Sunday, July 31, 2011

How to be happy?

It’s a Sunday night. I am fighting the residual effects of a nasty cold that has over the past few days left me wanting to yell rather stuffed-uppedly—“man down!” I haven’t spent this much time horizontal in I don’t know how long. But I lay here on the couch blogging, Bon Iver singing in the background, and my hot husband checking his email, drinking a beer at the kitchen table. Despite my clogged head and raw nose, I look at him, I feel the cool Cali night breeze coming in through the door, and I am happy.

This morning we rummaged through the LA Times (horizontally, mind you!). A two-page spread in PARADE magazine stopped me. It was a quiz: "Do you know how to be happy?" Question #1 asked if cheerful people A. only do the things they like, B. try to boost their mood each day, or C. generally don’t give happiness much thought. The answer? C. People who place a high emphasis on happiness and actually pursue it on a regular basis can do more harm than good. You can actually become more depressed in your pursuit of happiness! Those who aren’t caught up with being happy are actually happier.

B and I got to talking about how it’s a mindset. It’s an internal mindset. Not based on external factors. A friend recently shared something another friend asks her frequently…”Does life suck? Or do you suck at life?” It’s a little harsh, but the sentiment rings true. If you think life sucks, perhaps you need to take a step back and ask if it’s your perception of life that sucks instead! Place your happiness barometer in the bags of material goods, the relationships with others, or even on the scale in the bathroom and chances are you’re not going to get the reading you want. Another friend who has battled obesity was recently sharing with B and I that he had an epiphany…he can no longer base his sense of accomplishment in the numbers of weight loss—the number of pounds he’s lost or the calories he hasn’t taken in. Inevitably that disappoints and drives him crazy! Instead, he needs to choose to focus on how he’s living a much healthier lifestyle overall. And if the scale happens to show two extra pounds one day? Who cares because he’s eating healthy now, working out, living actively. For him, the pursuit of weight loss had actually started working against him!

The quiz went on to say, among other things, that people who return from vacations are no happier than those who haven’t been on vacation. Point? Things of this life are not happiness-bringing. And I think it’s because this life is ever-changing. One day you’re healthy. The next day you’re not. One day you have a spouse. The next day you don’t. One day you have a job. The next day you don’t. It's never the same. The second you buy something, the new version of that something has hit the shelves (or the web), so now you need the latest version to be happy. It doesn't stop.

Do I know how to be happy? Probably not. I mean, who does in L.A. really?! (sarcasm) But I think a pursuit to know a God who doesn’t change brings some serious peace—no matter what the news, the scale, or bank account says.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Possums, raccoons, and crows. Oh my.

"Why must our yard be Jumanji?” B asked me the other night. As I stepped over some blood and a large crow’s black feather on my way to the get the mail yesterday, I wondered this too, especially because we have not one blade of grass to call our own. What is so attractive to creatures about our cemented patio?

1. There’s Hoover. A busy, bustling hummingbird that B and I named—I thought vacuums and B thought J. Edgar. Hoover built a nest that held her (I just realized she has a man’s name) three eggs before they hatched into mini chirping hummingbirds who recently learned to fly...or hum.

2. There’s a very, very large squirrel that ate my first tomato, chomps on the berries in our tree and spits them out on us while we sit outside, and basically thinks he owns the joint. He laughs in our faces as we spray the hose at him. B put out these sticky, gooey traps. When we returned from vacation last week, one trap was peculiarly hairy, and we haven’t seen him around lately.

3. While chillin' with some company late at night on our patio, we heard what we thought were footsteps on the front walkway. Turns out it was four raccoons, bug-eyed in B’s flashlight, but again…nonchalantly turning away as if they had every right to be there. B grabbed the hose again.

4. Two raccoons attacked a big black crow on our patio. We heard the most agonizing cah-caws coming from the crow. By the time we got out there, two proud raccoons were strutting away and the crow was laying belly up, blood splattered, feathers everywhere. To put it out of its misery and to save our ears from the cah-cawing, B grabbed the shovel. Suffice it to say, the thing would not die, and I’m pretty sure B scared the neighbors with his antics. But I think the crow who seemed to keep coming back to life was scaring him too.

5. I was up early Monday morning to take a friend to the airport. "Watch out," B said, as he returned from loading the car with luggage. "Why?" I asked. "There’s a big possum out there."

Jumanji I tell you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So many things wrong...

with this ridiculously contradictory sign!

It was guarding one lone parking spot in a completely open parking lot. Does Jack in the Box really draw such a crowd, more specifically a crowd that likes to DRIVE THRU and then PARK? Is this sign necessary? I don't think so.

But if it truly is necessary, at least put a hyphen between "drive" and "thru"!

