Friday, February 27, 2009

Real rest

Why yes, by golly, I think we have. “We” being Christians, and “have” referring to turning conversion into the cure-all. I think a lot of evangelical Christians and churches promote an idea of conversion that is rosy and bright. Become a Christian—your problems will be solved. Become a Christian—your marriage will get better. Find God—your money troubles will lessen.

Maybe. But maybe not. One need only walk into a church and see all the pain and heartache and trouble and poor decisions lurking just beneath the surface—or the pew—and realize that conversion is so not a cure-all. Christianity was never supposed to be though.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find REST for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

He said He’d give us rest, not that He’d take the problems away! I was thinking about this as I read a blog update this morning from some dear friends who are struggling, struggling, struggling through an exhausting, never-ending, tough time. And I caught myself thinking, God, why don’t you hurry up and do something?! Funny...He is! I think He has been. No, He hasn’t made their troubles disappear, but He’s given them the strength to get up every morning and face the day—with smiles and hope to boot!

Christianity doesn’t mean VIP-no-problemo life. It means real life, but with real REST.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stupid tongue

When I was young, I was always picked as team captain by my basketball and soccer coaches. I remember a coach once saying that I was least likely to lose my cool. (I coo’ I coo’) For the most part, I think that characteristic has carried on into adulthood. Although I have many other faults and less-than-admirable traits, losing my cool or my tongue is not one of them. Usually.

But yesterday it happened. I said something to someone I love tremendously, and as soon as it came out, actually even as I was saying it, I wished I could 1. take it back 2. crawl under a rock and 3. immediately apologize.

I did none of those things. Instead, I just continued on the disastrous path of mean words in a very uncompassionate manner. The victim of my attack quickly retreated, and I in my crabbiness and pride stood firm in not apologizing. I quietly brooded and slowly my wrongness got louder and LoUdeR and LOUDER until I had to tell it to stop! OK, enough already. I’ll go apologize. And I did. And although I felt somewhat better, and the person forgave me, I had a really difficult time forgiving myself. I crawled in bed last night still feeling bad. My crabbiness at that point was completely gone, taken over by feelings of remorse.

I’m not a huge fan of Proverbs. Maybe that’ll change once I take a class about the book, but for right now, I find it so repetitive! But it does have much to say about wise people holding their tongue. The verse I’m thinking of is Proverbs 11:12 “A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.”

But I think a wise woman removes that hold to apologize for stupid tongue.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

True value

Some of you may recall my neighbor in California—old man Grif. I’ve written about him a few times.

For Christmas he sent me four coins. On them are various presidential first ladies. The coins are carefully wrapped and came with a white glove—if I ever decide to handle them. In an accompanying letter he wrote: Hope you like the coins. They are bronze and limited addition struck from the same die as the gold ones. Use the glove. In a few years they will be valuable. This was only one little part of a four-page, hand-written letter. He told me about his recent surgery, how rent has gone up and no one is living in my old apartment. How he’s fed up with Publisher’s Clearinghouse. That he liked the T-shirt I sent him—it fits. He also asked how I was doing. How my family was. How school and work were, and if I was liking my new place. Also in the package were newspaper clippings of San Diego’s weather (he likes to rub that in) and four gaudy 2009 calendars he received free with the purchase of other coins and won’t use. (one was a Ronald Reagan calendar—12 months of Ronald Reagan)

Today I got another envelope from him. He clipped out a newspaper article about the stimulus package’s affect on first-time homebuyers. He thought of me and wanted to make sure I knew about the tax credits I was eligible for.

I’ve just finished writing him a long letter, and I was thinking about the coins (as well as how much longer it takes to write a letter than send an email). See, what I don’t understand about coins is that sure, they may gain value, but do you ever really take them in and get cash for them? Some people must. But how long must one wait until they gain value? And where would I even go to find out if these presidential first lady coins are worth a lot more in five years? Let’s say I find out that they are. I would most likely decide to hold on to them for another five years because they’d be that much more valuable. And on and on and on. Until some day my kids are cleaning out the attic wondering why their mom has these coins with a little white glove. Do people who collect coins ever actually cash in on the worth? Or is the real benefit just knowing that you’re sitting on (I think Grif actually kept some under his mattress, so he’s sleeping on) coins with lots of value?

To me, the value is right now. And it’s not in the actual coin, but rather in the giving. It’s in Grif purchasing coins he hopes will bring me value. It’s in his four-page letter. And in his newspaper clippings about tax credits. I'm cashing in right now!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My office-eating secrets

I am incredibly grossed out by office refrigerators. I mean...other people’s leftovers left over in the fridge for months? Yuck!

