16 September 2005

Off We Go

We're leaving tomorrow morning for the States...one week in PA, one week in Disneyworld, and one week in VA. Yay! And...ugh. Transatlantic plane trip with a 3-year-old. Last time we took MANY trips to the bathroom once she figured out that "potty" was the way to walk up and down the aisles smiling at the nice people. Pray for us. Patience, patience, patience...right now!

09 September 2005

Life According to Oprah

After dropping Katrina off at preschool this morning, I came home and ironed while watching Oprah. (How stereotypical can I be?) Anyway, the show was about people taking risks to live their dreams. Phil Keoghan, who has a book and a reality TV show called "No Opportunity Wasted," was a guest, and he introduced several stories of people from his show. One lady was a small-town radio DJ who auditioned for a guest spot at a top New York radio station. (And made it, of course--what self-respecting radio station would turn down anyone with a modicum of talent who brings along cameras from a nationally syndicated TV show?)

So Oprah and Phil talked about taking risks, working hard, making the most of your life, doing what it takes to follow your dreams. All very inspiring and rah-rah. And as I stood there and ironed, I started thinking, "what are my dreams? Now that Katrina is getting older, what do I want to do with my life?"

After the show, I sat down and read the devotional in The Upper Room for today. The Scripture reading was Mark 8:34-38, beginning "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."

The world according to Oprah, and American culture in general, is that true living is doing what it takes to make you happy, or successful...whatever your dream is. But true living, according to Jesus, is denying yourself, focusing on following Jesus, giving your life to God.

I never really noticed the sharp contrast before. These words of Jesus call us to a radically different mindset than that of the inspiring stories of people achieving their dreams. But, really, I think there's nothing wrong with goals, aspirations, dreams. In many cases, I believe God gifted us with them.

Perhaps what's different is the focus, the attitude, the willingness to delay or give up our dreams if God or life circumstances ask us to do so. Am I willing to follow Jesus, no matter where it takes me? And not just in the big picture, "yeah, I'm a Christian, I gave my life to Christ." For believers in the affluent, tolerant Western world, it's relatively easy to feel like the deal is done with a bit of church attendance, a little devotional reading and prayer, and then go on with the rest of our day. But these words tell me there's more to this Christian thing than that.

You know, like actually following Jesus.

Just don't ask me how that works. I'm still trying to figure it out.

01 September 2005


I started tearing up in the car today, listening to the news on Hurricane Katrina. This young woman was looking for her parents and her brother. The last she had heard from them, the mom and the brother had been rescued from their home's roof by a helicopter and were in a small shelter somewhere. There were too many people in the helicopter for it to take her father; the last she heard her dad was on the roof waiting for the next helicopter to come. Her mom's cell was out of power and she had nowhere to plug it in. That was the last the woman heard from her family; it's been two days.

I'm sure there are stories like that everywhere. This is just one person who happened to run into an NPR reporter, and now I'm crying and praying for her halfway across the world. I'm not glued to the news, because of my Katrina. "Bear in the Big Blue House" is on now. So what I do hear is on the radio, in the car or the kitchen. Jon is getting info and pictures at work on the Air Force bases in the affected areas. The one in the Biloxi area is pretty much destroyed.

Donations are reportedly pouring in to disaster response charities. Along with the unbelievable destruction and suffering comes amazing generosity. Or maybe not so amazing. Praying and sending money are probably the only ways those of us removed from the disaster can help...the only ways to say "I'm sorry this happened to you"... the only ways to stop feeling helpless in the face of suffering.

Lutheran Disaster Response
Salvation Army
Red Cross

Yeah, I still feel helpless, too.