On Living in the Future

I just realized I’m living in the future. This arrived in my mail the other day:

It came as a part of a promotional package from Rogers. Essentially, junk mail. Except, this is junk mail with a USB. I’m supposed to plug this into my computer and start using some new thing. This is technology that wasn’t invented until I was in elementary school and it’s become so cheap and easy to manufacture that it has arrived at my house for free, in the hopes that I will give Rogers more of my money. This kind of blows my mind. More than anything else in my house, this piece of junk mail seems to have arrived from the future. Junk mail with little TV screens that talk to you doesn’t seem so far away.

I also just finished reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick so my mind is in a sci-fi zone, I guess. Did you know that that book (written in 1968) is set in 2021? That’s only nine years away. I can’t recall what book it was, but I recently read a sci-fi story set in 1997. Heck, 1985 is probably the best known example of science fiction prediction not quite hitting the mark. (Though you could make a good argument that 1985 isn’t really about the date.) Basically, we haven’t hit the mark writers in the ’60s thought we would. But we’re getting there. Perhaps not in terms of space travel – Dick’s novel has a colony on Mars – but in terms of what we’re doing here on Earth with technology and communication. I have yet to read a sci-fi novel that predicts the internet. In that way, I think we’ve far outstripped many artists’ idea of the possible.

On the other hand, I now have another piece of junk mail in my house. Worst of all, I can’t recycle this one.

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Book Review – 2666 by Roberto Bolano

It’s hard to know where to start talking about a book like 2666. That’s partly because, in some ways, it’s actually five books. Published posthumously, the book begins with “A Note from the Author’s Heirs” explaining that, before his death, Bolano stipulated the book be published as five separate works. Instead, his friends and family opted to publish Bolano’s novel as he originally would have – as one single volume divided into five parts. Ultimately the five parts belong together. They share several common themes and characters although each is very different. Some of the sections took me a few pages to settle in to it and sometimes I found it frustrating when a section ended without answering my questions. At the same time, that gave me drive to move on to the next section.

First off, I have to say that Bolano was an extremely talented writer. It’s sad to read a great book by such a strong writer, knowing he died so young. His other titles have already been added to my list of books to read. That said, the book is long. The English translation has 898 pages; I ended up renewing it from the library twice and I don’t think I’m a slow reader. I was pulled through it by its ambiguity and sense of mystery, as well as Bolano’s strong prose. This guy is master of the sentence so long you’re sure it’s a run-on and yet it makes perfect sense.This is especially evident in the first section and I loved it. I know how hard it is to create long sentences well. The second and third sections were not as well fleshed out for me, which was slightly disappointing after the strong first sections. The primary character in the third section didn’t fleshed out enough. But the section was short and still dealt with some of the mysteries introduced before and wanting to figure those things out kept me reading. I do wonder however, had Bolano lived longer, if there would have been a more edited final version.

I knew almost nothing about the book before I started, which is generally my favourite way of reading books, so I don’t want to give much away here. The most interesting section for me was the fourth – “The Part About the Crimes”. This is also the section where I almost stopped reading the book. In often explicit detail, this section describes the crimes of a fictional Mexican town called Santa Teresa. The crimes have been referenced to since the first section of the books and by the time I arrived at the fourth section, I was ready to find out more about what was happening. These are violent crimes against women and there are many of them detailed in the book. I wonder sometimes about the value of including such descriptions in a novel – whether it’s necessary or whether it glorifies violence and simply appeals to a base human lust for violence. I’ve always been bothered by the popularity of True Crime books as a genre (for example) and people’s interest in reading about such things and I think Bolano feeds off that same interest in this section. The thing is though, this was a very true to life section. (While reading the novel, I didn’t realize just how true to life. The crimes of Santa Teresa were based on murders in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, which makes it even more shocking.) As I read, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Robert Pickton, who murdered almost fifty women over about ten years. Because Pickton preyed on prostitutes and drug users, the case took longer to solve or to garner public attention than if the victims had been middle class women or men. 2666 doesn’t address this issue overtly, but a theme throughout the descriptions of the crimes is how quickly their investigations are shelved. The victims in 2666 are all women, many of them poor factory workers, many living on the fringes of society. In the novel, it is easier for the police to give up or arrest small-time thugs than pursue a real answer for these crimes and the victims’ families – often living in poverty – are powerless. The tragedy of this – and why I think this section of the novel is so important – is how true to life this is. How easy our society makes it to ignore the deaths of the marginalized. And not just in Mexico but here in Canada too. Think of the so-called “Highway of Tears” right here in British Columbia. Aboriginal women have been disappearing along there since the 1970s and their murders remain unsolved. People vanish from Vancouver’s downtown eastside and their disappearances are not investigated. Think of the high profile murders of the last few years, the ones you see on tabloid covers in grocery aisles – aren’t they all white, middle class women or children? I’m embarrassed that I’d never heard of Ciudad Juarez before reading this book. This is part of the power of fiction – to shine light on real world problems.

