Thursday, February 24, 2011

A New Song

It was like Nickelback mixed with the growlings of a wolverine. Or Creed mixed with the bark of a tree. And this was the voice that was leading worship. Seriously, I don't think a voice gets that raspy without swallowing a bucket of sand or scratching the inside your throat with a couple of forks.

I was at Renovate, the weekly worship night for college age students in Albuquerque. It was a new band. It was really loud. It was really hard to focus. I spent the entire first song laughing. It was such an unexpected sound! The second song I spent looking around at some people, their arms raised, me marveling that they were able to focus with Raspy McRasperson singing and the music so loud it was shaking my very core. The third song I spent coming up with metaphors to use in writing this.

And yet there was redemption to be found in the final song, song number four. I was thinking about an elderly couple at the church I attended in Joplin. Every Sunday, they were there, sitting on the third row, right up front; arms raised, praising God. I'm sure that for them, the music was loud. I'm sure it was not the kind of music they were used to listening to, and I'm sure they would rather sing hymns. However, they were leaders in the church, and they recognized that worship can be offered to God, even when it doesn't follow the mold of our concept of worship music. The truth of the matter is that worship really isn't singing songs prettily or at the right volume. Worship is offering our hearts and lives to God, surrendering ourselves to Him.
And so I found myself at song number four, letting go of my preferences, surrendering that to God. I need to be more like the couple at church, taking every opportunity to give back praise to the creator of the universe, the God of the heavens, the beginning and the end. I can't think so highly of myself that I forego the chance to worship my maker, choosing to worship my ego instead.

And yes, I would still rather this band not lead the singing at Renovate again. But if they do, I will worship God. My God. Our God.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fixing the Budget

I am thankful for my job. It's a pretty rockin' awesome one. I get to talk to people all day and sell them some of my favorite products in the world. It's a lot less like working, and a lot more like hanging out with people. As a social person, this is totally ideal. Also, I work with a huge group of amazing people, and I can say that I genuinely like all of them. With a group this large, it's pretty astounding that I can say this with honesty.
Another thing about my job for which I am thankful is the paycheck. It is always satisfying to look at my bank statement and see the numbers rising instead of falling. Christmas is coming, and now I feel much less obligated to buy gifts - now I get to do so, without worry, with the perfect joy of being able to give something nice to people I care about.
For lots of reasons, having money is nice. Not only can you buy Christmas presents for your family, you can also eat food, have clothes, get the occasional Starbucks, see a movie, have a place to live. This is something I'm not sure we hear enough: If you can do all of these things, you are blessed, and you are rich. Even though I can't afford to move into a nice apartment right now and am still living at home, I know that I am richer than 95% of the world.
I think this holiday season we should all reevaluate our budgets. Mine is just getting started, seeing as I am recently back on the map of having a paying job, but I'm going to do this, too. Look at your budget, try to find a little extra money. Then take that money and give it away. Donate to a charity. Support a child. Support a team whose cause is near your heart.
Personally, I'm going to start supporting Unearthed Pictures. Unearthed is trying to expose sexual trafficking through film, as well as fund organizations whose work it is to free the slaves of sexual exploitation. You can read more about it on this page of their website. I know personally some of the Unearthed team. I have heard their hearts, and I share their desire to see sexual trafficking stopped. Take a look at their site, and consider making this one of your new year goals, perhaps. But you don't have to wait until the New Year to start giving. :)
Realize what you have been given. Be a good steward of that. Love the world - especially those people in it who have been forgotten. Help them find a voice.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pat Pat

