24 December 2007
23 December 2007
I am still pondering on the C S Lewis quote. The primary motivator, as I mentioned in my last post, was the book "The Art of Loving God" by St. Francis de Sales. My grandfather gave it to me in May shortly before Sara and I moved to Chicago. He reads a great deal of the church fathers and tentatively offered his copy, not wanting me to feel he was "pushing" his Catholicism. The book sat on my shelf for months while I considered picking it up and adding it to the lineup.
Earlier this month I had a shouting moment with God. Life was just too hard, my loneliness too overwhelming, responsibility draining my energy and joy about the future. Reading "Revelations of a Single Woman" earlier in the fall was an incredible encouragement. Here was a book written by a woman in my situation with insights and encouragement to not give up hope. The thing was, there was something missing. My miserableness did not abate and no matter what I did, my obsessive thinking patterns were not changing. I wanted to love God more so that whether or not I was feeling loved enough by those around me, it would not rule my emotions or my ability to function.
I've read so many relationship books, so many "how to have a better life" books that I should know how to do this. My problem is that I know so much, but my mind and emotions have such a disconnect in my daily life that the knowing doesn't really make it into my living.
Enter the "old" book.
One of the major issues that I have with modern books (and praise and worship songs, and sermons, and self-help guides) is that the focus is all about me in bold letters and sometimes even in all caps. Life is better than I think. I need to make better decisions, meet new people or serve more. I should take heart, or take control, or just take a break. What I do matters most, has the greatest influence and makes the biggest difference.
But I belong to the God of the universe, and he has told me more times than I can count that I am NOT the center of that universe. So why is it all about me?
St Francis de Sales, writing circa 1610 to women who were unable to dedicate themselves to full-time seclusion but still wanting to live completely dedicated to God, takes a very practical, realistic view of loving God. What is the first step to loving God: Have confidence in God's mercy. Beginning with the acknowledgment of my own failure, sinfulness and imperfection, I still act, confident in the sacrifice of Christ to make everything right. Whether you feel it or not, whether you know it in your heart is of far less important than what you chose to do:
"Act confidently regardless of your feelings And even if you do not feel such confidence, you must still not fail to make acts of confidence, saying to our Lord, "Although, dear Lord, I have no feeling of confidence in Thee, I know all the same that Thou art my God, that I am wholly Thine, and that I have no hope but in Thy goodness; therefore I abandon myself entirely into They hands." It is always in our power to make these acts, although there may be difficulty, there is never impossibility. It is on these occasions and amid these difficulties that we ought to show fidelity to our Lord. For although we may make these acts without fervor and without satisfaction to ourselves, we must not distress ourselves about that; our Lord loves them better thus."(8)You mean it is not about how I feel about it? My personal satisfaction in my actions is not the highest judgment of their value? Where is the joy in that?
It only gets better! The next step in loving God: Embrace God's will with equanimity. Now this is something that is preached all the time for various reasons.... If I love the life that God has given me, he will finally send me a husband, give me the child that I need so desperately, make clear the path to happiness. Like Magic, acceptance of God's will leads directly to satisfied hopes and sated desires. de Sales, on the other hand, makes it clear that embracing God's will is not about feeling, and it is not about personal satisfaction. It is all about God.
"Rely on God's goodness, not on your feelings Our confidence in God must be founded on His infinite goodness and on the merits of the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, with this condition on our part: that we should persevere and recognize in ourselves an entire and firm resolution to belong wholly to God, and to abandon ourselves in all things and without any reserve to His Providence. Observe that I do not say what we must feel this resolution to belong wholly to God, but only that we must have it and recognize it in ourselves; we must not concern ourselves with what we feel or do not feel, since the greater part of our feelings and satisfaction are only the movements of self-love."(22)When was the last time that I was told, by a Christian or secular author that feeling was less important than doing? Or, as de Sales goes even farther, that my feelings are so much less about what God is doing or saying in my life and so much more about "self-love"? I could go on and on, but I will draw my quoting to a close here.
There is a bit of the stoic about de Sales, and I am not much of a stoic and have never wanted to be one. But I needed the reminder of two very important points: first, the issue is all about God, recognizing who he is and trusting myself to him, and second, what really matters are the choices I make and what is happening in my will, regardless of how I feel about it. I may not feel like God loves me very much when he leaves me days without physical affection, but that isn't true. He looked down at my misery in sin and joyfully sacrificed his Son to satisfy his perfect justice and reveal his perfect love. This is ALWAYS true, regardless of how I feel.
Not only that... When I choose to submit, choose to love and choose to look to him rather than at the circumstances swirling around and within me, he loves me and holds me. It is true and every choice that I make either undercuts or reinforces that weight of truth in my daily life.
I am still shouting at God--sometimes accompanied by crying and pummeling pillows or just obsessive-thinking induced insomnia--but I calm down, the hiccups lessen and my heart finds rest when I choose to look at him, rather then the swirl of emotion that threatens to overwhelm me. I will never be a calm person without supernatural inner peace. It just isn't part of my make-up. But Galatians says that peace is a fruit of the Spirit and it will come as I live submitted to that Spirit.
So what does this mean? The old books must be read. They come from a time when the individual wasn't the center of life and much of life was just hard and you dealt with it. And they also come from a time when God was big, and omnipotent, not just a personal security blanket. I love my passionate relationship with God, but it could benefit from some awe, and, well, some daily living in the eternal reality of who God is.
