Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wind in Your Sails

“Set back to wind,” she wrote. The Spirit fills us, pushes us along, just the next gust or the ever-present breath. No sinking, no long-range course for us. Like the wind.

John 3:8 – “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I love the wind. Strong or gentle, wrapping me or rattling my window, my eyes light like Galadriel’s going to sea. Calling, like I’m supposed to be there, in it. Hard to only watch. And what am I watching? Not really the wind itself. Family is careful to remind me that I am not seeing wind, but its impact. Transfer of energy. But the wind takes a long time to get tired.

Rain in the wind. Hair in the wind. Eowyn’s flag atop Edoras in the wind. Trees in the wind. Windy City. Windmills. Wind on my face. A sail-ship powered by the wind.

Romance of Sail by Frank Vining Smith
Romance of Sail

All my life I’ve wanted a picture of a ship. I’m picky. It has to be a beautiful ship on a beautiful sea. And the ship can’t bee too modern, or a pirate ship either. Ships in bottles excite me. I love anchors and the white and blue of a sailor, white ropes and wooden floors and round windows.

Comprehend my delight at finding the perfect substitute for my ship picture or ship-in-a-bottle: a model of a ship, about a foot long, unpainted. As soon as it’s made I will place it in prominence in my room, to inspire like wind in my room every day of the year. Such are all my decorations, bits of memory pointing me to love others, worship God, walk in the spirit, quest for the truth.

To God be all glory.

Do You Look for Him Everywhere?

We got Prince Caspian for Christmas at our house. Some movies offer what no books can: moments of sight and sound and emotion woven together. My favorite in this movie is Peter, High King, sitting back against the table of Aslan’s sacrifice staring at a carving of Aslan’s face and realizing that in his humanness, Peter is insufficient. Peter fails. And Aslan is always faithful. Perhaps he imagines the look on Aslan’s face when Edmund returned, forgiven. Now Peter knows too. And has to go on.

At the beginning of Prince Caspian is another moment. If you’re not watching closely, you’ll miss it. For just a second the view that had been following Lucy and Susan beneath the rail-station arch pauses to focus on the lion statue beside it. The sight is full of memory, as though the roar from Narnia is trapped in that lion. For a while I ignore the scene’s progression and I think of the year between leaving the Wardrobe and now.

One of my dear friends had the opportunity to spend a semester at Oxford, England. Surrounded by faith-friends and the sites of our favorite literature, my friend whose strength is imagination was four months in legendary England. Now she is home, just in time for Christmas. She grew while she was away, I know. And maybe we all could have predicted how her return would affect her: “It’s like stepping back out of the wardrobe,” she says. I see four children tumble onto the wood floor of a clean old attic.

And I want to ask her, “Do you look for Aslan everywhere you go?” I mean, you might hear a tune and think of fauns, or see some architecture like Cair Paravel’s. A turn of phrase might bring back the voice of an old friend. Just looking at the face of one who was with you there could bring it all back. But mostly I think that those who have returned from Narnia would have learned to watch for Aslan.

Of course Aslan is only a type of the true Lion, my King forever and Redeemer coming-back. Jesus is the ever-present, always active One whom I can always seek. Do I look for Him everywhere?

It always reminds me of John, the disciple Jesus loved. After three years of a close relationship – three years walking and talking and eating, crying and laughing, with God Himself! – this man says good-bye to his Friend. Buoyed by the hope translated to the gospel he would write decades later, the hope of presence and return and friendship and comfort, he marched on through life. But I wonder if sometimes he didn’t sit in the darkness and miss his Savior with all that he was. Imagine his excitement to literally be a part of Revelation, to be in those visions, to see again One – hesitantly, as though John had pictured this moment so many times that he might only be dreaming again – like the Son of Man. Familiar face, glorified, more like the few moments on the mountain than the months in the dust. And John is back, Jesus speaking to him, comforting him, rewarding his hope. But there is more to do. John’s work on earth is not finished. He is sent back to write the last words of the hope of new testament.

