Wednesday, February 28

To Play Like a Child Again

I am in a season of anticipation: trying to rest, learning to listen, and waiting on God. Right now I'm feeling like a mass of dots aching to be connected by a smarter crayon.

But today it was nice to take an hour long road trip with my Mama to the Trader Joe's in Old Town Alexandria. I had to show her how small and lovely grocery stores can be.

Last night I tried to talk to God about connecting the dots of my desires. And I felt like he calmed me down by nudging me to "just read a book for fun before bed." Maybe because with all of my overdue projects for Fuller, I've been taking myself way too seriously lately. (He's a good Daddy, he is.)

I grabbed a worn copy of Madeleine L'Engle's A Circle of Quiet, the first of her Crosswicks Journal series. I'd bought it at the public library sale for 50 cents a few months ago because I knew Lisa B. thinks that book 4 in L'Engle's Journal is gorgeous stuff, and I pretty much trust anything Lisa says. Plus, there's that sweet memory of reading Miss Madeleine's A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door as a kid.

If you didn't read Madeleine's A Wrinkle in Time you owe it to yourself to slip back into childhood and read the thing. Last night I was reminded just how carefully she puts words together. I smiled myself to sleep as I read:

"The concentration of a small child at play is analagous to the concentration of the artist of any discipline. In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself. He has thrown himself completely into whatever it is that he is doing...His self-consciousness is gone; his consciousness is wholly focused outside himself...

...When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child this is: art: prayer: love."
-A Circle of Quiet, chapter 1

Tuesday, February 27

One Englishman's View of America

Brian Heasley is the infamous 24-7 Prayer man in Ibiza. I appreciate how honestly and hilariously he blogs about following Jesus in Europe. He's originally from the UK, but now he walks out a life of prayer, community, and creative mission in Europe's wildest party isle. You can read about 24-7 Prayer Ibiza here.

Brian just returned from speaking at a conference in D.C. called Awaken the Dawn. The line-up included other outstanding folks like Heidi Baker (Iris Ministries), Lou Engle (JHOP + The Cause), and Allen Hood (IHOP). (I would've really liked to go, if I hadn't been on the left coast.) Now that he's back, Brian's just posted a quick list of his reflections on America. His list is great stuff.
Here are 8 of my favorites:

+ It's big
+ You could get fat living there
+ Not many people walk anywhere
+ JFK airport is crap
+ There is a hunger for God
+ We have lots of generalisations about America, many of which are wrong
+ Venison in lasagne works
+ Don't mention the war

Read the rest of Brian's reflections on America.

Monday, February 26

One to Love Unconditionally

Shortly after writing my last post, I turned on my online Pandora Radio and Death Cab's "Debate Exposes Doubt" came on. I think it's one more snapshot of a generation starved for relationship, and hungry for a taste of the unconditional love of the Father.

I was in the corner booth thinking
(pretending to read)
About the possibility
of one to love unconditionally
and the words that
drive into the ground

their repetition starts
to thin their meaning.

(From the aptly named record, The Photo Album.)

I have sweet memories attached to this song. I used to listen to it on repeat while driving the Portuguese backroads from Sao Joao to Malveira de Serra.

I'm not afraid to cite Death Cab for Cutie as a legitmate voice for my generation. While the true hipsters may say they've sold out for mainstream, I still think they're excellent narrators and song-crafters. In 2000 I discovered We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes in an old Catonsville record shop, and I've been hooked since.

What the Church Can Learn from MTV

Late last night I watched MTV's Juvies with my Mama. I should have been studying, but I was drawn into this new unscripted series on adolescents in trouble. Juvies began airing in January, and is part of MTV's "Think" campaign which deals with issues of discrimination, education, the environment, and sexual health.

Last night's show followed two teenage girls into the Juvie detention system. Both girls were caught stealing: one admitted that she steals compulsively, the other, named Kashmiere, was caught on her first offense. The documentary weaved in and out of the teenagers' family lives, revealing the lack of relationship each girl has with her parents. Kashmiere was shown bitterly crying over the chasm in her relationship with her single mother.

Their stories made me very sad, and angry at the same time. I saw these girls acting out of their need for relationship, and finding themselves reprimanded by authority figures who offered them no other hope except, "Stay in School and Do Right."

MTV's Juvies paints an accurate picture of my generation. We are starved for relationship and we'll do anything to find it. In Kashmiere's case, she stole $380 to gain the approval of her friend.

