Thursday, May 31

Golf is Fun

Today I played in a golf tournament to benefit Young Life. It was my first time out all season. I was happy to make a couple of birdies and 20 footers. (I hit some real duffs and embarrasing putts, too.) I won the long drive competetition for both the men and women. That was fun. I like winning stuff.

On the way home I realized that I've played in one golf tourney every year for the last 3 years (two in Portugal), and at each of the 3 tourneys I've won the long drive. If only I had a short game, I would be money.

(Look out kids! My pride is spilling all over the blog page.) That photo above is me at 3.5 years, showing my I-think-I'm-so-fantastic face.

I don't really understand this golf thing. I feel like God gave me the ability to play just to help me pay for part of my college education. (And I'm very thankful for that.) But since then, I don't really know what to do with it. I'm not insane about the game. But I do enjoy it from time to time. It's just so dang expensive.

Sometimes I just get nervous with all of those don't-you-bury-your-talents parables.

Today at the tourney I played on a team with my Daddy and we came in third. I was able to buy a sweet 80 liter hikers' pack with the Sporting Goods giftcards we won. That will make traveling much easier. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, May 30

Birdie Sings in Stereo

I haven't been feeling so hot ever since we got off the plane from Florida. I really love traveling. But since I moved back to the USA from Europe, it seems I get sick each time I get off of a plane. (I keep telling myself it's because this body is meant for Europe.) I'd started taking these immune boosters with Vitamin C and Echinacea, but I forgot them last week. Today is the first day I'm starting to feel somewhat normal again.

Yesterday I went out on the front porch while my Dad had a smoke. He was mesmerized by this birdie that was perched on our telephone wire. Dad was smiling as if he'd long ago made friends with this bird, which would be natural as he often takes smoke breaks on the porch. Sweet birdie was singing four or five totally different summer songs! I couldn't believe they all came from one little birdie beak. But I couldn't even hear the music until Dad stopped me and helped me listen. (As good Daddys do.)

I then called to my Mama, "Come listen to the birdie who sings in stereo!"

I'm jealous of how smokers live a rhythm of momentary pauses throughout the day. I think this is one of the ways God can redeem a nicotine addiction. It's strange how the smoke in their lungs is so dangerous, and yet the simple exhale of their outdoor pauses is so dangerously life-giving.

I need to start taking some pseudo-smoke breaks.

(Birds photo by Meredith Dancause)

Saturday, May 26

Jesus at the Yard Sale

My day was flooded with yard-saledom. Our youth group did one of those insane churchwide junk sales filled with blood, sweat, and sweet old ladies knocking early on the doors at 6:30am. We did the sale to raise money to mostly give away, and made about $1k. It flies in the face of what makes sense right now, especially because church budgets are an everlasting concern. But lately in our youth gatherings I've been trying to teach that the Kingdom is about extreme generosity and simplicity. Trying to find ways to make it real to them. (To us.)

The junk-recycling thing started to wear on me today. Granted, I love finding Family Circle magazines from 1961, and other random delights, but, I was feeling pretty gross while observing the sales all morning. I wonder when it is that we Americans caught this disease of needing stuff. I'm pretty sure my grandparents were innoculated from it, particularly through the Depression years. I hope my kids can get the vaccine, too, one day.

(Finding Jesus photo, Greg Robbins.)

My "Real" Age is 24.4?

So I was lured into this silly Real Age test because I wanted it to tell me that I don't have to grow up, after all. Survey says I'm actually 3 years younger, in terms of health. Wooo. The questions asked were really interesting: measuring health/stressy levels according to all sorts of things that we normally overlook. The most difficult survey for me to answer wasn't the "Really now, how often do you floss?" question. It was this one:

How many of your close friends and relatives do you see AT LEAST once per month?

X None
_ One or two
_ Three to five
_ Six to nine
_ Ten or more

(I guess I should've counted my parents and little brother, but the reality is that my closest friends all live in various other time zones. I realize that this is just the nature of the weird transition season I'm in. But it still really stinks.)

Some of their recommendations include: stop talking on your cell phone while driving, consume more potassium, please stop speeding, get your cholesterol checked, and own a dog if possible. (No thanks, I've already been converted to kind kitties only.)

Friday, May 25

Attack of the Love Bugs

At the risk of having my blog censored for adult-content, I must comment on the love bugs in Florida this time of year. They are everywhere. And they are massive. Massive bugs making love in the air. And they're doing their thing while acrobatically landing on your arm, face, et cetera. It is really quite bizarre. And gross. Or beautiful. Or something. I'm not sure.

