Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Lyrics in English:

The memory is lost, it all starts all over again
I forget the stone, and turn back to stumble,
Fear, selfishness, racial prejudice
And there's always gonna be a story to justify it

That we're different, I'm not objecting to that
I respect your beliefs, your way of thinking
But I'm sure of one thing and you can't deny it
That we are all children of the same Dad

Who gives me life?
Papadio (Papa = dad, dio=gave--I'll let you come to your own conclusions)
Who blesses me?
Who gives me the moon?
Good fortune?

That money is really good, I'm not gonna deny it
And that everybody likes it is pure truth
But it doesn't compare to your way of love
And there are things in life that can't be compared

They want to forget morality
[next line--not sure]
We go back again
To what a little memory would have saved us from


I find you in a smile and in the eyes of my children
In the sunrise and in the cry or a friend
The body of a woman that makes me say your name
And the song of my people that makes me cry out, ay hombre

The end of war
Peace in my land
My shield and my spear
All my hope

Don't dwell on the things that can hurt you
[this line, not sure']
It's better to keep your mind on things here
Where it can still be fixed
That a little bit of love could save us.

(p.s. I tend to translate clumsily and there are a lot of expressions I'm just not familiar with so if you speak/understand Spanish, feel free to correct me or let me know a better way to say it. Thanks!)

'point of you'

Wrote that without thinking when I meant to write 'point of view' earlier. Love fun phonetic mistakes like that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

painting on a rainy day

Second attempt at painting since middle school. If you turn it sideways and cover up the words it kind of looks like something out of Lord of the Ring (at least to me). The other attempt today was supposed to be a hurricane (but made of light?) but my friend mistook it for "birth from the baby's point of view." So no painting number two on here.

Something I've discovered, though. I don't really care much about painting actual things, I just like colors. But I'll tell you, it's the most engrossing thing I've done in a long time. So we'll see.

Monday, December 13, 2010

(almost) winter light

Looked up from what I was doing and the whole apartment was filled with yellow light. Turns out this is why:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

cele doua cuvinte

A few weeks ago this song was introduced to me (it's in Romanian, but the video below has English subtitles although you should really click this version as well, because that actual music video is pretty funny). I put it in my favorites on youtube and so since I'm usually listening to those songs on shuffle while I'm working on stuff, I've heard it a bunch of times. It's pretty catchy.

So being the language nerd that I am (and having this song stuck in my head pretty frequently), I decided to write some new lyrics to it while keeping some of the old. Forgive the bad grammar. And the rough translation. I'm still learning.

Sunt femeie, da eu sunt complicat
Nu sunt deloc simplu; ce-am in minte am s-in gura
Spun deschis tot ce gandesc, tot timpul
[the next three lines aren't finished]
[this one representing the second line]
[and the third--easier to follow along?]

Refren: Si sa stii ca eu
Eu incerc dar nu prea reusesc
Cred ca nu e specific femeiesc
Totusi, o sa-ncerc sa iti spun... [nimic! nothing! silence! aha]

Sunt femeie, nu sunt genetic structurat
Sa nu spun nimic. Adevarat.
Si sunt convins ca le fel s-a-ntamplat
Si cu aia dinaintea mea
Toti stramosii mei au avut de cusut, de spalat, de gatit
Puisor si varza, si mamaliga, numai cu cainele le-au vorbit
Pe scurt, la sfarsitul zilei: foarte multe cuvinte


Si nu-inteleg de ce nu-mi acorzi credit nici macar cat un TV
Care sa-l asculti chiar daca esti obosit
Pe bune, nu stii ce vrei. E suficiente sa te uite in ochii mei.


In the end: Bah, nu pot!! Buna, ce mai faci? Eu sunt bine, am mers la... ecc.

English version (rough):
I'm female, yes I'm complicated
I'm not at all simple; what's in my mind is in my mouth too
I speak openly about everything I think, all the time
[line one]
[line two]
[line three.. don't have them in english either]

And you know that I
I try but I don't really succeed
I don't think it's specifically female (btw this line I have a hard time translating.. not so sure)
However, I'll try to say: [nothing! silence!]

I'm female, I'm not genetically structured
To not say anything. Truth!
And I'm convinced the same happened
With those before me (again not sure about the last two lines)
All my ancestors had to sew, to clean, to cook
Chicken and cabbage and mamaliga, with only the dog to talk to!
In short: there are so many words in my head!


And I don't understand why you don't even give me as much credit as a TV
Which you'll listen to even if you're tired
Really, you don't know what you want! It's enough to look in my eyes.


In the end: I can't! Heeeey, what's up? I'm good, today I went... etc.

Hope you have as much fun with this as I'm having!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

language-related musings

I was reading an article today and came across the Latin words imago dei. Most of you will probably already know this (I didn't), but it means "image of God." "Imago" surely means image. But ''dei"--something about it, maybe the ei in it, made me think of Romanian, of the way the genitive is formed.

And sure enough, just as an example, (a) god of hope is written (I think) "(un) dumnezeu sperantei."

This language has so much Latin influence. Perhaps this is another?

because i need constant reminding

**Just to correct it, I see I managed to write 4 instead of 14. It's 1 Cor. 16:14

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Thought this was interesting. Also a very American way of looking at it:

There is some serious mythmaking here to be sure, as Langewiesche pushes his thesis that the site "was a turbulent and quarrelsome place, it was also courageous and creative, an authentic piece of American ground." In other words, the work at Ground Zero was the most American of endeavors -- manly, improvisational and democratic to the core -- a place where a good idea and a penchant for self-sacrifice created a true, brute meritocracy."
--Paul McLeary in a review of American Ground, a book about the infrastructural side and clean-up of 9/11

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

the whole world

Just now, I was half asleep listening to a sermon from the church I'll be attending, and all of a sudden the pastor was saying (loudly and with fervor):

"Atat de mult a iubit Dumnezeu 'lumea'--nu 'biserica.'"

In other words, for God so loved the whole world, not just the church. It woke me up, got my attention. Lying here in my bed, listening to those words in a language that is not my own, I'm thinking about how beautiful a thing that is. And one day I will be in Romania because God loved the whole world, because he loved Egypt and Israel, the US and Romania.

I am reminded that it is not just the students of OSCEB I will be serving, but the campuses. There's so much in this and my mind is going so quickly now I doubt I'll be able to fall back asleep, but suddenly, despite the longing to be there, I am reminded of how deeply our God loves Romanian students and that is more even than enough.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

from my notebook

And about waiting: I wrote in a prayer update today that I thought this might be a season of waiting--that sounds very Christian-y, but it made me think of Psalm 130:5-7: "I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption."

This is wonderful on so many levels. When I wrote 'his word' just now it made me think of his word, his promise to me: "Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised." My hope is in the Lord for him to fulfill that promise, but what is wonderful is that it doesn't end there.

Fund raising is not the end-all. The Lord is the ultimate, his unfailing love, his full redemption. It doesn't end at eighty or 100%--this excites me, makes me look forward to a whole lifetime of relationship with my God. Even as he is going to fulfill this promise, this thing that seems so huge and hardly possible to me right now--he is so much bigger and gets into all of my life. And even when we try to compartmentalize it, turn it into, as my friend Patrick said, a 'functional savior,' he won't be contained, and neither will his love for us. Neither will his redemption. That is awesome news, friends.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Taking a sort-of break from blogging for a little while, but in the meantime I'll still be posting quotes. This one, from a book about the history of the Balkans:

"The truth is that while for many centuries religious coexistence was undoubtedly more accepted under the Ottomans than almost anywhere in Christendom, there was certainly no sense of religious equality. If there was no ethnic conflict, it was not because of 'tolerance' but because there was no concept of nationality among the Sultan's subjects, and because Christianity stressed the 'community of believers' rather than ethnic solidarity."
--Mark Mazower

Friday, October 8, 2010


Uncrowd my heart, O God,
until silence speaks
in Your still small voice;
turn me from the hearing of words,
and the making of words,
and the confusion of much speaking,
to listening,
--Ester de Waal

Monday, October 4, 2010

i love my city

Sitting in the Union breezeway, the one where both sides are nothing but windows all the way across, all that light. Eating a bagel and reading, probably writing soon. I found my SD adapter early this morning and was able to pull a bunch of pictures off of my phone, some from as far back as my sophomore year. It was nice to look through them all, and now, looking out over the campus in the quiet, there's this one, from my last day of classes ever.

