Broken-down Poetry: May 2010


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Friday, May 28, 2010


Hi, friends, from Sulaymaniyah.

As you know from my last two posts, I started my Preemptive Love Coalition internship a few days late. (Thanks, Delta.) Tuesday was my first day; Wednesday was my first day in the office.

I love it.


Last semester in Dr. Allison's World Lit. class, we read excerpts from 1001 Nights. The overarching story is about King Shahryar, who after he learns that his wife has been cheating on him and his sister-in-law has been cheating on his brother, decides to marry a new woman every night, sleep with her, then kill her in the morning. That way no woman could deceive him.

The daughter of Shahryar's vizier, Shaherazade, devises a plan in order to save the women of her village. She asks to marry the king, but before the king falls asleep, she tells him a story. Each story has a hidden message, about mercy - what the king was unwilling to show his virgin wives.

As dawn approaches, Shaherazade ends with a cliffhanger, enticing enough to keep her alive until she can finish the story. Every night this happens; Shaherazade tells stories within stories within stories to keep the king's interest.

And through this she wins King Shahryar's trust and keeps herself alive.

Jeremy told this story the first day in the office, comparing Shaherazade to us.

As Preemptive Love interns, as marketers, storytellers, representatives, etc. we need to tell a story that's going to keep our audience enticed, like King Shahryar. We're not meant to throw a message at someone and expect them to be instantly moved with compassion. We aren't an infomercial offering something people don't want.

We need to "get permission" first. We need to build relationships; we need to tells stories.

I want to invite you all on this journey with me. I want you to fall in love with Preemptive Love, just like me, but I don't want to shove it in your faces. Come along with me. Read my stories. Look at pictures. Read stories on the PLC blog.

And maybe like Shahryar these stories will change your heart and you'll be filled with compassion. Maybe you'll want to donate money or your time or resources to this organization.

I hope so.


I'm trying to figure out why I'm here.

I know I fell in love with Preemptive Love's mission statement in the middle of Dr. Perry's radio production class, during a "break up" with a previous ambition, at the brink of a season of doubt.

But I never felt "called" here ... not in the way I thought people should be called. I remember talking to my roommate Lindsey in January, telling her about this internship and how Mom wasn't cool about it, but how I wanted to do it anyway, and that I wasn't getting a "clear sign" from God.

And then I stopped believing that God calls people the way he had in I Samuel, or in the rest of the Bible. He doesn't speak audibly. He isn't so blatantly obvious about anything.

I never felt called here, but I feel at home. I think of Wendell Berry's character who says, "Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there." I was led, but not in the way I wanted to be led.

Back in December when I read about Preemptive Love Coalition, nothing magically fell into place. It wasn't easy getting my mom on board. It wasn't easy to get my sister and my dad on board either. It was hard figuring out how to apply for a loan, and to write an internship proposal to Dr. Turcott, and fill out my internship app. with PLC.

I spent most of second semester nervous and sick to my stomach and crying all over Mollykins.

Good stories must be fought for. They don't just come. At least, not usually.

"I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. ... I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by the way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led - make of that what you will." Jayber Crow, p. 133


Last night the interns and I went to a party for an ESL class Claire and Preston will start teaching. (Thursdays are Friday nights in Kurdistan; Friday, not Sunday, is the Muslim holy day.)

On the way there, our taxi dropped half of us off at the wrong location. Preston, Alex, Sophie and I wandered around downtown Suly looking for the Life Center, unsuccessfully. We ended up hailing another taxi and driving across town to the right location. Total cost: 7,000 dinar for two taxis on the way there. The first guy over charged us.

At the Life Center, the room was filled with both Americans and Kurds. Sophie and I pulled a chair up next to Lydia, Claire and the two couples they were talking to.

We learned that Zeba and her husband are kitchen interior designers and the other two were both teachers. We talked two Zeba about how she met her husband (he taught her how to rock climb) and how he asked Zeba's mother permission to marry her.

