Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Breaking the Silence

My fingers have been clicking away without waver for weeks on end but the quill of my heart has been stilled for so long that I have almost forgotten my love for paper and ink. This place, this literary release, this haven was left void of my thoughts for too long. As I return to it now I feel almost estranged, as though my steps forward are some kind of trespass into the world and space of another. I feel almost as though I no longer belong, and yet... yet there is something so familiar, like a soft smell that dances so close to your face that you can almost taste the gentle fragrance before it laughs along on the wind to go and ruffle someone else's senses. It is quiet here. I have missed this quiet.

My summer was filled with much and varied sound; the noise of singing children, the slap of bouncing rubber balls, the snap of dry cookies, the splash of water-filled balloons as they explode against the grass, the buzz of lights, the yawns and sighs of long, warm hours. Every day I was met by new sounds, new experiences, new textures of language and speech, new insights, new outlooks, new friends and one new and growing relationship. It was a very good four month break from the 'reality' of my September-through-May life.

And now I am back here, at Nipissing University for my fourth and final year. My days are once again filled with noise, but it is the flipping of pages, the chatter and clatter of city buses, the scratch of a pencil, the squeal of chalk against board and, of course, the clicking of keys that sets the rhythm of my life. My mind skips to a scene from Disney's Oliver and Company, when our feline protagonist first finds himself in the chaos of New York; first overwhelmed by the cacophony of auditory stimuli, then falling in sync with the driving beat of the metropolis, and falling in love with the music of life.

There's been a lot of falling in love in my life recently. In fact, the fourth finger of my left hand now proudly declares that I have been pursued and claimed by an amazing man of God who returns my love in a way I have always hoped (but never really expected) to be real. I will write out our whole story soon, but sadly I do not have the time or attention to put towards such an endeavor at present.

In the meantime, take this short, mildly melancholic and typically reflective piece as a reassurance that I am still writing outside of my class work, at least sometimes. This one's for Dad; thanks for calling me back to my blog.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Episode 3: Moo No More

"Good morning, Marco."
"Good morning, Polo."
"Can you pass me the milk, please?"
"It will have to be white today, I'm afraid. We're almost at the end of our chocolate rations, and our tokens don't come in until Thursday. Is white okay?"

Polo sighed sadly.

"It will have to do. It seems so long ago that we used to be able to walk down to Macs and buy chocolate milk by the carton. Now we can barely get a handle on a litre a month!"
"I know," said Marco, dropping her chin into her hands with a sigh of her own. "I tried to buy a ration from Ophelia, but she told me to get myself to a nunnery and then she climbed out her window and onto that old tree outside. I think she almost broke the branch trying to jump into that river below. If she isn't more careful the poor oak is going to snap one of these days and she'll drown in that water."
"I can't say I blame her for resisting your bribe, though. I wouldn't sell our tickets for a million umlauts. It's just too precious a commodity!"

Marco and Polo ate their breakfast cereals in silence for a few moments. Their table used to resound with the sounds of snapping, crackling and popping cocoaey goodness, but now their bowls and spoons were as eerily silent and white as an asylum in January.

The chocolate milk industry was depleting at an alarming rate. Over the past six months North America had reached a depression-level shortage, thanks to the environmental activists that banned artificially coloured leather because it was draining the world of its tannin supplies. The famed Latvian blue cows were the first hunted for their naturally pigmented skins, after the same environmentalists passed a law to prohibit the poaching of animals without hair. No one could figure out what the moral difference was between killing hairy and bald animals, but the distinction saved a rainforest of rainbow heterocephalus galbers. After the blue cow, the brown Jersey was targeted and, as everyone knows, it's the brown cows that make the chocolate milk. In response to this, the Ministry of Natural Resources began to ration out chocolate milk tickets, hoping that regulating access would give farmers a chance to protect and stabilize their cocoaey herds. Unfortunately, the rationing served only to alert the public to the crisis and now people who did not normally drink chocolate milk were suddenly as concerned about its future as those who routinely lifted their glasses to the Good Lord in thanks for the brown cow. The result was that more people than ever were drinking down the heavenly-flavoured dairy products and instead of alleviating the stresses of the farmers in question, the motion actually served to increase demand three-fold. If something wasn't done soon, Canada would fall with the United States into a state of brown cow extinction - and nobody wanted that.