And I wouldn't be from anywhere else.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"God is in the rain"

It's a quiet morning in the office. And it's been raining for four days, our city making national headlines, 21.28 inches of water that have fallen already. For tomorrow they've forecasted sunshine, the rain finally stopping sometime late tonight as another system stalls above us. But I'm in no hurry. Let it rain.

I was thinking about the rest of it, the part before about all the tension washing away, and while I'm content to think it through with metaphors, I find that the reality is whenever I walk back inside it's still there, that even two feet of rain doesn't help when I'm not out in it. I feel like Don Miller:

"Will we be forever in fleshing this out? . . . I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this alter of dying and dying again."

Relationships are so hard, and I'm afraid I'm not naturally good at them. Maybe none of us are--I don't mean to say whether we are, only this tension or brokenness or sin, whatever name you give it, rears its head in these small spaces between people. And maybe the promixity gives it better hold. But it is hard to love my sister, it is hard to love my brother.

And then I come back to the metaphor, to the rain: words like wash--you see? It is true, and it has all been washed away, I am free from this. Words like Paul's in his letter to the Romans: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." But also: "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life."

These words are true. I could stand outside in the downpour and scrub until my skin turned raw and red, till even the water on my skin burned and still I wouldn't be able to do it myself. Here I can hardly help thinking of Eustace the boy-dragon in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But then, all the water running off me, I realize it already has been washed off--not by me--and what's left is that I must go back inside and practice this loving, this forgiveness, or it miscarries.

I want to love well. And then, sometimes, I don't--I'd rather be angry. I'd rather say: you were wrong, and you don't deserve this, all the while fully admitting these same things about myself. I was wrong too, I don't deserve this either, but it's easy to be angry. And it's hard, even after forgiving someone, to keep coasting on that momentum. But then we weren't meant to, and it's got to be again and again, every day.

One more quote, by Brian Andreas, and I can hear my beautiful roommate saying it to me, reminding me: "How many people can you love before it's too much she said & I said I didn't think there was any real limit as long as you didn't care if they loved you back." It's easy when it's easy, and it's hard when it's hard.

What's left? Well. It's still raining, harder than it was earlier. And I still don't want it to stop, not quite yet anyway, but I do want to go outside in it, for reasons entirely different than Monday's. The rain can't do it and even the metaphor forces me to see the reality more clearly, but the rain reminds me. Don Miller again: ". . . we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this great gravity that drew Him, unto us."

Monday, September 27, 2010

rain and joy

Today it rained and rained and rained. I woke up last night, rain against the glass and thunder shaking the blinds. I wanted to watch it but I was warm and listened for a minute as I fell back to sleep, thanking God for the lightning, the thunder. Funny how much more naturally I find myself thanking God when I'm half asleep.

Alicia and I went to the store this morning in the middle of one of the downpours, everything gray and under water. The sky let go. And we let go, too. I rolled my pants up and took off my shoes and we ran across the parking lot, funny little knee-high bounds in the water up to our shins. By the time we left the store, it was nearly to our knees.

It hasn't rained in so long here and it's been badly needed. It's started back up again and all I want to do is go stand in it, run and jump and laugh and let it wash everything away. Tension runs off, swept into the current and you'll never catch it. I'm surprised again and again by how much I love this city, how it can storm and I realize how beautiful it is all over again. Even in the middle of a parking lot, nothing green or expansing for miles. Just rain and joy.

Thrice's song In Exile is playing now, and how appropriate. But even as there's a storm or a mountain, even as my heart longs to be home some days, I find that I love this place too. If it's just a 'glimmer in a shadowy mirror' now, and through it my heart is filled to bursting, I can hardly imagine standing in front of the real thing. The way the rain is washing the tension away, there it will be stripped away, replaced by awe and worship.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

letters from the county jail

I got a letter from my brother a few days ago. He wished me a happy birthday, said he hadn't forgotten. I'd written him about a week before that, telling him all the things you say in letters, that are better articulated on paper, and then I folded him an origami dinosaur. When I do things with my hands, anything using fine motor skills, I become completely absorbed in it, very focused. It's a trait I share with Josh. When he was little he had to go to an occupational therapist because he was developmentally delayed in regard to his fine motor skills. When he wrote--and still today--it required every bit of concentration, and somewhere along the way I began to imitate it, picked up the habit.

It's been cooling down some here--not much, but enough to make the mornings and evenings suggestive of a coming Fall. And I've been walking everywhere. To campus, to work, all across town. After I got his letter from the mailbox, I read it at a picnic table and then I walked. For the last week my brother has been associated with long, late afternoon, end of summer light, the sort of light that hangs in the air.

The thing about all this movement is it's freeing me up to think about one thing without all the distractions. If my hands and arms are completely engaged by the task of cutting perfectly straight lines or untangling beads, my mind is left to move however and wherever, but more intentionally. My brother is the opposite: by concentrating on the physical task at hand, he can quiet his mind in ways I've never been able to.

And so all this walking, all this movement, keeps my mind on a boy who, right now, I know in letters. His handwriting, wobbly like he hasn't got much control of it, is the same as it always was, only smaller. Funny the inverse: he's the same as he always was, only bigger. And I feel like I can only know him through the screen of paper, like when we were kids, only the screen then was made of something our mom left behind.

I'm thinking of an essay by Tim O'Brien. I can't remember what it's called, but he's talking about a little girl he loved when he was a little boy, a girl who had (I think) a tumor. And when he writes about her, or about himself, writing out memories he'd imagined those years ago, he says he realizes it is as Tim, writing to save Timmy's life with a story. And the origami, like paper cranes, a thousand paper dinosaurs. My brother wants me to write him a story about when we were kids, about all the things he remembers. And I feel like Tim O'Brien, writing to save his life, writing hoping that when I put the pen down and look up I'll see the big Josh with all the things I hoped he might have, all the hope in the world embodied in what he could have been, what he could still be. There are so many things I can't do for him, things he must do. But I can write. To him, for him, movement that doesn't stop.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

embracing the white american in me (or at least reconciling with it)

Something I've been thinking some about lately is the whole idea of being okay with being American. I was talking to someone I know recently, mostly about her experience in India and mine in Romania, what coming back was like, and I mentioned how when I first came back from Colombia I hated 'America,' didn't want to be American or have anything to do with anything American. I have since reconciled with it (well, most days) and she said she was still working on it. And since then I've been thinking about the whole process.

On the one hand, there are still plenty of things about this culture and my government that frustrate me, things with which I want no association. But there are things about Christianity that make me feel the same way--there are plenty of people who never become Christians for this reason, but I'm not going to denounce what I believe because other people represent it badly. Among other reasons, it would just be bad logic. The analogy here isn't perfect. I don't believe in 'America' (usually prefer to say the United States, being so close to South America--I don't think the distinction will be as important from Europe) the way I believe in God, nor am I a follower of the US in the sense of being a follower of Jesus. And of course American is such a broad idea anyway. In some ways I identify more as Southern and, as they say, this is the mixing bowl/salad bowl/melting pot. But there are absolutely ways I'm very American and I could list them but they don't really further the point.

And on the other, it's very easy to go somewhere and come back hating all things American (or non-American, depending on your experience), but there is an attitude I've noticed with it--both in myself and in others--that's akin to people who are really stuck up about English humor vs. American humor (not saying having a preference makes you stuck up--it's the attitude with which you go about it), or people who like only books that are considered literature or are in the classic canon vs. fantasy or popular fiction or whatever. This, I would like to say, does only appear to be part of it and there are legitimate reasons for disliking or not agreeing with some aspects of our culture, but I feel like this is an attitude it often swings to before (hopefully) leveling out. STIM would call it red-lining. And that was absolutely me.

