Friday, January 30, 2009

500 miles

I love the song “500 Miles” by the Proclaimers.

“And I would walk 500 miles,
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man (“mon”) who walked 1,000 miles to fall down at your dooooooor…”

It just never gets old. So, when it came on the radio this morning on my way to work, up went the volume.

Someone super special once created a scavenger hunt for me. At the end of the thoughtful, riddled hunt—taped to the bottom of a bleacher seat in a park—was the Proclaimers’ CD Sunshine on Leith, which includes “500 Miles.” Knowing I loved that song, this person told me they’d walk 500 miles for me. And then 500 more. And you gotta believe 'em. I mean, they probably walked half that in creating the scavenger hunt! (every other song on that CD is awful! I didn’t fully comprehend “one-hit wonder” until this CD)

But every time I hear the song and sing it and dance to it, I’m reminded of this incredibly nice gesture that this person did for me. And nice things make you smile. So do Fridays. So, go walk 500 miles for someone!

*I’m aware that the official song title is “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles),” but I think parentheses in song titles is lame. So I say “500 Miles.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stayin' warm?

“Stayin’ warm?”
This is a common pleasantry among Minnesotans during the winter months. It’s like, “Hey, how’s it going?” or “What’s up?”

“Stayin’ warm?”
You expect either a sarcastic “No. Hardly.” Or “Tryin’.” I mean really, how does one stay warm when it's 10 degrees below zero? I don’t care if you are wearing 10 pounds of clothing or have your space heater on high (or allowing your bed to smell like corn because you’re using the cornbag that your mom sewed for you to keep your feet from freezing).

I just ran into a coworker I haven’t seen in awhile in the bathroom. We said hello, and then next thing I know, I’m asking the impersonal “Stayin’ warm?”
“Um, tryin’” she said, as she washed her hands, and I walked out.

My verse for the week is 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”

Staying warm in Minnesota is not possible right now. In fact, I just went out to eat with a friend and we sat in the “fireplace room,” You’d think it’d be warm, right? No. We were by the window and felt the draft from the -30 windchills outside. We were cold. But anyways, what is possible, is staying warm in Christ—difficult in many situations, but possible.

I constantly let the fire fade. Usually it’s snuffed out by the fact that I’m tired, too busy, feeling sorry for myself because I’m single, or somehow don’t reach the world’s expectations. Rather than giving thanks in all circumstances, I wallow in many of them that I think are less-than-ideal, and slowly, the Spirit’s fire flickers and loses heat.

But I love fire. It never fails—every time I go camping, I’m called a pyromaniac by my fellow campers. And it may be because I’m also always cold. Even in the summer, I’m not “stayin’ warm.” I take after my momma. So I like the heat. Always amazing to me is that you can crawl out of the tent in the morning and often still feel the heat from last night’s fire or at least still see some of the orange embers. No one was there roasting marshmallows or hot dogs all night long, but it kept going. And then we add some more wood, and voila, good to go for breakfast. We have flames again!

Christ’s fire in us will never completely go out, but if we want to get warm, we need to feed it a little. Add some wood to those embers. Give thanks a little. Serve others (instead of myself) a little. Smile a little. Even if we’re single. Even if the economy sucks, and pay increases—or jobs—are non-existent. Even if we’re not getting what we think we deserve. And I can tell you from experience, when I do this, I feel the heat.

So, I was thinking, next time I hear “Stayin’ warm?” I’m going to recite my verse (in my head, that is), and say “yup.” Then, maybe they'll ask how.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Throw the confetti

Bright-colored confetti decorated my neighborhood this morning. Neon blue, orange, yellow, pink 8 ½ x 11 pieces of paper flew all over the place creating a happy, polka-dot celebration amidst the drab, dirty white snow as I pulled out of my driveway.

It’s trash day, and it was windy, so I’m guessing the trash people lost some control and as they tried to get the trash into the truck...swoooooosh...this confetti got loose. And rather than try to run down all the devious sheets of paper excited to be out of their brown, trashbin prison, the trash people just said, "screw it," and kept going.

As I turned out of my neighborhood and a bright orange—seemingly empty—sheet of paper passed my windshield, I thought it’d be fun if they had a purposeful note on them in big black letters: "SMILE: IT’S FRIDAY!" Because it is. It’s Friday. And you should smile. Throw the confetti.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Following the leader

I’m not a very good disciple.

The term “disciple” (discipleship, discipling) is big in church world. And having used to edit a Christian magazine, my green pen passed that word hundreds of times (sometimes stopping at "discipling" because it just doesn’t look right! Christians made it up, along with “megachurch”). It's so familiar to my eyes and ears, that I haven’t thought much about what the word means except that Jesus had 12 disciples and they were men who followed Him. And if someone asked me are you a disciple—a follower—of Jesus?, I’d say “yup.”

Me wanting to be a better disciple, means becoming a better person, becoming more like Jesus. But I’ve just realized what a selfish way of thinking this is—or at least phrasing it as such. Notice the emphasis on me? On how I think it means that I become a better person? But the word disciple means learning from another smarter, following someone wiser, being trained and taught from someone more experienced.

