Friday, September 30, 2011

Rambles on Love, Water, Trees, and a Paccaris

This is the year of roadtrips and this post is now horribly overdue. It's been locked in solitary confinement in my draft folder, and it now deeply desires to see the light. So here goes...

One Thursday we began our California adventure centered on Ellen's beautiful wedding in Sacramento.

My California experiences have been limited to Disney Land and several flights into San Diego for cruises. Most of it is uncharted territory.

Our first stop was at the Winston Wild Life Safari where we road camels, were attacked by an emu, fell in love with a stuffed leopard, and gawked at giraffes, bears, lions, yaks, and countless other creatively assembled critters.

We rolled into Ashland and satisfied our hunger with pizza, salad, and a Shakespeare faced cupcake. We were in town long enough to see several terrifyingly wonderful book stores and discover that Ashland is full of arty people of a very different type than Portland...Let's just leave it at that.

We only had time to see Loves Labors Lost, which I read in air conditioned tranquility on the drive down. They did well and humorously (although they explored awkwardness I was blissfully unaware of in the play...some of it primarily exhibited by a excess of men's tights and Russian dancing). They set in the 50s, which I enjoyed.

Loves Labors Lost is fairly new to me, but now it really has me thinking...what was Shakespeare trying to say? I wonder what he thought the conclusion was...judging by the name, I don't know. Another rambling post to come one of these days...

We finished the distance between Ashland and Sacramento Friday, and reunited with people from our own church. Monstrous jolly since I hadn't seen some in ages since I've been elsewhere. We invaded a sizable portion of their Best Western. We explored the gigantic mall and generally had a good time.

Saturday Ellen got married. It's still hard to believe. She was the stunning beyond comprehension and everything was beautiful and good and I wanted to weep through the whole ceremony and beyond. But I didn't of course. I was the soul of propriety. ;-)
 It is most strange to have a friend who is Ellen somebody one minute and Ellen somebody else the next. One minute single. One minute a wife. Marriage and love are most distinctly peculiar. And good, of course. :-)

Well everyone disembarked from our Best Western to enjoy Letherbys, the legendary ice cream world, I stayed back to work on a writing project, got nothing done, and went to bed ridiculously early.

It was wonderful to worship and fellowship with Church of the King on Sunday. Another reminder of the blessings we have as one body!

Sadly, we had to get back on the road and didn't have a lot of time to hang out. We stopped a couple podunk towns, and one of the million Clear Lakes of America...which was not even remotely clear, but had a beautiful dock and nearby green grass and prickles to run about in.

We arrived at a beautiful inn in another small town where we had enough time to read a bit, email important people, befuddle the vending machine, write, and watch a girly movie together before giving into sleep at a decent hour.

We got moving on Monday soon enough to visit the continental breakfast where Mama's toast took a flying leap to freedom...a noteworthy and startling event.

We spent 12 hours on the road, primarily starring at big tree. The Redwoods truly are beautiful. I think my next writing trip scheme should include running off into one of the parks and living under a dead log (preferably with internet access). I like open spaces, light, and big hills, but there is something very peaceful, quiet, and promising about a tree that's been going steadily upwards since the signing of the Magna Carta.

We stopped at one park long enough for me to climb up on a fallen log with journal, pen, and Bible and sit six feet above the dry forest bed and do some scribbling.

The Redwoods are good for thinking and they seem to be good listeners too. If you need somewhere to think some serious thoughts, find a stalwart tree-friend, carve your name, or get dizzy in record time, go to the Redwoods.

We visited a strip of California coast, but just missed the sunset and any California warmth.

Our next stop was in Bandon and late into the night after much confusion and turning about, a restaurant with salmon that was indeed food of the gods. We ran wild on the beach for the morning and then visited another miraculous wildlife safari where we got to cuddle with eight week old Bengal tigers, an eleven week old leopard, be thoroughly disturbed by various monkeys, stare into the jaws of a yawning lion, and fall in love with the simple attraction of noteworthy pig, apparently called a Paccari.

Going back to Bandon and ridding horses on the coast is a future must.

We drove all the way back to my brother-in-law and sister's house that night and stayed up way to late talking and staring at the stars on their deck.

After a week that involves much more car travel then generally considered appropriate, it was good to be home. An awesome adventure that now seems like a few years ago. It's been a crazy, glorious summer.

Life is good. Even with all its so very not good moments.

The end.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back from a Week at the Beach...

Is it true you see me in this field tonight?
Is it true that you sent me to this fight?

Break me on the mountain,
Just don’t trap me in the valley.

Is this how you lead me in sun and in rain?
Is this how you feed me when I’m in pain?

Shatter me on the rocks,
Just don’t wash me out to the sea.

Is this what you meant by the nails and the cross?
Is this what you meant by living as lost?

Leave me in the desert,
Just send me heavy rain.

Is this what you planned in the void before time?
Is this why you made me too weak to climb?

Corrode me in the wind,
Just let me fly away again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Placid Happiness or Active Contentment?

I believe I have sometimes fancied Christianity the key to placid happiness. A level playing field. The answer to a mature, academic levelheadedness.

