this tornado loves you

I have to give credit to Neko.

Her song “this tornado loves you” was the inspiration for all the surprise birthday party craziness. Well, her and Patrick’s obsession with surprises. I wanted the whole night to feel like a tornado – the surprises, the plans, and the people. But, the best kind of tornado – the reason why Helen Hunt was one of those storm chasers in the movie Twister. Because there is something exciting about getting swept up in that spinning motion; there is something really thrilling about the energy in the air that can lift things off the ground.

That’s the kind of feeling I wanted to create.

The surprise-keeping was torture. Last night, after he walked in and looked like this:

photos courtesy of Chris!
photos courtesy of Chris!

…after that I started breathing again. Why was it so important for him to walk into a room full of people celebrating him unexpectedly? Because he loves surprises and I love him. 

All the weeks of knotted up insides and half-truth schemes and several versions of party themes… all of it was worth the look on his face when he realized his friends in this city will do crazy things to make him feel special.

He didn’t make it easy, though. He wanted to come over yesterday to help me deep clean my apartment (from the terrarium party the week before). After I had hidden the morning’s baked goods and refrigerated the first of many bacon treats and covered the rum bacon ice cream, I relented. He brought over fresh doughnuts and his Swiffer (the good kind that sprays) and immediately handy-manned a lamp we’ve been needing to fix. Then he spent a good 20 minutes beating my area rug on the fire escape before we cleaned all the floors. He almost insisted on carrying my laundry down, but I wiggled out of that one (because the laundry was a ruse to get him out for a few hours, but I legitimately need to do laundry desperately).

When he left, my party planners (and the best friends ever) arrived and we set the tornado in motion.

And then I changed our dinner plans so many times that he became very hangry. He got so frustrated (to be fair, we had planned to eat at 6:30 and I didn’t tell him where to meet us until 7:30). Instead of being suspicious, he was just a really severe combination of hungry and angry. I can thank his stomach for helping to keep the surprise, I guess. But I felt horrible. When he opened the door and I was dressed up, he still didn’t think anything of it. He was mostly still hangry.

But then he turned the corner and a room full of people sang to celebrate him. And that whole scene made me so happy!

People brought magnets (one of Patrick’s random favorite things) and wrote memories down on tornado cards. There was bacon ice cream and bacon wrapped dates and candied bacon and nutty bacon chocolate bark and chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cake. And there was laughter.

Midway through the party, Patrick read one of the tornado cards that said “this surprise has wheels.” And everyone grabbed coats in time to make the B43 a party bus (the driver even said Happy Birthday, Pat over the microphone when we got off). We caught a sweet concert that our friend Rebecka rocked out, where we met more friends and ANOTHER surprise cake. From there we headed to one of our favorite spots to close out the night with some multi-colored disco lights and some of Pat’s best dance moves. It was all so good, it almost felt like I  was the one unwrapping gifts all night.

But after all that, after all the party planning and party having and party traveling, my favorite part was this morning. It didn’t have anything to do with the party last night, but it was the most special thing.

We were sitting in church with big grins across our faces. We greeted our friends we had seen just hours before and we passed the peace to friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. We worshipped in song and through prayer and with full hearts as the sun reached through stain glass to warm the tops of our heads. And as we stood in line for communion, we heard “Jesus Paid It All” circling over our heads.

This was my favorite part. There is a bigger tornado of love that swallows up any we can create. It’s heavy and light and mysterious and reckless. And it happened this morning when I heard about Jesus healing the paralytic.

As much as we love surprises – giving and receiving and sharing – God must love them most. He made us to have that face we have when we walk into a roomful of people who want to celebrate us. He made us with insides that knot together in nervous excitement when we don’t want to spoil the story. He made us and we reflect Him. So He must love surprises. I wonder what face He wore when He surprised creation with His love.

I wonder what His delight looks like when we are surprised by His joy and grace every day.

Spring is waking the slumbered

I never thought my heart would race at full parking lots or that my lips would form a smile at the line of shirtless men fishing off the 4th Street bridge. Nope, never thought I’d be getting a rush from the sound of a lawn mower or the open-window chatter in the neighborhood.