Sent back. Held back. Cannot follow. Kept waiting. Watching. Can’t sleep because you’re standing on the walls, straining eyes to see. Can’t despair because the words are true, Jesus is coming back. Must follow, because readiness is imperative for the return of the Bridegroom. Readiness that glows with anticipation and faith-full faithfulness.

Do you look for Him everywhere?

To God be all glory.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Christmas Eve

...Began at 9 AM, at which point I determined that, even though I had awakened naturally, I had experienced too little and too shallow a sleep. So I returned to that state for two hours.

Finally really awake, I smelled bread baking upstairs. (Mom got up at 6:30!) So I checked my email and got started.

Today I made two skirts, a pink and green one with cream embroidered flowers and an exciting ruffle - and another made from off-white plush blankets, very warm. I'm delighted, because I've been in need of nice warm skirts here in Colorado, let alone if I ever move somewhere more frigid!

In the middle of all the sewing and pinning and cutting I finally took time to tap out Christmas songs from the hymnal on my piano, one of my favorite holiday habits. My little sisters sang along.

On the radio near my sewing machine was Hugh Hewitt interviewing a theologian and historian, who was giving the history of Christmas carols as a Christmas habit. The man, a Mr. Roberts, also said that Christmas as we know it (a celebration lasting one to two days involving friends, family and charity) was invented by Charles Dickens, who used his writing to advocate the holiday. In light of the Shadowlands quote from my post earlier this week, that if charity is alone, the magic is removed from Christmas, I wonder if CS Lewis was a fan of Dickens. Chesterton was; in fact, I prefer his accounts of Charles Dickens' novels to the books themselves and any movie versions.

When the skirts were completed, I made chocolate cheesecake filling to try with cinnamon rolls tomorrow. It's an interesting thought; I'm curious, so I'm going to try it. (My version of chocolate cheesecake involves no baking: cream cheese, sugar, cocoa, shortening and cool whip!)

Afterwards, my family went driving to our favorite Christmas light spots, two in particular. A man from our church is on his 29th year of filling his yard with lights, electronic decorations, and trains. As you approach his light-flooded driveway, he offers hot chocolate (very necessary in such weather). Then you proceed beneath a lighted archway to the back yard, a train following you on its course around the house. In the back are dozens of moving elves, Santas, Snoopy's, Winnie the Pooh, gingerbread men, and even nutcrackers. By the time you've seen everything, you're freezing, waving and thanking the host hurriedly so you can get back to your heated car.

The other light spot is a house with its own radio station, playing a series of songs to which the light display has been synchronized. There is usually Snoopy, Frosty, O Holy Night, and something patriotic. This year was a little more techno than usual, so we didn't stay as long (nothing specifically against techno; we just don't like it).

Back home my sisters and I went down to the basement to watch my Christmas Eve traditional movie, Little Women. "Change will come as surely as the seasons," Jo says. So it does.

The other adventure for the day was my brother, who worked this morning and hit his head, causing a 3 inch gash which he didn't realize was so serious. He wiped it with his glove and put his hat back on. But my mom and dad thought it was more serious than he did, so when he got home hours later, they made him call the doctor. Doctor said to come in. He got stitches and is on the thrilling cycle of ice about ten minutes each hour all night long.

Change happens, but some things stay the same. That's what I remember at Christmas. I'm very excited for Christmas morning. We trade names for gifts in my family, and our spending limit is smaller this year, but it has worked out so that people are actually getting more presents (though not as big or valuable). We'll be around the tree all morning!

Tonight I read RC Sproul, Jr.'s Kingdom Notes, mentioning Advent once again, and how it is both memory and anticipation. We celebrate two comings: 2,000 years ago and the return of our Lord. I'm so glad He's coming back.

Merry Christmas!

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How to Wrap Hard Gifts with Ribbon Tying Bonus (Pictures!)


To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Gift Wrapping How-to with Pictures


Watch the video for the first step, then click here: How to Wrap a Gift Well

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Monday, December 22, 2008

Spirit of Christmas

This week I've been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don't like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they've "lost the magic." If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can't keep it in. The joy and "magic" are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that's what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I'm not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I'm living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I'm too busy knowing it to think about it.

