07 December 2010

Update - It's Back To Cinci For Me!

To whom it may concern:

I am moving back to Cincinnati in January. My stint in Wisconsin is nearly at an end. Nothing makes me happier than the realization that soon I might have friends again. :-D

The way it has all come about is this:

My entire life, I have had some sort of goal in the foreground of my thoughts. From finishing high school a year early to earning that B.A. to living in Europe for two years, I have always known what I wanted to accomplish. My goal in moving to Wisconsin last June was perhaps the most simple yet most complicated one I had had up to that point in my life: find out if things will work out with the boyfriend. Things didn't work out. And that's the end of that story.

So I'm still here in the Milwaukee area, but now I have no goal - a stark reality that has been eating away at me since October. I go to work. I go home. I go back to work. I go home again. I need a new goal.

I have decided to return to Cincinnati, the city of my heart. A goal might be easier to decide upon there. Not to mention, churches there are hardly as sparse or as cold as they are here in this bloody state. Being part of something again is something that really excites me.

Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the fact that I need to get that master's degree I've been talking about since fourth grade. Maybe that could be my new goal. Or maybe I could actually use that Education degree I spent five years obtaining. Whatever my new goal turns out to be, I'm really excited about the options that being back in my lovely city could give me.

I just wanted all my friends who read this to know that I'm coming home. I've been gone far too long.

Love to all,

07 October 2010


I closed my eyes a bit ago to pray yet one more time for my dear lost friend, and I found myself crying and thinking over all the changes in my life in the last two years. It's hard to believe that November 16th is nearly here again. It's even harder to believe that the date still matters to me. I don't know exactly why it still does. The reason only seems clear to me in those dark three-o'clock-in-the-morning times.

I've been reading my darling Lucy Maud again. The "Anne" books I can do without, but those three little novels about Emily of New Moon - those will always be on my heart. She waited years, and she got what she wanted in the end, even though it seemed like her dreams were dead forever. I've read those books a dozen times in the last fifteen years, and I always cry when she and Teddy finally come together at the end of the last book.

Isn't fiction a pretty thing? The heroine always gets her heart's desire, and the rest of the world goes on around them like it always had. It's too bad that real life is not as romantic. More often than not, dreams are unrealistic things that eventually die without ever having been realized. And the world does goes on, dead dreams or no.

Two years and countless prayers later, a single phantom continues to haunt my days and nights. But perhaps, after all, not everything that is gained from someone who is lost is lost as well. Perhaps each song, each scar, is a mark that tells a story forever. To banish a memory is to banish a part of who we were. At least this is what my phantom tells me.


17 May 2010

Stuck in Amsterdam!

So here's a fun little thing: I'm stuck in Amsterdam! Thanks to the nice little ash cloud in the sky, all flights out of Amsterdam today were CANCELED! So here I sit, in my little temporary home, the Shelter City Christian Hostel...Jande's foot is hurting, and she can't walk...so I'm checking my email and writing a blog. What are you doing?

My official Amsterdam verdict is: BEST TRIP EVER!! It's just a beautiful city!

Ok, I'm not going to gush...just wanted to blog about being stuck. It seemed like the thing to do.

That girl in Switzerland

13 May 2010

Two More Reasons I Love Switzerland

1. The Churro Man

There is a man in Geneva who sells churros and other awesome Spanish food substances. He loves me. Lupe, the au pair who had my job before I came here, introduced me to churros in my first week here, and I've been a faithful churro buyer ever since. Churros are basically just deep-fried dough dipped in sugar and cinammon. Well, I say churro buyer, but really it's more like churro eater; the man who owns the churro stand usually won't let me pay for anything. A few months ago, he told a lady standing by that I was his most charming customer. I always have the money in my hand, and I always try to hand it to him, but he nearly always takes my hand (but not the money) and tells me that I can pay the next time. He makes me feel happy every time I visit his churro stand. Yesterday, I introduced Brittany to the churro man, and of course he gave us each a free churro. He really is so nice.

