Sunday, August 30, 2009

Big Brother, I'm Watching You

When you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they're strangers, you make the faith visible. 3 John 1:15

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15

1 John 4:8 says that God is love. So, when we love people, we are showing them who Jesus is...we are making the invisible God visible to them. Wow!

Who in your life is God revealing himself to...through you?

My big brother, Kurt, worked at a daycare program for a school district for about four years. He loves kids and they love him. I think it’s because he’s a big kid himself. One of his favorite kids was a bit of an outcast…he had a tough time connecting with others and did not have many friends. Kurt befriended this little guy, but after he graduated elementary school, Kurt never saw him again...that is, until a couple of weeks ago when he ran into him and his mom at In-N-Out. The mother said to Kurt, “You were the only person who was ever nice to my son. I’m so thankful for that.” How simultaneously heartwarming...and heartbreaking.

Kurt is one of the kindest people I know, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother. He really makes the world a better place. I wonder if there’s someone in my life who can say, “Hey, thanks for being a friend to me when no one else was…you’ve made a difference in my life.” I hope so...because I want to seek to understand people, seek to be available to them, and seek to reflect Jesus to make the invisible God visible in this world. My brother has a heart that does all of those things so naturally that I doubt he even realizes it!

I’m proud of you and I love you, Kurt!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inglourious, Indeed

I don’t think I’ve ever uttered an “UGH!” as sonorously and dramatically (and yet, as sincerely), as I did after I saw this movie. What a tragic waste of my time.

This film had so much going for it:

“Quentin Tarantino—he’s so cool. He’s such a misunderstood genius. What a renegade! He’s quirky. I loved Pulp Fiction.” Great.

“Brad Pitt—OMG I love him! Who doesn’t love him?! He says ‘Nazis’ with that funny accent in the preview. Pitt AND Tarantino?!” Cool.

“Inglourious Basterds—what an intriguing title! I wonder why the spelling is incorrect. What could it mean?!” Hmm…

So, as I left the theater I couldn’t help but think why I hated this movie so much.

And the major reason was the gratuitous violence. Yes, I know it’s a Tarantino film…I get that. But the blood and gore in this movie was so overdone, so pointless, that it actually negated the narrative for me; I was most bored during the film’s most climactic, and bloody, action scenes. I am not offended by blood and violence if they’re imperative elements to the narrative and tastefully presented. But this…this was merely glorified violence for the sake of Tarantino’s entertainment…while watching the Basterds scalping, carving swastikas into foreheads, and bashing brains out of Nazis, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow…it’s amazing to me how critics and audiences are completely indulging the sick mind of a man who clearly has unresolved mommy issues and surely drowned puppies as a child.” It kills me that because Tarantino is legitimized by the critics, the public has been granted permission to enjoy violence like this, and to feel cool enjoying it.

The thing is, I really wanted to like this movie, and there were things I did like. I mean, I definitely think Tarantino knows how to make movies:

I liked his use of close-up shots. I loved staring into the characters’ eyes; Tarantino always casts real actors, not just pretty faces, and their faces, rather than their dialogue, often narrated scenes. I loved that I was able to see constellations of pockmarks and pores, out of place hairs, and other imperfections that other filmmakers often conceal in movies; they reminded me of the characters’ humanity.

I liked how Tarantino used lighting to create the perfect mood for a scene, and the way that dialogue was often delivered in an old Hollywood style.

I really enjoyed his use of music…over-the-top dramatic and scene-ruining in such a deliberate and humorous way that it actually enhanced the entire film. And the fact that he used a David Bowie song in a WWII-era film—so cool.

I enjoyed the cuts from loud, chaotic, violent scenes to silent, actionless ones. It messed with my emotions and forced me to pay attention to what I was feeling.

But I still totally hated this movie.

I recognize that Quentin Tarantino has the talent, the insight, and the capacity to tell stories well.

I just wish he would choose better stories to tell.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

stay away from juliet

Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Outgoing Guts

Jaime sent me this quote, and it's given me more confidence to write...and to enjoy writing:

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.

--Sylvia Plath
P.S. Note the awesome typewriter.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pack, Man...

A few friends from Fuel, who are leaving for the Dominican Republic on the 18th, asked me about packing for their Peace trip. Here are my tips!


