Wednesday, January 28, 2009


So today? The most disGUSTing thing that's ever happened to me at Starbucks . . . happened to me at Starbucks.

The previously most disgusting thing was five whole years ago when the sweaty dude came into the store and handed me some crumpled up bills (no wallet) from his front pocket . . . and they were wet. Bleagh.

But today?

Today a guy came in and ordered an Earl Grey, to be made in one of our ceramic cups instead of a paper "to-go" one. No problem there. Before he left the store, he put the cup back on the counter. I picked it up and took it over to the sink, talking to Mouse as I pointed the faucet over it and turned the water on to soak it.

The water hit the inner curve of the cup at such an angle that it shot straight up the other side, splattering with water and half-drunk tea my face, my neck . . . and the inside of my mouth.

When the sweaty guy handed me his moist moolah, I could (and did) wash my hands very thoroughly after that. But what do you do when someone else's saliva flies unbidden into your mouth? Pray that they don't have a communicable disease, I guess, and hang on tight . . .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Other Blog

The Other Blog at The Other Journal is up at long last. Look! There are already four posts there!

The blog's real name is "A Wandering Line," suggested by the same KS-Christie who suggested I write for these guys. She came up with it on the basis of a poem I wrote aeons ago in our college Creative Writing class. (That one was called "The Wrong Line," and apparently she still has a copy, though I seem to have lost mine.) I like the name and find it very apt, although in one sense it does make me think of blue flashing lights in the rearview mirror and getting out and walking, as it were. Not, I hasten to add, that that has ever happened to me. (It hasn't. It just sounds like it might have.) Anyway--I don't know that any of the posts are sufficiently inspired, but you can, er, wander on over and have a look.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Tree Mourning

The neighbourhood around New Church is starting to look sunny, which could be a good thing, except that the reason (besides the fact that there have been surprisingly few clouds for a week in January) is that there are a whole lot fewer trees to block the sun out.

I was driving down one of the side-streets the other day, after I had finished writing the article I was assigned about the Asian Longhorned Beetles (I'll link when it's published) and suddenly remembered one of the facts I had gleaned for the article: the ALB feels at home in at least 11 species of Northeastern tree, but its favourite is the maple.

A couple of times last fall I walked from New Church to the Milk Guy's house for a visit, and on the way I would pick up maple leaves that caught my eye to give to him. It suddenly struck me, that day this week, that if I manage to find myself walking from New Church to the Milk Guy's house this autumn? There will be no maple leaves. Not one. It kind of gives me a lump in my throat.

And then I thought: this is New England. The maples are what we're famous for. And if we don't take these trees down now, the whole New England forest could change for years to come. But in the meantime, isn't it sad that even one New England city has to be deprived of its glory? (In the case of this City, some people might argue its only glory . . . )

On the other hand, it reminds me of a City whose glory doesn't fade, and it reminds me to pray for that glory to come and fill my city, too . . .

Friday, January 23, 2009


It's kind of weird what you can get attached to.

Today I got a phone call that the machine that radiates me every day was down, so could I come in earlier so they could radiate me on the Other One?

I agreed without thinking too much of it, but I've been radiated on the same machine for 24 days, and this "Other One" was not mine. The dimness in the room in which I am usually microwaved is kind of bluish; the dimness in this other room was more yellow, and everything in there looked older and the buzzing radiating noise was louder and the movable pins within the machine grated somewhat. I felt like I was in a Dharma station on the island in Lost. (This might have something to do with having just watched the season premier on Wednesday, though. You think?)

Then I found out that, because today was my last day of general-area radiation (my last seven days entailing a concentrated "boost" of radiation just to the immediate former location of the tumour), I was going to have been moved to the Other One next time anyway. So yesterday was my last day on "my" machine, and I didn't even know it. I didn't even get to say goodbye . . .

Stupid, isn't it?

The up-side is that I only have seven days left of radiation, and with the more specified focus of treatment, I can now shave again. Over the next month, I will stop looking like a victim of a strange tanning mishap. I can, if I want to, start using normal deodorant again (although if no one finally tells me that I stink more than usual, I might stick with the aluminum-free, breast-cancer-safe stuff I've been introduced to in this process). And . . . well, let's just say I never expected to look forward to certain heretofore taken-for-granted self-care habits.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Divided Loyalties

Nope. This isn't about yesterday's post.