In the end, I’m glad I continued the novel. The final section pulled a lot of things together, some of them in unexpected ways. It’s also the section that I thought could potentially most stand alone. Its primary character – Hans Reiter – is unlike any I can recall reading before. Even now I have such a clear image of him in my mind. He haunted me; I still don’t know if I judged him correctly. At the end of the novel I wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it again. Most definitely a sign of a good book.

2666 takes the reader across Europe and North America, and through the 20th century. It draws you into dark corners, places you might not have wanted to look. But ultimately, dark corners will remain dark and dangerous as long as people refuse to examine them.

Some favourite quotes:

“Inside that book with a yellow cover everything was expressed so clearly that sometimes Florita Almada thought the author must have been a friend of Benito Juarez and that Benito Juarez had confided all his childhood experiences in the man’s ear. If such a thing were possible. If it were possible to convey what one feels when night falls and the stars come out and one is alone in the vastness, and life’s truths (night truths) begin to march past one by one, somehow swooning or as if the person out in the open were swooning or as if a strange sickness were circulating in the blood unnoticed.”

“Ivanov’s fear was of a literary nature. That is, it was the fear that afflicts most citizens who, one fine day (or dark) choose to make the practice of writing, and especially the practice of fiction writing, an integral part of their lives. Fear of being no good. Also fear of being overlooked. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear that one’s efforts and striving will come to nothing. Fear of the step that leaves no trace. Fear of the forces of chance and nature that wipe away shallow prints. Fear of dining alone and unnoticed. Fear of going unrecognized. Fear of failure and making a spectacle of oneself. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear of forever dwelling in the hell of bad writers.”

A Botanical Adventure through the Pacific Northwest

Okay, that headline is a little misleading. I like the word botanical though. Last week Peter and I got to spend three days and two nights a little south of the border…the state of Washington! The weather was gorgeous, we had some excellent thrift store experiences, and I took a lot of pictures. We spent most of our time in the Bellingham area/Skagit County. A lot of it reminded us of our own west coast and I got to see some sights I’d missed.

Cherry blossoms in Bellingham.

Like cherry blossoms.

And Arbutus trees.

In fact, I most definitely missed Arbutus trees. To the point that I took a lot of pictures of them last week.

Growing up in Vancouver and then living on the island, I never realized how unique these trees are. They only grow in a few spots in the world and I took having them around for granted until I moved away from them. I think they’re such stunning trees.

They have the added bonus of reminding me of my church family in Victoria!

Tulips are also big in Skagit County, though we arrived a couple weeks too early for the annual tulip festival. We sure saw a lot of its advertising though. And we spotted one tulip.

Tulip sculpture in La Conner.

We enjoyed a different kind of American botany one night, courtesy of our local Safeway.

Rum and coke in a can! Just what you needed, right?

We travelled back up the coast along Chuckanut Drive, a beautiful road overlooking the ocean. We stopped numerous times to enjoy the view and breathe in that smell of the ocean that we’ve missed so much. It was glorious.

Chuckanut Drive

Still to come: Our thrift store discoveries!

Oh, and one more Arbutus picture.

Arbutus in bloom along the Boulevard in Bellingham.

 

Book Review – The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller

I keep a list, at the back of my journal, of books I want to read. I don’t always stick to it when I visit the library or go to a bookstore, but it helps me remember titles I think sound interesting. If someone recommends a book to me that I think I would want to read, I add it to the list with a note about who recommended it. (When I worked at the bookstore, customers would often tell me I should read books like The Power of Now or The Da Vinci Code. I would smile and tell them, “I’ll add that to my list.” That was a lie. I didn’t add those books to my list.)

