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.