Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rational and Emotional

Rational versus emotional. The story of my life. I struggle with this. I struggle with this a lot more than I am willing to admit. I read stuff I wrote a while ago, years ago, a lifetime ago. Most of the time, it's pretty logical and linear. But then a few times, I get rogue thoughts based on emotionalism. My E.Q. would probably increase if I knew that is what I'm dealing with and I can say, okay, this is emotional, no basis. But is that for real?

Is everything truly just logic? I don't know. Sometimes, I get a gut instinct based not on facts, but can be just as true as if it were. Red flags go up and I am not sure what it is that I'm perceiving, but it is a warning to me. It was once described as "women's intuition", but I don't hear much about that anymore. It is difficult to make a decision or not make a decision based on something I can't see or feel--no concrete evidence. It's even worse when one has to communicate an intuitive feeling to a husband who wants facts and lives by them, like most men.

Times are unpredictable, things are in flux right now. That is a fact. Dennis got out of the postal service just in time, starting a job in another field just a few weeks ago. He already got a raise. I'm thankful how God worked this out. But I'm aware that others around me, close to me, are having a real difficult time. Where to go from here, that might involve some deep thought and maybe a little intuition.

I was at the library this afternoon, not to look for novels as usual, but to try to find information to help me prepare for an uncertain future. I realized that most books, even as recent as 2008, are obsolete in this economy. The direction I take might depend not on textbook learning, but on the basis of observation and experience. I have lived in this community for over six years and what do I truly know about it? What is the key to making a living around here when the usual sources dry up? There is a lot I can't forecast, but there are some things I can.

My company is fighting for its life right now, that is front page news. I got a compliment from a customer today as I was using a little friendly persuasion to try something to eat along with her coffee. She said I was "really good at this", and my response was "I better be!" and we both laughed it off. A few minutes later a guy asked if our store was closing, I said, "no, want to buy a few pounds of coffee?". He and I grinned. It's time to be tenacious. Relentless. Fearless. Prayerful. Hopeful. Flexible.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Silence

When I was a kid, I didn't talk much. And when I did, it was because I was arguing with somebody. I picked my fights carefully, the ones I knew I would win or if I felt backed into a corner. My opponents were usually caught off guard. But this was so infrequent, it was usually forgotten what happened when I decided to say something.

In high school, a good friend and I were hanging out at the library at lunch time perusing the science fiction paperbacks. She picked up a little book with the peculiar title "The Quiet American" and showed it to our other friends nearby playing chess, and then pointed to me. They all laughed. Which made me blush and then they laughed even more. I didn't like attention and I learned that you didn't have to say a thing to get it.

Although I was quiet on the outside, I was noisy on the inside. I obsessively wrote in journals, which I still have. About everything I had an opinion on back then, good or bad, is in those notebooks. I haven't read them in years, it's kind of embarrassing how self-righteous I was. In between the rants, there were deep laments about the world and myself. I'm sure I was typical as a teenager, kind of depressed with a lot of angst and confusion. I was sure that there was nothing to live for. I was sure I was a loser. I was lost on how to connect with people or love anybody or be loved. And then it got dark. I was plunging into an abyss and I didn't know how to retrieve myself. I started to get quiet on the inside as well not because I had found inward peace but because I was afraid of where my thoughts were leading me. If I knew anything about philosophy, I would've seen that I was a perfect nihilist at fifteen years old.

While walking down the school hallway, presumably with that perpetual dark cloud hanging over my head, a girl stopped me and gave me a hug and told me that "God loves you!" Hmm, did that instantly make me happy? I was not happier, just startled. Yet, I respected that girl and knew her life was not a bowl of cherries, either. Her comment moved me onto a new trajectory of thought along the lines of "Yeah, what about God?" or "He loves me? Prove it!" or "What is love, anyway?".
Nowadays, when I think about it, I marvel how brave that girl was in taking that step towards me. Quiet people are intimidating. And they know it.

I started praying "The Lord's Prayer" before going to sleep every night. I started having amazing dreams of falling over a cliff and God's love rescuing me. But I still didn't know how He loved me. I wanted to know and when confronted with the truth of the Gospel a few months later, I knew that I was no longer lost.

