Monday, July 28, 2008

a place for everything, and everything in its . . .

i got a new planner last weekend. i've been shopping around for a while - my friend michele and i had lots of conversations at the beginning of the summer about which model was best to use, which brand provided the most structured formatting, which covers made you look coolest when you pulled it out of your purse.
michele, though, has been faithful to the moleskine for years now. this year was probably the furthest (farthest?) out on the planner limb she has gone - she actually bought TWO planners, both moleskines, one large, notebook-sized version and the other standard calendar. it would not be an overstatement to say that she had a mini-crisis in deciding which of these would become her regular for the next year. lots of variables to take into consideration - namely, space in which to take notes - in naming a winner. special note: michele was not wasteful in her decision to purchase dueling planners; her assistant will be the beneficiary of whichever she decides against. and he, from the sense i got, was a bit perplexed as to what the big deal was over all of this in the first place.

some of you are totally (metaphorically, duh) scratching your heads right now: why all the fuss over a planner? why even buy a planner when you can keep track of your schedule on your blackberry? who writes on PAPER anymore? what is this, 1996? what is a PLANNER? why are you cutting down perfectly good trees just to write stuff down that will be obsolete one year from now?

okay, enough from the peanut gallery. i love my planners. i love paper. paper paper paper. i want to cut down all the trees in the endangered rainforests and make planners. your favorite palm tree on the coast in santa barbara? a planner. that redwood so big that a car can drive through the blasted-out hole at its root? three hundred planners. your lemon tree? MY scented planner. tree of the knowledge of good and evil? you guessed it. God's planner. he totally loves planners.

but, i digress . . .

i got a new planner. i am shamelessly promiscuous when it comes to planners - always on the lookout for a better one, always popping into paper stores and thumbing through six-ringed binders and judging entire companies based on whether their products come with lined or unlined calendars (unlined is far superior, for the record). i've had a blue linen kate spade planner for the last year, and never clicked with it. it's pretty, and has this nice blue and white lining inside, but it just doesn't work for me.
in this way, a relationship with a planner is a lot like, well, a relationship. you know right away if there will be chemistry. you know if it can give you what you want, or if in choosing it, you are merely settling for the best version of what you want that you can find right now. some can make your heart pitter-patter, but if they aren't going to be there for the long haul then they aren't any good. some look damn good on the outside, but are completely disappointing once you're a few pages in. yet others that seem shabby can present the most pleasant of surprises.

this new planner of mine is a charming combination of quirky design, plenty of space for notes, appropriate size, and great potential. it is beautiful and different and makes me have butterflies in my stomach and especially neat handwriting whenever i get to enter some new plan or date on it. it's a great planner, and far better than typing appointments onto that impersonal and clumsy cell phone of mine.

but i'll keep my eyes open. fidelity, in this case, may be overrated . . . .

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


is there anything cozier than a crackling fire, a cup of coffee, a book, an overstuffed couch and floor-to-ceiling windows on a rainy maine afternoon? if so, i've yet to find it. and if not - well, i'm okay with that. we're on our first all-five-member family vacation in years . . . kayaking, bike riding, hiking, dinner parties and lobster and the atlantic ocean - which, for being the same sort of thing, generally, as the pacific, has an entirely different character - and a very ambitious stack of books on my bedside table. between the eight or so that i brought and the handful i purchased yesterday, i think i can already safely say that i am again guilty of book-optimism, that condition that afflicts each member of my family except perhaps my brother in which your brain gets you to thinking that yes, you can certainly finish anna karenina on the plane ride over and average two books a day while on vacation.

that aside, this vacation has already been one of the more relaxing and fun trips i've been on in a long time. there is something wonderful about having all of our family together on a trip like this, since we are almost all usually scattered all over the place. kennebunkport is fast becoming one of my favorite small towns - it reminds me a good deal of south haven, where we used to vacation every summer when we lived in the midwest. friendly people, outdoors lifestyle, delicious food, and a beautiful water front - although this time, it's not lake michigan. it does feel strange, coming from california, to be going north along the water and see the ocean to our right. kind of counterintuitive, like maybe the world has started turning the other way or clocks are running counterclockwise. i'll manage.

we've already seen some beautiful landscape; and the gardens alone here are scenery enough. it's interesting though, like i mentioned earlier, being on the atlantic ocean. i've always much preferred the pacific, which feels more, well, serene (hence the name) and less threatening. the atlantic, which always smells like it got an extra dose of salt somehow, is sort of angry and seems almost always gray, to the pacific's blue-green.
i think it has something to do with the craggy kind of rocks, and the contrast its beaches provide to the gently sloping sand in california, and the northern-ness of this area, and the way the ships are moored here, the thunder and the way the clouds meet the water as they never do on the horizon of the pacific. and, most importantly, it has something to do with florida. i hate florida. but that's for another day . . .

st. ann's episcopal church, overlooking the water about a half-mile from the bush compound, has got to be one of the most breathtaking buildings on one of the most breathtaking parcels of land i have ever seen. they have a eucharist service sunday mornings on a little landing built above the water, with pews and an altar. seems to me the best way to worship and take communion ever invented.

may have some pictures to follow . . . in the meantime, i'm hitting the books until dinner.