In any case, I had a great couple of days down south with the sun and the fam and the flying lovers. Someone mail me an aloe vera plant. Please.

Sunday, May 20

5K + Safe Dunking

That 5k was oddly fun. I don't know why, really. It was awfully early for me to be up. And I used to hate running and thought that anyone who claimed to enjoy it took weirdo pills. I think I'm just getting addicted to whatever those drugs are that your body produces when you run. I ended up going a lot faster than I meant to and finished 5 minutes sooner than I expected. (That was fun.) Now I just want to run in another and better my time.

The best part was at the half-way mark when they hand you water as you run by, but you only take 1/4 sip, pour the rest on your face, and dramatically throw the cup in the grass. I felt like a pro. But then felt guilty for littering.

The flower-lined street was bloomless. Sad. But the air on the street was heavy with honeysuckles, so that pushed my lungs through the last mile.

Then at the finish line I found a great friend from high school whom I hadn't hugged in 10 years. We used to pass notes in 10th grade Latin class about the boys we wanted to kiss, and other sundries. She ended up marrying one of those boys. Crazy.

Well, I took Brian Heasley's advice and made sure no one drowned as I dunked them today. Ended up getting to baptize two girls from the youth group, after all. I almost cannonballed into the pool to get our head pastor soaked, but then my grown-up side woke up and I stopped myself mid-splash. Still got a good laugh.

I'm super-knackered after a long day, especially because I only slept 4 hours last night on account of being so excited for today. Flying out to visit family in Florida tomorrow. Should help with my white legs.

Saturday, May 19

A Couple of Firsts

On Sunday I'm going to do two things I've never done before, and all before mid-day! I'm awfully excited for both.

One, I'm running in my first 5k. It's through my little historic town, and very close to the route I usually run with the windy streets that have the enormous red, pink, and white flowers. (Forgive me, I'm terrible with flower names. I always forget them. Maybe I should start introducing myself to the flowers and including their name in my conversation numerous times, like good Young Life leaders do. Why, hello, Rhododendron! How is your day going, Rhododendron? Well, you know what they say about rainy days, Rhododendron...).

At first I decided my 5k goal was to simply beat the time of the first girl I recognized from last year's online records of the race. (Fair enough.) But then I decided that that's silly. I don't even wear a watch. So I'll just enjoy my first ever road race and make it my goal to run on an even pace and notably try to smile toward the flowers.

And then! After a fast shower I'll head over to the church where I'm helping to baptize a lovely middle school gal, named Alleigh. She is a darling. I mentioned her before as one of the midnight watchers for our 24-7 prayer room in March. She asked that her Mama and I baptize her. I'm so honored. I've never done a baptism before. Hope I don't forget to pack my change of dry clothes after all of the town running fun. (I'm sure I will forget, actually.)

If any of you have suggestions for either of my firsts, I'll take 'em happily.

(Photo above from Colin Borden's baptism at Guincho. I love this photo, eventhough I missed the party.)

Friday, May 18

I Just Want to Play

I am an eight year old trapped in a twenty seven-year old's body. I really just would like to play now, please. But I have 3 weeks of class and about 10 papers left to write. (Along with many, many other non-academic projects due.) I'm learning that I get things done most efficiently when I can do something fun at the same time. I have to con myself into finishing projects by multi-tasking play in the midst of the work.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been actually growing excited when it's time to listen to my online lectures! Do you know what I do while I listen to hour long lectures? I make recycled envelopes! It really does seem to help me listen more critically if I can simultaneously play with scissors, glue, and weird paper/maps/liner-notes. I'm afraid I'm regressing from grad school to pre-K.

Lately people have been mistaking me for much younger. A week or two ago, this lady said, "Oh! I really want you to meet my friend! She's just your old are you?"


"Oh! Well, she's about 20 or 21. But when are you going to start looking your age, darling!"

It doesn't bother me much. I'm afraid of growing up and growing boring.

(Kids playing in the rainbow photo by Brimley).

Wednesday, May 16

Why Björk Will Never Act Again

Dancer in the Dark premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000. At the Cannes, the film was awarded the festival's most prestigious Palme d'Or award, while Björk won best actress. Unless you're a fan of rather obscure indies, this film probably flew under your radar screen. But Dancer in the Dark has affected me more than most any other film, particularly in how I imagine the Cross.