Combine all this with a now more-resolved issue of identity to be called: ethnic envy. I came to college confused as heck. Grew up in the rural, white South. Lived with a black family for a few years. Found out a couple years ago that, while I have no claim to the culture, I'm ''ethnically'' half-French (whatever that means, but to be more precise, of the Mediterranean variety)--this sort of thing has led to lots of questions over the years and a few conversations with strangers that began in some other language. But as the answer comes from a whole history that was absent for twenty years and I knew nothing about it/could only speculate until two years ago, it feels a little illegitimate.

And on top of all this, a love of 'culture' which seems to exclude me simply by the virtue of being a white American (the important word, of course, being seems). I've seen related, similar things happen to my roommate: a half-Colombian who is light skinned and light eyed, who ''doesn't look Hispanic." Or a friend from middle school who is ethnically Korean, second generation, and only speaks English, and here the identity issue comes. So what you come to the surface with (or at least I did) is a predisposition toward dropping my own 'non-culture' in favor of ones I like better or maybe identify with more strongly. But the fact is, regardless of what my country does and how I feel about it, I am a white American and there is value in that. Or better, it stands equally with others in its own way of pointing us to our true country. Does that make sense?

I went to Romania with all of this. And I don't remember when exactly, but early on in the trip one of my friends and I were having a conversation and she said something to the effect of it being no accident that she was born in Romania, is Romanian, and that there was a reason God did it that way. I found out later that she was making an entirely different point saying it, but what I understood, what stuck with me led to this. I am American not by some accident, it being as worth as much as being born anywhere/anything else. And he'll use that as surely as he'll use the abilities he gave me.

And when I step outside of the issues of politics and policies and maybe of certain cultural values, I see that it becomes something like a little kid wishing she had brown hair instead of red (although to be fair, I think it it's at least as much an internal thing as external). And in our values, once we start to examine what are ours because they are our culture's/family's/religion's, I think we do have some freedom to choose. The issue then is stereotyping, and carrying the stamp of something you don't want to be represented by and by no means is that limited to whiteness nor is it easily prevented. The remaining response is to represent Christ well from whatever the background and know that those things aren't mutually exclusive. In Romania I'll learn things and bring things.


Friday, September 17, 2010

growing upward (and out of oneself)

I've been reading Surprised By Joy the last few days, and yesterday morning I woke up and finished it, and a day and a half later I'm still reeling. I'd started this book twice before, and now, having read to the end I'll say that this is by far my favorite of C. S. Lewis' nonfiction. The joy he's talking about is probably best summarized by another quote (I've posted here before, a while ago) from The Weight of Glory:

"When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as the 'journey homeward to the habitual self.' You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We are mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been welcomed, accepted, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can. 'Nobody marks us.' ... The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longings to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret."

It's more like longing than what we typically think of when we hear the word joy. But what really struck me wasn't his description of his experience with joy, or even that he had experienced it--surely we've all felt it, that yearning, that feeling of being on the edge of something so tremendous, and in any case I couldn't do it justice by describing it. If you know it, you'll know my describing it won't do much unless it brings you to the place where you meet joy (which probably isn't reading my blog--here I want to quit writing and climb a mountain, maybe read Life of Pi on its peak).

What struck me was this: he found himself pursuing the feeling that brush with joy gave him--inevitably this led him to God, the ultimate source of this joy. But before he understood that, he was running after the feeling it left behind. If I remember, the illustration is the place where the water rushes back to the ocean, a picture of the something left in the wake versus the thing that leaves the wake. And I feel like C. S. Lewis has caught me square in the act, red-handed as I can be.

And it's exactly what I've been doing. Hoping it cools down so I can go outside and 'get that feeling' but the brighter, clear light of Fall, or walking down by the ocean at night, the coolness and the lights, and then I could write about it. Before, I'd suddenly be overwhelmed--not because I was looking to be--and now it isn't about the way those things are beautiful, it's about the way that beauty might make me feel. And it completely misses the point, cheapens it, and meanwhile everything gets spoiled by the introspection.

If this leads me to frustration over lack of so-called 'inspiration,' or whatever it might be called, and if I'm worried that I don't write things that I feel deeply, that stir something like it in other people, I think, what am I doing? And I've missed it completely, I've zoomed in too closely, and that on the wrong thing. It's like trying to conjure up the passion for evangelism without caring to really know God. So. Time to step back, scrap all the pieces I'm trying to fit together, all these bits like junk metal I'm trying to melt into gold. Don't I realize even if I make gold it's still only reflecting light? Can't I just see that the light is beautiful, that it's warm, that it grows us upward out of darkness? (Meanwhile spreading outward, not inward.)

I hope this makes sense. There's another part toward the end of the book where he talks about the conversion to Christianity bringing us out of ourselves, and it's like a whole other layer of salvation for the introverted among us. By the way, I realize that writing about all of this kind of defeats the purpose and this sort of thing is probably best done in a notebook no one else sees, but I hope it's helpful. Surprised By Joy has already been helpful for me--actually, you should just read that. It's wonderful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


"It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but desire for what? not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even (though that came into it) for my own past. 'Іοϋλίαν ποθω*--and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing that had just ceased....And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible--how can one possess Autumn?) but to reawake it."
--C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy

*Oh, I desire too much!

Monday, September 13, 2010


"Faith relaxes in the vision you have seen and turns the timetable over to God. After all, a promise is a promise."
--Larry Stockstill, via a friend

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I finally finally finally finished The Last Battle. It was hard to get through for the first half and then I misplaced it for a while. I read through the last half or so this weekend and I could barely put it down. Not my favorite, but thinking about it the part that's stuck with me is about Emeth. In the book, he is from another country besides Narnia and has grown up serving the god Tash, seeking after him his whole life. At the center of the book is the plot an Ape takes to set up a false Aslan (puts a lion skin on him and tells everyone he's the real Aslan), and as part of that they say that Aslan and Tash are the same god by different names. Emeth, hoping to find the Tash he's always been looking for, goes where they've told him he is and meets Aslan.
"[Aslan said], Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yes I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek."
Love this. I was so scared at first, afraid that it was going to say something like all roads lead to God. However, what C. S. Lewis did say reminded me a lot of what Rob Bell says: "I affirm the truth anywhere in any religious system, in any worldview. If it's true, it belongs to God." Now, I know this is a very slippery slope, one that with a little bit of off-kilter logic can turn this into something that defends the all roads lead to God deal. And I've said before that I've always been a little hesitant with Rob Bell's stuff. But I do love what this gets at, and the way C. S. Lewis says it drives it home. I've tried to restate it for fifteen minutes now, but it's no use. And C. S. Lewis says it a hundred times better anyway.

This gives me hope. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what I mean, but it has something to do with Emeth's desire for wisdom and understanding, in the way he sought what was true. The word that comes to mind here is earnest, maybe sincere. And of course honesty and truth can be synonymous with sincerity. It's what he said: "For all find what they truly seek." And Jeremiah, too: "
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (29:13)

Monday, September 6, 2010

boys? we don't need no stinkin' boys

I went to Charlotte for the first time this weekend, mainly to do some support raising stuff, but it was a lovely few days. We met up with a few of friends of my friend and spent Saturday night hanging out at an outdoor mall and then we drove into the suburbs, climbed on a playground and talked in the dark under the chill. It felt like high school in so many ways, the good way and the kind that makes you glad you're not sixteen any longer. It was strange because these were the same people I hung out with in high school, the exact sort, and while on the one hand it was looking back on myself six years, on the other I felt old, a little out of place. In terms of supporting myself, I've felt like an adult for years, and it seems while I can jump back in well enough and still act my age, there is a gap bigger than I might have supposed. It was a good time. And it was weird. And it kept the people-watching, INTP analyzer in my head busy for hours.

