Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Give Me Your Tired..."

This picture pretty much sums up how I feel about traveling. I love going to new places, I love creating or revisiting friendships, and I love, love, love other cultures. However, I do not like the process of getting there. (As my wise husband once said, "But who really does?")

On this particular trip, it was a bit of a doozie. It traversed 4 countries on its way to my destination and it lasted a couple of days. However, as tired and (maybe a little cranky) as I might have been, I had money for food, comfortable clothing, good friends who shared my culture, and an American passport.

The family that I and my small group are meeting at DIA tonight will have also made a long journey, but sadly it will not be a vacation from their comfortable home but from a refugee camp on their way to live in Denver, USA. They are Bhutanese, originally from the country of Bhutan in Asia. (Don't worry, I had to look up where they were from as well.) From the articles I read online, they were forced out of their country due to (simplified answer) racism. As a side-note, isn't it interesting that racism is such a prevalent sin of the human condition. There's that lifeboat again. And they've been granted the right to relocate to the US.

I'm excited to meet this family of five. But I am also sad for them. I pray that they will find community in Denver through us and those that live around them. I pray that they will be spared from others' ignorant actions. I pray that though they may have vastly different religious beliefs than our group, that they will see and experience Christ's redeeming love through our actions. And I'm thankful that (for all of our problems) the United States still welcomes in the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

We Fought the Snow... and partied on!

Last Friday, the snow canceled Eric's birthday party. Which was super sad. I couldn't stay too mad at the snow, I guess, since it also canceled school on Wednesday. We rescheduled his party for yesterday, which according to a certain weather site said would be beautiful and sunny. It turned out to be cold and rainy, but it didn't stop us from celebrating Eric. We had a lot of fun, dear friends show up. It was great!

Some BANG! action. (I won. The Sheriff rules the West with the help of Jason's Deputy Domination!)

And some pictures of friends...

And the best friend who managed to convince Eric to wear a party hat!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

At Last...

Funny how life gets in the way of things we want to do. Like eating, praying, loving, and searching for God. Here finally are my few remaining thoughts on this book and Donald Miller's book which I read at the same time. It was definitely interesting reading these books side by side. Both Gilbert and Miller write in the same stream-of-consciousness style and both books involve the purpose of life and where we find fulfillment. My third dog-eared page in Eat, Pray, Love said this:

"There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? And Who's in charge?" ... these two questions of love and control undo us all, trip us up and cause war, grief, and suffering.

Interestingly, this quote stuck out to me because (besides the truth of it) it paralleled a human observation that Miller made. In his book, he describes that people without the redeeming power of Jesus live with a lifeboat mentality. This mentality he explains causes us to fight to be deemed better and more significant than those around us and that we are constantly trying to prove our worth by putting down those around us and seeking to be like those we feel are better than us. Basically we spend our lives fighting the rest of humanity to seek more love and more power. And as we struggle with this phenomenon this side of Heaven, even those who know Jesus, like myself, have a tendency to keep crawling back into that lifeboat.

Though they identify the same problem, Gilbert and Miller have different answers for the solution. For Gilbert, its about finding the solitude to seek the spiritual strength she can find in herself. As a brief side-note, her answer is not unlike the answer of many "Christian" self-help books today. The do better, try harder, love more response will work for a time, but aren't we still in competition with others as we look for more inner will-power to accomplish those things? Miller's response is best stated in his words:

Indeed, as Jesus looks across the social landscape into the fear-filled eyes of the inhabitants of the lifeboat, He does not offer a formula that will help us win the game, He offers Himself. I want to tell you without reservation that if there is any hope for you and me, for this planet set kilter in the fifteen-billion light-year expanse of endless mystery, the hope would have to be in this Man who contends He is not of us, but with us, and simply IS. I AM WHO I AM.

This truth is what I needed to hear. I respect Gilbert's attempts to be a better person for I know that I do not live as I should. But I respectfully disagree with her that she can truly love perfectly or completely for I know that I cannot. But there is One who did. And to live as He taught, I need to draw from His spiritual power to seek him more, to jump off the lifeboat, and to eat, pray, and love as His redeemed for His glory.