I’ve interviewed lots of pastors about their discipleship ministries, and I guess, my initial thought has usually been something along the lines of, oh, that’s cool, those people are becoming smarter, more spiritual, better. And maybe in a way, that is in fact (hopefully) happening, but really the ministry should be humbling. And although it may be empowering, it should also be taking away some of the power. In becoming disciples, we admit that we actually do not know what we’re doing sometimes (all of the time). As disciples of Christ, we must rely on Him to take the lead. We merely follow—so hard to do sometimes, especially in our egocentric society.

In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus is in a boat with his disciples. Suddenly a storm sneaks up on them and the disciples get freaked out. So they go wake Jesus who was just trying to squeeze in a nap. Uh, Jesus, we were just wonderin’ if you could give us a hand because pretty sure we’re gonna all die real soon if you don’t do something about those waves. So Jesus calms the storm, and I just smile at the fact that He calls them disciples and then simultaneously says “you of little faith.”

Ever watched little children play sports? The little girl running to first base strains her neck looking down to watch her brand new shoes sparkle in the dust. Aren’t they just beee-uuu-teee-ful with their crisp, white laces?! Meanwhile the first-base girl catches the ball for third out. And the little boy running to catch the football misses it because he’s too busy looking over his shoulder to see just how fast he’s going (you know when they actually try to see the soles of their shoes as their knees kick up behind them) and how much ahead of his opponent he is.

I think me being a disciple may sometimes look like one of them. And it reminds me that in focusing on me, I’ll miss the goal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


It doesn’t seem all that weird to me that the meteorologist on the local news is hammering a nail into a piece of wood with a banana to demonstrate how cold it is.

I don’t really care if I look like I’m waiting for Noah to pick me up with my boots and rolled-up jeans. As along as I keep my pants from getting wet and salty…

My lunch breaks include a trip to my car, just to let her run for five minutes, so that she’ll start again when I want to go home.

I don’t think it’s all that crazy that I may have to wait a day or two to get into my mailbox because it’s frozen shut.

I try for three or four minutes to get into a car that I think is mine before I realize that it’s actually a blue corolla not a black prism…I just can’t tell because all cars are dirty gray from snow and salt.

I don’t wear mittens when it’s 17 degrees out because that is warm! I mean it’s 40 degrees warmer than it could be!

Shoveling is sometimes calculated into my day’s exercise.

I don’t care if my scarf doesn’t match my coat and my coat doesn’t match my boots and my boots are just ugly. Whatever’s warmest.

I don two pairs of tights when I wear a skirt to work. That’s normal.

I decide nonchalantly that I guess I’ll go to the next gas station to fill my car up since this one’s gas lines are frozen. No biggy.

Note: I’m not complaining about Minnesota’s winter, having chosen to move from San Diego. I’m just sayin’…I’ve adapted.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hittin' the trail

I played "Oregon Trail" on my way to work this morning.

Instead of wading across a river with my horse-drawn wagon, praying me and my family and all my belongings wouldn’t drown, I drove over ice-covered bridges very very slowly hoping I wouldn’t slide into the river below.

Instead of dead cattle along the sides of the path, there were pieces of cars. Bumpers, hubcaps, shards of glass from windows, strewn throughout the shoulders. Almost like tumbleweeds in some strange winter desert. My office was the mirage. In some cases there were whole cars, including their drivers, stuck in the ditch.

No. Natives didn’t attack, but other drivers did. Not with arrows but spinouts.

And no, I didn’t battle influenza or snake bites, but after an hour and 30 minutes I fought the need to go to the bathroom. Real bad.

I didn’t fear twisters, but heat stroke inside my car (wearing three layers to combat the -30 windchills outside! I thought my scarf might suffocate me at about the hour, forty minute-mark.)

I’m happy to report that I won the game. I managed to make it to Oregon—err, work—in not months, weeks or days, but only one hour and 45 minutes! Me and my wagon arrived safely.

But more snow is on the way, and the frigid temps are to continue. So tomorrow I'll hit "play again."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ain't judgin'

Thanks to class discussion last week, I’ve been thinking about judgments—particularly those I make of myself.

I am so quick to conclude that I am better than others, or at the very least not quite as wrong. I pride myself on doing the right thing or not being as bad as others. I mean, my gosh, thinking mean thoughts about someone is not nearly as bad as murdering them. I’m actually quite good. If I were Catholic, I may even have problems going to confession every week. What would I say?! That I accidentally let a “what the hell?” slip from my mouth? That I didn’t recycle the spaghetti sauce jar? That I told the little machine I wanted my gas receipt and then I didn't take it? Sorry!

At the same time—which is somehow strangely possible—I am quick to judge myself too harshly. How could God possibly love me? I don’t think my life has been really all that earth-shatteringly exceptional considering the superbly influential lives of millions of others on this planet. I quickly think I’m not pretty enough. Smart enough. Important enough. Etc. etc. etc.

I don’t like thinking that my judgment is skewed, but it so is. And I’d argue that yours is too. We tend to be off the charts in one direction or the other, which probably means we shouldn't be the judges.