Polo raised her bowl to her lips and slurped up the last few drops of her very white cereal. Marco stared into her half-empty glass and sighed again. Polo sighed louder. Marco gave her a look and proceeded to empty her lungs with a dramatic, exhaustive blow. Polo took the cue and before long the two were in a very competitive "sigh-off," swooning, fainting and blowing air into each other's faces in the most ridiculous of fashions. Five minutes later their contest had ended, to nobody's surprise, in a wrestle to the ground and Polo threateningly hoarking into her hand.

"Enough!" cried Marco in mock panic and legitimate surrender. "I give up!" They both clambered to their feet and Marco let out one final exasperating sigh - and then quickly changed the subject before Polo could quite realize what she had done. "So," she said, "What is on our agenda for today? Shall we engage in a bit of northern piracy or travel to a distant land aboard the mighty Karen Thrasher?"
"Actually Marco, I was thinking that we should try and figure out a solution to the chocolate milk problem."
"You might as well aim to take over the world, Polo."
"You say that like we haven't tried it before."
"Well, what do you suggest, mon aime?"
"I thought we could try.... jelly."

Any other plan would have been written off immediately as ridiculous, but Marco couldn't help grin at the suggestion. It was irresistibly brilliant.

"Polo, have I told you recently that I love you?"
"No, not this morning, Marco."
"Well," she smiled, "I do."

The two girls abandoned their breakfasts, resolved to resolve the bovine dilemma. Their first stop, naturally, was Utterson. Others had already begun to gather at the famous site, where an American Dairy Princess and a Côte d'Ivoirian Theobroma Cocoa were first mated and a chocolate milk squirting Jersey was born. It was here that the Canadian concentration of the breed was kept in a sanctuary away from prying eyes and empty glasses, and it was here that Marco and Polo found exactly what they needed: inspiration.

The manager of the herd let them in immediately after they had exposed the beginning of their plan to him. It's amazing just how much hope can be stirred up in a hopeless heart at the word "Jelly." The sight that met their eyes was enough to make Marco's stomach turn sour... in the middle of a large field that could have held hundreds of cattle stood five. Five lonely, skinny cows drooping their lonely skinny heads into a trough of the world's finest imported grasses. Suddenly the magnitude of the situation flooded our heroes' hearts. This must be solved. Tonight.

Stay tuned for part two...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Prayers of Psalm 51

Why am I resisting you? Now, of all moments when I should be clinging desperately, I am running like Jonah from the hands that will save and guide me, into the middle of the one thing you have told me to flee - the one thing that will lead my mind to destruction and my heart to misery. Why am I giving in to these temptations as the seize me? Why do I turn from what I know is truth and peace and light only to intentionally grapple along in the dark places that my flesh is so actively seducing me to? Why have I lost my hope? To what place has my joy vanished? How have I walked so far away from you, Lord?

Hear my tears and see my guilt. Come after me like you promised to. Look for your lost sheep. Break me, if I need to be broken. Hold me, Father, for I know that I need your care and your love. I am lost. I have wandered. Pull me back to you and your flock, Jesus. I am yours. Call me yours.

Heal the pains I have but can not name. Temper my trembling spirit and the shaking of my shamed heart. Restore me like David. Forgive the sins I so frequently and carelessly commit. Clean my heart, cleanse my eyes, renew my memory and wash it to new.

God, I am sad. The cause of this burdening has been buried away from me, but you know even the secrets that we keep from ourselves. Heal my unknown pains. Strengthen my weakness, calm my fears, settle my body. Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me, Father.

Wrap me in your arms.

Monday, 31 May 2010

The Umbrella

It was raining again. It had been raining for weeks on end, drowning her world and her basement in inches of water. She had bail buckets scattered and often floating around her feet as she stooped to scoop her floor dry – an impossible task between the attack of the rain and the thaw. If her street flooded it would be the end of her foundation altogether and she might as well install a diving board. How had it come to this?

Upstairs things were not much better. Her boyfriend was sitting by an open window, watching the water pour in over the sill like the Niagara. “Look sweetie,” he said with a dopey smile on his face, “I put a bucket under the flow, so it wouldn’t ruin the floors!” She gave him a sharp look of “Actually, right now? Are you an idiot?” and pointed to the window. “Why didn’t you just close the window?” she asked aloud. “Why didn’t you?” he countered. It was a fair point. She had been living in her house with the windows open for so long that she hadn’t even thought to close them when the rain started to come. She had been distracted with the basement immediately and had only thought about the windows being open when she started to see water damage not only from the walls but also from the ceiling of the basement. Jack could have been a little more help, though. He was sitting right there, after all. But she said nothing in correction and rarely gave suggestions; instead she spent her time criticizing his choices and mocking him in her mind. It was a kind of release for her, in a way, albeit a selfish one.

