I have a secret and you must not tell a soul. It goes a little something like this:

Deep down I have the guilty whimsy to untether myself from obligation and spend all my money on a keyboard with weighted keys and a funky wardrobe and join a band, or a one-man/two-man kind of acoustic act, and spontaneitize experimental synths and riffs and backup vocals and play in clubs and venues around the world (or even just in the UK?) I don't want to be famous, just want word to get around to a local following so we can eat and have a place to hide out from the rain.

You may think it's silly. I would say it's silly except that I daydream about it, and when I daydream about something, there's always a part of me that wants it to come true. It's just not enough to listen to music on my iPod, to listen to the soundtrack narrate my strolls across the London pavement. I want to be the music.

Once when I was in a band, it was like lust, at first. I fell head over heels with the melodic rhythms because they were powerfuI, but more importantly because I was involved with them. They were mine. As I grew accustomed to practicing and playing on a regular basis the music grew bigger than me. The heat rising inside of me paralleled the swelling drum beats and guitar, and without thinking too much, I knew by instinct what to play after each note. It came shooting out of my fingers like stars that don't need to be told where to go.

I miss that. Knowing instinctively what to play next.


Hokey Pokey: A Review

This morning I finished reading a book by fellow blogger Matthew Paul Turner. Turner has written a range of books covering elusive topics like sex, politics, faith, the Christian culture and evangelism, and his new book's subject isn't any less ambitious: how to discover your life's calling.

"Calling" is one of those ambiguous words that gets thrown around the Christian sphere as if it's a doctrine of its own. In Hokey Pokey: Curious People Finding What Life's All About, Turner pieces together the unexplained in a simple manner. He uses stories, examples and questions to calm the restlessness of befuddled young adults who find themselves paralyzed by life's decisions. His main premise is that we don't have to be highly enlightened prophets to understand God's will. Instead, the key is curiosity: a desire to see the bigger picture of our life story, to see it as a journey in which we walk by God, side by side, illuminating his grace for those around us.

One statement Turner makes towards the end of the book stood out to me:

". . . we are God’s art—a series of paintings that reflect his creativity. . . I want to learn from each of the paintings that I encounter. I want to be someone who allows God the freedom to paint in me what he wants to reveal about himself, so others might possibly be able to learn something about him by looking at my story."



It's snowing in London this morning. The first snow of the season! I should laugh at the absurdity of it. Easter normally stirs up thoughts of spring and flowers and sun, but Easter weekend snow seems to follow me wherever I go--Denver, Reno, and now London.

Then I remember a promise as pure as the cleansing flakes falling outside my window:

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah 1.18

He is risen!


Boswell's Cafe: Body Language

She's swaddled in a green plaid coat and squats next to a goose. Her squinty brown eyes. Her ratty hair. Her bare legs shaking from the chill. The fading sunlight breaches the tree trunk barrier and races to grasp her in its dying rays-a final attempt, an unnecessary endeavor when she's caught in a warmth of curiosity for the bird waddling towards her. She reaches into a worn pocket and pulls out a caramel. It's wrapped in crinkle-paper and makes a funny twinkling noise like the laughing lovers walking hand and in hand on the path. They don't see her. She doesn't see them.

She cajoles the goose to strut closer to her outstretched hand. The caramel sparkles in the light. The bird is jumpy and twitches his feathers, but then he opens his beak and with a squawk of pleasure, drops his head to her palm and just before he clips the sweet in his mouth a large foot STOMPS and the grass is trampled! The goose hisses and flaps away in a whirl of feathers as the girl gasps and stumbles backwards and falls on her bum.

She catches her breath and concentrates on the wellingtons planted firmly next to her. Her eyes move upwards to see dirty socks, holey jeans, a wooly red sweater and a beard that covers the face of an old man who stares down at her. His watery eyes are filled with both surprise and admonishment. The girl splays her hands on her face. Her neck and mouth is craned in the position of a baby bird waiting for a worm from its mother. He stands still as the iron monument next to them. He studies her dirty fingernails.

After a minute and thirty seconds the man reaches into his coat and pulls out a plastic bag filled with bread. He offers it to the girl.

She doesn't move.