MTV has a close eye on the needs of the emerging generation. They may be exploiting those needs, but still, it bothers me that MTV seems to be doing more to connect with this generation than we are, as the local expression of Jesus' community. And this judgment falls on me, just as much as the other.

Saturday, February 24

Frozen Maryland, She Welcomes Me

Before I walked through security at LAX this morning, I paused out in the sunshine and just sort of smiled into it for a few awkward moments. I'd heard rumors of icy stuff in Baltimore, but tried to forget it for one more warm California ray.

Maryland has welcomed me with her freezing open arms, she has. I am a pretend dot in the center of the map above, expecting up to 2 inches of the frozen slush.

I had a great afternoon on the plane, mind you. In case you need ideas for your next trans-american flight, I shall offer you a list.

Things to Do When Flying Across America:
1. Get the window seat so you can see the Grand Canyon. (Amazing.)
2. Write a long letter to a good friend. Talk to them as if they're there.
3. Read some good books. (I read some of Frank Viola's brand new one, God's Ultimate Passion. Thought provoking. More on that soon. And I read James Smith's Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Also delightfully insightful.)
4. Let your mind sleep by staring out the window.
5. Write to Jesus and tell him what you're thankful for. (He likes that.)
6. Eat a roast beef and mozzarella whole wheat wrap from your shopping day at Trader Joe's.
7. Listen to the wild joy of Regina Spektor, Beirut, and The Headlights on your iPod.

Thursday, February 22

Kiss My Brain

My brain needs a smooch. Or a synapse-massage, perhaps. I'm still in Pasadena finishing up the last three days of a two week intensive at Fuller. And I'm knee-deep in excellent books for the two courses I'm working on this quarter: Ministering to Street Kids and Contemporary Culture in Missiological Perspective (a.k.a. "Our culture is steeped in uglies from both modernity and post-modernity, so whatcha gonna do about it, young?"). Today in my Street Children class we pretended we were in Bucharest and devised practical strategies for setting up a ministry to care for those Children Underground. We argued a lot, but ended up with a ministry that looked a lot like Young Life for children of the street: Go to where they are, love them, and help them get integrated into a space that cheers for their freedom.

I'm up late desperately trying to translate articles about the street children of Naples, Italy. My Italian is still pretty rough, but not as rough as the streets of Naples. Some of my great-grandparents were born there. When I was in Naples this summer some Italians told me I have a distinctly Neopolitan face. One day I think this face would like to care for street kids in that city. Big dreams. Lots more to learn.

Learning makes me happy. But it's tiring, too.

(Thank you if that was you who prayed for my health last week. I started feeling significantly better just 24 hours after I asked oh Ye of the blogosphere to talk to Jesus for me.)

Wednesday, February 14

"I Don't Believe in Love"

“I don’t believe in love. I believe in God. Because He is bigger.”
-Cristina Ionescu, a street-dwelling teenager in Romania

I spent a significant part of this V-Day in class watching a documentary called, Children Underground. It was both beautiful and terrible. It presents the gritty lives of five Romanian street-dwelling children, and their fight to survive in a Bucharest subway. After watching it, I am more and more convinced that the gospel of the Kingdom is only good news if it is wholistic: bringing not just words, but sacrificial love, and a fight for justice at local and systemic levels. And I'm more convinced that I am, in some way, personally responsibile for systems of society that allow children to continue to live in the streets.

I also think Cristina from Romania has something to say to us. Maybe what she is saying is that love is something bigger than what society has told her.

Sham –noun
1. something that is not what it purports to be; a spurious imitation; fraud or hoax.

Concerning Valentine's Day, I maintain that it is a sham of a holiday. Not because I'm an embittered single woman (although I've had my moments), but because our Valentine's Day celebrations communicate something about the giving and receiving of love that is a sham. Our Valentine's Day purports that love is sweet, comfortable, and happy. I don't think love is such. I think that love is sacrificial, difficult, and oftentimes, sad. Love is a man hanging on a tree as a means of reconciliation. Love is forgiveness that makes others call you a fool. The disciple "whom Jesus loved" said that love is laying down our lives for one another. If this is true, loving our Valentines should mean anything but fluffy balloons and overpriced chocolates.

I'm not judging you for celebrating. I always enjoy getting V-day chocolates and "I love you's" from Mama and Dad, and others along the way. I certainly don't throw those away. But the sugar-sweet words of this "holiday" makes me struggle to know who's Voice is loudest in my ears about what love is all about. I want to live a life of sacrificial love that is both beautiful and terrible. (Lord, help us.)