She went into the kitchen and opened a drawer, rummaging through the mess of disorganized odds and ends. Rubber bands, scissors, a flashlight, Kleenexes, a ruler, three dried up markers and a few candle stubs, but no matches with which to light them. “Jaaaaaack,” she called back into the living room with an exasperated tone. “Do you know where I put the matches from the campfire last weekend?” There was no response. She walked back into the other room, each step squishing audibly as her socked feet took on all qualities of a sponge. Jack was lying on the couch, half-asleep with the bucket balanced on his chest as though he had attempted but not quite made it to the sink. The still-open window was drenching the rug. She thought about tipping the pail into his face but opted for her jacket instead. She needed space. She needed time away from this place and this life. She let the front door slam behind her.

The world outside had turned into a puddle. It was as though they were living in the first few days of Noah’s deluge and now the precipitation pace seemed to be picking up. Her jacket was thin and she felt every gust as though she were in nothing more than a tissue-paper robe. The night was overcast and chill, and the store was a fifteen minute walk away. She began to wish for her winter coat, or the umbrella still hanging on the kitchen hook – something, anything, to protect her.

Lightning illuminated the sky as the storm flexed its power over the small town. In that moment the whole street lit up and she saw, or perhaps she only thought she saw, a man standing at the corner. The otherwise deserted street was plunged back into the darkness that she had known only seconds before, but in that one moment with hardly enough time to breathe she knew that the man was waiting for her. Her body tried to turn and run, but her eyes had met his in the flash and her curiosity could not resist... she needed to talk to him. Deep thunder shook the earth, as though to agree.

With resolve she continued down the street. The lightening split the sky again and she looked intently at where the man stood. He was tall, with dark skin and a kind face, dressed in a tan coloured trench coat, collar up. He was holding a large, white umbrella and he had begun to walk toward her. They met part way to the corner a moment later.

“Where are you headed? It’s cold and you look like you could use a little shelter. I’m happy to walk you there, if you don’t mind the company.”

She smiled in appreciation and although she would normally turn down a stranger’s help, especially that of a man, she decided against pattern and thanked him. “No,” he said. “Thank you. The truth is I was hoping for a purpose in this walk. Now I have one.” They paced in silence for a minute, synchronizing their gate and then he picked up the conversation again. “My name is Ben. What’s yours?” He looked at her with a sure, encouraging kind of confidence. “River,” she answered. She looked at him expectantly; her name always caught strangers off guard and even now some of her closer friends were just getting used to it, but Ben was un-phased. “Glad to meet you, River. And happy to hold this umbrella as well, but something tells me I could do even more for you tonight. You look like you could use a listening ear. I love stories of all kinds and I’ve been told I give pretty sound advice. We’ve got a few blocks, if you feel like talking.” He smiled as he spoke. It was the kind of smile that you usually find on the face of a grandfatherly caregiver, a smile that calms and invites and promises the helping words that come with personal history and yet this face was also young and full of colour and life. Without permission her eyes filled with tears.

“It’s raining,” she laughed as the tears fell. “It’s raining and there is nothing I can do about it! It’s been raining for days and weeks without relief. My house is flooding, the water damage is irreversible and even my socks are wet! Everything is wet in my life. Nothing is dry or clean or simple or right anymore....”

Her voice broke into sobs and she stopped walking. Ben faced her and put his hand on her shoulder saying nothing for a few moments. “River, child.” He spoke softly with an accent reminiscent of African roots. “It sounds like more than your basement has been feeling the rain tonight. It sounds to me like maybe you’ve been battling a flood in your heart too. Am I right?” She nodded slowly. Ben took a step and they continued on their journey. “Let me tell you two familiar stories, River. The first is about two carpenters, both in the business of building great, large homes. The two men chose very different locations for their homes, one on the lakefront, right in the sand and one further up, on the bedrock of the mountain’s base. The man with the waterfront property, knowing about tides, built the house up high on stilts that were buried deep into the beach. The house was beautiful and its construction was good, but it had no support in its foundation. Now, the other man who was drilling and blasting and securing his house to the land took a long time laying out his plans. When he finally set his foundations they were strong and sealed and sure. Then the storm came, a storm much like this one, and it did it’s best to shred the houses. It beat against the glass and the ground. The rock was tough and held its house secure, but the sand gave way to the fury of wind and tide, and the supporting pillars collapsed. The house was completely destroyed.”

