Friday, May 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - South Padre Island

Aloha Friday Blog Hop
This past weekend I took my brother with me to South Padre Island for my friend's wedding. It was the first time either of us had ever seen the ocean (I saw the San Francisco Bay once from a pier, but that doesn't count!!). The beach at the bottom of the island was magnificent. We got there before sunrise Saturday morning, so our first view of the ocean was in the dark, then the sun rose and the pastel pinks and blues reflected off the water and it was just so indescribably beautiful. Here are some pictures. :)

So the trip down was horrible. I picked my brother up in Tulsa, and I missed a couple turns and had to backtrack, so the first couple hours of our trip took place in stinking Tulsa! It wouldn't have been so bad, but the trip to South Padre is so long already...and all the highways around Tulsa are toll roads...and the traffic through at least half of Texas was slow-moving...and there was a lot of rain and even hail.... I had planned to stop in San Antonio in the evening and check out the Riverwalk, but with traffic we didn't even reach San Antonio until just after dark, so we decided to keep going.
We stopped in Corpus Christi and ate at Whataburger on the Bay. It is my new favorite fast food place! (Don't worry; we don't have them here. The nearest one is in Tulsa and that is 3 hours away from me.) Then I drove down to Harlingen where we parked the car and slept for a couple of hours before continuing to the island. Longest night ever, seriously!
And THEN, Saturday morning after our first beach visit, we got in my car and started down the road to discover my rear passenger side tire had picked up a screw somewhere and was flat! But on a bright note, at the condos we stopped in front of, a man was out walking and he happened to own a lot of property on the island, and he had equipment to air up my tire and gave me directions to a good mechanic who fixed my tire right up and it didn't cost much at all! So all's well that ends well...I guess. I just got those tires new in February, so I'm pretty sure the warranty will allow me to get a new one to replace the damaged one, too. Maybe they will let me keep the damaged (but repaired) one as a spare, since I no longer have one (I'll come back to that later).
If you look closely here, you can see the abominable screw, approximately
between 2 and 3 o'clock on the tire.
It rained for most of the day Saturday, but we still explored the southern part of the island. I have never seen so much sand in my life, and am pretty sure I never will anywhere else! I think it is beautiful. And don't think those piles of grit are easy to walk on - they take some trudging, and it is much easier without shoes than with, in my opinion.

 While on the subject of sand, look what I found in the sand, carried in by the waves. I caught myself a teeny tiny jelly fish! (My brother named him Squishy.) We put him on a piece of bread with some peanut butter and...oh, wait. No. We didn't. We might be tourists, and we might even be noticeably pale tourists...but we proud we isn't stupid ones.

And the sand.... (I'll come back to that later, too.)

The wedding was Saturday evening on the beach. It was beautiful - I don't think I have ever experienced more perfect weather. And we all took our shoes/sandals off and put them together for a picture before the ceremony started, and any wedding where you can be barefooted is a great wedding in my book ;).
I met the groom for the first time at the wedding. The bride, however has been one of my best friends for close to 10 years. We met in college. My friend being the incredibly shy, quiet person she is (haha), arrived at the front of the aisle and turned around and waved and said, "Hi, everybody!!" The groom choked up a little during his vows. Sweet! :) It was a small, beautiful, casual wedding. I am so happy my friend has found her life partner!

After the wedding I got a picture of this little guy making waves along the shore :).
And here is me by the water after the ceremony too. (See a little glimpse of my fancy schmancy outfit...which I really loved...? Yeah...I'll come back to that.)
We left Harlingen late Sunday morning and headed to Corpus Christi to see the Texas State Aquarium. Maybe an hour into the trip there was a border patrol checkpoint, and I knew these existed, but because we were so close to the border I was a little apprehensive I had turned the wrong way on the highway. So the patrolman asked, "Are you both citizens?" I thought for some reason he was asking us if we had any foreign citizens, so I answered, "No," before quickly correcting myself after his question registered. Then I asked, "We are headed north, aren't we?" He very seriously asked me in a surprised tone, "You're not going to Mexico?!" I answered quickly and probably a little panicked (because I don't have a passport), "No!" He just laughed and said, "Yeah, you're headed north." Funny guy O.o.
If I had kids I would have thought the aquarium was a pretty good place to go, but since I don't, I think it was a waste of $20 per person. I have also visited the Tulsa aquarium, and for being a less hyped-up aquarium, I think it is better than the one in Corpus (and cheaper). I wish we would have checked out the USS Lexington museum next door instead.
But since I do have a thing for jelly fish and sting rays, here are a few good shots I got at the aquarium. :)