Zeba's going to do our makeup and bake us cake.

We met Van, a university student who's my age. She's spoken English her whole life, and her brother Ahmad is in Claire's class.

After talking and eating Kurdish food - they wrap rice in pickled leaves, weird! - we danced. I like Kurdish dancing because I cannot dance otherwise. Not very well, anyway. Elise, one of the Americans, told us that the key to Kurdish dancing is moving your shoulders. I can do that. You hold hands and do a foot-shuffle thing in a circle.

After the party, we went home and six of us interns stayed up until 1 a.m. playing Scrabble (Go Team Gingers!). Then bed. Then we slept in.


Stay connected with PLC on Facebook. (The interns are posting lots of pictures!!)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Turkish Delight

I’m writing this in Sulaymaniyah, but I’m going to pretend I’m writing this from Istanbul. I’ll post my first-day-in-Iraq blog when I get to it. Perhaps when the Internet consistently works. (Come on, Lappy.)


The flight to Greece was, above all other adjectives (long, tiring, boring, etc.) uncomfortable. I tried to get comfortable, but I couldn't. Even though the seat next to me was free, the 30-something Greek man in seat F to my seat D felt the need to use seat E's tray and seat for storage. Thanks, Mr. Greek Man.

The girl diagonal to me, who was sitting next to a girl with cropped hair -- not her boyfriend (simple mistake, one I corrected only four hours into the trip) -- was reading Willa Cather's My Antonia. Part of me wanted to strike a conversation with her about American literature. The other part of me just wanted to get comfortable.

We watched three movies on this flight: Leap Year, Crazy Heart and Bride Wars. (Lydia asks me: were the movies on your flight good? I rattled off this list. Obvious answer: no.)

The best part of the flight was either the brownie or the plane's approach to Greece. I love the hills in Greece. I wish I had more than two hours there.

Like I said, I loved Greece, but I didn't like having to walk from the bag drop ("You don't have your ticket, go to the Aegean desk!") to the Aegean desk ("You need to talk to Delta. Turn left.") to the Delta desk ("They couldn't just print it out for you?") to the bag drop again. But I got through, got to the gate, talked to my dear sister on Skype, then boarded the plane.

Why I love Greece: on a one-hour flight in the middle of the afternoon, they fed us. They fed us well:

  • Beef
  • Rice
  • Lentils
  • Gelato
  • Roll
  • Cheese
  • Coke

In Istanbul, I got my luggage, went through passport check, got my luggage, and looked for a ride to the hotel. I looked specifically for the hotel shuttle, but it turns out I need my reservation print-out to get a shuttle. At least, that's what the Hertz guy told me. Right before he hit on me.

Hertz Guy: How old are you?
Me: 20
Hertz Guy: You have boyfriend?
Me: Uh, no.
Hertz Guy: Next time you come to Istanbul, I will be your boyfriend. And your body guard! And your guide.

It was all very charming, not at all as creepy as it sounds.

He walked me to the edge of the parking lot to meet my driver, a Turk with a soul patch. He reminded me of your typical LA business type. He drove a sleek silver car; wore all black. I'm surprised he didn't have a Bluetooth.

Getting my hotel room was frustrating. They made me pay cash (in USD, not Lira, thank goodness. I only had 47 on me).

I got into my room. Played with all the lights. Tried to get a universal adapter to no avail. Took a long, long, long shower. Then crashed for three hours. I woke up, ate Ritz crackers for dinner and watched How I Met Your Mother on my iPod. I was feeling very American.

I read Jayber Crow until Lydia arrived at 1 a.m. Finally someone I know. Or, know through Facebook.

We talked for a little bit. Commented on the mirrors all around the room. (Hmm.) Then went to sleep for three hours.


The next day we ate well. The hotel had a free breakfast buffet with eggs, cheeses, pastries, rolls, fruit and sausages. And Turkish coffee. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Turkish coffee. I have found true love. Sorry, Starbucks. Sorry, Hawaii. Sorry, Old Crown. (Yeah, I said it.)