That's what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus', that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the 'blessed hope and glorious appearing' of our Bridegroom. He's coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I'm waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory.

My Life in Ten Pictures Fall 2008

I have been camera crazy this year, filled with intentions of having one of those beautiful blogs filled with artistic pictures that speak effortless, silent poetry. Life has kept me busy, stunned me with its picturesque every day. This is my small sample. Me in one of my creative Christmas outfits. Here in Colorado the weather has scarcely ventured above freezing for two weeks, so I'm a little bored of my usual sweaters, inspiring creative ensembles.

There's another cause, too. In December, for several reasons, we should cancel laundry: 1. We are buying new clothes for Christmas parties anyway. 2. We are receiving new clothes at Christmas. 3. We are never at home, so laundry is impossible. 4. There's going to be enough guilt from all the candy and baked goods we eat, and all the New Year's Resolutions we instantly break. Why add unfinished laundry?

(To be honest, my laundry is all caught up as of about an hour from now. And I really don't get new clothes at Christmas or make New Year's Resolutions. Nor do I feel guilty about my sugar intake.)

For my birthday I hosted a party at which we watched the movie, Penelope (starring Christiana Ricci, James McAvoy, and Reese Witherspoon). The bright contrasting colors inspired me. For my parties I usually have either candles or flowers. These were too perfect, and looking exquisite in the daisy vase a friend gave me for my high school graduation.

Aren't the colors so vibrant?

Fall lingered in Colorado. I'm glad I have pictures to remember it by, not only because it was beautiful, but also because now it's so cold that I can't believe the Indian Summer we had.

See. Winter.

For weeks I went around with my camera in the passenger seat of my car so that when I found beautiful colors, driving through the right part of old Denver, I could snap a shot at a stop sign! It turned out great!

This old house was so charming as I drove that I took a picture of it, too. Denver is a lot nicer place when you see the cozy residential areas near downtown.

It can be a frustrating place. There is something nostalgic about railroad crossings, I admit. And I'm glad I had my camera, because otherwise the wait that day would have been intolerable. Trains are such dirty, slow, loud vehicles!
Speaking of waiting, that is one of only two things that I have done this season. The other is enduring impossible stores with gifts impossible to find or afford. I'm ready to stop waiting in lines and in traffic and behind trains and for people to come or go or catch up. My idea of nice waiting is to be curled up in front of the Christmas tree with a book, Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby crooning in the background, a nice plate of fudge and a cinnamon roll handy.

These are some of our family's signature cookies. Admit it. You never want just one of those regular-sized cookies. So instead of making you go back until you've had three or four, we put the whole serving into one cookie. They're amazing. And my 11 year old sister is a pro at making them, attributed to her procrastinating style.

Mom tried to recreate the salad she likes from Chik-fil-a. It was so bright and pretty that I had to take a picture.

That's all.
To God be all glory.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Socialistic Penal System

We came up with the ultimate socialist plan tonight, inspired by my brother’s roommate. Socialism says that we share the work and we share the profit, everybody being entitled to the same wages no matter what they accomplish, and the same “nanny state” benefits such as healthcare and public schooling (even through college – which, in actuality just means that they’re destroying what healthcare and education there was). So why not socialize the penal system? When someone commits a crime, each person in the community can pay part of the fine and serve some of the time. Can you see any inconsistencies between our plan and true socialism?

To God be all glory.

Lonestar Steakhouse - A Birthday Blessing

For my birthday and the willingness to accept their advertising emails throughout the year, I received several free things: Coldstone ice cream, Baskin Robbins ice cream, a burger from Red Robin, and an entrée from Lonestar Steakhouse.

My dad took me to Lonestar (he’s a fan of steak), though we had to drive across town to the nearest location. I’m writing to endorse the Lonestar Steakhouse in Littleton, Colorado. Their service is absolutely tops. Here is my story.