Since we were already in Corpus Christi, and since we slept in on Sunday morning and didn't get to go back to the beach before we left the southernmost part of the state, and since I found this delightful little idea on Pinterest for an inexpensive yet great souvenir and had not yet collected my sand...I decided instead of a rodeo in Austin on Sunday evening, we would just hit the northern part of Padre Island at Corpus Christi and spend a few more hours on the beach before heading home. So off we drove...and the National Seashore part of the island. It was not nearly as beautiful as the southern part of the island, in my opinion, but a beach is a beach, and it wasn't bad, so we staked out a place along the shore and did indeed spend a few hours.

And I did get my sand, along with some other things my brother found (driftwood, a coconut, and a sponge) while I laid on my beach towel :).
But not only did we acquire while at the beach Sunday evening...some benevolent fellow (or gal) decided to break into my car (I had thoughtlessly left my windows cracked and the car was out of our view) and steal several items of value and/or perceived value. Among the missing items were my brother's Samsung camera, his laptop, my wallet, my spare tire (?!), the cooler, and two backpacks of mine, one of which contained my laptop, and the other of which contained my outfit from the wedding the previous evening :(. On the bright side, when we went to the aquarium we had parked quite a ways away, and instead of carrying my wallet with me I decided to grab my money (and license and debit card) and carry them in my back pocket. I forgot to replace them in the wallet, and instead they remained in the pocket of my capris...which remained in the driver side floorboard where I changed into my bathing suit in the car before heading to the beach! The thief took the wrong clothes! :D So, thankfully, we had money to complete the trip. Also, thankfully, I had recently saved all my important files on my laptop to Dropbox, so though I lost the convenience and will have to replace it, I still have (most) of my files.
So, from my previous musical selections/recommendations on here, you have probably surmised that I am in fact a nerd. But my brother is an even bigger nerd than I am! He grabbed some of his favorite CDs out of his car to bring with us on the trip and, though he is ten years younger than I am (and I myself am not much older than a Spring chicken), he just so happened to bring an album of Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, and it just felt right listening to them as we drove 'cross the prairies o' the Lone Star State. So here you go...a song by them that my grandma used to play for us all the time when we were kids :) (my grandma has always been a devoted fan of tragic ballads).
Oh, and here's another (more well-known?) one for good measure:

Ok, and one last one, since the host of 7 Quick Takes is always refering to the song "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye. Here's what I'm betting was Gotye's influence for the song in the first place.... Just sayin'. This is where Gotye got his cool. ;)

(P.S. The trip home was much better than the trip down - I threw away the directions I had written out and just followed the signs and my own sense of direction and things went much more smoothly!)
For more Quick Takes, make sure you visit Jen at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May, Day 20/21 ...on the Devastation in Moore, Oklahoma...

Since I got to work tonight I have been glued to CNN's coverage of the Moore, Oklahoma tornado. Sometimes it is easy to watch things like this and remain numb to the emotional component - after all, I don't personally know the people affected. But on another level, I do know these people - they are my fellow Americans. In fact, we live in the same region of the U.S. In fact...I experienced the Joplin, Missouri tornado two years ago, so I can very much empathize with the feelings of shock and devastation, fear and grief....

Two years ago, my house survived the storm (though it was damaged, and my car was totalled). I left a little while after the tornado to get some McDonald's across town (where the power wasn't out) for the family I lived with. Then I didn't leave the house again for several days. The destruction was simply too much to take in. (The power was out, too, so we didn't even have the luxury of news, and having a clue what was going on around us, like the people of Moore are probably experiencing now.) For months, especially at night when there were no street lights but only dark heaps of rubbish or empty lots, I couldn't drive across town without crying. For at least a year when anyone recounted their experiences of that day I cried, too. I still panic when it storms, especially when the tornado sirens sound.

I feel sorrow for my neighbors in Oklahoma. I think about the years of hard work in rebuilding that stand ahead for them, and the expense to be paid out by FEMA...such tremendous loss.

And the children....

Lately I have been more attuned to tragedies around the globe. People are people, and when they suffer, I try to make it a point not to remain numb anymore. People deserve empathy. They deserve community. They deserve for their fellow humans to care about their plight.

Praying for those in Moore tonight. Until you've seen a city destroyed by nature with your own eyes, you simply cannot fathom the surrealness of the situation...the extent of the picture not captured by cameras....

