Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reflections from a London Cyber Cafe

Tired tonight...Phil and I are sitting in a cyber cafe in London and are enjoying the first real break from our busy tour.

I have some new reflections about this trip that have arisen from spending time with these very special, wonderfully gifted kids. I now feel that this is an equally important experience, despite the fact that we have served in no soup kitchens, led no worship, or performed no puppet shows.

I look into the faces of these kids and I know that what we are doing is important. It's all about the relationships, isn't it? If God relentlessly pursues relationship with us, must we not pursue it with each other? I pray that our kids see a little bit of God in Phil and me.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chasing Heaven with Chili's on My Heels

Phil and I are preparing to take some high school students to England. The trip is an extension of my AP Literature class for seniors. First, they read the novels in class and now they will visit the actual settings where many of these stories take place. Really, it's going to be the ultimate tourist experience. We are traversing over England's hills and dales on a tour bus and stopping at London, Bath, Stratford on Avon, Haworth, Oxford, and the Lake District. And despite this ambitious schedule, one of my most important goals is merely to catch a glimpse of Ricky Gervais throwing back a beer in some London pub. Anyway, this trip is somewhat of an anomaly for Phil and me. It's the first one we've ever taken for sheer entertainment value. In the past, we have traveled the globe only on mission trips of various sorts; we have either built houses, danced our heads off on some city street and then asked bystanders their opinion so that we could talk to them about Jesus (it's true), or we might have headed up some local Vacation Bible School where we led music, painted flowers on children's cheeks, or performed puppet shows all in the name of love.

And now, here we are preparing for more of a self-indulgent journey..kind of weird - and I must admit I'm feeling a bit conflicted.

It seems that my life in this Roseville suburb holds similar conflicts for me, but on a larger scale. I am continually tossed back between the prayer-centered and self-centered lifestyle; sometimes it seems to me that it's downright lukewarm. Ally Sheedy's profound wisdom in The Breakfast Club haunts me regularly. She mused, "When you grow up, your heart dies." I don't want this to happen to me as I exist in this suburban world where everything I want or need is super accessible and can be served up to me on a Pottery Barn platter - over-easy.

C.S. Lewis considers this quandary that creeps upon us in the middle-age years. In his work, The Screwtape Letters, his scheming demon, observes:

"If...the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it', while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old."

Damn! It seems that Screwtape and a few of his minions have set up camp somewhere near me. Perhaps they have taken the form of some of the servers at the Chili's restaurant across the street. I thought there was a knowing air about those busboys.

God, keep my face focused towards you, because in the end - everything else will be gone: piping hot awesome blossoms, high thread count sheets, charity fun runs, Nordstrom's Rack, my town, my vacation spots and my cup of coffee on this desk. It's all nothing really...and if I direct my energies into prayer and cultivate spiritual things, will this relationship with You, not outlast it all? It surely MUST.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We are fearfully and wonderfully made...

Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,

exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out

like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs

and offered them up.

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker's cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn't she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.

I knew a girl who became a nun and she wasn't allowed to use a mirror. Even though this rule seems a bit restrictive to me, there is something sort of liberating about it. I am so glad that God values me because I am his kid...a simple enough concept as I type it here, but I must continually drill it into my thick, thick, Americanized noggin.