A Church of Theologians

An open letter to SK and all the “non-theologian” folk I know,

I’ve been thinking a lot about our conversation on Friday when we talked about school (before we got onto youth group). You laughed when I told you about my classes and said that you didn’t think you had a head for theology.

I’ve been thinking about that all weekend and I have to disagree! Perhaps you don’t have the practice of studying things like…epistemology or process theology, etc. But I wanted to encourage you that you are theological just by very nature of being a Christian. I’m convinced that it’s the job (and nature) of all Christians to be theologians since theology is simply about getting to know God more and more.

I also think that whether or not we realize it, we’re theologizing all the time. We do this when we prioritize schedules and design lessons for students or counseling methods for clients. We’re asking, what’s the point here? (probably God) and how do we best serve Him or lead others to know Him? When you talk about EMDR and bilateral stimulation in counseling, you have to consider the role of the Holy Spirit in rejuvenating the mind and bringing healing. When we lead games at youth group or I sit on the sidelines, we have to ask, what does that tell our kids about themselves and about God?

When we complain we are saying something about how we view God and His obligations towards us. When we are grateful, we are saying something about Him and ourselves. When we comfort those in rough places, when we challenge those being drawn into sin, when we speak to non-Christians — we are always exploring what it means to know God and to be His followers. That’s all that theology is.

Of course, there’s the academic side of it. But any good theologian will tell you that the point of Academia is not to split hairs. It’s to provide a foundation on which the Church builds her practical, every day life.

So, you may not think you have a mind for the fine nuances of Moltmann or Calvin. But I think that you do have a mind for theology — otherwise you wouldn’t be in youth ministry or becoming a counselor (and certainly not at a seminary).

Of course, there is such a thing as bad theology and bad methodology or conclusions. But that simply means those who fall into faulty patterns and wrong conclusions need to be gently corrected. He’s a big God, after all. So there are plenty of chances for mistakes. Our theology must be grounded in Scripture and what the Church has long considered orthodox. It is not un-anchored, not a freedom to think without commitment.* But it is freedom to explore the One who is so wildly infinite that we will never exhaust the chance of knowing Him. It is freedom and joy to follow and walk in His ways. Further up and further in without a chance of ever being bored.**

Just some thoughts that have been ruminating. Hope it’s encouraging!

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* “Here is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment. Here is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without the freedom to think. Here is vibrant evangelicalism–freedom to think within the bounds laid down in Scripture.” –Vernon Grounds
** C.S. Lewis The Last Battle
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WHY: Doing Life

This week I’ve been staying with two of my high school students from youth group. It’s amazing how your life disappears when two kids enter the picture. They have homework, school events, friends and youth group. There are guitar lessons, art club and exams. Not to mention emails and junk mail from colleges. They’re out the door at 645 AM after what I hardly consider to be a real breakfast and they’re home again at 235 PM with homework and hungry mouths.

Last night we learned together how to plunge an overflowed toilet.

Tonight we’re probably going out to see a movie.

It’s a wonderful life?

When their parents left, their mother said to me that she hoped I’d have some opportunities to speak into their lives. Well, last night we talked about drinking and college and I told them all the reasons that they shouldn’t drink to excess. But I have a feeling that’s not exactly what mom meant.

What does it mean to teach kids? What does it mean when their lives are so busy? Between guitar lessons and loading the car full of DJ equipment for youth group, I’m not even sure when we’ll eat dinner tomorrow night.

We pray together before they go to bed. I told them I was writing a paper about Jesus and coffee and the importance of work for the human identity and purpose. They stared at me like I’d grown two heads. But it brought up a couple of questions… what does the crema of espresso have to do with expanding the Kingdom? And why did you stop listening to Ke$ha or half a dozen other artists?

I thought how one of my other high schoolers is going for a run with me on Friday. She has questions to ask me, apparently. We’ve just become official as mentor/mentee and I’m freaking out with my own mentor because God knows I talk more than I listen; I am a Franks and Kormick by descent and there’s mistaking that when I open my mouth. I looked  at the coffee cup when she asked me, in the same shop where I found Ethan and my mentor and a new reason to live. I stared at the brown liquid, the soy foam dissolved into sweet joy. I told her the same thing that G told me years ago, before I lived with her and the family, before I learned what it meant to be at peace in the midst of chaos.

