Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Movie Without The "S" Word

I went to see The Break-Up this weekend with a group of girlfriends. I can't say I loved it but I didn't hate it either. Mostly I think it just made me kind of sad. I'll try to avoid any spoilers here but the premise of the movie is that Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn play a couple that calls it quits on their relationship but neither one wants to move out of their awesome Chicago condo. (This is where I have to give the movie extreme props for actually being filmed in Chicago unlike the movie Chicago which was filmed in Canada. Go figure.) The movie progresses with some amusing but mean-spirited mind games played back and forth and the couple is obviously doomed even though both parties express to friends that they really do want to be together. That's where I got a little annoyed with Hollywood.

She wants him, he wants her - but neither one is willing to say that to the other. I know this plot line has been used in countless other movies too but in The Break-Up pride became the plot driving device. Both characters were at fault and what I found most saddening was that two words remained unsaid at all the right moments: "I'm Sorry". I felt like if at any time one of the leads simply uttered that small phrase you could cut to a hug and kiss and roll the credits (which is of course why it remained the movie without the "S" word). Not to say that an apology would -or ever does- fix everything but it would certainly start the train on the right tracks.

So the movie got me thinking a lot about apologies. "I'm sorry" doesn't inherently mean the same thing as "It's my fault" or "I was all wrong". Think about how many times we use the phrase to comfort people. If someone says "My dog just died", you can easily respond with "I'm so sorry" even if you are in no way related to, let alone responsible for, the death of said dog. We can be so comfortable and almost reflexive with our uses of "I'm sorry" to ease the pains of strangers or mere acquaintances but the words become more difficult when the hurt is in the eyes of loved ones. In relationships though, many times "I'm sorry" does become equated with "It's my fault" but that's no reason to let it go unsaid. Most conflicts really are the fault of both people involved - both speaker and listener are responsible for misinterpreted words - and it seems "I'm sorry" can easily and rightly be followed by "I'm sorry too". But "sorry" remains a choice. It's a decision to choose humility and put love for another person above pride. It's a decision to open a door to forgiveness. I'm probably oversimplifying most arguments, but on the other hand, when has a humble spirit ever made a situation worse?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Beer, Wine or *hic* Algae?

A couple of posts ago I mentioned a funny article about lovesick swans. It was thoroughly bizarre and I found myself asking, "Lovesick swans? What's next drunken pelicans?"

This article just goes to show, be careful what you wish for.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Unlanpqy, Mykdiv, and Gngxteu

Did I spontaneously learn how to speak Klingon?

Am I typing the sounds of The Star Spangled Banner sung with a mouthful of peanut butter?

Or am I typing out some randomly generated words from Blogger itself used for word identification inputs in the comments sections?

"Unlanpqy, Mykdiv and Gngxteu" may very well be the Klingon translation of Star Spangled Peanut Butter but it's also my brain-dead Friday realization that Blogger comment pages can come up with some really funny words for their word identification function. Granted this is probably the most pointless blog ever written but I needed something a little more lighthearted to post about and trying to pronounce "words" that come up for commenting can be pretty darn funny*. Besides - you know you're gonna try it now. Obnpzao... Nvmxti... Bmsyz...

*If you're like me and qualify as easily amused, overly caffeinated, overly tired, or all of the above.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"The Heart of the Matter"

I don't know quite what to say about a book that's simultaneously the most inspiring and most horrifying book I've ever read. Left To Tell narrates the life of Immaculee Ilibagiza, a young survivor of Rwanda's brutal genocide in the early 1990s. While her family, friends, neighbors and schoolmates were horrifically killed, Immaculee and seven other women survived by hiding for months in a pastor's closet-sized bathroom. Unable to speak to those hiding with her - for fear of being heard by their enemies - Immaculee passed time in prayer and meditation. Many of her prayers were for her own safety but what was much more shocking was how she prayed for forgiveness for those committing the atrocities against her loved ones. Let me repeat that - she prayed for the people who murdered her parents, she prayed for the people who decapitated and dismembered her brother with their machetes, she prayed for the people who raped and abused her friends and neighbors. My first thought was "She's a much better woman than me!" I'd be furious, depressed, outraged, and a whole list of other things that probably shouldn't be listed here... and she was forgiving? It's such an upside down - even absurd - concept to me but she goes on to describe that she felt so much hate and anger towards the murderers that without forgiveness she would become just like them. It seems so revolutionary, but it's by far the most radical, most extreme, and most correct scenario of how God intends his people to live. Forgiveness. For anything and everything done to us and our loved ones - complete and total forgiveness.

A friend of mine once confided in me that she wished she was closer to one of her parents. They had been through a rough situation and she pinpointed an incident that drew them very far apart. She told me, "I just don't see us ever being as close as we were before." Saddened by this remark I suggested, "Have you thought about what it would mean to forgive everything that's happened?" With pain and anger in her eyes she shot back "That's absolutely NOT possible." I know situations like this happen a lot but in light of Immaculee's testimony, how can we claim forgiveness to be impossible? Hard, yes. Difficult, for sure. Painful, you bet. But impossible?? Perhaps that's just a convenient word for "not worth my effort".