This is about how somehow-and-thanks-to-KS-Christie (the KS stands both for Kansas, where she originates, and "Kindred Spirit," 'cause she is) I am now an official blogger at The Other Journal, an on-line journal for Mars Hill Graduate School on the West Coast. (Only you can't tell, because I haven't posted anything yet.)

This is slightly bizarre for many reasons, including the following:

1. I don't know where on the West Coast Mars Hill Graduate School is. (I should probably not admit this on-line.)

2. I started graduate school once . . . and quit.

3. They already have a ton of really smart, well-writing people blogging for them, about actual Topics. I blog about the morass of mixed-up thoughts in my brain.

Because I don't think that my version of a TOJ blog and my version of a Blogger blog are ultimately going to be all that different, and because I'm currently trying to hold down two jobs and freelance, I'm seriously toying (can you seriously toy?) with the idea of no longer posting here and just posting there. But I feel all sorts of nostalgic, as if you couldn't find me somewhere else on the web and because this is where I blogged and you read and commented for something like a couple of years. And those other people who might stumble across my TOJ blog? Well, I don't know them. They don't have the history you and I do. They don't know that I'm ridiculous about trees and in a complicated relationship with a Milk Guy (they don't even know why he's called the Milk Guy--sheesh) and once lived in London and have a thing for weird conversations with total strangers. You know these things. How am I supposed to catch them up on all that, for goodness' sake?

I don't know what I'm going to do about this just yet. But come visit me at my new digs in either case, okay? Only . . . wait 'til I've actually got something posted over there . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Everyone must think the economy's going to get instantaneously better as of today, because Starbucks was as busy as a Saturday in December . . . which we barely even saw in December. It's good. We need the business. (This might be a topic for another post, but not yet.)

And let's face it. Today is pretty historic. I think it's cool that this Inauguration Day in particular was the day after Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. (And the day before the season premier of Lost, which is also--but differently--exciting.) I confess, I did vote for Obama. I'm happy for the change.

But on the other hand, this adulation kind of creeps me out. I admit it: any time I hear of anyone--I mean anyone--who generates so much enthusiasm, my anti-christ radar starts going off. I don't always believe the radar, and so far none of the people who have set it off have actually gone out and become The Anti-Christ. But it does go off.

I suspect it has something to do with my being both a natural contrarian and someone who belongs to the evangelical Christian subculture, so the tendencies of both elements merge and . . . I start predicting the end of the world. A lot of us do it, I fear. On the other hand, I don't think I'm wrong to be cautious. Or necessarily contrarian. I will also admit never to having been a big supporter of George W. Bush and some of his decisions, but booing him? Not okay.

Here's the deal guys. They're just dudes. Barack Obama is not Jesus, and George W. Bush is not the devil--nor is it the other way around. Only one Man in the history of the planet gets to be scapegoat or Messiah, and it was the real Jesus, and He was both at once. And He was the only Scapegoat-Messiah we needed. I just don't think it's right or safe or fair to put so much pressure on any other one man.

It's not right to blame everything that's wrong with this country right now on George Bush, although I think he (as did we all to some extent, I would posit) contributed to it. That's way too much pressure. Nor is it right to pin all our hopes for the future on Barack Obama, although I think he (as will we all, I hope) contribute to some improvements. That's way too much pressure, too. Whether these guys asked for the pressure is another issue, I suppose, but it doesn't negate the fact that it's too much.

I think this is the time for grace. Expectations should be high--I mean, the nation overall did elect Obama to this important, powerful, pivotal position, and yes, he had better do his job. Let's just remember that whether we as individuals voted for or against him, he's not going to be perfect. He's still just a dude.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If a Tree Falls . . .

I first decided that growing up might have some compensations when my mother told me that even grown-up books sometimes have talking trees in them. (She was reading Lord of the Rings at the time. I guess that might go without saying.)

I think I'm still waiting for the other compensations, but I actually wasn't really planning to discuss the relative benefits of maturity. I wanted to talk about trees. And Lord of the Rings, I guess. I think it's interesting that in the worlds of both Tolkien and Lewis, you can tell things are really dire when the trees either shut down or are cut down. The worlds of The Two Towers, Prince Caspian and The Last Battle, for example, are highly informed by the state of the trees.