I hope in the days and months to come the people of Oklahoma will be as overwhelmed by caring neighbors as Joplin was two years ago. That is a small bit of good that can come out of such a disaster. That, at least, can renew one's hope in humanity!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May, Day 18: A Childhood Memory

I may be touch-and-go for the rest of the month, but back to the Blog Every Day in May challenge! Today I am supposed to share a childhood memory and be as descriptive as possible. (Actually, this is yesterday's prompt, but I already did today's prompt on Day 5 by accident.)

The memory I am going to share came to my mind after I got home from work this morning. I came in and greeted my pets. Being oblivious as I am, I walked into the next room, and when my puppy didn't follow me as usual I went back to see why not. I hadn't even noticed (possibly because I didn't turn the light on when I came in), but he had picked a tag off the bottom of a rug - a large, sticky tag - and his right paw was stuck to his head and one of his eyes was covered. He had gotten himself into quite a mess! It was simultaneously humorous and sad - quite a funny sight, but at the same time painful for him because I had to hold him and painstakingly pull the sticker out of his long hair!

While I worked, I thought about how God has to help us out of our messes in much the same way, and I remembered a lesson from a summer youth camp speaker from when I was a child. This speaker, Pastor Bubba (whose real name was Jim Smith, and who became a friend of mine after I was grown and moved to Missouri), would send a shoe box with a random child each day, to be returned the next day in the morning church service with a "mystery" item inside. It could be anything. And Pastor Bubba would have to give a 60-second sermon on whatever was in the box.

I recall such items being brought as a rock, a stick, a "walking stick" (the insect), a dirty diaper, a frog.... Yes, kids can be quite imaginative ;). But Pastor Bubba was always able to come up with a sermon. The walking stick hearkened to Moses' rod that became a snake in the presence of the Pharaoh; the frog presented an opportunity to talk about the plagues God brought up on Egypt preceding the Exodus...the dirty diaper represented the messes God has to clean up in our lives.

The lesson is that the most ordinary thing in the world can teach us something about God.

After I was grown I worked for someone who was a minister who traveled extensively in the United States (and sometimes elsewhere), and she was known for her object lessons. Part of my job was to help her prepare for her travels, which included packing all the items she would need for illustrations during her seminars. Some of the items included a punch bowl; a toy egg; Hersey's chocolate syrup; a toy hatchet, carrot peeler, and potato; a puzzle; a bag of balloons; a piece of carbon paper and receipt...and I'll bet you're wondering what spiritual significance could possibly be found in any of these items.

Take the hatchet, carrot peeler, and potato. My boss would demonstrate how God uses the events in our life to shape us and prepare us for the vocation to which He has called us...and sometimes it is gentle, like a carrot peeler, while other times it feels like He is hacking away with a hatchet! But the end result is something usable. And the carbon paper? Because God does not use carbon paper - when He forgives, He forgets, and never brings it up again. She would tell her listeners that she had stopped and bought lunch on the way in, and ask if anyone there would be willing to take the receipt back to the restaurant and pay for her meal. Inevitably, someone would volunteer, and she would ask, "But why would you pay for my meal when it has already been paid for?" The same holds true when we hold ourselves in shame over sins that have already been forgiven.

The simple, everyday things of life can teach us a lot. That's why Jesus used them in His parables - things like seeds, children, coins, sheep....

God is not hard to find if we look.

Friday, May 17, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

Aloha Friday Blog Hop


I haven't blogged since Sunday night. I'm sorry I have been MIA from the "Blog Every Day in May" challenge. I will probably pick it back up here soon - just needed a break. Thank you to all who have left wonderful comments; you guys are great. I will return the love soon!


After my post Saturday about the ridiculous number of times I've fallen in my life, I rewatched an old favorite movie Sunday night: My Best Friend's Wedding. Want to know why it was my favorite? Well, besides the fact that it is absolutely charming, Julia Roberts falls 5 - go ahead, count them - 5 times in that movie. Seriously, that was one of the selling points for me.

Also Sunday night, while I was watching said movies, I had two giant pieces of cake. Two. Giant. Okay, and a third small piece. And it was good. See, I am leaving for South Padre Island this coming Tuesday for -ha!- [one of] my best friend's wedding. So for the last couple of weeks I have been pretty much living on green smoothies and soup (and now cake). (WHY DID I EAT THAT CAKE?!) I have done pretty well since then, though, so I guess life and weight-loss will go on.