Monday, July 21, 2008

this is going to be all over the place . . .

a while ago, my friend emily posted this video on her blog. mark driscoll, pastor at mars hill church in seattle, explains why he thinks the church needs more men. take a few minutes and watch, if you have the time . . . it's provocative and worth watching.

i have more thoughts and feelings on this topic than i could write, but tried to loosely format some of them in response. yeesh . . .

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle, says he thinks that the "guys" of the Bible were fighters - rough and tumble, Western movie stars who weren't afraid to throw a few punches for the Lord. Apart from disagreeing with him (which I do, wholeheartedly), I am at a loss as to how he came to this conclusion.

One of the most prominent examples of the intersection of Jesus and violence comes after he has prayed the night through in Gethsemane, just before he is about to be given away by Judas. An understandably hot-headed Peter leads with his anger, quickly drawing his sword and chopping off the ear of one of the soldiers who have come to arrest Jesus. Rather than cheer Peter on or pick up a sword of his own - rather, even, then seeing violence and letting it be - Jesus makes it clear that this action by his beloved disciple is unacceptable. When we talk about justice, it seems clear that Peter's actions would pass muster, considering what these men are about to do to his friend and his savior. But even then, Jesus makes it clear that Peter's idea of justice is a petty one, beset with notions of tit-for-tat that feel good in the moment but only perpetuates a systemic violence in which everyone affected is driven deeper down into revenge and rights-centric lifestyles. Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that his followers turn the other cheek when they are accosted and that they carry the coat of a soldier a mile more than they were required by law - which it seems like no one in his or her right mind would do - seem to be very clear calls to a life that is above violence.

And here is where we come to see what true power is. Because the son of man came not to be served but to serve all - even those who hated him - we who claim his name as our heritage can be strengthened only when we serve. We are not to indulge ourselves in vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves. Violence is inherently selfish - it says 'I am right, you are wrong, and there can be no in between.' (Realize that in making this claim about the selfishness of violence, I fully recognize that weds me to the ensuing idea that even self-defensive violence is selfish. It is, without a doubt, an act in which I place my own well-being over that of another. Selfish.) And sometimes being selfish is okay - but a Christian should never instigate violence. Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, yes, but didn't seek any trader in particular out for a beating, didn't strike anyone. God is love, the Bible says, and while love can reveal difficult things to us, it never hurts us. In the end, any hurt that we feel as a result of God's love is purification, sanctification. Growing pains.

Off topic there a bit - I need to read more Hauerwas and Richard Niebhur.

Back to the video . . . Driscoll claims that "a church lacking in young men cannot be innovative because they do not have any innovators in their congregation." (paraphrased)

Now, I don't know if here he is saying that women are never innovators, or if they can be innovative but should not be. There is certainly a difference between the two arguments; neither of which holds any water with me.

If he means the former - that women cannot be innovative, by nature - well, I have to take issue with that. Empirically, it is difficult not to see the innovative nature of women, whose creativity in the arts and music has been lauded already for centuries. As it has become more culturally acceptable for women to be involved in running organizations, pastoring churches, and starting their own businesses (instead of just answering the phones, organizing potluck meals, and having no options but being a housewife, respectively), the innovation of women the world over is glaringly obvious. From small groups of Kenyan women who have created cloth-making or grocery businesses from the ground up to women like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitfield in the high-tech world to Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton in the political sphere on to women like the Nancys Beach and Ortberg (is it totally tacky to use my mom as an example?) in contemporary Christianity, there is no shortage of innovation coming from women. I won't waste much more time on trying to refute the argument that only young men are innovators - which also, by the way, diminishes the exciting contributions that can come from anyone over 35 or so - because it seems to me a self-evident falsehood.

