14 April 2006

how to get a date worth keeping

such is the name of a book published by Zondervan that I read last year - and was surprised at how much i appreciated it. even if it was on the subject of dating. being single, dating is a bit of a sore subject. yet this book was less about finding a spouse and more about becoming healthier in one's relationships with the opposite sex. and it had a lot to say about being open to others. and it encouraged dating. dating lots of different people. for fun. with little commitment.

but i live in a culture where dating is considered somewhat the equivalent of a necessary evil to get to the being married phase of one's life. thus, even though i spend a lot of time with the opposite sex, even a significant number that are single, dating doesn't really seem like an option.

the author of the book says that this taboo on dating 'for fun' is generally unhealthy. i think i agree. so i finally got around to getting the nerve to ask out a guy (outside of the Seminary community, which took some time to find:)). and i thought i came off as nonchalant about it, gracious, and overall with the 'let's hang out, be friends, and no, i'm not ever interested in stalking you' impression. well, maybe my timing was bad, but he seemed a bit more traumatized by the possibility of it than he should have been. ah well. though it does make me a little less likely to try again.

the book says that one of the challenges that we single folk face is that we never meet new people. and i'd once again have to agree. so in the last while i've tried to go out and meet new people (okay, maybe not as actively as i could have, but as i dislike being hit on by (near)-drunken folk and didn't want to go through the effort of joining a dating service and my friends haven't gotten the hint that i'm perfectly willing to be set up on blind dates, that rules out the more obvious options for meeting people i could potentially date). yet, i've discovered that monasteries (!!) are potential places to meet people...

last summer Deb and I went to a monastery (Orthodox). When I tell people, Deb got picked up at a monstery, i usually get a few looks - especially as we'd spent a lot of time in church that weekend. Little did we realize that there was a parish connected to the church. I left early, and Deb stayed to have lunch. When she sat down at a table for lunch she was joined by the single males of the parish. well, after a walk around the grounds and some chivalrous help with her bags, Deb was the recipient of some serious male attention for the next little while. [and i had a great story to tell friends]

this past weekend, i was visiting a monastery (Anglican). at coffee time one day, i ignored the beer conversation and struck up a conversation with one of the other guests. it was a fairly standard first conversation about random topics, with a bit of poking fun at ourselves and each other mixed in. we ended up talking more that evening. and the comfortability of our conversation continued. more teasing, laughter, some learning from each other, and a bit of flirting. then my friends came, and he said good night. we bumped into each other the next day, but didn't really talk much.

so what do i make of it? not sure. which is why i'm writing this. and trying to sort out why a harmless conversation and flirting has stuck with me so much and felt so different from my ordinary life.

another conversation later, we'd probably have made plans to get together sometime in town. and i expect to continue to have enjoyed talking with him: discovering what we agreed upon and being challenged to see the world slightly differently.

and it was so nice to be able to engage in some harmless flirting and talk about something other than school for awhile.
it was nice to be appreciated for something other than my ability to do school well.
and when so often my being female is seen as a challenge or anomaly, it was nice to have my female-ness noticed and appreciated for a change (and have it noticed even when i was in grubby clothes, with glasses on and pig tails in my hair)

so, even as i much i have appreciated my time at Seminary, i guess i wish i had more space to be female. to see the world a bit differently. to be incompetent sometimes. to not really care if i have the right answer or the explanation. to be okay with postmodernity because it gives me a bit more space to feel and be intuitive and to care more about loving our neighbour than having the right answer. to be un-serious and flirty at times. and to do all that while still loving God and wanting to learn more about Him and how better to serve Him.

And there have been moments like that at Seminary (as I've become more comfortable here, they have increased), but I just wish there were more.

10 April 2006

ending my spring break at the monastery

written at the monastery on Friday and published at my return on Sunday.
as I told people that I wanted to end my spring break with a weekend visit to a monastery, I didn’t really know how to explain why. I’d say something about wanting to be here for Palm Sunday in order to hear the monks do a reading/chanting of the Passion narrative - and I hoped that I would once again hear the Word anew. And I’d mention that I’d have a bit more control over my schedule as I currently have a big old farmhouse to myself and no responsibilities (except a couple of services that I’m expected to attend.) The monastery provides a peaceful place to do homework and rest before returning to school on Monday. Yet, as I enjoyed time with friends and family, I wondered why I was rushing away from the opportunity to spend time with these people I love in order to spend more time by myself and/or with the monks (even as enjoyable as spending time getting to know them has been).

And as I sit here on my first night, I realize why. although all the above reasons factor in, I came here to remember. To dwell in the peace of a place where prayer has been offered up longer than I’ve been alive. To go for a walk and once again lose the path that goes around the big pond (and remember all the times that Deb and I have done the same thing – and lift her and others before God in prayer). To talk to the Prior about postmodern Christianity (and actually sound like I know what I’m talking about!) and remember how much I love learning and studying. And to remember the many moments this week when people wanted to hear about the things I was studying – and what I was learning. And before the church service started this evening to receive a wave from a stranger and remembering that hospitality is what the body of Christ does. To take time to remember the wonderful moments with family this past week (even if my sister says it wasn’t the most exciting of visitsJ) – and to thank God for that because I have often been selfish with them and haven’t always been as gracious or appreciative of my family as I should be.