He smiles, and winks, and nods his head towards the reluctant goose who waits patiently for the girl's recovery. The man tears a piece of crust and puts it on his palm, clicking his teeth. He looks at the girl and nods his head to the goose again, and he sits on the muddy ground next to her, exclaiming in surprise at the wetness of it. She giggles in the rhythm of the lake ripples and accepts the crust. She mimics his motions and soon the goose waddles over again, swipes at the bread and circles them for more.

When the bread is gone the girl jumps up and gazes at the rising moon. As if on cue, a sudden splash of water bounces from the flock as they beat their wings in a flurry of motion. The girl clasps the old man's hand and pulls him up. She prances and twirls with him and they dance on the muddy banks of the lake under a sky laced with snowing feathers. She begins to sing, and when the birds have gone and the air is smooth again she leads him down the path.

They come to a bridge. The water churns next to it and then he sees it--a hand-held lamp sitting amidst a pile of blankets and cardboard and sleeping bags and trash. A hand reaches out from a blanket, welcoming them both home.


Just a Little Thing

Can a conversation be a blister? I had one last week that's been festering pus in my brain and I can't get rid of it, except maybe if I blog about it.

Basically: The friend I conversed with (we'll call him "Mr. Man") related the account of his recent journey to a far away island. He went to visit a friend. His friend, he said, is very energized and "spiritual": he played Mr. Man tape after tape of the YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL! motivational speech. Mr. Man said he was impressed with the ambitiousness of his friend, a friend that believes you can reap abundance if you just set your mind to it. Mr. Man said he most appreciated that his friend didn't believe in any of that "little self-sacrifice stuff."

Little self-sacrifice?

I'm 25 years old. I acknowledge my young and inexperienced outlook on life, and I rely on the wisdom of my elders. But Mr. Man is a quarter of a century older than me, and if I understood him correctly (and I hope not) he seems to have missed out on the FUNDAMENTAL premise of life. Does he realize that he would not be where he is today without the self-sacrifice of the people who have entered his life? We could begin with his mother, who sacrificed her own comfort and independence to give birth to him; we could mention his father who worked to feed and cloth and shelter him. We could talk about his friends who celebrate birthdays with him, colleagues who stay late to help him finish projects, children who smother him with hugs and hours of joy, a wife who gave up a career to be a lover and mother, and a God who, unable to stand the thought of being eternally separated from him, gave his son's life for him.

If all of humanity could open their eyes, look past their pursuit of greedy pleasure and see the vitality of life that streams from self-sacrifice, we wouldn't see discomfort. We wouldn't lose the race. We would get a glimpse of the incarnated ideal we once had, the sensuous garden that haunts our dreams no matter how many thousands of years separate us from it.

We would see that to lose our life is to save it.


[PRES] Huckabee: SNL's Weekend Update

At least he still has his humor.

The Bag Lady

Or shall I call her the Shawl Lady? That's how you'll know her. Stroll through the cobblestoned streets in Mayfair near the Park Lane Hotel, and pass the one-of-a-kind Polish Mexican Bistro (take a good look because you won't see too many of these in your lifetime). Walk through the doorway of the King's Arm pub, follow the carpeted stairs and slide your hand up the smooth wooden banister. At the top, turn left. See the cozy booth in the corner? Under the lamplight? The one with the bench that aligns crookedly with the wall? Don't be deceived, my friend... it's not as friendly as it looks. That's where you will sit when you encounter. . . (queue scary music: *dun dun dun!*) . . . the Shawl Lady! (queue *screams*)

On a dark and stormy night, my American friends and I enjoyed a Sunday night pint and couldn't be bothered by the goings-on among other guests.I didn't think much of her. I half-noticed her and an older man sitting at a table for two across from the cozy bench. But one of our friends noticed the Shawl Lady's frequent walks by our table.

When the last call bell had rung and it was time to go, we gathered our things and prepared to exit the pub. That's when we noticed that a small white purse was missing from our possession. After using our critical thinking skills, we deduced that the Shawl Lady was the only person who passed by our table, the only person who had access to the purse that my friend, who was sitting on the end of the table, had slung over the back of the chair. The Shawl Lady's shawl happened to be the perfect size for hiding little white purses.

Let this be a lesson to those who dream big dreams full of London travels. Do not forsake your purse on the tube, on the pavement, in a restaurant or in a pub--keep your bag close to you and caress it, love it, protect it. And above all, watch out for the Shawl Lady.