I read Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God on the recommendation of a philosophical friend and before I had finished it I was adding Keller’s The Prodigal God to the list. Keller has a gift for succinct and wise writing. I believe he truly has his finger on where society currently is spiritually, and where it might be going. In The Reason for God, Keller says that our society is both more spiritual and more secular than it has ever been. The book is a great look at the Christian faith – why it matters, how it differs from other belief systems, and why it is the truth. If you have enjoyed or benefited from the theological writings of C.S. Lewis I think you would also enjoy Timothy Keller.

The Prodigal God is a much shorter, simpler book. It reads like an elongated sermon, probably because that’s exactly what it is. Keller renames the Biblical story that many know as “The Prodigal Son” to “The Two Lost Sons” (which makes a lot of sense when taken in the context of Luke 15, where Jesus also tells the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin). Keller explains that there are actually two lost and rebellious sons in this story, not how the story is usually taught. There are two sons who want something from their father and two times that the father goes out of his house and humbles himself for his child. Jesus tells this parable to the tax collectors (represented by the younger son) and the Pharisees (the elder son) and there is a lesson for both. It’s also a lesson that, I think, many of us can and should take to heart. There’s a lot of modern day application here.

It’s a simple, written sermon, only seven short chapters, but the teaching is profound and unlike any sermon I’ve heard before on this passage. It encouraged me to re-examine my motivations in serving God. I see some of those “elder brother” tendencies in myself. Keller draws attention to the fact that serving God for the sake of some earthly reward or honour is worthless but that instead we serve a God who loves us and wants to be close to us. A God who leaves the party to find us and beg us to come in when we are at our most selfish and stubborn. (Luke 15:28) Definitely worth a read.

Did you know that a prodigal is one who spends lavishly? I didn’t. The word can be attached to the younger son who wastes his inheritance, but Keller attaches it to our Lord, who loves us lavishly. Pretty cool.

As I read a book and enjoy it, I copy down quotes that strike me and stick with me in my journal. Here are some of my favourites from A Prodigal God.

Here, then, is Jesus’ radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviours can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Saviour, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

 This really nails down what’s behind so many of the flaws in our church and our culture. Displace authority and a sinful, selfish desire.

 The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid the church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our minsters and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

If that’s not convicting, I don’t know what is.

Looking Cool on TV

Not feeling that well last night, I snuggled into bed, in my pajamas, with Netflix, looking for something to watch. I flicked through the titles for a while – wanting something that wouldn’t require a lot of thought, elicit a lot of emotion, but wouldn’t be too incredibly stupid. Do any of you have good sick day go-tos for TV shows? As a kid mine was The Price is Right but watching it now without Bob Barker makes me sad. If I had The Joy of Painting on DVD, I think my life would be better.

Anyway, so last night I settled onDegrassi Jr. High. I could not tell you why. I would say it was some misplaced nostalgia but I was barely two (wait, I double-checked, I was not yet two) when the show began and I never watched it regularly in any of its incarnations.

Oh, the 80s.

It’s made in Canada, so obviously the quality is sometimes lacking.* The thing I really noticed while watching the show though was that I couldn’t tell who was supposed to be cool or not. They all looked so small and dorky to me that for the first few minutes, I assumed the show was following a group of misfits through junior high. But no, some of them are apparently popular and thought to be awesome by their peers.

(*That is not meant to be a disparaging comment towards Canada or Canadian talent. There’s huge amounts of talent in our country, unfortunately our television doesn’t always reflect that.)

Which one of these is more popular? Any guesses?

Those two are a couple of the main characters from the first episode. Joey (the one on the right) is, apparently, the most popular guy in school. And yes, he does make that face a lot. Stephanie (the one on the left) becomes more popular the more skin she shows and trades kisses for votes in the student election. You can’t really see it in this picture but that red thing in her hair is a chip clip. We also get to see her backcombing her hair quite a lot.

And, oh, the high fives. So many high fives. And not a single one looks cool.

