Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's official: God thinks I'm hilarious

They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I'm glad at least He got such a kick out of my "vacation" week, because I sure didn't.

I had it all planned out. I was going to make it up to Door County by 7 p.m. on Thursday night for dinner and a weekend with my family, depart for Milwaukee two days later to get on the bus with my high school friends for a relaxing and spiritually rewarding week at Castaway where every single one of the girls in my cabin was going to fall in love with Jesus and commit her life to Him, and then we'd get back on the bus on Saturday night, return to Milwaukee by 5 a.m., and I'd have all of Sunday to recoup before being ready to head back to work on Monday morning.

But after my blown out tire on I-43 during rush hour traffic causing both lanes to close, my nasty foot/leg rash from an allergic reaction to the grass at camp, a camper busting her foot open and needing me to take her to the Emergency Room while I was simultaneously trying to manage 40 high school kids who were mad at me (the trip leader) about a bus driver who didn't show up until 12 hours later than he was supposed to, getting pulled over by the Detroit Lakes police on the way back to camp from the ER run, a nasty sinus infection, and really no kids who decided to follow Jesus for the first time, I feel like I was just dragged out of the trenches of the spiritual warfare battlefield.

Hey, you're very welcome, God; I'm happy to give you a good laugh anytime. I'm just glad you're the one in control of that battlefield, because it's becoming more and more clear to me with each passing day that I'm not.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Risking the burn

As I lathered up in aloe tonight after a delightful weekend in Door County with the company of my family and too many UV rays, I thought about how much I hate getting burned. It is incredibly painful, in the worst cases it leaves blisters that scar, and in the end, I just feel like an absolute idiot for not recognizing the burn until after the pain sets in.

Thinking about how in my quest for a sun-kissed summer glow I had to risk the tomato-red-skin sun-mauling that I was sure would not happen if I stayed out for just another hour, I realized falling in love is kind of similar. Falling in love means allowing yourself to be vulnerable to the risk and burn of heartache, but trusting the one you love not to burn you. And I realized, no one would ever get a sweet tan, or, find love, if they did not at least risk the burn.

In four hours I am getting on a bus with some of my closest high school friends for Young Life camp. They’ll hear the Gospel, and they’ll wrestle with what to do with the message. It is my very deep prayer these kids risk falling in love with Jesus, because in time, I know they will come to realize his love, unlike the sun or other people, will never leave them burned.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The ethics of dating

Since I've been back in the feral game of dating after nearly a two-year hiatus, I've become re-acquainted with the annoying rules of etiquette, blurry lines of nuance, awkward dances of polite but honest communication, and, most importantly the ethics of keeping the well-being of others’ hearts at the absolute forefront of consideration.

After gently telling one suitor I was not interested in dating him any further, but his pursuit fervently continued, I finally replied to a message by text saying, "I’m busy and traveling a lot. Take care."

Yes, I gave him the “Take care.” And by text! Ouch. This is a brutal game indeed.

Now on my checklist, this guy is great; but I'm just not into him, and I've expressed that. But even after punching him in the face with the “take care,” his pursuit continues, which, although mostly annoying, is incredibly flattering and even mildly enticing. I made my point very clear, several times, but he is a determined little booger and his persistence might actually be making me reconsider.

So here’s the thing… I've expressed my explicit disinterest several times, but he continues to pursue a golf and dinner date with me... in Kohler. So you see my difficult dilemma. I mean, it's KOHLER!

So please help me out: Is it ethical, given my several-times-expressed disinterest, to allow him to take me golfing in Kohler?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fertile Ground

Ever notice how you can hear a song a billion times and be clueless about its context, and then one day you hear it again and simply because you've had a similar experience, you’re suddenly comprehending a whole new language?

Maybe it was a death, a broken heart, a new love, a birth, or any number of emotionally heightened scenarios, but regardless of the specifics, it was the fertile ground of experience that led you to understand a song’s lyrics in a new way.

I had one of those moments today when I heard Kari Noble’s "Ooh oh.” The title alone is enough to let you know the lyrics are super cheesey on paper, but I assure you, they are heart-wrenchingly beautiful if you've been in her boat.

Suddenly feeling like my soul had been poured out onto paper, when I previously thought nothing of these lyrics, immediately led me to consider how humanity’s response to hearing the Gospel is very similar.

