Monday, September 22, 2008

Planet Money

If you're like me, keeping up with the economic news can be a little confusing (and boring). Of course it is pretty useful to understand economic... stuff, and I'm trying to catch up. A few months ago I started investing in a mutual fund... and I've only lost $13! (If buy low-sell high is the key, it seems like this was the time to start?). I would like to have some idea of what's going on in the world of mortgages and stock markets, but a lot of the time that kind of talk makes my eyes glaze over.

Anyway, as an avid listener of This American Life, I was excited to find out that a couple of segments on the current economic crisis is being spun off into a whole podcast called Planet Money. Its really not as boring as it sounds! NPR reporters like Alex Blumberg do a great job of making economics understandable and even interesting, spicing things up with stories of people actually involved in and affected by the economic craziness going on.

25 reasons my birthday was fabulous!

1. I am 25!
2. We went to New York Tuesday and drove through the Li-i-i-incoln Tunnel!
3. Megan x 2 = fun times
4. Sushi and rice balls for dinner!
5. Ran into Jackie and Pat at random in Times Square
6. Greeted my birthday in a bar with karaoke run by Broadway wannabes.
7. Spent the night in a fancy Manhattan hotel.
8. Lots of birthday greetings on facebook (although I couldn’t receive text messages that day)
9. Saw cool installation art piece in the New York Times building.
10. Went to the theater with Jackie and Megan.
11. I saw Wicked and it was so awesome I almost peed my pants.
12. Bought myself a sweet “Defy Gravity” t-shirt… it’s green!
13. Grampa left me a singing voicemail (he has the same birthday). Erica left me an even longer singing voicemail.
14. Had a birthday party on Friday with awesome people.
15. Bo Manor varsity football beat Elkton, although I wasn’t there.
16. Megan Gibb made me a cake.
17. Jackie, Pat, Loretta, Ashleigh, Phil, Megan G and Bryna were there.
18. We drank a 2005 Pinotage that I bought with Santie and Kate in Stellenbosch. Oh the memories!
19. We watched Pillow Talk, starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson, and Tony Randall.
20. Bryna spent the night and we had a great old people talk.
21. My parents took me out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant on Saturday.
22. Kellan had to go to the emergency care center with a football injury that flared up during dinner but he’s ok now.
23. Troy and I awkwardly ate sushi and seaweed salad while Mom tried to figure out how to get us home (Dad took Kellan in the car and left us to eat).
24. Aunt Lauri and Uncle J picked us up and took us home and then we talked about politics.
25. I just finished off the last of my birthday cake and thought about how great a week its been.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Complaints from an Introvert

In many ways, the world has a pro-extrovert bias. You are supposed to speak up to claim your wants and needs. In the academic world part of your grade often depends on speaking up in class a certain number of times. In seminary, I am told that my voice is important; my opinion matters as part of the community here and therefore it becomes my obligation to speak up and share my thoughts. At this moment (with my cranky pants on) I think that is stupid. I appreciate the invitation and affirmation, but most times I'd rather keep quiet.

Before class today, I was reading and overhearing a group preparing a presentation for next week's class. Their task is to lead the discussion of the week's readings. One of their ideas was to split up into small groups for part of the discussion. (We are constantly breaking into small groups to discuss.) Someone made the comment that this would give the introverts a chance to speak up. This is a true statement, and something that I consider when making my own lesson plans, but something about that person's tone struck me as so condescending. What if I don't want to say anything? Really, small groups mean that you can't escape talking, even if you don't have anything to say.

I'll admit that part of my desire to stay quiet stems from social anxiety. When I try to speak up in class, my heart races and my mind often goes blank when I am called on. But I also don't like to speak up because I like to listen. I like to process things, and often I don't formulate something of substance to say until much later. It goes against my grain to speak up and say something pointless or repetitive or obvious just so that people can hear my voice. Plus, I have always preferred a lecture-format for class. I like taking notes, and note-taking is the main way I absorb information. In class discussions, as interesting and important as they are, I don't absorb much.

When it comes down to it, my job is focused around talking to people, which I love, but it drains me (that's the definition of introversion). At school I would much rather sit quietly and listen. It doesn't mean I'm not engaged in the discussion, or that I feel my opinion isn't worthy of being shared. I'm just quiet sometimes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Growing Up

So I know I've been talking about my upcoming birthday for like.... 7 months or something. It feels like a big deal that I'm turning 25, not because it seems old, but because 25 seems really... adult. At 22, 23, even 24 you can sort of get away with being just out of college and not a real adult. At 25 you're like a legitimate adult. Its the age my aunts told us that we had to be before we got married, which means that they assumed we would be mature and responsible enough to handle adult life by that point.

A lot of the time I feel like I am just pretending to be an adult (and I don't even pretend all that well most of the time). And then of course, what is the incentive to grow up and act like an adult? I live at home with my parents. I work at the church where I spent my teenage years (and thus many people still think of me as a teenager). I spend significant amounts of time hanging out with teenagers or on a college campus. I work at camp during the summer. It occurs to me that in this life situation, I may never actually grow up.

There is a whole list of things that I thought I would do, or wanted to do by 25, and I haven't done a lot of those things yet. I'm not really sure where I'm going or where I want to go, and I think that's why I've been feeling all weird and directionless lately. Its like my heart is trying to give birth to a 25-year-old life and its taking a long time.

And just as I was thinking about all of this, I looked in the mirror and found a gray hair.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oprah and Jesus

I am watching Oprah, which is something I don't often do. I was a loyal Oprah viewer for years, but I stopped when she started really freaking me out with The Secret. Today I was suckered in because the Jon and Kate Plus Eight family was on for the first part. Now she's talking about A New Earth.

It always amazes me how many authors write books that basically tell us stuff that we could get from reading the Bible, but completely divorced from Christianity. Now, I am a believer that truth is found all over the place, and that we can find points of intersection between Christianity and a whole host of religions and philosophies. When new books like this come out, though, I kind of want to say, "Duh, we've been saying that for like 2,000 years" (and the Jews have been saying it even longer, and actually I'm pretty sure lots of other religions have been saying this stuff too). This woman on Oprah just said that she finally understood 1 Corinthians 13 - love is about getting over your ego and getting out of the way. Maybe she would have understood that sooner if we didn't reduce so much of scripture to either fuzzy words or condemnation.

People want to believe in redemption and renewal. I do understand the impulse to steer clear of a set religion, because so often religions oppress, judge, demand, condemn, etc. On her show, Oprah occasionally mentions Jesus, but more often she offers a brand of spirituality that is about making the world a better place in whatever way that means for you. No doubt a whole lot of good has been done in the world because of Oprah's influence (along with a good deal of conspicuous consumption). What the Oprah phenomenon tells me is that people want to make the world better, but they don't want to be told that they have to do it a certain way.

I think Christians can glean some insight from this if we try. God works in a lot of different ways, so I think that any movement that makes people try to do good is a good thing. The question is, how can we do a better job of meeting spiritual seekers where they are, and helping them to know God's love as they explore their purpose?

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