And for the record, no, we were not at Jack in the Box. We were at Starbucks next to Jack in the Box when we spotted this sign. We parked and walked in--Starbucks didn't have any designated drive-thru parking spots.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A God-breathed Genealogy

In class yesterday, we considered the differences between the beginnings of Matthew and Luke, specifically the differences in their genealogies. Matthew starts with his genealogy, and Luke does his at the end of the third chapter because they had very different agendas. Additionally, Matthew starts his genealogy with Abraham and works his way through 14 generations back to Jesus. Luke, starts with Jesus and goes all the way back to Adam who he calls “son of God.” (Luke 3:38)

And then just a few short verses later, Luke calls Jesus the “son of God.” My prof stopped and asked us how the heck Luke thought he could make such a huge comparison between Jesus and Adam. Good question, I guess. I didn’t really know the answer he was looking for and last time I checked, Adam was pretty different from Jesus.

The answer? The Holy Spirit.

Luke knew God had breathed His Spirit into man and woman—Adam and Eve—at the very beginning, back in Genesis. He also believed that Jesus, too, was filled with God's spirit. The next verse after calling Adam a “son of God,” Luke says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit” (4:1). They’re both sons of God because God has breathed His Spirit into both.

I was reminded in a unique way that we’re all made in the image of God. We're all God-breathed, all part of the genealogy. At some point that genealogy would say HJ, the daughter of God. I like that. I like Luke.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why the tan?

Someone at B's work asked him what he'd been up to over the weekend because B was a little tanner than he had been on Friday.

Seems to me like asking a Minnesotan in January why he or she is so pale!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Somewhere in the middle

L.A. is not fond of the middle.

It does water without end. Oceans that stretch into nothing but more ocean leaving you feeling lonely and uneasy. Turn the other direction, and it does pavement and concrete without end. 16-lane freeways, houses upon houses upon retail stores upon office buildings upon more houses, leaving you feeling claustrophobic and gasping for anything green and real (not just the green turf many put in their 2-feet-by-10-feet front “yards”).

It does obscene wealth. People who wear jewelry that costs more money than B and I could make in five years. Outfits that cost more money than B and I will probably ever make. Cars so sleek. Houses so huge, so cold and expansive. And then it does obscene poverty right next to its obscene wealth. Homeless people whose faces are a shade of deep red verging on purple because they have nowhere to go to get out of the blaring sun, except maybe the shade created by one of the sleek cars. They smell in front of the expansive homes. They talk to themselves. And they carry empty, holey plastic bags as people pass them by with full Neiman Marcus, Lululemon, and Chanel bags.

Even L.A.’s trees aren’t fond of the middle. Tall, skinny, smooth, empty palm tree trunks reaching for the sky. Reaching just so high they almost tip over and then poof…green, lush, spiky branches (or are they the leaves?). Such stark contrasts.

For those in the middle, those wanting a little natural beauty, but some of the comforts and fun of city living, those who have more than enough to get by, but never want life to be money, those who want a good ole' maple or evergreen every now and then…L.A. leaves you wondering where to go.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

One year ago...

"My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."

Ephesians 3:14-21

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Holy Schmoly

Yesterday I started a two-week intensive course at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. After eight hours' worth of lecture, I’ve decided that my prof is definitely one of my favorites, and he is most decidedly the funniest with a serious dry sense of humor. I chuckle at least every five minutes, and I started keeping track…my chuckles most often occur with his use of the following phrases (and note, he is usually deadpan as he says these things):

Good golly
As he points out a picture on his PowerPoint of a rather funny-looking scholar who studied papyri back in the day
“Look at this papyrologist…good golly, he’d scare my grandson. I’ll wait a few years before I show him this PowerPoint, I guess…”

Holy schmoly
As he jokes about some of the mistakes that have occurred in the printing of various Bibles throughout the ages, like “Go and sin on more” instead of “Go and sin no more”
“I mean, holy schmoly. Go on! Sin some more! What are people to do?! Ay yay yay. holy schmoly.”

Goood night
As he talks about the stuttering emperor Claudius
“Gooooood night! This guy liked food so much they had to poison him twice. I’m not kidding. I’m not making this stuff up. He ate the food his wife poisoned. But then visited the vomitorium and came back ready for more. So, gooood night, the wife had to run in back and make more poison!”

And my favorite...
Like, "Where was Jesus? Shazam! Vanished, disappeared from the grave. Risen from the dead. Shazam!"

Good golly, it's gonna be a fun two weeks.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

God's country?

