past, present and 5 things (a break from missing the point)

August 29, 2005

10 Years Ago
10 years ago I was beginning my junior year at my very suburban high school. I had spent a good part of my summer driving around with my three best high school friends, Adrianne, Sara and Stephanie. We all worked at the same McDonalds at that time and I was the only one with both a license and a car, if I remember correctly. We named my car Ed, because he was a gray, 4-door, 1986 Pontiac 6000 that deserved a mundane, middle-aged sounding name. I believe the church trip of that summer was “A Ride with the Son,” a week-long bike and camping expedition around Wisconsin ending with a crazy whitewater rafting trip where “I totally swear, I like, almost died.” The biking, however, was great. I remember at certain difficult times, 40 or 50 miles into the day, really feeling a connection with nature, sparked by the physical labor it took me to pass by all that rolling Wisconsin scenery.

5 Years Ago
I had just gotten back from my first trip to China. It was the summer of my life, and pardon the drama, but it forever changed my life. I had just been overseas for the first time. I had seen the world, not in its entirety certainly, but I experienced the existence of a big, diverse, beautiful, fascinating world. I made many friends that summer, some American, some Chinese. There is one friendship that will always remain special to me. It was also the most unlikely. A brilliant English student from Qinghua University and I met when some of my American friends and I were hanging out outside the dorms on campus. She and I clicked right away, bonding over talks of politics, current events, the media, religion, the world. She later married a Swedish man and is currently studying on the East Coast. I am married to a Mexican man, and I sometimes wonder what our tri-Continental dinner party would look like. That summer I learned a love of diversity. I was fascinated by the oldness of China – architecture, ways of life, food traditions, language, while the newness seeped in. Millions of cars, American-style advertising filling the open skies, students flocking to learn English and study in the states. That summer began a near-obsession with China, I later spent a year there and dreamed of more. I’m not sure when that more will come now, but I know China hasn’t left my life forever.

I worked an incredibly slow Sunday lunch at my restaurant. I came home and played with Jessica, this incredibly smart 6-year-old Mexican girl who my sister-in-law was babysitting. She has a baby sister who she carries around like she’s a doll even though she has to weigh at least 20 pounds. Jessica wanted to learn how to use my computer, so I showed her some of my digital pictures, and we tried to play chess and some other assorted games. It was my first time really communicating in Spanish with a child. It’s a lot different than with an adult, you have to speak a lot more clearly.

We bought some stuff for the bathroom we are putting in the upstairs of our house. I worked out (I wish that was a common enough occurrence to not have to mention) and then did some reading. Now, you would find me writing a marathon blog entry and awaiting the start of my novella.

I don’t work tomorrow either! I am planning on sleeping in, cleaning up my house and then hanging out with an old friend who just got back from Mexico.

5 Snacks
1. Yoplait yogurt
2. Popcorn
3. Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
4. String cheese
5. Juicy nectarines

CDs whose songs I know all of the lyrics to
1. U2 – War, Joshua Tree, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Atomic Bomb
2. Mana – Revolucion de Amor
3. Juanes – Un Dia Normal
4. Garden State Soundtrack
5. Over the Rhine – Ohio

5 Things I would do with $100,000,000
1. Buy some good properties that will appreciate over time. Buy some properties in blighted areas of the city and work to redevelop them into something useful for the community.
2. Give a big percentage (75%, I mean, what does one girl do with $100,000,000?) lot to some really good charities
3. Travel all over the world. I definitely need to hit the six continents. I would probably go to every country in South America, Europe and lots of interesting places that someone would recommend to me in Africa. I would definitely spend months if not years in Mexico and China – traveling and writing and traveling some more.
4. Keep working, but in some business that I have yet to dream up that would provide good jobs to working people.
5. Finally, put some away in the bank so my family and I can live our final few years without worry.