The kids aren’t home yet, but they will be soon. I’ll have to turn down Mumford and Sons while we do homework, all jammed into the office together. Tonight, after dinner, Ethan and I will read the daily liturgy and though it isn’t expected of them, I’ll invite the kids to join us. Ethan hasn’t been here, and I’ve missed our times of eating and reading together. This is what we do, after all, this is how we experience God, how we learn of Him, hear from Him and are challenged by the words of the fathers and the movement of the Spirit.

It’s like taking Rebekah running — where I can process and feel the glory of God in the pounding arteries beneath my skin and the bite of the cold winter wind on my face.

It’s like folding laundry with G while she told me about Jesus and peace and suffering.

We do life together. We invite people into our stories, our journeys. We walk alongside one another, holding hands, laughing and crying together and learning together along the way.

Perhaps there’s another way to teach, to speak into one another’s lives. If there is, I haven’t yet found it. But I’m no parent and so I am years away from knowing. I don’t make any claim to understanding what all this is about though I keep finding myself in the midst of it. There’s so much to learn, so much yet to find and discover. This is what I do know:

walking in the way that Jesus calls always creates reason for talking, reasons for speaking into one another’s lives as we grow into the people he has called us to be.

A most interesting Tuesday

The computer screen flickered to life. As the dial twisted on the speakers, a soft buzzing crackled in the chill autumn air that warned of a coming storm. The window overlooking the street gave a beautiful view but a terrible draft. She opened an internet page and typed in where she wanted to go. Of course, it wasn’t really where she wanted to go, simply a page that showed her the life she wanted as she struggled not to live vicariously through the pictures and thoughts of others.

With frayed nerves thanks to ealier stress, she opened her inbox, only to discover a most mysterious message. It was not hte content, for that was simply put and clearly stated: How are you? We are thinking of you and praying for you. Hope things are well. The usual nonsense from a person reaching out but with nothing specific to say. It was the sender that made the message curious.

Her heart lept in fearful joy. She had never expected to hear from this person, but here they were, inviting her to communicate and expressing friendly love. Her hands rushed to the keys and she hurriedly typed out a reply. She had never typed so fast as she did now, almost afraid that the message would suddenly disappear and with it, the relationship. Frantically and joyfully she replied that things were well, if not a little difficult now and then. She had few complaints, a job, a shelter, love and a little hope. All her plans had come to naught and she found herself in a place completely foreign even in its familiarity. But she was well enough, interested and slightly unsure about what strange blessings the future might hold. In her excitement, she wrote a short novel back to the friend whose community she had missed. Anxiously, she pressed down the button to send and waited. Lunch went by, a phone call, a few hours, and then with one forlorn refreshing of the page: there it was! A reply to her own! Greedily she ate up the words, about the school, about the family, the state-side meetings, the beauty of a place she’d never been and all the questions he had for her.

Ecstatic about the response she wrote a second reply for the day–longer, more convoluted and more open. Perhaps it would be too much, too soon in the early correspondence. But he had asked and she would answer. He had a daughter of his own, he served in ministry most of his life, surely he wouldn’t mind her mentioning a few questions about God and ministry. If anyone could understand, surely he would be one for the job. So she wrote back, clicked “send” with a little more confidence and then waited.

She went to work, went to a friend’s, drank too much coffee and drove home far too late in the evening amid hail becoming snow. And when she arrived at home, what sat there, waiting for her? A newsletter about the school that she had requested, complete with pictures of smiling children and a list of ways to serve.

A most discouraging morning ended with a most encouraging night. Becuase Uncle Wally wrote me, totally out of hte blue, and totally unhindered by the fact that I had broken up with Anthony–who is almost a part of Wally’s family. I could have cried, I could have jumped for joy. I told Ghena about it over coffee tonight, laughing about other things and feeling the ache of the stitches on my temple. And I was so humbled and honoured that Uncle Wally and Aunt Joan are praying and thinking of me–all the way from Papua.

Confession [or step two]

I have been thinking about this one for a long time: what occurs in the process of reconciliation? What comes next after realizing the need for such action?

