Friday, July 30, 2010

The Wedding of Rain and Shine

Say that one could strap on one's flying boots, grab one's rainbow dream hat, and balloon away in one's orange genie pants, where would these take that one singular person? The flying boots may demand to do the world's circumference twice or maybe thrice. The rainbow dream hat's only wish would be to meet the moment between rain and shine. All the while, the orange genie pants would drag one's person high up in the atmosphere like an oddly shaped balloon. In essence, one could scream, "I want to go to the top of Mount Fiji!" Yet, this would never happen because the boots, the hat, and the pants would drag one everywhere but there. Perhaps in a moment, one would find the wedding of rain and shine where the aisle of rainbow streamed out into the world. The boots would gallivant all over the world playing with the winds and shouting with the thunder. And the orange genie pants would carry one upward - forever up and only up. And yet, from the pull of three, mysteries might be explored and solved that never would have been found on Mount Fiji.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ELLE: a question raised

On a whim right before my flight home from Colorado, I bought a magazine. This is not an un-heard of phenomena. Actually, it is quite normal. I, knowing nothing about the colorful array of magazines, chose my magazine by its cover. I expected class, elegance, and style. The cover was crowded with blurbs about handbags, lipsticks, and fashion. In the center, stretched across this thick wad of glossy paper was Drew Barrymore. I’ve always had a soft spot for Drew since she’s in the classically beautiful Ever After. I chose the issue of ELLE. As I clutched the magazine in my hand and bought it, I caught a glimpse of one blurb that grasped my interest. It said, “Think you’re not hot? Why all men really want you now.” I’ll be honest. I don’t always have the best confidence and I rarely believe that I’m pretty. Therefore, my interest was piqued. I didn’t read it until about a week after returning home.

As I read through the columns, my eyebrows raised higher and higher on my forehead. My eyes grew larger and larger. My mouth dropped open and if flies had flown in my mouth, I would have gnashed them between my teeth. Yet, I was uncertain why I felt the way that I did. My feelings hung between extreme anger and total shock. My shock caused me to place the magazine on the floor and I walked away. Well, I came back to ELLE with a pen in hand. Furiously, I scribbled notes all over that article. I informed my college roommate, “I hope eloquence kicks in when I write my blog because this makes me so angry that I just want to swear.” Now, swearing is not an option so I do hope eloquence kicks in because I would like you all, my readers, to stay.

If the article didn’t start off questionably enough, I should have known by this phrase, “you are about to meet three men…but you won’t like them from what you hear coming out of their mouths.” It proclaims that these men are “model husbands and fathers.” Apparently, this article explores their alter personalities under this secure and safe label. Each of the men brags about their abilities to check out women and simultaneously fantasize about them. One man says that his actions could be compared to a “sexually repressed 80-year-old man.” Another of the men says, “I frequently think that if Felicia ever installed a camera in the car, our marriage would be over after one afternoon of her watching me drive around.” Even as each man’s statement rings with truth, they continue to brag about their sexual fantasies. No wonder the article is written by Anonymous. No wonder all the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

The writer of the article for research reasons decided to stand in front of different businesses with a tally clicker in his hand so he could “quantify his urges.” Mr. Anonymous even invited a woman friend along so that he would look less like a pervert. It’s interesting how much the author acknowledges the fact that there is something quite perverted in this activity. Throughout the article, he seems to be oddly seeking approval. After all, the author spends a paragraph assuming that women “are swept away by fantasy but just indulge much, much less frequently.” It’s the classic finger point of a child caught in misbehavior. Even when the author’s findings state that “roughly half of the women…were fantaziable,” the Mr. Anonymous later declares that women’s bodies rarely matter. This is not the author being sweet. Don’t be fooled. The entire article subliminally echoes with women are desirable simply because they are objects for sex. When Mr. Anonymous’ female friend questions, “I just want to know what is it about sex with women who you don’t know?” the author responds with the unsatisfying answer, “Do you go to the zoo and ask the tigers why they like meat?” That is an illogical comparison. Some may say that life without sex is unlivable, but man can live a life of chastity. Meanwhile, a tiger will die without meat.

The majority of the article is spent in a strange mixture of approval seeking, ability bragging, and sanity claiming. The anonymous author lingers over his “ghosts of sex not had.” In amongst this memory of sex-not-had, the author claims that “monogamy, though possibly a natural state for women, is not natural for men.” It’s a strong statement that is highly controversial. Since I am a woman, I feel like my ability to bicker with this statement has been stripped away from me. Therefore, I leave it. One question: Would men truly like to deal with the estrogen-packed environment that he would create for himself? (Actually, two questions: Why do you think the men of archaic times had a separate house for all their wives?)

