Starbucks Sex

My maternal grandma went to Starbucks for the first time last weekend. Actually, it was the first time she's ever gone out just for coffee. She went because her daughters were visiting. They shared a pastry between the five of them. She had water.

My grandma didn't grow up "going to coffee." She grew up in a time when coffee wasn't a main event. Coffee was just a cup of hot, murky black liquid ("It tastes like a cup of crappy coffee." "No, it's the world's best cup of coffee!" Ah, I love the Elf...) The coffee's hotness factor was the best thing about it, not the triple shot skinny vanilla latte extras that we order today. But Starbucks is just one example of the way we've blinged up lives since my grandma's time. Our culture demands snazzy names, design, special effects to attract our attention. We've gradually added more thrill and excitement to our daily routine and we're addicted to it.

Like with sex. In Real Sex, Lauren F. Winner says that the reason sex is better in marriage is because it is solidarity and comfort, as opposed to the thrill of the unknown. "Sometimes premarital sex feels dramatic because, by definition, it is part of a relationship that is itself not wholly stable... Everything in your relationship gets some of its charge from the uncertainty, the unknown: put negatively, it gets its charge from the instability; put more generously, it gets its charge from the possibility. This may be the single most significant way that married sex differs from unmarried sex. Married sex does not derive its thrill from the possibility of the unknown. Married sex is a given. It is solemnized and marked in ritual."

Like me with church. I'm guilty of obsession with the false, with the facade, with the fun and not the commitment when it comes to church. A few weeks ago my husband told me I'd be going with the church staff to a Creative Church conference in Dallas. It sounded amazing. Creative. Church. Communicatons.--exactly what I love. When he told me later that the opportunity had been given to another staff member, I was devastated. Too devastated. The problem was I had bought into church the way the world buys into sex: I'll take the big productions, go to the motivational conferences that talk about the good we can do when we get back to our routine world--the polished, pretty part of faith. But when it comes to committing myself to the daily grind, to the loving by serving when it gets messy and deals with the real, the gritty life, that's not so thrilling.

I am a whore I do confess/I put you on just like a wedding dress/and I run down the aisle, run down the aisle/I'm a prodigal with no way home/I put you on just like a ring of gold/and I run down the aisle, run down the aisle, from you (From Derek Webb's song "Wedding Dress")


Bus Debates

We took this picture a few days before we left London. A large church in London called Holy Trinity Brompton started up a bus ad campaign for their Christian outreach class called Alpha. We went to the church a few times and heard countless stories about the global transformation the teaching program has had. Not many people in the U.S. have heard of Alpha, but considering how many lives it has changed, I was kind of excited to see the unconventional ads on the buses.

In response, the British Humanist Organization started up their own ad campaigns. They have every right to post their own ads about their beliefs. I respect their right to free speech. But more than anything the ads confuse me. It's a lot of money spent PRing for--who? Or even, what? Most ads feed on the promise of hope and betterment of our daily lives in some way. Who does this ad benefit? They're marketing meaninglessness as if it's a good thing. What's really interesting is that every other product in today's culture capitalizes on our egos to get the desirable impact. "Come on, buy a flatscreen. You deserve it!" "Go ahead, splurge on a new car. You're worth it!" Telling someone not to worry because there's not a God probably doesn't do a whole lot for people's self-esteem (in my opinion).

Regardless of the point of the campaign, I tend to agree with Steve Lawson about the method:

(Thanks to Tall Skinny Kiwi for the pictures)


Announcing New Music Blog

Hounds to the Music, LLC is a new website that a musician friend of mine is launching this summer. The idea is to use new technology to match visitors up with music that they'll like. There are a lot of sites out there now that claim to do the exact same thing, like Aimee Street, Reverbnation, Pandora and Muffin, for example, but to my knowledge and my friend's, the results aren't as good as they can be--especially in light of the web 2.0 strategies available to us.

To help build up a following, he recently started a blog that he asked me to post on occasionally. I wrote the first post today to introduce myself and my musical taste if you'd like to take a look. I'll let you know when the regular site launches, but until then, check out the blog and share ideas. Definitely let me know if you've tried any music matching sites with good results.


'Always the Women' to come to Stockton

I'm always on the lookout for a good show. A friend recently told me about a new performance called "Always the Women"--a play about women in the NT who encountered Jesus. This is what the actress, Nina Thiel, says about the play on her website:

"'Always the Women' is a one-woman play, with stories from the gospels arranged and adapted for the stage by Nina Thiel. In 60 minutes, Nina embodies 36 characters and 1 narrator to tell 24 stories of Jesus and the women in his life, beginning with Mary, his mother, and ending with Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb."

It's showing in Stockton on the 31st, but Thiel is performing it nationally. So it might come to your city! The best part about the show on the 31st is that all proceeds benefit the International Justice Mission to help stop trafficking (but I don't know that all of the other showings do).


