Wednesday, September 30, 2009

books i want to read. and also finish reading.

I decided to post a list of books I want to read on my blog, because chances are that I am going to forget if I write this on a text document and save it in my computer somewhere. These are books that have recently come across my path or come recommended to me. I am probably going to add to this list later.

Currently In Process
Shantaram (in process) by Gregory David Roberts: First recommended by Carolina on her blog, then raved about by Jeanne after her endless quest to find a used copy of this book in bookstores throughout the Australian continent, I think I heard Jeanne laugh and react more times during this book more than any other. I initially developed a fascination with Indian culture while at university, and the idea of an Aussie convict in India and Afghanistan just sounds great. I'm finally in a regular rhythm of reading this book and I love it now, so hopefully it won't take me months to conquer this massive +900 page beast of a book.

The Seven Storey Mountain, autobiography by Thomas Merton: Something about reading Philip Yancey's Prayer book sparked within me the desire to pick up this book which has been sitting on my shelf unread for a good year. It's interesting to pair a fictional autobiography (Shantaram, heavily based in reality and the author's life experiences) with an actual biography.

The Two Towers/The Return of the King by Tolkien: My reading of this series has been in process for years. Literally. I read The Fellowship and half of The Two Towers and never finished Return of the King. I think something about traveling and having an incredible, arduous journey around the world and back has made me want to re-visit these books and attempt it once again. In other words, I'm back in the Shire and would like some hobbits to empathize with.

Want to Read:
Here and Now/Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen:
Seeing Brennan Manning and Philip Yancey and generally anybody awesome relentlessly quote this guy has made me want to read more by him. I just finished In the Name of Jesus which was a short read. There is so much truth and wisdom in that book. Simple, too. The trick is actually living it out. Which, incidentally, I have not figured out.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy: This also has been sitting on my shelf for a year, maybe more. Came recommended to me years ago by my friend Mo, on account of its themes of grace and colorful setting in New Orleans. Being in Savannah, GA this weekend made me want to read some good hearty Southern literature.

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor: In the tv show LOST, "Jacob" was sitting on a bench reading this book shortly before John Locke fell out of the 10-story building. That's reason enough for me. Also, my friend/former bandmate Ryan has perpetually recommended me anything by Flannery O'Connor. Also going along with the Southern theme...

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Another Jeanne Cannon recommend. Also, I would love to compare and contrast the themes and characters with other Dostoesky books I've read. There are only two of them that I've read. But still. I love Russians and I'm discovering that I may have a little (or a lot) of Russian deep in my soul.

Crazy Love by Francis Chan: My youth minister friend Josh endlessly raves about this book.

Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright: Somebody told me a long time ago that I should read this. And I am suddenly out of my no-more-theology-books phase. Plus I know N.T. Wright is that shiznit and I just need to read something by him.

With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray: I think this is Andrew Murray's Mere Christianity. I've only read one Andrew Murray book, a lesser-known book called The Ministry of Intercession, but I haven't read his main book. Philip Yancey has recommended him too. A good follow-up book to the last one on prayer.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I am sure I tested the fates by shipping this book back from Australia to my Floridian doorstep two months ago. Literally shipped it. It traversed perilous waters and waves to make itself back to me after an arduous 2-hour journey. I at least owe it to the book to give it a fair shot, after only reading the first 48 pages of it and being thoroughly confused.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Read the first chapter and the prose is captivating. Always good to throw in some eerily prophetic science fiction into the mix. Also Ray is the bomb. I'm pretty sure I read short stories by him in high school but now I can't remember.

Catch 22 by Joseph Keller: Because I use this phrase occasionally. And I have no idea why.

maybe I should stop blogging and start reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tybee Island, Georgia.

Tybee Island, Georgia.

Jeanne and I decided to get up and run 10 kilometers this morning. She shuffled through the covers to wake me up at around 6:30 a.m. I had been dreaming of a time in the not-too-distant future when people started distrusting meteorologists and started listening to and interpreting the patterns of bird calls to predict the weather. It seemed like a futuristic science fiction novel in which common people begin to whisper conspiratorially that we must return to the ancient ways and rebel against soul-sucking technology. I had been leaning by a window with opened shutters listening to the birds outside my window when I suddenly felt someone shuffling through the covers, jabbing me awake. "Wake up, Mel. It's 6:30."