5 Locations I would like to runaway to.
1. Beijing, China
2. Madison, WI
3. Chicago, IL (I’d live in Mary’s neighborhood, in one of those great old row houses)
4. Portland, OR
5. New York – I’ve never been there, and I think I would love it

5 Bad habits I have
1. Biting my nails when I am nervous or bored
2. Swearing – this is a new one, but since becoming a General Manager, this has become a serious problem
3. Easily becoming bitchy with my husband
4. Not going to the gym even though I pay $60 per month for my membership
5. Eating too much crap – I really enjoy good, interesting food, but in its place, I also can put away the junk

5 things I like doing
1. Reading
2. Writing
3. Riding a bike through the city
4. Watching people
5. Cooking

5 Things I would never wear
1. Those God-awful furry moon boots that are in style (or maybe that was just last year) let’s hope
2. On second thought, fur, real or fake, on anything
3. Feathers, on a belt, or on anything else
4. Tool belt
5. Basically any hat, especially that really big sombrero that Mary is always talking about

5 TV shows I like
1. La Madrastra – my novella that’s going to end in one week!!!
2. That 70’s Show
3. King of Queens
4. Seinfeld re-runs, especially watching my Mexican husband “get” the humor
5. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, What Not To Wear, While You Were Out, and Extreme Makeover Home Edition (these are all sort of in the same category, so I thought it best to mention them all)

5 Movies I like
1. In America
2. Garden State
3. Spanglish
4. Motorcycle Diaries
5. Office Space

5 Famous People I would like to meet
1. Bono – and not just meet, but have time to ask him some really good questions about his life in music and social justice
2. Phillip Yancey ((not really that famous, but an author I would like to speak with)
3. Brian McLaren (ditto from above)
4. Juanes
5. The next Democratic Party presidential candidate, whoever that may turn out to be

5 Biggest Joys at the moment
1. Returning to consideration of all things eternal through great books given by others
2. Working in my garden
3. Hanging out with my husband and his family, on good days there’s a lot of people (and a baby) laughing, having fun, and eating something yummy
4. Any opportunity to visit friends in Chicago, or even just visit with friends here in Milwaukee
5. Reading great books

3 Favorite Toys (I couldn’t think of 5!)
1. My car – I love the sunroof and the stereo, and being in the car, with the sun shining, and the music playing
2. Whatever book I am reading at the moment
3. My laptop


missing the point (capitulo dos)

August 26, 2005

So, I finished Generous Orthodoxy, and although I still have lots to say about it, I decided to check out a book Mr. McLaren had footnoted, called If Grace is True, which I found at the bookstore the other day and started reading right away. I’m not that far into it (it’s about universalism, the idea that through Jesus every person will be saved, not just people who have “accepted Christ,” or however your respective denomination describes it) but it’s given me some food for thought related also to Generous Orthodoxy.

The author talks about how over the years as someone who grew up in the conservative Christian tradition, he began to change some of his ideas based on his experiences with God, rather than just rely on the tradition of the church and literal interpretations of the Bible. He uses homosexuality as an example. He writes that he had a friend who was a strong Christian, became a pastor even, and into his 20’s realized he was simply not attracted to women around him and started to think he might be gay. He explains how his friend went from trying to rid the “thorn” in his flesh to accepting the person God made him to be to eventually looking for a man to share his life with.

There are several passages in the Bible that comment on the homosexuality as though it were a sin, but what do we do with those verses when they don’t seem to address reality? Likewise, what do we do with passages that suggest women should not be church leaders? Furthermore, many people find God to be very real to them although they are living in what many of us might define as sin; what about our experiences with God? Are they equally important? If there are genuinely right-seeking, God-loving people out there who really seem to be (or simply, are) gay, then what do we do with that? Condemn them although God made them that way?

The author writes that we need to let our experiences with God rise in status in our theology, even to the importance of the Bible. As modern evangelicals, we have created all sorts of ways to get around this, like stating we interpret the Bible literally but then using tricky words and extremely interpretive methods of interpretation to argue as to why Paul wasn’t saying women couldn’t be preachers, for example. I mean, really, Paul said that. But Paul was speaking to his time and maybe he had good reasons, but this is a different time. Why do we need to use linguistic smoke and mirrors to address these issues? God has clearly used women over the centuries to teach and make monumental change and good in the church, so why aren’t we able to accept God’s way? Likewise, if God is working in the lives of committed Christian homosexuals, ought we not accept that without judging?

I am not trying to look good here. I am all sorts of guilty of judging, but when I look back, I have had many experiences with great homosexuals who had accepted who they are and wanted to live a good life. If God let them be at peace with who they were, why are we unable to think that way? I don’t know, but this idea of our experiences with God meaning something, I think could be revolutionary to the church. Think of how many confusing lines of thought and outright contradictions there are in the Bible, and what would happen if the Bible wasn’t intended to be used like we use it (like a dictionary of right and wrong) and was instead a narrative with lots of lessons along the way? What would happen to our Christianity?

missing the point

August 21, 2005

Reading Brian McLaren has really re-ignited my struggle and thinking about “Christianity.” I am usually a bit wary of myself being swayed by one book, or one person’s opinion, but A Generous Orthodoxy covers a whole lot of topics, and almost all of my recent hang-ups with being a Christian. He offers insights on our culture and the way it has impacted what we call Christian faith in a way that resonates in my soul.