OH, I FORGOT TO BLOG ABOUT BRITTANY! Brittany is my replacement, but I wish I could stay in the area so she could be my good friend. The boys already think she's awesome. Jules told her yesterday that he loves her. :-) It makes me so happy that my boys are going to have a loving au pair for the next year. I hope that she and the Grobets will get along really well for the next year. Anyway, she arrived on Sunday afternoon. By Monday night we were already going to Bible study and our little local pub, The Fish. :-D WHERE was her jet lag?? No, actually, she was jet lagged but working through it really well. Yesterday we went to Geneva for a little while, and I showed her a few things she needed to see - like the train station, some main bus stops, the shopping road, etc. It reminded me of seeing Geneva for the first time myself, only this time with all the knowledge of local geography and history that I needed. :-D It's fun to show people around.

Ok, so on to the second reason I love Switzerland...

2. Charlie, my sometimes bus driver

Charlie is an old man who sometimes drives the E bus route to Hermance. Hermance is the village just after mine on the border of France. Charlie drives the late buses. I usually see him on the 23h50 bus and sometimes as late as 00h30. Sometimes I wonder how he likes driving so late at night. Charlie only speaks French. Charlie loves me. The other day, I was walking through Geneva, nowhere near the E bus route, and I saw Charlie driving a different bus, the 8 bus, as a matter of fact. He saw me too and started honking the bus horn and blowing kisses, which had everyone in the surrounding streets looking and pointing. I started laughing, and blew some kisses back. :-D Charlie is cool. He has my stop memorized, but he always pretends that he's going to pass it so I have to ride the whole route with him. A few weeks ago, I got on the bus at a different spot (in Vezenaz rather than Geneva), and he told me that he had just been thinking about me and hoping that he would see me that night. Then he started singing, "Elle y est, la plus jolie..." (Translation: "There she is, the most beautiful..."). Charlie has been good practice for my French, considering he speaks not a word of English.

I will miss Charlie the Singing Bus Driver when I leave Geneva next week. I will also miss The Churro Man whose proper name I don't know.

A bit sad about leaving,
That girl in Switzerland

13 April 2010

Paint-by-Number Christianity

I grew up a paint-by-number Christian. I put all the right colors in the right places, and when I was finished, I still only had an imitation of something real. In the past few years, I've been discovering what it really means to serve God from my heart.

Here's what I think: I think that the most important thing in the whole world is to love and serve Jesus Christ. And you can't really serve him if you don't love him, and that love starts in the heart when Jesus changes you. Christianity is inward. A person can follow a list of rules and keep the "right" appearance all they want, but unless their heart is clean and longing for God, that's all they're doing - just following some rules made up or interpreted by people and church boards.

A Christian is supposed to be a beautiful person - one who just shines from the inside out and who can see something positive in every circumstance because they can see God in every circumstance. A real Christian is somebody who is always trying to see more of life from God's perspective, because that's what wisdom is - God's perspective on anything and everything. And a real Christian is somebody who overflows with gratitude because they understand their own spiritual poverty.

Christianity is not about pointing your finger in someone's face and telling them they're going to hell because one of their personal standards is different from yours. Jesus never once did something like that. Christianity is about being a "little Christ" and just shining Jesus to the rest of the world. I hope I never get stuck in legalism again. It all dark there. The focus is completely wrong. You're always terrified of doing the wrong thing or looking the wrong way. There's no Jesus in legalism.

But - Jesus said that He didn't come to make the law void, but that He came to fulfill it...to complete it...to show us what the law really means. God said that His people should be perfect and set apart (holy) as He is perfect and set apart, and He gave the law to set the standard for what that meant. But the problem was that the people thought the law was too hard...they started loosening up the commandments and making the prohibitions a bit more lax, all while paying the right tithes and making the right sacrifices and saying all the right prayers. And God told the prophets over and over that He would not accept the people's sacrifices because they came from hearts that were not pure. So why should we believe that He'll accept our sacrifices today if they come along with unclean thoughts and unrighteous anger and lives that refuse to accept Jesus' peace?? The Bible says that for hypocrites, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, remember?