So I've got to say that the ominous feeling surrounding the devastated economy, the renewed violence in Israel and the more personal concerns of cancer and such, is kind of getting highlighted for me over here because of what is happening to our trees.

Last month trees all across our county were ripped to shreds by the wind and ice which ravaged the area. One entire dread-filled night I spent listening to trees shuddering, groaning, cracking like gunshot, falling with loud, earthshaking thuds . . . and I felt as if I could, in all that, hear them screaming. Much as I feared a tree might any minute fall through my roof, I also found myself grieving, grieving the trees.

If that were all, it would be a sadness. Trees which had been perfectly healthy, if they haven't fallen down completely, will have to be taken down because they've suffered too much damage to survive. In addition, however, there is an even more serious menace. The Asian Longhorned Beetle, which the USDA has fought to eradicate in Chicago, New York, and New Jersey, was discovered in our City last summer.

The beetles have been present in this area for over ten years it turns out, and the passionate and hardworking folks at APHIS are a little freaked out, because this is the first occurrence of this tree-destroying pest in an area with such close access to full-fledged forest. In an attempt to keep the beetle from destroying an entire ecosystem up here, they have begun a massive programme to cut down and chip to nothing . . . pretty much all the trees in the City, and many beyond. If the beetle only infested one kind of tree, that would be one thing, but "this one goes to eleven"--there are at least eleven tree species they seem happy to call home. The oaks, apparently, are safe, and I suppose the pines, but the maples' and the chestnuts' and the birches' days are numbered. Trucks have been on New Church's street yesterday and today, and for about half an hour this morning a herd of "tree-care" workers hung out and laughed and talked at Starbucks.

If things go well, replanting will begin in a few years. But no one in the City will see a mature maple tree on their property again. If these trees don't come down, many more will, eventually. But it already feels suspiciously like a losing battle, and we've only just started to fight it. It feels like a harbinger of something, and makes me wonder again, "What is this world coming to?"

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On My Own Terms

I want to be a cancer survivor on my own terms, I'm realising. I suspect this is both reasonable and unreasonable (or at least ungrateful), but right now I'm not value-judging it. I'm just telling you what is.

I have friends who I have ongoing conversations with. We talked about stuff before, and we talk about stuff now, and sometimes the stuff is related to cancer, but that isn't all we talk about. I like that.

Here's what I don't like:

I don't like when people I don't really know, with whom I rarely converse, decide that now they know something about me, and they come up to me and get a pained look on their faces and say, "How are you feeling? Are you okay? Really? That's good, 'cause you look great."

Um . . . thanks?

I think a lot of these people are really well-meaning and genuinely concerned, and I feel for them in the awkward scenario of only knowing one thing about me to talk to me about. I mean, I've been in similar situations. (And I probably haven't been any more graceful in them.) But being on the receiving end of this tends to grate after a while. I want to say, at a slightly-louder-than-conversational decibel level, "Hey! Everybody! I am not my cancer! I have other aspects of my life and personality we could explore here! I don't even have cancer anymore, guys! They took it out!"

This, of course, ignores the facts that:

1. There is an upcoming treatment that is making me very, very nervous.

2. If these same people I don't really know started trying to probe into other aspects of my life, I'd probably resent that even more.

3. I am quite happy to talk about having had cancer if it excuses me from doing something I don't want to do.

I can't come up with a conclusion to this post which doesn't imply some sort of value judgment from either myself or you, so instead I will end with an all-purpose quote from the Milk Guy and say,

"There it is, then."

Friday, January 09, 2009

A Bet?

The current acceptable term in many evangelical and charismatic Christian communities is "spiritual warfare."

Most of the people I know, however--including myself--have always said, "Oh! That's such a Jenn story!"

I never really considered that those two things might be the same thing, and maybe they're not, but yesterday I was whalloped again by what still more people might term my chronic bad luck. I was supposed to get to Starbucks by 5.00 a.m. to open the store for the day. I have a very long and steep driveway, so most of the winter, every winter, I park at the top of the driveway by the road, so I can get out and on my way with as little fuss as possible.

