business being superstitious. Still, as I have hinted, sometimes I am. For example, they say the first robin is a sign of spring. Nothing really superstitious about that. But how do you interpret this? The other day I was taking my five-mile walk and I saw my first robin of the season (a little late if you ask me). It was dead. On the side of the road. I almost stepped on it. I mean, really.

In other rants:

I would never claim that I am not a capitalist. Even if I don't like the idea of capitalism very much, I can recognise that I still live like one. Therefore, I am probably a capitalist. It's also somewhat telling that I always get this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach when people start talking about how communal the first century church was. I like having stuff to call "mine," even if I'm deceiving myself about it.

Still, I find things like this a little ridiculous.


What on earth is the point of having a beautiful piece of woods and pond if you're going to uglify the entire thing by slapping bright yellow stickers all over it? In the UK, people allow walking and hiking paths, complete with discrete signposts and picturesque stiles over fences, so that the public can traipse across their private property. I'm sure every so often this right gets abused, but for the most part it seems to me that people are grateful for the opportunity to stroll in beautiful places and would never dream of defacing them.

I guess the owners of this particular property wanted to be able to deface theirs in their own way. In case you think this is an isolated corner of their forest, let me give you a fuller picture.




Okay, kids, how many yellow post-it notes can you find?
7 Songs . . .

Cool.

The Cubicle Reverend recently tagged me to list "7 Songs I'm Digging." I so don't talk like that. I'm also painfully insecure about my musical taste. Still, I've never been blog-tagged before, so I feel that I should show my appreciation by playing along. (Thanks, Cube-Rev!)

Here's my list:

King's X: "Sometime." Because sometimes I feel like doing pretty much all the things those guys say they sometimes feel like doing.

Tracy Chapman: "Change." I'm pretty sure she's coming at it from a "chill out, you religious fundamentalist" point of view, but you can turn the lyrics right around and take it from the other perspective, and plus, she asks some good questions.

Charitie Bancroft: "Before the Throne of God Above." I don't remember who "re-tuned" it for postmodern worshippers (though I'm glad they did, because the tune on the link is really kind of plodding and molassesey), but it's a great song about God's grace. The truth is in there. Plus, singing it makes me feel like I'm telling the soul-scorching aspects of the universe, "So there!"

Kirk Franklin: "Hosanna." I'm pretty sure he doesn't know the literal meaning of the word "hosanna" (Lord deliver us), but this song has dredged me out of the depths more times . . .

Ben Harper. I'm hardpressed to pick a favourite song from this guy. I like that he does quiet, mellow stuff, and then sometimes screams his head off. A mellow song I like is "Two Hands of a Prayer"--which hints pleasantly at a good relationship (or something). My favourite screaming-his-head-off song is "So High So Low," which is . . . pretty much the opposite. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Over the Rhine: "Happy With Myself." The more my life-confidence grows, the more I resonate with this.

I think that's seven, since I gave Ben Harper two. But maybe I can sneak in another one: I feel that I would be remiss in not also highlighting my friend Brooks and Hey Now, Morris Fader and their song "On My Way."

And now I tag . . . . the Daves. And Stacey. And if there's a Matt lurking around here whom I knew in days of yore ('cause I heard there might be), I'm tagging you, too.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Card Catalogues

Phew! Now that I've effectively dragged you against your will into the cellar with me, halting all conversation and thereby proving that I'm not the only one intimidated by the dark, I shall now divert us all with something totally banal.

A few days-off ago, I went to the library. The library I went to as a child is still the library I borrow from as an adult, but as I don't have reason to go to that corner of the county very often, I hadn't actually been there in years. It didn't help that I keep losing my library card, either.

That day I decided I hadn't been reading lately because nothing was inspiring me, so I had best hie myself over there and find something that would. This morning, being the dawn of another day off, my mind automatically turned to the library as I catalogued my options for activity for the day. As I was contemplating the library in general, I started reminiscing and I thought to myself:

Does anyone else remember when books were not electronically tagged? Do you remember when you had to sign a card that they kept in a box, and they stamped the due date in a little envelope glued to your book which was a lot easier to reference than a receipt you could lose? But how on earth did they make sure books didn't go walking without being genuinely checked out, when they didn't have those scanner things at the door that beep if you try to leave with an illicitly borrowed book?