I love Turkish coffee.

Lydia and I drove to the airport with the same Turk with the soul patch. We wandered around the airport, got some more coffee - yum! - then sampled every piece of Turkish delight available. I don't get it, Edmund Pevensie, it's not that good.

Then we waited in our gate, discovered our seats were next to each other, road a bus to the plane, got on the plane, ate more food, drank more coffee, got off the plane, had no problems through customs, got picked up by Awara and Jessica, then got settled in Iraq.

More to come, I promise.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Georgia peach

"We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we control any switches at all. We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if we ever wake, to the silence of God." Annie Dillard


I am supposed to be in Istanbul right now. So for those of you wanting a recap of my past day (and a look into my next few days) here it is.


My flight from Indianapolis was delayed because of storms in Atlanta, but I board the flight only 45 minutes later than scheduled and all was well. My window seat is nice. I get to look out on the Neighborhood of Make Believe, or what seemed to be, with the tiny cars and all. And I read.

“That’s a great book,” says the woman next to me, who looks like Diane Keaton.
Jayber Crow. “Yeah! I’ve read half of it already, but it’s been a while so I thought I’d start from the beginning.” For some reason I tell strangers more than they need to know, or care to know. I spend the rest of the flight trying to guess her profession. (English education.)

When we approach Atlanta, the captain announces that the storms would keep us from landing. We hover over the airport for a while (I don’t know if planes really hover; I just imagine it like that) then fly 180 miles west to Huntsville, Alabama where we sit. On the plane. For over an hour.

Meanwhile I'm sending text messages to Daniel, another intern, who's at the Atlanta airport waiting for our flight. He keeps me updated on delays. I tell him I think I'll make it back just in time; he tells me the captain announced that they're waiting for our plane to get in before taking off.

We make it to Atlanta by about 5:00. The captain on my plane asks for only those who needed to catch flights to get up and get off. Everyone gets up and gets off. I’m in the back of the plane. I squeeze in front of Diane Keaton and shuffle off the plane and begin looking for Gate T3. Other side of the airport? Awesome. I run. (Power walk.) I huff and puff all the way across Atlanta's airport only to find out that I just missed the flight.

Breathe, girl. In and out. In and out.

I wait in line to get my flight changed. Turns out the next flight isn't until 4:20 p.m. the next day.

[I'll fast forward through my minor freak out, eating dinner, paying $10 for Internet access and getting a call from Jessica who asks me to fly in a day later even so I can arrive with Lydia, another intern.]

I wait in that long line again to talk to Draga, the Delta exec. I talked to the first time I was in this line. The one who told me that I couldn't get on a flight until Saturday evening.

Me: Is it okay if I fly in a day later?
Draga: No, we can't do that.
Me: But the people I'm meeting can't pick me up any earlier.
Draga: Sigh. Talk to her. (Points to woman next to her.)

After this woman finishes talking to the most adorable elderly couple, who speak only Italian, I ask if I can move my flights back a day.

Woman: Of course you can. (Click-click-click of her computer.)
Me: And can I get a hotel for tonight?
Woman: Yes. It will be free for tonight, but will cost you tomorrow. You'll have to ride back on the shuttle to get another voucher.
Me: Okay. Thank you. And how do I get to the shuttle?
Woman: I'll take you there myself.

Nicest woman ever. At least compared to Draga.

I wait outside for my shuttle. Finally it hits me that I'm in Georgia - what a pretty state. I remember thinking that as we flew above it a few hours before. The sky is a pinkish blue color now; the weather is 70 degrees and breezy. I get into my shuttle and daydream about perusing the town for a cute coffee shop.

The driver asks where I'm headed - Days Inn. He calls me Days Inn Girl the rest of the trip. I tip him two dollars because I like my new nickname.


I spend the rest of the night either laughing on the phone with Molly or sobbing on the phone with my mom. I am one emotional cookie. We were having issues changing my flight out of Istanbul. But $600 later, we get it figured out.


