Thursday, January 31, 2008
I have just arrived home, and after adding a few things to my to-do list, I settled in here to complete my routine of checking email, etc before getting to work or heading to bed. One of these things I added to my list was to call my friend Laura... who is VERY pregnant, to see how she's doing...
I got home to find an email and picture of the new baby girl!!! Lillian Elizabeth (Lily) was born yesterday evening at 5:45pm, was 7lbs 6oz, and is 21inches!!! She is SO precious, I can't wait to meet her!!!
Life - new life- is such a beautiful, precious thing. For the first time all day I wish we weren't in for this big snow storm so I could go up and visit Mommy/Daddy/baby as early as tomorrow... :) I hope through this post you are able to sense even the smallest piece of joy that is bubbling forth from me right now!
The best part? Yes, it has the happy ending we hoped it would. But it is a documentary, so its also very real. It makes the viewer happy, sad, angry, contemplative and everything in between... even bringing laughter in a few places. Yet it is real. Both sides of the story are shown. In the end, everyone has NOT decided it is okay and life should go on, but it still brings peace even in the midst of pain. What more could we ask for?
See this film. Take your friends, your families, your church and congregation. Then talk about it. We as a Church have a LONG way to go on this issue. Lets talk about it.
I love this kind of snow. It is different from the snow that blew in a blizzardy whirlwind a couple of days ago when I wondered if I was ever going to feel my toes again. Today, though it is windy and still being called a blizzard, it is a more fresh kind of snow. The kind of snow that comes down delicately and I watch it or walk in it (I have done both today), it reminds me of hope and peacefulness. With this peace comes great joy and a mood of reflectiveness.
I am thankful to live in a place that has the opportunity to see seasons of change in this way. Also important is the fact that I live in a place in which the whole world doesn't shut down, even when 6-12 inches of snow are expected- for that, I am thankful. I am thankful that I have a warm place to go at the end of the day. I am thankful for public transportation so that those of us who do choose to venture outside in this weather do not have to worry about arriving there safely. I am thankful for friends who are willing to go out in this weather with me, that we do not have to miss the final showing of "For the Bible Tells Me So" because of this snow storm.
Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to sit and be reflective on this peaceful day, and that I am able to express such thanksgivings. Life is Good. God is Good. I am thankful for these things...
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The Bible tells us many things, most of which are up for interpretation. While some claim the Bible prohibits same-sex relationships, others see Christianity and homosexuality as wholly compatible. For the Bible Tells Me So steps into this debate by documenting Christian families with gay children. Probing the tension between the church and homosexuality, the film asks if homophobia really makes sense from a Christian perspective. Five Christian couples with a gay son or daughter feature prominently in the film, including former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. -Emily Withrow (courtesy flavorpill.com)I have heard great reviews on this film, so tomorrow night, a group of us will be heading into the city to see it. It is playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center (on State Street in the loop) at 6 and 8 pm... we will be attending the 8pm showing. All are welcome. If you are interested in joining us, or if you would like more information, feel free to contact me! Or I'll see you there. Either way, I hope if this film comes to your city, you will make time to go out of your way to see it. Reviews have promised you will not be disappointed.
I used to stay inside in our warm apartment and spend the afternoon baking with Mom. I may have said this before- Mom isn't much of a cook. But she can sure bake! So we would stay inside and make too many batches of all of our favorite kinds of cookies, only to freeze them so we'd have them for the weeks to come.
Today, it is cold and I don't want to be out in the wind and snow. So I'm staying inside to bake. Straying from our tradition of cookies I'm experimenting to make the BEST chocolate cake recipe into cupcakes. I've wanted to bake for some time now, but with no one around to eat the product for me, I've held off. But tonight, these chocolaty treats will be perfect for Bible Study at church- when I finally do venture out again today.