But this has run far too long and I feel like I haven't said a sliver of what is really on my heart. Oh well, c'est la vie:-)
So, after waiting interminable to elaborate on the Lewis quote, I am finally back. I should probably start with the "What I've Been Reading" list:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling was fun and entertaining. I happen to think that Rowling is a good writer and as an adult I enjoy her stories. I still have reservations of serving them up unaccompanied by thoughtful conversation to children. As a child I absorbed undiscerningly and with relish everything that I read. Rowling has a little too much philosophical relativity in her writings to let them be passively absorbed; but I don't understand the hysteria, unless it is the whole magic thing. Besides, this book does offer up one of the best Rowling quotes ever: page 329--"Ginny!" said Mr. Weasley flabbergasted. "Haven't I taught you anything? What have I always told you? Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain?"
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling see above commentary... but I would add that, while the fumbling and malicious adults who don't want to see the truth or follow it may be realistic, Rowling undermines adult authority/trustworthiness with so many of your grown-up characters that it should definitely be followed up with some discussion about integrity and loving adults.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson all I can say is, Erik Larson is amazing! This thoroughly researched true story about the World's Fair in Chicago and the serial killer H H Holmes is fascinating. It has more drama and thrill than some of the best crime novels and it is ALL true! I love reading non-fiction, but few are as excellent page-turners as this one. Besides, it is about Chicago, the city that I love:-)
The Art of Loving God by St Francis de Sales this is the book that prompted the quote by C S Lewis. I will be writing on this further.
En Route to the Epilogue
The Next Christendom by Philip Jenkins was loaned to me by a friend from church. I saw it on his bookcase and it really was intriguing. Looking at Christianity in the global south, Jenkins discusses the fundamentalist bent of this form of Christianity and the likelihood of major clashes between Christians and Muslims as both religions grow in Africa and Asia, as well as Latin America. Not quite the page turner that Larson was, but equally interesting. I highly appreciate Jenkins emphasis on the long-standing history of Christianity in the global south and the fallacy of "imperial Christianity." Jenkins approaches this subject as a historian, rather than a religious proponent, which adds some impartiality.
The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen is a return engagement for me. I received this book for Christmas the year I was 18 and I have read it at least two times before. This book, while not directly applicable to the C S Lewis quote, because it is not an entirely old book; but it is focused on an older spirituality. Henri Nouwen takes the spirituality of the Desert Fathers of the 4th/5th century and applies it to modern ministry. The focus is on solitude, silence and prayer... a great prep for my retreat in January.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J K Rowling having already seen the movie, I have an idea of what is going to happen, but it is still fun to read. When am I going to have time to read 700 page books besides Christmas break?
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis this will also be a return engagement for me. I have had a copy of this book for 10-15 yrs but I have never read the entire thing. After de Sales I thought another Christ centered icon from an established tradition would be a good balance to all the more modern reading that crosses my path.
The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer would be one of the more modern reads on my list. Last time I read this one I was 19 and en route to meeting my self-proclaimed nihilistic intellectual uncle. It was amazingly applicable then and I am pretty sure it will be again, surrounded as I am by intelligent people who by-and-large have little use for God or Christianity.
The Freedom Writers Diary by the Freedom Writers and Erin Gruell I watched the film almost 5 times this past week as a treat for my students and I really want to read the book. This is quite inspiring, especially considering the situation that I am in right now.
15 December 2007
It is late and I don't have time to elaborate on this tonight, but I wanted to post this quote by C S Lewis. It is one that I have been looking for for awhile and it speaks to my reading list of recent days. Read it, think about it, and I will try to write more in the next few days.
It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. C S Lewis (from his introduction to Athanasius On the Incarnation referenced here.)
14 December 2007
Some of you know that I am looking for a new Bible. I have had my last one for almost 10 years and it is starting to wear out. I've already replaced the cover once:-) So, in my pursuit of a new Bible I have been looking at different ESV versions. My current daily Bible is NAS and I have treasured that translation very much over the years. However, reading and rereading the same text can lend itself to only a surface view. Changing versions tends to give me a chance to dig deeper again. I was considering a "serious" Bible: full-grain leather cover, in-depth commentary, etc. After all, I am an adult and ready for the responsibility of a Bible that will last me a lifetime. Then I stumbled across the Literary Study Bible at Westminster Books. As an English major who loves digging deep into literature the idea intrigued me. What do you think? (BTW, Westminster Books is having a sale on their Bibles--45% off for Christmas. Thanks to Irish Calvinist blog for letting me know about this one.)
05 December 2007
The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His all-knowing eyes,
understood with His Divine mind,
tested with His wise justice,
warmed with loving arms
and weighted with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you.
He has blessed it with His holy Name,
anointed it with His grace,
perfumed it with His consolation,
taken one last glance at you and your courage,
and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
--St Francis de Sales
04 December 2007
I seem to be generating NO original thoughts here lately, but I have been reading quite a few. Amy loves books has another great, poetic one that I envy exceedingly. It reminds me a little of one of my best friends and I thought I would share it with all of you. Enjoy!
BTW, the pic makes sense if you read the post;-)
03 December 2007
Second, tomorrow I go for a day-long interview with Teach For America at the UIC campus. I will be there from 9:00 am to 6:00pm. This is where they decide if I am TFA material or not. I am a little nervous, but more about the possibility of teaching with TFA than going through the interview. I am confident that I have the strengths and abilities to be successful in their program. However, I am unsure what God has for me. Right now, I would prefer to get a job with Perspectives as a full-time teacher. (BTW, I did fill out a general application for them today.) Please pray for me that I will have patience and discernment as I seek God's will in this.