Earlier this week I was thinking about the book of Job and how maybe we try to find hidden truths within it, truths that aren't really there. We take verses out of context; we try to figure out what God means about this and if it justifies that. But if we look too deep, if we look too hard at the details, we might miss the big picture.

It's a simple story: Job has it rough, but things end up okay.

Maybe the conversation between Satan and God was metaphorical. Maybe Satan didn't do the taking away; maybe life happened. And maybe Job thought he had everything under control and he realized he didn't. Maybe God needed to talk some sense into Job in the end, to call him out in the middle of the storm - in the middle of the chaos - to say, "Job. You're not a god. You can't control everything. Let go and trust me."

I'm not saying that the story isn't literal - I don't want to cause a theological debate. But if we look at the story of Job in its purest form, we see a guy who's met conflict, didn't handle it right, but still made it through in the end.

I see myself like him.

What happens to Job will happen to me. I have experienced conflict, yes. I've handled it wrong too. But I'm going to be okay.

So far, so good.

Iraq, here I come. 
(Just later than expected.)


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Remedy Mission

I'm going to be in Iraq in three days.

I'm not going because I'm trying to make a stand for some abstract cause. I'm not going because I see myself as a 21st century expatriate or a hippie or an IWU-approved world changer.

I'm going because little kids are sick and need heart surgeries. I'm going to help them, or help people help them.


Preemptive Love has the opportunity to bring Remedy Missions, international pediatric heart surgery teams, to perform 30 heart surgeries in August. (That's a lot of kids!) They will also train local Iraqi doctors and nurses, which means the children won't have to fly to Turkey for surgeries anymore. (That's loads cheaper!)

Please, please donate.
-Donate this week's tithe, or this month's tithe.
-Give up one Starbucks drink a week for the month. (We all know that adds up. ...)
-Deposit all that change in your coin jar, then write a check.
-You know that money you were going to donate to me? - wink! - write the check to PLC instead.
-Like you really need to hit Higher Grounds on the way home from work.
-NECC congregation: I think this is in line with Tony's AWAKEN. (Fast your money??)
-Tax return!

I bet you think I'm giving myself a break. (I wrote the blog. I posted stuff on Facebook and Twitter. I'm going to Iraq. ... blah blah blah.) Well, I'm not letting myself off that easy. I'd be a hypocrite to tell you to donate, and then do nothing myself. So I will. Right after I post this, I'm going to follow the above link and donate.


I have two nieces and three nephews, all ten years and under: Austin, Noah, Emily, Taylor and Aaron. I love them. I would do anything for them. I'd watch Thomas the Tank with Noah for hours. I'd let TayTay cry in my arms till Mommy comes home.

I love my nieces and nephews - but their parents love them more. And when they're sick, their moms - my sisters - are scared and nervous and assume the worst.

There are moms in Iraq that feel the exact same way. They dote on their children. They worry about them when they're sick.

But their kids don't have runny noses; they have holes in their hearts.


I've said this before: there aren't a lot of things I'm sure about. I doubt a lot about my faith, and I don't always know who I am, but I know that some things matter. Some things matter more than money and religiosity and comfort and patriotism and happiness.

Life is kind of important.
So is love.

Please help make this happen!


"Why I Write" by George Orwell

Two observations:
1. I like George Orwell's thoughts on writing more than I like his writing.
2. I may own every book on writing ever printed.


I've noticed that I have a really hard time blogging when there's nothing to blog about. I've spent my last few weeks in the States reading, hanging out at Starbucks, watching movies and editing magazine articles -- nothing's really "blog material." But I have to keep writing. Must ... trudge ... through. Ugh.


"[The writer's] subject-matter will be determined by the age he lives in ... but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, or in some perverse mood: but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write." p. 4

I find this so, so true. Dr. Allison warns us that if we establish our voice too early in our writing career, we risk "writing ourselves in a corner." If I only write snarky-meets-prophetic blogs, will I be able to write anything else? But if I deny myself this pleasure - hey, it is my favorite kind of writing - will I want to write at all?