Arriving at about noon, the parking lot was full, but the two of us were seated right away. The waiter came along in a minute or two, the intervening time spent with pails of peanuts. He was polite and efficient, asking us what we wanted to drink and if we would like a few more minutes before ordering. Having looked up the menu before we went, both my dad and I knew what we wanted, so we ordered right away. The waiter continued his courtesy and thoroughness, proving a knowledge of the user-friendly menu. He collected our menus and departed.

At this point I scanned the restaurant, including the staff and the other patrons. One wall was painted an orange and yellow Texas scene. There was a saloon style bar on one side, and on the other a row of tables flanked by walls of hunting trophies, longhorns, saddles, spurs, and my dad even noticed a jackalope. After a short discussion about the range of jackalope and antelope, the waiter delivered the free brown bread and butter, which proved to be soft, warm, and tasty.

I watched a man who seemed to be organizing his wallet. Another waiter a few tables over made an excellent offer of drinks to a child, “Can I offer you a Pepsi product?” I mean, how many times do you sit down in a restaurant and before you can find the drinks on the menu, they’re asking you which you want, and you ask them what kind they have (because Mt. Dew isn’t available if they serve Coke, and Coke is no comparison to Pepsi)? Then they have to go through the whole list when they could have simply asked the way this waiter did. A man with a limp walked by, leaning on the seat of each booth as he passed, so a waiter offered him his arm to get him to the hall leading to the bathroom. An older employee bussed one table in a hurry as a favor to the host, who was in need of the table.

Dad’s appetizer, a Texas Rose (deep fat fried onion with spicy-creamy dip) came out shortly thereafter. I don’t like onions, but Dad said it was good.

When our waiter delivered food to the table next to us, he stopped by ours, promising in what I interpreted to be that flippant, have-to-say-something way, that our food would be right out.

A few minutes later, as I tired of the endless football commentary silently playing on the TV screen in the corner, I began to watch the busy activity near the kitchen door and computer/cash register/order station. A few waiters were looking our way and I subconsciously shrank in my seat, desperately hoping the mostly male staff wasn’t going to sing for my birthday. I didn’t go on my actual birthday (the actual day I went to Olive Garden, where the wait and host staff gathered around to light a candle on a free cake and sing thanks for coming to Olive Garden), so they really didn’t have to sing. Who sings before the meal, anyway? They didn’t come my way, so I straightened back up and pushed aside the bread and butter tray to make room for my expected plate.

Dad commented that ten minutes wasn’t exactly “be right out,” but I made the excuse that the waiter was just saying that. I mean, we’re talking about steak. You don’t rush steak.

Wearing a white button-up shirt as opposed to the black t-shirts the waiters wore, a man I assumed was the manager came up to our table. He explained that he was sorry for the delay in our order, that the wait was unacceptable, that he didn’t know what caused the extra time, and that the inconvenience would be reflected on our bill. He even offered to bring us something else (more bread or water?) while we waited.

After we thanked him he walked away, and Dad and I looked at each other, puzzled. In the middle of a lunch rush, we weren’t waiting all that long. “Did he hear you?” I asked doubtfully. There was no way he heard Dad’s comment. They just have really good service.

In a short thereafter our food was brought, my salmon and some of the best mashed potatoes ever and Dad’s steak and sweet potato casserole. Then a woman came up to our table and introduced herself as Winona, the manager. She had my coupon for free birthday meal in her hand. “I’m going to give this back to you,” she said, “because I don’t think you got a good experience out of this free meal. I’ll sign it on the back, and even though it expires next week, I’ll write that it is good whenever you want to come back. Today’s ticket is on the house.” She added that our order had been misplaced, resulting in the extended wait.

We weren’t impatient. Our food was good. We didn’t complain. The service was excellent. And they gave us both my dad’s steak, his appetizer, and my salmon all for free in addition to another free entrée whenever I want. It was incredible. I was all around impressed.

Dad asked for a box (in which he put half a ‘Texas Rose’)and then double-checked that we had properly understood the manager, that there was no bill for the meal. We got up and left feeling abundantly full and blessed. Now I just have to figure out how to justify going back to Littleton for my second free birthday lunch.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

On Knights and Princes

"I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well -- and indeed, so I do still at my heart..." - Mrs. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Women have always had a thing for men in uniform, whether it was the shining armor that bespoke defense against dragons and pagan armies, or the clean, gloved dress blues of the United States Navy today.