It is a good day to stay inside. While I have much work to do, I am thankful for the opportunity to take part in and reflect upon an old tradition. Perhaps I'll even end it with a cup of hot cocoa, just like we always had when everyone came together, snow-covered and freezing from a long day of sledding and snowman building.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
First things first- why does the weather in the Midwest continue to surprise me after so many years!?!? When Ali and I left for the gym at 9:30 this morning, it was 48F outside. When I came home and checked the weather at 11pm, we'd been in the middle of a blizzard for a few hours, and it was -is!- 4F, -19F with the wind chill. That's a 70 degree F difference!!! BRRR!!!!
Then, on the way home tonight, I had to wait for TWENTY FIVE MINUTES for a train at Howard! Crazy train issues that are unacceptable led to this (of which I won't go into excessive detail here), but all I know is it was absolutely unacceptable! That is dangerously cold, and I was seriously concerned as I waddled to the train when it finally came. Waddled, that is, because the front half of my feet were literally so cold they were burning and it hurt to walk. And for the record- I was dressed appropriately with thick socks and my boots on. It was just that cold.
*sigh* A long (but good! until the end) day. I'm going to stay curled up with layers of clothes and blankets until I'm warm, then off to bed. I hope you all are staying warm tonight! Say an extra prayer for the homeless tonight, that they make it safely to warming centers in this dangerous weather.
One was intriguing purely on the basic principle of the name of the website. For example, bushorchimp.com. Yes, it really is what it sounds like, and the picture here is only one of many! Yes, there are also T-shirts available. But if you want a shirt, keep reading...
As if the pictures and random blogs/quotes weren't enough, I was actually a bit disappointed to find State of the Union Bingo, complete with these Bush chip markers, on the democrat website. Mind you this wasn't disappointing on principle, but more because I didn't know it was there, and if I had known where to find it (its been a running tradition), I may have wanted to play for one last go-around of Bushisms.
In addition to these fun things, I found one more thing worth sharing. Yes, it too is a website dedicated to making fun of Bush. But this one is FREE! Well, minus shipping, of course! Yes, that's right- there are so many Bushisms out there that this website is dedicated to giving away FREE T-SHIRTS with the Bushism of your choice on it.
Since I am clearly very unbiased in my politics, I thought this would be a good outlet to share these new discoveries. I hope you enjoy- and take advantage of- these websites!
Monday, January 28, 2008
Instead of sitting, glued to a television, I went with my wonderful neighbor to see the new movie, "27 Dresses." Definitely a chick-flick, and I loved it! It was very entertaining- funny and sad, surprising - or at least not so overly cheesy and predictable that it left me scrambling! Without giving anything away for those of you who may someday see it, I will only say this about it: my favorite part is at the end. In a lot of movies, I get quickly annoyed with characters who are sure in 2 days that they are in love. In this film, much to my surprise and appreciation, upon big build up in the scene, where I expected the "I love you" we'd all been waiting for, I heard, "I think I'm falling in love with you!" YES!
Reality, friends. Katherine Heigl, I think I'm falling even more in love with YOU! ha. Just think what a better, lower divorce-rate kind of world we could live in if people stopped to actually think about those important words and what they mean more often!
On the way home from the movie, my little sister texted me to ask if I was watching the State of the Union Address. To which I of course promptly responded with "No! I didn't want to be sick! ... just on my way home now, listening to anti-Bush songs from the Juno soundtrack instead." When her only response was to laugh, it left me to smile, and know that I have done well as a big sister. To know that she has grown from our President-supporting "no matter what goes on because he's the President and can!" mindset into one that is more free-thinking. I don't care what one's politics are- really. As long as you have reason for supporting the candidate and have a stance other than because "they're the ones in power, and so we should follow suit." That is absolutely unacceptable.
This idea of accepting power just because it is, is one of the least Christian things we as a society have ever grabbed ahold of. At least, within our own boarders of the US, of course- for we certainly don't respect any other world powers. That aside, I am reminded of my friend Pete's blog, in which he recently wrote on a similar topic about believing it is the will of God that our elected leaders, lead us. The US definitely heads up such thinking as we use phrases as "one nation, under God," but we are not alone in it. (and whether or not GW Bush has ever actually been elected is up for debate anyway!)