One reason people were so attracted to Jesus was that He taught a different standard with such authority. Jesus didn't get rid of the law. Jesus taught that to obey the law wasn't enough...he taught that the heart was more important...obey the laws, but take it a step further. Not only shouldn't you murder, you shouldn't even have unrighteous anger toward someone. Not only shouldn't you commit adultery, you shouldn't even look lustfully at someone. Not only should you love your neighbor, you should also show love to the people who hate you. Read the Sermon on the Mount...it's full of this stuff. Live for God from your heart first, and what comes out will be natural and beautiful.

I fully believe that the demands of righteousness under grace are far more demanding than they were under the law. And why shouldn't they be? Not only do we have a new standard of holiness, we have the perfect example to follow. What I don't understand is why people think they're free from the law when they're really just throwing themselves back into the lifestyle of the Pharisees...doing all the "right" things to be seen of all the right people. I prefer to keep my heart clean with Jesus' help because I want God's face to shine on me.

I refuse to be a paint-by-number Christian. I'm one of God's originals. :-D

That girl in Switzerland

10 March 2010

He Always Makes Me Laugh

Mum sent me a delightful package for my birthday. Here is a conversation that I had with Félix about said box, in which he schooled me on how to handle a difficult situation:

Heather: "I might get a package today!!!!"

Félix: "From who?"

H: "From my mum!!"

F: "What's in the package, Heather?"

H: "Birthday presents for ME!!"

F: "But when is your birthday, Heather?"

H: "Next Monday."

F: "You know, Heather, that if you get a package today, and if it's for your birthday, you have to wait until your birthday to open it."

H: "But...Buuut..."

F: "NO, HEATHER, it's true!! If it's not your birthday, you can NOT open the package!"

H (with beguiling eyes): "But what if my mum sent you some American candy and it's in the package?? Then can I open it??"

Félix paused to consider the difficult question that had been posed. Should he choose the high ground and wait until Monday, or should he give in??

F: "Well, ok, if there's candy for me, you can open the box."

H: "But then I might see my birthday presents...and what if there is no candy for you?"

F: "So you look at the things in your box, and if there's nothing for me, you put all the things back until your birthday, ok?"

H: "What?? WHAT????"

My box did arrive. And Félix still insists that I can't open it. What he doesn't know is that I already did. :-D

Félix is just the best!

That girl in Switzerland

25 February 2010

Now and Then

My hair is longer than it used to be,
And my eyes greener.
My head doesn't ring with your sorrows now,
And my pillow is more welcoming with
Each passing night.
I listen to more music than I used to -
And I sing louder.
I cry harder now too,
Because the experience of you taught me
To allow my grief.
Yesterday, I danced in the wind
And told my heart to the rain.
Is it not better, I ask you,
To embrace your unknown destiny
Than to be given what you thought you wanted?
Strange -
Once, I would have given you everything.
But isn't it funny -
Now my eyes are greener than they used to be,
And my hair is longer.

With regard,
That girl in Switzerland

16 February 2010

Two Monuments

Upon Viewing Geneva's Cathedral from Across the Lake at the Brunswick Monument

Two memorials,
Both raised to men.
One man sleeps aloft,
Sepulcher held high
By pillars and gated walls -
No man dares enter there.
One Man does not sleep,
Yet He also is lifted up.
Beneath His towers and spires
The doors are thrown wide,
So that all may enter in.
Welcoming Cathedral,
How beautiful are your
Walls of stone,
Built by man, for Man.
Sepulcher lifted high,
Enjoy your earthly throne
While you may.
Other spires point
More Heavenward.

That girl in Switzerland

09 February 2010

Leviticus and a Reminder to be Salty

Lately God has been giving me many reminders of how I am supposed to be a living example of Jesus to the world. These reminders are in answer to my prayers that God will continue to purge blemishes from my life and show me what it means to be a genuine follower of Christ.

Monday afternoon, I was reading in Luke, preparing for a Bible study that evening. Luke 12:8-9 popped out at me:

"I say to you, whoever confesses me before men, him shall the Son of Man confess before the Angels of God, but whoever denies me before men shall be denied before the Angels of God."

I stopped to consider the verses, and wrote in the margin that this was a great inspiration to be more vocal about my faith, but moved on because I was trying to get through ten chapters.

Later that night after the Bible study, I climbed in bed and picked up my Bible again, this time to start reading Leviticus. Topic of the evening: sacrifices.