The end of the article brought a rush of relief. First, the article was coming to an end. Second, the author admitted that one night stands are generally very disappointing. My eyebrows rose completely and totally off my forehead at this admission. He even finds comfort in his cohabitation and co-parenting with his wife. Thirdly, the author further surprised me by writing, “My wife is it. When I tell her I love her, I mean it in the deepest way imaginable.” I scribbled the word ‘hallelujah’ across the text. Mr. Anonymous is an author and he knows women. If he ends the article in such a heart-touching way, perhaps his women readers would fail to recall the body of his article.

I appreciate Mr. Anonymous’ honesty and vulnerability. He has just exposed the sexual predator in every male on the planet in response to a woman’s question of ‘why would you be attracted to me?’ Perhaps that is a tad harsh. Ever since I was young, I always heard older women excusing the wild behavior of their boys with the phrase, “Boys will be boys.” This excuse has lived on in the hearts of men today. They seem to live their lives under the awning of excuses made for them by our culture. Instead of learning to guard their eyes and thoughts, they relish the excitement of their sexual fantasies and inappropriate behavior under the approving shrug of society. Men, rise up. Stop allowing society to speak for you and set a new standard of life lived respectfully.

Women: you’re not off the hook. I think it would be fair to say that the poop has hit the fan. You heard me. We’re a part of this mess. All through my teen years, I heard the talks about modesty. I admit. I rolled my eyes. Yet, growing up in a house where modesty was enforced, it became a part of my life whether I liked it or not. Mr. Anonymous Author shocked me into the realization that modesty is crucial. He said in reference to the preferred female summer clothing, “It’s the feeling that I - a perfect stranger – could have this beautiful woman topless in a fraction of a second.” I was repulsed and began wondering how many of the men that I know had thought something similar in regards to me because I had been wearing a summer something. After reading that admission, I was prepared to find myself a potato sack. Women, dress wisely and don’t emasculate men by excusing their behavior. Challenge them to pursue a lifestyle that won’t have them fearing the loss of their wives.

Lastly, I find it very strange that ELLE would publish an article such as the one here by Mr. Anonymous. I know women desire to understand men and this article definitely gave a very clear picture of the occurrences that happen in the mind of a male. We’re all searching for honesty. Mr. Anonymous is very honest. Is it not interesting that he was honest in anonymity? Women rant that men should not objectify women. Yet, here in a magazine edited entirely by women is an article that basically says that women are desirable because they are objects for male fantasy. All of this can cause quite a bit of confusion similar to the phrase said from parent to child, “Do what I say not what I do.” Society screams that men should not objectify women. Yet, they turn around and publish articles that encourage this same action that was previously bewailed. The question of a double standard is raised.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Moon Story

In the late afternoon of a summer's day, a young woman with moon-pale skin gazed up into the sky. She knew that night was coming. Therefore, she knew that she must prepare for the onslaught of darkness. The girl stood. Her long willowy body seemed translucent and her face so round.

A woman, Bitsina, who had been observing this strange girl from the bushes gasped almost silently in surprise. Bitsina had never come across a girl with such an ethereal beauty; instead of greeting the girl, Bitsina had stood transfixed amongst the overgrown plants. As the light had faded, the girl's pale skin became luminescent. This struck Bitsina as particularly odd since she knew no one whose skin became brighter as the night approached.

Bitsina stared dumbfounded as the girl took the night sky as her gown and wrapped the clouds about her as a scarf and cloak. The girl's feet were no where to be seen. Colors of the sun's rays splashed across the girl's deepening gown. As the sun's colors danced from the sky, Bitsina's jaw gaped open as the girl began to bedeck herself in the diamonds of the night.

No longer did Bitsina gaze upon a slim youth of the summer, but she stared at the Lady of the Moon. There seemed to be no resemblance between the two except their pale skin. For the youth had seemed naive of the world whereas the Lady was as wise as the universe.

Bitsina closed her jaw with the help of her hand, picked up her fruit basket which lay forgotten on the ground, and looked once more at the esoteric moon in the sky. As she picked her way back home, Bitsina shook her head, "Never can I look at the moon in the same way as I did before tonight." If one had been watching the moon as Bitsina had mumbled this to herself, one would have seen a small smile crease across the face of the Lady.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Taste of the Ridiculous

This summer, I participated in a program called The Experience with Kingdom Building Ministries. I felt as though we played hopscotch all throughout the United States and the island of Hispaniola. We spent time in Denver, CO; Jarabocoa, Dominican Republic; Majaguita, DR; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Petit-Goave, Haiti; Chicago, IL; Mishawaka, IN; Minneapolis, MN; and Franklin, NE. It was a type of hopscotch that I half enjoyed and half hated. I loved it because I greatly enjoy seeing places. I hated it because I felt as though I could spend much more time in each place. By nature, I take great interest in observation. The majority of my travels were spent in a continual observation of the ridiculous.