I think it’s confession, but I’m not really sure. Confession is a practice that I think the Protestant church left in the dust during the mad dash away from Roman Catholicism. I think it was a huge loss. No, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of confessing one’s sins only to a priest and asking that man to bless and absolve you and give you acts of penance.* However, James is pretty clear that we are to confess to one another and to pray for each other–so that we may be healed. So I think that confession is a necessary practice in the Christian life. Yes, I will admit that it is an extremely painful one; full of shame and fear. The last time I really confessed something to Ghena, I bawled my eyes out and was terrified that she would be incredibly disappointed in me.** But the muck in our lives needs to be dragged up and out into the light, for only in the light can things be dealt with.

In the whole reconciliation process, I think that confession is key. Or perhaps, a better word is honesty. I don’t know about you, but I lie to myself all the time. “I’m ok,” I repeat over and over when really, I am the farthest thing from okay. It is scary to be honest with one’s self. I think that’s because when we’re honest, we have to see all the ugly that is within our hearts. Somedays it’s astounding what we find in the dark places of our souls. But if we want to get anywhere, we have to be honest and really recognize our broken, wicked selves for what they are. If we aren’t honest with ourselves, we aren’t able to see the need for a saviour. Even if we acknowledge that need intellectually, we can’t accept it on a heart level.

And when we recognize the sin our own lives, I think it points out the way we sin against others. Oh yeah, last week I was ticked because my mum complained I’d gotten in late. Doesn’t she know that I wanted to be at my friend’s just a little longer? Oh wait, I promised to be home so she could go to bed, and, oh yeah, I was aware of the time and I selfishly chose to stay out, thereby giving my mother a migraine the next day. Hm. When I’m honest, I was incredibly self centered on my own needs and desires and neglected to acknowledge those of my mother and her inability to sleep through any noise above a soft whisper. It’s hard, becuase I want to stamp my feet like a little child and say that I was in the right, that I needed that time with my friend. But then I read about Jesus and remember it’s not about me. And I really should have been more respectful and loving. I should have honoured my mother.

I had to confess that. To myself. To God.

And then to my mum.

Eeek. Confession is hard.

But let’s be realistic. If we never confessed anything, we’d never see the need for reconciliation. We’d live in our own self righteous worlds, surrounded by our loving self. And eventually, we’d end up alone. And when humanity is designed to live in community,*** I think that reconciliation is worth the humiliating step of confession.

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*I understand how penance started, and yes, logically, it made sense. But at the same time, it flirts with a very dangerous line of theology (that is often not adressed) where penance simply becomes another method for earning salvation which cannot be earned only gifted and not even the faith we have is ours but that also was given to us so that none of us can boast. (Paul’s words, not mine)

**This only goes to show the depth of not only my insecurity but also my misunderstanding both of Ghena and God. He doesn’t say “go clean yourself up and then come back. Mhm, now we’re talking, that’s better. Here’s some love.” He, like Ghena, simply smiles sadly at the ways my sin has hurt me (and others) but takes me into his arms, tells me to hush and then says “I’ve got it covered. Jesus has got it covered. And I love you.”

***Check out the first two chapters of Genesis. God creates man [humanity] in “our” image, often considered a reference to the Triune nature. So man [humanity] is designed to live in deep, intimate community–I think that’s why God says it isn’t good for man [man!] to be alone, because  “alone” isn’t the complete image of the Triune God.

Reconciliation [or step one]

It’s a pretty difficult subject to wrap our minds around and even harder to put into action.

I podcast sermons from a pastor in Texas: Matt Chandler * who one might associate with the resurgence of Reformed Theology and the “new Calvinism.” In a lot of his sermons, including the two or three I’ve listened to while running in the past week, Chandler makes his listeners flip back from wherever he’s preaching to Genesis 3. Why? Because Genesis 3 is where the whole world fell apart. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the fall is viewed as a rupture in relationship between man and God, between man and woman. It’s not so much a fall from grace as it is a broken relationship, like an extreme argument between friends or lovers; one which will take years and hard work to overcome.