It's really easy to get bogged down in Leviticus, and I honestly wasn't reading with lot of inspiration, but I read something that made me stop.

Leviticus 2:13 - "Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt."

I wondered why God required salt.

Put as simply as possible, grain offerings were offerings of worship to God, made of fine flour and oil, either baked or fried into an unleaven bread. God said that these offerings would go up before Him with a sweet aroma. How interesting that God ordered the Israelites to offer their sacrifices of worship with salt.

Since I was reading in bed late at night, I didn't get up to use a commentary, but I did stop to mull over the idea. God required salt.

The thought took my mind back to the New Testament to Matthew 5, in which Jesus states that we believers are the salt of the earth.

As my mind was searching for a connection, I thought of Romans 12:1, where the writer states that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, holy and acceptable.

God wouldn't accept a grain offering that didn't include salt. Give yourself as a living sacrifice. You are the salt...

And then my mind went back to the verses from Luke that I had read earlier that day - if you confess Jesus before men, Jesus will confess you before the Angels of God, but if you don't confess Jesus, He won't acknowledge you either.

Four verses that seemed unrelated joined together to remind me that if I am not...salty...I won't be acceptable. How I long to be holy and acceptable to God.

I want my living sacrifice of praise to go up before my Lord with a sweet aroma.

So interesting the connections God will make if you just ask Him. I love Him, and I love His Word.

Be blessed,
That girl in Switzerland

05 February 2010

A Bit about Dreams, and a Request for Prayer

I wish it were safe to really bare my soul on this blog, but that's impossible. Blogspot just doesn't cut it for the deep stuff, you know?

But is it ok for me to admit that I'm having a hard time right now? I think I need prayer. Since November of 2008, I've been having horrible dreams several nights every week. Last night was the worst yet. There is no worse feeling than waking up in a cold sweat because you've just watched someone you love die a horrible death over and over, or you've stepped back in time and then awoken to find it was all a dream. Sometimes I dream about my family, but mostly I dream about this friend I used to have. I can't tell you how many times I've woken up shivering and crying with my hair matted to my sweaty head, and with horror in my heart. Last night this happened five times.

I used to cry for hours and beg God to take away my dreams. I would stumble through my days and then stay up until three or four in the morning so that I could have a few hours of uninterrupted sleep before doing it all over again the next day.

Then I started praying for the person I was dreaming about. I prayed for no other reason than to get my mind off of the negative feelings I always had when I woke up, and I thought maybe the dreams would start to go away. They didn't.

Then I started to wonder if God might think I was simply the right one to pray for this person. Maybe I was the one who knew him well enough to pray as specifically as he needed. But hasn't it been long enough? And is it ok to admit to God that I just don't want to have to pray for that person anymore? Is that utterly selfish of me? Is it alright to wish it would all just go away, or that that person would just fall off the earth, or that he had never existed in the first place so that I could actually go to bed without being terrified of what I'll see the second I close my eyes? Really, God?? I'm willing to pray if he needs it, but why does it have to be me? I'm tired to my core.

Or maybe I've been going through an attack from Satan for the last year and nearly two months. Maybe I'm being tested to see how I'll react, or to see what I'm made of. But God knows that I desperately want Him and His will more than anything or anyone else in life. If I'm being attacked, then God will help me fight, right? I want to have only Christ-like reactions to people and situations, but the feelings that strive within me just bring me to my knees some days.

This whole experience has gone beyond shallow emotions or pain, frustration or anxiety, and has turned into what feels like a desperate fight between the spiritual forces in the world, with me caught in between. And when I wake up in a panic in the dead of night, I always feel like I've lost the fight. I'm so tired of being exhausted.

Last night I dreamt about a hallway, and a suitcase, and a photograph. In the photo was a beautiful family - a man, a woman, and two golden-haired daughters. I knew without looking that the man was my old friend. The woman's face was blurry, but those two girls...oh, I can picture their chubby cheeks and curly hair and bright blue eyes even now so many hours later. Such beautiful little girls. And all I can do is pray with longing, "Father, help them be a successful, happy family. Help those two little girls to learn who You really are, and help all four of them to overflow with love for each other and for You."