Here’s what happened to me. Because I was an evangelical Christian, I got involved with Campus Crusade, a so-called para-church missionary organization. Through that group I went oversees for the first time when I was 19, to China, and discovered, among other things, my love for cultures, exploration, discovery and language. Had I not had that experience, I would probably not have gone to live in China, and would not have gone to India, nor Thailand, nor read many books nor listened to countless radio programs and therefore learned about places all over the world.

But, had I not had these experiences, I would never have struggled with the things I had because of them. I wouldn’t have seen seas of people, all individuals, part of this post-Communist, atheist state that every day strives for capitalism and the American model of consumerism. I wouldn’t have seen poverty in India and realized that there is just no way that a missionary – especially the feeble ones like me and others I know – are going to impact each and every one of them sometime in their lives. Perhaps I am cynical, but for those of you who have been in other parts of the world, you cannot argue with me. I know all the arguments, they will get their chance, or Jesus will speak to them in their heart, but I can’t accept that God created them for destruction. I can’t.

So what to do.

Here’s the thing: my whole personal theology has been based on a Paul-centered, saved or unsaved, sinner or saint, us against them thinking. The thing is, I never realized there were other legitimate ways of interpreting the New Testament than the way our modern church did it. When someone would mention Lutherans or Methodists or Catholics, I would instinctively think “watered-down Gospel message,” because, honestly, that’s the way these radical evangelical groups portray other interpretations.

Now, I am being way too harsh on my roots here, but when I think about my life growing up at an evangelical church and with CC, I realize that Paul’s teachings were really taken more seriously than those of Jesus himself. Jesus as savior, and Paul as master and teacher is how McLaren puts it. And as I am reading, I’m bluntly smacking my forehead, because it’s so obvious what our modern, scientific culture has done to the Gospel: turned it into an equation. And the thing is, I totally bought into it. In fact, I practically went to work for this organization as a career.

I have to say here, I know a lot of amazing people who are involved in Campus Crusade, really amazing people, that I still love to think of, although it’s been some time since I’ve really been in touch with any of them. But the thing is, I don’t believe in God exactly the way we have portrayed him, and I think we were missing some of the point. I don’t know where I am going with all of this, but I am trying to figure it out.

a phone call sparks many thoughts

August 13, 2005

I got a phone call from an old friend today. I thought the strange number on my cell might end in my second telemarker hang-up for the day, but I was surprised to hear Tim’s voice on the line. He was a good friend who I went to school and did ministry with in China, a really great guy who I used to envision myself marrying to create the perfect adventurous missionary couple. Ha, that was clearly not meant to be and woe is me if he reads this sometime, but I’m a lot more transparent than I used to be, and I realize, it doesn’t really matter if he knows that.

I guess it’s been about two years since we spoke, since I got all crazy, left my para-church college world and shocked most of my friends with my decision to get married. I chuckle about it now because I was so impulsive, or so it seemed on the outside. On the inside, I had been pondering my life, my ongoing committment to some sort of evangelical ministry, my faith at it’s core, for a while. My decisions just seemed shocking because I was too afraid to be a back-stepper, a doubter, a questioner, a church drop-out, to allow my thoughts to air among my closest friends. It’s all so silly now. What if I had been more consistently open, transparent, during that time? Would it have been easier? I don’t know. Maybe so, maybe not.

I couldn’t bear the typical response – the probing questions, seeing the look on people’s faces as they judged me for no longer being the righteous, right-on-track young Christian woman I was cracked up to be. I don’t know, perhaps I am too harsh on my old church companions. I know my close friends no longer see me this way, probably they never did, because they are amazing, but those on the fringe, I feel like I know how they are thinking, because that was me, categorizing people, judging by their in-ness or out-ness of a certain circle of faith.

Subject change, I am reading a really good book–a Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLaren, who’s a leader in the emergent church movement. There are several new links on my site because of my recent interest in this subject. I’ve definitely still got a lot of issues with Christiainity, but reading authors like McLaren, who boldly discuss the weaknesses of the church while still standing by the teachings of Jesus is good for me.

