Thursday, September 28, 2006

pearly whites, good films, and mini vacations

Although life has been hectic and stressful since school started again, I am really enjoying my job, my class, and life in general. Today has been nice. It began with a visit to the dentist, which really should not be the start to a great day. But it went well, my teeth are shiny and new, and there were a lot less problems than what I had anticipated. The hygienist was a nice older lady, and she was very diligent in her hygiene duties. She gave me all of this advice for taking care of my teeth, and I love the feeling of a clean slate (quite literally).

Then, just a little while ago, I came across an announcement for the Laramie Film Society. Surely a small organization, but I was excited anyway. It's only $15 to join, and I get to watch movies and discuss them- which is like candy for me. It reminds me of New York (I know I bring up New York WAY too much), because I took a class that was involved with the Media Educators Association, and I got to see movies before they were released, in a midtown theater with snooty New Yorkers. Sweeet. It also gave me the opportunity to bring Mike to the premiere of the movie In America, and Bono (yes, that Bono) was there. I have pictures to prove it. I may even put the pictures on my new Flickr site (shameless plug).

But the best thing about today is that it is my Friday- I'm taking tomorrow off, and I am so glad that I am. I need a little bit of a break. Last week was one of the worst for me at work. But taking tomorrow off means that I need to get everything done today, which means that I should stop blogging...

Thursday, September 21, 2006


One of my favorite blogs has a link to the ever-wonderful music video Step By Step by the ever-lovin New Kids on the Block (aka NKOTB, aka Old Men on the Porch to my dad who thinks he's hilarious). I watched it, and it wasn't just a memory coming back- it was an entire feeling. Suddenly that vest, those overalls, that feathery hair was all cool again, and it seemed entirely feasible that someone would mimic Michael Jackson's dance moves in complete seriousness. I remember how overwhelmed and excited I would get every time I saw them. I was the total stereotype.

Not only was I madly in love with almost every single band member at some point (except Donnie, never liked him), but I was completely OBSESSED. I had the earrings, the sleeping bag, the t-shirts, the school folders, the videos...everything. Actually, I remember a boy in my class liked them a lot too, and I vividly recall wondering in some abstract, elementary-aged way if he was gay.

I also remember imagining that I was married to Jordan Knight, and we had a daughter, and her and I had matching outfits. Seriously...what was wrong with me?? I can tell from my reaction to seeing them again that this was a huge part of my adolescence, but I wonder if it's healthy to have been like that. I guess most girls (how many guys?) go through that at some point- and I certainly had a strong imagination. Can't accuse me of not being creative.

Monday, September 18, 2006

why be athletic when you can watch athletes on tv?

I watched The Amazing Race for the first time in my entire life last night. Why is it that I had seen full episodes of brainless reality shows (The Swan -remember that gem?, or the one about the bachelor who was pretending to be a millionaire- I can't even remember the name of it- Joe Shmoe or something), and yet I had never seen this one? The only one with a plausible premise, and I skipped over it.

Anyway, last night happened to be the first episode of a new season- I think. And I really enjoyed watching it- I even thought about signing Mike and I up for it the next time they are casting. That's an amusing thought: Mike and I on a reality show. As fun as it would be, I'm guessing neither of us would enjoy being on TV too much, if we ever even had the chance. But I bet we would fit some stereotype enough to be considered. (The casting directors are obviously looking for stereotypes: this season they've got the Muslims, the Indians, the gays, the cheerleaders, and the Kentuckians. Oh yes, the Kentuckians.)

I think we could have a chance to be on the show based on the fact that we are religious, or maybe because we're both scrawny, fairly unathletic people. I'm sure our attempts to scale a wall would boost ratings.

In any case, there are way too many good (or maybe not good, but addicting) shows on TV these days. Tonight is the first episode of that new show Studio 60, and I am way too excited to see it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the school experiment

The best thing about Mondays and Wednesdays for me is the fact that when I walk to my class in the afternoon, the kids from the lab school are just getting out for the day. (Lab school: the university's own grade school, where education students can essentially practice their teaching skills. The idea is a good one, but the name is just terrible- I imagine mice in pinafores, taking apples to their teachers.)