Still groggy, I slapped on my running clothes, silently cursing my recent decision to run a half-marathon in December. We slipped outside of our beachfront hotel room. We stood by the front of sign in front of the hotel on Butler Avenue, the main street that winds along the coast of Tybee Island. I caught a glimpse of the sky, still dark, but slightly tinted with a pink glow, the beginnings of a beach sunrise. Jeanne must have seen it too, because she suddenly said, "This is gonna be a good run."

Funny how the sky can change your mind about things.

As we stretched, I looked at the sign that said "DeSoto Beachfront Hotel: Tybee Island's only beachfront hotel! Come enjoy our beachfront pool." Guess they wanted you to know the hotel was on the beach front.

We started jogging on a gravel path that wound around all sorts of old beachfront homes, the kind of unpretentious, cheerful houses dripping with polite Southern charm that you imagine have creaky floorboards and rusty hinges. The paint is chipped, following years of being salted by the sea and warmed by the Georgian sun. They are draped and shadowed by oak, sycamore and sugarberry trees.

The streets crossing this lone gravel path have names like Anderson and Campbell and I imagine small clans and families settling in these houses by the sea. I imagine barbecues and house parties and weddings. When we passed through Savannah yesterday, we passed Liberty Avenue, an impressive boulevard sheathed in a canopy of oak and Spanish moss, with sentinels of enormous mansions of colonnades and wraparound porches lining the street. Jeanne commented on the history of the boulevard, saying, "These houses saw Sherman."

We are separated only by two centuries.

The thing I noticed about Tybee Island is that there are lots of conversation areas. It's as if this island was discovered and settled solely for the purpose of conversation in mind. Wooden park benches, deck chairs, cafe tables in patios lined with tiki torches and Chinese lanterns. Lots of intimate, well-worn spaces gradually carved out by the gentle erosion of time. I noticed a pair of wooden deck chairs perched on a dock that nestled its way through a swamp of tall sawgrass. Even trailers of row boats and skiffs lining the driveways evoked images of friends, families and lovers sharing hazy sundrenched days together. I do love how the sea breeze and sand seem to conspire to cling to everything. The blades of grass, the gravel, half-submerged fences by the sea, my pockets, my hair, my clothes.

The gravel has ended and we have made our way back to the main drag.

We raced the fences lining Butler Avenue, passing a row of churches that suddenly seemed brighter. Jeanne pointed to a whitewashed, wooden building with a sign that said "The Optimist Club. We wish you a safe and prosperous stay."

"Wonder where the Cynics Club is."

"Across the street."

"I imagine it's easy to be an optimist when you wake up to the sunrise every morning."

"Yeah, especially a sunrise on the beach."

I read a caution sign that said: Slow Church Zone. I laughed.

I saw a flock of seagulls escape and veer off through the trees, rising and disappearing into the sky. We passed through a grove of trees, and even through my headphones I could hear cicadas screaming for my attention. They overpowered the electric guitar and drums blasting through my iPod.

I felt a sudden burst of energy. I suddenly remembered my meal from the other night, which included a cilantro potato salad. I thought of all those carbohydrates and felt an affectionate surge of gratitude toward my dinner last night. "Thank you, potato salad," I cheered out of nowhere. I looked over at Jeanne. She is oblivious to my triumphant shout to potato salad, fully absorbed in her own solitude, set to the music of her iPod.

We are on the homestretch. I see our beachfront hotel with the beachfront pool by the beachfront sign in the distance. My feet are rebelling, grumbling and interrogating me as to why I haven't bought thicker socks. But my endorphins are in ecstasy.

This was a good run.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

smash the universe for the sake of itself.


the reason i am so frail now
is that my whole identity has become bound up
in one not You
the reason so much hurts these days
is that part of me is driven by

fear of loss of something that is good
but something that has perhaps become
an ultimate thing.

this is what has caused the insecurity,
the mistrust, the fear, the emotional turmoil, everything.

this is why these things sting,
the words,
the prospect of others,
the comparison
and the crisis of self.

so Spirit...
shatter this within me; break this apart
wrest this from my desperate grasp

this is the one thing before me right now
that is capable of rendering all of the moments up until this one

if i succumb
when my foundation becomes Another,
than the One disappears


identity both there
and in us
it is the source


is the source of my pain
my frustration
my fragility

this is,
quite simply,
a chain.

break the chain
let me walk in freedom

this wasn't a problem before
because it wasn't
only when I've allowed a good and beautiful thing
to supplant
the Good and Beautiful One

I surrender this to you
i quit it.

i am tired of grasping this idol.

let this die
and fall from my grasp

you are the only One worthy of my worship
my obsession
my destiny
i've gone from looking at the horizon to
looking at Another

i can take criticism and not be crushed
i can give criticism without crushing
because of the grace God has shown me through Jesus

extraordinary patience.

there is nothing between us now.