Instead I wonder if it does not create a more ferocious sorrow as well as a more violent, untamed joy. We are no more numb to occasional dark despair than we are free from spontaneous song. Rather than drugging the senses, Christianity redefines them.

Faith, by nature, cannot be indifferent. It is incapable of being a state of neutrality. It is, rather, the wild, unexplained mystery of contentment. Emotions not dead, but vibrantly recreated. Passion is no longer dull, but deep with the colors from beyond our cosmos and imagination. Bound by freedom in a quiet, confident trust in the Creator. If we can breath through real tears and real laughter, it is through the power of faith. Placid happiness is breakable, and worse, stagnant. When covered by contentment, faith's sorrow and joy are as deep as the Cross and as strange as the Resurrection.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Useless ramble from Starbucks...

I look through red, sheer curtains,
That flutter in thunderstorms.
Sharp lightening shows the dancers.
A world that can love and hate.
I can not feel the downpour.
Only thunder rocks my bed.

I ignore the white coat say
“Tomorrow is a new day.”
He’s a dancer. He can’t know.
Tomorrow is my today.
I can only watch my window.
A lens weak or maybe strong.

Where’s the electricity?
Please let me be burned and bruised
You don’t have to understand.
Just wheel me into the rain.
Give your hand and let me stand.
It’s a thought I need to heal.

I am estranged by a fog.
There is no fog with thunder.
The dancers forget their music.
Mine is clear and strong. Let go.
I will dance away the fog.
Perhaps dancers stumble too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Defending Constantine - Dr. Peter Leithart

Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom
by Peter J. Leithart
IVP Academic 2010

Rating: 8
Readability: 7
Impact: 8

Read it Again: At least portions.
Recommend It: Yes.

What to Expect

Defending Constantine is organized somewhat like a backwards Against Christianity. The first portion sorts through history and what accounts we have of the times of the early church, before, after, and during the reign of Constantine.

The entire book is theologically grounded and continually shows the tension and relation of Church and State. Many portions read like an essay or thesis against writers and thinkers like John Howard Yoder. Other sections are simply history with thoughts from an open Bible.

Defending Constantine is a history lesson, argument, and theological discussion wrapped up in a fascinating character and time in history.
A few sections may take some persistance, but the whole book is well worth the read and is organized with typical Leithart clarity and infused with scattered humor.

My Squib

I didn't know near as much as I wanted to/needed to about this era of history, so I was delighted with this book.

The scale of research, quotes, and organization alone was an impressive feat. Dr. Leitart attacks hard questions and arguments while looking through a wide scope of history and constantly referring to the Bible.

I am perpetually confused about what the relation of church and state should be and he addresses this even more in Defending Constantine than in Against Christianity. 

The book gave an extended lesson on how theology, even minor ideas, affects the outworking of much of what we do. I found the discussion on pacifism particularly intriguing.

Dr. Leithart's arguments against John Howard Yoder are an interesting look into debate and thinking. By the end of the book, he has turned most of Yoder's arguments against Yoder himself.

This book was perfect for me on a number of levels, but it was well worth the time for the early church history alone.

Don't expect heroes to be perfect. But when imperfect people bow the knee to Christ, they can do great things...and who knows the consequences.

From the Book

"The church is a polity, and thus any ethical or political system that minimizes or marginalizes Jesus and his teaching hardly counts as Christian."

"In the end it all comes round to baptism, specifically to infant baptism. Rome was baptized in the fourth century. Eusebian hopes notwithstanding, it was not instantly transformed into a kingdom of heaven. It did not immediately become the city of God on earth. Baptism never does that. It is not meant to. Baptism sets a new trajectory, initiates a new beginning, but every beginning is the beginning of something. Through Constantine, Rome was baptized into a world without animal sacrifice and officially reognzized the true sacrificial city, the one community that does offer a foretaste of the final kingdom. All baptisms are infant baptisms. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shopping for Time - Carolyn Mahaney and Co.

Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed by Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, and Janelle Bradshaw

Rating: 8
Readability: 8
Impact: 8

Read it Again: Already have. :-)
Recommend It: Yup

What to Expect

Carolyn Mahaney and daughters challenge the way we spend our time and how it shows our priorities while offering perspective, tips, and strategies to accomplish what we're really here for.

My Squib

I'd read this with my mom and sisters a few years ago, but thought it was time for a reread.

Shopping for Time does not simplify life to a 12 step guide towards the perfect existence. Instead, it explains five ideas to help the day fall into place and get what really matters DONE. Rise early, pursue Christ with Bible in hand, take time to plan (alone if necessary), evaluate and pursue proper relationships, and be productive in daily life by depending on Christ.

A great encouragement if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. (Guilty as charged.) And it's short and direct enough that you won't even feel bad taking the time to read it. It's an even more beneficial break than Facebook. Promise. ;-)

The style is easy, humorous, and doesn't take itself to seriously.

From the Book

"In the end, our highest goal each day is not a flawless execution of our plans or increased productivity. It's our relationship with God, walking in dependence upon him throughout the day. We should not be more consumed with the completion of our to-do list than pleasing and glorifying our Savior. Whether we're sitting down to map out our day, simplifying our to-do list, or receiving an interruption as a 'sovereign delivery',  we must above all, plan to depend.