And since I shared about the cake, I will also share that I tried some organic soup from the farmer's market, too. One was called "Crazy for Carrots" and the other "Coco 'nuts' about Kale". The carrot one tasted like curry to me - good but not something I would want every day. The coconut one was good but kind-of watery. I also bought a bundle of asparagus and found a great recipe for Creamy Asparagus Soup I made after I tried the other soups. It was wonderful (I made mine without onions)! I don't think I will pay $7.50 for a pint of soup from the market again when I can make my own, that tastes much better, for much less.
I actually bought a bathing suit this week. I've had bathing suits before, but not many. My mom bought them for me when I was little, and she also bought me one after I was grown...after she had remarried and was trying to get back on my good side so she was buying me stuff - I enjoyed it (TMI?)...and I picked that one out (that was about 11 or 12 years ago). And that's it. I've never bought myself one, and haven't shopped for one in quite a few pounds years (okay, both). So I am a little nervous about it (I ordered it online). I decided to go with a tankini. Cute, right? I think so. We'll see when it gets here!
So, obviously this is a beach wedding. Not only will this be the first time I have attended a beach wedding, it will be the first time I have ever been to the beach and seen the ocean. I cannot wait!!!
(And, speaking of the beach and things being is a cute picture of my puppy after a bath!):
For one of my classes last Fall I wrote a research paper called "A Theology of Kingdom Inclusion From the Matthean Parables of Jesus." In that class, the top five papers were to be published in an ebook anthology on topics in New Testament Theology. I found out last night my paper is one of them! So, a few months from now I will be published. I have been published before, but this will be the first time it is academically credible - other things I have written include articles for a denominational magazine I helped edit, and two or three editions of quarterly adult Sunday school curriculum for the same denomination. So I'm pretty excited! This should be good for future teaching resumes, as well as applications into doctoral programs.
The summer job search isn't going so well. I already work full-time on third shift, but when I'm not in school I usually try to find something else to supplement my income. I thought I had found a job - applied online and got an email back saying they were interested - but never could get ahold of them. That was three or four weeks ago. So I am going to start applying for more and the search will be seriously underway when I get back from Texas. I plan to stick around here for the next year, but then I have a feeling I will be moving either to Boston, Atlanta, or Berkeley for my doctorate (those are the locations of the programs I am interested in), so I need to start saving for the move!
That, and I want to trade in my car for a truck by the end of the summer :).
Want to hear something slightly weird but interesting? Okay. Last summer my second job was doing home health care. And one of my clients had this neighbor who was married, but he always hit on me and generally made me uncomfortable. It was really bad because my client was blind, and this guy would come into her apartment to fix stuff and offer to go pick her up some cigarettes or he was around all the time, and it just really creeped me out because if he had tried something, she wouldn't have been able to see or do much to help. And lest you think maybe I was imagining his intentions, one time he actually asked me, "Do you ever just want someone to hold you? I just want to hold you." Yeah. He actually used that line!! And he tried repeatedly to get my phone number.... It was just really stressful going to work there every day.
So, earlier this week, when I came home from work one morning, one of my newer neighbors was sitting out on the stoop at the apartment entrance, smoking. He initiated a conversation with me when I walked past him, and it culminated in him calling me "baby". So yeah, again, uncomfortable and dreading meeting him at the door again...and a little worried he might try to get into my apartment. Even woke up one day and had one of those in-between-dreaming-and-being-awake moments where I saw an old creepy guy walk in my bedroom door...O.o. But today that neighbor and his family moved out because they were evicted.
I shared all that as a sort of sigh of relief. I'm just glad I don't have to worry about him anymore and it was short-lived. (It probably sounds a little mean and callous to be glad they were evicted, but I will state for the record they ended up finding a place with an additional bedroom and lower rent, so it worked out well for them, too.)
And on that note, have a good weekend, everyone! :)
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, May 13, 2013

May, Day 12: I Miss Family

Today was Mother's Day. I am late getting this post up, but it fits, because the prompt is to tell about who/where/what I miss, and today I very much missed family.

Most of the time, I love where I am (Missouri). I moved here from Ohio almost 11 years ago, and it has been long enough that most of the time homesickness is a thing of the past. Even on holidays - occasionally I get to be home for one, and many others I have spent with dear friends who are like family. A few have passed just like any other day, not really special, not really lonely...just another day in this interesting life. But then there are some holidays, like today, when I realize the years are ticking past and I think about how I will feel about all the holidays I "missed" when various family members are no longer around to spend them with. Today I missed being near family.