On the radio this week I heard an interview by Dennis Prager of Allison Armstrong. This woman has a book and website about “understanding men,” and being a woman, she is obviously comparing them to females so that women, knowing themselves, may appreciate the men in their lives. One thing she said about women is that what they need from a man is security. While few professions are more dangerous and truly insecure than defense, I argue that a woman feels more secure when she is with a man in uniform.

So it might seem strange that nearly every girl dreams of being a princess. She wants to be beautiful and important, and to have that prince at her side who will dance her into the sweet sunset. Nevertheless, a man is created to lead. Prince, being part of the hierarchy in a system of monarchy, is the romantic personification of authority. He has a kingdom at his fingertips. His people look up to and respect him. What woman would not want to be at the side of such a man? For women crave that figure in their lives that gives them direction.

In the old chivalric code, a knight seldom wed with the lady to whom he dedicated his conquests. The woman might be of a social position out of reach, or she may demonstrate the good sense that so few women are able to carry out: not joining her life with that of a man whose every day is violent risk of life. In other places I have addressed this romantic moral.

So here is my principle of Knights and Princes. When a girl or woman is rescued by a gallant man, be it from certain death, the humiliation of carrying something too heavy for her, or the common courtesy of having doors opened on her behalf, if that man is a stranger, or a brother, or a mere friend, he is a Knight, honored by all, a man who stands ready to serve and defend wherever the need is presented. (Though less relevant to my thesis, I will here add that her father, should he so deliver the maiden, is doing is high and worthy job as Guardian, Defender of the Realm.) And if he is husband or fiancé performing the deed, I name him Prince. A true lady would never call a mere knight her prince, or think of him as such, lest she be claiming another princess’ Prince.

Knights have arisen in my life this week, blessing me and coming to my aid: a neighbor of a friend relieving me from shoveling snow in 20-degree weather, a friend carrying a sign too heavy for me, a boy from church holding a door, and my brother working in my place voluntarily on this my birthday. I hereby dub them Knights.

To God be all glory.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Serious about Sermons

This weekend I reread one of my favorite sermons, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In searching online for the sermon, I realized that many people feel that Jonathan Edwards was a vindictive preacher who tried to scare people into Heaven. When I read the sermon first (as a freshman, I think), I did not feel this way. The sermon addressed for me the question of why bad things happen to good people. The answer: 1) we aren't good, and 2) things are not nearly as bad as we deserve. Perhaps to a world unacquainted with the reality of God's standard and justice, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a revelation to them about the wrath of God. I have known about Hell all my life, so the experience for me was one of overwhelmed humility and gratitude.

The thing that struck me in reading the sermon this time was the first paragraph. Edwards opens with a Scripture, from Deuteronomy. (How often do we get sermons from Deuteronomy?) And then he jumps directly into a history of Israel and a theological exposition of the text with application. There is no opening story or illustration. His words have force, sincerity, and truth. I miss that. Whoever invented the sermon fill-in-the-blank format? Insert verse here. Insert joke. Add story. Make point. Alliterate sub-points. More anecdotes. Are we truly so illiterate in the things of God that we need entertaining stories, quotes, references to sports stars, and comics to enable us to understand?

Now I'm not objecting to occasionally presenting an illustration from life. Just don't force it. Jokes? I'm pretty much against those in sermons. God and truth are a serious business. We can be seriously jubilant about God's grace and glory, but that's not the same as joking, is it? Telling a joke as part of a sermon seems like an appeal to our desire for entertainment, which most pastors would profess to be against. Church is not entertainment, they argue.

I've noticed that I have a longer attention span for the Jonathan Edwards style of teaching than for the modern light sermon. Don't get me wrong; I love my pastor, and am challenged by his heart to see change in people. But I get tired in his sermons, and wonder when they will be over. At a Bible conference, however, I can sit for an hour and more just soaking up truth, furiously taking notes on things I'll process later, saturated already with so many messages connecting and resonating inside of me.