And tomorrow I anticipate remembering more (even if some of it is just remembering to do some of my work that needs doing J). For this place is a blessed mixture of the holy and the ordinary. The holiness of prayer and the psalms and the Lord’s Supper. And the ordinary of getting work done and talking with monks about everything from history to travel to The Simpsons to music to theology and who knows what else. (Sunday comment: it ended up being Star Wars and classical music and beer and the new Volkswegan commercials and technology and books).

And as I do some homework and grading tonight, I hope to continue to soak up the blessing of this place. And hope to meet God in the midst of both the holy and the ordinary.

06 April 2006

for the sake of the kingdom

As I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my car, I asked someone highly competent in fixing things to look at it for me. Much to my surprise, he said that he knew nothing about cars. Turns out that instead of learning about cars when he was growing up, he’d spent all his time playing ball. Having personally discovered the importance of knowing about cars, I wondered if this loss of knowledge was worth it – and so I asked whether he was good at it. And he said, yes, he was very good. Which surprised me, as most Calvinist folk tend to be rather humble about their abilities.

Turns out that he had been approached by a scout from the Dodgers. And was asked whether he would play on Sunday. He said, no, and that was the end of that, unfortunately.

And I was surprised and honoured by the conversation. Surprised at the turn at it had taken and honoured that he was willing to share that with us. And delighted to be able to shake the hand of someone who had that kind of talent.

I was still processing it a bit later that night as I told my roommate about it. Her response captures it well: “What he gave up for the sake of the kingdom.” And part of me wishes that he hadn’t had to. How amazing that would have been! And how God might have used him!

And yet, another part of me realizes that if that had happened, I probably wouldn’t know him today. Nor would he be the person he is now. And I’m thankful to know him now: I see his smile on a regular basis – and know that he loves God and loves life. And that he really is glad for everyone who has been able to follow his/her dreams. And I have been blessed by his care for me and others.

And his story reminds me that it is often in the ‘ordinary folk’ that God holds His greatest surprises. After all, He works in ways that we don’t expect or immediately see.

my car, incompetence, and boys

my mentor and I have had some random conversations over the years. Several of them have involved romantic relationships (or the lack thereof in my life). My mentor has told me that I need to show a little more incompetence (something about this making me less intimidating or illustrating how I might need a male in my life – though I might be misrepresenting him here as his reasoning has been mixed up with other’s comments)…

So to prove that I'm learning a bit more about incompetence, let me tell you the recent story of my car. (and acknowledging my incompetence in public helps me to be more humble, as i tend to participate only in things that i do well at, which leads to unnecessary ego inflation).

It all started on the birthday of one of my roommates. As we left to go out I discovered that I couldn’t really turn the steering wheel. So I added more power steering fluid and wondered how my power steering had gone from a squeaky noise that had appeared only the other day to being so low as to be useless. i also wondered whether the puddle under my car was really from my car and related to this.

So the next day, I got a friend to help me look at my car as the puddle under my car was definitely new enough and large enough to be part of the problem. He first asked me if I’d checked the fluids in my car. My answer was… “Uhhh, no.” [there were mitigating circumstances as I couldn’t get into my trunk for two months (my second set of keys won’t open the trunk and the first set had visited Saskatoon for a month and then I’d lent my car out to a friend for a few weeks and couldn't really check the trunk then) and I drive the car infrequently enough that I usually don’t check the fluids except before long trips, which I hadn’t done for three and a half months… ‘my poor car’ is all I can say].
As he asked about the fluids, I felt a bit incompetent – checking the fluids is the most obvious thing to do when trying to figure out what’s wrong with a car. And when I looked in the engine coolant overflow jug, I noticed it was empty. I felt like an idiot! My father taught me better than to let it get even close to empty! (The engine oil was rather low, too, but that was a little less traumatic, as I was aware of the probability of this).

As my friend continued to look at my car and talk to me about it, I added some anti-freeze. He graciously did not harass my incompetence (although he did encourage me to keep the fluids a bit higher.) He even complimented me on the great organizational state of my trunk, which I had to acknowledge was my father’s doing [my father had seen it at Christmas and freaked at the disaster zone it had become: several bottles of fluids strewn in different places in the trunk, the carpet up (I had spilled windshield washer fluid on the carpet and it needed to dry and had never been fixed up), a speaker fallen down, and bags strewn all over the place. So my father cleaned it out for me, and with the aforementioned key problem, I’d only opened it about three times since he’d cleaned it]. And all this male interest in my trunk makes me realize that i really do not understand the male mind.

The puddle was a bit large to be just power steering fluid but it seemed clear enough so it was possible (although it was hard to tell for sure since the major fluids were all low). The best bet was to fill up the fluids (another gracious reminder from my friend) and see what got low.

A few days later, the car had a green puddle under it. With a bit of diagnosis (getting my roommate’s fiancĂ© to help me and checking autozone.com), we figured out it was the water pump. Which makes the low state of antifreeze slightly more explainable though hardly excusing my incompetence here.

Somehow, though, I don’t entirely think this is what my mentor had in mind when he talked about incompetence.

Thankfully all is now well with my car. [Except it needs an oil change and a windshield wiper definitely needs replacing and I need to figure out what‘s happening with my brakes to make my car shudder slightly when I use them (hopefully it just needs a new brake pad or two)]. And as much as I look forward to not having to own a car next year, hopefully this experience will teach me to look after my car a bit better – it is, after all, one of the possessions that I’m supposed to be honouring God with.