In most high school dramas, the popular kids are very clearly and visibly defined from the “geeks”. They’re all played by gorgeous twenty-somethings but the nerdy kids wear glasses and like science. Think of She’s All That (yikes, dated and terrible reference!) where you can tell the main character isn’t cool because she wears glasses and overalls.

But I actually like what Degrassi does here. The kids are all okay looking and all dressed relatively the same. And that’s actually what high school is like! There might be someone extraordinarily beautiful here or there but for most people, high school is not their most attractive time. You’re still figuring out how to wear make-up, your body’s changing constantly, your skin is probably going a little crazy. Basically, in high school, you look like a kid from Degrassi.

Well, maybe not this kid. Is that an egg?

Personally, I can’t wait to see how Stephanie fares as school president.

The Bachelor Finale

Our journey is finally at an end. I, for one, am happy to be finished watching Ben and his hair. Did you know this was “the most controversial finale in Bachelor history”?

The final days find us still in Switzerland, in Zermatt, near the Matterhorn (I love that ride at Disneyland). Once again, Switzerland is the best-looking one in the show. This episode was huge amounts of recaps, soft-focus flashbacks, and shots of our three people gazing thoughtfully into the distance.

  • Ben says he is in love with 2 women. Really? How can you be in love with 2 people? That seems either careless or like you don’t really know what love is. I’ve been in love exactly once in my life. Romantic love is an exclusive love, that’s a defining characteristic. I think Ben is confusing love with “I want to have sex with 2 women.”
  • He says he needs more time with Lindzi but also has doubts about Courtney. This is all inter-spliced with thoughtful looks and David Gray.
  • Ben’s mom and sister (Barbara and Julia) arrive in Switzerland to meet the final contenders.
  • Ben seems genuinely close with his family. He tears up when they arrive and keeps hugging them. It’s the most emotion I’ve seen from him all season and it was by far my favourite moment of the episode. He says he has a sense of relief now that they are there.
  • Hmm…his sister conveniently asks if any of the woman have contributed to drama. I guess she was coached.
  • Lindzi meets them first. She’s super nervous, trying to impress, and as they eat lunch she keeps dropping her fork. I can totally sympathize with that. She’s smiling so much it looks painful.
  • Ben’s mom is hard to read. Even when she’s saying nice things, she’s so toneless, I’m not sure if she means anything she’s saying. I guess that’s where Ben gets it from.
  • Julia asks Lindzi about Courtney and I think Lindzi answers pretty diplomatically. We haven’t really seen Lindzi get involved in any of the drama of the season. Julia is happy with Lindzi, thinks she’s a good fit with Ben.
  • The next day Ben wears a hideous grandpa sweater and Courtney meets his family. They ask her about the drama and she feeds them the same lines she fed Ben. That the women didn’t try to get to know her, that they judged her because she’s so pretty, that maybe she guesses she could have tried a little harder, maybe.
  • Courtney’s charms win over the whole family. Barbara says, who doesn’t want happiness for their children. Which, yes, I’m sure parents want their children to be happy, but don’t we also want our children to be good people, to stand up for justice and the oppressed, to contribute to society, to be smart and healthy? Would you really rather your child experience short-term happiness rather than learn and grow?
  • Basically, Barbara and Julia approve of Courtney and from that moment it’s clear (if it wasn’t clear before) that Courtney will be the last one standing. His family were maybe the last warnings Ben might have listened to.
  • Ben’s mom also tells him to “give it a try and see what happens”. Seriously? This is a marriage we’re talking about. A lifelong commitment. He’s not trying a new type of cheese!
  • Ben however does say that he will pick a woman and stick with her, which I have to give him props for.
  • He has a final date with each woman but they aren’t particularly interesting and really, I don’t think he should have had them. It’s clear that he’s made up his mind and I really feel that he’s leading Lindzi on. One final date isn’t going to change anything, either you know or you don’t.
  • Courtney is still saying mean things about Lindzi! She says Lindzi has no depth. Then again, she thinks Ben does, so maybe that word doesn’t mean what she thinks it means.
  • Lindzi compares skiing to relationships.
  • The day of the proposal, Ben says he has a difficult decision to make that today. Dude, you really shouldn’t be unsure about proposing the morning of.
  • Ben meets with Neil Lane – jeweller and relationship expert (apparently). What did you all think of the ring he picked? I thought the first one he looked at was the nicest.
  • Courtney wears a black dress with a white cape and I was going to make a comment about how they’re trying to make her look evil and how she resembled Maleficent but then they showed Lindzi wearing a black dress with feathers and a green cape. Lindzi kind of looked like an elf.