London Green

These are pics of the Kensington Gardens, which are situated next to Kensington Palace where Princess Di raised William and Henry, which is situated in the expanse of Hyde Park, a refreshing respite of quiet within the busy bustle of London, one of the greenest cities in the world.

In addition to strolling through Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James's Park, I think I've made up a new favorite phrase. In context (in Jonathan's English accent): "Ni-ey-five pounds foh a jump-ah? What a load of royal litt-ah!"


Boswell's Cafe:1

The fruits of a writing exercise over cream tea and scones (in which we chose three random objects from our purse and the table and wrote about each one for ten minutes). . .

Curiously Strong Mints

Not just any kind of mint, but "curiously strong" is how the refreshingly green, tin box defines its contents. And I wonder, as any curious person wonders, where did the idea for breath mints originate?

I picture a stately, English gentleman, dressed in a tweed overcoat and twirling a handlebar mustache. He has just escorted his lady friend to her home and they are situated awkwardly under a square doorframe holding square books that smell of dust. She's dressed in silk and he reaches out to finger the material that brushes against her wrist. He begs her affection with a gaze, leans in, closes his eyes, and in the moment of apprehension before the ecstasy he is surprised by a gasp! She jumps back in disgust, eyes wide in despair.

"But sir!" she cries with the womanly air of discretion. "Your mouth!"

"Whatever is wrong, my sweet?"

"It's your breath, not the books, not the grimy doorframe or the soddy streets. It's your pungent, rotten breath that has given me this unbearable headache!"

And she gathers the folds of her heavy skirt in her hands and escapes through the door.

With a sob of anguish, he rushes home and concocts the greatest love potion of all time: the curiously strong breath mint.

Germ X Hand Sanitizer . . .

. . . every OCD's dream. . . except that many people who truly suffer from the psychological condition have no need of the sanitizer since they wear gloves in public places, or otherwise find ways to prevent their skin from touching public objects like bathroom handles and subway rails that have the remains of snot, sweat and other bodily liquids left from years of stranger's fondling.

Blech. This is why I use hand sanitizer--because I am not OCD and do not wear gloves, and yet still want to do everything I can to avoid contracting public illnesses through the pores of my skin. It's also nice to have on hand (no pun intended) after I use the public toilet. Most of the time public facilities offer the very least that they're required; ice cold water in the dead of winter, bars of soap that last for months and collect dirt in their deep crevices (making my hands worse than they were before the use of the toilet), reusable cloth towels, and hand dryers that barely provide enough of a breeze to blow my small knuckle hairs. So I pull out my trusty hand sanitizer and am saved from the horrors of public toilets.

But I must confess, I haven't pulled it out as often as I would like, even when I acknowledge all of the above benefits. And why, you may ask? Because I fear that people will hear me open the stall door and walk out of the toilets without turning on the water or using the handryer. They'll think that I am one of "those people"--those people who don't wash their hands--because they won't know that I used the hand sanitizer instead!

So when I leave the stall I feel a strange urge to try the subtle approach and yell, "I am so glad I can use my hand sanitizer now!"

Pepper Mill

When I see a pepper mill I don't see the one that's physically in front of me; instead I see a mill that's tall, translucent, lean and full of brightly colored beads, the one that sits on our family table planted firmly next to the salt shaker. Around the pepper mill and salt shaker I enjoyed meals, conversation, devotions and laughter with my family of six in Colorado. It's where we savored mom's strawberry pie, homemade pizza with Valentino's style crust and colorful pasta. It's where we celebrated Christmas with brunch and ate cheese-braid and breakfast pizza. It's where I learned to like grown-up stuff like coffee and wine and mushrooms and pepper. And it's where I learned to like grown-up conversation when relatives and company came over, and my three brothers left the table to play like boys downstairs, and I remained seated with the adults, priding myself on my maturity.

Today the pepper mill and salt shaker still sit on our family table. The two companions exist on an ever-evolving oak tabletop, sometimes flanked by fresh flowers and sometimes by piles of mail or newspapers or left-over breakfast dishes. Placemats and napkins have regular places, but even they're evolving. Instead of the original six placemats there are now four, and there will soon be three when my middle brother goes off to college in August. And then, quicker than we realize, in two years my youngest brother will forge his way into the world, leaving only two placemats.

But no matter how the oak table top revolves, the placemats, like the pepper mill and salt shaker, are constant companions, situated caddy corner to each other, close enough for knees to touch, glasses to clink, and meals and life to share together.