Monday, February 26, 2007

Heaven Help Us

My inbox reached 666 this weekend. It's alarming for many reasons. Pray for my email account, people!!!

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Year of the Barf

The (Chinese) New Year started with a bang for me this year. Given that my sister-in-law will be marrying a wonderful Taiwanese friend in just a few short months, I've enjoyed learning more about the Chinese culture lately. To celebrate the new year, we went to Little Szechuan (oh, the sesame chicken! We were out of it so fast!) with our Thursday night small group and Canton House (oh, the sesame balls! I could not believe they were out of them!) when the mom-in-law was in town for wahdding plahnning. Our good friends Matt & Cheryl (and Becky! :) also shared with us some tickets to New Tang Dynasty Television's Chinese New Year Spectacular, which was both beautiful and a lot of fun. I enjoyed sitting next to Cheryl, who is also Taiwanese, as she could translate some for me and explain some of the customs. Good times with family & friends. Xin Nein Kuai Le! Happy New Year!

Unfortunately (as you might guess from the title), the Year of the Pig went downhill from there. The stomach flu descended on me that night and fun times at the Crane house ensued. There's nothing like a little projectile vomit (among other things, ew) to liven up your new year. I haven't been that sick in years. Being in bed all day for 3 days did provide a good time to (re)connect with my own Asian heritage, though. Between bouts of nausea and being passed out like a rock, I re-read Mai Pen Rai Means Nevermind (An American Housewife's Honest Love Affair with the Irrepressible People of Thailand) by Carol Hollinger, a very witty and downright hilarious book that made me yearn all the more to visit Thailand. Although... I identified all-too-well with her skirmishes with "amoebic" (dysentery) and am not sure I could be quite as laissez faire she was about the local water and crops. It does make sense that if you're going to be somewhere for an extended period of time, you might as well get the misery over with and acclimate as soon as possible so you can actually enjoy the culture. I would certainly not want to be the obnoxious, mincing American, scurrying around worrying over disease and pestilence. Perhaps when we go (someday!) I will enjoy the trip like I would while camping. I naturally relax when we go camping, and will tromp through all sorts of spider-infested areas and eat Lord-knows-what that fell Lord-knows-where with cheerful aplomb. Here's hoping.

Anyway, I'm all but back to normal and glad to be back in the swing of things. Happy Year of the Pig, everybody!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Entitlement

Or, Why I Deserve to Act Like an Only Child and Throw Tantrums as an Adult

Well, it's Valentine's Day. A day of love and charity. A day of peace, goodwill and affection toward our fellow men.

A day for a nasty confrontation in a chapel.

Thankfully, I was not the recipient of the drama this time, merely an observer. I'm on campus today at Emory (yay!) getting some work done in Brooks Commons, the lounge area in Cannon Chapel. I like people watching, and it's always interesting when you get to interact with a perfect stranger in a nice way, as a comrade with shared experiences. So I enjoyed chatting with one woman who was on the phone fighting with a DeKalb County school. It sounded as though someone had stolen her son's cafeteria code and was using it during another lunch hour to charge their own lunches. I mentioned that I used to teach in DeKalb, empathized with her situation, and we shared some good ol' fashioned emnity towards the evil entity that is DeKalb County schools. A moment of mutual kindness and generosity.

Then another man was on the phone, this time fighting with someone about his W-2 forms. They gave him a complicated list of instructions, and he had no pen. So I loaned him one quite happily, we abused the govermental machine that is the IRS, and he went back to his conversation.

But then entitlement crept in. And I find the first woman's conversation quite ironic, given that the one of the places I have encountered entitlement the most was in the classroom. May I suggest that if you are planning on teaching in a school where you are the minority ethnicity, find a picture of you with friends, family, etc. that are of the majority ethnicity, frame it, and put it on your desk first thing. Don't worry about a stapler, tape, pencils, or a computer until you have that picture up there. There was many a day when an irate parent tried to cry "Racism!" but was stopped short by seeing my family portrait. But I digress.

The aforementioned gentleman was one ethnicity, and the aforementioned lady was another. But more importantly, the third person who entered the scene was not the same ethnicity as that gentleman. We'll call him Clueless Man, and her, Cranky Lady. You can see where this is headed.