I have arrived in Washington, D.C. for Tiny Turkey Day! The traveling went rather well, except for one thing: I got the full pat-down at the airport in Albuquerque.
I guess there's a big controversy right now about the legitimacy of the full body scan. Apparently it's not helping TSA find any terrorists, and it is kind of a violation of privacy. TSA raved about it because they claimed that, by getting a full body scan instead of going through a metal detector, you are less likely to have an error in your scan and, therefore, less likely to have to go through the process of getting the full body pat down. However, a full body scan essentially goes straight through your clothes, so the people running that computer can see everything - EVERYTHING - about you.
I can't say that I've flown a lot, but I have flown several times. Today, after going through the full body scan for my first time ever, I also received a safety flag for the first time ever. They said that something showed up in the area of my pants. I was lead to a private room with two female TSA workers, one of whom carried all my belongings. They were both professional as they explained everything that they were going to do. The way I see it, I got a full body massage - it was just really fast and I had to stand the whole time. When I asked what was flagged, they told me that it was something to do with my pants. One of them suggested that it was probably my zipper and the fact that my jeans are a little on the thicker side. Once they decided I was not a terrorist, or a threat of any kind, they filled out the paperwork. Neither of them had a watch, so they asked me if I maybe had a cell phone so I could tell them the time. Yeah, impressive.
When I relayed my tale to my sister, she had a few suggestions for how my situation could be improved if ever I go through that again. She said that, during the pat-down, I should probably become incredibly ticklish and giggle and wiggle the whole time. Also, to fix the problem caused by wearing thick jeans, Casey said I should wear a thin, short skirt and no underwear. This will make it much easier to prove that I'm not hiding anything.
I don't know if I would actually do either of those things. I don't think it would help my case or get me away from airport security any faster. But one thing I do know - from now on, I'm sticking to the regular ol' metal detectors. They've never failed me in the past, even with thick pants.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Musings on the Soul

Today I watched a one hour show on the Discovery Health Channel titled, "I Am My Own Twin." Unlike it's channel mate "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant," this show was not scary. It was just rather interesting. It followed the stories of two completely unrelated women who found out through different life circumstances (one was filing for welfare and had to prove the parentage of her children, the other needed a family match for a kidney transplant) that their DNA did not match that of their children. The show explained how every child has 50% of one parent's DNA and 50% of the others. So there is no way that a woman who gets pregnant and gives birth to a child cannot share that 50% DNA match with the child... or is there? According to their findings, the children of these women could not possibly be the children of these women, though DNA tests revealed that there was some matching to the rest of the mother's family. After years of tests and head-scratching, one doctor had an idea: maybe his patient was a chimera.
The term comes from Greek mythology and is a creature that is part lion, part goat, and part serpent. Obviously these women were NOT liongoatsnakes. When pertaining to humans, the medical term chimera means that two fertilized embryos fused into one at an early stage of the pregnancy and formed one individual. This happens in the first four days of the pregnancy, because if they were to fuse after that time, there would be portions of spinal columns and the result would be Siamese twins. Instead, a chimera is one person, but with two distinct DNAs. Essentially, it is two people in the body of one, twins sharing one space.
Typically, chimeras have outward physical characteristics that clue the doctors in on the existence of the anomaly, but these two women were not typical chimeras. Most chimeras will have odd pigmentation on their skin. Also, if the two fused embryos were opposite genders, the resulting child will be truly hermaphroditic, with one set of DNA being male and the other set being female. In the case of these two women, though, the fused embryos were both female, and had it not been for DNA testing, they would have gone their entire lives without knowing they were their own twin.
The show discussed the possible legal ramifications of chimeras that do not physically show symptoms. One judge talked about the heavy reliance on DNA evidence and wondered if he had ever denied custody based on DNA findings that were actually false. A person could be the physical father, but it is the invisible twin who passed down the genetic material. My deepest thought, though, was a bit different.
You see, all my life I have believed that a person becomes a person at conception. I believe that at that moment, they are endowed with a soul, and that after conception they will never cease to exist. If they are aborted, their little souls will just go right on up to heaven. If they have the good fortune of being born and living a life, then they can reach an age of accountability and have to take the consequences of their actions. Hopefully, they will hear and accept God's Word and then their soul can go to heaven at death. But this is not my point, so let's get back to it. My question is this: If the soul exists at conception, and there are two fertilized embryos in one womb, then there are two souls... well, what if they merge? Do these chimeras, then, have two souls? If not, then when does the soul begin to exist? If they DO have two souls... man, I don't fully understand the implications of that. There are a hundred roads I could go down for that one. I really want feedback on this. What do you think?
To close, this concept of absorbed twins and two entities in one body is not new. I immediately think of a book by Stephen King entitled "The Dark Half." In it, there is a man - a good man, an author with a family - who has a twin living inside of him about which he does not know. But this man experiences blackouts where his evil twin takes over his mind and does evil things with the body in which he also lives. One body. Two souls. Again, write your thoughts.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life as a Room