Later this weekend a friend was inviting me to visit her church, sharing exactly what I have been craving, that this pastor jumps right into the Bible, so rich and full and relevant. And the other men of the church, who occasionally share Scriptures that God has laid on their hearts, are walking with God and you can tell. How? They share with boldness and humility, and they are sharing from the prophets, from parts of the Bible some people don't even know exist. These men were reading the Bible during the week, encountering God in the passages so many never set eyes or ears on. What a blessing!

So, free of responsibilities at my church this week, I'm going to practice church-straddling, and visit the congregation to which my friend invited me.

To God be all glory.

I Laugh at Myself

One of the good ways I’ve found to maintain a joyful attitude is to laugh. I laugh at myself. That way if anyone else laughs at me, I’ll be laughing first and won’t feel bad. Besides, I can’t help it. Sometimes I’m so ridiculous.

My family and friends help the ridiculousness. For example:

Saturday night I was making my own marinara sauce. I don’t eat marinara sauce, but wanted to bring some to serve with the strombolis I was making for a Christmas party. Why make it from scratch? First laugh track inserted here. My culinary skills had recently made me feel inferior, so I was trying to make up. No one knows if you have inherent skill, watch the food network all the time, borrowed your mom’s skill, or googled instructions on mincing garlic and chopping parsley. I did the latter.

While I was mincing garlic per instructions found on Google, my brother found a Youtube video of parsley preparation. Actually while peeling and slicing garlic, I improvised my own technique once, only to discover that garlic sliced the wrong direction can have the same effect as an onion. I cried. Anyway, the parsley video involved a large knife, a bunch of the parsley leaves (no stems required or desired) rolled into a “piece,” and a flat counter. I had a smaller dull knife and a counter that curves up on the edge. So I observed that, while the technique appeared simple on the video, the chef’s parsley stayed where he left it, meaning that the “piece” stayed in form while he chopped at it, which never happens when I slice something soft. (We need to sharpen our knives.) Unbeknownst to me, my siblings were all suppressing laughter at this comment, reason to be revealed later.

Finally I had enough garlic minced, and was ready to try the parsley. But when I looked at the counter to grab the parsley, it wasn’t there. I thought I’d left it on the counter. I didn’t throw it away with the garlic skin? “Where did I put my parsley?” I asked. “It didn’t stay where you put it?” my brothers taunted, the laughter finally bubbling over. And then my mom spotted it, like a child’s “what’s wrong with this picture” where the fish is in the tree: my parsley was on the couch in the other room. Before I even mentioned that parsley does not stay where I put it, my siblings had pilfered my greens.

We laughed so hard. I cried. Again.

Laugh at how hectic your life is, at the silly things you do or say, at a bad hair day or the irony of snow when you are going somewhere and fine weather when you want to go sledding. Laugh at the foolishness of playing a game you know sounds dangerous, Grounders:

On a playground near a friend’s house, we go at night. The game is like tag. It tries to tag non-it. It can be on the ground or the playground platforms. Non-it can become it if, while on the ground or platforms, It calls “grounders.” Oh – and It must have their eyes closed. So just as one of my compadres was commenting that my family was seldom It, I hit my stride, being rather constantly It. We were playing with pros at the game, people more familiar with the park, and Marines. I think I had a disadvantage. At least I wasn’t wearing a skirt this time; last time I played, I was. I believe I would be bad at this game even if my eyes were open. But with my eyes closed, I did something very foolish. Standing under the monkey bars just above my fingertips, I was trying to tag a non-it scooting on top of the monkey bars. I had to jump. So I did, jamming my thumb hard into the side of the monkey bars. It’s still swollen. But it had to be funny.

One of my friends who was there reassured me: This is the sort of game you only play if you don’t mind looking stupid. So maybe to lighten up your life, you should intentionally play games where you look stupid. Just don’t jump if you don’t know what’s over you.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Why Doesn't My Computer Know Who's Boss?

And here all this time I thought my computer was my tool, serving me, doing as I told it. But like a rebellious teenager, it thinks itself smarter than me, stronger, and more willful. If it just puts off my instructions long enough, while it does its own thing, maybe just maybe bossy owner of laptop will go away and leave it alone.