It's so strange, but waking up from my dream about a hallway, a suitcase, and a photograph, I was absolutely convinced that I was in neither a bad dream nor the past, but that I was actually seeing the future. And who knows if that's true or not. I just desperately wish I could survive without sleeping tonight or ever again.

I'm so sorry if you don't think that blogspot is the place for a post like this. I just need to share it with someone. If you're reading, and if you care, would you mind sending up a prayer for me? It's easy for me to pray for people. It's quite hard for me to ask for prayer myself, you know? But I need it right now, I think, probably quite a lot.

Thanks for reading,
That girl in Switzerland

04 February 2010

On that (SECOND) Bloody Movie Involving Shiny Vampires...

I can't stay quiet about this new Twilight movie. Seriously, people, it's been two months. Give it a rest already. Do we still need to be talking about "Twilight 2: The Return of Skinny Emo Vamps" (this time with even more glitter, and SHIRTLESS!)?? I mean, really...I can sum up this movie for you in four words: bad story, bad acting. And that's all you really need to know...not that you should stop reading this rant, mind you...

First of all, let's sum up "Twilight 1: Enter Glittery Vampires." You have Bella, a self-absorbed emo-teen who speaks in mono-tone (or not at all) and doesn't smile for pretty much the whole movie. And you have Edward, a 100+ year-old, shiny vampire who can't make up his mind (though he seems to have no trouble making up his face) and who has serious communication problems. So take two "people" (but seriously, can we even label them this, since Ed is a blood-sucking monster, and B is about as zombie as an actual human can get, or at least you'll think so until you see DivaVampII...) and throw them into a weird, blood-scented, glitter-induced relationship, and what you get is two people who can't admit they even want to be friends with each other trying to be together yet avoid each other for about two hours of screen time. Such a thriller. I can't even tell you how it makes my heart pound.

So "Twilight: New Moon"...yeah, it pretty much picks right up where the first messy affair left off. Bella and Edward are still fighting their attraction while not saying much of anything.

The movie's plot is even worse than you might imagine. Summed up in basic dialogue, it goes something like this:

Bella: Since I apparently order people around on my birthday, kiss me while I do a cocky eyebrow raise.

Edward: I'm...leaving you...forever...because...(dramatic stare)...my...little brother...tried to...(traumatized pause)...eat you...after you got...[wait for it]...a paper cut.

Bella: I now have a death wish, but since I couldn't die while I was waddling on the ground for hours out in the forest where I know there is a horrific wild animal killing people, I'm just going to wallow in my misery for months on end, throw away every other relationship in my life, and become an obsessed adrenalin junkie who totally uses this hunk Jacob, even though I know he's head over heels in love with me...but do I care?? Heck, no, because all I can even think about is how to be stupid enough to get my vampire ex's dramatically-eyebrowed, ghostly visage to appear and tell me not to be stupid. Oh - and let's see if we can't just throw a random trip to Italy in the mix!!

SERIOUSLY, my dialogue is actually better than the dialogue in the movie. If someone had just thought to release a two and a half minute version (thirty seconds for Bella to say her stuff, and the other two minutes for darling Edward to stumble though his one soggy line), it would have saved movie-goers the trouble of yawning through all those lousy scenes that DRAG on for HOURS without effecting the plot AT ALL. Yeah, my dialogue just about sums up the whole movie, other than mentioning that all the main male characters go through wardrobes full of shirts because they keep ripping them off through the whole movie.

Actually, let's chat about the shirtless guys in this movie for a little bit...

I didn't COUNT the number of times the Twilight guys ripped their shirts off this time around, so I'm just going off the top of my head for this one...

First of all, you have Jacob, Mr. Werewolf himself, pulling off his shirt to wipe Bella's head. What I want to know is, what kind of guy just offs his shirt to sponge a girl's head?? It isn't like she's bleeding that much. You can't even SEE the blood until after you see that Jacob has just stripped off half his clothes in the middle of the road.

Here's a paraphrased dialogue from the movie:

Bella says, "I'm sorry."

And Jacobs replies, "Sorry? You don't have to apologize for bleeding, Bella. It's just blood."