The film is a modern musical drama that is both horrific and wonderful. Björk composed and performed the entire soundtrack, Selmasongs, with a guest album appearance by Radiohead's Thom Yorke. The soundtrack is stunning and emotive.

You may remember Björk from her swan-studded performance at the Academy Awards in 2000. Her song "I Have Seen it All" from Dancer in the Dark gained a nomination. Known for her innovative and complex musical compositions, starring in a motion picture was a first for the Icelandic singer-songwriter. And, Björk said, it would also be her last. After seeing this film, and the emotional brutality of it all, you can't blame her.

Director Lars von Trier uses hand-held cameras through much of the movie to give it the look of a gritty documentary. And gritty, it is. This is not a film for the faint of heart.

Selma is a single mother and Czech immigrant. Plagued by a hereditary disease that slowly degenerates her sight into blindness, she is equally plagued by the knowledge that her young son will likewise eventually go blind. And so, Selma works night and day in a factory, saving every penny that she might pay for her son to receive a restorative surgery. All this, that he might see.

Dancer in the Dark speaks to me of the grit of authentic love. It is a story of sacrifice and pain, with much beauty in between. I see Christ all throughout it's scenes, particularly in the simple gentleness of Selma, in her agonizing selflessness, and in the outstanding creations of the soundtrack. The climax is terrible, having seen it would cause you to reflect on Calvary in unique and haunting ways.

Although there are obvious portraits of the road to Golgotha in this film, I am most moved by the raw and awful beauty throughout. Björk's artistic performance is riveting--as actor and as composer/singer--and is dripping with the creativity of the Uncreated One. It is in these unsuspecting discs of overlooked independent films and music where I most appreciate encountering the aroma of Jesus.

This month's synchroblog is focused on Christianity and Film. Check out the smart and witty things the other synchros are saying on the matter:

Steve Hayes ponders The Image of Christianity in Films
Adam Gonnerman pokes at The Spider's Pardon
David Fisher thinks that
Jesus Loves Sci-Fi

John Morehead considers Christians and Horror Redux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement
Marieke Schwartz lights it up with
Counter-hegemony: Jesus loves Borat

Mike Bursell muses about Christianity at the Movies
Cobus van Wyngaard contemplates Theology and Film (as art)
Tim Abbott tells us to
Bring your own meaning...?

Sonja Andrews visits The Good,
The Bad, and The Ugly: Christ in Spaghetti Westerns

Steve Hollinghurst takes a stab at The Gospel According to Buffy
Les Chatwin insists We Don't Need Another Hero
Lance Cummings says The Wooden Wheel Keeps Turning
John Smulo weaves a tale about Spiderman 3 and the Shadow
Josh Rivera spells well with
Christian Witchcraft

Phil Wyman throws out the Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back
Sally Coleman is Making Connections- films as a part of a mythological tradition
Dr. Kim Paffenroth investigates Nihilism Lite

Tuesday, May 15

Take That, Terps

I just got word that the UMBC Lacrosse team beat the pants off of the University of Maryland to enter the quarter-finals of the NCAA championship. This is huge news for Baltimore! And for the ever-underdog UMBC Retrievers. As a UMBC Golf team alum, I remember no other rival than the Maryland Terps, the Uni I affectionately termed "the over-funded behemoth 30 miles to our south." Let's go Dogs!

Helpful translation guide for non-Baltimorons:
1. In Baltimore, lacrosse is way bigger than collegiate football.
2. UMBC = U. of Maryland, Baltimore County, a mid-size research university, and the Nelly's alma mater.

(Photo: Mike Millchanowski)

From an Old Kitchen Window

I'm not sure if you've ever felt caught in between worlds, but I do. I've been in the States since September, but my heart still walks on water back to our apartment in Portugal. (The photo above was taken from our old kitchen window, in between the yellow curtains.) Rachel was one of my roommates in that old apartment, and she has been feeling the same. She's just written a lovely poem about the strange haunting of being kept up at night by good memories. Take a trip over to her Nashville blog. Rachel's words work faster than an Air Portugal flight in taking me back to Lisbon.

Mommy Blogger Crosses Atlantic!

I've just nominated the legendary Lisa Borden in the Blogger's Choice Awards.

Category: Hottest Mommy Blogger.

Perfect? Perfect! Hurry up and go vote for her. Especially because, as of today, all of Lisa's posts will be from Tanzania! Where else can you get a look at the inside of a wild household migrating from Europe to Africa (via Pasadena) that is so wild for Jesus, and wild with Hope?

Vote for Lisa's blog here: "Let's Put the Kettle On" is Hot, Man!