  1. Bug spray with Deet. If I could only bring one thing to the D.R., it would be bug spray. I sprayed it all over myself, day and night, and even sprayed it on my bed, and still had up to 20 bites at once…big bites, little bites, blistery bites. Yikes!
  2. Anti-itch cream. This will save you a lot of discomfort from bites! And people on your team will thank you for bringing it as well.
  3. Aluminum water bottle. Our team filled up bottles from a large jug of water every morning at our hotel; we did not have individual water bottles. I got a cute product (RED) bottle at Starbucks. Make sure you bring it with you everywhere. It’s really hot in the D.R. and you need to drink water all day long.
  4. Umbrella. It rains. Hard. A lot. Randomly.
  5. Wet Wipes/anti-bacterial gel. I have come to learn that while traveling, soap cannot be found when you need it most! Anti-bac gel is the next best thing, and Wet Wipes are great to wipe all the mid-day sweat and grime off your face.
  6. A watch. I always use my cell phone at home, and it drove me nuts having to ask people what time it was. Get a cheap watch before you leave.
  7. A flashlight. Blackouts are common in the Dominican Republic. I’d say they happened about once a day. But don’t worry…they don’t last long!
  8. SNACKS. This was the #1 thing our entire team wished we had brought more of. The next time I go to the Dominican Republic, I’m bringing a whole bag of snacks onto the plane with me, including Oreos, peanut butter, Teddy Grahams, and Snickers bars.
  9. Don’t forget things like nail clippers, tweezers, bed sheets, and towels (for the shower and beach).
  10. An iPod charger is a must! (People on your team will forget theirs!)


  1. Hair straightener. Ladies, seriously. I have the frizziest hair on the planet. I was told not to bring one, and brought one anyway. And I used it ZERO times. The Dominican Republic is 100% humid and extremely hot. Just go with the frizz…if it didn’t kill me, it won’t kill you.
  2. Sweatshirt. It’s hot. Did I mention that? You don’t need any warm clothes for one second.
  3. Acrylic nails. Girls…get them taken off before you leave. Seriously. You’ll regret having them while you’re there. I have the shortest nails on the planet and dirt managed to find their way beneath them.
  4. Makeup. Unless you want to try to put makeup on while your face is sweating, just forget about it. You really don’t need makeup in the Dominican Republic. Give your skin a rest and put sunscreen on instead!

I’m excited for the Fuel team to leave on their adventure, and for my team to have a reunion…the Dominican Republic was amazing!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I'm Ready for Fall...and I Want It To Look Like This

How'd You Get My Number?

Last night, while I was hanging out with the Jonas Brothers at the Staples Center with my pals Alana and Natalie (and thousands of hysterical 13-year-olds), I decided that I needed to text Erin because I needed some concert commentary. I knew she was there, but I didn't have her number.

So I just texted our mutual friend, Riley, for it.

When I texted Erin, I had to explain that I got her number from Riley, just so she didn't wonder.

Then I thought about it...and that's actually how I get most people's numbers...from other people. Which is kind of weird.

And totally convenient.

Anyone else?

(Note: The concert was amazing, just in case you were wondering.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

Missions trips—when the cute purse is traded in for an adventure-ready backpack, bug spray is the necessary substitute for perfume, and updates on teammates’ bowel movements are not only acceptable conversations during mealtimes, but expected.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I just came back from my first Peace trip to the Dominican Republic. I served there for two weeks with 24 college students from Crave, the college ministry at Saddleback Church. Inquiring minds want to know… “How was it?” And…it’s impossible to sufficiently answer that question. I’m still trying to figure it out. I learned so much, grew so much, and discovered so much on this trip, and want to share with you some of the things we did, saw, and experienced.


Few things make me happier than a freshly stamped passport. I love traveling. I love experiencing different cultures and seeing new places. I was excited about going to the D.R. But, arriving in this developing country was quite the culture shock; no matter that I’m well-traveled and thought I was prepared. What hit me first was the heat. I’ve never experienced weather so hot and humid. The air was so thick, I didn’t feel like I was getting enough oxygen from normal breathing. Every so often a few deep breaths, a few extra sips of oxygen, felt necessary. The weather, the food, the water—everything that was once familiar had turned into a delicious jungle of strangeness. I first looked upon the tropical land of the Dominican Republic the way a shy, small child cautiously eyes a stranger—clutching onto his parent’s leg, and peeking around to assess the situation and search for possible dangers. I don’t just jump into new situations. Call it timidity, or call it caution. This jungle needed to be carefully stepped into…


It’s tough to make a list, but here’s the short version:

We attended church services and built relationships at El Circulo, a church and our ministry partner in the Dominican Republic. They’re a passionate community that knows how to worship the Lord! I loved hanging out with Ana, Liz, Grettel, Pastor Fausto, Josh, Letizia, Brenda, Jaime, Ezra, Miguel, Juan, Christian, Pablo, and so many others at this church. (Above: El Circulo baptism on the beach. Below: Me and Whitney (r) with our new friend Letizia, from El Circulo.)