I believe this photo belongs to USA Today. Not me.

  • Lindzi and her feathered skirt arrive first and that means she isn’t staying. Ben proceeds to heavily sugarcoat his rejection of her. Okay, so breaking up with someone is hard. There’s no nice or easy way to do it. The thing is, throughout this show, Ben has said how he doesn’t like to sugar coat things but I feel like he’s done that with every single woman. With Lindzi was the worst of all. He goes as far as to tell her he loves her…but. That’s seriously what he says and I think it was cruel and completely unnecessary.
  • Lindzi handles it with total silence. We haven’t seen tears from her all season and I think she was really fighting to keep them back here. She handles the whole thing with great composure. She tells Ben she’s mad at herself for not giving him what he needed but when she’s alone she says that Ben will look like a fool if he marries Courtney.
  • Blah, blah, blah. Ben and Courtney get engaged. I don’t have much to say about that.

The After The Final Rose episode didn’t add much new information to the situation. We do find out that when Ben said he would pick a woman and stick with her, he meant only until it gets hard. Apparently once the show started airing, he effectively broke up with her. Not by calling her or talking to her – he simply stopped contacting her or responding to her. That’s super lame. That is the action of a 6th grader, not of a grown man.

  • Ben insists that he wasn’t tricked and that Courtney is really very drama-free. The audience scoffs.
  • Courtney says that Ben abandoned her, not even contacting her on Valentine’s Day and that there has been trust lost. When Chris Harrison presses this, she says she still doesn’t trust him completely. I actually feel bad for Courtney.
  • Chris Harrison asks if Ben can say he won’t abandon Courtney again. Ben says he wants to stay with her. Not he will but he wants to.
  • It seemed weird to bring out Ashley (the last woman Ben proposed to) and J.P. and ask their opinions.

And there you have it, that is The Bachelor. Who knows how much of it is true/edited/manipulated/real romance. If Ben and Courtney really love each other and want to get married, I wish them the best but I do think they have a hard road ahead of them.

Who watched the finale? Who was surprised, or not surprised? Do you think Ben and Courtney deserve each other?

Happy Things

It’s Monday and it’s grey/rainy outside but I’m in a good mood for some reason. My theory is it’s the extra hour of light yesterday. I have a confession: I think daylight savings rocks. In the fall we get an extra hour of sleep and in the spring we get more daytime. I like both of those things. I like that daylight savings means Peter and I got to go for a walk last night at a time when, lately, it’s already dark.

That picture’s from last night. We call it “The sun sets in Mordor”.

Other things making me happy today:

1. I’m making bread right now. For real bread that people will (hopefully) eat. I’ve made bread before but it has been few and far between and my track record is not terrific. I love baking but that’s been primarily dessert-baking in the past. I’ll be happier if my bread turns out.

That’s my dough, all ready to start rising, and a picture of Nigella Lawson’s bread behind it.

2. A new book. I started reading The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller this morning. I’m not far into it but I loved the last Keller book I read and so I’m excited about this one. I’m still working my way through 2666 by Roberto Bolano. That book is big. I’ve had to renew it from the library once already.

3. Signs of spring! Daylight savings being one of them. I love this time of year, when there are more birds out and the days are getting warmer and flowers are starting to bloom. On our walk last night I kept spotting robins and buds on trees.

I also spotted these beauties. We had a huge rhododendron bush in the front yard of the house I grew up in. They make me happy.

4. Good friends. I got to see two of my favourite girlfriends over the weekend and celebrate the birthday of one. Definitely puts a smile on my face. Friendships that last over years and multiple moves are a definite blessing.

Oh, and one last thought. This isn’t necessarily a “happiness” thing, but I thought this article from today’s Globe and Mail was something good to keep in mind with all this Joseph Kony. I particularly like the author’s point that awareness is only the first step and our involvement shouldn’t stop there. There are many organizations doing awesome work in Africa and around the world and I encourage you to get involved with one or more of them. I also encourage you to do your research first – see what the organization stands for, what they do on the ground, and how they spend their money. Not all non-profits are created equally. Yes, spread awareness but let your awareness be followed by action!