Ah, what a dilemma!

"I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. ... 1. Sheer egotism." p. 4

No kidding. This reminds me of Don Miller who said (paraphrase) that if he were honest with himself, he writes so that people will like him. I do the same. It's definitely not my top reason for writing, but it's always in the back of my head. Who doesn't want to be a famous writer, though, really?

"2. Aesthetic enthusiasm." p. 5

I do like words. A lot. So much so that I've been playing "Words with Friends" on my iPod for the last five hours. And let me tell you, I've been kicking butt. I'm so much better at this than I was at Scrabble for Sentence Strategies.

"3. Historical Impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity." p. 5

Meh. Whatever.

"4. Political purpose-- using the word 'political' in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people's idea of the kind of society they should strive after." p. 5

Ding, ding, ding! That's it, Mr. Orwell! That's why I write! Yeah, there are a couple parts of #1 and #2, but a big chuck of it's #4. I write because I want to change the world. Is that lame? Too IWU-World-Changers for you?

It's true though.

"It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such [political]  subjects." p. 8

Ol' Orwell wrote this in the mid-forties, but I think his words are even more relevant today. Shall I list: genocide, AIDS, poverty, hunger, child soldiers, forced prostitution, sex trafficking, congenital heart disease in little Iraqi babies. 

How could we avoid writing of such subjects?

"What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art." p. 8

Thanks for putting to words exactly what I believe, Mr. Orwell. This is, essentially, why I'm a writer. Not just to write politically (to "push the world in a certain direction"), but to create art that challenges people.

Throughout the rest of the essay Orwell despises journalism which takes the art out of prose - which is true, which is why I added a double major. (I think we've learned in Practicum that journalism doesn't have to be boring - you can be creative with it - but in journalism, facts trump the creative license.)

"If poetry is not truth, and does not despise what is called license, so far it is not poetry. Poetry is the highest form of the utterance of man's thoughts. ... Prose is but broken down poetry." George MacDonald

I'm starting to think that Orwell's "Why I Write" is the same as my "Why I Write," only written more eloquently.

Thanks, Mr. O.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eugene Peterson's Message, Isaiah 30:18f

"But God's not finished.
He's waiting around to be gracious to you.
He's gathering strength to show mercy to you.
God takes the time to do everything right—everything.
Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.

"Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over.
Cry for help and you'll find it's grace and more grace.
The moment he hears, he'll answer."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


In 10 days I'll be up in the air.

People keep asking me if I'm nervous. I'm not nervous; I'm scared out of my wits.

I have never left the country.
I have never flown alone.
I am never alone.
Oh God, I'm never alone.
Can I handle being alone in a foreign country?
Can I handle being a grown-up?

Back in December this sounded like a splendid idea - like a daydream. It's so real now. I will be in Iraq in 11 days. I will be where American troops fought. I'll be where Shane Claiborne traveled in 2003. I'll be in the ancient Mesopotamia, the land of Babylon, near the Garden of Eden.

Holy crap.

I'm excited. I'm not changing my mind or anything. It's just ... real. Not a lot of things I dream up become real. Like that year I really wanted to be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - never happened.

What's worse: I cannot be comfortable. I can't even take comfort that everything's been taken care of - because it hasn't. IWU still needs to approve my loan and CitiBank still needs to disburse it. I need a whole lot of money in just 10 days. Oh God, I'm scared. Can you make this happen?


God knows what he's doing - I've been signing my emails like that. I solicit your prayers, dear saints in Christ. I can't do it without God; I can't do it without all of you.


There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead--as if innocence had ever been--and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is not one but us. There never has been.

Here I am, LORD. Send me.


The Elements of Style, p. 120

"Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, 'Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.' This moral observation would have no place in a rule book were it not that style is the writer, and therefore what you are, rather than what you know, will at last determine your style. If you write, you must believe--in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message. No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing."