On the way back home we had some car trouble. Now, neither of us are strangers to cars acting whack. Kaila wanted to show me where she went to school and we were driving around on some gravel and when we got back onto asphalt we bottomed out really badly. So we stopped, looked under the car, made sure nothing was leaking or hanging off, said we'd stop if it started making crazy noises, and kept driving.

Well. We made it to the other side of the school before crazy noises did indeed start being made, so we stopped again, popped the hood, made a few calls (yes, her dad did come out). At first we figured it was a belt--sounded like it, and the sound was timed exactly with it. But then we realized there was basically no oil in it, so we put some in, went to Target and then put some more in. By the time we were at Target her dad had left and a husband carrying his little girl and his wife behind him came up and offered to help, which was super nice, but we were pretty pleased with ourselves. Felt slightly masculine carrying the empty oil bottles back to the trash can, but more like 'we got this! We don't need no stinkin' boys!'

And on top of all that, who knows what might come of the support meeting this Sunday. So we'll see.

Friday, September 3, 2010

the worst of earl

Actually it was rather pretty. Nice little breeze.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

hurricane earl

Last night, Hurricane Earl maybe a few hundred miles off the coast, a few of us went down to the beach. Yesterday evening you could see the storm coming in some ways. There were faster moving, higher clouds, wispy like pulled-apart cotton, catching pink light way high up. And it was breezier--maybe it's my imagination or maybe you start to sense this sort of thing after years of hurricanes, but you could tell it was coming. It was clear for miles yesterday, less humidity than there's been, and so all day I was thinking about how it must have been before there were forecasts and weather.com, when one day it was blue and calm, then the wind picked up, and then the sky got dark. I wonder what the pilgrims thought when the first hurricane hit them.

Yesterday it was beautiful, and last night even moreso. Over the ocean in one direction it was so dark you couldn't see the horizon, but above us, between the fast strips of clouds, stars and stars and stars. And so we stood by the water, warm tropical breeze, watching what we could of the water but mostly listening. This part of the beach is at the end of a barrier island, right where the sound meets the ocean. There's a jetty to the left if you're looking out over the water and so it forms something like a cove. This isn't exactly the right word, but it's normally small and calm like a lake, still enough that at its calmest I've gone night swimming and have been able to see my feet waist deep with the moonlight. Last night the waves were slamming against the jetty, onto the shore. This sounds silly, but to stand on the edge of a continent waiting for a tremendous, powerful storm, the wind spinning off it, obscuring the southeastern horizon--well, perspective and scope are turned on their sides. I felt this way watching the Andes as we drove through them, winding past a mountain bigger than anything I've seen before. What am I next to an ocean and a sky that can churn up something so vast?

All that said, the ten year old in me who wanted to be a meteorologist--something for which I have hurricanes to thank--has been watching this storm since this weekend, hoping it heads this way. It looks like it's going to pass a few miles too far east of us to do much more than give us a squally, rainy night. But the plan is to open the blinds of our sliding glass door and lie on our backs watching the pines toss above the roofs, to keep an eye on the small river that tends to form between the apartments. If we get enough rain, I worry about flooding around the city. And if the power goes out, we have a few candles that smell like Christmas to further confuse our senses. It may miss us, it may not, and it's about twelve hours out from knowing. So we'll see. More to come!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people in the world. I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe."
--Neil Gaiman (here's the xkcd of this)

Regular posting to resume forthwith. And it might even be about Hurricane Earl if it moves just a few miles farther west...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

middle ground

Today I had to swing by campus and let me tell you, it is a strange feeling being surrounded by students and being barely graduated myself. I'm stuck in the middle here. I'm graduated, I'm even (almost) staff, but most of my friends are still students and I'm hardly older than them. Yet there's a clear gap between me and these students I don't know, whether self-imposed or otherwise, and it says: peer is no longer the right word.

And it is all over the place lately that I feel like I'm in limbo. I'm not a student anymore, but I'm not yet working on campus. Although we're praying for the miracle it would take to get me fully funded in time to leave mid-September, I'm not certain when I'll be leaving. I can't put down anymore roots here--I'm leaving--but I can't put them down in Romania yet, either. When I got back last summer, through lots of prayer and awesome wise people, I learned how important it was for me to be where I was, to seek the Lord in that place and time. No living for the future or the past or anything like that, but asking the question, how can God be glorified in what I'm doing here?

But this is hard without a definite amount of time here. And I realize that as uncomfortable as this sometimes makes me feel, it is no accident. There's no plan for me to lean on. There's only the Lord. I know that maybe this is old news, and it's not that I've never relied on him, but this constant process of turning to him, holding onto him and having no other comfortable thing in which to place my trust--it reminds me again and again of who he is and allows him to become bigger in my life than he's ever been. Whether or not it's old news, it's good news.

I thought about calling this post ''holding pattern'' or something like it, but then I realized that while the picture looks more or less right, the connotations are totally wrong. There is no stagnancy, there is no lack of progress, but rather an abundance of it. For me this means he is preparing and changing me for the fulfillment of a promise--I couldn't tell you when (although still praying and hoping for mid-September), but I can tell you I know he'll get me to Romania.

So now to turn it outward, at long, long last: I wonder about this middle ground. It's not the jobs we're trying to secure, it's not the marriages many of us hope for, maybe it's not the hopes or plans we had. Perhaps God is still leading us toward these things, and perhaps not. I swear he loves to surprise and trick us into better things--my foster mom used to always say "God ain't no fool" and, no kidding, some of the best things he's done in my life only happened because he's smarter than me and I didn't see it coming, would never have guessed it.

And then, maybe it is those places, our jobs or families. Maybe in the things we thought were secure, that we'd understand everything and it would all click, he's revealing even more how much we need him. But this middle ground, it is fertile ground, let me tell you. I'm willing to bet when I ''land'' in Romania it will feel even more like this--I'll be able to put down roots in a way I'm not able to right now, but it will be unfamiliar and certainly more than ever they will have to go through him. This is the point, yes?

It's getting way too muddled with metaphors at this point, but it's like being repotted. You are a plant, and you've been in a pot. So then God removes you and you must root yourself in him or you will die (or at least get all shriveled and crunchy). But when you root yourself in life, Life with a capital L, you grow and thrive and live forever. Seems like a good end of the deal to be on, to me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

too much quiet, too much thinking

My third roommate got home a few hours ago after being gone for the whole summer and so already I'm looking toward lots of movement, lots of activity. It's good and I'm excited for her to be back, for both the new dynamic and especially because I missed her. That said, another person around the house and all the students coming back and it's suddenly way more people-busy than it has been in months. I've spent the last two months meeting one-on-one with people and sending more emails/making more phone calls than I think I ever have in my life, but apart from meetings, most of that work has been alone at the table in my living room.

Last week before church, I drove a few miles farther south and planned to spend an hour or two on the beach just sitting and thinking in the quiet before the chaos of Sundays and the next months to come. It didn't actually work out like I thought since it ended up getting hotter earlier than I expected and I conked out and woke up sticky from the sun, so then I headed to a coffee shop and drank a hot chocolate, reading and thinking.

I was thinking this weekend how being alone here will probably be different than in Romania. Here, as much as I love hanging out with people and talking till all hours of the night, I could probably go all day without seeing anyone and not realize it. So at first I was thinking this will probably make the first part of living there (or probably more specifically when I move from Bucuresti to Pitesti) a little easier in that I don't need to have a ton of friends around me and do fine without it which will make the transition easier. I do want to be clear: I'm not a hermit, and I really do love and want to be around people. I just don't need to very much. But then it occurred to me that being alone here where I'm comfortable and do have community will be very different than being alone in a very foreign place. Just something I'm thinking about, though. Wondering what it will look like--maybe now is a good time to kick back into what's been this summer my Sunday-only, super social Sarawr mode.

