Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A true pick-me-up

I remember getting picked up from the airport once. I’ve gotten picked up from the airport many times, but this particular time stands out because my friend stood out. Rather than driving around the circle over and over and over (so as not to be yelled at by security for spending one too many seconds in the same spot), waiting for me to get my luggage, she parked the car, walked in, and was standing there to greet me as I came down the escalator! What a surprise!

I hugged her and said she didn’t need to park, and that I felt bad we’d have to pay a small fee (a whoppin’ 50 cents or something). It was definitely the less convenient thing for her to do, but she assured me that she wanted to see me and that it was no trouble whatsoever. She didn’t want to waste the minutes that I would spend waiting for my luggage. We could be talking during that precious time! I mean, definitely time for a few good laughs. At the Minneapolis airport, probably 10 good laughs.

And I was thankful because we didn’t have to do the drive-through pick up. You know the one. Traveler walks out of baggage claim. Driver parks at curb, gets out, runs hurriedly around car and there’s an awkward, rushed hug and hi-I-haven’t-seen-you-in-forever-but-we-can’t-really-talk-right-now-because-security-is-blowing-their-whistle-at-us-and-the-driver-of-the-massive-SUV-behind-us-is-about-to-run-us-over-or-flick-us-off-and-my-rolling-duffel-has-just-fallen-off-the-curb-and-we-gotta-get-in-the-car-NOW-OR-WE’LL-DIE greeting.

Now, I know the people who pick me up from the airport and don’t park love me. Lots. And FYI, if I pick you up from the airport and I don’t park, and get out and greet you in baggage claim, it doesn’t mean I don’t care, or I’d rather you hadn’t made the trip. Alls I’m sayin’ is that it was a small, thoughtful, gracious (and remembered) gesture, indicative of this friend’s nature. And also indicative of why I’m friends with her.

I’m picking her and her husband up from the airport today, and I’m going to park my car and greet them in the baggage claim.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Strong bookends

I like my days to be neat. I like to know what conversations and encounters mean. I like to crawl in bed early, not have my mind racing about things big or small, and fall right to sleep. Done. Check! But I’ve had quite a few consecutive days of something other than this. Nights have been late. Schedules have been hectic. Emotions have been high. And meaning has been gray. Because of this, I’ve written something every day since my last post, but I’ve posted nothing since my last post. I decided not to subject you to the fuzziness.

I was organizing my desk area yesterday and came across the notebook I used for my last class—one in which we studied the book of Revelation. I just skimmed my notes (wondering where that blue pen that I was using then went to) and Revelation 21:6 jumped out at me, God saying:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.”

No fuzziness there! Beginning. End. I love the sharpness and clarity of this statement—the bookendishness of it. And I like applying it to my days—God in the beginning and the end. Late at night, it’s OK if things of this world are confusing and hard and seeping all over the place (they always will be) because we have some serious bookends holding us together. God is stronger than all the stuff in the middle.

The end.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I was getting to that

I was recently dating someone and he asked what some of my pet peeves were. (Now I think I would respond: YOU’RE my pet peeve!) But the thing is, I know I have some pet peeves, but when pressed, I can’t seem to tell you what they are off the top of my head. (Some of you are like, oh, well, I can tell you what yours are...) But I’ve realized one. When you’re talking to someone and they cut you off to ask a question. And their question would be answered momentarily if they’d only hold their horses! I’m about to get there if they’d simply let me finish my sentence...and maybe the next sentence!

Now, I appreciate that they’re listening, and not only are they listening, but wanting to know more information about what they’re listening to. But the word is listening. Not talking.

And I think the reason I don’t like this is because I come off looking like the bad communicator--like I'm not providing all the necessary information for the story to make sense--when it’s really the other person who is a bad listener!

Halfway through a sentence, someone cuts me off, asks a question. So then I am forced to fast forward to the part of the next sentence where I was planning on addressing that very thing. My communication becomes choppy because I’m having to stop, fast forward, stop, fast forward.

But, I guess I really shouldn’t worry about looking like--sounding like--the bad communicator in these cases, because often the only person there to notice and think this is the cutter-offer person. And we already know they’re too busy not listening.

Who wants to start a conversation with me now?!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Firefly flash

We were in the middle of nature, but you could have fooled us. It felt as though we were at a concert in the Target Center, and everyone around us was taking pictures with their camera.

My friend and I stood 20 to 30 yards away from our campsite/fire to take in the brilliant flashing of hundreds of fireflies in the dark of the night. Sparkles everywhere!

The questions started coming...how the heck do they light up? What exactly happens in their bodies? Do both guy and girl fireflies light up? Is it only during certain times of the summer that they are strong?

So I, of course, looked it up. In addition to learning that fireflies are a form of beetle and that their average lifespan is two months, I discovered that they take in oxygen through special cells. These then combine with a special substance already in the fireflies—lucifern. And when they mix, they can create light without any heat. What’s so crazy is that the light of fireflies looks so man-made. Like the fluorescent necklaces you can buy at outdoor events or the color your white shirt turns when you’re at a bowling alley with a black light. Or the flash of your cell phone camera. Maybe it’s the other way around though. Those necklaces actually look like fireflies, I just haven’t been spending enough time in nature to realize this.