The F bomb and alcohol flowed freely yesterday in our beach community. I mean, not for B and me. At one point in the evening, I realized that B was playing the banjo and I was reading an Introduction to the New Testament for class today. I told you—we are cool! But earlier in the day we hit the beach, and it was filled with debauchery of all sorts. I physically cringed as I saw moms and dads building sandcastles with their kids as their beach neighbor two feet away swore up a storm and drunkenly dropped their red cup of rum and Coke into the sand. I also cringed at some of the swimsuits (or lack thereof!).

From our blanket on the beach, we could look back at the row of beach houses and see numerous parties going on—vulgar dancing, loud music that didn’t speak too highly of women, and at one point, guys getting into a fight. (Yes, my prudishness is growing.)

Woo! Happy Independence day! I found myself wondering what Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and the like, would think of us celebrating the 4th of July in such fashion.

In church on Sunday (a new one B and I checked out), pastor made a startling comment for some. He said, “This is not God’s country.” Wear your red, white, and blue, but know that the United States is not God’s chosen. (And neither is northern Minnesota, even though they screenprint those T-shirts for certain areas: The North Shore, God’s Country). I mean, if anything, God’s country would likely be the area of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, perhaps? But even those areas are not just God’s country.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am proud to be an American and very, very grateful to have the liberties I have. I feel bad sometimes that I was lucky enough to be born here and not elsewhere. But after seeing what our good ole’ U.S.A. country looked like yesterday, am glad that God’s true country is yet to come! In John 18:36, Jesus tells Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Friday, July 01, 2011

My spider hunter

If B had woken up between 7:50am and 8:30 yesterday morning, he would have found a pair of big blue eyes two inches away, expectantly staring at him. By placing my head mere inches away from him and staring, staring, staring, I willed him to wake up and come play with me, drink coffee with me, start our day. It didn’t work. And finally the longing for coffee pulled me out of bed. Knowing B was tired, I just didn’t have the heart to wake him.

So, I made coffee, plopped on the couch in my usual spot and flipped open the computer…do do do do, just reading the paper, checking my email…and all of a sudden, from somewhere underneath the blanket crawled a nasty, fat, black spider. He headed up the back cushion. I gasped, jumped up, and fought the urge to yell for B all at once. Having lived alone for a long time, I do kill my own spiders, thank you very much. I lunged for a sandal and came back to the couch, pulled up the cushion, and of course the thing is gone. Just as quickly as it came. Gone.

No sirree was I going to return to the couch; I moved to the chair across the room. A few minutes later, B comes into the living room, yawning. He looks around, slightly confused. Where was I? Not in my usual spot?

“Uh, what’s going on?” he asked when he saw me.

“Well…there’s a nasty spider over there somewhere in the couch.”

“So you’re never going to sit there again?”

“No, maybe not!”

Without skipping a beat, he went to the couch and pulled out all the cushions. There was B in his underwear digging through the nooks and crannies of our sofa sleeper. Next thing I know he’s got a flashlight. “Really, babe, it’s OK. I’ll get you some coffee.” He’s silent. Rubs his eyes. Keeps looking. Nothing.

Leaving everything amiss (sofa sleeper pulled out), we eventually left to go for a walk. When we returned I intended to put the couch back, but B said he had an idea for finding the spider and that he’d be back. He walked outside and up to his car. Huh?! What the heck? Is he going somewhere? Spider bait of some sort? What could he possibly have in his car to help in this situation? He comes back with a long, skinny metal tool that my dad gave the boys for Christmas last year. At the end of this tool is a little circular mirror. When the boys pulled this out of their stockings, they acted as though this was the greatest thing ever. Like at some point in the near future, they were going to be hiding in a sewer and would need to extend this metal thing up above their heads with the mirror above ground to see if it was safe to come out. I didn’t get it. But now here B was with his special tool, suddenly using it to find a spider in our sofa sleeper. “Ok, babe, really, it’s OK, you need to get going to work. I promise I’ll sit there again.” Silence. He keeps looking. Mirror here. Mirror there. I go to start some laundry.

“Babe?” he yells.


“Was it hairy?”

“I don’t know and what does it matter?"

“I see something but can’t tell if it’s a thread or a hairy leg, but…it’s not moving.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it was hairy. Forget the stupid spider. It’s OK. Really.”

At this point, I’ve lost all hope of finding the spider and am fully prepared to wake up the next morning with a sick spider bite somewhere on my body.

And suddenly I hear a loud “AH HA!” I round the hallway corner, and there’s my grinning knight with his shining metal mirror tool slowly standing up with a wadded-up paper towel. I smiled; his persistence and patience paid off again. I gave up hours ago. I went to kiss him.

But then he says, “I thought we were talking like tarantula.”

“No,” I said, thinking maybe I should take the kiss back. And maybe if it was the size of a tarantula he would have found it sooner. “Tarantulas are hairy. I said it wasn’t hairy! And I also told you that you could stop looking a long time ago!!”

:) I love my spider hunter.