The beauty of the Gospel, simply put, is that God wanted to reconcile with his beloved. He reached down and sent his son to be the great sacrifice not only of atonement but of his desire to be reconciled with warped, lost creatures. It’s sort of like the time I took Coy out for milkshakes on my own dollar, even though he’d thrown a fit and been disobedient the whole day long. We got milkshakes and walked around the town center in the blazing afternoon heat simply because I wanted to restore our relationship. I sacrificed a few dollars to the burger joint and my clean shirt to the sweaty walk. But I did it because after nannying for three summers, I loved Coy like a little brother. God loves us quite a lot more than I love Coy and so instead of a few dollars, he sacrificed himself to repair our broken relationship.

But our relationship with God wasn’t the only thing that was damaged in the tragedy of Eden. Adam and Eve suddenly broke apart. Their intimacy was destroyed, and we’re living in the aftermath. We see it every day. My BBC headlines that come daily to my email are always about people ruining one another. Today a French national was abducted by gunmen in Mali and a student opened fire at a university in Hungary. We’re all torn apart, we hide in our broken, flabby skins; we get defensive because we’re so afraid of being open; we lash out at others, criticise them and shout because we are so terrified of our own depravity and the awfully humbling fact that we can do nothing about it.

I want to go to another country. In many ways, I want to go to a place where women cover their heads, the men grow thick, unruly beards and the imam calls for prayer five times a day. I don’t want to go because I feel strongly about women’s rights or education or the “fight” against “terrorism.” I want to go because I think that Jesus offers a better answer. People are always jumping down one another’s throats. But in Jesus we have this great shift in the reality of the world. There’s reconciliation–with God and with each other. I want to take that offer to others and share it with them.

But reconciliation doesn’t happen in one conversation. It doesn’t happen in a day. The US is still dealing with the effects of the Civil War. My Grandad would never have even called it that. If we can’t even decide on a name 150 years later, we clearly still have issues. And have you ever heard of Africa? The entire continent is awash in conflict between clans, tribes, and races. The Muslims themselves are still warring over who should have been the right successor to the Four Righteous Caliphs. Roman Catholics and Protestants maim and kill each other in Ireland. Netanyahu still raves about Palestinians and Jewish settlements… the list goes on.

People are working for peace in these things. But the problem is, they’re missing the most important element. They are missing Jesus. The forgiveness, the freedom, everything that Jesus offers us is essential for reconciliation. Without him there is no lasting reconciliation, there is no peace.

But even with Jesus, we are still humans and reconciliation is hard work.

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* Matt recently suffered a seizure. He is back at home with his family; please keep him, his wife Lauren and their children in your prayers.

No WAY. Colorado: You are FULL of Surprises

Like the sunsets that are beautiful thanks to the fires raging across the California countryside.

Or like the time that I almost got hit on the highway last night. That’s right little red car, maybe you shouldn’t tailgate. Mmhm.

Or like the fact that I have entirely missed summer and you are sailing straight on into the time of falling leaves and crisp mornings. Bring on the cold!

Or, better yet, like the church I just visited. And the girl I met from Alabama and how she wants to be my friend.

Or the way that being with Caitlin was wonderful–even on my grumpy days.

Or, perhaps best of all, that my “childhood” friend is now engaged! Oh Colorado, is there nothing you can’t produce? Is there no miracle too great? (Not that it’s a miracle, I just can’t believe we are growing up. Sara! You can’t be engaged! Who will I giggle with about boys? We can’t sleep in the same bed in your parent’s basement! There will be someone else in that bed! Eeeek!)

Barely two weeks ago I was flying in after being awake for approximately 26 hours. Criminal Minds was playing loudly in my headphones to keep me awake. I was asking the stewardess for coffee every fifteen minutes and using that itty bitty lavatory every twenty minutes. But I was awake when that pilot cheerfully announced our descent over the speakers. I buckled my seatbelt with two fumbling hands and shoved open that window. I haven’t had a window seat this whole trip, I thought. I’m going to see at least one dang city from the air before I land in it. Thank you very much.

It was chilly and rainy the night I landed. It was like Moscow in Denver. We came down from the cloud cover, wispy and clinging to the wings of the plane that I sat over. And there was Denver in the distance. It glowed gently through the moisture that hung in the unusually damp air. For a moment, I forgot where I was, what language they were speaking on the television, and the baggy sweatpants of hte girl next to me. For a moment, I thought the plane had taken a turn back to the North East or entirely overshot our planned destination.