There's a quote I heard a while ago and I'm sure it's from some brilliant mega-Christian like C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, or Oswald Chambers but it could just as easily be from R.A. Salvatore or Mark Twain. If you know who said it for sure, leave a comment but it says "Forgiveness is the fragrance the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it" and I think that's an interesting way of putting it because too often we focus on being crushed flowers rather than becoming air fresheners. Oddly enough while pondering all this in my head this morning, I heard a great song on the radio. It's the title of this blog and the song's by The Eagles or maybe it's a Don Henley solo project (I can't tell the difference, really) - either way it sums things up pretty darn well.
I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter
but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter
but I think it's about forgiveness, forgiveness...

These times are so uncertain,
there's a yearning undefined and people filled with rage.
We all need a little tenderness,
how can love survive in such a graceless age?
The trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness,
they're the very things we kill, I guess....

The more I know, the less I understand.
All the things I thought I'd figured out,
I have to learn again...

I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter...
I think it's about forgiveness.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Please Hold On To Your Stearic Acid:


At approximately 4:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, service on the BNSF was halted after bags of stearic acid were discovered along the tracks. The bags of the white, powdery chemical normally used in candle and soap production had fallen from a freight train earlier in the day. It was not until we received a call from the Downers Grove Fire Department that anyone knew of the problem.

Although stearic acid is an extremely stable chemical, when released into the air, it can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation. For that reason, the local fire departments and hazardous material teams felt that it was best that we not operate through the areas until the product was removed from the railbed.

We attempted to secure busses to carry customers around the initial site at Downers Grove, but there were only a limited number available. We knew that it would be a long and tedious process to transfer customers from train to bus to a train waiting beyond Downers Grove, but we felt that it was the only option. While we continued our attempts to secure additional busses, we were notified that the product had been found at various points between Cicero and Aurora. At that point, we had no choice but to wait for the entire line to be cleared. Unfortunately, this took several hours to accomplish. Train service finally resumed just after 8:15 p.m.

The problems continued this morning because the crews, who must observe federally mandated rest periods, were unable to return to work to operate their normal inbound trains. BNSF managers worked through the night to modify the schedule this morning in an attempt to provide as much service as possible.

Metra and BNSF personnel have remarked on the patience and understanding shown by all of you. We know that each of you probably had some plans last evening which were ultimately delayed or cancelled because of the service disruption. While our goal is to get everyone home on time, all the time, our most important responsibility is to get you there safely. Thank you for your calm and reasonable demeanor during what was, in all likelihood, your longest and most trying commute home.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Heart at Work

If you've been reading my blog for a while there's something I hope you've noticed. I try never to get too personal or sappy on here but sometimes issues weigh heavily in my soul and I feel the need to talk about them. It's that time again. For those that have really been reading my blog you probably expect some crazy remark to come out of left field right now that will turn this into a comedic post, but for those that really really follow my writing, you know I'm unpredictable and this time, I'm keeping things serious. As it has in the past ( Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibt D ) Africa is on my heart again. I've never been to Africa. I don't even know that it's somehwere I desire to go. But I know that my heart breaks for lots of people there. AIDS, famine, malaria, polio, genocide, war, malnutrition, and perhaps worst of all, the ongoing feeling of being forgotten by the rest of the world. How can a heart not break? But despite all these hardships, hope remains and prospers.

I want to spotlight two blogs of people doing some amazing work in Africa right now. Both have been added to my links section but here's a few little details. First is a group from my church and an organization called Global Family Rescue. Working in Rwanda, GFR provides sponsorships to families - pairing Rwandan families with Chicago suburbanites - and helps provide food, clothing, and education to children and job and life skills to adults with the goal of helping the families to become self-sufficient. Secondly is my friend and former coworker Colleen and an organization she cofounded called Brick by Brick dedicated to building a school for autistic children in Tanzania. What's unique and awesome about both of these organizations and their subsequent blogs is that you will not see Americans coming in as the saviors of Africa. Rather you see Americans and Africans working together, fostering real relationships, drawing upon skills of local people, developing resident leaders, and working together for positive solutions in which people can be empowered to help themselves. In a CCDA book I read recently (And You Call Yourself a Christian) and again in End of the Spear, the point is made that doing for others what they can do for themselves is charity at its worst. Developing others to become self-sufficient is charity at its best and extreme kudos to Global Family Rescue and Brick by Brick for recognizing that and putting it into practice.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it.....

.....And I feel fine!

Heard that classic REM song on the radio this morning and thought it was wildly appropriate with all the hullabaloo going on over today's 6/6/6 date. Please, people. It's just a date. It's a day to give to God just like every other Tuesday of the year.

But like the song says, I do feel fine and in fact I want to give this blog over to a different "End of..." namely the book I just started reading called End of the Spear by Steve Saint. It goes along with my goal of reading more NF this year and even just two chapters in it's quite captivating. For those unfamiliar with the title or the tale, in 1956 five missionaries were brutally killed in Ecuador by the Waodani, one of the most violent tribes in the world. The families of the missionaries then went to live among this tribe and teach them a peaceful way to live and found reconciliation through God's love. The story might ring a bell to those who have heard of Elisabeth Elliot (wife of murdered missionary Jim Elliot) but this book is told by Steve Saint whose father Nate was also one of the five killed. Let me know if any of you have read the book and also if anyone has seen the movie by the same name (should be out on video soon).