Sometimes it is so easy to take for granted having those people you can just "pop in on" unannounced and walk in their house without even knocking...and they are glad to see you! Or being able to pick up the phone or send out a few texts and arrange a spontaneous game night. Or just run around with someone while they run errands and pay bills. I miss that. I had all those things to a degree in Joplin. I actually thought about driving down there today, but I am saving up money for a vacation, so decided to sleep for work tonight instead.

I woke up in a much better mood. But I missed talking to my mom on the phone. I was going to call her in the morning, but when it came time I figured it might be better to wait until she got out of church (I assume she went), and then I was ready for bed. So I texted that I would call her later in the evening. Later in the evening I got a text from her that she had to go in to work early (she works third shift too). So I will just have to call her tomorrow. But when I am already in a fussy mood, things like that just make me feel like a horrible daughter. :/ (Don't worry, I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow.)

So there you go. You asked for it, and that is me in a not-so-chipper frame of mind.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May, Day 10'r11: Falling for You

I posted Quick Takes yesterday, so I'm counting that as my post for May 10...and I don't like the May 11th prompt, so I'm throwing it out and using the prompt for May 10th on May 11th. :) (Yeah, I like making up my own rules.)

The prompt for May 10 is to "spill" about my most embarrassing moment(s). I can't really think of a particular embarrassing moment...well, I can think of a humiliating moment, but it is really more sad than I will instead share a sort of vague "collection" of embarrassing moments.

I used to fall a lot. I was pretty much known for it. I'm pretty sure I used to fall every single day when I was a kid (okay, and maybe after that, too), and often more than once a day. Not exaggerating. If all my falls had been caught on tape, I am sure I would have no trouble filling up an entire episode (or two) of America's Funniest Home Videos with them. I seriously could be standing in the middle of a room not moving and just fall over. I console myself knowing I've brought a lot of laughter to others in this way....

I totally feel his pain....
I remember being a 'tween and falling outside the door of Taco Bell where my friends and I had gone to celebrate our February birthdays. And every single time I went roller skating in my life I left on the manager's crutches...I even remember crawling off the rink once. If you think falling hurts, try falling on a pair of roller skates (and I mean landing on them).

I used to fall going up the stairs at my junior high school (thank God I don't remember ever falling down them). And there was the time I was marching along with the junior high marching band, practicing outside the school for an upcoming parade, and I fell with my big ol' tenor saxophone and scarred my knee. I got back up pretty quickly, though, so I'm not sure the band teacher even noticed. Everyone behind me did, though.

I broke my tailbone a couple of times - once falling in the hallway in 4th grade and landing on a door stopper, and once in gym class.

One time I went with my church youth group to Hocking Hills (a national park in the hilly part of Ohio), and while we were hiking I tripped over some large tree roots and sprained my ankle there at the top of a small mountain from which we still had to hike down. And if that wasn't bad enough, not too much farther on there was a fallen tree and somehow while I was trying to get over it all crippled, I came down really hard on my bad ankle and double sprained it, even tearing a bunch of ligaments. That was maybe in June...and in August I fell on the sidewalk after I had come down the steps in front of my great-grandparents' house and sprained the other ankle. I started school that year with two aircasts. Yep, I was one of the popular kids. ;)

In college I had to give a speech in class one day, and we were supposed to dress up for it. So there I was in a navy blue skirt suit...and it was raining...and I was in the parking lot on my way to class...and I have no idea what happened, but I distinctly remember flying through the air and thinking how bad it was going to hurt when I hit the ground and slid several feet (it did hurt, but not as bad as I thought).

At the same college, I drove a big van full of students to Branson one December, and we stopped at a gas station along the highway before we got there. Outside were these gorgeous picnic tables made out of polished tree stumps, and as I was admiring them I completely missed a step down on the concrete and again went sailing through the air, ending my flight when I hit my head directly on one of those beautiful stumps. I had to go get stitches while everyone else went on to Silver Dollar City. I ended up with stitches above my eye, a huge goose egg on my forehead, and the next day both my eyes were black. I was quite a sight and had sore eyes! (Don't worry, I shook my own head pitifully at that joke.)

It's 3 in the morning and I can't think of a good way to end this so...that's it. I fall. A lot (though, I'm proud to say, not nearly as often as I used to).