Yes, I was still silent. I was dismayed when I was voted "Most Shy" in my class, because quiet didn't mean scared (a great friend wrote in my annual "yeah, but I know the truth!"). My notebooks became full of plans for my future (WSU, here I go!), observations about God and the Bible, and concern for my friends and family members' welfare. Inwardly, chaos turned to order. But as usual, words don't say everything.

It was the last week of classes and John S.was behind me in the clarinet section performing the usual funnies he had for eight years that I knew him. I knew I was going to miss him and inwardly wished him well. He stopped in mid-antic and stared at me. Later, he asked me why I had changed. Changed, John? What are you talking about? You smile. You never did that before. Hmm, yes, it must be my new contact lenses.(smile) Are you sure? I don't believe that. Wasn't it God? You know, God coming into your life? He came into mine. No response. Silent wonder.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cool Bible Verses, Byrds "Turn, Turn, Turn": Ecclesiastes 3:1-8



To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lamentation



"Ballad of Hollis Brown", a song by Bob Dylan that I've only heard on my stereo, but quite something to see him, at barely 20 years old, perform. It was a television show "Folk and More Folk" on March 1963, with cardboard props and all, yet Dylan tells the tragic story so compellingly that it doesn't just draw us in-- by the end of the song, we are in Hollis' shoes. Feel that chill go down your spine? That is what set Bob Dylan apart from everyone else in the genre. He sings the song with such restraint that the lyrics come alive.

I wouldn't know how to do this, telling a story in such a way that would affect an audience to not applaude, but be hushed in reverence, like a lamentation deserves.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Favorite



London Fog Tea Latte, please. Tall, nonfat and half the syrup.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Arranged



I've just finished watching "Arranged", an indie film based on a true story about the cross-cultural friendship of two young schoolteachers, one an orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman as they go through their families' efforts to arrange marriages for them. I haven't laughed or cried this much in a long time over a movie. See it, if you liked "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", but it is much more realistic and subtle.

Before watching, I had been reading a book of essays about Christian womanhood compiled by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, "Becoming God's True Woman". It seemed to heighten my awareness of the tension in "Arranged" that both young women feel between the permissive and dismissive culture they live in and the traditional values they learned from their families, as well as their yearning to follow God's will but not lose their own in situations they can't control.

Nasira and Rachel, the movie's protagonists, are moving unevenly through a rough transition between living with their families as singles and into their futures as married women. Rachel is pushed beyond her limits with her mother's attempts with a matchmaker in setting up blind dates with prospects "who have jobs and come from good families". I loved it when her mother wisely decides to quit trying to control her daughter and start protecting her instead, especially against an attitude towards the matchmaker that her daughter wasn't worth the effort to find a better man than the ones she was introduced to. Her mother senses that Rachel is on the brink of defying everything she has been taught and has made her who she is.

Nasira is dealing with a father who is doing the matchmaking for her (who would you rather have--a marriage broker who is an old lady or your dad?) and ships a suitor, paunchy, balding, ultra-conservative and twenty years older, all the way from the "old country". He finally sends him back after telling his daughter that he didn't want to make a fight with her and her mother, but wishes that she would trust him to make her happy. She decides to trust him, although tearfully. Finally, there is a happy result for Nasira, who while showing to Rachel the acceptable young man on her cell phone, jokes "...and he has teeth!" Nasira, in love and full of hope, wishes her miserable friend the same happiness she has found.

I loved this movie for several reasons, but this is as far as I will go because I want you to watch the movie without telling you everything!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thoughts From "Imitation of Christ"

Sometimes on long road trips, Dennis and I read to each other. On the last trip, I read passages from Thomas a'Kempis, "Imitation of Christ". Kempis was a 14th century monk. It's a marvel to me how a follower of Christ back in 13something had written down thoughts about humility, holiness, servanthood, joy and a relationship with God which speak to my heart in 2009.

"Always take the lowest place and the highest will be given you, for the highest cannot exist apart from the lowest. The saints who are greatest before God are those who consider themselves the least, and the more humble they are within themselves, so much the more glorious they are. Since they do not desire vainglory, they are full of truth and heavenly glory. Being established and strengthened in God, they can by no means be proud. They attribute to God whatever good they have received; they seek no glory from one another but only that which comes from God alone. They desire above all things that He be praised in themselves and in all His saints--this is their constant purpose."