Finally, I want to remind you all to celebrate this Advent season with joy! We are the recipients of the most AWESOME love you could imagine: the perfect God of the Universe chose to humble himself and become human, to suffer and die to satisfy his perfect justice, so that we could have eternal intimacy with him. It just doesn't get any better than that!
01 December 2007
Last weekend was a wild and wonderful celebration with my entirely too manic immediate and extended family. Since I ALWAYS forget to take pictures I encourage you to take a quick jaunt over to my sister Amy's blog and check out all of hers. And for those of you earnestly awaiting pics of my new hair cut.... there are a few there. Although I was sans hair goop and a blowdryer so you are seeing the entirely undone look;-)
One lovely development that came from this celebration was my new position as kitchen coordinator. I had all the food ready 5 minutes before I told the clan it would be time to eat, and only the delay in Aunt Linda's gravy kept the meal from being absolutely on time. For those of you who have never participated in a clan meal with my family you have no idea what an impressive feat this was! Although my mother likes to have her fingers in everything (sometimes literally) I think she is a little relieved to be passing this responsibility on.
13 November 2007
I just read a simply wonderful poem in a blog post on Boundless. Jenny Schroedel wrote on the intersection of loneliness and solitude. I encourage you to check it out here. But regardless of whether or not you read the entire article, I encourage you to read the poem that closed it:
As Daniel Ladinsky wrote in his poem, "Absolutely Clear":4
Don't surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight,
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of Godphoto by misty mawn
Work: Yesterday I had a phone interview with Teach for America yesterday afternoon and I felt it went well. I will find out on the 19th whether or not I made it to the next round of interviews. My goal currently is to find a full-time teaching position by next fall. I have had some interesting work experience since graduating from school, but it would be nice to have full-time work and full-time income!
Neighbors: In addition to having my TFA interview yesterday, I arrived home to a strange man standing in my apartment. It turns out that he is Ramon, the man who owns 619, and he was in the building because he had a meeting with Jack regarding his tenants and a noise violation. They were partying LOUD on Saturday night... all the way until 4:00am! The tenants were not home when he arrived, but he entered the apartment and apparently found the place trashed and marijuana paraphanelia all over the place. He was about as angry as he could be in front of strangers. He brought a friend who is a Chicago cop (as a witness or in case things got ugly, I believe).
Ramon was very apologetic and said that he would be dealing severly with the tenants. Turns out they are 3 18-19 yr olds that are students at Columbia College Chicago. One is the son of Ramon's wife's best-friend. Presumably he fell in with bad company and they in turn have trashed Ramon's apartment, including all the furniture and appliances that he so kindly left for them. After our conversation, which also included Jack--the building engineer--he went back home to Oak Park. Later that evening he emailed Sara and said that he was coming back to confront the kids with parents in tow (parents are on the lease as well as the boys). I heard a little of the LOUD conversation and I don't think it is going so well for them. I can't say that I feel to badly about it. They were acting like spoiled frat boys, so they belong somewhere else. I will try to keep you updated on what is going on there.
My Birthday: I have been celebrating my birthday month with great joy! It started with a David Crowder band concert on the 1st at House of Blues with some friends from Church. Then Sara and I went out for dinner on my birthday, I had a little celebration with my small group from church on the 8th and tomorrow night I am having some friends over for a birthday dinner party. I will try to take some pictures and post them soon:-) In addition to some lovely gifts from friends and family, I would like to post a special thank you here--Jud subsidized a much-needed haircut as my birthday present. I went to Ashley, she gave me a great new winter cut and I will try to get pics up soon. It is shorter and a bit more funky and I LOVE IT!
That will have to do it for now. I will try and get more up on a regular basis--please leave comments... I love to hear from you!
06 November 2007
Another gem from amy loves books here. I became acquainted with her over teaching, so it is fitting that I should link to another teaching post. This one is the kind of encouragement I need to hear on a daily, maybe even moment-by-moment, basis.
My dear friend at TulipGirl turned me on to a delightful blog called amy loves books and today I read a post of hers that was so beautiful that I wanted to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Imagine how much more lovely my blog would be if I managed to include anything like this on a regular basis!)
I have been thinking a lot about urban ministry, especially since I am part of an urban church plant, working at what could be considered an inner-city school (although it doesn't carry the negative connotations of that name) and volunteer with a few urban ministries including Sunshine Gospel Ministries and GRIP. This thinking has involved a lot of wrestling.
Tomorrow I turn 29 and I have no idea how my life is going to look in the next year. This is not what I imagined for myself 10 years ago. I would have never guessed that I would be living smack in the middle of Chicago with a delightful roommate, no romantic interest, several part-time jobs, and a wonderful church. It is a beautiful life, all told, but often trying and never easy. When I think I have reached the end of my tether, and the idea of living a "safe" suburban life seems irresistible, God brings another encouragement to keep hanging on. The most recent form this encouragement took was a sermon by Joel Hamernick at my church last Sunday. If you want to hear it in full, you can listen here. If you just want to see the main points you can check out Joel's blog post here.
- My heart for missions and cross-cultural exchange has never dampened in the last 10 years or more, but the focus has definitely shifted several times.
- There is no doubt in my mind that living and working in Chicago is a cross-cultural situation.
- The need for the Gospel in Chicago and other American urban areas is just as great as any foreign need that I have seen or heard of.
- God has strongly impressed on my heart that I need to put my roots down deep in Chicago, regardless of how long my life here may be.
And of course, the most disturbing thoughts then role in and they all seem to revolve around that perennially difficult question: Does God want to keep me for himself? Is the best life that he could give me one that does not include a husband and family? Some days I think that would be difficult but amazing. Other days, it sounds like the worst torture possible! Most days, my feelings are somewhere in between.