Clueless man was still on his phone, and speaking rather loudly. I ignored it. After the Figo incident, I am far from eager to harrass perfect strangers. But Cranky Lady had had enough of the interruption to her studying, and she asked him to either get off the phone or leave. She lectured. She ranted. And when he finally said, "Fine, I'll go!" and started to storm out, it was really just beginning. The person on the other end of the line (not his previous phone call) must have asked what was going on, because he said, "I just pissed off some lady for being on the phone, so I'm going outside!" She took the bait. Henceforth issued a shouting match that could very well have been enacted in my third-grade classroom:

CL: Well, you're rude!

CM: I'm not rude!

CL: Yes, you are! You don't even belong here! This is for the students!

CM: I'm an alum!

CL: I don't care! You're rude!

CM: Fine! Goodbye!

I didn't know whether to laugh or put them in time out.

The thing that gets me is the sense of entitlement. On both sides, I suppose, but "she started it." The idea that I deserve the room to be at my level of auditory comfort, and if I am inconvenienced or uncomfortable in any way, it is YOUR responsibility to change that, AND I don't have to be nice about it, because the world owes me.

It makes my head explode. Clueless Man seemed nice enough, just ignorant. Cranky Lady could have asked him nicely to lower his volume or to go outside. But that was just too much effort to be expected. Because it's difficult to confront someone nicely, but very self-gratifying to berate a perfect stranger.

Now why did I mention ethnicities? Because 30 seconds after the show ended and the curtain came down, another lady entered, talking loudly on her cell phone. She only talked about 2 minutes and then hung up, and so I suppose that would mostly account for Cranky Lady not jumping on her case, too. But I found it frustratingly interesting that this new person happened to be of the same ethnicity as Cranky Lady. It felt too familiar to similar situations I've seen or been in.

And Clueless Man certainly could have been more gracious and held his tongue. But he didn't; and to be truthful, I probably wouldn't have, either. Although, in the case of the Figo incident, I was too shocked to be rude. Oh, may I be shocked into kindness more often!

When, oh when will we all realize that we are all made in God's image? You certainly don't have to be a professing, "evangelical" Christian to be here at the Candler School of Theology, but it's a reasonable assumption that if you're here, you espouse some system of beliefs that says, "Play nice with others." Especially on consumeristic, bastardized national holidays that are supposed to be about love and kindness.

Well, Happy Valentine's Day. Call your mom, hug your kids, kiss your spouse, and be nice to a stranger.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bugs, Rugs, and Thugs with Bombs

I am entirely too fond of that title.

So I had a good dose of NPR this morning. Morning Edition. Sad to say, we're so lazy we don't usually catch it, but I had an appointment, so there I was, sitting in traffic, listening to NPR and feeling all grown up. Har har har.

One of the news stories was about the color red. It was a Valentine's Day thing, I guess. I thought it was interesting to hear about the secrecy that surrounded the making of red dye before synthetic dyes were invented. I usually think of the color purple (not the book) as the color of royalty, but apparently the Sun King himself, Louis XVI, was very fond of red (among other creepy obsessions) and brought it quite into vogue in his days. He had very shapely legs, apparently, and liked to show them off in tight pants, hose, and high-heeled red shoes. Yikes. Do you think Baton Bob is a descendant?

But anyway, the secrecy. The dye came from a cactus-dwelling bug found mostly in Mexico. The workers there would harvest the bugs, dry them out, and then ship them to Europe, where the folks couldn't figure out what the little dried up pod-things (not the sci-fi monsters) were. Plant, animal, mineral? The Mexicans worked hard to keep it a secret so that the Europeans wouldn't come pillaging their way through and take over. Smart.

The interviewer was at a museum looking at some rugs from that era that were basically crushed red velvet, which she commented looked too nice to step on. I find an ironic symbolism in the mental picture of Louis-boy stepping on his crushed red velvet as calmly as he stepped on the crushed red (bloody and broken) peasants. It makes me want to see Les Mis again (although I think I'm way off on time periods, here).

I also listened with interest to an interview from someone on the security council about the state of North Korea's disarmament (is that a word?). Somebody remind me again why we're allowed to have nukes, but everyone else is supposed to disarm? Right, right... because we're benevolent peace-keepers, not invading war-mongerers.

See what a few minutes of NPR will do to a person?
hee hee hee

Friday, February 09, 2007

Harry Potter is Evil

No, I haven't lost my mind and joined the ranks of Harry Haters---especially not the woman in Gwinnett County! I still feel that it is not a problem for a Christian to read Harry Potter, provided that the occult is not a stumbling block for him or her. And I loved a comment I read on one of the many HP-themed sites when someone said that there are far more dangerous books at a Christian bookstore... hoo hoo hoo! Take that, Jabez!