Ahhh. So many thoughts. So much to say and do. So much that shall CHANGE in the next year. Yes. It is finally time for CHANGE. Praise God for that!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Sundays are a lovely day to do just this. To enjoy time in a coffee shop, away from the hustle and bustle and rush that seems to fill the rest of our world. I sit and type and watch those around me as I’ve made myself comfortable in a big, soft chair with my computer on my lap. A good friend sits in a similar chair opposite of me, and as we sip our latte’s, we are finding time to rest. To just be. To share the moment in the most distant and peaceful of ways, while looking up from our thoughts only enough to share the next funny or ridiculous comment or thought or an occassional statement from the
I preached this morning at Holy Covenant. We’re in the middle of yet another sermon series- this on finding ways to live a full Christian life. This week’s topic was “How to Rest.” I think of sermons on resting and realize that the last thing I want to hear- let alone preach- is another sermon on the Sabbath and how none of us take it but all of us should. So today was different, and I enjoyed the opportunity to work through and share my reflections on what it means to live a restful life.
Living a restful life. Not just taking a Sabbath once each week, but truly finding ways to be restful throughout our week, in all that we do. Christ says to us, “Come to me, all who are weary and broken and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” What can we do in our lives to seek and accept that kind of rest that only Christ can offer to us throughout the week… not just on Sundays or whichever other day we have designated as our day of Sabbath?
Finding Sabbath- truly finding rest- is a practice that almost all Christians struggle with. Yet it is so essential to our lives. It shapes us from the inside out- it shapes us in ways that are interconnected to one another as it forms us spiritually, emotionally, even physically as we learn to fully care for ourselves. In the past couple of years I have grown into the practice of taking a day of Sabbath each week. But finding rest in God- finding the kind of rest that Christ has called us to in this passage- is about more than that. Its about finding assurance and hope and a deep sense of peace that only God can provide for us in even the smallest details of our every day lives. Its about living a fully Christian life in all that we do and living in harmony with that life in such a way that we are truly fulfilled in it...
This morning, I was preaching to myself. Like many of those I was preaching to, I live a very busy, chaotic life. I always have something more to do- another meeting to go to, another paper to write, another phone call I need to return. I’m busy, the chaos I live with six days each week makes it only more important that I keep my Sabbath day each week. Yet I hope that in the weeks to come, I can learn what it means to be restful and live peacefully with all that I do. Maybe it starts with saying “no” more often. Maybe it means being more prayerful and intentional in all that I do. Or maybe I need to find my “closet” to which I can escape for even a brief moment of rest in the midst of activities I find myself in the center of. Because no matter where I am or what I am doing, when I am (we are) weary, broken, or tired, Christ is waiting for us to simply “come” that we might find rest. And I have a sneaky suspicion Christ wants us to come more than just on our one day of Sabbath each week.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
I spent most of this week isolating myself from the world in an attempt to not infect anyone else with my miserable cold that I probably caught on the plane home from London. I did make an effort to get out and get fresh (frozen, usually temps below 0F) air... even if it meant only to go to the gym each morning.
England was great. My favorite moment? When we squeezed all 15 of us (14 in our group, + one of the ministers from the church) into this tiny prayer "closet" - which of course belonged to none other than John Wesley. We took time to gather together, to take a moment of peace and rest and be still before praying together. It was beautiful... a holy moment that moved nearly all of us in the room to tears...
I also thoroughly enjoyed the seeming simplicity of the scenery. I love the way the architecture and even the layout of the streets is so different that you just know when you're in England. Its lovely. and Cambridge? Beautiful! There were countless gorgeous college campuses and cathedrals just waiting to be explored and appreciated, inside and out... it was so magnificent...
We spent most of our time in Cambridge, taking a couple of day trips from there to London. Then we spent a night in Bristol and another in Oxford before heading back to London to fly out. Minimal problems getting home, really... especially considering there was a plane crash at London Heathrow Airport the day before we flew out!!!