Any thoughts on this? I always appreciate the insights of my friends and family. And you can always remind me of what Sara says all the time "You just think about these things too much!"
03 November 2007
As I rapidly approach my 29th birthday, I wanted to post briefly about a book that I just finished: Revelations of a Single Woman, loving the life i didn't expect by Connally Gilliam. First of all, this is the best book, hands down, that I have read about being single and over 25. Gilliam repeatedly talks about "unintentional singleness," a distinction that I think is very important. She is not addressing people who are choosing to forgo marriage and family for career or personal reasons. Her writing is for those who long to be married but still find themselves single. She herself is in her mid to late-thirties with many friends and acquaintances in similar situations. Her writing is accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike, although she does not mince words when she talks about ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
In the next few days (maybe weeks?) I am going to go through chapter by chapter with some commentary and analysis. I think the discipline is good for me, and it will help me to digest more effectively what I have read. Today I just wanted to let you know that book exists and to HEARTILY recommend it to anyone who is unintentionally single (men could benefit from this book as well, I believe) or who has a daughter (or son) who is in this place in life. I am going to pass my copy on to my parents when they come and visit next week. If you do read it, or someone you know has or is reading it, please point them to this blog. I would welcome their voices in the conversation.
Now I must return to my sewing or I won't have my rent for next month:-)
23 October 2007
22 October 2007
I do know that our condo association as strict noise policies, so after checking to make sure that is was coming from their apartment, I called and left a message with the building manager. A short time later I heard someone in the hall and it ends up it was the neighbors to our south, Don and Allison, who we are quite friendly with. They are both flight attendents, so we don't see a whole lot of them.
Don mentioned that the guys from 619 are very pesky to the neighbor directly across from them in 618. He also said that they have smelled pot when they walked into the building and have seen individuals from 619 smoking in the hall. He said he would call Jack (building manager) and complain as well. I am not sure that he did, but it was nice to know that I wasn't hallucinating or just being grumpy.
So we will see how it goes. Jack returned my call today, got a few details and said that the first step is that 619 will get a general letter stating that there have been complaints about noise. After that comes fines. That doesn't take into account the smells, but if it gets bad I am going to contact the owners.
Enough of that saga.... Hopefully I will post something more intelligent soon!
19 October 2007
The issue is the smells that come from their unit and directly infiltrate ours. Our doors are directly across from each other and I found out, rather unpleasantly, that if our windows are open we draft in anything that is in the hallway. It used to be the occasional cooking smell, and usually it wasn't bad.
However, things have taken a seriously negative downturn. It seems that they like to smoke. A LOT. And the minute they light up, it smells like a stale ashtray in OUR apartment. One evening, when Sara was suffering from a particularly bad headache I went across, knocked on the door and asked if they would put something at the bottom of the door. Our windows were closed but it was still drafting into our apartment. That time I talked to the blond roommate.
Nothing resulted from that interaction but the installation of a rolled blanket at our door. It didn't seem too bad and we didn't want a conflict, so we let it go. Last night it smelled like bad cooked fish, or something worse that I don't want to mention on this blog, and Sara and I lit 6 scented candle in front of our door and hoped that it would either dissipate or be covered enough for us to fall asleep. We were not home all day, therefore the blanket was not at the door to do its work.
Tonight required another confrontation. I was sitting on the couch, blogging and minding my own business when what should I smell but stale ashtray. As many of you know, I grew up with smoking parents who quit when I was about 13. This led to an abhorrence of all things smoking related, but especially of stale cigarette smoke. The LAST thing I want to smell in my home--which is supposed to my refuge--is ashtray! Unfortunately, this smell was making it past my rolled blanket and my fragrant tart burner by the door.
So I went to talk to the neighbors. Again. This time it sounded like they were having a party and they didn't hear my first knock. A youngish dark-haired guy answered the door. As politely as possible I asked him if he would mind putting something under his door, as I could smell his smoking or cooking in my apartment. He was very polite, but I don't have very high hopes.
After the first incident, when I wasn't sure it was our neighbors, I called the building supervisor and left a message. That day, I could smell stale smoke all the way to elevators. He never contacted me again, but the hallway smelled better for quite awhile and so we didn't bother. However, if it happens again, I am going to contact him.
You see, this building is individually owned condos. Many of them are rented by their owners and I am fine with that, because I am reaping the benefits of that situation. The issue is, I seriously doubt they have permission to smoke in the apartment. This building is just over a year old and everything is new, including the carpets. A couple with young children had the unit before these guys, and I would bet they own the unit. Even if they don't whoever does is not going to want it stunk up so quickly. If our apartment smells bad, I can only imagine what it smells like in there.
Along with the smells we have been subject to an occasionally middle of the night guest or loud party but that hasn't been too bad. Sara usually sleeps through it, and since I wake up during the night regularly it isn't as disruptive as it could be.
So, do you have any advice? Should I try to contact the owner of the unit and complain? I don't think the building manager will do anything about it, and don't know that he could, unless there was a clause about smoking in the condo association contract. I don't really want to "just live with it" since we have 6 months left on our lease and I HATE being in a smelly apartment.
Well, that is enough of that.
Time for another installment on my reading list. I must say, this is one of the greatest perks of my job. People are paying me to read! My mother would have told you that this was my dream job.... How many times has she told me to put away the book? These are in no particular order, and I want to preface this with a disclaimer: Just because I read it doesn't mean I recommend it. This may be clear to some people, but I wanted it clear to EVERYONE so as not to cause needless offense. So here is the recent installment.