OK, SO IT'S JUST BLOOD, SO LEAVE YOUR BLOODY SHIRT ON, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. I was more worried about that than the fact that Bella's head was bleeding. She would do a great Monty Python, though...only a flesh wound and all.

Not that most of the women watching the movie are going to complain about Jacob not wearing his shirt... He isn't so bad. There, that had to be said, unfortunately, to make this an honest rant.

But really, those werewolves...What I'm curious about is this...every time they change from humans to wolves, their shirts rip off, so then when they change back, they're shirtless. OK, so that seems to make sense, RIGHT?? But WHAT ABOUT THEIR SHORTS??? Not that I WANTED to see them naked, because that is NOT where I'm going with this, but seriously...just being logical, wouldn't the same thing happen to their shorts?? If a wolf is too big for a man's shirt, he's probably going to be too big for a man's shorts too. And yet here is this pack of werewolves wandering around in shorts the whole movie. Explanation???

Ok, so here's the one that's really painful to talk about: dear Ed and his glittery chest there at the end of the movie when he's going to reveal himself to the crowd in Italy...

Do any of us really want to see his pasty, chicken-fleshy chest??? NO. A THOUSAND TIMES NO. Please, Edward, either work out or leave your shirt on in future movies. And lay off the glitter while you're at it. That stuff can't be good for your lungs. Or our eyes.

Alright, moving on...I can't take that subject anymore.

I don't get why everyone feels so sorry for Bella. Will someone explain this please?? Because from what I can see, she has two guys who desperately want her. She's pretty much best friends with one of them, and he happens to be a fairly good guy from the looks of it. He's got a sense of humor, great hair, a great body, and he cares about her more than about himself (or his shirt). The other guy, although he lacks charm, wit, good looks, or humor (and does not lack in age, pasty flesh, fangs or glitter), is so devoted to Bella's safety that he leaves her despite the fact that he is willing to die if she stops existing in his world. So what is she complaining about all the time??? The whole movie, not to mention the lives of both of these guys, revolves around her, for pete's sake...isn't that exactly what she wants??

So what are some reactions people are having, other than blowing way too much money, over this New Bloody Travesty?? It might be easy to write me off here and say that people aren't really taking the Twilight craze too far, and that it's easy to separate the fantasy from the reality, but I heard about a guy who posted on fmylife.com that his WIFE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, PUT GLITTER ALL OVER HIM WHILE HE SLEPT SO THAT HE WOULD LOOK LIKE EDWARD IN THE SUNLIGHT. I mean, COME ON!??! If we go with the assumption that this actually happened, then we have to stop and say a quick prayer for this poor guy's marriage, because his wife obviously thinks there's room for dramatic aesthetic improvement...Or we could just go with the assumption that that didn't really happen, but even the guy writing it had to think up the idea, right?? And that might even be worse than it actually happening because then it's HIM WHO HAS BEEN DAY DREAMING ABOUT EDWARD, in which case we still need to pray for his marriage. I honestly can't decide which scenario is worse. At least we'll all know exactly what's going on when people start complaining about the rising price of glitter...

Oh...here's something else that bugged me...

Bella decides she wants Edward to change her into a vampire. He doesn't want to because he's worried about her losing her soul. And all Bella can say to that is a stuttered, "Well, I don't believe in that." My dear girl, you didn't believe in vampires either until the middle of the last movie. And all it took was a little book of old Indian stories and a few internet articles to convince you. Why don't you read the BIBLE and figure out the bit about your soul before you influence yet more people to decide the vampire religion is more interesting than worrying about where they'll be spending eternity??

A basic message of this movie: That it's ok to romanticize and flirt with suicide just because you don't have someone to complete you. I sadly wonder how many young girls actually will commit suicide because they've seen this movie and think it's ok to act like Bella does when she loses Edward, or like Edward does when he thinks Bella is dead.

I could go on and on forever about this movie, but my fingers are sore from all the typing. I could talk about the ridiculous slow motion romp in the woods, or bring up the way Edward still can't stop staring, but for now I'll just quote Bella...

Bella said that she felt like a hole had been punched through her chest. Watching this movie makes me feel like a hole has been punched through my head, and that is no exaggeration.