There was a tower that looked like St. Basil’s through the mist, a little cluster of oddly shaped roofs that sat glowing, red, green, amber and white. A bright red eye blinked at our plane as we tilted towards the west looking down to the ground running fast below our wings. A power plant? Sleeping away the night before belching tons of grey smoke into the morning air? The mountains were no where to be seen, everything looked flat. A highway of lonely cars glimmered like the river just outside the Kremlin wall. In the misty night, with my face pressed against the cold plastic window, I had a glimpse of Russia in my home.

We ground to a halt. The blue lights of the runway welcomed us to the ground, albeit a bumpy landing that rocked the plane from side to side as the tires squealed. It was smoother than the take off from Moscow. When the center crease of the ceiling creaked and I thought for sure the plane would split in half, with me in the center row. I could see it in my mind’s eye, the two halves snapping and flying apart before crashing down to the unforgiving ground below. (1) Compared to such a traumatizingly morbid thought process, our landing was like jumping onto a feather mattress (albeit surprisingly bouncy). We taxied through the empty airport and up to our gate. In the light of the terminal and gangplank being lowered to our aircraft door, I could see ice on the wing below me. Ice. Shouldn’t I have left that behind? Shouldn’t it be hot here? Hot and sunny and painfully dry?

And then I remembered.

I have been gone all summer long.

And I am not going back to Seattle in September.

I am a grown up.

And I have to figure out my life now.

I was overwhelmed. (2)

But a quiet voice said that Colorado would be good to me, the sun will stay though the heat is moving on. Something will turn out. Something always turns up. What do the Amish say? Way will open. He’s out there, you know. I don’t even think I know what that really means. But he is. And someday, we’ll look back on this and laugh. How could we have doubted? How could we have been unsure? Because he always comes through. Shall this be any different? All things work together. Even though they usually don’t work together quite in the way we had planned.

and oh my gosh. Sara Huston is engaged. And it blows. My. Mind.

(1) though Daniel swears a few people have escaped such incidents as have a parachute not deploy, I doubt I would be so lucky.

(2) Job. Car. Insurance. Cell Phone. Housing. Church. Friends. there is soooo much that must come together. But Taylor assures me it will. : )

August 30th: Or, On the Plane In the Twenty Minutes Before My Battery Dies a Slow Death that I hope Daniel Can Someday Bring Back to Life

I am going to have carpal tunnel by the end of these twenty minutes. Thanks to the man in front me and his desire to sleep, thanks to the darkened cabin that is making everyone but the children sleepy, thanks to the short tray table and the seat that has leaned back and thus pushed my computer forward, thanks to the awkward angle of my wrists… I am going to get carpal tunnel. But it’s okay, because it’s genetic, and I have tiny wrists which is also a bad sign: so I suppose it was inevitable.

I haven’t much to say about my trip right now. It was good, although, it was entirely different from what I expected. I have never been on a half administrative-half mission trip. Not to mention I am struggling to understand what role I think short term missions should play in the church. Not to mention I am wandering around in my faith a lot lately.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not losing faith.

I think I’m gaining it.

But this has always been a hard spot for me. My faith goes through plenty of ups and downs. IN eighth grade I tried Atheism on for size. It didn’t stick past Easter. My sophomore year of college I was barely clinging to hope when I came home for the summer, not really sure what God was doing on his big throne with flowing robes that fill the temple. This summer I graduated college, was a little unsure of what my plans would be, and then God sent me packing to Russia. I was protesting with my dad about writing, and now I’m sitting on the plane, going back to a place I can finally call home, and all I want to do is write. I feel like my life is all over. There’s not straight path through the woods, just a big field with lots of beautiful flowers and I’m traipsing around.

I’m reading a book right now called Confessions of an Amateur Believer. I’m only half way through, but I would recommend it pretty strongly. Patty Kirk is telling me where I am. Or at the very least, she is hitting the surface and putting words to lots of things I’ve felt but haven’ been able to explain to people. I have so many questions for Jesus. What’s the church supposed to look like? What’s the point of the “sinner’s prayer”? Why are Protestants so angry about works when James is all about works and the Christian life seems to revolve around works too? How does salvation really work? Because most of the atonement theories seem to leave something out… I only really like Ransom Theory because it makes Satan out to be a moron and Jesus wins by a sort of righteous trickery.