We are told that the Lord is our judge (Isaiah 43:22). He will judge the world in righteousness, he will govern the peoples with justice (Psalm 9:8). As judge He tells us that we are sinners, and I feel as though He's gently slapped me on the hand (and rightly so) for thinking I’m not so bad. At the same time, He tells us that in His eyes, we are cooler than cool and more beautiful than any airbrushed model and that He loves us, and I feel Him gently take my hand.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

That's why

On the way to work this morning, I was singing along to Coldplay’s song "Viva La Vida." I’ve had the album for quite some time, but I caught myself mumbling.

“I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing...
Roman Catholic choirs are singing...
La la la mm
For some reason I can’t explain...hmmm...mmm.”

I can sing along, sort of. But if pressed, I cannot tell you all the words.

I started back to class on Tuesday, and I was recently joking with some friends about my particular schooling. I’m in seminary. And I can tell you from experience that this is not the “coolest” thing to say at the bar.

What do you do?
Oh, work fulltime as an editor. Go to grad school at night.
Where are you going to school?
my school.
Oh, what are you studying?
At this point, a friend might budge in and say, “She’s going to seminary. She’s a seminarian.” Sem.In.Ar.I.An.
And then the looks of slight disdain. First by the inquirer who’s now wondering if I’m wanting to become a nun. And second by me wondering why my friend couldn’t just leave it at “grad school.”

Yes. Yes. I’m in seminary, ok? I’m a seminarian.
The next inevitable question is why.

I was thinking this morning that there are aspects of my faith that feel like some of my singing. I can mumble along, but if pressed, I’m stuck.

When I got to work this morning, I looked up the lyrics to Viva La Vida. In addition to learning some of the phrases, I discovered that some of the words I was so sure of weren’t exactly right. Like “Roman Catholic choirs are singing.” Nope. It’s actually Roman CALVARY. (I know a few of my blog readers probably caught this earlier!)

Anyways, I’ve made some pretty big decisions based on my faith, and sometimes I have felt like I was mumbling through them. I knew what I was doing or saying and maybe even why, but the understanding...the comprehension got fuzzy. Answers felt trite. It feels good to look up the lyrics behind Christianity. I know I’ll always mumble and will probably forget some of the lyrics I learn, but that’s why seminary, that’s why it’s back to class on Tuesday nights. So I can sing.

Ok? to the guy at the bar. That’s why!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Up or down

When and how did up and down come to an agreement?

The phrases "something's going down" and "something's up" now mean the same thing.
Like, you and a buddy are wondering what's wrong with a friend. If something is bothering him or her. Someone says, "something's definitely up." The other nods in agreement. "Yup. something's going down."

And then someone asks me to a movie, or coffee, or something. I can say, "I'm up for that" or "I'm down for that." Either way, I mean the same thing.

How do these things happen? I'd love to be the person to begin a similar trend. To be the person who says, Ok, now I'm going to start using "down" as if it's "up." Can I just make up my own? If you hear me saying, "Something's around..." that means "Something's up." You down with that?

Monday, January 05, 2009

There is irish cream ahead

I smoked a cigar last night. It was great for this sore throat I’m battling, I assure you. It was an irish cream-flavored one from Stogies on Grand, and I smoked it with some friends who are in town from California. True friends vacation from California to Minnesota in January to spend time with you!

But this whole smoking of the cigars thing was quite a process last night. And already in my pjs, a part of me wanted to forego what had at one time seemed like a really fun activity. With temps dipping below zero, we had to bundle up just to step out onto my porch. Boots, hat, coat, mittens (not my famed smoker gloves which would leave my fingertips frozen)... Then, I also brought out little tea light candles to help us light the cigars. But trying to handle the little suckers with massive mittens was not the easiest thing. Awkwardly I managed to get a hold of the cigar while my friend held the little candle, and just as I leaned in and sucked to light the cigar with the flame, the wind (with chills around -15 degrees) blew the candle out. Ok. Mittens came off. I caught my breath as the wind whipped my face. I had to reopen the matchbox, relight the match, relight the candle. Try again. And ...suck, suck, candle out again. Ugh! Mittens off again. Relight. Try again. Oh, sweet, warm fleece blanket just sitting on the other side of the window...This is so not worth it I thought, as the wind made my eyes water.

And then...finally...We got it. The cigar end turned a warm orange. But then trying to hold a cigar with mittens? Not easy. And you can just forget about looking cool while smoking a cigar in that kind of weather. But alas, we had our stogies lit, and we laughed as the smoke swirled around us and we enjoyed each other’s company and were grateful for the opportunity to be together. Ok, I thought. I’m glad I got bundled up. I licked my lips. They tingled in the coldness, and I tasted the sweet irish cream flavor.

Some of my friends are already off to a less-than-stellar 2009. The year ahead seems like quite the’s already requiring so much effort, so much bundling up, and things aren’t going so easily. The flame keeps getting blown out. But, it’s there. That irish cream flavor is there. Don’t go inside yet!