Also, not related, but some verses, both of which have pretty neat/crazy stories I'll have to tell later about how I found them (or maybe I should say how they found me):

"Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.'" Jeremiah 24:4-7. And then,

"This is what the LORD says: 'Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,' declares the LORD. 'They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your future,' declares the LORD. 'Your children will return to their own land.'" Jeremiah 31:16-17

I've been thinking and praying about the first one for a couple of weeks and then, bam!, today the second one. I know it's no accident or coincidence, and as I'm praying about what I'm supposed to understand from these, as there are a million possible interpretations and applications my mind jumps to, I realize that this summer has been full of God's promises. There is the promise that he will get me to Romania, and who knows when, but he will. There's the promise of good plans and provision for a whole lifetime and longer, and a reminder of who he is rather than what the details of next month will look like. And preparation, and a million other things, and then these verses, which I'm certain I'll be looking back on in thirty years in awe, telling stories about the good and mighty Lord.

Another thought about trying to understand Scripture: how do I go from saying 'how does this bit of Scripture fit into my life' to 'how do I submit my life to the authority of this bit of Scripture'? Any experience I've had with this has always been the observe-interpret-apply approach--and this has been incredibly helpful. But it occurred to me today that instead of being bogged down by introspection that perhaps it would be like worship in the same way that worship is freeing because it's not about me--and less limiting. Just thoughts though. This is for another blog. And until then--

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"where you invest your love, you invest your life"

Back in May when Rockbridge was over I found myself very suddenly on the other side of something that had been a--well, I'm not even sure what to call it. I mean everything InterVarsity was for me. They took care of me and I cared for them and it's funny how this group of people and everything that it was is something I could never find one descriptor for. Just living, moving. What surprised me, though, what brought on the feeling of suddenness was that I realized that all the things I especially cared about for my friends were things I couldn't work at with them anymore. That's not fully true--but I am graduated and it looks different.

The last couple of nights, my roommate and I have been talking about evangelism and everything to do with that that she'll be leading for the next semester. Leaving that was probably the part of graduating that made me most hesitant--everything else I'll miss, but this I still want so much for. And after two years of leading this, even in the months since graduating I'm understanding things I didn't before.

Last night we talked about how it seems so often (in the context of our experiences with students on an extremely passive campus in a very nominally Christian part of the country) we're forcing this on people and how evangelism shouldn't be a checklist of things to get through and then be done with or something we have to do. And I thought about how when you love something, wherever your heart it, that's what comes out all the time. I have friends who love music, who you can't have a conversation with without them bringing it up. And I have other friends whose conversations always come back to a boy or a girl. I talk about Romania all the time. I don't mean to say that these things are being put in front of God or anything like that--how do I know?--only that wherever your heart is, whatever's in it, it pours out.

What if it were like this with God? I think ''evangelism'' would be so much more natural if it were--conversations about him would come up more naturally and it wouldn't be so much something we are obligated to do but something we just spill over with. What if evangelism weren't a heavy word with too many negative connotations, but instead was a synonym for God being the center of our lives, our very identity, and all that that implies? What if basing your whole life out of the knowing and loving of God were the definition of evangelizing? I think the way this looks is not limited by any means to the traditional sense of open air preaching or going door-to-door or handing out Bibles. You are passionate about the environment and it shows--so with whatever you care about. If you are passionate about the Lord then evangelism is in some ways is the natural by-product (barring things like being nervous or afraid or whatever challenge).

Why would I buy something from someone who didn't believe in the product? (The double meaning with the word believe is unfortunate here because a lot of the times the issues with motivation and evangelism aren't that we don't believe in God but that we don't know him or want to. Also, the metaphor about buying and selling and calling it a product is kind of unfortunate too... but bear with me.) And how could I ever expect someone to ''sell'' something their heart isn't in? Of course they're going to do the minimum requirement, of course they're going to want checklists and feel like it's an obligation. It's like in Walk the Line when Johnny is trying to sell whatever he's selling door to door--he just ends up going back to music and the recording studio. Well, of course. It's what he loves. He doesn't love washing machines, or whatever he's selling.

I'm thinking of Isaiah 43:10. "'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no other god was formed, nor will there be one after me.'" So that you may know and believe me (yet it doesn't say 'that the rest of the world will know me' or 'so all the people who aren't Christians will know me'). He chose us as his servants and witnesses--evangelism is this, yes? Saying this is who the Lord is, this is what he has done, and we have to want to know him, we have to be on that road that probably won't ever end toward knowing him. Not that we can muster it up ourselves, and this explains so much. If evangelism is the end, if stepping into "the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 2:20) is the end that we're trying to get to, we won't ever really because our heart won't ever be there. The end has to be the Lord, it has to be knowing the Lord and loving him and when he's where our heart's at, it's not an obligation anymore. It's in everything we do. And I wonder if, when we start running after God and longing to know him better, we'll find ourselves living evangelism instead of just doing it. I think we're meant to live it. This makes me think of part of a song by Mumford & Sons: "Where you invest your love, you invest your life."

This is all a jumble and it's by no means exhaustive and certainly this comes out of a very specific context with specific challenges (and things that have been helpful as well). I've been learning all this over two years and I don't expect to be done learning any time soon--I want to know what you think, how you understand evangelism. Tell me your thoughts, people.

Monday, August 9, 2010

hey-o, galileo

The other day at work we spent the nearly all eight hours filing in the conference room, the radio playing the whole time. I'll admit I don't listen to the radio all that much--not because I'm picky about what I'll listen to but just because not having a car means the only music I listen to is on my computer--and so I don't think I'd heard any of the songs before. There was one that kept playing and I swore it was saying 'hey-o, Galileo!' and of course the actual lyrics were something entirely different, something like 'gotta let go,' but I liked my version and I kept singing it that way and the whole thing reminded me so much of high school I don't think I spent an hour of those eight in that room.

My sophomore and junior years the bus came to pick my neighbor Crazy Amy and me up at maybe 6:10 in the morning. I remember I'd head over to her house at a quarter till and we'd sit in her living room and watch MTV or VH1 while she got ready, switching the channel back to the one it was at before she turned it on so she wouldn't get caught having watched it (her mother would be gone in the mornings and I can't remember a time she wasn't grounded).

In the winter it would still be completely dark out that early so after we got ready we'd stand at the end of the driveway in the dark, just talking, looking up at a whole sky still spread out with stars, no sign of morning. Those bus rides were usually quiet before the sun came up, a sleepy, humming kind of quiet. And Amy and I were so different in so many ways but the tensions of growing up in ways that filled that silence to the very brim and no matter what people said, no matter how often they told me to spend my time with people who weren't in trouble, we were the same. We were clasped together by it.

She loved music, I remember. She introduced me to Guns N' Roses and Mötley Crüe and other bands that made the naysayers crazy. Somewhere around that time she shaved the bottom half of her hair and would alternate dying the top part pink and black. And her family brought me to Florida with them twice, trips that opened my eyes to the possibility of a world outside that I could be a part of, that I could learn.

I think about roots and I think about her and her music and how, sometimes on those dark mornings, our breath coming out like stars washed in streetlights a quarter mile away, she'd talk about her mom and I'd talk about mine. We didn't understand but it helped to say it, to stand on the gravel and listen to each other shift, waiting for the light to come out, hoping then we'd be able to see. Sometimes on the bus I'd borrow her cd player and while the whole sky lit up orange, fast wild sunrises the bus could never keep up with, I'd realize she'd taught me words to the songs that were all wrong. She'd change them when she'd write them out. And I understand now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

when there's a dinosaur in the kitchen...

My roommate and I cooked dinner last night, so as not to disappoint, we and the company lived up to our reputations. Lesson learned: not all Corning-ware is the same. But starting at the beginning:

We made shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta, cheese biscuits and some blackberry pie. I feel like I should be capitalizing. There was salad too, but of course we didn't make that. And we didn't catch the shrimp, but I know someone who could! Turns out what I did was actually baking again (I made the cheese biscuits--apparently this is a Red Lobster recipe) which only means I'll have to cook again sometime soon. They weren't
very pretty when they came out but that seems to be a baseline so far--looks a little crazy, tastes pretty good. It happened with my fish the other day. Always learning, I found out that microwaves have a defrost button! You don't just heat it up regularly or it will cook! But my little fish made it and still ended up being delicious. Some pictures from last night:

However, the real story is from after dinner. Our staff, upon thoroughly inspecting our dishware, told us that Corning plates do not break, that once he was in WalMart and a friend of his dropped one on the floor and all it did was make a lot of noise. So I was convinced to go into the kitchen and drop my plate--not throw it down, mind you, only drop it from about waist height--and prove that they're unbreakable. Now, these plates are glass. They aren't the thick kind and if you bang them against the table they sound like they might be made of something else.