Yesterday quite a lot of fuss was possible. It took me over half an hour to get my car to move two feet. I threw a fairly extended temper tantrum in my car while moving was not happening. When I finally got to work and we opened the store (late), I tripped over a step-stool which I couldn't see because I was carrying a four-liter container of iced coffee, and went flying, landing on the stool and the cement-block floor such that I now have a bruise on each elbow and one knee. (I didn't spill the iced coffee, though.)

I was trying to imagine how to explain yet more ridiculous occurrences to the Milk Guy--you know, since I'm supposedly in touch with the Lord of the everything--and I imagined saying, "The elemental spirits of the universe don't like me because I love Jesus too much."

But that didn't sound quite right, because it makes it sound like my love for Jesus is all impressive and everything, and I'm pretty sure it's not--particularly as I had just spent a half hour that morning screaming at Him. (Sometimes I wonder how this relationship was worth it to Him.)

Then I started imagining that maybe Satan and God were having all these bets like they did with Job about how I would respond to certain difficulties. But I thought if that were true, it can't be all that gratifying to God in this case, since I go kind of ballistic every time the littlest thing happens to remind me that I'm not in control. I don't need to have big huge dramatic things happen (except cancer, evidently--but I mostly seem to be dealing with that just fine, I guess)--because I make them into huge dramatic things myself. And if these things are supposed to teach me to be more stoical or something, that doesn't seem to be working, either, and then maybe somebody in this dynamic is insane, because isn't the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over and expect different results?

Anyway, I don't know what it is, but the upshot of this latest spate of excess of annoyance was that it made me start wondering about spiritual warfare, whether that's what has been going on lately or not. We talk about spiritual warfare as if it's personal, and I wonder if it really is? And if it is, then it's kind of incredible--it's almost an amazing praise of God and even a compliment to us, if you think about it. Because if it didn't matter how much Jesus loves us--and I mean us individually as well as corporately--and if it didn't matter how much we love Him . . . if that back-and-forth love wasn't going to make some difference in the world and the universe . . . well, then--I would think life would be a whole lot easier, and no one in any dimension would have to expend a whole lot of effort.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Yesterday one of our less-than-favourite Starbucks customers was in the newspaper.

In the obituaries.

I feel kind of guilty about it.

"Why?" asked the Milk Guy. "Do you really think whatever spiritual forces you tap into, killed him just because you didn't like him?"

Not at all.

"Maybe he's in a better place," he suggested. "In that case, you should be happy for him."

Sure. Maybe he is. I don't feel that I am in a position to discuss the likelihood or non-likelihood of this. But that's not really what was bothering me at the moment, either.

It's that . . . sometimes people are really jerks. Or unmitigatedly annoying. Or something else that triggers primarily negative reactions in people surrounding them. This man was, to me and my colleagues, unfortunately one of those people. But the last thing I said about him while he was alive, I said in the backroom of the store and it involved a lot of tisking and eyerolling and "I know"-ing. If, after you do that, you find out you're never going to see that person again because they died, it just does kind of weird things to your head.

I don't suppose, had I known he was going to die this week, I would have found him any less annoying in the interim. I don't know that I feel he was, by his usual actions in our store, necessarily deserving of any excess of respect. But knowing that he's dead now reminds me that we're all going to. Because we're all human. It reminds me that here was a human being for whom Jesus died, and none of us are deserving of any excess of respect in ourselves--but Jesus is, and this whole time I was taking for granted some dude that He loved and suffered for.

It's possible this man wouldn't have noticed had I treated him any differently than I did--particularly because I think most of the time I was at least polite if not cordial to his face. It's possible he wouldn't have cared. But I feel like my integrity's at stake, because I know what my inner attitude toward him was, and I also know what I say I believe about humanity and Jesus and what that means for personal interactions.

And I'm really scared that, even having come to this realisation, it's not going to make much of a difference.


Yesterday was Epiphany. Not the yesterday that I said it was . . . yesterday.

Apparently I have no idea what day of the week it is . . .

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Living Up to the Feast

Do you ever do that thing where you're talking, and you say something you didn't even know you knew, or you learn something as you're saying it?

Last night I was hanging out with CourtneyinAfrica (who is not presently in Africa, though she will be again soon and briefly), having Christmas leftovers and an improvised salad.