And my faith is still all over the place. I can pray to the Holy Spirit, I can pray to all three, because really it’s praying to one. I don’t understand God’s timing, though I am learning a sort of disagreeable contentment with not understanding him.  Jim said he thought that God would give me an answer if I just asked. “I don’t like to keep things from my daughter, I don’t think that God keeps things from us, either.”

Which is weird. I felt like I was being rebuked for saying that I am trying to learn patience and just wait for God… for whenever he feels like showing up. The in between times are a little crummy—but I’m learning that like Patty Kirk says, God is closest when life is crappiest. Life isn’t crappy right now, it’s actually pretty good. Confusing, but good. I just wish that Jim would understand: Abba works with me like an old Jewish Rebbe (maybe that’s why Jesus became a Rabbi). He’s asking me questions, leading me to the answers in a circular, exasperating manner. We’ll get there, but he’s taking a circuitous route because he wants me to answer my own questions,  and he’s just leading me there.

So they handed us lunch, or dinner, or some meal that was meant to be pasta. And I thought about what Patty Kirk writes. I dug past the grey-ish brown green beans to the mooshy pasta noodles and scraped a few together onto my fork. I chewed them over thoughtfully, wondering about the disciples, and Moses and Paul and Abraham and so many other heroes of the faith. They started out pretty unsure, fairly skeptical, didn’t they? I’ll sleep with my slave then send her away, I will say I have a lisp, I will say I don’t know him, I’ll kill people who follow him… These aren’t the type that we think will be great leaders of religious movements. But they are. Because Jesus’ Ransom covers us. God’s grace does something weird when we believe, and it’s all figured out. The Spirit takes up some kind of residence inside my flabby little body that has had to pee for an hour but is still waiting for the lavatory line to calm down.

I think it might be okay to wander around. Maybe that’s why my favorite hymn acknowledges that I am prone to wander. But I still come back. I am here, and I’m not leaving the trail. Just wobbling from side to side as I stumble along.

And I think that might be okay.

Last Day!

Today is my last day in Europe. I have woken up late every morning since being in England. I must be catching up on hours and hours of lost sleep since France. I guess it’s not too surprising, the last few days in France I was running on about 4 hours of sleep each night. But I feel a bit sorry to have wasted a few morning hours by sleeping when I could have been breakfasting with Betherina.

My time here has been lovely. Yesterday we walked around town for a bit, then bought some lunch at Sainsbury’s and came home to eat. Jonathan called to let Beth know that the new tele was here, would we be home to help him carry it up the stairs? Well of course, she answered, Shakespearean plays can’t take more than a couple hours. So they got off the phone and we rushed to St. Augustine’s Abbey to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We sat at the top of the hill, munching on pretzels, dried fruit and fresh plump grapes. Behind the little booth stage stood the humble ruins of the old Abbey. King Henry VIII had it torn down during his “reformation.” It was sad to look at the brick arches and low crumbling walls as the players went about their performance. But climbing around the stones afterwards was also inspiring. This is where St. Augustine lived, in an Abbey built for him by one of hte first converts in England. It felt sad to see so much destruction wreaked by the King in his ridiculous desire to break from Rome. But at the same time, it was amazing to see the legacy of stones that twere laid in the 6th century and still stand as a testament to the work of many saints.

Today we are going to the seaside. I’m not sure if that means the Channel or the Atlantic. Probably the Channel since I can hear seagulls from my sofa bed in the early morning hours, and the bus we’ll take doesn’t go far. It’s lovely outside, a slight chill in the air, but the sun is warm and bright. I love being here with Beth. It feels like old times, even when Jonathan is around. Tonight we’re getting pub food so I can “feel English.” I can practically taste the fish and chips already. And then we’ll probably come home to watch more House and Black Adder. Could life get better?