And let me tell you, it shattered. You know in the movies when the glass window breaks into hundreds of pieces in slow motion and they all fly evenly in every direction? It's exactly what happened and it sounded like music and as soon as it was over the glass was behind me four steps up and all across the kitchen, everywhere but the little space where I was standing. I managed to get to the other side without cutting myself and took some more pictures. I'm thinking this was the best, wackiest way to end a night.

Monday, July 26, 2010

what light

I finished Voyage of the Dawn Treader last week and ever since then, walking around in the Wilmington sun, it's all I can think about. It was such a good book and there were so many moments reading when I had to put the book down for reeling. One moment in particular was when the character Eustace becomes a boy again. He'd been turned into a dragon and as he takes off his skin again and again, slides out of each layer it's never quite enough. Aslan tells him he'll have to do it for him and so he does and it hurts but afterward he washes himself and all of the dragon is gone but all that dragon made him into is still there. I think about how true this is for life, of the part in Blue Like Jazz when Don Miller talks about dying to oneself again and again every day, peeling back our skin but not being able to step out of it on our own. Then suddenly you're a boy again, but more fully boy then you've ever been before and less of a dragon than you were even before you turned into one.

But it's the bright sun that keeps bringing back to this book. The characters are on a ship sailing for the very edge of the world, as far east as they can go. And the closer they get to the end, the bigger the sun gets, the brighter it is. Their eyes grow stronger so that eventually they're able to look right into the sun and into all the light all around them--it uses specifically the word strong several times. They become stronger, more able to withstand and take in all the light.

As I was walking home from campus the other day it was so bright I could barely open my eyes at all and ended up going most of the way with my head bent down like walking into wind. My eyes have always been more sensitive to light (either that or I'm just so used to squinting that they don't know what to do all the way open), and I thought about how when I step outside the word you might use is adjust. My eyes adjust to the light.

I don't know if C. S. Lewis meant to differentiate between growing stronger, being better able to bear things and adjusting, but I keep thinking about it. How those of us who grew up through hard stuff and are functioning adults will laugh sometimes and say that we're just well-adjusted. But there's such a huge difference in that choice of words. My eyes have adjusted to the sun, so I am able to bear its brightness better--in this sense you could argue there's little difference between becoming stronger and better adjusted. But the sun doesn't stay as it is as they sail farther east. It becomes bigger and brighter and everything is shining, but still they can bear it.

So you have a pair of eyes adjusting the brightness of the sun and as long as that sun doesn't get any brighter, you can take more of it as it is, little by little. But if your eyes grow in strength even while the sun grows in brightness--well, this is so much bigger. "They could look straight up at the sun without blinking. They could see more light than they had ever seen before... And next morning, when the sun rose, now five or six times its old size, they stared hard into it and could see the very feathers of the birds that came flying from it."

When I think about growing through the things we live through, I want so much for it to be like this. I don't want it to be adjusting to a fixed thing, but rather becoming more able, becoming better beholders as the things around us grow more as well, as there becomes more to behold.

"They could see more light than they had ever seen before." I think it's something like this. I think it's meant to be so much like this.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the british are coming! the british are coming!

Right now as I type this I hear explosions coming from south of here. It sounds like our 4th of July fireworks display or like downtown is being bombed. I've looked online and there's nothing about fireworks and it sounds like the big kind, not the small whizzing ones you buy south of the border, and whatever it is has been going on for about fifteen minutes now. I feel like I should call people something like Paul Revere. Maybe not.

It's been crazy in this city today. I walked to campus around noon and at first it was nice. Except for walking to meetings and work, generally everything I've been doing with support raising has been inside so I'm afraid I haven't seen much sunlight lately. But there was a heat advisory today that I didn't know about and I sat one of my favorite benches on campus and forty minutes later, I felt wrung out. The truth is that I love the heat here. I love the humidity, how it's so thick sometimes, on days like today, and your lungs feel like sponges. It's also true we're using our air conditioning this summer, but I do love being out in it, the way the air suddenly becomes this thing you have to push through, the way pushing through curtains feels. This heat isn't the dry kind, either, the kind that feels like it might catch fire at any second and your skin burns just being out in it. You might feel like you're burning here, but it's a wetter, heavier hot. Think jungles, think submersion. It's oppressive sometimes, too much. But it's also like arms around you, being bundled in. Today the heat index was 107F. That's a little more than 41C.

And on top of that, two of the main water lines in the city burst. The last two days our entire neighborhood was without water because of construction and today we heard that now we have to boil it to drink it. It's a strange feeling. I remember running out of water after hurricanes when we were kids. The power and water would be gone for at least a week after the big ones and though we'd fill the bathtub with water, though we'd go days and days without showers, I can remember it running out and sitting under the elephant ears at my neighbor's house. It never got sun there and so the soil underneath was dark and moist and cool and we'd sit there drinking in the coolness, guzzling warm Dr. Thunder, the whole day passing in a haze.

I joked with my boss over skype the other day that it was good practice for missions in some parts of the world, all this heat and no water. And now that booming a few miles away. Tomorrow I expect I'll wake up and it'll be another hot day but nothing out of the ordinary, just life carrying on as usual. But this isn't bad either--with heat like this, you have to be still and watch and listen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

just a few thoughts about buses and accidents

Just a quick one to say I was reading earlier today about the bus accident in Fresno. In the first few days and weeks after the accident in Romania the only thought I really ever had was just that I couldn't believe it happened. It was a crazy story, and in that sense it felt like it might not have happened to us. I don't think about it all that often anymore except maybe if I'm in a car and we run off the road a little. Or like today, reading that article. And I realize what could have happened and how it makes no sense that it didn't.

When I was in Madison, there were people at the national office who'd heard about it that summer. The joke was that we flipped in a mini-bus down an embankment and then I decided to go back. But not one week after that, another mini-bus in Romania was hit by a train and it was way worse.

Now I've been in some crazy situations to do with transportation in other countries: in Colombia the tour bus we were in lost traction in the back tires over the side of a cliff where I think they were doing some kind of construction. I don't know how to describe it but you could feel a small, short drop and hear the tires spinning on what I imagine was loose gravel or dirt. It was night time and I was looking out at the lights in the valley way down below and I remember having a sort passing thought about if we did go over the edge, with the spotlight on the bus, it might look like a plane falling out of the sky. We didn't go over. The wheels caught and we kept driving and only a few old people seemed the least bit shaken up. And then later on the trip we were in a Chiva (like a small bus without doors or windows)
that caught on fire while we were driving down the mountain. It turns out the brakes went out and then the whole back lit up and we had to pull off the road without brakes and jump from it (all of this in Spanish, mind you).

So I'm not afraid of riding a mini-bus again and I don't want to be the kind of person who says lots of bad things about transportation in other countries. It actually kind of bothers me when people do that. And honestly I really don't think about any of these all that often, even the one in Romania, but days like today when I read something like that article, it just all comes back. There's not even a way to describe it beyond that, just that suddenly it's back and there isn't any wondering if it really happened.
Most of the time, if it were to come up, it feels like just another crazy story in a list of really crazy stories I have from my life. But it's real on days like today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

why carnivorous bipeds need to cook their food too

Let it be known that a small miracle has taken place here in the Wilmington heat! I've found myself wanting to cook lately, wanting to learn how to make certain things in the kitchen.

Alicia says: "Maybe it's God."
Sarawr responds: "Must be. I think it'd take an act of God. I want to make an egg."