I want to be green and use a real spoon for my oatmeal in the morning, but I don’t like using the general, everyone-can-use, office spoons. You don’t know how well others have washed the utensils (IF they washed them). So, I’ve actually stolen one and keep it in my drawer. It’s MY oatmeal spoon. (you should try it. Nobody notices.)

I don’t like putting my soup into a microwave that still smells like the food of the person who used it before me. I may love the person AND the food, but...

I’m so thankful I’m in an office that eats EVERYTHING. There’s never any old, crusty food sitting out.

I don’t understand how a person can drink the rest of the coffee, but then leave the coffee pot ON so that the little coffee that remains burns and smells.

Sometimes my lunch is a piece of fruit and a whole sleeve of soda crackers. I love soda crackers. Some people call them saltines, which makes more sense. Where does the soda come from? And the beauty of this lunch? No microwave or spoon necessary.

My aunt gave me a special soup mug that has a cover with little holes. Now I NEVER contribute to the gross, caked-on food on the top of the office microwave. Even if it sounds like I am (you know when your soup gets hot and pops and then everyone looks to make sure you're going to clean up after yourself).

One microwave across the hall heats my soup up in 2 minutes and 22 seconds. The microwave closer to me actually requires TWO 2 minutes and 22 seconds heating sessions.

I used to buy the most amazing croutons from the most amazing market in Cali. I would actually apologize to my coworkers for how loud they were when I chewed them. Everyone could hear. I miss those croutons. And I miss those coworkers.

My days are actually mapped out by my eating habits. Four hours until lunch...2 hours until afternoon snack...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eyes on you

“Do you see the person who assaulted you in this room?” the lawyer asked the young woman on the stand in the small, quiet court room. In front of her, to her right, at a large table, sat the defendant, but she had not once glanced in his direction during the hours of her testimony.

“Yes,” she answered the lawyer.

“Can you point this person out to the jury?” the lawyer continued.

“Yes,” she answered again. There was a pause. Slowly she turned to her right. Another pause. And then she looked the defendant straight in the eye. She raised her arm and said determinedly, “He’s sitting right there, at that table.”

It felt as though everyone in the court room silently gasped. As though looking him in the eye was the ultimate conviction.

For class, I sat in on an attempted murder trial yesterday, and was fascinated by the procedure and moved by the fact that the victim and the defendant were sitting within feet of each other. Mere feet! After such horrible things had occurred between them (to be fair, sentences have yet to be made).

The victim had been kidnapped and raped, and during the ordeal, was told by her assailant numerous times, as they walked along streets and in and out of a few public places, that she was making eye contact with too many people. He feared her eyes would reveal what was going on. That she, in fact, was in grave danger. And he's probably right. They would have!

The eye is so revealing and so crazy. I mean even Darwin was a little hung up on it, admitting that the eye was the one thing he had a hard time jiving with his evolution theory. He said that “the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

For real though Darwin! I hear ya. I mean the blinking, the pupil, the iris, eyelashes?! Tear ducts? What the heck! I was thinking that its amazing-ness lies both in what it’s able to take in, but also give out. Eyes have the ability to see light, shapes, texture, etc. And at the same time, have the ability to emit love, understanding, humor, or in the case of the victim yesterday—hatred and accusation. But either way, the eye provides meaning to what it takes in and gives out.

Psalm 33:18 says, “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love...”

I’m sure God is raising His eyebrows at me a lot, but I’m so thankful He’s looking at me. In His eyes, there is meaning to my life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The new bank in town

It’s called the Recycle Bank.

Now let me first tell you that I cut out coupons. I will never be able to live down the one morning when I missed the bus to my downtown job at the time because I was going through my coupons. See...I needed to make a run to Target that day, and I decided to quick check my coupons to see if I could use any. But as I began sifting through them, I discovered many had expired. So my OCD kicked in, and I had to go through the entire stack of coupons, ridding it of any expired coupons before I could walk away. Unfortunately, my bus stop that morning also expired. So, ironically, I ended up having to spend extra money to drive and park downtown that day. Thanks a lot, coupons! (mom thinks this is the funniest thing ever, but only because she knows she’s the exact same way...and it ain’t right!)

It’s like a game to see just how much money I can save with coupons. You can’t be sucked in by some coupons because they’re for the more expensive brands, and you’ll actually spend more money if you use the coupon (as opposed to buying the cheaper generic brand without a coupon). Anyways, I recently saved $6 during a Wal-Mart run and $7 at a Cub run. So...hey...that’s $13 which is...well, $13 dollars! I’m really thankful the receipts tell you how much you save, otherwise, I’d waste some time calculating it out myself.