Mince Pies

I mentioned my mince pie baking in a recent post and thought I should post a picture of the result. It's overdue, but better than never. I particularly enjoyed the crust recipe, because it's the best crust I think I've ever tasted (from BBC food, but I can't find the recipe at the moment so if you want the recipe, you can email me). Best enjoyed with warm mulled wine!


Before You Paint Your Guest Room Pink: A Pre-Parenting Weekend Retreat For The "Some Day"ers

Here we are: three and a half years into marriage. I suppose it's natural to start "wondering" about the "possibility" of a "time" when we "might" want to "approach" the "threshold" of parenthood. Notice the tiptoeing vocabulary. It's currently hiding behind a boulder a hundred miles away from the trailhead of Decision (not my favorite hike). So let me say emphatically--in case someone mistakes my tiptoeing vocabulary for a comments plea and bombards me with due date and sex questions--there is no firm thought here, much less decision, about the when. Only lot's of questions about life with kids at some point in the future.

The fact that we're three years married isn't the only reason I've been pondering the selfless life. It probably has more to do with the awkward position J and I are in, lodged between two very different people groups: single friends and young parents friends. We hardly have any just-married friends. It can be a difficult adjustment, but then again, transition is what defines the twentysomething decade. And overall, I appreciate the diversity and the perspective it gives me. I like living vicariously through single friends, and I like learning the ups and downs of parenthood before I consider the fun of shooting a squalling baby into my husband's arms.

Every time I spend time with kids or hear about the joys and frustrations they bring their parents, I walk away with questions. I like to think I've always maintained a realistic perspective of what parenting requires . . . which is why I'm more hesitant than eager to jump in. Once you're in, you're in--there's no going back. You can't do all the same things you used to do, you can't maintain the same schedule you had before, and suddenly life isn't just about you and your spouse's needs anymore. But I always thought that the joys outweighed the sighs. Recently, the majority of what I've heard about the experience is negative, both from parents who planned their pregnancies and those who didn't. It's bothered me.

This weekend J and I took a quick trip to Reno for our friend's two year old's birthday party. I've never been to a party with so many kids--yelling, toddling, laughing, crying kids, all racing through the house or shmeering chalk on furniture or laughing contagiously. The next day we met up with some friends who have a fifteen month old. He skilfully consumed freeze-dried yogurt snacks and a granola bar and a jar of veggies and a jar of fruit and milk, all before we even got our meal, all the while using sign language to communicate what he wanted next. Then we carried him around the nation's biggest Scheel's, showing him the stuffed wildlife and watching his eyes widen with excitement.

I'm still not sure what to think of myself as a parent. Questions push out the nearness of possibility, but then again, questions won't ever let up--even after births and terrible twos and torrential teens and empty nesting have come and gone. But this weekend did offer one answer for me: it's important to have a support network around you when you do decide to give God the chance to bless you with a child. When I was at the birthday party, I was amazed by how relaxed all the parents seemed. I don't know what they're like at home, alone with the kids, after a stressful day. But at the party, gathered under one roof with a house full of longtime friends who were going through the same things, they were calm. They were laughing and enjoying themselves. They could compare notes on weight and teeth and sleeping habits. They could nod understandingly about "MINE!" whines when other toddler's screamed "NO!" But most importantly, they could share the miracle of God the father's love for us, his greedy and stubborn kids who somehow still make him smile and his heart swell with joy.

Of course not all parents go through the same thing at the same time, and different factors come into play. But it seems to me that what's true for our life in entirety is true for parenting as well: without each other we'd just try to survive; with each other we can have fun and enjoy the ride.


Breathe One at a Time

Frankly, it's embarrassing to yawn in conversations. Because it looks like *gawp* you're tired and *stretch* just plum bored with the unidentifiable slurrings sliding through slippery lips. But it's not that I'm bored or tired (usually). A few days ago I learned that yawning is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. In other words, yawns are a sign that I'm not taking the deep, succulent breaths I should be taking.

This morning I wondered if my oxygen intake says anything about the rest of me . . . the fact that I don't take advantage of the surplus floating around me, that I don't grip the resources God is holding out to me and run with them fearlessly. A book I'm reading combined with specific prayers and a Nooma video (produced by Rob Bell, Mars Hill Bible Church) were recently all in cahoots and I was convicted by how often I forget God's faithfulness. And how often I forget to breathe him deeply into my life for the daily joy I need to keep going. I admit, it's hard to persist with a smile on my face when I don't have a job and when I'm in a new place without many friends-- or even when I do have all of that, it's easy to get caught up in the frustrating details of keeping it all going.

But today a fresh wind blew over me and I sucked it all in to the ends of my toenails. He is a God of peace, and I can be content in every situation because I see this world through His filter. Doesn't mean that situations change immediately or exactly how I want them to (I'm still jobless) but it does mean that it's out of my hands and in His, and that the result is always more satisfying. I can breathe much more deeply.