I love Albuquerque. I love being home. I love afternoon thunderstorms. I love green chile. I love Esther. I love Lacey. I love Carly. I love mom.
Currently, I do not have a job (though I did have my first of many interviews with Apple today - something to keep me in the black while I'm in the Burque). So instead of working or going to school, I am helping my mom with house projects. This past weekend, we cleaned out and painted my dad's old office. I think the peachy paint color combined with the dark wood trim gives the room a feeling of a beach house. Hopefully once the transformation into House Library is complete, my mom will stop threatening to put seashells on the walls.
Another project of the house is the canning of summer fruit. I made a giant pot of peach butter this week, and my mom canned it this past weekend. We still have a ton of apples.
With these two projects, our house is currently quite chaotic. The kitchen is full of canning materials and apples, so it is very cluttered, and the living room is full of everything that was in the office. I nearly had a claustrophobia attack in the kitchen, and my mom almost went crazy while she was looking in the living room. Needless to say, if you live in the area and want to help me clean this week, please call. Also call if you'd like to buy five old CPUs. The computer relics we found in the office are astounding in sheer volume.
Okay, all of this to say, I don't like clutter. I'm not the cleanest, tidiest person in the world; don't get me wrong. I like a little bit of a mess because it feels more relaxed. But in the general scheme of things, I want the clutter OUT. I think the same thing can be said for our lives. We live in such a busy world, our days get filled with this and that, and suddenly we feel claustrophobic in our day-to-day happenings. This past week I had four evenings that I spent away from home. On Thursday I thought, "When am I going to go for a walk with my mom if I keep this up?" It becomes essential to remove certain things so that we can fit other things in - or even just take a night to relax!
And now, a lesson learned from cleaning out a room: it is hard work. Not only do you have to physically move things, but then you have to decide what is to be kept and what is to be donated, what is to be sold, what is to be put in storage for later use.... It's all a lot of work, and you have to consider each thing. It's a daunting task. A lifetime of collecting is easy if you just keep adding things to the same room. My goal in life is not to just keep adding, but be purposefully removing things as I go as well.
This leads me to my spiritual point for the day. When we first enter into a relationship with Christ, we have a full life, filled to the brim with things of our past. We have our memories, our friendships, our relatives, our jobs, our hobbies, our habits. And then Christ comes in, and he doesn't want to just be part of a list that makes us who we are - he wants everything we are to be about Him. To do this, we might have to purposefully remove things that are in our lives - things that don't revolve around Christ. A room can only be so full. If the office we cleaned out is any measure, a room can hold a whole lot of stuff, but eventually it will be full. So if we want to make room for something else, we have to take something else out. If we want to grow closer to Christ, we have to take things out of our lives. Perhaps there are some things that will be harder to change than others. For instance, you can't switch relatives, and if they don't honor Christ, it would seem that they should be removed from the room, right? Well, no. Maybe you should try to tell them about Christ instead of just purposefully removing them from your life. But maybe you will have to remove some hobbies or freetime activities. No more flagburnings or watching crass movies. And it is hard work. It is daunting work.
But I am convinced that the end result is worth it, just as I am convinced that cleaning out and transforming the office into a library will be worth it. It's still hard work, and it won't be over in a day. At this rate, it won't be over in a week, but I'm going to keep working on it, just as I keep working on my life as a room.

Monday, August 16, 2010


This week I will be travelling around. Camp is done! It was a good finish. I rode all 24 horses at camp during my summer. I certainly have my favorites and the ones that I hate.