Alone to do what, you ask (as do the parents of metaphorical teenagers). It might just want to be lazy. The battery has already decided to barely do its job, as long as constantly fed energy from a wall. Half the time my computer isn’t doing what I said, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.

I’ve tried all the things I can think of: defrag, updates, restarting my computer, adjusting my internet connection, scanning for spy-, ad-, or mal- ware, running Windows Task Manager to see if my computer will give up the secret obsession its hard drive has with unauthorized activity.

Aside from being slow, online or offline, the other really annoying thing is that in the midst of its procrastination, I may switch to another window. Exactly when I am most engrossed in reading or typing or filling out important online forms with passwords, the slow-loading window superimposes itself on my screen, interrupting and even hijacking any keyboard or mouse input. What on earth is it thinking?

My brother says the next big thing to be invented on a computer is a button that suspends the activity. See, for some reason we both think that we should be able to tell an internet page to stop loading if it’s so long it’s virtually frozen. But being frozen, the whole window, including the stop button, is also frozen.

Is my problem my web browser? Am I suffering from hardware? My computer reports that it has plenty of memory and spends most of its thought on ‘idle processes.’ Maybe my wireless modem and my laptop are not getting along. I’m certainly not getting along with this self-absorbed block of technology.

Perhaps my problem is software? I could have the wrong browser, the wrong network connections driver, something amiss in my security software, or even windows itself.

My dad taught me to be loyal to PC’s, and I still hate Mac’s (do they have a thing for treating intelligent people who just want to word process and blog like children with cute bubbles and code names for basic functions?). Is there a better option for me? What’s Linux about? Do I have to be a nerd to use or appreciate it? Did I just prove I’m not a nerd by spelling it wrong? Does everyone have these sorts of difficulties?

(Dad works at a helpdesk, and often brings home stories of silly customers who had no idea what they’d done to their computers. Not so with us. Our computers produce the hardest of brainteasers to our expert sleuthing father. We only have hard questions for him about our computer difficulties.)

Any hints? Commiseration? Solutions? Recommendations?

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

All I Want

Our church sang a song yesterday: “You’re all I want…” One line of the chorus. And I wrestled. All I need? Of course. Enough. He says so, and I believe. But He is not all I want. He is more precious than anything I want, and I would trade all I have and want for my Jesus. I won’t do life without Him.

Should He be all I want? I can’t sing it if it isn’t true. But worship, this sacrifice of praise, doesn’t mean anything if I’m not challenged by it. Maybe God delights to give me what I want – not always, but the good gifts. Fathers know how to give hungry sons bread. So my Heavenly Father knows how to give me great gifts, those that I ask for and those that I don’t.

I think of the gifts. I breathe them, see them, hear them. GK Chesterton wrote, ““Here dies another day, During which I have had eyes, ears, hands, And the great world around me;; And with tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?”

My heart leans back to rejoice again.

This year I made my Christmas cards, and they say Joy! Glorious joy. Blessing is joy. Grace is joy. Suffering even is joy. And Jesus was all of that. Those things are all in the Christmas story. Everywhere I go there is Christmas. I’m way beyond ready for it. And everywhere I look for joy. If I had my own tree, I would fill it with joy. The word. Other words for joy; I have a list.

There is more joy in me this year, irrepressible joy, than I’ve ever felt. Nothing is new in my life: same family, same house, same job, same car, same church, same ministries, same face in the mirror, same singleness. I even have the same God. He’s just showing me His joy.

Our family drew names for Christmas. I still don’t have a wish list published. Usually my list is very long, because I admire beauty and truth wherever I find it, and wish to possess it – and I want to be surprised by gifts, not certain of receiving any seven of the eight items I request. But surprise is just it. I see beauty and truth all over the place, and possess in sharing the experience more than I ever could by stashing it on my shelf. I want to receive gifts of presence.

You’re all I want? For Christmas, you’s are all I want. People. Relationship. Love and the chance to give.

To God be all glory.