Ranting a bit too late to stop the craze,
That girl in Switzerland

19 January 2010

From My Heart Tonight

I'm sitting by the lake again,
Where I've sat so many times before -
Thinking, just thinking.
If everything I've thought here
Could become visible and hang 'round my head,
The lake might be covered
With musty blackness.
I haven't been here in a long time,
But tonight it's time to revisit.
It's one o'clock in the morning, and cold.
Frost covers everything in sight -
Benches, leaves, blades of grass -
And I'm shivering, not only from the cold,
But from the power of my thoughts tonight.
Surprisingly, this time I'm not
Obsessing over the past
Or dwelling on pain or betrayals.
I'm just wondering what will come next.
The lyrics that float through my head tonight
Don't come in the form of Carley Simon
Advising me to scream through the confusion,
Or even some sad melody that simply haunts.
Tonight the only song I hear is
"Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free."
And I like to think that -
If my thoughts were visible -
The peace tonight would flow from me,
Banishing the bitterness and hurt
That I've released here before.
Jesus' peace - He's in my heart -
And that's all that really matters.

That girl in Switzerland

16 January 2010

A Quote, a Reading List, and a Confession

"A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read ‘The Lost Symbol’, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it." ~ The Economist

Thank you, Economist, for helping to validate my personal reading choices.

I'm not intending to write about the New York Times Bestseller List (note the self-important capital letters), although I definitely could if I wanted to. The problem with bestseller lists is that the character of the average American reader (to use the term lightly) is put on parade, and often what is paraded isn't so lovely. I'm afraid that the quality of the books which America has deemed "good" has now has grown rather sloppy - or passed by sloppy altogether and deeply face-planted into a dank vat of vampire dung. Yes, I'm referring to Twilight, and that's not the meanest thing I could say about it.

I have recently found myself ranting a lot about how poorly-written Twilight is (please see previous post "Emo-Vamp Sucks on the Big Screen" for my opinion on the matter), and about how the majority of the world seems to think that Stephanie Meyer has god-like writing skills - especially the pre-teen population who sadly hasn't been as exposed to some of the great writers as have previous generations - writers like George Eliot, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Mark Twain, and Shakespeare, just to name a few of the more well-known...

One of the problems is that schools are no longer choosing to teach these authors to students, or teaching them in a way that doesn't interest the students. (And that's another rabbit trail I could take right here - force-feeding kids information rather than getting them involved and excited about the information...but seriously, don't get me started.) Another problem is that parents don't spend as much time (or any time) reading books to their children, and so the children aren't finding good books compelling anymore. In fact, most kids label the classics "boring," which actually reveals the boring state of their minds. They don't want to discover these books by themselves. Now I'll be fair - some kids love to read, and to read really good books, no matter (or perhaps in spite of) what they were exposed to as a child. I love this kind of kid!

I hate it when people say to me, "I don't care what my kids read, as long as they are reading!" Seriously??

But I'm way off topic...I hadn't intended to write any of that.

Here is a list of the books I've read (or reread) in the last few months:

1. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (fascinating little book, more so every time I read it)
2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo (not one of my favorites, but definitely worth reading)
3. Death in Venice - Thomas Mann (late 19th/early 20th century German writer - recommended, and partially read, to me by Josh, my well-read boyfriend)
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde (will never be tired of this one)
5. Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy Sayers (Love, love, love, and that's all there really is to say)
6. Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? - John Powell (little common sense book about being who you were meant to be)
7. The Poetical Works of Cowper - William Cowper (Oxford Editions of Standard Authors. Cowper = longtime favorite poet)
8. Idylls of the King - Tennyson (fabulous, simply fabulous)
9. Heretics - G.K. Chesterton (sent to me last April by Josh, along with its companion book "Orthodoxy")
10. The Reason for God - Timothy Keller (very readable apologia of the Christian faith)
11. Just Walk Across the Room - Bill Hybels (compelling book about personal evangelism)

Oh - and I also read "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," by Jeff Kinney, also on the New York Times Bestseller List, and maybe rightfully so, at least in its age bracket. My thoughtful mother gave it to me for Christmas. Believe it or not, I'm not going to give it a bad rating. Jeff Kinney has insight into the mindset of the average middle schooler (a difficult thing indeed), and for that, I applaud him.