Although the name could use a revamp, I love getting to see all the little elementary-aged kids at the end of their day, telling their moms or dads about what they did, sometimes trucking home some project they worked on, usually hefting around a backpack that is almost bigger than them. I miss those days, when I would get home at 3, and eat a snack and watch cartoons. But I am excited that someday I will be the mom with the snack, asking how the day went.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A guest post

Last Sunday, Mike gave the sermon in church. Some people who heard it thought that it should be distributed to a wider audience. Since a sermon might be difficult to publish in the paper, we thought it might be nice to post it here. It's still in rough form, as these are Mike's notes. I hope you like it.

September 10, 2006

John 3.13-17 and Galatians 6.11-18

Tomorrow, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the WTC and Pentagon attacks

I am sure most of us can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news

As Americans, we rightly mourn the loss of life on September 11 in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC

But, as Christians, we are called to something far beyond only mourning the loss of life on American soil

As Christians, we are called to mourn the losses of our enemies as well, and the harm brought upon their families and properties

As Americans, our loss may be greater, but as Christians, the loss of every life is the same

“For God so loved the world….” And we must do the same.

As Americans, or any other nationality, we tend to root for the home team, so to speak—we rejoice in our national victories, and we are sad for our losses

And rightly so

But both the Gospel and the Epistle today call us to something more, something far beyond our identities as American citizens

Both readings remind us of our identity as Christians:

The Gospel reading and the words of St. Paul today set up an image by which Christians must now live their lives—it is the image at the front of every Orthodox Church on the other side of the altar: it is the image of the Jesus on the Cross

It is the image of one who forgives rather than rebuke

Of one who accepts what he does not deserve

Of one who chooses self-sacrifice instead of anger and retaliation

Both St. Paul and the Gospel set up this image of the Crucified Jesus as the image we must imitate as Christians, but more than that, Paul even tells us that we have nothing to boast of except the Cross of Christ

As citizens of the world, we are usually inclined to boast of our achievements, and of our victory and strength—two things which the Cross does not seem to offer

For example,

We have seen terrorist groups and the enemies of this country boast of the victory of September 11

We have seen our commanders boast of victory in Afghanistan: the Taliban was quickly routed and free elections soon followed

We have seen our president boast of victory in Iraq: “Mission Accomplished”

We have seen Israel boast of its victories over the Palestinians and the Lebanese

We have seen Hamas and Hezbollah boast of their victories against Israel

In all of this, we see people boasting of victory, of military might, of destruction, of conquering of enemies

But Paul offers us strong words today, the day before our five-year anniversary:

In his words,

“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

For us, as Christians, because this image of Christ Crucified is our paradigm, is our concise picture of God and his work for this world,

We must redefine the things of which we boast

Like Paul, we must boast of victory, yes, but our victory has been wrought through Christ giving himself up for us and for the life of the world

Victory has been brought through peaceful self-sacrifice

Yes, we must boast in power, but specifically the power of God, the power of God that has been most fully revealed in his ability to be crucified

Yes, we must boast in the destruction and conquering of our enemies, but our enemy is death and the consequences of sin

Most prefer to boast of strength, whether it be military or political strength

But we ourselves must boast—as odd as it sounds—we must boast of our weaknesses, as St. Paul says

But why should we boast of our weakness when everyone around us boasts of strength?

Where is it that we pray the most to God? In times of certainty in which we are in control, or in times of uncertainty in which we are not in control?