P.S. If you’re looking for a non-profit that’s run by awesome people and has a sustainable, beneficial long-term model, check out Global Mothers. They have been in the works for a while but are launching their products soon.

P.P.S. I’m not affiliated with Global Mothers, I just think they’re doing something really great.

Hope you’re all finding things to be happy about this Monday!

A Snowy, March Adventure

It’s another cloudy, dreary day in the Fraser Valley today and my heart is aching for cherry blossoms. I’m looking forward to the weekend and getting to see some friends, as well as daylight savings coming. (Losing the hour of sleep is a small price to pay for longer daylight hours, I think.)

On Wednesday Peter and I were itching to get out of the house and the weather was decent, so we hopped in the car and drove up into the mountains to hike to Lindeman Lake.

Our destination, Lindeman Lake.

Our car is even more citified than I am – definitely not meant for back roads – and it’s pretty dirty now, but it did us well. I should note that there isn’t actually snow in Chilliwack at the moment; this hike was in the mountains, at a higher elevation, so there was a fair bit of snow there.

I was ready for anything though. Have I mentioned that I love my new boots?

The hike was beautiful. It was wonderful to be among tall firs and cedars.

Oh, trees, you are lovely!

And the snow! Walking through mostly untouched, clean white snow, with a river flowing quickly by on one side, surrounded by trees…that’s kind of heaven. Also, has anybody seen the old BBC version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe? Do you remember the scene where spring is just starting to win out over the long winter and the children stop and listen to the newly unfrozen creek? This kind of reminded me of that.

Did you notice the handsome man in the background?

And then the lake was just so perfectly frozen and gorgeous. It’s been a while since I saw a fully frozen body of water like that. Mind you, we still didn’t trust it enough to walk out on it but it was definitely cool to poke with sticks and throw things on the ice.

The way back down ended up being the more challenging, due to the snow. I did mostly okay since my boots had good hiking boots but Peter’s hiking boots didn’t do him many favours. We were both grabbing at tree branches and moving sideways most of the way. The craziest moment though was when Peter lost his footing and slipped a few feet. He put out his hands to stop his slide and then got back up. He wasn’t wearing gloves and his bare hands were in the snow. I was coming up behind him, still at the top of where he began to slip. After checking that he was okay, I started to make my own way down. I had my eyes on the ground, watching my footing carefully, when something shiny caught my eye. My first thought was that it was a bottle cap but something made me take a second look and I suddenly recognized it as my husband’s wedding ring! With his cold hands, Peter hadn’t noticed it was missing and if I hadn’t been behind him and spotted it, the ring would probably still be in the woods right now. Thank goodness I’m attracted to shiny objects!

It was much steeper than it looks here. Really.

One more quick, unrelated note: I read this article in the National Post today and I think it’s worth checking out for all you B.C. residents. It outlines some of the serious implications of Bill 22 and the effect it could have on international law and how our province is run. Bill 22 is the legislation that the BC government is currently trying to force teachers in our province to accept. Aside from what you may think of teachers and public education, this sets a precedent for all workers in the province.

 

Hey Christians!

This week I’ve learned to bite my tongue. Or I’m trying to at least. I’m learning that arguments don’t always convince others and, in fact, can be detrimental. I’m learning the importance of being informed and just how infuriating misinformation can be. I’m learning that it’s good to stand up for what you believe in but it also means people won’t always like you.

I do believe that as Christians we are called to stand up for justice. The Bible instructs us continuously to defend widows and orphans, the lowest and most vulnerable people of the time. In our day we could replace those words with children and the homeless, minorities and immigrants. At the same time the Bible unequivocally tells us to love one another. It’s the number two thing we’re instructed to do after loving God. It’s that important. Standing up for others is a part of that love but we’re called to love both the oppressor and the oppressed. That’s insanely difficult. And, honestly, that’s not something I’m able to do of my own accord. There’s a lot in the world to get angry about. This passage in Romans has meant a lot to me this week:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Romans 12:9-21)

I’ve highlighted the parts that have really spoken to me this week but, seriously, I could highlight the whole thing. I feel like I could write a book about this, speaking mostly to myself. There’s so much wisdom here. So much beautiful, difficult wisdom. Did you notice that we are called to “love one another”, not just “love the people you like and who think the same things as you”? And not just that but Paul (the guy who wrote the books of Romans) takes it even further and tells us we should “bless those who persecute” us, that we should feed them, give them a drink, “seek to show hospitality”. The last thing I want to do with someone who is rude to me, or disagrees with something I strongly believe in, is invite them over for dinner.