We were having deep and meaningful conversation, mostly around trusting God and its implications for real life, and I suddenly thought of the story of Peter asking Jesus to let him walk on water. CourtneyinAfrica and I had been divulging certain Impossible Dreams we have each been dreaming, and hashing through whether or not these were things we were supposed to hope for, and therefore trust God to perform (because we both know He can fulfill them, of course), or if we were "wanting the wrong things" for reasons known only to God, and therefore supposed to do something decisive to sever ourselves from the wantings.

When I thought of Peter, I thought, "What a crazy thing to ask for," and then I thought, "He didn't ask Jesus if it was His will--he just went for it." So I started to point this out, but what I actually ended up saying was, "Peter didn't say, "Lord, if it's Your will tell me to walk to You on the water. He said, 'Lord, if it's You . . . '"

I stopped.

CourtneyinAfrica stopped.

We both stared at each other. Probably we both got the chills. It felt like we had just uncovered something momentous, without actually being able fully to grasp or explain its significance. CourtneyinAfrica said, "It has something to do with relationship." I'm still not sure what I think this means, but it's as if, in the relationship Peter and Jesus had, Peter could ask something ridiculous, but it wasn't actually going to be wrong. And Jesus loved Peter so much, he didn't say, "See, Peter, you don't always get everything you want. This is your day to learn that. It will make you a stronger person." Nor did he stand there with his arms crossed, tapping His foot on the waves, waiting for Peter to say, "Oh--I mean, if it's Your will. If you want to. Yeah . . . that." Peter didn't doubt that Jesus could do it, and he doesn't seem to have doubted that Jesus would want to (at least, not initially). He had simply said, "Lord, if it's You," and it was Him, so He did it.

And then, even though it was an isolated event and only involved two people and a dozen or so eye-witnesses, He even used it to glorify Himself, because it ended up in the Bible. I hardly think it's a fluff human-interest piece. It's got to be there for some reason.

I have been praying for some version of my Impossible Dream for more years than I can count, probably, and for a more specific version of it for a little over a year. And I don't know what the outcome of all this praying is going to be. I don't ever expect anything I pray for to look the way I imagine it when I'm praying for it (because to date, nothing ever has). And I'm a pessimist; I tend to expect the worst, in hopes that I will be wrong but bracing myself in case. So although it's not hard for me to trust that God can do miracles, I have a bear of a time trusting that He wants to do them, for me--that I might actually want something He wants.

Now I'm wondering. Maybe most of this praying-year, I've largely been asking the wrong questions. So the waves loom and I start to lose my balance and I start to sink and I think, "See? I knew I didn't want the right thing." But every time--every time--I've finally stopped trying to stay afloat myself, and said the equivalent of "If it's You," the waves have subsided and I've seen Jesus' face (figuratively, but clearly, and that's still something . . . ) and I've been able to take another step. I still don't know what this means, exactly, but I guess I'm probably not supposed to. Yet, anyway.

After CourtneyinAfrica left, I (wasted a little time on Facebook and) got ready for bed. I sat down and opened up a new devotional book that some person had anonymously left me at Starbucks. I opened it to the reading I was up to. It was about Peter, asking Jesus to invite him to walk on the water.

Today it occurred to me that yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany . . .

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Flip Side

I think I have more than my fair share of amazing, supportive people in my life. Super-Roger and Wonder-Dawna are two of them. It would be tough to delineate all the ways these two have supported me, even before the cancer diagnosis. Mostly this fall, actually, they've loaned me one of their cars at key moments while my car has taken the time to have a series of irritating problems.

On Saturday, I pulled out of my driveway with some difficulty and realised that I was also driving down the road with more than the usual difficulty, so I turned around and went back home and discovered that my back left tyre was flat.

It did not escape me, as I wrestled with the jack, that I had been so proud of myself last year at learning to change a tyre. But, I thought a little bitterly, it's one thing to be able to change a tyre and something else to have to--apparently once a year, and always in the dead of winter. Brrr! Fortunately an out-for-a-walk neighbour stopped and helped me finish the job. (This is a bit remarkable in itself, as I don't live in a particularly friendly neighbourhood--nor, I regret to say, do I do anything to change this.)

I noted, as I drove to work on the doughnut, that I was having a lot more trouble driving with it than usual, and that things were still feeling very bumpy. My suspicions grew and grew until I got to Starbucks, got out of my car, walked around to the other side and discovered that yes! That back tyre was flat, too!