[romans 8:38-39]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Invisible Children, Orthodoxy

Wednesday night, I attended The Element's presentation of "Together We're Free," a documentary released by the non-profit organization Invisible Children. Invisible Children was founded by three guys who traveled to Uganda in 2003. With naive hopes of capturing some of the Sudanese conflict on film, they instead found themselves witnessing the atrocities of war, as committed by rebel leader Joseph Kony and the LRA. Over the past couple of decades, they have kidnapped thousands of young children and forced them to become soldiers and kill. Since Invisible Children released their film in 2003, a movement has been steadily building throughout America and around the world to apply pressure to the Ugandan government and U.S. to end the war.

"Together We're Free" chronicled the journey of thousands of volunteers who demonstrated solidarity with the kidnapped children in parks and squares in 100 cities throughout the world on April 25, 2009, an international event known as "Respond." The volunteers were "kidnapped," and could only be "rescued" by a local politician or celebrity bringing awareness to the issue of child soldiers. The volunteers would refuse to leave, defying city ordinances and the limits of overnight permits until someone of prominence gave voice to this critical issue. The film is really about ordinary people actively taking charge and effecting change.

Because of the efforts of Invisible Children through "Respond," the issue of Joseph Kony now has the potential to finally be introduced into Congress this year as an official bill. Currently, a petition needs to be signed by 250,000 people to make it into Congress.

Watching the film, I was truly amazed and excited that the passion and energy of thousands of young people around the world can accomplish.

The word "responsibility" is thrown around a lot, that I often forget its most basic meaning: the ability to respond. This is essentially the rallying cry of this next generation. With wireless Internet and instant access to information all around the world, our social awareness level has rocketed sky high, higher than any other previous generation. Because of Twitter or a Facebook link, I can know literally within seconds of major world events of earthquakes or invasions, as well as pop-culture fiascos, like the death of a major film star or Kanye West's rude, self-promotional outburst.

With the convenience of instant access comes an overwhelming sense of responsibility, or the ability to respond. The bar of action and response has been raised infinitely high, because we essentially have two choices: action or apathy.

I somehow think that our generation will either be forever thinking through, ignoring or acting on the implications on the infinitude of awareness, in regard to everything: poverty, the environment, politics, health care, spirituality. And there are things that are closer and more immediate: a neighbor that needs help or a friend who needs someone to talk to. Some days this excites me; other days it terrifies me. Awareness comes with an enormous price tag. I have a responsibility to thoughtfully consider these issues, and eventually shift or make choices as my response.

Because of the documentary the other night, I began to remember my own personal journey with Invisible Children and Uganda.

My own encounter with this issue of child soldiers did not begin last night. It began in a library, of all places. While I was a student at the University of Florida, I used to work at the digital library center, snapping photos of dusty, archived newspapers to be put on microfilm. Many of the newspapers like The Daily Nation and the Monitor came from Uganda. My friend Matt worked with me in the library, and asked me if I had heard about Joseph Kony of Uganda. I told him I hadn't, and he immediately began to show me stacks of articles that detailed the atrocities of war. One article estimated that 50,000 children had been kidnapped and forced to kill over the past 20 years. I remember sitting there, stunned at the injustice and also completely shocked that the global media had failed to report this holocaust.

Later that year, my friend Sydney and I were invited to lead worship at a prayer conference. After the prayer and worship time, the speaker announced that they were screening a film, and all were welcome to stay behind and watch. As I was packing up my keyboard and sound equipment, a young guy approached me and introduced himself. "I'm Bobby."

He asked me if I was going to stick around and watch the film.

Distracted by sound equipment, I gave him a non-committal "Maybe." Then I remembered that Sydney and I had dinner plans to meet with a friend of ours, so I told him we wouldn't be able to stick around.