Happy Birthday Eric!

My sweet husband's birthday was on Friday this year. It was set to be a great day with a potential snow storm the night before that could cancel school/class and a planned party with good friends that evening at our house. Sadly, the weather was not on our side. Instead he got to drive across town in yucky kinda snowy weather to class, and the weather got worse in the evening forcing us to cancel the party. We still managed to celebrate though!

I am very thankful for Eric. He is a good listener and a deep thinker, and he helps me do both of those things better. He cares deeply about others. He drives around town picking up kids for youth every week; he tries to seek out intentional conversations with others; and he loves me! And... isn't he cute!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Christless Christianity

Hello again - it's been awhile since I posted on here (thanks Nicole for keeping it going in my absence!). Recently I've been reading lots of good books and bombarding folks on Facebook with my favorite quotes from them. I thought it would be more appropriate to place them here where at least people can decide whether they're interested or not.

I just started reading Michael Horton's Christless Christianity last night, and I can already tell; it's going to be a convicting, powerful ride. Here's the money quote from the first chapter:

"My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for 'relevant' quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms; God is used as a personal resource rather than known, worshiped, and trusted; Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us; salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God's judgment by God himself; and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Numero Ocho

Today I traded in the warm and sunny Saturday for my eighth (0h yes) teaching test. This time the test was in Linguistically Diverse Education also known as ELD, ELL, TESOL, ESL, etc. Though the name might change frequently due to (insert commentary on politics and culture), the subject matter is fascinating to me. I love teaching students who are learning English. I love studying about students who are learning a second or tenth language. I love the systematic and sequential patterns language development follows. I love it so much I'm using ed lingo words on my blog. This past week as I've been studying for yet another test, it has surprised me by inspiring me. It makes me desire to go back to grad school to get my masters in this very subject. Hey, it almost made me shell out a Benjamin Franklin to be a member of this nerdy community (and get a professional journal subscription!). Perhaps I could write a lesson on how to teach the meaning of my previous sentence to an English Language Learner. Yes, this might be my calling.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love, Discuss

This year I have been in a bookclub that I have very much loved. For February, we read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I enjoyed. Two things to get out of the way first: yes, I very much envy her ability to travel across the world for a season (especially as I have the travel bug right now) and no, I don't agree with her views on spirituality (but more on this later).

But back to the book. If you don't know, the book is memoir of her travels across Italy, India, and Indonesia to (be short) find herself. As a side note (as a side note of my side note, Gilbert takes lots of rabbit trails in her book so I will do what my first graders do and follow the author's style), I think I could come up with a lot of great places to travel if all I need is alliteration: China, Chile, Czech Republic or Sierra Leone, Switzerland, South Korea... but alas, back to the book.

Three things in particular stuck out to me as I read it (this I judged by the three folded pages I made while reading- Eric shudders). Two I will share now, and one I will save and post on shortly.

In her book, Gilbert has a conversation with a friend in Italy where he claims that each city has a word of the street. This is the word that defines the city, and depending on if it also defines you, helps you understand why you do or do not love living in a place. So in other words, this word of the street explains why some people love living in say a small town in the South and others love living in New York City. Examples of street words in the book were: SEX for Rome, POWER for Vatican City, ACHIEVE for NYC, and SUCCEED for L.A. This idea led me to think on two things: What is Denver's word? and What is my word? I'm still not sure on either, so I'm open to opinions. The reason this has me thinking is that I love living in Denver and am pretty sure I could be content to live here for a long time. So what makes it click... hmm.

The second idea was this quote from the author: Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. This hit me in the face. I feel this is so true- both about me and our society in general. This statement has definitely caused me to try and to take pleasure, or joy, in each moment I'm blessed with, for after all aren't we supposed to glorify God and enjoy HIM forever. I feel like this has particularly been helpful in leading me towards enjoying my time with Eric. Almost four years of marriage keeps us busy and in the hum of life, and it has been good to think about enjoying that time together, whether engaged in separate or the same activities.

I would recommend this book with the caveat that I do not believe all that the author believes is true. And also with the warning, that it will make you want to travel. Ask my excited husband, I'm finally wanting to take that trip to Europe.