Right now I am at my friend Mel's house. She was a wrangler with me, and had no car, so I drove her and her stuff home to Rogersville, MO. Yesterday we saddled up her horses so Mel could show me around their property. I was on a horse that I was told took a lot of kicking to get going, so I was prepared. I was pleasantly surprised, then, when she took off just fine. It was as we were coming up a hill at a canter and she started bucking that I first grew a little concerned. I sat it out and was fine. We kept going, this time walking and trotting, and the horse was perfectly good. It was when we started cantering again that she started bucking again. This time I was not so fortunate. I flew off and landed mostly on my right hip, shoulder and head. Don't be worried - other than a little bit of bruising and a slightly sore neck, I'm perfectly fine. After this, Mel and I switched horses.

Today we are going to her lake house to spend a day laying in the sun and swimming and boating. It'll be very relaxing. Tomorrow I will go to Joplin for a couple days, and then to Broken Arrow to see Kinsey! Then on Saturday, I will make my way back to Albuquerque.

My sister is going to be in Phoenix, so I am going to drive down there on Sunday to see her and hang for a few days. It's all very unplanned, other than the rudimentaries, but I will be happy to be with sister again.

I wrote a lot in my journal while I was at camp. There were some good, deep thoughts recorded that I will probably get up here and elaborate on them sometime in the future. I don't know how often I will be able to check the internet during my weeks of travel, but I have my phone back now (hooray!) so please give me a call or text me!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Plus, Mom

Right now I'm sitting in a hospice house visiting my aunt Connie. Her battle with cancer is coming to an end, so I drove down from camp to say my goodbyes and see her one last time. My mom drove from Albuquerque to see her (and me, too, I'm guessing), so it's a fairly depressing family reunion. But I'm pretty sure that seeing your mom can fix any problems of life. Moms are great, and my mom is fantastic. I needed a mid-summer mom visit.
The reason this visit is so hard is because I have never seen someone with cancer. I mean, I've seen people with cancer, but I've never been around all the side-effects. My family doesn't have cancer in it, and so this is really the first experience I have had with seeing it so close. I had never realized just how severe the pain was. I had never realized how hard it is to watch someone you love slowly break down from the inside, but still have all the soundness of mind. My knowledge has been limited to those who fade both mentally and physically. I think it is much harder to watch someone go only physically, while knowing they have so much to live for and so much more that they want to do. I am sure that my aunt has total awareness when she is awake. She is still totally herself. At one point in our visit, my uncle Ed said to her, "Connie, I'm going to shift you over now," to which she responded, "I'm going to fight you." Totally Connie.
I don't think she's going to be going back home. I think she is in her final days, which really breaks my heart. For someone so dedicated to her family, so devoted to her church and her other passions and commitments, to be robbed of so many years - it is terrible to think about. There are so many people that value and depend on her. She is the central member of her family, the crux of them all, and a crucial member to her extended family. She is a wise and amazing woman of God, and I will miss her dearly. I cannot express how glad I am that I got to come down here one more time and see her and uncle Ed, even if she was too tired from medication to really talk. There is great comfort in bedside sitting.

In much happier news, I will now relate some highlights from my week at camp. Both of these have to do with being a wrangler. On Tuesday afternoon, no kids showed up for the third and final trail ride, so we decided to do a wrangler ride. We grabbed our horses and set off down the trail at a canter. We picked up speed, going into a gallop, turning fast around the trees at the sides of the trail. It was exhilarating. At one spot on the trail there is a little root that stretches across the path. My horse, Biscuit, jumped right over it. It was really fun.
The second fun thing is this: my wrangler friend Mel is teaching us other wranglers how to do drill! This is sort of like dance teams on horseback, making formations and doing cool-looking things in neat patterns. We practiced on Thursday and Friday morning. On Friday morning, we had our drill planned out. This drill, at full speed, should take about three minutes. The first time we just walked it all out, and it took about thirty minutes. The next time it only took fifteen, and the following two times we did it in five. It is so much fun, learning about a totally new (to me) aspect of horsemanship. Drill takes a ton of focus to get everything just right. It is very hard, but totally worth it. The horses were exhausted. I don't think any of them have trotted that much ever. They need to get in shape!
Okay, I'm going to hang out with my mom some more now.