Sunday, June 22, 2014

Robert Frost in China

Blurred in red and yellow
Smeared with dancing green streaks
It falls nearly into the sea
Right up against the harbor wall it stretches
Reaching out against the purple waters
Toward the Pearl tower and river barges
The street, it teems with humanity
Nations sweep together, body to body
Languages clash and mingle like friends and enemies
While old Europe stands in architectural silence
And with quiet courage, the Canadian flag salutes from the Peace Hotel
The crush of life roils like breakers through the wide avenue
Hopping, and pushing, and scraping by
With shopping bags
And Korean beef on sticks
With fake Coach purses
And counterfeit Ray Bans
The men spit
And smoke
Its acridity holds court in the street
Amidst the roar of world
On this busiest thoroughfare
There off of it, lies an alley
Dark and shadowed
Broken slats of stone, upended and uneven
It is quieter, colder, more wondering
And from its glooms she appears
Small, short, and in many ways like a child
With plastic slipper flops, worn down and filthy
She eagerly takes us by the hand and leads us
Like children, deeper into the humid recesses of the backstreet
The deep subtlety of rotten fruit and sewage saunters with us
Like pennants, laundry hangs bannered across the width of the alley
Around a corner,
In plastic chairs, families and neighbors sit
Talking and spitting and smoking
They are waiting for us
Watching for us
Their voices rise in excitement
They lead us into their shop
Small, but overflowing
With cheap gold buddhas
XL t-shirts that shrink three sizes
Scarves, swords, chopsticks, and jade bracelets
Broken Mandarin jags out of our mouths
As we haggle and barter
We are tough customers, they are tough sellers
But the silence and solitude of the empty store pulls us in to linger
To drink in the mystery of this lonely shop, passed by
By millions who tread the world’s busiest road a few yards away.
Finally we depart, with more cheap souvenirs and less Yuan.
Our Ziajian’s echo from the alleyway as we wave goodbye to the shop owners
They turn out the light in the shop
Lock the sliding door
And return to their plastic chairs
Awaiting the next straggle of wanderlusting tourists
The darkness slips away into red and yellow lanterns and neon lights, and Starbucks and Apple and Forever 21 and Nike, as we wend our way back to rejoin the throng of nations
Crushed against the flow, walking toward the East China Sea as it
Rises up in undulating waves to hug the end of the Road.

Monday, March 17, 2014

paris. 1922.

Time worn
She sits
In heavy solitude
As August sun
Seeps through crumbling brocade
Into the maple-paneled room
Dust, eternally trapped
Rides the somber rays
In filmy, choking ranks
Her only observer
Her faithful attendant

A vintage brooch of peacock visage
Upholds her dwindling tangle
Of dalmation hair

In stringy wisps
About her wizened shoulders
Her crinkly eyes
Still distinctly blue,
Yet less distinctly seeing
Gaze at the tarnished mirror
Her reflection
by cracks

The faded wingback chair supports her fragile frame
Its damask pattern
as much as she
Ancient punch stains and
Historical coffee spills
Stalwart mementoes of former days
In her lap
Lies a pink satin sheath
With tucks and pleats
And loosened stitchings
Her purple-veined hands
As agile as eagle talons
Caress the smocking
The smoothness of the mother-of-pearl buttons
With childlike tenderness
She fingers the yellowed lace hem
And in her
Trembling tracings
She recalls the years of the dress
The silent moments
It contains

The old grandfather clock
Ticking out of tune
Ticks on
The only sound in this catacombic room
And over her head hangs the cobwebbed chandelier
Many years fallen asleep
Perhaps never to be awakened
From slumber
In green mottled frames
Dripped with
Water stains
From ceiling leaks
Photographs of bygone faces
Stare out from the
Paper prisons
Holding their breaths
In resignation

The clock ticks on
Out of tune
Out of rhythm
Keeping time as he’s bidden
The mirror trembles
Under the weight of a passing generation
Outside in the street
A little girl

Friday, April 26, 2013

Marriage-Happy Christianity?

Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up About We

By Eli and Claire

Altared instantly piqued my interest. How could it not? It stuck out like a sore thumb {or like a garden gnome in a desert}. It is revolutionary. Possibly offensive, perhaps flippant? It is a Christian book actually advocating for a less all-consuming, obsessive view of marriage. Now that's a book to pick apart and digest.

With a grain of salt, I read devoured it, and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking books that I have ever read.

Altared is co-authored by a young couple who wrote under the pseudonyms, "Eli" and "Claire". Throughout the book, they weave the re-telling of their own "love story". But in between remembrances of their long-distance relationship, they tell a deeper story - one that reverabates throughout the Christian community, seemingly growing stronger with passing generations and the uptick of romance novels: the all-consuming view of marriage.