Friday, May 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - au natural

Aloha Friday Blog Hop
First things first: in case you didn't already see this all over Facebook, last week at this time it was SNOWING. In MISSOURI. In MAY!! For like two days straight, and big flakes! Not much stayed on the ground, but it looked pretty heavy-duty.
Also this time last week, I had some visitors in town from Atlanta. My friend was graduating, so she and her husband stayed at my apartment for the gradution. Friday night we went out to dinner before I had to go to work, and we chose a Brazillian restaurant called ReRico. If you are ever in the Springfield, MO area, I highly recommend this place (though it will cost around $30 per person). If you have never been to a Brazillian steakhouse, let me tell you how it works. Well, at ReRico they start by bringing you 4 or 5 different appetizers, including spinach dip, a California sushi roll, some kind of cheese-filled biscuits, and soup (there might have been more, but that's what I can remember). Then you get a trip to an amazing salad bar.
Then you turn this little green-on-one-end-and-red-on-the-other doohickey so the green end is up, and servers start bringing around these huge skewers of meat, from which they cut you a slice right there at your table:

Yeah. Heaven in Springfield, MO. There was brisket, pork loin, rump roast, chicken, shrimp, strip steak.... For a little while we had an amateur little Brazillian steakhouse in Joplin called Gaucho's, but it was nothing compared to ReRico. This is definitely my new favorite restaurant (though, at 30 bucks a pop, I don't think I'll be indulging too often).
I work at a fairly large group home with several different residential cottages. Each cottage picks a weekend every so often and the kids get to stay at a ranch quite a ways out of town. It is beautiful there, and that is where I got to work overnight last Saturday night. Sometimes when there I get to stay outside by a campfire, or if the weather is terrible they let the kids sleep in a lodge. Last weekend we were in the lodge. And Sunday morning when I left, the nature of the place was simply stunning. I took a few snapshots with my phone. Here are some for your enjoyment. :)


Several weeks ago I posted one of the sermons I had to deliver from a three-part series in my homiletics class this semester. Here is another one (this is actually the first of the series, but I delivered them out of order). This sermon's title is "Ring of Combat" from Revelation 2:8-11 (letter to the church at Smyrna). I did not deliver the third sermon in class, but I might do a vlog for it, just so the series is complete. We'll see :).
(My html doesn't seem to be working, but you can find the video here.)
We had to construct each sermon with a different purpose. The other one I posted was one of explanation ("this is why/how..."). Today's is a sermon of ability ("you/we can do this because..."). The third one, which I haven't posted yet, is one of obligation ("you/we must do this because...").
You might recall I love old hippies. I also love it when people use old Volkswagen vans as advertisements! Here are a couple I saw around town this week. Oh, and guess what. Speaking of old hippies...Willie Nelson is coming to Joplin! July 5th. I must go!!

I was in a card-making mood last night (not that this is something that usually happens - I think I've only ever made one other card in my life). So I made a card for a friend...and then I realized Mother's Day is this weekend! So I made my mom a card, too. (Some might call this "cheap". I prefer "creative" and "heartfelt".) Took my cool little homemade cards to the post office about 3:00 this morning. But then my brother sent me a text today asking if I had sent out my "Mother's Day Cards" yet...and I was like, "What? Cards...?" And then I realized. I completely forgot about my grandma!! :( Don't worry. She will be remembered...just late. :/ But here are the cards this amateur made last night.

And we need a song. Since I just found out my man Willie is coming to town, how about one from him? Here is an old Saturday Night Live clip I love. (Note: this is not an advocation for anyone's political views - I just thought the song was cute.)
For more Quick Takes, please visit Jen at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May, Day 9: A Moment in My Day

This was yesterday morning. Since I work third shift, this means I was about to go to sleep...but Albie was just being his usual playful puppy self. Here I was struggling to get him to stop trying to gnaw on my fingers long enough for me to take our picture. His hair is in the state it always takes after he manages to work out his topknot ;).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May, Day 8: Learn To Recognize a Lie

In a recent post, I mentioned that I watched a documentary on the White family of West Virginia. [This is not a recommendation that you watch is simply a reflection.] The Whites are an appalachian "hillbilly" family...they seem to proudly epitomize the grand title of "poor white trash". Their generations are full of young deaths and lifelong incarcerations and broken families, due to drug use, violence, and ignorance (I do not say that condescendingly...I just don't know a better word for it). The members of the family speak vulgarity with every breath. Watching the film, the audience gets a sense of the "family pride" - I think most families have some sense of pride, or "belonging" maybe, that unites them and holds their sense of dignity in place, regardless whether others would ascribe to them the same level of honor. But the undercurrent of this documentary was one of pain and shame...and resignation.