Overall, this was a great trip, and I enjoyed getting to know some of the others on the trip. We had a great time, complete with unending jokes about how incredibly young I am (they get old, but at least with this group it was all in good, sincere fun!). While this is probably not the review I would typically write for you all, it'll have to do for now. I need to run through my sermon once more tonight before getting up early and heading to church in the morning. :)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
With the ongoing news about the terrible situation in Kenya and the never-ending bad news out of the Middle East, news today from Eastern Congo brings hope into our dark world.
A peace pact has been signed in Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, by the government and armed groups. From BBC News:
It aims to end months of bloody conflict in the east which has driven almost 500,000 people from their homes.
The deal offers an amnesty to Gen Nkunda and his forces but the rebels say its full implementation will be dependent on the disarming of an ethnic Hutu militia.
The different factions had said they were ready to demobilise after seeing the peace deal on Monday but then disagreements emerged.
The breakthrough came after a flurry of last-minute face-to-face contacts and telephone calls involving government ministers, the rebels and international diplomats.
Of course, this important step is far from the end, and further cooperation will be needed by others to truly end the violence in the Congo. But it is indeed a step, and an encouraging one. It means there is an end in site.. after more than 10 years of fighting and 5.4 million lives being lost, I see this as a strong sign of HOPE.
Let us continue to pray together for further successes that follow, that someday the Democratic Republic of Congo, and our world, will see peace.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Every day, people die of drug overdoses. Today, Hollywood lost a great actor to what is believed to have been an overdose. We do not yet know any details, whether it was intentional (suicide?) or accidental, or what the "pills" found next to him even were.
What we do know is that at only 28 years of age, Heath Ledger of Perth, Australia passed away. He leaves behind family including a two-year-old daughter (shame...) and countless friends and fans worldwide. He was a phenomenal actor with countless big roles including my favorites in Brokeback Mountain, A Knight's Tale, 10 Things I Hate About You...
- The weather was nice to us, in the 40s most days, with rain far less than anticipated
- Traveling in a group is NOT overrated- I'll stick to my independent travels anyday!
- ^^That being said, it was priceless to have great friends (old and new) with me to share the experience with. Especially since they'll still understand and laugh at new jokes with me now that we've returned!
- I am more of a Wesleyan than I thought. I LOVED seeing, touching, "feeling" the presence of the Wesleys in the historic places in England. This was truly a Methodist pilgrimage... and it was amazing.
- My favorite moment was when all 14 in our group + Jennie (Assoc. Pastor at City Road Methodist Church) gathered in John Wesley's private prayer room in his house for a time of reflection an prayer. It was a holy moment; the presence of God among us was thick, and I believe all but 2 were moved to tears (I was NOT one of those 2!). I live for moments like that... moments when the closeness of God is intense, so real...
- Least favorite moment, though its funny now, was "getting" to go outside in the cold in the middle of the night for a fire alarm in our hotel the night before we left. 2 alarms, actually- but at least I got a "souvenir" hypothermia blanket! :)
- There is no place like home. A warm, cozy bed, pure, blissful silence and "alone time." It can't be beat!
- From the airplane (or Heather...), I picked up a cold. Its not terrible yet, but I hope it doesn't get any worse!
- Trips away are NOT restful. The first night upon arrival to Chicago I was allowed to both go to bed early AND sleep in, I slept for 13 hours straight with no interruption. Accidentally, of course (8pm-9am), but I am thankful for the opportunity because I must have needed it!
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
England is a wonderful, beautiful country! I am so glad to have finally made it here!
We're staying in Cambridge and spending our days in lectures at Wesley Church. Today we had a bit of time to walk around in Cambridge, and it is SO beautiful! I can't wait to have more time to go into the Cathedrals, see more places, just roam the streets. The best part of being in England is the architecture. Its so distinct, so elegant, so beautiful!
We also made it to Ely today. The Cathedral was beautiful, but I didn't get many pictures as I spent so much time marveling in it, that by the time we really had a chance to, it was getting dark. *sigh*
It really was a brilliant idea to study the Wesley's and early Methodism from England. Our British lecturers have been brilliant, and I am quite sure I would not have been so engaged had we sat in a classroom in the US to hear something of a far different perspective from an American. And as we fight jet-lag, that's really saying something!