Also, does anyone remember card catalogues? I hated those things. Mostly because to me they meant research, and I don't like research. Plus you had to flip through so much stuff before you found what you were looking for. But they were attractive pieces of furniture. I remember when libraries tried to sell theirs off. I thought it would be nice to buy one, except what in the world would you do with such a thing? It's big and unwieldy and even if you could find an infinitessimal number of tiny things with which to fill the long but tiny drawers, there were all those metal rods running down the middle of each one, that the cards used to ride on. I like to imagine making useful things out of formerly-useful other things, but I have yet to come up with anything that could possibly render a defunct card catalogue as useful for anything other than taking up space.

Not that I have one, but any suggestions? Or does anyone care to submit more reminiscences of obsolete articles?
Selves

"I am only facing the two quite general, but quite sufficiently rousing facts: that we all of us have 'selves' (the enemies of our good true selves) to fight, and that only so fighting are we adult, fruitful and happy."

--Spiritual Counsels and Letters of Baron Friedrich von Hugel
as discovered by me and quoted by Susan Howatch in Glittering Images.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Last Straw

Kristen-to-the-Maxx doesn't think that all people are equally capable of all types of error and evil. She likes to sit at the bar and read the newspaper and make observations about all the lunacy that goes on in the world. I at least say that I think we're all equally capable of any heinousness, due to total depravity, but I don't think we're necessarily equally likely to commit all the same errors and evil, due to our different personalities. We got into kind of a heated discussion about this once, because she was quite sure I, for example, wouldn't do a certain thing she had just read about. I maintained that, while I couldn't imagine being inclined to whatever it was, I couldn't truthfully say I was incapable of it. I have a maybe nearly superstitious fear that if I ever claim that I would never do something, I am forthwith doomed to do it. This isn't entirely unfounded, because every so often I startle myself by doing (or at least really really wanting to do) something I theretofore never would have contemplated.

Last Saturday was one of those times. There's a long version of the story, but the short version is that at the very end of an unusually stressful shift, a customer demanded his money back because one of us hadn't given him the right sized straw for his drink. This was, in fact, something of a customer service error and, from that perspective, our fault. It was also a pretty big deal to make about a straw.

The problem was, by the time this irate personage had confronted us about it, I was so stressed about other stuff that I was practically hyperventilating. By the time he walked out the door, I was even more furious than he had been. If Rich hadn't dragged me into the back room, I probably would have thrown iced coffee. In public. And if he hadn't given me a hug (which I really really didn't want, given that I was so mad, but which was clearly the smartest thing under the circumstances), I absolutely would have started slamming lockers and punching pounds of coffee beans back there. I've gotten mad before, but not like that.

I was mad because I was stressed, and I was mad because I felt disrespected, and I was madder because I felt my colleagues had been disrespected. I was also mad that someone could make such a fuss about a straw.

Then I realised I was making a bigger fuss about a straw. I don't know what that guy was or is up against to make him care about straws so deeply, but it wasn't really the point under the circumstances. The point was that I had opted to let whatever he was dealing with turn me into a monster. I became hateful and violent, which, in my more self-righteous moments, I never thought I was capable of being. Also, he actually came into the store again last night and I found to my chagrin that I was too afraid to face him. I don't like to think that I'm a coward either.

People say, "Don't be so hard on yourself." And we've been able to joke about this since. It's becoming in-store lore already, and in the lore I don't look as bad as I really did at the time. But still, sometimes it's not being hard on yourself to take a good hard look at the depths of personal darkness. The stuff that people see can be bad enough, but often it's only the tip of the iceberg, and sometimes you do or feel something that opens the cellar door just for you. Even if no one else can see how dark it is down there, you can. And then it's hard and scary to look, but it's not unreasonable or unwarranted to do it.