Sounder by William H Armstrong: This book I HIGHLY recommend. It is award winning and it is not hard to see why. Only about 70 pages, but they are beautifully written, and on top of that, the story is beautiful as well. In the tradition of Where The Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller, Sounder is the story of a boy and his dog. But even more than that, it is a beautiful story of learning to read, of loss and heartache in a black sharecropping family and of a boy becoming a man. I was bawling my eyes out almost the entire book! I bought it to see if it would be a good choice for one of my classes. If only they had the patience for a book that wasn't "urban."
The Prince by Machiavelli: This book is a classic for good reason. It took me several months to wade through the density of this text. Like Aristotle's Poetics, I read this because I felt like I should have read it in order to be truly well-read. It is dense, and the political and theatrical allusions are lost on me, but it is applicable to our current age and probably always will be. Machiavelli is ruthless in his estimation of men and almost nihilistically pragmatic about what it takes to rule them. There is no denial of the sinful nature of man, and that was refreshing. However, his emphasis on the need for the appearance of virtue, rather than actuality, and his wholesale distrust of all people completely lacked grace. One selfish happiness that came from it, however, was personal vindication of my opinions about Bill Clinton. I have always said that he may not have been a particularly wonderful president, but he was a FABULOUS politician. He almost perfectly embodied all the Machiavelli says a successful prince needs to be.
Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers: This book was assigned to one of my groups with a lower reading level, and since I want to have read what my students are reading, I picked it up. This book was chosen because it has a lot of themes that students can relate to: poverty, gang issues, single-parent households, harsh and misunderstanding schools, etc. Myers has written many books for students and young adults and this one is a Newberry Honor book. However, it is also dark and rather hopeless. It reminded me too much of Thomas Hardy and his fatalistic stories to be an enjoyable read for me, although I do not doubt its accuracy. Some of my students love it, some hate it. There is a lot of African American colloquialisms and that is rough for some of my Latino students.
True Notebooks by Mark Salzman: Subtitled "A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall" gives you a slightly better idea of what this book is about. Like Scorpions, it is an often stark picture of the lives of gang members, this time from the perspective of incarceration. Salzman was part of a program that arranged for writers to lead writing groups with high security inmates. He is an excellent writer (I absolutely loved his novel Lying Awake!) and the combination of his narrative and examples from the guys' writing makes for a readable, if not totally happy story. Anyone who works with urban youth would benefit from reading this, and people like Daniel and my Mom can probably even identify with it.
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld: One of my students asked me if we could read this book as a class, so I decided to take it home and see what it was about. It is basically a modern story of vampires, although Westerfeld's idea is that vampirism is a parasite, so every other chapter is a short discourse on some real parasite. The main protagonist, Cal, is someone who carries the vampire parasite, but is not a vampire himself. However, since he is a carrier he can pass it on to others through any bodily fluid and has some heightened abilities such as an ability to see in the dark, an inability to get infections, ultra-sensitive hearing and smell, extreme strength and a voracious appetite. Cal hunts down those he accidentally infected. Well, there is also a big conspiracy and the end sets up another novel where the vampires have to face a very serious threat.... Not fabulous writing, and not the most wholesome of storylines, but it does have enough action to keep your attention and it is clean, both strong recommendations. Next step is to discuss it with my boss, Kate, and see what she thinks.
That is it for my current reading list. Of course, I have at least 6 books on my bedside table, a couple started at work and a few more that I just bought as possible resources for work. Needless to say, this will probably become a regular feature of the blog. Also, if you have any recommendations of books that my students might be interested in feel free to pass them along!
I would like to draw your attention to my new quote. I have included the text here because that quote will change eventually and no one reading this old post will know what I am talking about:-)
You will make all kinds of mistakes: but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her. Winston ChurchillI read this, of all places, in "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." I picked up a copy at school, randomly opened it, and saw this quote. It was so comforting that I wrote it in permanent marker on the cover of the notebook that serves as my gradebook at school. Believe me, I need to read that every time I start a class! Why? Well, it is a long drawn out story that rambles over every area of my life, but let it suffice to say, I have a VERY hard time untangling my worth from my performance.
Before you get too concerned and start pronouncing the obvious, let me calm your fears. I have talked to more than one counselor about this and have been bravely battling it for over a year now, but it is a deeply embedded thought process and not one that is easy to dislodge. So I try to surround myself with truth in many forms that will combat this obsession. In addition to being difficult and inconvenient to feel down when MY performance isn't up to par, it is even worse teaching. Because then the issue is not just my ability to perform, but also my students' ability to succeed.
If they do not do well then I MUST be doing something wrong, right? If I was just more patient, a better teacher, more prepared, more authoritative, less harsh, more consistent, etc. everything would be beautiful and I would be valuable, right?
I need a lot of encouragement on this front and A LOT of truth on a regular basis. So, I was glad to see this quote and I wanted all of you to have a chance to think about it as well.
14 October 2007
Ikea shelves: I already have one of the 72" x 78" units in my bedroom to house my books and some of my sewing stuff. However, I need another unit, either the same size, or the smaller one at 72" x 47", to house the rest of my sewing supplies. Currently they are sitting in a pile of rubbermaid tubs in my room and driving me crazy! This shelving unit is fabulous! Sara and I also have one in our LR/Kitchen/everything room that holds videos, kitchen stuff and some decorating misc. The boxes are all 72" long, however, and don't fit in our car. That means it has to be delivered to our apartment (what we did last time) or we have to go shopping with someone who has a truck (hint, hint).