The truth is it must be the heat. My brains are addled (see what I did there?). But let me explain. I did not grow up around people who cooked often, maybe once every two weeks if memory serves. My baby sitter cooked a lot as far as I can remember but we weren't allowed in the kitchen and so not only did I never learn but I never really developed any interest in it. Particularly since I was fed from a box most of my life and never did get out of the habit--but this is between us: there are certain American stereotypes I will gladly embrace (wink) and others I want nothing at all to do with, this being one of them.

Now, it was never really a problem. I always figured I could get away with it as long as I was only feeding myself, and except for when I was in Colombia and was helping some to feed my roommate's brothers and sister, it's been easy enough. But then there came the problem that one day I might have a family and they'll want to be fed. And I'll want to feed them and make them fat and happy. It wasn't ever a problem before because a) this is my second favorite video on youtube, b) marriage always did seem such a long way off. But now, while I am quite content about being single, learning to cook has been nudging at me. For the record, I'm not doing this to be more marriagable. That would be silly. But I figure being able to take care of people and keep them alive is a skill I ought to have.

That said, it's not actually what convinced me. I'm not sure what convinced me, those are just the head arguments I have. Why suddenly I want to go make eggs (which I can do, by the way, and they're not that bad) I have no idea. I'll tell you this: I love baking. It's the math of it. I like to pretend I'm in Potions class at Hogwarts. But cooking, less like math and more like art? I'm really not all that creative outside of maybe writing and being an INTP I can legitimize the penchant for systems and rules.

Aside: Alicia is now reading from the Julia Childs book (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) about how when she first got married she didn't know anything about cooking and Scott said, "Why did he marry her?" You see this? Terrible!

But that is where we are now. We've got this cook book out that explains what flour does and why you use it and maybe if I understood it all a little better instead of people just putting ingredients in and I have no idea what they do, well then maybe I'd like it a little better. But just last week I helped to cook a fish and it was delicious. And next week I'll be helping with shrimp scampi, some sort of strange cheese biscuits and blackberry pie for our staff worker and his wife. I'm excited!

So all of that is to say I don't know where the desire to cook came from since I've been half trying to convince myself for about a year and even more how I've come to enjoy doing it in the last few weeks. But I'm jumping on it while it's there. So if you have any have any good, easy starter recipes, send them this way! And I'll even blog about it. I'll call it The Epic Adventures of Sarawr the Dinosaur: Why Carnivorous Bipeds Need to Cook Their Food Too. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

aslan on the move

In between all my meetings and work and keeping comfortably busy, these last few weeks have been devoted to rest and "renewal of the mind" and one way that has looked has been reading. And oh, I have missed it. First, a confession: although I love every book I've ever read by C. S. Lewis, I haven't actually technically read any of the Chronicles of Narnia. They were read to me in the fifth grade and even now, reading through them, I haven't remembered much at all. But they've been incredible. I've got a lovely mismatched collection of the series--I missing three or four of them (have been borrowing the others) but they're all different printings and even different publishers. Going on a tangent for a second, it has been breaking my heart in some ways to get rid of so many books before I leave (but also wonderful, because what better gift to give away than a book!), and I don't know if I'll be able to bring all the ones I want with me. We'll see.

I'm in the middle of Prince Caspian now and so far I think it's probably my least favorite. I think the best has been The Horse and His Boy. I finished it at work the other day and toward the end there is this amazing part where the main character, Shasta, is riding his horse along in the dark and it's cold and foggy and he's feeling very alone and suddenly something much bigger than him is walking alongside him. It tells Shasta to tell him his sorrows. And he does, he tells him about everything, about his whole life and everything leading up to that moment. And then it says:

"'I was the lion.' And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. 'I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.'"

I was the lion you do not remember. This has been a near constant reminder these last months, this whole summer. Life is hard sometimes and it always has been and I remember even back in April having a conversation with someone about how I knew in my head God had been with me and I'd say it but I had very distinct memories of wondering if he was really there and feeling like he wasn't at all, not anywhere at all. And as always there is the process of moving the things I understand in my head to the part of my heart that causes me to live like it's true instead just knowing it's true. And that is a big gap. And the truth is that life is difficult, I'm certain that every one of us has moments we thought of just then. But the bigger truth is that, while maybe we don't remember--I didn't--the lion was with us.

There are some other thoughts that have been floating around in my head regarding all of this recently, and a friend and I had a conversation about some of it a few days ago. We talked about the pressure to be shiny-happy Christians all the time, to jump right to 'God is good' and skip over 'this hurts' or 'I don't understand and I definitely don't like it' or just 'why?' I don't want to undervalue learning to trust God in the places we don't understand. But my friend said something about how it almost cheapens the whole thing to not even recognize how hard it was, to jump right to God being the answer no matter what without the process of getting to that answer. I'm not quite sure how to articulate any of this, and it's not coming out as well as I'd like to (also, friend: I'm trying to remember the gist of the conversation so if this isn't quite it, let me know).

Where I'm coming to, however, is that I think maybe God wants us to meet him in these hard places, to wrestle with him, even. I think of David: "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? ...Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; ...But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me." (from Psalm 13) There are lots of other examples, and this isn't just for when things are hard but when they are good as well.

And then we look back (because we have looked--we haven't just closed our eyes) we see the places the lion was, here portrayed as the comforter and protector and also the one who gives us strength, even if it was scary. Aslan is on the move, these days. And now it's just trying to watch for him.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"and when i run i feel his pleasure"

I watched Chariots of Fire tonight and there was one quote in the movie where one of the main characters, Eric, this incredibly fast sprinter who was born to a missionary family and planned to return to China, is explaining to his sister that he will be going back but he has to run first, and he says:

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

I love this. I've been thinking a lot lately about about how God delights in us. I was talking to Alicia a few days ago and we had been listening to some music by Jon Foreman and this song came on that quotes a good deal of Psalm 51, the one David wrote after everything with Bathsheba.

Now, I'll tell you. I love reading about David and I especially appreciate his Psalms because of how passionate they are, and I was telling Alicia that it made me quite happy he's got some pretty emo ones in there because that's real and it's encouraging to think that he could pour out his whole heart to God, whatever it looked like at that particular moment. And apparently God liked them since they made their way into the Bible.

And so as we were talking about it, I thought that God must really love the things we say to him and sing to him and write to him. Or paint or build, or when we run for him. I don't know whether it's true or not but I imagine he's got it all collected in heaven, that he remembers every bit of it. That when we meet him he might say, remember when you wrote this to me? I remember, and I was with you. I think he delights in them, that he really does, and that maybe everything you've ever painted is displayed in heaven because he's proud of it, even. Or that the things you've written he's got bound together something like a book of Psalms as a sort of monument to the places you met him and worshiped.

What if he wants us to run? Or to write or to sing? And I think it's exactly that quote: he made us for a purpose and he's got all kinds of plans for us. But he also made us talented, made us to love music or words or whatever it is that we're passionate about. He made you good at music, so play it with all your heart and ''feel his pleasure'' in that.

I feel like I'm missing this, that all the words are talking around it but not quite saying it, but we are his splendor. We were made to glorify him and I wonder if maybe glorifying him is more than saying who he is and pointing to him, but also doing the things he made us to do. Doing them fully and passionately and, if he made you a dancer, dancing beautifully, reflecting the image of a beautiful creator God. And I think he looks at us and is proud, proud like a father spilling over with it all, with how much he loves us.

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

and new start to evangelism

This post is about being an awkward kid, something I have fully accepted, don't usually notice anymore and when I do, have begun to refer as being 'functionally awkward.' It's also about evangelism and mostly about plain old people interaction.

Today's been my really in my head day. I flew back Friday but spent all my time hanging out with my friend and his mom and then did a couple of support raising meetings and drove the few hours home, so today and yesterday were my be-the-introvert-in-the-cave and get-a-bunch-of-stuff-for-support-raising-done days. And so when I went to rent a movie and get some groceries I talked the minimal necessary to still have good manners and, as I said, pretty much stayed in my own head.