*I ordered Kosher food on the Chunnel because I have been forced to eat a lot of pig products on this trip and as my mother will testify, I abhorr pig (except for very burnt bacon and occasionally sausage). I thought that Kosher was the safest way to avoid such an unfortunate meal. And it was the way to go!

*please pray for safe travel tomorrow and that I am alert. I have to catch a train to London at 645am!

*please also pray for health between now and my trip to Russia. Probably due to lack of sleep I may have a cold coming on and that wouldn’t make ministry very easy in the next few weeks.

Dear Grandma, Please Don’t Write Me Out of the Will

Tonight I smoked on the Left Bank. It seemed like a very French, Parisian thing to do. So I took a couple “drags” on someone else’s cigarette. It was… interesting. I didn’t cough, but I think I did inhale. So that’s something to be proud of?

Today was my last day in France. Tomorrow I leave for England. And I’m actually kind of sad to leave. I haven’t entirely enjoyed my group always, but I am sad to say goodbye to so many people. It was hard this morning when three people left early. I almost teared up.

I did tear up.

Today I went up L’Arc de Triomphe. Mum, I am so proud of you doing those steps with your hip. I hardly know how you did it. You are amazing. It was the most beautiful view, the Champs-Elysees, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Cure. I loved it. I think tonight was the first time that it occured to me where I was.

This morning I went to Saint Chapelle. The little chapel has the most gorgeous stain glass. It used to hold relics from the Passion. But in the lower chapel today, instead of Thorns from the Crown, or pieces of the Holy Cross, there were postcards, pillows, gargoyles for sale. I could have screamed watching the people buzz around and sell their cheap wares for far too much. I know now how Jesus felt when he entered the synagogue and found money changers and swindlers. But I’m one of the biggest hypocrites I know, so I didn’t feel like I could honestly turn over the booths and shout at people to leave.

I bought more stuff today. Mum, got you something awesome. Joshua, I got something for you too. Hehe. I love saying that, becuase you have to wait until Christmas!

I need to go as my friend Becca would like her computer to check about her reservations on the ferry across the Channel.

so much love to all

sara

The Mediterranean…

Well here’s to topless beaches which are taken advantage of primarily by old and sagging women.

Today, after some wandering through the south of France, and after contemplating a road trip to Barcelona (383 km) those of us in the directionally challenged van belonging to Dr. Davis stumbled upon a white strip of the Mediterranean’s shore.

I have wanted to see the Med for a long time. Probably since the time my dad went to North Africa, and promised to take me with him if I got a 4.0. Well four AP classes with straight A’s later and still no Blue Mediterranean from the shores of Muslim Africa. That’s okay though, because I went today. And topless beaches in France are obviously more exciting than fully covered women in Africa. I mean, really.

We waded out from the white fluffy sand to the blue water and shivered our way in, up to our knees, our waists, our shoulders and finally a few of us went under entirely. We walked along jetties that kept the water calm and tranquil. They reminded me of Oceanside, and the salty air tasted fresh and clean. The water burned my eyes, but only for a few minutes. Eventually, I was back at home, in a sea I’ve never enjoyed but somehow knew in the same way I’ve always loved the world’s salty water. Not to mention, Jesus could have touched some of the same water molecules that I swam in today. The little waves that lifted us gently over the smooth ground below might have once sped Paul’s ship onward to Rome or roared over the deck and crashed him onto Malta. But in some ways, despite the religious implications, I was happy just to be in an ocean again.

Oh Russia, I’ll miss the ocean blue when I come. That has always been my great disappointment with Colorado, the landlocked mountainous beauty has beach.

In other news… I am in need of prayer. I like it here, but I also don’t. I don’t think I ever want to travel with people in a group setting like this. It’s fun, I enjoy the “grown ups,” the cooking, the sites. But this group is full of students who are (obviously) here for no reason other than themselves. It makes total sense. I’ve just never been in a group of people whose only purpose is to worship the sun and eat food that they complain about cleaning up. It’s quite challenging. If I make it through five whole weeks without snapping in my self righteous little way it will be an honest-to-God-Miracle. I am reading through the NT and today was James. Mmm. Lots of stuff about works and controlling your tongue. A message? Okay, yeah, I’ll listen. But I could use a little help, here, Jesus. And this isn’t purely irreverant sarcasm.