A New Bible: I was thinking of holding out until my 30th birthday, but I am coveting a new Bible sooner than that:-) My current one is about 10 yrs old, looking very battered, and I have already had the cover professionally reattached once. My criteria: NAS or ESV, compact/small enough to fit in my purse, cross-referenced and/or with appropriate study notes, and a real Leather cover (I want this one to last longer!). CBD has a couple I am interested in here, here, and here. But I could be persuaded to consider some other alternatives if you think they are really worth it.
10 October 2007
Hello dear ones… As many of you know, my birthday is fast approaching and Christmas is not far after. Because many of my friends and family are very loving, but still diffident gift-givers I thought I would post a little wishlist here. These are in no particular order and are obviously of varying degrees of expense. Consider this a source of inspiration…
Classic iPod: I have a large collection of music and must of it doesn’t get listened to since I am on public transportation most of the time. I am not a techie, so the 80GB model is more than satisfactory for me. Oh, and black goes with everything.
Black tennis shoes: Naturalizer has two styles of black tennis shoes that I like here and here. Sometimes I just need the comfort of tennis shoes, but they have to look a bit more professional than my white running shoes. Shoes always have to be in 10.5.
Comfortable dress shoes: Teaching requires a professional look, but walking to work and using public transportation means my shoes must also be comfortable. I like Naturalizers two looks that are here and here. Again, size 10.5.
Commentary on Galatians: This commentary has been recommended and I am looking for something to give a little depth to my Bible study time.
Winter Coat: I have a long wool coat for winter, but not something that is appropriate for in the car or on public transportation. The Gap has some really cute ones here, here and here. I am currently a size 16 which is an XL with them. My preference is for colors other than black.
Interesting new CDs:
- David Crowder Band's Newest: This is their latest release and one that I am really looking forward to listening to. I am going to their concert here in
with several friends from my church, since it falls so close to my birthday. Chicago
- Chris Rice’s Newest: He has been on of may favorite singer/Songwriters for years and this is his newest project.
Maybe this is a little excessive, but I wanted to give you some good ideas.One last pipe dream wish: The KitchenAid Flour Power - 14 Cups Stand Mixer. It doesn't get any better than this... especially since it comes in Nickel Pearl.
08 October 2007
06 October 2007
Today I started my application for Teach for America. That was a bit daunting, but we'll have to see where it goes. Another woman at my church has applied and made it through the first round of interviews. It is another situation where they have an enormous pool of applicants for a relatively few number of positions. I am nervous, but like everything else, I can only do my best and see what happens. Moments like these remind me of what a joy it is to belong to the Sovereign God of the Universe!
04 October 2007
So, I am coming to see more and more that Sara is right. I am compulsive, obsessive and it is all in my head.
I started looking into Master's Degree programs in Chicago. People who love me or like me, know me well or have known me for a little while are all saying things like "Why not? Maybe you just needed to learn something by the first round of refusals. You are obviously good at this and have a heart for teaching." But graduate work in any form is still daunting and TIME CONSUMING. I will be 29 next month, no possibility of starting before I am 30 and then it is 5 yrs at best to a PhD. Ugh.
And I am teaching high schoolers and feeling the tug. There is such a huge need for teachers and I am good at it. Even my most problem students seem willing to work a lot of the time and I don't get too much back talk from them. But high schoolers are hormonal and difficult. And if I really want to teach full-time I should go for a MA in education with certification. There is slim chance I could slide into a full-time position at Perspectives if one opened up, it was a good fit, and they wanted to hire me. So even staying at the High School level may require a return to school.
The only good thing to come out of all of this: I am firmly convinced that teaching is where the Lord has called me, so it is just a matter of discerning where and how.
If only I could stop thinking about it.....
26 September 2007
Because some of you may be interested in this, and because it is an important part of my domestic intellectual life, I am including a brief list of books recently read. Some I chose for myself, others I read for work, and still others made their way into my hands. This is not exhaustive, but it covers most of what I have actually finished since I last posted about books. Of course, there are always at least 5-10 more in-progress on my bedside table or on my desk. So here is the latest installment:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: I am currently reading this with an 11th grade class. They have an extreme distaste for it: not enough action, who wants to read the diary of some crazy girl who won't talk, it has nothing to do with my life, etc. and they are only on page 30. I read to the end to see how I could arouse some interest in them. We will see how it goes. I do recommend it. The writing is strong and the main character has moments when she is truly compelling.
A Grief Observed by C S Lewis: Lewis hasn't made it to my bedside or purse in awhile, he is usually shuffled off for some undiscovered author. This book is short, rich and excellent in true Lewis style. I don't know why I didn't read it earlier in life--perhaps I would not have been able to truly hear what he had to say.
Poetics by Aristotle: This book is one of those classics that people refer to all the time, especially in literary circles, that I felt I needed to read. Aside from the references to Greek plays that I have never read or seen, I thought it was interesting. Aristotle points out the obvious, which seems to have escaped many modern writers, outlining the necessity for consistency in voice, character and style. He also addresses other problematic issues like audience attention span and the tools that lesser poets (and writers) use to hide their lack of skill or story. Reading this didn't change much about me or my writing, but it did encourage me that I am not wacked out when it comes to my need for consistency, veracity and continuity even in my entertainment. And I feel educated;-)
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: A classic book about a mentally retarded man who undergoes surgery to make him smarter. He rapidly becomes a genius, only to equally rapidly decline back into retardation. I am reading this with two of my classes and I find the story compelling. There is a lot of room for discussion and I hope that my students are getting something out of it. In one group we are reading out loud and this makes it a little awkward when Charlie, the protagonist, talks about pooping in his pants as a child or about being in love with his adult education teacher. We are managing, and in the meantime, we have interesting conversations. For many of my students I realize that a lot of it is over their heads, and they may want to read it again in a few years when they know more of life.