Ah, humility. A virtue that challenges me, and living examples of it are scarcer than I care to think about. Have I ever met a truly humble soul? Have I ever been one? The Bible describes God in many ways, but when I read how God is humble, it blows me away. I got a New Testament in fourth grade and loved to read the Gospels. I loved to read anything, and had many favorite heroes. But Jesus stood apart from anyone I had ever met in print. Here, in one story, He touches the untouchable. Next, He welcomes and blesses children, treats women with kindness and respect. There, in another account, He washes His friends' dirty feet. As a kid,like I was at the time, you get a lot of ordering about by adults in charge. But this adult was clearly different. Always in charge, yet, the same time, demonstrating a quality that made me want to know Him. He seemed approachable. He appeared to care a great deal about all kinds of people, and to even a greater degree, His Father in Heaven.

The verse I loved the most back then was "The last shall be first and the first shall be last". In fourth grade, I felt that I was always last. Maybe in reality, I was pretty average. But often, it was a struggle to find one friend and easy to make an enemy for no good reason, from my point of veiw. I was a fan of the comic strip "Peanuts" where I envied Charlie Brown, because no matter what, he had Linus, whether he appreciated it or not. I would've given anything to have a Linus in my life. But the phrase spoke to my heart as a comfort and a warning, that those on the bottom would one day be one top and those on top would experience being on the bottom. One day, justice will come.

As a nine year old, I was already contemplating the consequences of putting others down for my own benefit, which was a sin that I easily fell into whenever I had a chance. Being last can make a girl quite insecure and tempted to play the political games in the schoolyard that would help her climb that social ladder. I just wasn't that good at it. Which now, I'm glad for--thank God. Eventually, I didn't have the heart to join all the other girls and surround and tease Nina to tears on the playground at recess, not because I knew how she felt only a few days before (usually, experience didn't make one empathetic, but all the more cruel because one isn't the butt of the joke when a more vulnerable replacement came along), but because I understood just how futile it was. It was much better, from the Bible verse, to be nice to Nina. Because the least was greatest in God's eyes. If I liked Jesus from the Bible, I wanted to believe that what He said was true. He loved Nina like He loved me. Which is a pretty good place to be afterall.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You may like to gamble...

Grammy Night, 1979, won best song of the year. Yes,indeed...





You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.



Covers of this song have been numerous and was featured on "The Sopranos". When I listen to the CD (a long time ago in college, I heard it on vinyl), Dylan hammers a clear description of a human condition not having a choice in having to choose (is that confusing? sorry,) between serving two masters. You can't serve manna and the Lord at the same time. Without asking it directly, he puts the question to us, where do you stand? No matter who you are in the human heirarchy, brahmin to untouchable, president to housekeeper, CEO to barista, upside, downside and sideways, we all answer to someone else in charge. No choice there. And there are really only two competing for our loyalty--God and the Devil.

The beauty of it is, is that a prideful preacher can be serving Satan when he thinks it is God he's pleasing. Or someone else with a shameful, painful past who repents of it, heals from the wounds and lives to serve God. Today, Kevin took us through 1 John with the criteria to help us to examine ourselves as Paul charges in 2Corinthians 13:1-14. Unexpectedly, I was filled with gratitude. Without God being humble enough to leave Heaven, get born in a stable, serve us, love us and die on a cross for us, I could never pass that test. He chose to serve His Father, and in doing so, we were served.

Mark 10:45 "He came not to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gentle Lentils

Lentil Soup

3 cups raw lentils, rinsed
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium, lowfat
4 cups mushroom "Better Than Boullion" broth
1 cup dry red wine
juice of one lemon
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
16 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained

Simmer in a crockpot turned on high for 4 hours.

Then saute in 2 Tablespoons olive oil:

4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 medium onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 large mushrooms, sliced
3 large carrots, cut diagonally
2 Tablespoons dried Thyme
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Add vegetables to crockpot, and cook for another hour. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve warm with ciabatta bread and a leafy green salad. Best if simmered all day.