What? There is something wrong with the evangelical community's approach to marriage? It sounds strange. It may be offensive to some. But the arguments that Eli and Claire set forth are worth the contemplation. They cover a lot of ground in the book, and though I can not adequately express their extensive thoughts in a short blog post, I have included a few of their perceptions below.

1) Why do churches - all across America and throughout the denominations - nudge the singles in their congregations down the aisle? Why are singles the most marginalized group in the Church? Why is there an unsaid rule that singles aren't functioning members of the church (or community) until they are married?

Perhaps because the evangelical community is marriage-happy. Because it is assumed that every person should get married; that everyone should want to get married; that everyone, except for a finite few, will eventually get married; and, as such, everyone of marriageable age should get married ASAP, regardless of the bigger picture: The perfect will of God.

Eli and Claire back up their points with scripture, and reflect that perhaps we have gotten it all wrong - terribly wrong. Perhaps as a community, we have taken God's gift of marriage, and made the gift our god - singles and marrieds alike. Perhaps marriage and the pursuit of it has overwhelmed our thoughts, our desires, our questful thirst, our hearts unto a sinful amount.

Eli and Claire qualify that they do not disdain marriage or the God-given glory and beauty of the institution; they simply query if our motives for marriage are based in selfish desires or instead based in a heart duly surrendered unto God.

2) Is this marriage-happy state in the Christian community preventing believers from whole-heartedly and purposefully fulfilling God's command to love one's neighbor?

It's a big command {second only to loving the Lord}, and Eli and Claire note that the command should not become any less important when one becomes of marriageable age or becomes married. Perhaps our marriage-happy community has blurred the lines, and in the midst of loving one's family {a wonderful act in and of itself}, we have forgotten the enormous value of loving as a family unit. Perhaps in the pursuit for a spouse, Christian singles are neglecting numerous and constant opportunities to love their neighbor. Perhaps married Christians have come to see loving their spouse as their highest and most important duty before God, and thus they have casually thrown by the wayside the command to love one's neighbor. It's certainly food for thought.

3) Has the Christian community's approach to teaching the essence and holiness of purity been based on the wrong motives.

Eli and Claire point out {and I must agree based on the books I've read} that the Christian community has taught the youth to remain pure for their future spouse. Nothing wrong with that, but for the motive. Why be pure? So you can save yourself for you future spouse. What about instead preaching a purity based simply out of faithful obedience to God's command - future spouse or not. With this motive, the quest for purity no longer relies on man; it quells the waiting anxiety; it takes the impatient heart off of the hazy, unknown future spouse, and instead refocuses it to look towards God and His righteousness.

Eli and Claire include so many more thoughts and propositions in their book - each as thought-provoking as the last. Many readers may disagree with Eli and Claire; and to most, the content may sound distantly offensive - distantly, because they cannot put their finger on the discordant theme, but the subtle presence is there nonetheless. The offensive aura of the book may simply be rooted in the foreignness of the thoughts enclosed - the thoughts that just maybe God is less worked up about marriage than we are.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, but the opinions expressed in this post are mine.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Indelible by Kristen Heitzmann

Indelible. I felt a tinge of hesitation. I had to read it on my computer, downloaded to Adobe Reader. I'm a book person. I like pages, and paper, and raised lettering on the covers. But it was the weekend - one of those big, long comfy weekends that makes reading a happy event - and so, I decided to give Kristen Heitzmann's recently released, Indelible, a try. I had it read by the end of that long, comfy weekend. 367 pages. It took a top spot on my all-time favorite Christian novels list.

It's a story of redemption, of transformation, of Godly order out of sinful chaos. And it all takes place in the, by all appearances, sleepy town of Redford, Colorado - a rural community situated in the treacherous Rockies. {I confess: I'm a sucker for these rural, sleepy town plots}. But behind the generic faces of Redford's own, lie specific stories - stories of loss in a lost world - abandonment, suicide, abortion, divorce. Everyone has a wound. Heitzmann phenomenally articulates each individual's pain. She takes her reader into the soul of a Fleur, the blind artist; into the brain of Natalie, the young sculptor with the eidetic memory; into the heart of Trevor, a member of the emergency mountain rescue team; into the mind of obsessive compulsive Miles. It is one of those treasure books, in which, you become a character yourself - you taste the fear, sense the anxiety, and revel in the goodness that all the actual characters experience.

Heitzmann writes an engaging thriller - one that is both suspenseful, and yet well-written. A tough combination to find in Christian lit.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Waterbrook Multnomah book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Love Does:

Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
By Bill Goff

It's a refreshing compilation of anecdotal stories drawn from author, Bill Goff's very life experiences. He was the kid who talked his way in to law school; the man who unintentionally became a U.S. diplomat; the home-owner who was visited by a foreign prince; the guy who played a $$$ prank on his best friend; the gentleman who sent flowers to the lady who totaled his jeep...