I’ve also got a lot of desire to write lately. I have all these scenes to write drifting around in my head. I’m not much for a narrative so far, but I’ll have details when I get there.

an eating tour of Chicago

August 8, 2005

In the tone of some of Mary’s blogs
a few comments on my weekend with a culinary theme.

Friday evening: Inspired by Mary’s infatuation with fried chicken, five friends gathered in Chicago, enjoy Erin’s fabulous mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, Popeye’s chicken and a few beers. Adrianne, an old high school friend married and living in Detroit, Erin, a world traveling Madisonian, Jenny, a witty journalism grad student, the famous missmaryb and myself, accompanied by some gorgeous yellow daisies, under the shade of a plastic palm three. Just a little relaxed chatting before some delicious fondue at Ethel’s Chocolate House.

Saturday afternoon: En route to one of my favorite restaurants in the world, Joy Yee’s in Chicago. Despite the dark rumors spread by one Allan,, it was indeed open, free of rodents and pestilence and sating the appetites of many. The food was great, and introducing Adrianne to the legendary Joy Yee’s was quite a treat. Where else can you find huge fresh fruit smoothies for $3 and amazing Pan Asian food for $8 a plate. Good times.

Saturday evening: My first dinner at Coobah, a fun Cuban place with great sangria and mojitos. Whoever thought up the mojito is a genius. Rum with lime and mint leaves (and some other things I am sure) – yum, it’s a perfect refreshing herbal pleasure for me. Erin and I shared some appetizers and tamales which were all spectacular. It’s fabulous trying new cuisine for me. I’ve tried a lot of different foods in my life, but even trying things I may have tasted before wrapped up, combined, sauteed in different ways always holds a magical affect for me.

Take bananas for example. How many plain, out of the peel bananas has any American kid eaten in their lives, and how many different delicious ways are there to prepare bananas in so many other cultures? We have banana bread and banana cream pie, but there’s also sauteed plantains with sweetened condensed milk and carmelized bananas and probably a thousand other delectable ways to eat bananas.

Sunday morning: A gorgeous perfect day with two amazing people at one fantastic cafe. We stayed for hours, talking about what our lives have become in the last few years, pondering 20-something-ness and relationships. I can’t think of a better way to end the weekend, eating, drinking (coffee!) and being merry.

Mary spoke about wanting to enjoy life, to remember her 25th year like any other year past, not as a blur, but as a combination of great moments, I think. This weekend was one of those moments – being together, bonding, laughing, learning, enjoying. For me, this is life, and this is memorable.

before the weekend

August 5, 2005

My weekend started last night at 9 pm and I was pretty happy about it. Two and a half days away from work sounds fabulous. When you work in the restaurant business for a while, you start to appreciate the concept of weekends a lot more. I can’t take two days off in a row in any one week usually, just because the business keeps going through the weekends of course. In one way I don’t mind my hours, sometimes I go in at 10 or 2 in the afternoon, but on the other hand, it’s much harder to schedule family or social events when you work a lot of nights, etc. And some people get this shocked look on their face when you say you have to work Sunday, like they feel sorry for you and it’s some great hardship. I don’t know, but a Tuesday off can be just as glorious as a Sunday, as long as you have some decent weather and a few relaxing things to do.

Anyway, this weekend I am going away to Chicago for a little reunion among my friends. I’m real excited about it. I haven’t seen most of these girls in months, and it’s especially sweet to see them all together. We had planned to eat at the legendary Joy Yees in Chinatown but Allan informed us that they are apparently closed down because of so-called “rodents and pestilence.” Serious, rodents and pestilence aside, that place is amazing, and forgive me for saying this, but some of the best food comes from some of the er, less clean places of the world, so I don’t know what the big deal is.

To totally change the subject, does anyone know if 10-foot sunflowers are normal? I planted these sunflower seeds around the edge of my little backyard vegetable garden, thinking that they would make a nice border. I swear the package said they would be six feet tall. And they are really like ten feet tall. The flowers are almost ready to rest on top of my garage. Seriously, they are really big. The stem of one of them is almost like a small tree. I think, when they die, I can use the stalks for fire wood, it’s crazy.

Well, with that, I think I’ll be off to get ready for my Chicago weekend, see you all soon.