Sometimes I think God lets me get in touch with my total depravity so that I can stop subconsciously thinking I'm incapable of certain things and therefore capable of taking care of everything myself. I like to think I'm good all by myself, and then it turns out it was Him all along. When my pride gets its kneecaps kicked in and is no longer blocking the doorway, He can lead me down the stairs with a flashlight or two and get a little spring cleaning done.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Phone-Company-Andrew Rides Again

(And redeems himself a little bit.)

It snowed again this weekend. I'm not sure if that's why, when I got home on Saturday evening, my entire phone line was dead, but it could be. I tried to call the repair hotline for my phone company, but for some reason my cell phone wouldn't support this call and kept routing me to various 411 centres. Who tried to route me to the number but only managed to put me through to other 411 centres. No one has been able to offer me an explanation for this.

Also, I had some questions to ask my dad about the phone account here, but he doesn't live in this country, and my cell phone doesn't call internationally. It receives international calls, though. (At least, usually it does.) So I called my brother and asked him to call my father and ask him to call me. On my cell phone. Because my landline wasn't working. (Thus email was right out, too.) This sort of thing makes me feel situationally claustrophobic. Situational claustrophobia makes me freak out a little. Or sometimes a lot. I spent most of this weekend trying not to freak out, with only minimal success.

My dad called and we chatted and he tried to report the fault on our line via his own internet connexion. He got a message back saying, "The number you are reporting is part of an outage." (Oh. Really.) "The estimated restoration time for this outage is 3/28/2007, 11.00 pm."

Wednesday? Are you kidding me? It seems to me that at that point, some sort of refund should be issued. But I had an alternative course of action. I noticed that Phone-Company-Andrew had a cell phone number on the business card he had given to me so, even though it was Sunday afternoon and I don't really know him, I called it. He was shocked to hear the estimated restoration time for my outage. Shocked and a little angry as it happens. My phone was up and running again by 10.30 this morning. Even though, as it turns out, Phone-Company-Andrew was on vacation.

I had a nasty-customer story to tell you instead. But a good-customer story is probably better.

All this is also to explain partially why you haven't seen me blabbing in the blogosphere for a while.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No-Ruz

Let me also take this opportunity wish you all a happy Persian New Year.
Discoveries

I tend toward self-fulfilling prophecies like this one:

I've been feeling shockingly upbeat for nigh on a week now, which means that some sort of slump or crash is surely just around the corner. Given this likelihood, I had better say the following before it ceases to be true, or (more accurately) I cease to be aware of it.

Since launching the "giving up saying mean things to customers" campaign, I have discovered something wondrous. I like our customers. It's true that there are still the moments when one or two make me want to leap across the counter and strangle them. Or at least conduct a seminar in Ordering Etiquette. Ms. Not-Her-Real-Drink continues to have difficult moments. But since I have been trying hard not to cave in to the very real desire to wreak verbal havoc on people behind their backs, it's actually been working. First of all.

Secondly, when my colleagues start the verbal-havoc-wreaking process instead, I listen sympathetically (I haven't yet got to the point where I can say nice things about all our customers), and actually feel very little need to join in. I'm not saying there aren't lapses, but really, this is sort of a break-through.

The best part, though, is that I have been much freer to notice just how fantastic the vast majority of our customer base truly is. This hit home especially last week when it felt like a natural part of the morning's chit-chat to announce to quite a few of our regulars that my book is getting published.

Seriously. How amazing is that? It suddenly occurred to me just how many people I see on a daily basis, and how crazy it is that enough of a relationship can be developed between baristas and customers that you can ask them if they've won their court case, or how their kids are, or wish them a happy birthday, and then tell them you're getting a book published.

I've stopped announcing the book thing because now I don't remember who I've told and who I haven't, and I don't want to get tiresome. But doing it turned into an exercise in wonder and appreciation for all the great people who come into our store every day and don't cut the line, or make a big fuss when we miss their drink, or who sit at the bar and regale us with their own stories.