Lisa's blog: Let's Put the Kettle On
And the blog of Wild Hope:
Telling African Stories As They Live Them

I also voted for:
Andrew Jones, the Tall Skinny Kiwi (Best Blog of All Time) and John Smulo, in Smulospace (Best Religious Blog)

Ajuda Me

A few nights ago I dreamt that I was back at a cafe in Portugal, ordering pastries and coffee in the early evening. It was the first dream I've had in a long while where I was speaking Portuguese, not English. After ordering my milky galao, the sassy-pants barista demanded that I order an aperitif instead of a coffee, on account of the hour of the day. I can't imagine this ever happening in Portugal. It was as if I were in Italy (where I can imagine this happening) and was reprimanded for ordering a cappuccino too late in the day. Flustered, I did my best to apologize for my huge social blunder.

But then, the nightmare. I couldn't remember how to say "I'm sorry" in Portuguese. All I could get out of my mouth was "mi dispiache," which is the Italian.

To make matters more weird, numerous days later (in real life), I still can't remember what the Portuguese is for "I'm sorry." I lived there for over 3 years, and all I can think of is the Italian! Granted, the last thing I did before I moved from Portugal back to America was to take a 2-week intermediate Italian class in Florence. But still. I'm troubled. Somebody ajuda me.

(Photo of the lovely Costa da Caparica: Dsevilla)

Monday, May 14

Flying Red Pens

Tonight, red pens were a-flying in my room. We are studying 1 Timothy in my Fuller class. Oh, the legendary first letter to Timothy! The book that has caused many a woman to have imaginary boxing-matches with St. Paul over his apparent misogyny!

Well, N.T. Wright is helping me see Paul in a whole new light. I'm not so mad at him anymore. But, we'll save that talk for another post.

I must say, I find it awfully inconsistent that the folk who stand firmly on Timothy's famous directives against female leadership ("a woman should not teach a man") do not also stand on the other directives in the same passage. (That all men should pray with hands lifted up in the air, for example!)

As I read 1 Timothy 3:11 and Romans 16:1 in a few different translations tonight, I ended up throwing my red pen and shouting aloud in frustration.

Why? Because both of these verses show the likelihood of there being female leaders ("deaconesses") in the early church, and yet, the majority of English translations fail to fairly reflect this possibility. Some bury it in footnotes, and others--like my current favorite, the New King James--do not give any indication at all of this probability in the Greek.

Meet Phoebe, in Romans 16:1:

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea. (NKJV)

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [a] of the church in Cenchreae.
Footnotes: Or servant (TNIV)

The vast majority of English translations side with Phoebe as a (vague-sounding) "servant," though the Greek is diakonia, offering the probability that Phoebe was a deacon. The nice new TNIV shows this clearly, while others do not. Check your Bibles, kids!

I've finally begun to wrap my mind around some of the texts that have centuries long been used in the church as arguments against women in pastoral leadership. More than ever, as I learn of the context of 1 Timothy, I am persuaded that this letter was written to address issues that were specific to a set time and place. And I am persuaded, from the design of Genesis, and the whole of Scripture that it is God's intention for men and women to work in partnership.

I must say, it feels good to throw pens when frustrated.

(Photo by: Mr. Wright.)

Sunday, May 13

Your Mom

(File under: not-boring e-cards: Hipster Cards)

Saturday, May 12

Road Trippin' to Frostburg

On Thursday I took a nice long drive through Maryland--from La Plata to Frostburg. (If MD looks like a raggedy pistol, I started at the trigger and ended up near the pistol tip.) The mountains were really incredible. I forget how much I'm an introvert until I have these long-drives to myself that shoot energy into my veins. And with a hot Volkswagon stick-shift that isn't even mine! (Thanks, Patty.)

I drove up to Frostburg State University to share my story with the nice folks at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. The unexpected sharing-deal came through some cute little connections with people, and IVCF being open to all kinds of guests.

I talked a lot about pain, healing, and the Psalms. And that we all have a story to share, and when we do, we're inviting God to do the same good things in the lives of people around us.

I tried my best to put aside the fact that it didn't make much sense to drive almost 7 hours to talk for only 20 minutes. It was nice to hang out with some of them at a diner afterwards. (I really love diners.) I hope that I'll keep getting to know a one or two of the gals through the wonders of email/Facebook. And oh! someone even gave me two of their favorite CDs for my drive home!

It was a nice little break from the pace of things.