We visited Mary’s orphanage and played with the children, sang with them, laughed with them, and taught them about Jesus.

We held medical clinics for the children in the slums of Pantoja (above), where there was no electricity, no running water, no plumbing. We prayed for people with illnesses, including a man with TB. We diagnosed the kids, distributed parasite medication, and played with them. (Below: photo of the slums.)

We served the employees of ACE Wireless, a cell phone company whose owner, Victor, works closely with El Circulo. Many of his employees have come to know the Lord at his company! We held a church service there, built relationships, played games, prayed and shared the Gospel, hung out, and cooked and served meals with the ACE employees.

We traveled to Cotui, a village about two hours outside of Santo Domingo. Our team held children’s programs and medical clinics, did construction on the church and sidewalks, and prayed and hung out with the people of the village.

We served a meal to and hung out with people at a leper community in Santo Domingo.

We played with Lucy’s children. Lucy’s House is like an orphanage, except that she has legally adopted the over 100 children living there!

We went to the marketplace in Santo Domingo. We took a Sabbath at the beach. We walked around the Colonial District where Christopher Columbus’s home was. We enjoyed the city, the culture, the country.

We ate at Domino’s Pizza, Burger King, and McDonald’s. We had local fare (fried plantains—delicious, rice and beans, chicken, cabbage salad, sweet pineapple). We craved ice cream. Peanut butter was a luxury. And Coca-Cola was the most delicious it had ever been.

These last two weeks were probably the hardest of my entire life. The spiritual intensity, physical challenges, and heightened emotions made for a difficult trip. I have never seen poverty like the poverty I saw in the Dominican Republic. Walking around neighborhoods where there was no plumbing and seeing children play barefoot in the unpaved streets (above) was overwhelming. Touching lepers, rubbing their backs, holding their fingerless hands, and seeing the joy in their faces and knowing that no one visits them besides people from the church—what do you do with that? Playing with kids that you can’t talk to because you don’t know Spanish and they don’t know English, but still leaving them at the end of the day feeling like you understood each other—it’s almost magical. Sleeping on a concrete floor in a stifling hot house where we found a tarantula, wearing the same clothes I wore that day to bed, feeling so dirty and uncomfortable and homesick, desperate for God, completely broken—it’s a tough, beautiful place to be. I realized how much I desperately need God—and how broken and desperate for him I am all the time; I just don’t realize my condition because it’s so easy to cover up with…busyness, fun, stuff. And we all need him—we all desperately need him.

I seriously doubted my future as a missionary while I was in the Dominican Republic. But it’s so weird…since I’ve been home I haven’t been able to stop thinking about where God will take me next. I’m excited to think about people in the world who are invisible to me right now, but who God might bring me to in the future. Maybe I will break down again. Maybe I won’t be able to have a conversation with them. (I couldn't with Kayla, above.) But maybe I can feed them, or hug them, or smile at them. And maybe, maybe, that will make a difference in their life in some small way.

The last two weeks were probably the hardest of my entire life, but also two of the best.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Missed You...

Things I missed while I was in the Dominican Republic:

Text messaging. I'm so's like I'm re-learning.
Twitters (especially John Mayer's).
Air conditioning. Possibly the best invention ever.
Deadliest Catch. Yes. I missed Captain Sig.
Crave. Oh Crave, I prayed for you and missed you on Thursdays.
Grey's Anatomy. Just finished season 1. I can't believe you, McDreamy.
Having straight hair. It's a beautiful thing.
Starbucks outrageous oatmeal cookies. Oh, and everything else at Starbucks.
My family and friends, of course.

Things I did NOT miss while I was in the Dominican Republic:

Michael Jackson custody case news. Ugh.

Is all our life, then, but a dream? --Lewis Carroll

This painting by Maxfield Parrish, titled "Morning," is featured in this year's Pageant of the Masters. Isn't it beautiful?

Read my latest article about the Pageant of the Masters in this month's Gazette.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Republica Dominicana

I just got back from the Dominican Republic! It was an incredible trip! Full reports to come...I'm just waiting for Nicole to get back next week with her stellar photos before I post.

But I would like to take a moment to address those of you who are concerned about the general welfare of the insects of the Dominican Republic:

Have no fear, for they are nourished, healthy, and, one can only imagine, happy and content creatures.