I was not in a very good mood as I began my shift. Nor through most of the rest of it.

On a break, I quickly called Super-Roger to see if I could borrow his car again for the weekend if I could get a ride back to my town. Then I called the Milk Guy to see if he would give me the ride.

In the end, what happened, though, was that both these men decided to try to come bail me out themselves. They arrived within minutes of each other (and about half an hour before I left work), such that the Milk Guy was already removing the back wheels from my car when Super-Roger got there. Together they took the wheels to a local tyre shop, convinced the employees to stay open long enough for them to get me two new tyres, returned to my car and reassembled it, reinflated my front tyres, and I was able to return home safely--and a lot quicker than I had made it to the city that morning . . .

I daresay all three of us could have done without my tyre problems. But . . . I like my friends to meet my friends, and sometimes you can't very well orchestrate these things. I don't know that Super-Roger and the Milk Guy would have met under other, more ordinary circumstances. But I'm glad that they did.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Christmas Recap

It has come to my attention (as I was shoveling snow this evening, if you must know, and not through any other human agent) that I have failed to follow up my irritable Christmas Day post with any report on how the rest of the Christmas week was. Or even the rest of that day, for that matter.

This might be because I seem to have subliminally assigned to this blog the role of Whinge-Keeper. And, see, the rest of that day and the week were pretty much great. So . . . what was there to write about?

I regret to rediscover that . . . I'm not a very grateful person.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that yes: Christmas Day and Christmas week were just great. There were a few Niece-Hannah sleeping hiccups (read: Niece-Hannah not sleeping), but she's too cute to get mad at.

Here is a photo to prove it. Also one of the World's Cutest Niece with her Designer Auntie.

Friday, January 02, 2009

What's a Miracle, Vincent?

Last night I watched Pulp Fiction for the first time ever.

There are reasons that I would not recommend this to . . . maybe anyone, although that might be hypocritical, since I seem to be glad I watched it. Maybe because the (admittedly obscenity-, profanity-, and potentially violence-laden--like the rest of the movie) scene at the very end is surprisingly redemptive. There's even a Christ-allusion, though the character through which it comes has been anything but Christlike for the better part of the film.

The lead-in to the scene is this rather intriguing dialogue (stolen from Wikiquote and slightly censored by me):

Jules: Man, I just been sitting here thinking.
Vincent: About what?
Jules: About the miracle we just witnessed.
Vincent: The miracle you witnessed. I witnessed a freak occurrence.
Jules: What is a miracle, Vincent?
Vincent: An act of God.
Jules: And what's an act of God?
Vincent: When, um … God makes the impossible possible … but this morning I don't think qualifies.
Jules: Hey, Vincent, don't you see? That s*** don't matter. You're judging this s*** the wrong way. I mean, it could be that God stopped the bullets, or He changed Coke to Pepsi, He found my f****** car keys. You don't judge s*** like this based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an "according to Hoyle" miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.
Vincent: But why?
Jules: Well, that's what's f****** with me. I don't know why, but I can't go back to sleep.
I'm intrigued by the philosophical dimensions of this dialogue. (The fact that it is, believe it or not, one of the less obscene ones in the film is not unsignificant either.) For one thing, the idea that you "don't judge [a purported miracle] based on merit" seems to me to be similar to what we talked about that time we were talking about taking God shopping.

But I'm also curious about defining a miracle by the receptivity of the person experiencing it. In the case of Jules and Vincent, both experienced the exact same event--in which neither of them died though they should have ("should," both according to laws of morality and probability). But Vincent thought they got lucky, and Jules thought God was reaching into his life to redirect him.

So who was right? I know this is just, well, Fiction, and everything, but it could happen in real life, and if it did, is the miracle the event that kept both men from being riddled with bullets, even though Vincent was "spiritually blind" enough not to see it? Or was the real miracle that Jules was able to see God's hand in the situation? It's kind of a postmodernist "the reader is always right" sort of approach to things, but I'm not sure that's entirely faulty here.

It's also kind of like the "If a tree falls in the woods" conundrum. Are there inherently miraculous events which only have merit if someone manages to acknowledge it? Or are there only events, whether specifically God-ordained or ones that happen that He simply works through, such that the real miracle is always when a person responds? We love because He first loved us, and are any of us capable of responding without His nudge?