Does Spring race your heart? It does mine.

I was running the river path, breathing in the hot Spring air and battling the strong breeze. My feet pounded steady while my thoughts jostled into some sense, but I kept wanting to giggle. I did a few times, I think. All those white-chested, shirtless men on 4th Street were quite the spectacle – with their fishing poles hanging lazy over the bridge. You know, just city fishing on a Sunday afternoon.

I loved it. I think it’s because Spring shakes out all the winter slumber of indoor activities. Spring beckons us to come out and frolic in it’s sunshine. Have you noticed it is incredibly hard to say “No” to a barbeque or a picnic or a walk in the park when Spring arrives? Am I the only one who feels the stretching and waking of Spring in my soul? I wanted to stop and savor the city fisherman and the crowd of bikers at the bar and the full parking lot at the park.

I wanted to let the delight sink in.

Maybe Spring doesn’t inspire you. Maybe your neighbor doesn’t have the most beautiful flowering magnolia tree. Maybe your neighbors don’t grill out on their patios and play latin music. Maybe where you are from, people stay indoors and don’t mow their lawns or pick up sticks in the front yard. Maybe the sun doesn’t shine on the river and the breeze doesn’t feel electric against your skin. Maybe your neighbors don’t accept your dinner invites and maybe you don’t have a patio set that your dad picked up at a thrift store.

I guess I could see how that kind of Spring would have a hard time waking you from winter slumber.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

 

the blessing and the mess of it

How is it that the political push for presidency has made a mad rush at the Advent stage?

I have friends – good friends of mine – who have reasons and schpeels and thoughtful arguments about who I should support in the next election. After being out of US politics for three years (not that there wasn’t plenty going on in Honduran politics to keep me occupied), walking around inside its borders feels like another case of the blind leading the blind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful I don’t have to worry if the policeman pulling me over is legit.
I’m thankful there aren’t men with large guns guarding every fast food restaurant.
I’m thankful I can open my Bible in a coffee shop.

But, it’s not perfect.

Liberties, freedoms, greed, possibilities, money, truth, defense, cause… sin – the blessing and the mess of it are mixed together like a good, Midwestern casserole and sometimes it’s hard to tell what ingredients were thrown in.

Reminds me of the human condition – the blessing and the mess of it.

We’ve got people occupying Wall Street because there’s a bunch of money they don’t have.
We’ve got people marching in support of our troops, who are marching in other countries.
We’ve got people rallying to bring those troops home – for good.
We’ve got people protesting abortion clinics and people protesting the elimination of them.

We’ve got a bunch of sinners in this country, can you believe it? I don’t know how that happened.

Wait, yes I do. And I know the way to redemption. His name is Jesus.

God knew, before the foundations of the world, that we would make a mess out of His perfect Creation. He knew we would kill our brothers and hate our neighbors; that we would spit in the face of His provision and throw away manna like it didn’t just fall miraculously from the sky. He knew and He still provided a way.

His name is Jesus.

Nowhere in history can we see a glowing story of human victory over evil. Nowhere in history have we ever been able to redeem ourselves or pull ourselves out of the deep, dark pit called evil with our own strength.

There is a way.

His name is Jesus and God planned that He would be born into the blessing made mess called Creation, so that He might restore us into right relationship with our Creator.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

God, come and be with us. Show us the way into beautiful. Come, disperse the gloomy clouds and put death’s dark clouds to flight. Bring the brilliant light of salvation.

Jesus is the only way to truly see beauty in the blessing and the mess of this life.

with a wink and a smile

I’m not sure why, but this song was playing in my head as I sat down to write today. I just lunched on my version of a Honduran staple – baleadas (substitute wheat tortilla, take out salty cheese, add salsa) – and now I sit helplessly waiting to hear back from students who are probably sleeping and completely unaware that my afternoon plans somewhat hinge on their replies.

In the meanwhile, I want to bring you up-to-date on some of the happenings here. In my typical, completely disconnected fashion, I’m giving it to you straight today about baking, meanings of words, and a strange desire to start a movement.