Some members of my own family had problems with alcohol and drugs when I was growing up, and I remember a scene from when I must have been very young, and Children's Services came and took a child (a cousin of mine) from the arms of his mother while they both cried and attempted in vain to cling to each other (this also happened in the White film). It was quite pitiful. Don't get me wrong - the intervention needed to take place, and it was a result of poor choices by the child's parents. But it was still heartbreaking, because (as I now understand) that mother was only continuing the same kind of life choices everyone else in her family had made before her. It was the family's "way", I guess you could say. I don't know if it ever once occurred to this person that she could make different choices and get different results.

And there we see the problem. As with the Whites and also this incident from my own experience, I think the root problem comes down to what people believe about themselves. Either they think they are too stupid, or too poor, or too gross, or too bad, or just destined by God to be this way...whatever they think, they believe a lie that says there is no way to change, and even if there was a way, they for some reason or other don't deserve a good break. Poor white trash (please forgive the racial slant of that phrase - I am only using it because everyone knows what it means, and I'm pretty sure it was used in the film. But I believe this principle holds for all people regardless of race).

One of the White sisters in the film talked near the end about how she was going to end up in Hell. She joked about it a little, but there was a shame and a sadness in her eyes. It made me ponder the question, "If she really believes she is going to hell, what keeps her from making the choice(s) necessary to change that?"

The only reasonable answer I could come up with was that she believes she can't. For whatever reason, she believes her destiny is set and all she can do is buckle down and enjoy the ride.

Whether you consider this from a Christian/evangelistic perspective (she and the rest of her loved ones need to know Jesus loves them and can change their lives and eternal destination) or a social justice perspective (this family needs some type of intervention to curb their continuing trend toward crime and violence, to make society better), some of the same questions must be answered: How can this family be helped? What is the mindset that needs to be addressed here in order to promote change? How can they begin to recognize the lies that keep them in bondage to this way of life (let alone combat those lies)?

My advice to you (as per the prompt of today's blog post) is to examine your own thoughts and see if there are any lies you believe that keep you from making changes for the better, or pursuing what you really want in life.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May, Day 7: Fear

We've been prompted to write about the things we're most afraid of today. The most obvious answer for me is spiders! Those heinous things give me the creeps. By the way, did you hear Governor Christie is in trouble with PETA, as journalist Esther Lee reported, "after delivering a palm-faced smack-down on an itsy-bitsy spider before a group of fourth graders"? I have a feeling PETA and I would not get along well on this issue....

But, difficult as it is to believe, there are things that have caused me way more fear than spiders have. For a long time it was the dark. I am no longer afraid of the dark...unless of course there is the risk of a spider lurking in said dark, plotting my demise.... I also used to be afraid of walking in grass after dark...again, because of spiders. Oh, and don't even get me started on camping. So you see, it is no small thing to say I have feared something more than I have feared spiders. But I have.

I guess you could call it meaninglessness. Or maybe even death. Anyway, I have at times tended to dwell on all things, to the point of my own detriment. Seriously. It seems to have been worse in years immediately following great personal loss of loved ones. Like when my brother hung himself. Or when, in a 6-month period between 2009-2010 my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, my uncle fatally overdosed on drugs and alcohol, a previous roommate of mine died of the same cancer my sister was battling, and my dad died. Yeah...that year was a doozie. It seems to take me, on average, about three years to deal with traumatic things like that. I'm doing pretty well right now, but for the last few years I struggled more than I could ever tell with existential questions.

One time I remember even going out and finding an old cemetery where I walked from one crumbling grave marker to the next, for hours, crying over the long-gone life each stone represented as the only physical evidence remaining of that life, and now even it was slowly wasting away in decay. I know that sounds really in a histrionic sort of way...but the feelings had been piling up and that was the only thing I eventually found to help me express the fear and grief I was feeling. (And I never told anyone about it until now, either, so I really wasn't doing it for drama. Just throwin that out there.)

Yep. That's the kind of morbid thinking I have had to deal with, spurts of several years at a time. Fearing my own impending end...the inevitable loss of more loved ones in the future...failure to procure meaning or "figure out" life....

I think I have recovered quite a bit in recent months. And yes, I find meaning in God...I think I was just in an intense period of grief, so the meaninglessness found its way into my experience despite my faith. That happens sometimes, even to Christians, you know.

And even more, there have been many times in my life when my greatest fear was that I was a disappointment to God. My feelings there have changed, too, though. It's not that I think I have come to a place where I could no longer be a disappointment; but I have realized that He actually and really loves me. I have drawn great comfort for both of these fears (death and disappointment) from 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (NIV). Jesus offers the kind of perfect love that drives out fear.