In Denver, I saw the flattest piece of land that I had ever laid eyes upon suddenly transform into the Rocky Mountains. Now, I completely understand the fear that early pioneers may have felt as they traveled to the West and came to those majestic peaks. In my secret thoughts as a child, I always imagined that I would travel to the West, fight Indians, and hunt bison. After viewing the Rockies, I am not so sure.

In Jarabocoa, I observed Americans speak fluent Spanish in an American accent. Admittedly, I envied their Spanish abilities. Yet, I found it incredibly difficult not to cringe when they opened their mouths especially when acquainted with the amount of time that they have made the DR home. It was much easier for me to observe ridiculousness in my own American culture since I am familiar with the culture of both the Dominican Republic and America. I find that I must be cautious with my level of scorn for my own culture when I travel away from the United States.

In Majaguita, laughter ensued when I watched my fellow Americans explore their lodging for two nights. “Oh, horrors! There are giant spiders and we are sleeping under mosquito nets with holes.” And I just smirked as I listened to their horror knowing that many Dominicans do not even have a toilet. We had that and a shower. When the toilets failed to flush, I laughed and walked away. Meanwhile, my fellow American girls would stand over the toilet in frustration trying to get the silly thing to flush. Dominican toilets are like Dominican people. They are all very laid back. How uptight we Americans are and how comical it is!

In Port-au-Prince, we experienced a sea of people that never disappeared. At night, candles twinkled and dimly lit the amount of people still sleeping on the streets. One day as we made our way through rush hour traffic, a white UN official leapt from his truck in frustration. He ran out into the middle of an intersection and began screaming directions at the top of his lungs. The audacity of his actions shocked me. Trying to change the traffic pattern within Haiti was like trying to change the very weave of the life-fabric of Haiti.

In Petit-Goave, there was a different type of sea – an actual sea. This ocean was littered with trash and an occasional pig would wade by. The Haitian people in this small town took care of their own personal cleanliness but the streets and their properties were similar to trash heaps. Tents were pitched in front of restored houses and we were told that many people chose to sleep in the tents regardless of the state of completion of their houses. The earthquake had traumatized their sense of security. Although the horizon was not the most sterile, the people carried themselves with a beautiful pride that emanated to their entire being.

In a tent city, we set up VBS in a church that lacked a roof and many of its walls. The crush of the children was nauseas. Their smiles were huge and their needs were larger. Haitian adults stood on the sidelines as their children interacted with the Americans. One man approached an American girl on our team and proceeded to woo her in Spanish. How ironic that a Haitian would woo an American in Spanish. Did I mention that I’m the only one on my team who could speak Spanish?

In Mishawaka at Bethel College, Kingdom Building Ministries organized Deep Camp, a camp focused on a deeper relationship with Jesus. In every aspect of our society, numbers are extremely important. At this camp, we had 16 students. It was unimportant that we had 16 students because they were seen as individuals desiring deeper relationships with Jesus. No one counted. Some others may have laughed at the small number and the fact that it was entitled ‘camp’. Practicality says that numbers should matter. Let’s throw practicality to the wind.

In Chicago, I lost my identity and became another with the aid of UrbanEx. I roamed the streets with no sense of direction and no help from any human being. Hanging over the railing of a bridge, I looked down to a sidewalk and saw magazines spread out in the most artful manner. It looked as though someone had dropped a pile of magazines over the railing. Yet, the magazines were perfectly spaced from each other. I picked one up. Hours later, I handed it off to another woman after a few minutes of conversation. How funny that I should offer comfort when I had been searching for that same thing.

In Minneapolis, we stormed the Mall of America. Inside, I watched as one of the girls in our group was completely enthralled by the amusement park within the mall. We rode a roller coaster. The three levels of mall were extensive and enthralling. After a bit, my friend and I took up residence in the middle of an aisle in Barnes & Noble with the same book in our separate laps. With the entire mall still left unexplored, we contentedly read children’s literature in the middle of the aisle where a guy from Starbucks brought us sample mochas.

In the middle of nowhere, Nebraska, we were left stranded at night in the middle of a square mile cow pasture with flashlights, water, shelter, a map, and baby food. We never did find The Cliff on our own. We got rescued and then left at The Cliff for a long cold night. A bull tried to trample us. On the bright side, I saw my first vibrant shooting star. On a creative note, we girls had to build a cardboard and duct tape boat that would sail across a river. We almost made it. Oh! If you ever have the option of fire and water in a similar game of ‘Survival’ or ‘Stranded’, always choose fire and water. Not only is fire warm, but it is also comforting.