The books I'm planning to read next are:

1. The Island of the Day Before - Umberto Eco (Italian professor of semiotics. Looks totally fascinating. Recommended to me by...guess who...Josh)
2. Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton (a must after "Heretics")
3. Thank You, Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse (long ago recommended to me by Aaron Profitt, and recently given to me by...you guessed it...Josh)

And a couple of my friends here and I are going to take on the "read the whole Bible in three months" challenge. I'll probably post more about that in February.

And from there on out I'm open to suggestions.

Now for my confession:

Two weeks ago, I finally read "The Lost Symbol," by Dan Brown. Did I like it? Well, yeah, it was entertaining. At least Dan Brown writes about more intelligent things than the high school vampire lovefest which has the world reveling in the ecstasy of glittery blood-suckers and shirtless teenage werewolves. At least he has gotten past simple he-said, she-said sentence structure.

To take my confession one step further, I will admit that I own at least one copy of every previous Dan Brown book, including illustrated editions of both "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons." But I digress...let's get back to his latest.

In a very tiny nutshell, "The Lost Symbol" is about a search for a "missing word," which, if found and properly understood, will reveal Ancient Mysteries and lead its finder into much knowledge and wisdom. At the end of the novel, the missing word is actually discovered to be the Word of God, the Bible itself, which does indeed reveal the wisdom that God loves to shower on those people who love, follow, and attempt to understand Him. A Treasure indeed.

Sounds good, right?

Dan Brown, however, goes on to state that "God" is merely a powerful energy found in each of us, that, if properly understood and harnessed, will lead to miraculous events that will stun the world of science. We humans have created ourselves in the image of this energy, and furthermore, we have the ability to become gods if we choose. Quite a message.

Starts out so right, and ends by sounding...well, by sounding good, to be honest, and very appealing to those people who haven't a solid foundation in the Word of God.

Do I need to say more? Isn't it obvious what the theology splashed across the bestseller lists has the potential of doing to the minds of unprepared individuals?

Should these books be read? Yes, absolutely. That's the only way to be aware and to have a ready defense. (And, quite honestly, some of them are thrilling and fascinating despite the theology.) But parents and Christian school teachers need to soak their children in the Scriptures, so that when kids read these books, as they surely will, they will be able to read them with the wisdom of God in their hearts.

Well, I got a bit carried away with my writing tonight. I had been going to post only my reading list. But thank you for reading. :-)

Cheers, Readers,
That girl in Switzerland

P.S. Stay tuned for my newest rant about New Moon, the latest installment in the mindless vampire craze!

06 January 2010

New Year's Post a Few Days Late

I would say that at the turning of the year, I've grown retrospective, but that wouldn't entirely be true. Not a day of 2009 has gone by without my engaging in some sort of melancholy reflection. Here's a short overview of my 2009, and a couple of wishes for 2010.

In 2009, I added these cities to the list of European places I've visited:

London - UK
Milan, Venice and Rome - Italy
Salzburg, Obertraun, and Hallstatt - Austria
Prague - Czech Republic
Munich and Füssen - Germany
Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Anzère, and the Jungfrau (Top of Europe) - Switzerland
Peillonnex and La Clusaz - France

In 2009, six people that I knew died, among them two of my uncles - a hard reality for me to face all alone in Switzerland.

In 2009, I lost my best friend, something that continues, and will continue, to haunt me. The prospect of 2010, in which we won't speak once, has become the saddest realization of my life.

In 2009, I lost nearly forty pounds, mostly from two extremes - months of (very literally) sleepless nights, and way too much stress.

In 2010, I hope nothing is quite the same as 2009. I want to be finished with the sadness, bitterness, pain and anxiety.

In 2010, I want to lose forty more pounds - this time the right way.

In 2010, I hope nobody I know dies.

In 2010, I wish to become even closer to God, and I want to continue to learn His plan for my life.

As you can see, I have high hopes for 2010. Lol...

Let the games begin!
That girl in Switzerland