I will try to post more about my reading on a regular basis.
I don't write often on this blog. Definitely not as often as I think of things to say, but I wanted to post this quote as a reminder of some of the important things that we don't think about but which should inform every moment of our living:
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
24 September 2007
I started a new job last week, which is a major answer to prayer. After wrestling internally (and externally) with the idea of teaching and all the stress and emotional involvement it requires, and being lovingly kicked in the pants by dear friends and family members, I accepted a part-time teaching position at the
Basically, I lead something that loosely resembles a structured reading circle. I have students in small groups for an entire class period. The class is titled “Enrichment” and is focused on building their reading and study skills. It is a brand new program this year and this means that I have a lot of freedom in how I structure and run my groups. Some of my students are working on building basic reading skills through a program called Read Naturally. They all read and discuss and write. Currently we are working through reading level appropriate novels in each group. When those are finished the groups will move to non-fiction and study skills and the year will close with another set of fiction reading.
The school atmosphere is very disciplined and college-prep focused. I appreciate the support that the teachers have to maintain discipline and hold their students to high standards. Many of my students are at the lowest reading levels in their class but thus far I have had quite a bit of success getting them to work hard and even the most problematic ones listen to me. My supervisor Kate told me that she thought I would be successful because I had a good balance of “toughness” and sense of humor. Working with high school students can be challenging, so both are necessary every period.
The other really cool thing about this job is that the
My blog should have been updated 20 times since I last wrote, but none of them have appeared. Now, I feel compelled to get as much out as possible and it is so random that I am going to post each item separately, even if they do all go out in one day. I welcome your comments and dialogue. Some of these things are interesting, some possibly controversial, all pretty close to my heart and on my mind of late.
And this one comes first. There is a great article on the New Attitude blog that explains humble orthodoxy and I encourage you to read it. What is the role of humble orthodoxy in my life? Is it something that I practice? How important is it? What does it look like?
These questions swirl around in my mind and deserve more attention than they are getting.
What does it look like? Well I feel this article answers that question best.
How important is it? That one seems obvious to me. It is VERY important that I practice it in my own life, and I feel that it is very important if one is going to interact frequently and caringly with non-Christians and Christians alike.
Is it something that I practice? This is where the questions immediately become more complex. Most of the time I would have to say no. My grasp on orthodoxy has been challenged a great deal in the last 6 months if not the last 4 years! Many things that I thought I understood now feel foreign, the Bible that I read and love seems overwhelmingly complex and in all of this I feel uncertain about where to turn or what to pursue. Don’t get me wrong. My relationship with God is going strong and I attend a wonderful, Bible-believing, truth-telling church where I am building relationships with other strong Christians. But in my personal study and quiet time, I feel like I barely scratch the surface, as if I am missing so much richness and I am not exactly sure how to get there. I have contemplated getting some commentaries, but which ones? I have looked into various Bible studies but they seem to be too simplistic or to general. My own study seems rather banal, and I don’t seem to go very deep, especially with passages that are very familiar. And humility? That has never been one of my strong points! I work to practice that in my daily life but there are times that I wonder if my humility has more to do with not caring (and therefore letting things slide off my back, rather than reacting and controlling) than it really does with genuine God-given true understanding of who I am and who the people around me are in light of God’s grace. This is probably something that I will never grasp but I think the questioning is valuable.
Finally, what is the role of humble orthodoxy in my life? This should be obvious, but I am not so sure. Intellectually I can assent to all the valuable roles that humility, orthodoxy, and humble orthodoxy play in relationships, decisions, etc. Making the transition from head knowledge to heart action is always difficult and with this issue has been especially so.
I welcome any of your thoughts on this.
03 September 2007
My few faithful readers are a due a new installment and something besides a narcissistic rambling, so I decided to write about a recent cultural experience.
The Art Institute has free evenings from 5-9 Thursday and Friday all summer. Well, there are posters all over the city for the Jeff Wall retrospective that they have been running and I was intrigued. Friday night I made it in for about an hour before I had to catch the bus to small group.
First, one should never go to a public exhibit on a free evening on a holiday weekend. One is bound to run into MANY unappreciative tourists who seem bent on viewing as many objets d'art in the shortest time possible, whilst commenting on the general lack of excitement such a viewing incurs.
Second, it is always valuable to find an exhibit that will place viewing benches in front of artwork that you are actually interested in meditating on as an escape from the trampling hordes.
Third, one should remember that, no matter how much longer one dawdles in front of said artwork, attempting to escape the press, the hordes will invariable run one down, hence the rapid pace people make through such exhibits.
In all honesty, it wasn't really that bad. I was just kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to get down there sooner, since I live a whopping 1.5 miles from the Art Institute--a straight shot north up Michigan from the apartment.
Jeff Wall is an amazing artist. I read in one of the catalogs that he only creates about 5 images a year... not much for a photographer and a risky proposition for an artist at any time. But those 5 images are intense, to say the least. The link to the Art Institute website does not begin to give you an understanding of his artwork. I am including a few links that give a slightly better sense, but even they hardly do justice. His pictures are printed on film and mounted over a lightbox, basically huge transparencies, and almost without exception they are large and imposing.