Also crazy is that supposedly scientists haven’t quite figured out the purpose—the method to the madness—of the light flashing. Fireflies do light up in certain patterns, which is most likely for mating purposes. Boys trying to pick up girls. Others think though that the light may signify some sort of defense mechanism. One website I read said “the exact theory has yet to be worked out.”

I kind of like the mystery. We don’t know exactly why or what prompts fireflies to flash. It’s also really hard to keep track of them. Suddenly...FLASH...and then dark again. You can’t see 'em. Where did it go? As my friend and I stood silent (until one of us had another question), a firefly would light two feet away and then...gone. (The flashes, are they all from different fireflies? Or is it the same three guys just trying really hard to impress the same three girls?)

Donald Miller in his book Blue Like Jazz (which you should read if you haven’t) says that wondering is the greatest worship of God. What a great relief because I wonder an awful lot. I wonder about the things around me. I wonder why stuff happens. I wonder what God’s up to. I wonder about God’s relationship to us. I wonder about fireflies. And it seems no matter how much research, how much school, how much time is spent wondering...we will continue to wonder about some things. But that’s what’s so great. That’s why my friend and I stood for a long time watching the fireflies. It would have grown boring quickly if they were all lit up the whole time, and we could see them plain as day. Likewise, we’re drawn to God (with questions), and His exact plan has yet to be worked out.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dream big you say?

Sitting around with the family recently, I asked them what they would be if they could be ANYTHING. If money was not an issue. Geography not a factor. Even personality types didn’t matter. Some members of this family were less-than-thrilled at having to put their thinking caps on. Oh, c’mon. Lighten up, I said!

But answering a question like this is actually really hard to do. Life creates lots of pieces of cardboard that box us in. And not all of these pieces are bad...I’m just sayin’ they tend to block our view, make things hard to see or imagine. It’s hard to completely get rid of the rules we’ve created. Things are too expensive, too far away, too hard, not practical enough, would take too long.

So, if you must know, I said I’d like to own a vineyard and make wine in northern California. Ahhh. Wouldn’t that be great? I’d have to study oenology, but I’m not afraid of more schooling! I envision myself wearing a navy blue bandana on my head, a tanktop, holey jeans...tan...walking barefoot through the—MY—vineyards checking on my grapes. Can you see it? And then I’d live in some cool house where all the doors and windows could be open all the time, without screens, because it’s Cali and there aren’t stupid mosquitoes. And we’d (because I’d have a really hot, funny husband) drink good wine every night looking out at our grapes.

I just received an email from my boss about our annual reviews. She encouraged us to fill out the self-appraisal worksheet found on our university’s HR site and then also to "dream big" when it comes to the "goals" section. In terms of our career path, what do we want? What would just be fantastic? I chuckled. What if I wrote that I’d really like to start my wine classes and begin looking at real estate in Cali? How would that go over? Is that dreaming big enough? This is made even MORE funny by the fact that my university has a no-drinking policy, at least for students.

Sigh. Maybe I should finish my current masters program before moving on to the next.(Christian Thought and wine—totally complementary!)

Maybe I should just take a Friday off and book a weekend flight to Napa to visit for the time being. (I’m reminded of the Sex and the City episode where Carrie is just flabbergasted at Mr. Big who has just told her he’s moving to Napa. You’re supposed to TAKE a napa, not MOVE to napa, she yelled.)

Well, I’ll fill my self-appraisal out like a good employee, but I never want to be completely boxed in. I always want to be picking away at the pieces of cardboard because there’s so much cool stuff to see and do and be! Like a vineyard owner.

Maybe I'll just ask for a new, faster laptop.

Monday, June 08, 2009

With A Bend Ago

So, I was recently reading about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (which I usually say like a-bend-ago..."i drove around a bend awhile ago.") These three guys are in the book of Daniel, along with King Nebuchadnezzar. The king builds this giant gold statue (90 feet high!) and wants everyone to worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego quietly opt NOT to worship this statue because they worship another God. And, of course, somebody has to go and tattle tale, telling the king that they’re not following his rules. Ticked off, the king orders them thrown into a fiery blaze—so hot, in fact, that the soldiers who were doing the king’s dirty job (throwing them into the fire) burned to death.

Crazily enough though, the king could see them walking around in the fire unharmed. What the heck? And even more crazy, there was a fourth person in there with them who the king said looked "like a son of the gods."

Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire.
All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them!

(Daniel 3:26-27)

Now, I’ve heard this story multiple times, most while I was little and in Sunday School. And really, this is not exactly a kid-friendly story. Three guys being thrown into a fire? And the same with Jonah. Being swallowed by a whale?! What about Noah and the flood? SCARY! But anyways, all the times I’ve heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I never stopped to consider the significance of God being in the fire with them. The sticking point has always been that they managed to come out alive—not even just alive but without even smelling like fire? And that is, indeed, worth a sticking point—God saved them. But so is the fact that He was there with them. (Maybe I’m slow on the uptake and everyone has already thought of this and spent time thinking about this. If so, read no more.)