Truly the amazing stories are made all the more appealing by Bill Goff's hilarious style of writing and dry humor. He is able to pull it off, more or less, without coming across as arrogant.

If the book were simply a string of these life stories, I would give the book 5 stars (yes, the stories are that fascinating). However, with every story, Goff tries to weave it back to Jesus. This in itself is not bad, but stretching scripture to apply to stories, and vice versa, is. The spiritual "tie-in" attempts are generally shallow and eventually became tiresome: "[Jesus] already digs us more. And more than that, our pictures are already in His wallet."

In addition, much of the spiritual discourse is very elementary; Goff introduces important biblical characters, i.e., Joshua, Paul, Judas, as if the reader probably does not have any clue as to who they are.  This seems unnecessary as the book is written to Christians, not unbelievers.

In my book, Love Does gets 3 our 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: In Review

Thankful for yet another year of life. Thankful for hugs from friends. For family convos over morning coffee. For trips to Southern California. For China. And all the "little things" that I have recorded throughout the year. In looking back over my gratefulness journal, I find that those "little things" - often overlooked - are some of life's most precious moments and blessings.

2012 Snapshot Moments of Simple Gifts

Truth from young lips. Bittersweet tears. Kumquats. Alarm clocks. Tenacity. Nate's green eyes. Flexible friends. Griffin Robert Gibson. Cough drops. Bedside prayers. Literacy. Godly parents. Randomly recalling fragments of old dreams. Taste. Sunrises. Sister-Sister heart shares. Sufficient grace. Waffles. Pine forests shining golden-orange from sun-rays. Museums. Teen-hood. Preserved vintage buildings. The Olympics. Greek food. Leah Horvath. The Man Who Was Thursday. Smiles exchanged. Shampoo. Ron Paul work. Hymns and poetry. Pre-birthday hugs from Mom. Peaceful nights. Youth. The van. Restaurant leftovers brought home. Texas Independence. Forgiveness and do-overs. A "hugging" family. Lung-breathing, heart-beating life. Green cow pastures. The joy and peace of knowing God. Payday. Braids. Thomas Hardy. The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Plane tickets. Raw sugar. LOTR soundtrack. Scottish heritage. For time given. Screwtape Letters. Mint Oreos. Jesus. Chinese Fortune Cookies. Tear-jerker movies and books. Singleness. The love of a jealous God. Gummy bears. Girl date with Mom. Americana. TieDye shirts. Repetition of life. Toes. Lighthouses. Morgan. Wild grapes. Hugs from Garrett. Gelato with the fam. 70's dress. Sister reunions. Zoos. The box-car kids. Madelyn Hart. Rilla of Ingleside. Car rides with Leah. Family trees. Heirlooms. Mini-homeschool reunions. Natural rights. Remembering. Clean kitchens. Panicked prayers. A protective Dad. Prosperity. Security. Salvation. Fruit popsicles. MOM. Suffrage. Indica Peace. My cousins. Seth Gaines Gibson. Naps. The Titanic. Heroics. Lightening storms. Ultrasound images. Closure. Youth Governors. Symbolism. Talks with Mom and Dad in the morning. Scotch-Irish folk music. China. Room 316. Journal parties. Nations. Sour plum juice. Elevator comfort. Orlando's dear friendship.  Moral support. The Elams. Soul-deep peace. Brothers. Imagination. Spontaneous family trips. Walmart parking lot hugs. OCD.  Anticipating joy for the next day. Spontaneous closet dance party with Nate. Generations in the house. Gracious library policies. Thorp Spring Church and Cemetery. Ancestry. The origins of dirt paths and bovine psychology. "Runaway Car". 1776. Mr. Martin. Mellow Man. Deep convos with Biff. Cuddling with Nate. Jyp and Dym. Learning assertivenesss. 800 Critical Reading score. Tears of repentance. Fried turkey. 1976 Christmas cassette. Hearing stories from my parents' childhoods. Auld Lang Syne. Life in all its richness and poignancy. This blessed, amazing year.

And here's to another year, full of God's sweet blessings and mercies. He maketh our cups run over.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Harvest moon glows like a
Tipping canoe in a black sea
Bare, stretching tree fingers
Criss-cross its face --
Grey rivulets against the yellow silhouette 

The precarious vessel
Seems at rest
Not bobbing
Just subtly in time
Drifting further down in
The dark sky expanse
Of waters

Sinking deeper

A constant
Though sparse
Mingling of stars
Range as points of reference
As buoys and distant lighthouses
For the lonely canoe

And the wind cannot wreck it
Nor waves beat upon it
It sinks because it has
Been commanded to do so

And even now,
The slender ship dips into obscurity