Here are links to a few of my favorite images:
A Sudden Gust of Wind
The Invisible Man
Some Beans and Octopus
There were other images that I would have including if good links were available. If you are in the Chicago area before the end of the month, I encourage you to take a look at the exhibit. Thursday evenings are still free and the exhibit is free.
I wanted to make some philosophical reflections on Wall's artwork, but I hardly know where to begin. Photography is an interesting medium. There is a feeling of reality, authenticity in photography that makes you think you are seeing the truth. A moment, caught in time, lies suspended before you in the gallery. Wall's work often looks spontaneous and dramatic, as if he had the magic touch and just saw the moment as it happened. Reading a bit about him, however, revealed that he was the master of manipulating the image; that he spent countless hours digitally blending 100s of images to create one masterwork. No wonder he only did 5 pieces a year!
One that I did not include in the list is called A Flooded Grave. I could not find a good link for it, so this one will have to be adequate. It is an image of a recently dug grave that is filled with a plethora of sealife. The setting is so mundane that the appearance of a grave full of starfish and anemones seems reasonable, until you take the time to think about it. In each image there was the opportunity to think about the complex machinations that were necessary to create a seemingly natural moment. This sounds so flat on the page, but it was a very rich experience.
The Jeff Wall exhibit reminded me yet again of why I am so interested in art and why I wish I were a much more skilled contributor. Excellent art provokes a thoughtfulness and contemplation that is not generally available in the world I live in on a daily basis. I need to take more time out to meditate on them. It might prompt something really beautiful in my life.
Isn't it amazing that we belong to a Creator God who would pour so much ability into His frail creations that we might begin to act and work in His image as creators as well?
13 August 2007
Well, this weight-loss has meant that my clothes don't fit me and I have gradually purged my closet down to almost nothing. This resulted in few play clothes and almost no work clothes. Old Navy had a big sale and I am proud to say that all the clothes I bought were either a size 16 or a size Large. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I literally can't remember the last time I wore a size large (2001, maybe?). I will try to get some pics up in the near future. I feel fabulous and I think I look pretty good;-)
The last day of my current job is this Friday, so I have contacted the temp agency that Sara works through and hopefully they will have something available for me. I am also going to check out some other options, but I am not sure what will be the best lead. Please pray for me as I continue this search. My whole being yearns for regular hours, an easy commute and decent pay. I would love for it to be in the context of an organization with similar goals to mine, but that may be too much to ask for right now.
I want to post more, but that will have to wait until later. I wish you were here so I could actually hug you!
26 July 2007
Also, just wanted to give you a brief update on the blog. I added a new section, random links and thought I should introduce them.... briefly.... The Amazon link is not to prompt you all to buy me new books and music (although that would be nice) but to let you know what is on my "To Read" list. I don't have the money or time to buy most of what is on that list, but I do use it as a reference when I go to the library, or when someone is interested in a possible new read.
The second link is to the Boundless Webzine. I have benefited many times from Boundless. Their articles are often thought-provoking and challenging. I am also learning that many people have never heard of it. So here is the link.... Try it, you might like it;-)
Finally, I had an interview last week with Moody Bible Institute last week for a full-time position that I am VERY interested in! It was my second interview, and it sounds like they may have it down to just myself and another person who will be interviewing on Wednesday. Please pray that whatever comes of this, I will be willing for God's will. The job seems ideal to me, the pay is what I need right now, the benefits excellent, commuting location just right, and it would allow me to work for an organization that I can support with all my heart. I should find out sometime after the 1st what they have decided, and if I get the job should start as soon as this one ends.
Guess that is it for now..... Now I must go to bed!
21 July 2007
But I am exhausted. I figure, with commute time included, I am working between 60-70 hrs a week right now. I teach 13 classes in 5 days with commutes of over an hour (sometimes closer to 2) one-way on most days. Its fatiguing and the worst part is that I have so little time for my friends. My days off this session are Sunday and Monday. Sometimes I have to work part of Monday to keep up with all the planning and paperwork and that leaves little time to socialize. On top of that, when you get home at 6:30 pm, after leaving the house at 7:30 am it is hard to muster the energy to go out. And I only get home that early on Saturdays. On Tuesdays and Fridays I am lucky to get home by 7:00 and on Wednesdays and Thursdays I teach evening classes and usually make it through the door around 10:30 or 11:00. Whew! Hard to believe even for me.
This job is reminding me yet again that I am a bad time manager and absolutely dreadful at making time for the most important things. Urgency always wins out. So my attendance gets in and my books get packed and I shower, but my quiet time just doesn't seem to happen most of the time. My heart hurts because of it. And my body does too.
The stress hormones are racing through my bloodstream with no letup. I can feel the adrenaline and I know that I need to run or do something to get it out of my system. But there is no time. I wake up feeling icky and go to bed uncomfortable with no better explanation than the fact that I haven't relaxed all day, sitting in traffic was horrible, and I am not ready to teach my next set of classes.
The pragmatic part of me says, "It's just for a few more weeks, the money is good and the work is rewarding." The vulnerable part of me wants to cry and whimpers "But all I need is some quiet, a cup of tea, and uninterrupted time to think and pray." I am afraid that the whimpers will go ignored for so long that they will stop. I am afraid that I will lose touch with the soft vulnerable parts and become what I so loathe: the hardened, tough, do-it-yourself single woman. Is that how a woman becomes that way? Just ignore that voice for a little while longer and it won't bother you anymore?
This post has evolved into something that I didn't really expect. My heart is full and my body is tired, but there is too much to do in the few hours that I have before bed, so I will close off and get to the next thing. Maybe I'll have time for quiet tomorrow.....