God could easily have saved them and not necessarily been present. Chances are Nebuchadnezzar would still have been freaked out. He would have still presumed that that there was something behind this God that they followed. The three amigos had, after all, told him beforehand that their God would save them. (I’m sure 'ole Neb laughed in their faces at that point.) So, I just don’t really think God needed to be seen walking around with them in the fire to get His point across. And really, I probably wouldn't have needed convincing either. I get it--something very powerful saved them. So, God didn't need to be present to save them or to prove that He was powerful, but I think His presence does send another message. He’s with us, not on the sidelines, but in the game! Not just in church, but in the office. Not far away, but right beside us. Not just watching the fiery blaze from a safe distance with the other onlookers. But IN the thick of it WITH us.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Turtle time

Last night, I ran around the lake. If I pass people along the way going the opposite direction, chances are good, I’ll run into them on the other side of the lake at some point. So, you give that knowing hi-again, we’ve-already-seen-each-other wave and slight nod. It’s not often that I keep running into the same people going the same direction as me. But I did last night.

A dad and son. Dad on a bike. Son in one of those enclosed bike trailers being pulled by his dad’s bike. The first time I saw them, they had pulled off the path, gotten out of--or off--their respective modes of transportation and were crouched down looking at something in the grass. The dad was pointing, and the son with his way-too-big-helmet had his hands on his knees, seriously investigating. I smiled at the dad and kept going. Not long after, they passed me. The son in the trailer bump, bump, BUMPing along.

I continued on my merry way, lost in thought. Next thing I knew, dad and son were in front of me again. On the side of the path they had stopped and this time were looking at a large turtle that was chillin’ on the shoreline. I nodded to the dad and kept running.

Shortly after, they passed me again. One more time. They were again stopped. Hunched over. This time looking at another turtle, a smaller one, and I happened to be in between songs as I passed them. So I heard the dad telling his son that the turtle’s head was inside the shell. For the third time, I smiled at the dad as I ran by. Shortly after, they passed me for the last time. I didn’t see them again.

But, I got to thinking about what a cool dad he must be. I wondered if I’d be patient enough to continue stopping the bike ride, unzipping the bike trailer, unbuckling my child, pulling him or her out, so he or she could investigate. We’re always in such a hurry. But I imagine that seeing those turtles and learning about them was probably going to be the highlight of the little boy’s week. They’d get home and dad would encourage son to tell mom what they saw on their bike ride. A TURTLE!

If God were the dad pulling me with His bike, I think I might be the fussy child who doesn’t want to get out. I’d rather just sit and keep going to get to whatever destination I think I need to get to. And get there quickly! In doing this, I’d surely miss out. I think there are times in life where God is asking us to get out. To hunch over and look...there are things we need to see, to learn about, to hear about, people we need to meet and get to know before we keep going. Because then later, just like the boy probably told his mom about the turtles, we can share our experiences (and what we've learned from them) with others. But so often, I’m obstinate: No, thanks. Just get me to where I want to go.

In conversing with a friend last night, I realized that although neither one of us really wanted to get out of the bike trailer, we did and we’re now looking at turtles (funnily enough...like the slowest things EVER), and we’re looking at them together as God teaches us through each other and strengthens our friendship. And I’m pretty grateful I’m not missing out on that (even if I didn't want to get out in the first place!). Pretty soon we’ll hop back in the trailer and God’ll pedal us to the next turtle.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


What can leave your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes, fight disease, temporarily relieve pain and make you pee your pants?

It’s true.

Last night, around my kitchen table with my bro and two friends, I laughed so hard that my stomach hurt, my face hurt, and I nearly peed my pants (which I have done before...although it’s been about 20 years). It was great. I could barely breathe, and as they laughed harder, I only laughed harder, too. You know how that goes...pretty soon you’re not even laughing at what you were originally laughing at but rather the laughter of the other people.

So, I know--have known--that laughter is good for you for lots of reasons. Releases endorphins, decreases stress, etc. etc. But, something I hadn’t really thought of before is that for those really-great-stomach-hurting-nearly-peeing-in-pants laughs, you NEED other people. I do often chuckle to myself or at myself, but the hardest laughs are always in the company of others who are often laughing with you. I hated my logic class, but i think if you break it down...if for-real laughing is good for you, and for-real laughing only happens with others, then being with others is good for you. Actually no, this doesn’t work logically, but if I add the word “may” it does. Being with others MAY be good for you.

In church on Sunday, the message was about relationships. How we, especially here in the United States, tend to live alone. We’re inward, busy with our own schedules. We hide our troubles. We don’t take the time to listen to others, let alone support them in any real way. We decide to fly solo. Independence is a good thing. Pastor went on to talk about all the reasons why this is bad. He didn’t mention though that when you go it alone, there is no for-real laughing. I believe this, too, is another reason to do life together.

We all need for-real laughter and for-real laughter needs others. Just make sure those others won’t care if you do really pee your pants.