Friday, May 11

B-sides on Time - Take 4

I can't pretend that I've gotten any better at managing my time. If anything, I've just been able to prioritize things a little smarter. I've been trying to use a spreadsheet to chart out what "debt" I have (weighty undone tasks), in the same way that I've been using a spreadsheet for my finances.

A wise woman once told me that I didn't need a new organizational system. I just need a system that I'll actually use, she said. I figured since the money-sheet is working for me, maybe I could translate it to how I use my time. Well, I'm still horrendously behind in many things, but it does feel nice to slowly chip away at those things I "owe."

A month or two ago, I really felt God seriously urging me to stay ahead of my assignments in my Fuller classes this quarter. Doing so would allow me to walk in freedom. For various reasons, I haven't done that. (At all.) And now I feel like I'm held hostage by all that's still left undone.

In all of this measuring and plotting and planning, I came across these words of Mother Teresa:

Intense love does not measure, it just gives.

I want to "pay down the debt" of time owed to certain projects and assignments so that I can be more free to give, to love. If I'm really honest, when I'm wrestling with over-due tasks, I usually fail to love my family well. In fact, I'm a big jerk. And that makes me sad.

For far too long I've hidden behind procrastination, pretending it to be a banner of freedom. I think procrastination has been the symptom of my unruly addiction to independence. Sweet Jesus have mercy.

(Photo: "Love is a Mixed Tape")

Wednesday, May 9

B-sides on Time - Take 3

I recently spent some time visiting a young woman in a hospital bed. She'd gone into labor with her first child and delivered a still-born boy. I was at a loss for words. So was she. I just tried to stand there in the sadness with her and the father, resisting the temptation to leave early, because for me it was awkwardly uncomfortable.

And tonight I'm going to the funeral of a friend's grandfather. I have Moses' song on my mind again. When I was in college I scribbled this verse on a piece of paper and put it by my light switch:

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

I live as if these minutes, hours, and moments are all mine. I even live as if I'm entitled to them. But then an untimely death makes us wake up to life.

I'm desperate to live myself into the words of Moses' song. (I love the idea of really singing for joy and being glad all of my days.) Sometimes, though, I don't need songs. Sometimes I just need direct words, or a borderline rebuke. Ol' James is always good for that:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
James 4:14

(Street Art Photo: Tania.Paz)

Sunday, May 6

B-sides on Time - Take 2

I'm beginning to see that I deal with time (i.e. "gettin' things done) the way I've often dealt with money. I sigh at things inwardly and whisper, "I'll deal with you later," acting as if I'm too cool to care.

Of course I care. But I tend to avoid sizing-up the damage until later.

Emotionally, I'm quite the opposite. I deal with things that are stirring in me the instant I feel them. And if I can't do so immediately, I feel like I'm going mad. I don't like those things lingering untouched. That's probably why I'm such a confronter. (Go team.)

Since March, I've managed to exceeed my plan for paying down debt and paying "up" savings by about 15%. This is great news for one who struggles with follow through! Now, if I could just translate that to my time, I'd be one healthy pup. And my life would be simplified by the removal of inner guilt that inevitably comes with piles of things left undone. That guilty stuff is like plaque in the arteries.

(Photo by: Steve the Alien)

Wednesday, May 2

B-sides on Time - Take 1

When I was a little girl, I was horrifically afraid of throat cultures. I was really quite a sight to see. The doctor would be poised and ready with his long cotton swab, and I'd freak out and insist that we stop and that my Mama pray for me, the nurse pray for me, anyone! even you, doc, pray for me!

My doctors were always (understandably) irritated by my tantrums. Sometimes it'd take a half-hour to get me to calm down long enough for the guy to cotton swab the back of my swollen throat.

I distinctly remember what one doctor said about me after one of my freak-out episodes. I'm still unsure why he said this, except that maybe he'd never before encountered such an annoyingly strong will to resist the throat-swab.

"She is a type-A child."

Looking at myself today, I can't imagine a more imprecise description of me. (I even wonder if I've grown up rebelling against this doctor's assumption?) In fact, sometimes I'm such a Type-B personality that I can't seem to get anything done. (And it doesn't bother me much either, some of the time.) I pretty much think the Western world needs to relax a bit. Put on some reggae or something.

Maybe I'm more of a mix between the A/B worlds, but I'm definitely more on the B-side. What side are you?

Well, regardless, I've created a new project to begin managing my time better. I think I'm going to post about it over the next few days, because I finally feel like I'm beginning to grow up in this area of my life. And that feels nice.

(Photo by: Claudecf)