It's funny what you notice when you cut the criticism.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Squinting to See the Sun
Last Wednesday I went for a walk. It took me an hour and a half, and by the end of it I wished I had been wearing shorts. The ground was having a little trouble deciding whether it was liquid or solid. The trickle of water which usually runs along the far side of our driveway had become a torrent warranting the designation of "brook." Also, it sounded as if all the birds in the county had gathered there and were warbling and chortling their hearts out. I felt just about as happy.

I was less happy about the same walk in January when we hadn't had any snow yet. The birds were, too, I think, because it felt like April, but there was definitely no chortling going on. But now we've had the requisite hard freeze and snowstorms, and so 70-degree weather made me feel like skipping and flailing my arms around (which is what I used to do as a child whenever I felt particularly jubilant).

Of course, it snowed again two days later, and the snow was so heavy that everyone's going around talking about how sore they are from shoveling and how we wish spring would come, even though we have to confess that we had a relatively easy winter. (Except for Valentine's Day. That snowstorm traumatised me for life, I think.)

I like that Lent straddles winter and spring. Everything's cold and dark and ashen, and a little disappointing. You hope to goodness that you don't have to resign yourself to this. You hope winter's going to end. I feel like I've been in suspense about a lot of things lately--or in some cases my whole life: wondering if I'll ever get married, wondering when my friends will love Jesus and let Him love them back, wondering when I'll have more of His attitude, wondering if I'll ever be able to afford a house of my own. And then the news comes that I'm getting a book published. And then we have a 70-degree day in the middle of snowstorms. And then after the snowstorms the sun comes out and the icicles start crashing off the roof. And then I remember that Resurrection Day is coming.

But like I implied in January and on Pancake Day, I don't think I'd notice the sunrise and the warmth if it hadn't been a little dark, first. I don't think I would know I needed to hope if everything had been flawlessly beautiful to begin with. And I don't think I'd feel like chortling or singing or flailing my arms around if I hadn't first felt I was dying.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. P's!

Obviously.

Here's something telling: some of my parents' Irish friends (by which I mean friends who are not only ethnically Irish, but also live in Ireland) flew to New York City today to celebrate St. Patrick's Day there. Plus, apparently most of the bands which play in the parade in Dublin are from the U.S.--maybe because all the really good Irish ones are playing in New York, too.

I'm not sure what that's telling us, but it is telling.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Low-Tech

What does it mean, right, when you're happily responding to comments in your blog, and then mid-comment your computer makes a short popping sound and then literally goes out, like a burnt-out lightbulb?

This is not a rhetorical question.

This exact scenario occurred yesterday evening at my desk. The day after the internet died altogether for an hour or so, which motivated me to go on a five-mile-walk, which was doubtless a good thing. I had a migraine yesterday, though, and it was cold, so I didn't go on any walks that time.

At first I thought maybe the power had failed, although it did occur to me that if that were the case, the computer should still be running on battery power for at least a couple of minutes. And anyway, the power had not gone out. So I turned my computer back on, and it actually did turn back on, but, in spite of the loud dial-up screeching it emitted during my attempts, it would not log back on to the internet for another hour or so.

Today, so far, however, has been fine.

Any insight?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

100

You only get one of certain things. Like hundredth blogposts. (Unless of course you just keep deleting them from that point on so the next one is always the hundredth. But that would be stupid. And lying.)

Announcement:

This is my One Hundredth Blogpost!

Now seems like a good time, in that case, to further announce that:

I'm Getting A Book Published!

You only get one first book, too. This is mine. I actually found out that there was a publisher wanting to publish it back in the middle of January. But I got the contract in the mail this weekend, and so it now seems safer to spread the word.

I'm not going to tell you the title yet, because it's possible that between now and when it comes out (probably the beginning of next year) that part of it will have changed. I think its current title is kind of lame, even though I came up with it myself. This upcoming book is a short novel geared toward 8-11 year olds, but adults have been known to enjoy it, too. As far as I can tell, it is not like Christian Focus Publications' other children's books--but then, I haven't read them, so I don't know for certain.