I think the last sentence is maybe the most important. I’m inclined to believe that if I’m standing up against evil then I won’t be overcome by it. “Look at me, I’m standing up for justice! I’m doing the right thing! Those people on the other side are misinformed idiots!” But I think Paul might actually be warning us against another kind of evil. If I become so stubborn in my own convictions (whether or not they’re right), I can become blind to the people around me and I fall prey to hatred. When you forget that there are real people on the other side of an argument – real people with real emotions and lives – we can be overcome by hatred and evil. Not to mention that Paul also tells us, “Never be wise in your own sight.” Yikes, that’s another one I have to work on.

The good news is that we’re not left to do all this on our own. You know who’s really, really, really good at loving us? Yup, it’s the classic Sunday School answer – Jesus! I know that I’m only going to fail at loving my enemies unless I can learn to see them the way Jesus sees them. As people who He died for, just the same way He died for me.

So that’s what God’s teaching me this week. What are you learning?

I took this picture on Monday. I love how you can see the storm coming in.

The Bachelor – The Women Tell…some stuff

I’m a little later than usual with this update. For those of you waiting for this with bated breath, I both apologize and suggest you find something else to do. This week’s been a little stressful so far so when Peter suggested a bicycle ride along the dike, I jumped at the chance to get outside. It’s a beautiful, sunny day here in the Fraser Valley.

This week’s episode of The Bachelor was the Women Tell All (WTA) episode. This is always an enjoyable show to watch but doesn’t offer a lot of action for recap. The major difference between this WTA and ones in previous season was that one of Ben’s 2 final women showed up. Guess which one it was? That’s right, Courtney! Her appearance probably made for the most interesting time of the episode. Not every woman was there but the crucial (ie: most filmed) ones from the season were and they each had a turn on the Chris Harrison “hot seat”. The whole thing was filmed in front of an audience of mostly women and a few scattered, sad men.