He cracked some joke about coming to dinner and grinned at me and I could have sworn he was hitting on me. I figured he was some amateur, wannabe filmmaker whose only aim was to seduce the young women of America with his wiley, artistic ways. He thrust a DVD into my hand. It was a copy of the rough cut. He looked me in the eye and said, "I'm giving you a free copy. On one condition. Promise me you'll watch this."

Oh, this guy is good. I wanted to laugh at him, because despite his seriousness, he was still simultaneously smiling and winking. I couldn't take him seriously.

He gave me his card and said, "I'd love to know what you think of it." He scribbled his personal cell phone number on the back of the card and handed it to me. Wow. I came to lead worship, and I came away with a guy's number. Awesome.

I hastily stuffed the DVD in my purse, and it lay there for days, virtually forgotten. Almost a week later, my roommate Kyara, Sydney and I were sitting around our living room. Suddenly, Sydney said out of nowhere "Hey, whatever happened to that DVD that guy gave you? Did you ever watch it?"

"No. But we should."

"Let's do it."

So for the next hour, we watched the film Invisible Children. We were stunned. Wrecked. Outraged. And immediately motivated to do something about it.

We immediately called Bobby. (I think I had to dig his number out of the bottom of my purse. Good thing I didn't put it in the trash). The three of us crowded over my cell phone as we put him on speaker phone and asked the simple question, "What can we do to help?" Bobby shared their vision of bringing an end to the war and helping Ugandans rebuild their broken society and communities which have been absolutely devastated, physically, psychologically and emotionally by the rebel conflict.

He simply told us at this point, that we should share the film with as many people as possible, raising awareness and the profile of this movement. Over the next couple of years, Sydney, Kyara and I organized screenings of Invisible Children and facilitated forums on how best to address this situation. We were involved in the Global Night Commute and Displace Me events. I decided to sponsor a child from Uganda that was living in Gulu, specifically in regard to the child soldier problem. I watched Invisible Children grow--in my own limited perspective--from an awkward conversation and a free DVD into a worldwide movement that has resonated throughout college and high school campuses and churches, reaching the very steps of Capitol Hill.

Eventually, however, my attention and active support for Invisible Children gave way to Hananasif Orphanage, with whom I had a more personal, direct relationship. But even now, I haven't really done anything in support of Hananasif in the past year. I would chalk this up to being in Australia. But now it feels like I am at a crossroads again, trying once again to reconcile all of these causes and issues that are vying for my attention. I want to live a life that is consistent, full of integrity, and at least on the trajectory of love, justice and worship of God (Micah 6:8), despite how often I can and will fail. I am not looking to be perfect, by any means.

I have had many conversations with friends lately about the possibility of change. It is easy to look all of these issues squarely in the face and feel terrified of the weight of responsibility, at the seeming impossibility of change, especially when we so consistently fail at changing even ourselves. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton proposes the idea of an irrational optimist, as opposed to the pessimist or the optimist. According to Chesterton, the pessimist sees only evil and endlessly chastises the world, "but he does not love what he chastises." On the other hand, the optimist will see only good and endlessly excuse the world, leading to complacency: "he will not wash the world, but whitewash the world."

The irrational optimist, however, is somewhat of a paradox in regard to his view of the world: "Can he hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing? Can he look up at its colossal good without once feeling acquiescence? Can he look up at its colossal evil without once feeling despair? Can he, in short, be at once not only a pessimist and an optimist, but a fanatical pessimist and a fanatical optimist? Is he enough of a pagan to die for the world, and enough of a Christian to die to it?... He is ready to smash the whole universe for the sake of itself."

One thing that keeps me convinced that change is possible is simply this: I see it. I see my friends and family grow and change, I see myself change. I see redemption. I see hope. The very foundation and premise of Christianity is rooted in the possibility of change, of something being renewed, transformed, made new.

A story that began in a Garden shall end in a City.

So maybe I AM an irrational optimist.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

on teleportation. among other things.

My friends who know me well know that I have at least two irrational desires.

The first irrational desire is to have a pet pegasus. Now, I realize that all scientific and historical evidence appears to suggest that these magnificent creatures are in fact mythical; however, this is precisely why I would want one. I would be the only person in the universe [to my knowledge] to own one. I would have an adventurous (albeit windy) mode of transportation, and a beautiful animal for a friend.