A couple of images that have placed themselves in my mind demand to be shared. While in Haiti, our truck was rattling through the streets and my eyes lit upon a man who was gnawing upon a piece of sugar cane. Juice ran down his chin and his eyes smiled. Not far away, on top of a roof of a broken building was a boy that was dancing. I had to laugh at such a lovely yet tragic picture. Farther down the road, a woman and a child stood on top of a mound of trash that was accompanied by many other similar piles. Each is a picture of humanity with all of our anomalies and oddities. We are happy to be alive regardless of our circumstances. Life is full of ridiculous moments.

planes of air

Airplane travel is nature's way of making you look like your passport photo. Al Gore

I’m thinking that Al Gore must have never actually been in an airport. Perhaps, what he’s really trying to say is that airplane travel makes you feel like your passport photo. The reason that I doubt he’s been in an airport is simply because every time that I set foot in an airport I am shocked to see women and men dressed to the teeth. I have seen women wearing little black dresses, high heels, and sparkling jewelry. Men have rushed by in formal dress attire. Every once in a while, one might see a person or a couple who have seemingly walked out of a tacky postcard that one would never consider purchasing no matter how cheap. As far as I’m concerned, passport pictures have absolutely no resemblance to the living and breathing person whether or not you’ve traveled for an entire day or not.

Airports are tiny cities within cities. These hubs have more diversity and movement in one hour than possibly any city that I have ever visited. When layovers last for more than an hour or so, I delight in gazing at the speed walking pedestrians as some run to their gates while others should be getting carried to their gates. Some people talk to themselves. Some chatter to their companions. Some walk in quiet silence next to their travel partner. One particular time, my attention was specifically captivated by a man who from the waist up was clad in a suit coat and dress shirt. On his lower half, the man wore pastel pink shorts. My mind leapt to a trillion reasons as to this man’s odd attire. Perhaps he spilled coffee on his dress pants and he borrowed his son’s shorts as he was rushing out of the house. Perhaps, he tripped through a cotton candy stand and the pink gripped his shorts. Or perhaps, the man just had a dreadful sense of fashion. After all, anything is possible.

There was a time in my life where I found traveling difficult. Travel stressed me out and friendly little zits popped up on my face. I fondly termed them ‘my travel zits.’ These days, travel enthralls me. With or without zits – more often than not without zits – I travel relatively stress-free. When I see airplanes fly above my head, I wonder where the passengers are headed. The question that follows that wondering is the curiosity of when I will next be seated on an airplane headed out of the country. In many senses, airports and travels work like clockwork. There are minor problems like losses of bags, airplane toilets, and the occasional infuriated traveler. As far as I’m concerned, angry travelers are a waste of time especially since their anger never accomplishes anything. I find it rather annoying and tad comical. Infuriated customers are amusing simply in the fact that they make horrible scenes and refuse to see past their own noses. Honestly, do they think that those working with the luggage think to themselves, ‘hmm, this bag looks snooty so we’ll leave it behind?’ I would laugh out loud if that were the case.

The airplane stays up because it doesn't have the time to fall. Orville Wright

Friday, July 16, 2010

In the pages of Vulnerability

once upon a time, there was a girl. and she dreamed. and she floated. and she thought of wence she'd come. and she had sparkles in her eyes, and glitter in her nose. and pink on her toes. and she laughed. and her laughter carried through the mountains and thundered with the storms of lightning and it bubbled with the giggles of waters and it gallivanted through fields with the zephyrs and it sprinkled the face of the earth like tear-raindrops and it harmonized with the songs of the birds. Everyone knew her laugh, but no one knew her. Yet, by knowing her laugh, they knew her soul.

Friday, July 2, 2010

May I have 100 prayers upon my lips

Isn't it ironic that my 100th blogpost shall be requesting prayer. Here I should be raving about the wonders of having 100 blog posts. Yet, I just can't. I would rather than you would turn to God and lift up the people around you in prayer.

The Experience with Kingdom Building Ministries = Learning
1st week = brain stuffed with biblical knowledge
2nd week = Spanish
Dominican Republic = dream-like
3rd week = learning the significance of small things
Haiti = HOT
4th week = DEEP camp where you go deep with GOd
Deep Camp = excellence
5th week = just beginning - what to expect? No idea. WELCOME TO THE WANDERING STAGE.

- our team has become unified, but still has far to go.
- understanding and patience with each other
- willingness to be vulnerable
- ability to see others and stop to spend time with them
- safety as we drive across multiple states

There is so much that I desire to share with you all, but have no time to do so via blog. I have greatly enjoyed participating in deep camp and spending time with these high schoolers that desire to go deeper in their relationship with Christ. I have learned much about myself through seeking God and watching these students. In a couple of hours, deep camp shall be over for the year. Pray for the campers that the realizations that they have made here will not be forgotten.

Not to us, but to HIS name be the glory.