I'm looking forward to the rest of the trip: seeing more of Cambridge, spending time in London, Bristol and Oxford... it is going to be great!!
Surely there will be more udpates, though not necessarily until I after I return. (the internet here is EXPENSIVE!!)
oh...and how could I forget? Happy Birthday, Aaron! (my little brother turns 22 today!). That, and I can't wait to hear how the primaries go tonight in New Hampshire...
Friday, January 4, 2008
Sleeping. Exercising. Eating healthy. Relaxing. These are things I have not been doing enough over the past 4 weeks.
This fall semester was by far the most difficult term I have ever faced. This difficulty came for a variety of reasons. I took an overload of very demanding classes, I had just returned from the trip of a lifetime... Feeling refreshed and "ready to go," I took on extra tasks readily and energetically.
Then I discovered that the life I led all summer in South Africa- a life that included working hard at different sorts of challenges than I had ever previously faced- also allowed for something I have never before taken enough time for: rest. Work is done best- and is most effective- when the worker has also taken proper time to rest and to care for their whole self. I was able to do that all summer.
Returning to the States with a new (albeit unintentionally) mindset, I have concluded that pushing myself "too hard" does more harm than good. So my boundaries have been reinforced. In terms of school work, this has meant I put into practice these ideas:
*When I am up studying at night and can't keep my eyes open, I should sleep.
*My work will be there in the morning. Some things are just more important than reading an article or writing a paper by a specific deadline.
*My grades will not make or break me as a future leader. What is important is that I am learning, not that I can make it look like I'm learning by having "good grades" on paper.
*Caring for only a part of oneself is not wholly beneficial. Physical, emotional, and spiritual well being should be cared for by one another side-by-side, not "one at a time." Sometimes, this means sacrificing other things in life... but it is worth it.
*Community is essential. While I do not rest my self-worth, etc on how others see me, I do recognize that without community and the power/encouragement/support/knowledge of the collective, an individual can do far less.
*Big change doesn't come overnight, and it can't work on "a plan." It requires a lifestyle change through and through- whether something as "small" as a diet (I've lost 12 pounds since 1 November!) or as important as spiritual practices, it takes time, prayer, and persistence to see change.
Why, then, have I been neglecting these new "life rules" by which I have been living over the past few months? Unfortunately, my overload of work has caught up to me... well, that, and with an upcoming trip to England, I don't want to be bogged down by intense amounts of work (and books) in a hotel room while there. In an effort to get as much done as possible, I have resorted to caffeine as my drug of choice and taking only one extension- which I intentionally (whether intelligent or not) set the due date as such that I HAVE to get it done before leaving for J-term.
For better or worse, I will be caught up soon. (and sleep deprived while still high on caffeine. Yes, it really does effect me that much, as I otherwise try not to drink it often).
Next semester will be different. Somehow.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
As I don’t have TV to watch from home and decided to stay home and attempt to keep working (read: attempt- I was far too distracted by the caucuses to actually get any work done), I found myself constantly refreshing internet pages to see the results as they poured in of the first night of primaries: The Iowa Caucus.
The Democrats at least had it together for persons like myself who were anxiously awaiting results from the internet. iowacaucusresults.com offered results as they came in, automatically updating every 30 seconds. I was surprised to find Edwards in a strong lead in the beginning, with Hillary in an (almost) close second and Obama in a far third. This didn’t last long, though, as gaps were quickly closed and by 8:00 Clinton was pushed back into third place where I predicted she’d be, with Edwards slowly falling further behind Obama. By the time all results were in by 10pm, the results were as follows:
The Republicans did not have such a friendly site... I eventually found a neutral site, but their statistics were slow and not as up-to-date. It did have Huckabee in a decent lead from the beginning, though, just as I expected. He maintained this lead throughout the night, and by 8:20 they were calling it a win for him. While Huckabee had a similar % vote to the Democratic ‘winner’ Obama, the rest of the Republican vote was much more split. The results as such:
No big surprises here... I did expect Edwards to do a little better, but as you can see below, this is pretty much what I predicted. Nothing like a kick-off to a new year with early elections!