I would guess we usually pray to God the most when we feel lost and do not know what to do

And that is why Paul says we must boast in our weaknesses, in our weakest moments—because it is in our weakest moments that we tend to leave the most room for God to work

And for Paul, that is worth boasting of

This is how Paul puts it at the end of his Second Letter to the Corinthians,

“So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

So as Christians, our standard of conduct is the Cross and nothing else

The model set up for us at the front of the church is a model of forgiveness, mercy, and a God who “so loved the world,” that the world may “have life”

For he came to “save the world and not to condemn the world,” as the Gospel today says

And as such—as people whose standard is the Cross and everything that it entails—we are to define ourselves as Christians, disciples of the Crucified Jesus, before we define ourselves as Americans or any other nationality

Thus, as our God “so loved the world,” so we must also mourn the loss of life everywhere, and then, perhaps, as Americans, we may rejoice in our own national victories

As Christians, we have the chance to be the best and most faithful of American citizens, but as Christians, we must be something so much more

There is an early Christian document, a letter written to the Roman Emperor Diognetus not more than 100 years after Jesus, that makes this last point very clear

The author of this letter is on the defensive, answering the charge that Christians were bad citizens, and therefore bad for the Roman Empire

Describing Christians everywhere, this is what he says:

“Christians live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their homeland, and yet, for them, every homeland is a foreign land…. They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men they are persecuted…. They are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich… They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor they are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless.” (Diognetus 5.5-15)

As these words described Christians of the ancient world, I hope they will continue to describe Christians of the modern world as well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An unexpected reflection

With the imminent 5th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon comes much remembrance, documentation, and even speculation in the media. News groups are interviewing small towns who lost members of their community in the tragedy, email forwards on the topic are becoming more frequent again, and even PBS had a special last night about the structural engineering of the twin towers.

I wouldn't have expected to write about this topic- what more can be said? It was certainly horrific, and no words really do it justice. I would argue that words like freedom, hero, and terror have changed forever, and that to me these words mean nothing anymore, now that they have become so hackeneyed and manipulated, especially by our government. I would argue that point, if I were in the mood to talk politics. But I'm not.

Last Friday night, Mike and I watched a special on Dan Rather for a little while. Of course, the coverage of September 11th, 2001 is a giant notch in his journalistic belt, and when they replayed the familiar footage of people gaping back at the burning buildings while simultaneously running in the other direction, that horrible feeling of despair filled my stomach again. But it was different this time- as I pointed out to Mike. This time I saw the Empire State Building, my own office building for a time, engulfed by smoke, smoke that came from 30 blocks away. And now I see New York City as my city, and I remember the streets, and I know the people, and the attacks feel so much closer. I can imagine the people of New York, bustling through the subways, just trying to get to their offices, maybe holding a door open for someone, or maybe giving someone the finger- and in a split second all attention was directed to this one place, where something horrible was happening. And for a very short time, everyone felt bonded. The entire country clung together, trying to make sense of what had just happened.

But soon the reaction became angry. I remember a friend of mine saying that the U.S. should just not allow anyone in its borders anymore. I remember the relatively quick path to war with a country that our president has now admitted had nothing to do with these attacks. I remember the arguments about racial profiling in the airports, and the fear that began to grip everyone, constantly. In a way that is not morbid, I long for the time right after those attacks, when Americans, and those visiting America, and the rest of the world watching, came together to mourn and to care for each other.

There are a few conversations that I had with New Yorkers in my time there that stand out in my head. I remember when the attacks on the twin towers would somehow come up in conversation, and suddenly anyone who was in New York that day wanted to remember their story and tell me about it. And there was always this tone of humility and sadness in their voice, much like the tone of the entire country in those few moments before we went ballistic.

Last night we watched the movie Gangs of New York, which I believe was in many ways Martin Scorcese's response to 9/11. The entire movie draws out plots of anger, hatred, and revenge, until the end when there is a split second in which you realize how silly the conflicts are in the face of much greater danger. The last scene of the movie shows the evolution of New York City in the last 100 or so years, coming to a final shot of the twin towers, and to me this shot is a call for peace. All of these fights that we face, or provoke as the case may be, are nothing in the grand scheme of things. Are these the kinds of causes that we really want to die for?