People hear the Good News of Christ all the time, but until it resonates, and I mean really resonates, it ends up being the same old story they’ve heard before and the message is destroyed -- eaten up, withered, or choked -- instead of being realized as the awesome fury of the Lord. In order for the message to grasp a person in a life-altering way, to come alive and be put into action, it has to land on good soil and take root so it can grow and bear fruit (Mark 4:3-23).

I was thinking about this need for fertile soil because I'm gearing up to lead a group of 14 high school girls at Young Life camp later this month. There is so much about Young Life camp that prepares good soil and makes the Gospel message resonate with kids in a life-altering way, and I am stoked to see what the Lord is going to plant this year at camp!

Please keep Whitefish Bay Young Life in your prayers as we head off to introduce a bunch of high school kids to the joy and peace of Christ's passionate love and sacrifice. Please be praying that the ground on which the seed is planted is prepared, fertile and ready to receive the very Good News of Jesus!

Monday, June 8, 2009

If we had a Bishop, I'd call him.

I went to what I like to call Milwaukee's "Last Chance Mass" last night, which takes place in an East-side parish at 7 p.m. I generally try to avoid this Mass, because I prefer a more, shall we say, reverent form of worship. But because I fell asleep on my couch watching Cider House Rules, woke up late Sunday morning, and wanted to get some golf in, I attended this evening service. I assure you, that will not happen again.

This friendly parish is on the trendy East-side, and, for better or worse, does a wonderful job of reaching out to those in its community by catering to their progressive lifestyles. At this parish, I have frequently seen same-gendered couples cuddling during service, female alter-servers with their arms raised and lips moving pretending to consecrate the host with the priest, etc.

Well, last night, they had interpretive dancers during the Responsorial Psalm and during the two readings. Yes, I said the two readings. There was no second reading. We went straight from dancing the Psalm into the Hallelujah and the Gospel. The second reading was was forgotten, likely because of the distraction of the midriff-bearing interpretive dancers. And the reading was from Romans. I love Romans! What's even more absurd, is that the 22-second homily was mostly about the reading from Romans, about uniting our sufferings with Christ, which I was able to identify because I had read it beforehand, thank Goodness with a capital G.

Now I'm no pre-Vatican Two-er. I even like Life Teen Masses and think they have their appropriate time and place in the Church, and I was once broken up with because my taste in liturgical music was too progressive. But some things are just not right, and participating in behavior so distracting it spoils the sacred Liturgy of the Word is certainly one of those things.

If we had a Bishop, you can be sure he would be hearing from this one.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hello, my name is…

My name is Annie. It is not Ann. It is not Amy. And it is most certainly not Andy.

It’s a simple name, really, reasonably common and easy to pronounce. I had a speech impediment until I was six (once I told the doctor I had “goose” for breakfast, when I meant to convey I had juice… my mother was horrified), but I have since overcome that obstacle, and I like to think I articulate my name with clarity. Apparently that thought is wrong.

At work, I frequently have people returning calls to “Amy,” and it takes me pulling out NATO code (“apple november…”) for the caller to get it right. But it’s the phone and I understand. What I fail to understand, however, is when I introduce myself and the introducee replies, “Nice to meet you, Andy.” I ask you – how many females do you know named Andy? Maybe one, two if you’re popular. Twice tonight at volleyball I introduced myself to new people, and both thought I was Andy. As I am confident I neither sound nor look like an Andy, I am utterly baffled by this Andy phenomenon.

Why does it matter? Here’s the thing: I believe with all of my heart and soul that at the root of every human being is the desire to be intimately known and passionately loved. I believe those desires are because God created us to long for His passionate love and intimate friendship, which He joyfully and gracefully gives us. And because our names provide the first introduction to who we are – God’s beloved creation whom He knows more intimately than we know ourselves – we want to be known by name.

I remember being a freshman at City High and feeling on top of the world when my sister’s senior friends would say, “Hey, Annie!” through the bustle of the hallway during passing. I felt unexpectedly known and befriended, and it felt wonderful. Or how about this -- are there any sweeter words than hearing, "I love you, *insert your name here!*," when you know with all confidence it is sincere? My heart beams with joy when my momma or daddy tell me they love me, because they have proven it through the actions of their selfless service as parents. There is no doubt that they know me and they love me, and hearing those words is a beautiful reminder of God's intimate and passionate love for me.

As humans, because of how we are intrinsically created and wired, we want to be known and we want to be loved, and our names are the first point of introduction to who we are. So please, don't call me Andy.