This is so beautiful, truly even though this is only the first of many primaries, this is a huge step for our nation. "Stand for Change" is Obama's slogan, and indeed change has begun. For the first time since 1988 (Jesse Jackson), a primary has been won by an African American. Hillary Clinton- a woman- is still in the top running, practically tied for second place in the Democratic race. Of the top 3, only ONE is our typical "white male" - how beautiful is that?!?!
Obama began his Victory speech with this:
“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set to high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together under a common person…On this night, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do..."Well friends, "they" were wrong. Praise God for the big wins and the united front with record highs in turn-outs to the [Democratic] primaries. Republicans, Democrats, Independents alike all came together- I have never before seen such a united front for any candidate on either side. This gives me hope.
If you wish to see all the final results (better than the "neutral site" I used above), I thought this local news broadcaster did a great job updating all night as well. (and of course... within hours, every national news station will have the results listed as well).
Peace be with you as we move forth and anxiously move forward to more nights like this one as we continue to seek the change our nation needs.
|Your Political Profile:|
Overall: 10% Conservative, 90% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Sad news has arrived today. It has been announced that Dr. Sujin Pak, a history professor here at Garrett, will be leaving her post to move on to teaching at Duke University. She is one of our strongest faculty (or at least one of my favorite), and she has been greatly missed this semester as she was on sabbatical/maternity leave. I wish I could squeeze in another class with her before she leaves, but my schedule is already overbooked for the spring...
Caucusing starts tonight in Iowa. I wish I were there! I am looking forward to finishing enough work that I can sit in front of a television and watch history unfold tonight. I "feel" like they're going to go with Obama, with greatest competition from Edwards. Sorry, but I just don't think Hillary Clinton is going to swing Iowa. She didn't "show her face" enough to those Iowa really cares about- the rural communities, the farmers, the "nobodies" that don't live in cities. Edwards and Obama did a great job at this, and I think Clinton's add campaign last night during every 6pm news broadcast in the state may have been "too little, too late." But I guess we'll see! (I also have to say that I LOVE Dennis Kucinich, but he's so far from winning I wouldn't want to "waste" a vote on him...)
*Republicans? I'm not sure... it seems a lot closer (though maybe that's because I'm so indifferent?). I would guess Mike Huckabee in first, with Mitt Romney behind him. I don't feel like the Republican party has any outstanding candidates this time around. Maybe they'll prove me wrong and in the next 11 months before the election someone will somehow impress me?
I'm still praying for Pakistan as investigations continue and decisions are made about their elections...
I am still in shock and distress and deeply saddened by the turmoil in Kenya. With over 300 lives lost and 70,000 displaced since Sunday's election, I can't imagine what they are going through. Unfortunately, this kind of unrest is not incredibly unfamiliar to many parts of the world, but somehow this struck me a little harder than usual, and I am weighed down by it. Perhaps this is good, as it has allowed for me to stay in prayer with and for them. I just hope President Mwai Kibaki's promise to speak to his opposition is not "too little, too late," as he has refused to speak to them until the violence has ended. May God be with Kenya, her leaders and her people...
Politics. That's what our lives come down to. No matter how much we may or may not want them to, they dominate us. There is no avoiding it. Even in the Church we are political. In many ways, we must be. Jesus surely was. Let us come together in this season of change, that we might work toward a greater change in all of our communities, whether local, national, or global. Starting and participating in politics locally in Christ-like ways: this is the key to effecting global change. Whoever said the power of one has no power at all, lied to you. Every big change that has ever happened has started with the power of one person who believed they could make a difference. That's why I'll be calling our politicians into question this election year. I'll be making my ONE vote count. I hope you'll do the same.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
As I have been away from the internet for a couple of weeks, I have not posted any new entries. However, I have been writing them. So I have post-dated several entries and finally posted them tonight. Enjoy!
It is hard to believe it is 2008 already! 2007 was a phenomenal year for me, and I only hope 2008 can be better!
I spent my New Year’s Eve with friends over dinner, to the tune of live entertainment by our friend Andrew Collins.