That makes me smile somewhere deep inside.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Some Thoughts on Human Depravity and Redemption

At the suggestion of a friend, this morning I watched the documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia on Netflix. [WARNING: Do not watch this film unless you are prepared for some really strong language and really rough content.] It is not a suped-up so-called "reality" show for bringing in the bucks, with a lot of Amish Mafia and the like. It's REALLY real. Unbelievably real. Like, unless you know people like this, you will think it IS staged. But it's not (I can say that because I do know people like that). And so it left me in deep thought about the human condition.

Immediately afterward I came across this blog post by Donald Miller discussing human depravity. Please read it - it is brilliant!! It goes so perfectly well with what I was pondering after watching the documentary on the Whites.

I like to take into consideration varying views on the eternal destination of humanity - whether some will go to heaven, some will go to hell, or all will go to one or the other, or it will all end in "nothing", etc. Some of these alternatives would appear to render evangelization completely pointless (and isn't evangelization the mission of the Church?). Pointless, that is, unless....

For so long, I think the Church has emphasized what Christ does for us in death - what He accomplished through His own death in order to offer us eternal life. And eternally, this is probably the most important thing. But as living, breathing beings, we cannot truly comprehend the conception of death, so life after death does not mean nearly as much to us as the life we are living right now. Hence people choose to remain in sin even when they believe it will result in hell after death. "Now" is what is real to us. So perhaps the renewed focus of what Christ does for us in life - through the life He lived as one of us, and the life He wants to live through us now - would be much more effective (not to mention motivational) in our efforts at evangelization, or bringing the world into personal relationship with Christ. Joel Osteen gets a lot of flack for Your Best Life Now, but isn't that what we all want? Isn't that truly what we need?

So many people I talk to admit that their biggest hindrance to believing in God is the undeniable existence of evil in the world - the fact that horrible things happen to good people. And if you sit for a minute and think about the things that go on - human trafficking, homelessness, child abuse, gang activity, torture... - you must be moved, as a decent human being, by the yearning for justice!!

We have allowed our species to get itself into a huge mess. And yes, I do believe sin is the root of the problem. But I believe a huge part of the gospel is that we can change it, to a degree, through Christ! That's the part of the Bible that talks about Him coming so we could have "abundant life" (John 10:10). It's what Isaiah declared in 61:1-3 about binding up broken hearts, releasing prisoners from darkness, and through Jesus offering beauty in exchange for ashes, joy for mourning, and praise for despair. It's why Jesus emphasized going and teaching all nations...teaching them to observe all things He taught. It wasn't so they would all get their theology right; it was so their lives could be redeemed!

The Good News is that redemption happens before we die. The Christian message is not just, "Come to Jesus so you can go to heaven." The Christian message is, "Come to Jesus so you can live!" Eternal life starts now!

May, Day 6: I think

"If you couldn't answer with your job, how would you answer the question, 'What do you do?'"

I spend most of my time in my head. I read, write, lurk on social media sites and blogs, research, pray, watch tv, listen to music, consider my plans for the future, imagine, over-analyze my interactions with others.... I think. It's what I do probably more than anything else.

My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving). (Here is a link to a short online test - disclaimer: this is not the full test, but it will probably give you a decent idea of what your personality is like.) And here are a few motivational(?) posters to give you an idea what being an INTP means:

I think many people misunderstand the definition of an INTP. Just because I think doesn't mean I am an emotionless robot. Just because I think doesn't mean I am a supergenius destined to rule the world (I am a supergenius destined to rule the world, but that does not necessarily come with being an INTP). My inner world is just more dominant than my social life. And just because a person has an "F" where my "T" is doesn't mean they don't think.

I rarely spend time looking at what other people have to say about being an INTP because "being" anything is a subjective experience, and too many people try to fit "INTPism" into a definitive box when they first learn of its rational nature. It's annoying. But these pictures describe it pretty well (which is probably why they are so humorous) - that first one especially cracks me up. I wonder if this is how I normally appear to others in a crowded room.... I'm pretty sure I do.

Since this is primarily a theologically-oriented blog, I'll throw an interesting biblical reference in here. Bet you can't guess which person in the Bible is generally thought of in connection with the INTP type!

Have you made your guess? Okay. Now I'll tell you. It's Doubting Thomas. What a nickname, eh? The skeptic. Yep...that's me!
So...apart from your occupation, what do you do? And/Or what is your Myers-Briggs personality type?