Anyway, I just thought I'd let you know, because maybe you'd be happy, too, and you might want to put it in the back of your mind for a post-Christmas present for somebody or something.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Another Blog, Another Blogger

But not just any blogger. Oh no.

My supercolossally-awesome (not to mention uber-smart) brother and his pastor have started an new venture together, and an accompanying blog. (Well, that part might just be my brother's initiative.) I think it's pretty exciting, and you can read it, and about it, here.
Commenting on the Comments

Stacey's comment on my "Third Place" post finally put me over the 11-comment-per-post record. Thanks, Stacey! (Well yes I can count my own comments if I wish, thank you very much!)

But also it reminded me of an experience I had this weekend.

On Friday, my roommate had an orchestra recital in a nearby town. When I say "nearby," I don't mean very nearby--just near enough for her to have a recital there. Normally this town is not on my radar, but there is a branch of a fairly renowned evangelical ministry centered there. I have, on occasion, considered attending one of the lectures they hold there on a mostly weekly basis, but because the relevant town scarcely crosses my mind, I almost never remember. Because Roommate-Sarah was going to be up in that neck of the woods, however, on the spur of the moment I decided to ride up with her and check the organisation out.

I walked in the door, feeling somewhat ill-at-ease as most people do when they go somewhere they've never been before. The way to help people get over this, of course, is to have a standard like Starbucks tries to have (though it falls apart when there's a line of more than five people) of greeting someone within thirty seconds of their entry. None of these people had ever worked at Starbucks before, apparently. A few of them looked up, with very little curiosity. No one ventured over to say hi. No one even said hi. They all just carried on in the conversations they had been having when I walked in. I couldn't even pretend I knew what I was doing, because I had never been there before. Clearly the lecture wasn't going to be in the entryway, and I had no idea where to go instead.

Eventually, after I stood around looking awkward for long enough, one, and then another, of them greeted me and introduced themselves, giving me a little guidance as to protocol and tea and such. The presence of tea was a plus. And the people were actually quite nice. And the lecture ended up being stimulating. I don't hold any ill-feelings towards these people, and I still have respect for the organisation. I do understand that it isn't actually a church, but a parachurch group.

Still, it seems to me that Stacey's observation applies here, too, and Christian organisations at large could stand to learn a little bit from Starbucks' strategies for fostering loyal customers. If we're looking for "customers," too, our hearts are probably not in the right place. But people want to be noticed and cared for and recognised, and if the people Jesus wanted to care through are just sitting around talking to each other exclusively and ignoring the wayfarers at the door, then, Houston (or wherever), we have a problem.

Friday, March 09, 2007

From Coffee to . . . Somewhere Closer to Christ, Anyway

Here's a story that's not exactly about the Third Place, but probably couldn't have happened had not Third Place dynamics been, um, in place all along.

The other night I was working a closing shift. One of my friends was in the store. I like that I can say that on any given day, at any given time, at least one of my friends is in the store on one side of the counter or other. This particular friend is the one who once said I was a "challenging person to know." One thing I can say about him is that he's willing to face a challenge. His attitude toward my faith and to Jesus Himself has changed a lot in the time I've known him.

That evening, he said, out of the blue, "You know me pretty well, Jenn. What do you think I should do with my life?"

This is the kind of question to which one should never respond without drawing up legal waivers of rights to sue and that kind of thing, but I didn't. I did pause a bit, though, but it wasn't because I didn't have an answer. It was partly because I had once said to another friend (who has since actually decided to walk with Jesus), "You would make a great pastor; you'd just have to believe something." That guy was a little offended at the time. I think he'd be less offended now. And I still think he'd make a good pastor.

After my pause and a chuckle, I said, "I think you should be a pastor." (Let me just say here that I don't think everybody should be pastors. But my grandfather was a pastor, my dad is a pastor, and my brother is a pastor, so I guess I'm kind of tuned in to good pastoral qualities. When I see someone who has them, I can pick them out pretty quickly.) I left out the part about actually having to believe something, for the moment.