Dennis has been taking this to work for the last two days for his lunch. He puts in a wide mouth thermos and stops on his mail route at the old folks home to eat it for lunch. It's cold out there in the mail truck, so I'm glad that this is hitting the spot for him. I've been having it for lunch at home in my pottery bowl that I got at my church's "Empty Bowls" annual fundraiser to feed the hungry. Next year, I will definately donate the lentils for the event.

Another Paradise

Bob Dylan, "When He Returns"




"Like a thief in the night, He will replace wrong with right with a healing touch."

There is another Paradise. God calls it Heaven. Jesus told his friend hanging on the cross next to Him that soon they'd see each other in Paradise. I take comfort in the fact that even though justice is a struggle here on this earth, God has created a perfect one untouched by unholy sin in another reality, and He has invited us all to be with Him in it through His Door, His Logos, His Son. Let's leave this earthly winter, follow our Lord to a Heavenly Hawaii. He made a really great one, but we polluted it, but all is not lost.

Paradise Lost



Watch and learn a little American history that not many have heard. I have Hawaiian blood, and although I have known about the soveriegnty movement in Hawaii for a long time, I am always surprised that most Americans don't know the basis for it. On every level, the annexation was injustice to the full. Spiritually, the Hawaiian royalty depended on missionaries who educated them for counsel about political matters, and were betrayed by some of them and the following generations. Legally, the Hawaiians were treated as badly as Native Americans.

Now that we are at war, the military presence in Hawaii is in America's advantage. My husband was once a part of that military presence in the 70's and 80's, and lived there and worked in the shipyards as a "minority" after his enlistment was up. My dad, born and raised in Hawaii as a full blood Hawaiian, signed up for the Army after his high school graduation and his boot camp was in Camp Ord, CA, where I later lived as Fort Ord, ironically. After his enlistment, he used his G.I. Bill to attend college in Chicago, where he met my mom.

So now that Obama is president, someone who was partly raised in Hawaii and probably is aware of the soveriegnty movement there, I wonder if he will make any historic difference?

Joy

Erin V. gave me a beautiful Christmas tree ornament. It is the word "Joy" in silver. Through it, Erin was encouraging me to have joy in the Lord no matter how crazy things got. Sometimes, when the cats jostle the tree, it read "yoJ". So, I was reminded to have "yoJ", too. Whatever that was.

So what is joy? I kept thinking. "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" Romans 14:17.


Here is Jerry Bridges, in his classic The Pursuit of Holiness p.154

"God intends the Christian life to be a life of joy--not drudgery. The idea that holiness is associated with a dour disposition is a caricature of the worst sort. In fact, just the opposite is true. Only those who walk in holiness experience true joy.

Jesus said, "If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father's commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete: (John 15:10-11) In this statement Jesus links obedience and joy in a cause and effect manner; that is, joy results from obedience. Only those who are obedient--who are pursuing holiness as a way of life--will know the joy that comes from God."


Bridges expands further how holiness produces joy through fellowship with God and through knowing that we are obeying God by yeilding to Him and not resisting Him in a particular area of our lives, as well as producing an attitude of anticipated reward ("Jesus was motivated to endure by anticipating the joy of His reward" Hebrews 12:1-2 p.156).

Bridges concludes how joy from holy living also helps produce a holy life because of the hope we have in Christ, and the strength from that helps us overcome sins, but this involves choices depending on God's provision to follow through on that obedience and accept our responsibility and discipline ourselves.

For 2009, I am looking forward to re-reading this classic that I read in college. I am looking forward to joy.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Love This Place

Baby possum came up to our sliding glass door tonight. Carly, Ginger and Fred sat on the inside, barking and hissing their hellos. Baby possum just kept sniffing at the glass, rising up on her hind legs, no fear. She took her time before departing. No rush. Looking over her shoulder. See you guys later?

Winter brings out some of the animals out of the woods and into our backyard. When will the deer will start knocking on the door? And we live well within city limits. This shouldn't be happening, so much wildlife so close. Are people feeding all these critters? Maybe Baby Possum is used to getting treats at our neighbor's glass doors and decided to start networking, in case one supplier decides to take a vacation.