  • Blakely was first on the hot seat. Apparently she was very mean to Rachel the first night. I don’t remember seeing that.
  • Samantha still speaks very negatively toward and about Blakely. Samantha’s pretty annoying in this whole thing. I’m glad she wasn’t on the show for long.
  • Jamie (she of the embarrassing kiss) makes the great observation that they were all rude to someone else at some point. She gets shot down for telling this truth.
  • Blakely and Courtney both rubbed some of the other girls the wrong way but I think the big difference is that when Blakely saw how her behaviour was making others feel she realized that it would be easier on her to be nicer and she changed her behaviour. Courtney didn’t make any such change.
  • Brittney (who turned down a one-on-one date and went home early) says that she was never attracted to Ben. Her time is precious and she had better things to do. Good for you! She also says that she thought Lindzi deserved the date and she’s glad she did it.
  • Samantha tries to make it look like she and Brittney are friends but Brittney won’t go along and calls Samantha a chihuahua, because she never stops yapping.
  • Shawntel (from Brad’s season who showed up to fight for Ben) was next on the hot seat. She and Chris Harrison clearly get along well.
  • We review the rose ceremony where Shawntel showed up and how she was bullied by the other women. (I use the word ‘bullied’ intentionally here because I think they were extremely rude and unkind to her and we only saw a few minutes of the hours she had to spend with them.)
  • Elyse straight up apologizes to Shawntel, which I applaud. Rachel feels “a little guilty”. Rachel, that’s not an apology. You would have looked better if you kept your mouth shut. Erika, who probably said the meanest things (about Shawntel’s personal appearance) doesn’t apologize at all and instead tries to defend herself. Emily (my favourite) tells Shawntel she’s stunning and if Shawntel weren’t so clearly awesome none of them would have been concerned.
  • Emily (the rapping epidemiologist) is next on the hot seat.
  • She really liked Ben but a negative element was introduced to their relationship when she tried to warn him about Courtney. She says she is bothered to see anybody misled but thinks Ben began to see her as an antagonist to Courtney (his favourite).
  • I think Emily has a pretty good head on her shoulders (as much as anyone who goes on this show can!). She says that Ben disrespected all of them by skinny-dipping with Courtney (true) and that the type of guy she wants to be with would have been respectful of her opinion, not tell her to “tread lightly”.
  • Emily’s clearly over Ben and says that he’s made his bed and has to live with her own choices. I’m glad to see her move on.
  • Nicki, next on the hot seat, has not moved on. She makes more than one mention that Ben is still the best guy ever. I don’t understand how any woman could watch this whole season and think that. Nicki, raise your standards!
  • Throughout the episode, you can see Kacie and Nicki holding hands and whispering to each other. They clearly became good friends and it’s sweet to watch.
  • Kacie (a crowd favourite) is next in the hot seat. She says she can see now that their core values were different and I think (I hope) that she is moving on from Ben. I would guess that she might be the most shocked by Ben’s skinny-dipping adventures and hopefully that made her glad he dumped her when he did.
  • Kacie says it’s hard to feel like she wasn’t good enough but that it takes two people to fall in love. I think eventually (if not already) Kacie will be really thankful for her family and the values they represent.
  • And now, Courtney! First the women get to all talk about her while she’s backstage and can’t hear them. It’s really gossipy and doesn’t bring out the best in anyone.
  • The general consensus is that Courtney meant everything she said and was trying to be hurtful.
  • Casey says that Courtney was a “sweet, sincere friend” and that she felt uncomfortable through the whole process.
  • Kacie and Emily both comment that they saw that sweet, charming side that Courtney had and that she showed to Ben. Kacie says she didn’t know who to believe, which person Courtney was but that she hopes, for Ben’s sake, the nice Courtney is the real Courtney.
  • Emily says that when she did see that nicer side to Courtney, that’s when she tried to apologize because she thought maybe she had been wrong. We all remember how that apology went, right?
  • Basically, they all agree that Courtney did not make an effort to get along with them.
  • When Courtney comes in she seems very subdued. She thinks the girls are fair in their judgements and says she would do many things differently.
  • Blakely wants to know why Courtney thought it was okay to call her a stripper and Courtney admits there was no reason to say it.
  • Courtney admits that she should have accepted Emily’s apology and that the joke she made to Kacie early on was distasteful. She says she was extremely uncomfortable and feels humiliated by her actions
  • She does break down a little at one point and cries and says, “I take it all back.” It’s hard to know really if she’s upset by what she did and said or she’s upset more by the repercussions of her actions, especially now that she’s being torn apart in the media.
  • At one point she says, about Ben, “I cared for him”. There’s a definite pause before she follows it with “and still do.” Makes me think that if they are engaged, it’s already on the rocks.
  • Here’s what I think about Courtney: I can believe that she regrets her actions. She didn’t come off looking good and life probably has been hard for her since the show ended. I can also believe that she has it in her to be a sweet, caring, sincere person. That’s the person she has largely been with Ben, that’s who she was with Casey, and that’s who she was with her family. She also has it in her to be a rude, unforgiving, unkind person and that’s who we mostly saw on the show. We all, as humans, have those two sides to us. Saying a kind thing to one person doesn’t cancel out our unkind actions to someone else. Bottom line: Courtney has it in her to be extremely unkind, as we all do, but she didn’t really seem to hesitate on acting out that unkindness. That’s a red flag for any relationship. Someone who’s kind to you and rude to your waiter, is a rude person.
  • One more observation: I do believe that Courtney is pretty insecure. I think when people are physically attractive (as Courtney is, whether you like her personality or not) we expect them to have matching confidence but that isn’t always the case.
  • The rest (the part where Ben comes out) was pretty boring, as I find Ben himself to be. When he came out and sat down and looked at all the women he said, “Welcome to my nightmare,” which got some laughs but I thought was actually pretty disrespectful to those women. The highlight was when Emily told him he sucked at saying goodbye to the women.
  • Well, next week we get to see Ben’s final choice? Any bets/guesses?