"Why?" he asked, looking less taken aback than I would have expected--apparently because an astrologer has told him something along the same lines.

"Well," I said, "because 'pastor' literally means 'shepherd,' and a 'shepherd' of people is someone who cares for and looks after them. I think you really care about people and you have a lot of the skills that a good pastor needs."

We talked about that some more and finally the topic of belief came up. I said it a little differently this time, but not much: "You'll have to start coming to church," I said, as if I were kidding around. "'Cause you know, it helps to believe something if you're a pastor." (Another disclaimer: I'm not saying pastors can't and don't have their doubts. Probably the best ones do. But I guess I think they also push through them.)

He didn't get offended. But he did stop for a minute before saying, "Yeah. You know . . . it's not that I don't believe it, necessarily. It's just that I don't trust it."

This, I feel, is what It all boils down to--life, the universe, our place in it--whether or not we trust the Good News or, more specifically, the One it's about. I think that's what every day boils down to, for all of us. I congratulated my friend for reducing the issue to its essential part. The actual trust can come later. I still felt like we had just had church.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Third Place

There seems to be a lull in the blogosphere. Seven-minute lulls probably do not apply here, but I guess it's not surprising that there would be some sort of blog-equivalent.

Still, Craver-VII (who remarked on the quietude first) recently referred to the concept of "the Third Place," and Charity commented on it. She said she has read up on it and has the sense that the church is trying to be that in some cases, but that maybe it shouldn't. Or something like that. I'm sure she can correct me if I misinterpreted her. Anyway, I thought I'd see if I could mooch off some of the discussion.

Here's a little story. Before I started working at Starbucks, I wanted to have my own independent coffee shop. The reasons for this are given in barebones outline in the transcribed party-conversation. If people don't have to rush their coffee to work with them, they'll talk about anything over it, eventually. I had images of a burgeoning little coffee-community where people gradually warmed up to Christ through the process of warming up to Christians (the presence of warm beverages ameliorating the process). In my head, the coffee-shop itself kind of became church. Not get-dressed-up, sit-in-rows, sing-hymns-and-worship-choruses church, but church where people were growing together as a community and as people who were getting to know and learning to walk with Jesus.

In the plain light of reality, Starbucks was a more solid practical move for someone who has occasional trouble with financial functions as basic as adding. But they weren't kidding about the Third Place there. The specific Starbucks in which I currently live and move and have my being (or whatever) is tiny. But it's also popular. On Saturday, when we were having Line-issues, I said to myself--and a few of my colleagues--while viewing the Line and overflowingly full cafe area, "Why do people come here on Saturdays? How is this mayhem a pleasant experience for them?"

I'm still not entirely sure of the answer, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that many of these people are regulars and we know them by name, or at least by drink, and we ask them about their lives. We have a bar-counter at which people can sit, and many do, and some of them talk to us, such that the day isn't complete without a visit from them.

I really don't think that church is only about warm-fuzzies and warm coffee or even just hanging out and talking. But I'm wondering what people think about this as a component for church, or at least pre-church. Mark commented on my last post about how the Line (being an entity separate from the sum of its parts) and the Church (an entity greater than the sum of its parts) are sort of similar. What do you think?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In Like a Line

I can't really figure out if March has come in like a lion or a lamb this year. On St. David's Day, it was beautiful and sunny and not too cold. Yesterday, great sloppy ice-blobs fell out of the sky and coated the trees which tried valiantly not to bow. Today it was about 50 degrees until my drive home from work, at which point it snowed a little bit. I'm confused. I think March is confused. If it starts off with multiple personalities, does it stay that way until April?

Furthermore, Saturdays seem to be thrown into the Starbucks week to test my Lenten resolve. Maybe because it was so warm, everyone came out of the woodwork and ended up in our store. In the six hours I worked today, we had a line out the door which really only lulled about three times, for less than twenty minutes each. I felt pretty much overwhelmed all day.