The second irrational desire is to be able to teleport. I cannot even describe to you how many times I have wished this power for myself on a regular basis. After an absurdly late night downtown, I would often wish to teleport so I would not have to make the half an hour drive from downtown Orlando to my house all the way in the boondocks. I would have instant access to anywhere in the world at the snap of a finger. I wouldn't have to deal with train tickets, bad airplane food or jetlag.

In addition to many ongoing conversations in the past of our superpowers and what they would be, Jeanne and I would frequently realized how handy this superpower would have been in Australia. In fact, if we were still able to teleport, I would probably teleport myself right now for some hot surfers, a decent cappuccino, some vintage shopping, maybe a Hillsong service or two and some serious beach time. Then at the end of a glorious Sydney spring day, I could teleport myself back to the comfort of my American bed.

While we were in Australia, we would frequently dream of the ability to teleport to America. We'd blink and in a momentary flash, surprise our friends by teleporting ourselves into Backbooth for 80s night on a random Friday, or maybe to Chickfila for some much-needed sweet tea or chicken nuggets, and definitely back in time for my mom's graduation or an impromptu family reunion.

I remember road-tripping through Australia with Walt and Jeanne. Once we left Sydney after our initial 12-day stay there, we hopped in a car and drove south of Sydney. That first day of driving turned out to have its own series of misadventures, since neither Walt nor Jeanne had ever driven on the left side of the road. Not to mention the right side of the car. I'm pretty sure we got lost multiple times, trying to find the Princes Highway which would eventually lead us south through Wollongong and on through to our first memorable stop of the Pacific Coast road-trip: a tiny town of Bermagui. Population: 220.

On our way to Bermagui, we stopped at several places along the way. Whenever we saw a seven-mile beach or set of cliffs or read about some sight (tessellated rocks, anyone?) to see in the guide book, we'd instantly pull the car over and have a look. I loved the utter freedom to simply revel in creation, to be immersed in the vastness of the world, to feel swallowed up in it. Even when sights turned out to be not-so-glorious (note to future Lonely Planet travelers: the blowhole at Kiama is not all its cracked up to be), many times, it's the unexpected that becomes glorious. Like the time the night sky caught us by surprise and showed off for us as we stopped our car on a bridge in the middle of nowhere just to look up at the stars. I could have sworn the stars were reflected in the glassy, dark water that surrounded us.

I've been contemplating the word "fear" in the Bible. The Greeks have three words for fear. Many times, the word fear can mean come from the Greek deilia, which means timidity or cowardice. The kind of fear bred from insecurity, mistrust and anxiety.

However, many times, when that word appears in Scripture, it comes from the Greek word eulabeia which means to be in utter awe at the reality of something. The "fear of God" is not a Bible-thumping, judgmental, white-bearded, wrinkled old man shaking his finger at us: rather, the fear of God is a response to a sweeping, breathtaking panorama, an all-consuming, glimpse into Something that is Truth. Something that is real. Something that makes our souls come alive at the sound, sight and the very hint of Its presence. Scripture says that "angels long to look into these things." I heard pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC describe this "longing" as being equivalent with "obsession." The gospel is so complex, compelling and at once incomprehensible that angels are obsessing over it, wondering at the marvel and mystery of it, and utterly unable to grasp it in its entirety.

That's the kind of awe I feel when I crane my neck up to look at the myriad of stars over Bermagui one night. Or the time when I am sitting on a balcony of a raucous hostel in Cairns on Anzac Day with two friends, deeply moved by uncensored words and intimate revelation of self.

As much as I ardently wish for teleportation, I am realizing more and more how necessary are the detours, the unexpected and the silent, despairing moments when I'm left wondering if I'm worth anything or any good to anyone. It is within these moments that I can truly know the extent of someone's love. Or Someone's love. One kind of fear (the awe, which, is actually the only appropriate response to Love) negates the other. My identity and purpose, my very soul's source is rooted in perfect Love. If only I could consciously grasp that on a daily basis...

I love what Lander posted in his blog here about progress. He exhorted readers to: "Hold onto the progress you have made." Progress does not allow for an instant gratification culture that sometimes feels like it is on a trajectory to teleportation. Progress has brilliant moments of insight and beauty and wonder. But it also includes difficult moments of doubt, it is in those moments where I have to flee from the allure of emotions and perception and cling to truths that I know, visions I remember, and dreams that are sealed up in my memory. These things cannot be truly learned or grasped in an instantaneous moment of teleportation.

So yeah, I'm pretty sure even teleportation is overrated.