But perhaps a more accurate title might be, "My Obsession with Harry Potter is Evil." I can't stop. I've read an unholy amount of theories, prognostications, and random silliness since the title and release date of Book 7 has been announced. My problem is not with the content of the books, but rather that I've become obsessed (almost to the point of possession) with all things Harry Potter. My poor husband is at his wits' end with my endless chattering about invisibility cloaks and horcruxes and scars and spells and time turners and... and... and...

Football season ended, with its usual tinny implosion, and I found myself another idol to fill the void. Why, oh why, do I do this? Where is my passion for Christ? For graduate students? For InterVarsity Press (yet another addiction, but not as time-consuming)? Why is it that I don't lose track of time and spend hours looking at websites about the plight of people in Africa, the Middle East, etc.? I made a rule about Harry Potter rumor-mongering only on the weekends. I broke it. It seems the harder I try to stop obsessing, the worse it gets. Like those stupid finger traps or a raccoon with its grubby little paw stuck in a trap, unwilling to let go of the prize to get away free.

Someone once told me that I should be willing to be as free during corporate worship as I am at a football game. I disagree. At Tech games, I'm loud, obnoxiously spirited, and concerned mainly with my own entertainment. Perhaps I'm too bogged down in "outdated traditions" (sorry about getting that sarcasm on your computer screen) but I think there is more to corporate worship than that. Or at least there should be.

So that begs the question, should I be as obsessed with God as I tend to get with GT football, HP, etc. etc.? I think not. There is no discipline, no control, no goal except to entertain myself. When I am getting too wrapped up in the world of Harry Potter, I am living rather vicariously through the characters. I am escaping from the real world, and I get rather feverish and frantic to know more, theorize more, read more. That is not what a life lived for and through God should look like. When I am getting wrapped up in God's word and his gracious and eternal plan (getting "too" wrapped up is not possible!), I am not escaping or living vicariously. I am instead living the life I was meant to live, and I am neither feverish nor frantic. Instead, I am hungry to know more, dream more, read more. I can tell the difference. Sometimes I just let myself ignore what I know to be true.

There is a distinctiveness to being engaged, excited and enthused about what God is doing here on earth as he is in heaven. Not a frenetic scrambling to please a merciless, lazy, whimsical god, but a life lived in energized obedience to a dying daily to self, with the help of a merciful, active, unchanging God.

I'm going to go read my Bible. It may not be as "fun" as other things I could do, but God has been gracious to give me the desire to do so, and it seems a shame to waste it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Mystery of Salvation

That title doesn't do my thoughts justice, but I'm not sure that any title could. I stumbled upon a deep theological discussion on the Boar's Head Tavern site about not just the innerrancy of scripture, but also about a strange cross-section of the Christian subculture that apparently has managed to resurrect for themselves a golden calf made of King James Bibles. In a metaphorical sense, of course. Although, the gold leaf would work nicely... hmmm...

I'm not sure quite what to think about the issue. While I agree that the Bible is not a magical portkey to Happy Salvation Land (just touch it at the prescribed time and poof! you arrive at your destination), there is a power inherent in the holy scripture of God, is there not? While the Bible alone does not save, and God alone does, he has chosen to use the medium of his son, the word made flesh among us, to provide that salvation, and the primary method of communication of that fact is indeed through the Bible. Right? (My head is spinning...)

As if that wasn't enough to get my noggin all in a tizzy, I then continued my way through the pub (in search of the billards tables, but I was alas! waylaid) and came across a discussion of Ted Haggard. I've mentioned my feelings on the matter before. In a previous post, I started out judging (not the pastor, but those that would judge him), and as usually happens, ended up with a nasty close-up of my own sin, judgements and self-righteous behavior. In reading some of the thoughts of the denizens of the Boar's Head, I found myself once again quick to judge... but then I clicked on this link and now I'm really feeling flummoxed.