And then one of the people who worked at the grocery store, a guy who looked about my age came up to me and at first he asked me if he could bag my groceries (I only had three, all in one bag) and then came back much more directly and asked about my shirt. Now I was wearing a shirt I got my freshman year and it's actually got a quote from something I wrote on the front for some monologues our chapter put on. He was telling me he really liked it and it's about God and so I figure it's reasonable that he might have been a Christian, but I'll tell you what, my brain was somewhere else entirely and I could barely think of what to say. Just that it was from some monologues. Not, oh do you go to church around here? or some other less awkward way of asking, how do you feel about Jesus? On most days I would have asked the church question probably.

So then there was Saturday. I had just walked into the Barnes & Noble cafe to meet a friend and it was super busy so right as I headed for the last table left a little old lady sat down and how do you steal a table from an old lady? So as I was standing there figuring out what to do a man sitting near me who I swear sounded just like Luis Palau started explaining that there were places to sit upstairs and I thanked him and he told me to have a blessed day. And of course I got all giddy and wanted to sit down and have a conversation with him--to be fair, as I might have with anyone who'd had an accent like his or if he'd been reading We the Living or Life of Pi or something--but instead just sort of awkwardly meandered away. Once I was upstairs I said once I headed back down if he was still there I'd talk to him but of course he was gone.

Now, I wanted to write about how on the last night of our training in Madison, there was a commissioning ceremony and those of us going to overseas placements were prayed for and all that. When I was up there, the woman who was praying for me prayed that even though I love discipleship, that--well I don't know how to say except how she said, that she prayed the gift of evangelism over me. I love evangelism. Not the way I love discipleship, and it's certainly something that's grown on me, that I've grown into. I'll say hands down that it wasn't something I picked, it was something God picked for me and he doesn't seem to be letting me go of it. Not that I want to, but it keeps coming up like this and I really do believe that God's got something big with this planned and it'll be interesting to see what he does. Who knew?

To relate the two, I don't mean to say that striking up a conversation with someone else who appears to also be a Christian is strictly evangelism, although I will say that it's good even for Christians to hear good news. That's just something fun. It's like finding out you had another family member you didn't know about, generally. But the idea of being on my toes and ready to engage at any moment--what if the guy in the grocery store was someone who wasn't a Christian but liked talk of God being like a father (the quote on my shirt is something like this), had really related to that quote in Fight Club when Brad Pitt says "Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers bailed, what does that tell you about God?"

I guess what I'm talking about is being able to ask good questions. I don't mean proselytizing or anything like that, I just mean good questions, good conversation. In the grocery store or at church or with a student in Romania. And as much as I wouldn't have guessed it, this really is something I want to grow into, to learn to do well.

Monday, June 28, 2010


"We are now largely adult and children 'human doings' and not 'human beings'. That's where the soul and spirit comes in, and that requires quiet time...the meditative, reflective process...The opportunity to practice being attentive to things that are greater than yourself...to revel in that sense of wonder."
--Alan Mirabelli

Monday, June 14, 2010


It's mid-June, and for some perspective, should all my support be raised in time, I'll be leaving this country in two months. And yet it doesn't feel that short. I know how quickly it will fly by and so the thought is that I should be celebrating these last few months, living fully in them.

This summer hasn't felt like a last, not by any means. It just feels like a summer. One where God is working a lot of good things. Most of this has been through people and situations that aren't here, my attention between a God who is here and now and is also there, was, will be. That's a mess of a sentence, but in the same way worship is deeply freeing because it's not about me, there is rest for my mind and my worrying heart and my frustrating over-introspection when I remember that God is working things apart from me. When I think of my brother and wonder what resolution might look like for him--now it occurs to me that it may happen entirely apart from me. I know this, and as obvious as it is, it's good to think about. My brother is a whole life created by the God who knows his story, knows his hopes, knows him better than I ever will and the redemption of that boy has to do fully with how he is known by God, not by how he's known by me.

Just now I'm reminded of the story in Mark where Jesus talks about his mothers and brothers and sisters are the people who do his will. He's my brother and he always will be and I say that fiercely. But my friend Scott is my brother, and so is my friend Chris. Wayne, the homeless man who kissed me on the hand the other day--he's my brother. If my brother is homeless, there are homeless people in this city, there will be in Bucuresti. I don't think this means I should abandon family ties or anything like that. And in any case, Luke 12:27-28: "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more he will clothe you, O you of little faith!" Surely if this is true for me then it is also true for my brother.

I remember when we were kids--I was fourteen, he was eleven--we would ride our bikes all the time. The difference between us then is, at least to me, fascinating compared to the differences now. He'd get on his bike with a helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, all of it, and then ride down the side of the highway, pedaling furiously against traffic. I was the opposite. I might not be wearing shoes, much less a helmet. I don't remember much from that summer except how we'd fly down the hills and around corners, all the stops along the way: the concrete house, the path to the river beneath the bridge, the gas station. And I remember eating at the neighbor's a lot, but not where our mom was.

The point I'm getting to is how I don't remember worrying. If I think back on it, there was a lot to worry about. The other day I had this crazy moment with God when I realized--heart-realized, not head-realized--how much he was providing over all those years. I think we ask why I lot. I know I do. I don't know about my brother. But more and more and more I'm understanding just how big God's sovereignty is, how far-reaching a thing it is. When I look back, I see: God was here. When I look back after having said yes to God, I see: he really does know what he's doing. Shocker, I'm sure, but knowing it is something else entirely. I never knew.

I feel at once that I am both tasked to care for and love my brother(s) and also understand that he is better cared for by his Father than I ever could. I remember us as kids, hardly thinking of God at all, and still he clothed us in joy and fullness, in a perfect summer together.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

about when i met julius caesar

This post is about a few things. First, it's about the lamentable things happening to my Spanish (amidst the fun things happening with Romanian, of course). And second, how in the process of trying to reverse it, I met Julius Caesar.

I was walking over to my neighbor Scott's house to hang out and standing on a ladder above his door was a guy who I'd kind of talked to earlier as he'd been standing on a ladder above mine. Since we talked before I waved at him and because I did and it looked like I was walking over specifically toward him he got down and asked me what was up. Now, one thing I love about my neighborhood is that it's not all white college students, which unfortunately is a tough thing to find in this city unless you're in certain areas of downtown. As much as I love Wilmington and can imagine moving back, since I want to live somewhere with good public transit and lots of diversity it might not happen.

Anyway, my neighborhood. Which I love. Lots of opportunities to practice my Spanish. I'm usually too scared to unless it's Jaime, our Colombian friend, but in this case, the guy got down from the ladder and I could hardly understand his English and it was mixed with some Spanish anyway so before I could stop myself I said, como? Huh? And so we started talking together in Spanish and it took twice as long as it used to because I couldn't remember much of anything at first. I forgot what you say for nice to meet you (mucho gusto) because the only thing that would come to mind was îmi pare bine să te cuncosc, and I hope that's right, I haven't looked it up, but if I remember from last summer that's what I was taught to say when I met people. So. Good thing. Romanian is coming to mind. But my Spanish! It wasn't even some complicated tensed verb conjugation which would be understandable. My only option is to put in a fair amount of time practicing Spanish, and under other circumstances I'd go volunteer at a clinic or something, but the other problem is it's doing really weird things to my Romanian. And it's also possible I'll forget a ton of it anyway once I move over there and am starting to speak Romanian all the time. We'll see.

Now, in this mess of a conversation with my grammar coming out all gringo, the guy told me his name. Julio Cesar. And because I was so bewildered at having forgotten how to tell him it was nice to meet him and because it was not in English, it didn't immediately occur to me what he'd said. But I'm here to report that this Mr. Julius Caesar was in fact a pretty amiable guy, not at all what you'd think. We gave him a cup of water and he kindly returned it. He did not try to take over the our street or conquer the other streets in our neighborhood. Nor did he try to make us all speak some form of Latin or Spanish or otherwise assert his empirical power. Silly empires. He just wanted some conversation and some agua, which reminds me of another guy I know who changed the world...