Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's Hear It for Sarajevo!

Zdravo! Ja sam u Sarajevo! (Hello! I'm in Sarajevo!)

No duh. But... even after about 2.5 weeks, I still don't quite believe it sometimes. It's weird that I'm used to seeing these picturesque mountains around me, or not being able to read signs (except the important ones, like Pekara. This is vital. No one else can give you chocolate croissants!)

Now is not the time for an extensive update by any means, but I just thought I'd punch in a few words:

I am healthy.
I am happy.
I am learning a lot of things about God, a lot of things about people, and a lot of things about myself -- and I am learning the most about prayer, which affects all three of these things.
Sarajevo is beautiful.
The people are far friendlier than I had imagined and also very funny; I'm glad my dry sense of humor is reciprocated. :)
I apparently do a pretty good job of blending in. I just need some bangs and nicer shoes!

I don't have much time to communicate to the outside world (aka beyond this apartment, haha) but be assured of a bombardment of information upon my return home. I can't believe that after this week I'll be halfway done with my stay here. :( I'm choosing not to think about it! I love it here so much!

Pray for me and keep your eye on Sarajevo, and immediately plan a visit. I will personally escort you around. It's my favorite place I've been as of yet, and I've seen London and Paris, y'all. You just keep that in mind.

Anyways, let me know if anything absurd happens in the U.S. while I'm gone, because I'm so out of loop. The only TV I've watched was Eurovision (look it up, Americans). Ciao!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ye of Little Faith

The days until I begin my journey to Sarajevo are dwindling to none. I can still barely believe this is happening. The reality of living in Eastern Europe for 7 weeks is simply too incomprehensible for me, never having done anything of the sort in my life. The longest I've been outside the U.S. is a week, and the UK and France are both relatively familiar, Western places.

However, I'd be lying if I didn't say that the incomprehensibility at times flares into panic. I have so many questions that I can't answer. What will the days be like? Will Bosnians even like me, or want to be my friend? Will I have the courage to talk with them about deep matters and be open about myself, what I believe, and how it has changed me? (I can hardly do that at home with people I've been friends with for years!)

I am having a hard time sleeping tonight as I consider just how crazy this is, and how unprepared I really feel. The real problem, though, is that I keep assuming that I must actively be the one preparing and acting out of my own power. I figured this out as I was reading the cover of a book I just got, and it listed another book this author wrote, called If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. (It's by John Ortberg, by the way.)

I hope you're ready for a whole story this time!

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."' Matthew 14:22-32

Peter took a leap of faith, yes? If he didn't at all believe Jesus could keep him from sinking, he wouldn't have stepped out of a boat to the water in the first place. Would you? There was wind and there were waves. It's easy to ignore how hard it must have been for people in the bible to do the things they did since God was so manifest in their days, but I mean, even after meeting Jesus and seeing him perform miracles (such as feeding thousands, as earlier in this chapter), it'd be hard to just leap out of a boat during a storm and expect to walk on the water.

As Peter saw himself doing the unthinkable, he probably became afraid of how irrational it was to walk on water, and how the very laws of physics that govern all of creation are being suspended. The seemingly little thread that was keeping him from sinking became all too real to him, and he began to sink. Jesus didn't have to let him sink when he doubted, but the point was made: he is trustworthy. When we doubt him, we are bound to suffer and fail. He doesn't entrust wishy-washy people with great tasks that result in great feats of God. But believing the Lord in times of risk, when we leave our comfort zones (as Baptists looooove to put it), gives us the chance to learn to trust him, and we are rewarded with great faith when we see the results of this moment of surrender: I could never do this alone, but with you, I can.

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

This is Sunday School 101, but, as Martin Luther rightly taught, the Christian life is characterized by continuing repentance and faith; we must examine ourselves constantly, as we are still human beings and are still governed by whims, doubt, worry, and selfishness. And we may remember things in our minds but forget that they are true, and live with that assurance to compel us to greater things.

Little kids at church know the story of Peter walking on water. But do grown-ups at church live like this is true?

I don't want to wait until I'm 40, warming a pew, content with my little life and all my financial security and square middle class family matters, to find out. Throw this woman out of the frying pan and into the fire.While it is up to me to pray, read, and learn before I undertake anything for the kingdom of God, it is not up to me to be ready and to produce these vast results. I am not a savior, and I am not a creator of wisdom to impart unto others. Therefore, doing what I can and leaving the rest up to God is all that matters.

I am only responsible for taking my foot off the deck and touching it to the water.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I'm warning you now, this may simply devolve into a rant, but I think it's a constructive one. Is there such a thing? Whatevsies.

You know what I can't stand? People who take themselves too seriously. Real talk. You know you have a problem with this when:

- Conflating ordinary situations to be dramatic attacks directed at you
- Updating your blog/journal/Bookface/whatever with your philosophical or poetic musings more than twice a day
- Name dropping your coolest friends (or even acquaintances that you wish were your friends) and trying not to sound like you're doing it on purpose
- Asking why on earth all these things happen to you when you bring it upon yourself and probably enjoy it

Guess what, everyone? Life is not a movie!

We see our lives like movies. I am the protagonist, the good guy that people should root for. People who do things to get in my way are part of the conflict, which every movie needs. It's all about either overcoming that conflict so I can have a happy ending or losing to that conflict and dying like a tragic hero. We are so absorbed by our fanciful notions that we're the center of this story.

The real conflict enters when we notice that other people don't seem to be watching the same movie I am. As the leading lady, it pisses me off when others don't do what I want them to, or -- the very worst thing of all -- don't notice. Did they forget that I'm the last to bow? Let me remind them by talking about myself, all my backstory, what makes me the lovable, winsome character that I am. I might feign interest in what you're saying, but as soon as I have my in to jump into the limelight in one way or another, you bet I'll be right there.

If someone likes me and I do not like them back, you'll know. It's a pretty big deal.

If I have so much work to do that I just can't function today, I will sigh until you ask me about it.

Think it sounds dramatic? I do this stuff all the time. Much less than I used to, but from time to time, I can't help it. Neither can you.

Did you realize today that you still have to sit on the toilet? You get food stuck in your teeth sometimes? You forget to shave your legs when you go to the beach?

When will people stop trying to pretend to be above all that stuff!?

Sometimes, the most refreshing person to be around is one that most people can't stand, but they are real. They do what they want to because they like it. They say what they feel and think because that's -- gasp! -- what they feel and think. No one to impress. Or they might not even say much at all because they realize that they haven't got anything vital to bring to your attention.

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

Here's a radical proposition: let genuineness and humility go hand-in-hand in front of us everywhere we go. Start being true friends with people, going below the surface, and talking about things that matter without letting things that blow away in the wind bog us down. Stop forming little cliques of people that make us feel better about ourselves and make an effort to get to know people out of your comfort zone, because they are not extras in your movie -- they're real people. Quit thinking we are the next Steve Martin or Cormac McCarthy when we write or joke around, because for heaven's sakes, all of us still bleed when you cut us.

We're all people, and we're just people! Get a grip!

Haha, I don't know where on earth I am going with all this. You catch my drift? This really makes me mad, especially because I know I do it too. Call me out anytime.

If we can both get our rose-colored glasses off, we'd notice the real world is not too ugly of a place.