Tuesday, February 13

Full at Fuller

I am sitting on a comfy leather chair in Fuller's Kreyssler's Hall. K. Hall is Fuller's Student Center where folk come to chat/study/nap. It reminds me of the colonial houses in Charles County, where I grew up. Inside there's loads of these comfy leather chairs and free internet. Outside there is a vicious game of badminton going on between a handful of hipster boys. In the back is a nice green garden-like area with more study space. Inside, the natural light is plentiful, there are bay-windows all around.

I am drinking a nice strawberry mocha in my new insulated ceramic mug. I think all hot beverages should be enjoyed in ceramic mugs. None of this (kill-the-earth) paper nonsense. It's just terrible for the lips, I say. I'm getting sick again, so I'm drinking my sneezes away with sweet caffeinated goodness in a mug.

I should be studying about Children at Risk for my class in three hours, but instead I'm totally eavesdropping on a conversation these two guys are having underneath the big bay window. They're talking about their church where there is no main pastor. They gather together for the Lord's Table for one whole hour, and then they prophesy to one another for the next hour. On other occasions someone in the group will be assigned to teach on the Scriptures, and they focus on singing about Jesus' death and resurrection. (Stick me in those pews, baby!)

The guy talking is bi-lingual, as he keeps greeting people in both Spanish and English. I heard him say that he's also done missions in Taiwan.

I really love Fuller. Everywhere I go there are both internationals and forward-thinking people. I'm constantly eavesdropping on juicy conversations about living missionally, growing prophetically, and advocating for the poor throughout the nations. Since my degree program is mostly done in an online cohort, it's not often that I get to enjoy campus life.

If you want to know a secret, here it is. I've started talking to Jesus about me moving out to California for my last quarter or two of seminary. I'd really like to be a part of this community of great conversation while I study. I feel very full listening in on so many conversations. It'd be nice to jump in on some, but not have to leave on a plane a few days later.

(Thanks to Grandinroad
for the comfy chair pic.)

Monday, February 12

Makin' a List, Checkin' it Twice

I get in these funny moods when I'm sure that if I don't list out the little details of my life at the moment, then I will most assuredly turn into a crazy lady. The brilliant irony of it all is that I don't necessarily have to cross-out or even do things on the list. It's just the making of the list that makes me feel sane.

And here we have another...

Things I'd Like to Blog About Soon
1. How Dollar Rent-a-Car scammed me today, and the letter I'm writing them.
2. My falling off the decaf-only coffee wagon.
3. The book Transforming Power (Robert Linthicum) and how its boring cover never hinted that its contents would move me so much about justice.
4. The Militancy of Worship - part 2
5. What being an INFP means for me (aka. Myers Briggs Mumbo-Jumbo).
6. My 24-7 Prayer Room Reflections (from rooms in Santa Barbara, small town MD, Portugal, Italy)
7. What I've learned from Oliver, my new German church-planter friend.
8. How Jesus calmed me through The Shins new record this week.
9. Valentines Day is a sham, and I'll prove it.
10. What happens when you're starved for solitude.
11. Dreaming of living in an intentional, messy community.
12. When you're lost, but not so far away.

Sunday, February 11

Grocery Listing

Greetings from defunct blogdom and from Pasadena*, California, home of the original Trader Joe's**! I am mad about this grocery store. It's fresh, organic, cheap, and witty. And they have free samples! I love free samples! And it's not so monstrous a store that I need a map to find my way around.

I miss the days in Portugal when I'd go down to the tiny corner store in Sao Joao and only buy enough food for the next three meals. There was Sabbath in the freshness of what we could prepare in those days. I keep an old Portuguese grocery receipt in my Bible to remind me.

Maybe our grocery receipts tell a lot about our hearts. I think mine is missing southern Europe.

My Trader Joe's Receipt
flatbread 1.49
blue lake green beans 2.49
organic wheat penne 0.99
organic tricolor radiatore 1.69
roma tomatoes 1.79
genova pesto 2.79
organic baby romaine 1.99
sliced mozzarella 3.49
sliced calabrese salami 1.89
sliced roast beef 3.99
bananas 0.95
salted butter 1.99
1/2 dozen organic eggs 1.79

*I'm in Pasadena to take a two-week course on "Ministering to Street Children" at Fuller.

**Thank you, dear Lisa and Byron for the tea today, and for the ride to Trader Joe's!