Haggard's words in November 2003. It's almost creepy, really. A bit of irony, of foreshadowing, perhaps a subconscious plea for help? What really got me to thinking, though, was his mention of Martin Luther's "[lament] at the end of his life that he might not be justified." (Anyone have any insight into this? Was Haggard presenting this idea out of context?) Haggard warns us all, and for good reason, that we must "ensure that we are not the whitewashed tombs and snakes of our day." But I find some of his reasoning troubling. He gives the very Biblical warnings that we are to be known as Christians by our love, that our actions are important. But he seems to make the claim that if we are not loving, if we are not taking care of the least of these, and if we are doing that which we do not want to do, then it is a warning sign that our salvation may not be secure. Maybe no one else got that idea from his article, but it unnerved me.

Is it not better to rely on God's sovereign power and gracious choice of us, while we were yet still enemies, as the binding seal and sign of our salvation? Okay, I may be getting out of line here, but it is indeed a very short jump from, "Good fruit is a sign of salvation" to "Salvation through works." I just don't like relying on my fallible actions to reassure me that Christ has chosen and redeemed me. I find it very comforting that no matter how badly I screw up (daily!), God is with me and will not forsake me. Is it perhaps the difference between our own assurance of our salvation and what bears testimony to others? I think I may better understand the urges that would prompt a person to tear out the book of James. Speaking of blasphemy. And redemption.

Okay, if I've been wildly heretical here, tell me! In the mean time, I'm off to sacrifice goats. (What a smartass ending to a rather heartfelt post!)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Oh, Google will be the Happy Death of Me!

I love my gmail account... but between the chat feature and the personalized, tantalizing links all over the place, it's a wonder I get anything done.

This one made me laugh. It sounds dirty, and the pictures are even worse, but apparently, it's quite legitimate.


www.bananaguard.com


This one made me aggravated. Why, oh why, do we let angry atheists distract us from Jesus? Apologetics is important and valuable, but at the end of the day, being right doesn't bring peace. Someone did make the valuable point that evolution is as much a leap of faith as is creationism, but that got bogged down in ad hom attacks and out-of-context Bible verses vs. scientific jargon. Good times.

Lord help us.

And there's always Endgaget links... this one features some of the geekier Superbowl commercials. GM's Lonely Robot was my favorite, followed by Sprint's Connectile Dysfunction.

The Bears let me down!


While the Bears performance was less than stellar, Bud Light came through in spades!

The King Crab one was my favorite.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Unbelievable!

We went to dinner at Figo (soooo yummy, but I couldn't really taste it tonight) to celebrate the birthday of our friend Ken (Happy Birthday, Ken!). Unfortunately, I had some wretched woman yell at me. Well, not yell, exactly, but...

*doo-doo-doo! doo-doo-doo! doo-doo-doo!*
(insert flashback scene here)

We arrived a few minutes after the other folks, so there was a party of 4 or 5 people in between us and the rest of our group. Figo wanted us to all be on the same order, though, since we were sitting together, so our friend gestured us forward. The hostess/cashier smiled at the lady in line and then turned to us; I said, "Sorry, they want us all on the same ticket" to the lady in line and then ordered. I stepped aside to let Kennan order, and THEN---

one of the women walked up to me and said, in a very guilt-inducing, know-it-all, Umbridge-ish voice, "I just wanted to let you know that I know what you did and I think it's very rude and I hope you're happy with yourself. Hmph!" I was a little shocked, but I said, "Oh no, I'm sorry; they wanted us all together." To which she replied, sarcastically, "Oh, I'm sure they did!"

That doesn't really do it justice; she was unbelievably rude, and at that point my head started to boil. I had to walk away before I punched her. She was such a snot that even Kennan got mad, which is a really rare event. And of course they were seated at the table next to ours... I sat strategically, with my back to them, so my head wouldn't explode!

The good news is, I didn't get in a fist fight and get kicked out in Bluth family style... the bad news is, I'm still mad, and now have a headache. All the times I've been "wronged" (or thought I had been) in public, I'll admit I've had some rude daydreams about all the things I wanted to say or do, but... even I (and I'm a mess) have never done anything like that! To actually walk up to a stranger and say that! I think they were from the north. Yankees.

Yes, lots has happened since I last posted... Urbana was great, Kennan passed the first 2 of his PhD qualifying exams and is now studying for the 3rd, Christy & Gordon got engaged and we set up an office for me in a corner of the dining room... but the HOOCH-LADY AT FIGO is unfortunately all that I can think about right now. Hopefully, this post will prove cathartic and I can get over it. I ask you, though, would any of YOU ever say that to someone? Patricia, I don't think even you would.


Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I haven't been that mad since "Sharon's Picks!"