There is an upside to this, though. It seems to me that in the battle between good and evil, if you get blatantly confronted by the thing you're trying to combat, it's easier to triumph, because there it is, right in your face. Today I could say to myself, "Wow. This rush is not ending. Clearly, I am going to get annoyed. I had better be extra vigilant not to say anything cutting and nasty about anybody." (It may also have helped that there was no time to do this.)

Also, that aspect of the ordeal was probably rendered easier by the fact that, with that many people, customers cease to be individuals, and become The Line, a living entity separate from the sum of its parts. When there's a Line like the one we had today, there's almost a sense of solidarity between baristas and customers, because nobody likes The Line. Everybody just wants it to go away. Customers don't want to be in it. Baristas want to be able to refill the stacks of cups and lids and bins of ice and fridges of milk, but they can't, because there is The Line, staring at them, daring them to move from their posts. On the other hand, they can't fulfill The Line's demands if they can't run off and get any of those things.

This Line was a sassy, teasing kind of thing, because for hours it would keep dwindling down enough so that we could see the end of it approaching the register. Then, just before we annihilated it, just before we could refill the shockingly barren pastry case, or empty the astonishingly replete trash at the condiment bar, five more people would walk in, and there--The Line! It would almost have been more bearable if it had stayed level at the door the entire time.

I left in the early evening, saying sincere prayers for a reprieve for my colleagues, and feeling relieved to have escaped The Line without being mean.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Onions and Old Coffee

Last night at Pioneer Clubs, Mrs. P demonstrated to our four- and five-year-old boys that you can be aware of the presence of something even if you can't see it. One of the ways she did this was to blindfold them and have them smell certain odiferous items and guess what they were. One enthusiastic young lad asserted that he had "a nose like a bloodhound." He revised his comment later when he was unable to guess any of items while one of his friends guessed very well. Another little boy, clearly impressed by the simile regardless of its truth, kept saying at random, "He has a nose like a bloodhound!"

This was my first experience helping at Pioneer Clubs. There was a time when kids were the people I knew best. They were the ones I wanted to tell about Jesus. I worked at a daycamp for five summers during high school and college. I taught Sunday school in London. I tried to start a kid's club. I hung out with the children of my refugee friends. I had this lifelong idea that it would be great to work in an orphanage in Morocco or somewhere.

Then I moved back to the States and I was tired, and I said, "I'm done. No more of this taking care of other people's kids." There wasn't a really good reason for this. It was just how I felt at the time.

In our church, we have a children's sermon during the earlier of the two Sunday morning services. The children stampede to the front of the church so they can hear and see what's going on better. After they've left their seats, the church looks about half as full as it was to begin with. That's how many children attend our church. Recently it's been dawning on me that I don't really know any of these kids. And that I am the one being impoverished by this state of affairs. So even though I can't make it every week, I have decided to help out with Pioneer Clubs. If I even get to know five children, it will be better than my record of late.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Happy St. David's Day!

Wear a leek in your lapel. Sing a hymn. And if you have a significant other, buy him or her some daffodils. If they don't like daffodils, you can just send them to me. I love them.

St. David (not to be confused with King David, although one might posit that they served the same Lord, in spite of separation by centuries and ethnic groupings) is the patron saint of Wales. I am not Welsh. But I have, on occasion, wished I were.

Speaking of Welsh people, I recommend going to see Ioan Gruffudd in his role as Wilberforce in the movie Amazing Grace, if you can find it in a cinema near you. The movie's a little long, and I personally think something could have been done to improve the flow or progression of it, but it's still an inspiring story. Also, it was so lovely to see a portrayal of a Christian as a Christian, such that his being one was a positive thing. The movie made it very clear that Wilberforce's main motivation was his relationship with his God. Not all of the people around him understood this, but they still respected him for it. Seeing this presented so openly and positively made my soul sigh with relief and gratitude.

It also made me long, maybe not for equal reknown in terms of scope, but still, to be known for a love for Jesus that makes a difference.
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