But anyways, RecycleBank. It’s the new thing in town in good ole’ MG. In the past, if you wanted to recycle where I live, you had to sort your recyclable items and then place them in a plastic blue bin and place this bin out every Wednesday morning. As a good citizen, this I did. Well, now, we no longer have this bin, but a fancy-schmancy gray and blue covered bin that’s actually larger than my garbage bin. No need to sort our items anymore. Now, we just throw everything in that one bin and put it out every other Wednesday. The first few weeks have been a little rough. Confused neighbors—is this still the old-bin week? The new-bin week? Can the old bin actually be recycled in the new bin? Is this the start of the every-other week schedule? I’m guessing we actually made the recyclers second-guess themselves as they drove through our neighborhood and saw something different at the end of every driveway: wait, are we doing this right? But I think we got it now.

I haven’t told you the best part though. I set up an online account through RecylceBank; they weigh your recyclables; and then you get money based on the weight. So every other week I get an update emailed to me about how much my recycling weighed and how much money I made. So, today, I got an email. Instead of “You’ve got Mail!” it said, “You’ve got Points!” I received 85 redeemable points.

Now, humorously, I’ve started to wonder how one can make the most of this. I mean, after all, there’s something a little unfair to the single female who doesn’t go through 10 gallons of milk every two weeks or drink lots and lots of beer/pop for tons of cans. Clearly, the family of five has the advantage in this case. So, I started wondering if I could bring home some recyclable items from the office to throw in my bin. Or perhaps, my neighbor wouldn’t mind if I took one or two of their spaghetti jars (although they do weigh a bit more, but I mean, there's two of them and only one of me!). And now, when I go to the grocery store, I’m going to purposely buy food items packaged in glass that can be recycled, just so I can get a few more RecycleBank points. Next time I go to mom and dad’s, I could pretend like I didn’t get the Sunday paper that week for some reason. Could I take theirs? Cha-ching! At least 8 more points!!

When will I make my first withdrawal from this bank I wonder? And what will I buy? I should see what I got some coupons for.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Got style?

In a thrift shop in Chicago were four male mannequins outfitted in completely different styles. My girlfriend and I looked at each other. “Who would you go for?” I then proceeded to tell her that obviously her guy was mannequin #2, wearing the argyle cardigan. She told me that I was obviously #4 (I just remember there were hole-y jeans involved). We laughed because we were so right.

Yesterday, I was at a bridal shop with four friends, one of whom is getting married. We were there to see “the dress.” Mission accomplished—and purchased. But what I found incredibly humorous was that we could all easily describe each other’s dresses. Who would be the halter top. Who would have the bows (not me). Who would have the sparkles (also not me). Who would have the sweetheart cut. Who would so NOT have such and such. One year for Christmas, we each unknowingly gave each other our appropriate shirts. I, of course, got a long underwear shirt. Someone got a pink shirt. Someone else got a cardigan. We get each other's styles.

So this just got me thinking about how awesome it is to have people in your life who don’t just recognize that you—and your likes and dislikes—are somehow different than them. Friends come to understand your differences, and in doing so, turn them into your style.

I got style. And I’m so thankful.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sticker suggestion

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that, I admit, I took some offense to.

I don’t have a problem with Jesus;
I just can’t stand His followers.

And me being a follower of Jesus in the car next to him, wondered how anyone could put a statement of blatant dislike on their car. I hate Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Atheists, Animal-killers. Whatever. I mean, isn’t road rage bad enough as it is without extra name-calling and finger-pointing? I found myself wondering if I should stay behind him, like you’re supposed to do with drunk drivers…much safer behind.

First, I will say that I obviously know what this guy is talking about. Because, quite frankly, I have problems with a lot of people who say they follow Jesus. I get it. I understand. But, don’t be mean, because here’s the thing…following is never perfect. It’s like a copy of the real thing—it’s never as good.

I’ve followed some of my mom’s recipes. I’ve followed them to a T, or so I thought—until I pulled it out of the oven only to discover that it looked very unlike momma’s. Playing HORSE out in the driveway as a kid always used to bother me a little bit because the person after me could never stand exactly where I had stood, let alone shoot exactly like I had. You’re supposed to follow the person before you, but it was never perfect. And most recently I’ve been trying to follow some Amy Butler sewing patterns (don’t even get me started on how ridiculously, unnecessarily wordy her patterns are!). I’m trying my darndest to follow them, but I’ve made some mistakes (no help from Amy) and have needed my stitch-ripper pretty handy.

So, to the guy in the van with the mean sticker. Maybe it’s not that you can’t stand followers of Jesus. Maybe it’s that you can’t stand the fact that many of them think their following is perfect, when it’s not. Because I can’t stand that either, and sometimes I’m even guilty of this thinking.

I’d suggest:

I don’t have a problem with Jesus;
I just sometimes get somewhat frustrated with those who think that they’re following him perfectly.

Something along those lines may be a little less road-ragey.