I rented "Winter's Passing", a DVD about a daughter's relationship with her dad who is a famous writer not for the story line (which is good, as well as Ed Harris' portrayal of a grieving man), but because the setting is in Upper Peninsula Michigan. The scenery shots are fabulous, and definately authentically Michigan in the winter. I think I'm starting to really love this place. We've lived here six years, and I'm afraid we haven't enjoyed the state's attractions enough.

I have a list of favorite Michigan places from last year:

1. Boyne Mountain skiing with Sonomi and Yuichi, also visiting the Charlevoix and Petosky area with them.

2. Canoeing in Burchfield Park with Shauna, Corrina and all the dogs--Ginger learned how to swim.

3. We went to Chelsea a few times this year and ate at the Common Grill.

4. I finally learned how to get around Ann Arbor, not easy, still get disoriented sometimes.

Places to go this year:

1. DIA--Detroit Institute of Art

2. Holland--for the tulip festival

3. MoTown!

4. Upper Peninsula--I would love to see Picture Rocks.

5. Zingerman's--famous bakery in Ann Arbor.

6. Cherry blossom time in Traverse City.

Yup, that should do it for now. If gas prices don't get all crazy again too soon.

Friday, January 02, 2009

About Gifts, Women, Men and Love

Bob sent me an email some time ago with a link to a Youtube video "Welcome to the Doghouse". Later at church, he and his wife Donna joked with me that I would love it. I hadn't looked at it yet, and wondered why it was forwarded to me and not Dennis. I finally looked at it today and found it was a Penney's ad that went viral over the holidays, featuring the gift giving adventures of the clueless male, which unfortunately, covers the majority of the world's male population. I was appalled that the doghouse wasn't stuffed to the gills with men from every tribe, nation and generation. But the average American male is the target, with the message of "do better".

In my family, Mom had the same problem with Dad, only she got him straightened out in a few years. This was a point that Mom wanted to make to me when Dennis got me a Bible as a gift at our second Christmas as a married couple. It was a study Bible in my favorite translation, with my name engraved in gold on the bonded burgundy leather cover and a loving and tender note on the flyleaf. Mom didn't know that on our first Christmas, Dennis gave me gifts of Chanel No. 5 and a silky nightgown. And that year, Dennis noted that my Bible was inexpensive and falling apart from frequent use. I cherish the fact he couldn't think of anything better to give me for Christmas. And really, he hasn't since.

But that wasn't my first reaction, I'm sorry to say. I was surprised, for sure. Gift giving is a huge way of expressing love in my family, and I was looking forward to my newlywed and very romantic husband making a big impression on them with an extravagant or luxurious gift to me. He was generous towards me in the past birthday and other celebrations, so my expectations were high. It wasn't about the gift, or about him or about love. It was about putting my self esteem in what others thought of me. It was about pride. And my disappointment, after unwrapping and opening Den's thoughtful gift, lead quickly to disappointment in myself when I realized how materialistic my heart became. I valued that gift more than I did the giver. What a sinner I was. And that disappointment, no matter how well I tried to cover it, was not undetected by my attentive and intelligent family, although they probably assumed it was about the gift.

Over the last twenty years, we've gone up and down in gift giving, but gladly my attitude has improved. My parents, when asked what they wanted for Christmas, always answered "Good kids" and I would always sigh with the thought that was impossible, and even if acheived, how does one wrap that up and put it under the tree? My husband gives daily gifts, when you think about it, are pretty rare to find and definately hard to wrap and stick a bow on top of. Yet, again, it goes back to the question a friend from collegiate Nav ministry used to ask me "Do you love him for who he is or for what he does for you?" This year, my hubby gave me a scarf and hat and mittens that match, in an incredibly soft yarn. That's it. I stuck a few things for myself in a gift bag labeled from him and stuffed my own stocking, I knew that he had no time for shopping and as usual, he procrastinated until the last minute to shop. But this year, Christmas wasn't about us, it was about hospitality and focusing on Christ by focusing on serving and loving international students far from home. That I had a husband who glorified God like this was a gift all on its own. I feel blessed. And warm when I go outside.