LovE CakE!

I’m still marinating on this idea of baking and sweetness and life and tasting … yesterday was the last day of chapel and I spent the morning hours (prior to 6:30 departure) baking up some serious pumpkin gobs with butter/cream cheese frosting. A week of creative treats for the seniors who bring their Bibles to chapel almost wore me right out, but there is a beautiful, redeeming quality to what some women painfully label a chore.

This redeeming quality to laboring in the kitchen is not the look on people’s faces when they eat your hard-won creation (though I’ve found I often make them eat it in front of me so I can see a reaction) nor is it the exclamations of delight and the serious battle for second helpings. The redeeming quality is an empty tupperware at the end of the day.

I (quite haphazardly) stumble onto the school bus in the morning in professional garb, toting a backpack and the familiar tupperware container with secret treats. By the time I get to school, I usually have frosting or chocolate or some unknown ingredient stuck to some inconvenient place. But, back to redeeming qualities…

The tupperware goes out from the house full and comes back empty. Every single one of the little, labored-over creations has found its place and that knowledge only finds me right back in the kitchen to make it happen again. What joy! Check out this video that my friend Kasey Miller (who, by the way, is one of my favorite inspirations in the kitchen!!) shared… this will make you want to LOVE CAKE too!

gracia and gracias

So, my word study on “pan” and “paneh” might have failed, but I’m very interested in the connection between the Spanish words, “Gracias” (thank you) and “gracia” (grace) and I think this will lead to something more conclusive. Both words are derived from the Latin root “gratus,” which means “beloved,” “agreeable,” “favorable,” and “pleasing.”

I was originally interested because at the Micah Project sometimes we just spend time in prayer thanking God for His character. Many times, this will come up, “Señor, gracias por tu gracia!” Maybe no one else takes notice or thinks it odd, but whenever I hear that, I wonder about the strange and beautiful connection between gratitude and grace. When we say thank you, we are responding to an action or a gift or something we have received. Gratitude is what happens (or should happen) after receiving something good. We feel strange accepting a gift or complement without giving something back, so we express our gratitude by saying, “Thank you.”

Here is where I get really interested… why do we use almost the exact same word to describe unmerited favor? The Miriam-Webster dictionary (and many Christians) gives the first definition for grace to mean what is received from God and that which allows one to have faith in what Christ did on the cross.

So – back to that Latin. If the Latin says, “pleasing, beloved, agreeable,” and “favorable,” why am I stuck on these two words? Well, if we say “thank you” because we have received something, that person or persons have become (in some way) beloved or agreeable to us. What is AMAZING is that we have done absolutely nothing to please or become favorable in God’s sight. Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but God called us “beloved” and showed us “favor,” though we came with nothing to deserve this response.

WOW!

starting a movement

Everybody is making movements these days, so I thought I would throw in my two cents about what deserves “movement” status. Maybe it’s because I’m sitting here waiting for a student to tell me if she does/doesn’t want to meet for coffee (though she told me for sure yesterday) or maybe it’s because I’ve been around young people long enough to know commitments are … fluid at best and often motivated by bad information.

So, I’d like to start a movement. The movement will be called, “we care and follow through with things that matter.” I know – it’s not very catchy right now, but I think I could hire some serious PR and those flaky kids would really start jumping on board. Well… they would jump on board if the message was so diluted no one knew exactly what kind of movement they were joining. But, they would join for sure, eventually. And, by that time the whole purpose of said movement would be moot (case in point).

That’s my point.

It is very easy to get kids fired up about things (there are many, many broken things to bemoan in this world) and very hard to get kids fired up about searching serious answers followed up by serious action. I’m not talking extreme, here, folks. I actually think things get extreme when we get distracted by flashy PR campaigns and people telling us what is important and what to do about it.

I guess it would be refreshing to see a youth movement with, as my high school history teacher used to say, “fire in its belly.” Everything from coffee dates to mission trips to environmental debates would be informed by something solid – something true and absolute and transformational. Let me know if you know of one and I’ll scrap the whole idea.