But not the pegasus.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

leavin' las Oz

Tonight, Jeanne and I had a three-way Skype conversation with Alexey, our Russian friend from the land Down Under. We've had several missed calls to each other over the past month and haven't had much of a chance to catch up with him. He caught us up on all the things he's been up to: he finished his class, he got his motorbike license, he picked up the violin, which he hasn't played since he was a young boy. I suddenly remembered all of the bits of Australia that I had unknowingly discarded. It was as if they were bright and shiny souvenirs that I had discarded, but suddenly discovered tucked away safely in a forgotten shoebox.

It's really strange how the memories of a place can be wrapped up in the friendship with one person. And it isn't until you're around that friend that you unlock all the memories you have of a place, of a time.

I remembered how fast and crazily Alexey swerves and parks his car, defying all laws of physics when doing so. I remembered how his bird Petrovich can speak five languages. I remember him telling us stories about growing up in Russia and how it wasn't cool to play a violin, and Russian boys think it's better to pick up a gun than a four-stringed instrument. I remembered when he took us to his "favorite spot" at Maroubra Beach on a windy Sydney winter night and we shared sandwiches and split a beer while the wind bit our noses and whipped around our feet.

For some reason, I suddenly remembered our last bittersweet weekend in Australia, when Jeanne and I decided to drink every last drop of Sydney, splurging and renting a car, visiting the Northern Beaches, down to Watson's Bay and the South Head, wandering one more time through Bondi Beach and its fabulous market, going to three Hillsong services, eating a Lebanese feast with Dave and Bec, and amazing flourless chocolate cake in some restaurant in Glebe.

Every moment was cherished. Every conversation we knew would be our last. Every moment of music we drank in, greedily.

Jeanne just wrote a blog which I found to be very thought provoking. She quotes the lovely Brothers Karamazov, a certain question between two Russian brothers. She wrote about this idea of leaving and saying good-bye. And how we let good-byes shape the way we treat people. The way we treat life.

A dear friend of mine is wrestling with some severe health issues. She seems so aware of her fragility, her mortality, these days.

"I could die."

Without warning, this thought suddenly shot through my heart as I sat there listening to her: We all could die. We're all an inch away from death, in many ways. A slip in the bathtub, unexpected cancer, a wreck on the highway. Death, I imagine, is a lot closer then we would like to pretend. The possibility of death hovers around us constantly whether we realize it or not. Maybe not a grotesque caricature like the Grim Reaper, but certainly as an unwelcome, unpredictable guest.

This afternoon, I sat in stand-still rush hour traffic in the pouring Florida rain and decided to sync my iPod with my Macbook. Probably not the smartest thing to do in traffic. The thought occurred to me that I could probably die doing that as well.

I wonder if we could truly wrap our minds around how close we were to death at any given moment, would we realize how close we also are to life? The same inch that separates us from death is the same inch that so often separates us from truly experiencing life with freedom and purpose.

I've just spent the last five months traveling throughout a country where many people dream all their lives of going. I quit my job for an adventure and I found one. I [literally] hiked through canyons, road-tripped through a coastal highway, went skydiving, swam in the Great Barrier Reef [one eye infection later], slept under the stars of the outback. Surely I, the world-traveler, would have a firmer grasp on living life to the fullest?

I don't. In fact, I'm learning more and more how much I have to learn, how inadequate I am, how I so often fail at loving people the way Christ loved people. Just because I've loved a beautiful country to the fullest extreme doesn't mean I've learned how to love people in the same way. I am learning--by God's grace--I am learning. I have learned about faith, hope and love from a beautiful church community in Sydney. I have learned about saunas and exuberance from a crazy Russian. I learned about family from a Polish Puerto Rican and about friendship from a Irish Georgian. I have learned from families and hostels and houses and memories scattered all across Oz's rugged terrain.

But it certainly is strange, after all this traveling, to have been returned to a place of unknowing at the very place I started at. And so many of the lessons I learned unexpectedly over the past few months are being put through the fire. To the test. Repeatedly.

I don't want to have to leave a place in order to love it. And I don't want to have to miss [or lose] people before I love and appreciate and know them as they are.

prayer + unknown

"Prayer is not a means of removing the unknown and unpredictable elements in life, but rather a way of including the unknown and unpredictable in the outworking of the grace of God in our lives."

-Ray Anderson, The Gospel According to Judas