Monday, May 3, 2010

O Me of Little Faith

A review and commentary on Jason Boyett's new book.


Context: I've been embracing this thing called doubt since last November. I could tell you the specific date, if I looked it up. It was that Saturday Jacque came to visit me at school, the first time we hung out since she stopped believing in God.

I didn't talk to her about it; I wonder if she even knows about my doubt.


Jason Boyett makes me feel a little better about myself. Doubt is still very new to me. Like I said: November. For someone who's been annoyingly sure about everything pertaining to faith, a few months is not a long time.

Jason starts his book by saying: "I am a Christian." (Me too.) "I have been a Christian most of my life." (Me too.) "But there are times--a growing number of times, to be honest--when I'm not entirely sure I believe in God."

Me too.

I didn't have to face my doubt back in November, because I was crushing on a boy, and when you're crushing on a boy, there are more important things to worry about than your faith, like whether or not that boy likes you back. He didn't like me back. In December I had to face my doubt.

Jason says that doubt is something we need to walk alongside. (Hey, Doubt, can we be friends?) It's not to be pushed down or reasoned away. It's something you need to live out.  He says it's okay to ask questions because John the Baptist doubted ("Are you the One who was to come?") and so did Thomas ("Unless I see ... I will not believe it."). He needed proof.

I feel like Gideon, who even after God made the fleece wet with dew and the ground dry, I ask him to make the fleece dry instead. Prove yourself to me, God, I say. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he seems vague and aloof.

In December, when the crush was gone and all I had was myself and my doubt, I wrote a creative essay about how the God I believed in was dead. It ended with a stream of cusswords I'd never say in real life. It made me feel better, though, to get it out in the open. In the same way, doubt is better dealt with in community. It's not something that we should hide. We shouldn't be afraid to expose our weaknesses.

Jason writes:
My impulse here is to write "Owning your doubt means refusing to pretend." Don't pretend to be better than you are. Don't pretend to be smarter than you are. Don't pretend to be more spiritual than you are. Don't pretend to have it together when you don't. Don't pretend to have all the answers when you don't. Don't pretend to worship when you don't feel like it. Don't pretend.
But I can't write that in good conscience, because I still pretend. A lot. Too much. (pp. 157-158) 
The few months I've wrestled with doubt have been marked with isolation and cynicism - especially at a Christian school. I still talked to my friends about my doubts, but I didn't feel like they really got it. I felt like they just saw me as one of those baby Christians who's just figuring things out.

For me, writing it out helps, like with my creative essay. Talking it out helps too, but it's harder. It's hard admitting to others your doubts. I remember Jacque was afraid to tell me when she started doubting God, because she thought I'd try to Four-Spiritual-Laws her back to salvation. (I didn't.)


Doubt isn't very fun to talk about. It isn't much fun to read about either - not typically. But Jason keeps his book light and humorous. He gets into the deep stuff (he quotes a lot of Latin phrases) but he adds his signature subtle humor by frequent use of footnotes.*

And if this were a style critique, I'd say Jason effectively uses rhetorical questions to bolster his theme of doubt. This also keeps the writer (Jason) from sounding elitist or arrogant. The reader thinks hey, this guy's got a lot of questions too! I can trust him!

If this were my Sojourn column, I'd tell you that you should buy the book just because Jason is a stellar human being. If this were a cannarf review, I'd give it a +5. If this were my blog - and it is - I'd direct you to Jason's blog because he does a better job of promoting himself than I.

Also, you should go buy his book.

* footnote. Yeah, I know, I'm clever with this whole footnote thing. Right after I tell you about Jason's use of footnotes, I add my own. 
But one thing that's really attractive about this book is its size. I'm not the first one to comment on this either (ahem, Katie McCollister). It's small enough to keep your hands from cramping, but the print is still large enough to read without squinting. Kudos to Zondervan on this one.