If Driscoll means to argue that women are capable of innovation but ought not express that impulse in the church - or anywhere outside the home, I'm guessing - there is not much more to say than that he and I are on very different pages. like, pages one and six hundred thirty-seven, respectively, of War and Peace, Les Miserables, Moby-Dick, insert literary saga of choice here.
To deny a person full use and expression of his or her God-given spiritual gifts is nothing short of sinful. Telling a man that he shouldn't serve in the nursery or disallowing a woman from participation on a leadership team - these things fly straight in the face of what the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians about male and female and all other superficial (not unimportant, but not having to do with a person's soul) distinctions being done away with in the coming of Christ Jesus. We don't live our lives on earth in disregard of these ideals; they are the very things that Jesus came to bring to us. In a kingdom where being the greatest means becoming the very least, all I hear from Driscoll is chest-puffing, divisive rhetoric that continues to drive a wedge between people in the church.

This next idea isn't my own - it comes from my dad - but it does seem to me that if Jesus Christ could entrust the news of the resurrection - unarguably the cornerstone of the Christian faith - to a group of women, well, women can be entrusted with leadership and teaching as well.

Driscoll buys into and zealously perpetuates this idea that has been around in Christian circles for millennia: women as reactors and respondents. In this worldview - and it is a worldview, as it prescribes distinct roles for any and all based solely on gender - women are prohibited from or thought unable to instigate any far-reaching change. Even in the 1800s, people like John Stuart Mill and Mary Wollstonecraft expressed outrage at the treatment of women in popular culture. Things have changed since then, but the Christian church remains woefully outdated. Outdated, though, isn't even the right word - it doesn't seem that the church is trying to hold onto past ideals so much as it has just gotten this issue wrong for a long time. Just as segregated churches have repentantly come to integrate over time, perhaps it will take continuous cultural pressure for us to recognize the Bible truth of equality.

In this, I suppose I hope to start a dialogue - if only an inner one, although I would love to hear what friends have to say about this topic; specifically, women in the church. I understand that there will be disagreement, and can promise sincere listening at the very least. God help us all to seek to understand.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

my real world.

now that he has arrived safely in kisumu, kenya, i can stop waiting for confirmation e-mails and do things like what i'm doing right now. things that i'm deeply ashamed to admit that i am doing. it's a gorgeous sunday afternoon in menlo park. i am not going for a run. i am not watering our roses. i am most certainly not unpacking and organizing the 700 metric tons of shit in my room that arrived over two weeks ago from santa barbara - and i'm a J!. i almost don't want to get off the couch to let my dog out to pee.
sorry, mom. winston peed on the floor because i was so wrapped up in the real world awards show on mtv that i couldn't get up.

seriously. it is sooooo awful. everyone's getting rewarded for their worst behavior, watching each other and drinking and preening. i wish i was there. i mean, i would never tell anyone that. but if i had a secret wish, that would be it. i would be on the real world. i'm getting too old, though - at 23, i would definitely be a senior cast member.

is it a bad sign that i'm sitting inside on this lovely afternoon, unable to tear myself away from my fantasy life? and it's so many things i'm not in favor of, too - objectification of women, way too much alcohol, total lack of privacy, fake boobs, bad music - but i still have this deep-seated urge to be one of those seven strangers. i know an embarrassing number of the people who are showcased on this awards show, and more about their personal lives than any respectable young working person should. although, technically, i suppose i'm not 'working . . . '
is this what it has come to? unemployed, sitting on my parent's couch, waiting for winston to learn how to open the back door on his own?

at least i'd be the pretty one.


Saturday, July 5, 2008


So. Half the state is on fire; it's the fourth of july, and after a night of rum coolers and sweet valley high on dvd (not by myself-i haven't gotten quite to that place) I find myself here. Wanting to write, and pressing clumsily on the keyboard that Blackberry so thoughtfully provided for occasions such as this, and drunk texting. Again, not at that place.
On the day that is set aside for honoring our country (or technically 33 minutes after that day has passed, if one has been caught up in the tumultuous lives of the Wakefield twins for the last several hours), I find myself wishing that there was more worthy of being honored. In this, I do not mean to condescend or belittle, but to point out my belief that our country has a sort of global myosis; a nearsightedness that has harmed others for decades and will prove fatal to us if we aren't able to change.
The fourth of July is meant to be a celebration of freedom and progress. It should be a day when our enlightened and thoughtful values are spotlighted; our broad world view celebrated. Instead, we live in a hegemonic nation that defends the rights of all citizens to own weapons that do far more harm than good and denies most gay members of society the right to marry the person he or she loves. We don't extend the most basic human rights to those born outside our borders, and we speak about celebrating our differences while we practice discrimination. We are, none of us, innocent. There is blood and guilt on my hands. What we want and what we have seem so irreconcilable that we relinquish hope.
And only a god big enough to save us all, to love us all, can make things right. Only this god can be cause for celebration. And only in our quests for independence can we finally know the goodness of dependence on him.