“I’ve heard this story before,” said River with a hopeless look and a heavy sigh. “I built on the Rock.” Ben smiled. “I know.”

They paused at a stoplight, waiting while for the walking man to signal a safe crossing. A few cars dove by, one splashing water up at them from the street in a wave - but the wave did not hit them. It was almost as though the water itself had second thoughts and made a decision against soaking the pair. River did not pay the moment or the direction much mind. She was waiting for the second story.

"Consider that the houses were not uninhabited... within the walls dwelt the architects themselves. With the beach house, the creator of it was destroyed, while the other survived with conviction, for a time. You see, even if the foundation is strong, it does not necessary secure the strength of the rest of the building, and it is the roof and the walls, not the foundation, that take the beatings of a storm." As they turned another left she found herself back on her own road, only a few doors from her own home. Ben stopped walking and faced her, his back to her house with windows lit and windows open.

"The owner of the house has a decision to make. With neglect the house will be destroyed by the wind. Only the foundation, deep and strong will outlast the weathering of a storm if all defences have been abandoned. If she does this, she will have to start from nothing - Jesus and nothing. It is not impossible, but it will be very hard, and she will have to work through great disappointment and bitterness. If, however, she recognizes the dangers that her house, her life and her mind are so aggressively faced with and she blocks them out, shuts the door to them and seals her windows, her home will prevail even in the fiercest of trials."

River looked over his shoulder at her house. Could it be salvaged? Could it be renewed? Was this an offer for her heart as well as her home?

Ben didn't answer her questions, not even with his eyes. He smiled, handed her the umbrella and turned away. She called a "Thank you" after him, but he did not reply with a standard. "Don't thank me," he said in a whisper that she was surprised to be able to hear, "I am only a messenger." And he was gone.

River shook the umbrella dry as she opened her front door again. Nothing accomplished, but much learned. She walked into the living room and closed the window. "There is hope," she said to her reflection in the rain-braten glass keeping the water away.

"There is still hope."

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Gearing Up and Downwinding

Have you ever made a decision so quickly that you feel as though it must be rash or misguided, but when you sit back after you have decided you find that every muscle in your body is finally at peace and you just can't help but smile? At that moment you know that, despite temporary emotional shock to the contrary, the decision you have made is the right one. Nothing could be so perfect. Nothing could make more sense.

I have had two recent decisions affect me in this way. The first (though second made) was introduced on Wednesday evening. Three days of consideration has led to a fairly decided heart: I am going to change my academic path from teaching to counselling.

Until this year I did not really understand the value of counselling. I had not understood how much weight can be released by simply opening your heart to a patient, relatively quiet, wise and gentle person. I still believe that I have the smarts and the creativity and even the dedication to wake up every morning and teach a class of tots how to multiply two digit numbers, if I wanted to... but my heart isn't in that anymore. I want to love people through more than a classroom. I want to love the people who so desperately need love - to love people who so desperately need Jesus.

So I'm mulling over the idea of counselling. I like the idea of maybe working in a high school (or even elementary), and being a guidance counsellor who gives counsel on more than class arrangements. The woman I went to in school was nowhere near a confidant to me, and so much of the time it is simply openness and gentleness that kids need to have access to and don't. Sometimes the closest thing that a child will get to a loving parent is a caring teacher... but teachers can not take a half an hour out of every day to build relationships with each kid in their class, and they can not sit down and help them through tough decisions and secrets. That is where the guidance counsellors come in, if they are doing their job right; they become whatever that particular child needs them to be. Sometimes that is moving around classes - but sometimes it is so much simpler and more relational than that... a listening ear, a sympathetic voice, some wise advice, a safe place to just sit. I want to be that space, that person, that office for kids who need it. So, I am finishing my B.A. in English and then I am going (somewhere) to get a counselling diploma. As I figure out the details I will let you know.

The second decision was made, at least in part, about a month and a half ago. The same decision will not be formally made until June when he comes home to meet my family, at which point a whole lot more of this story will come out. But for now, this is a tip to all you would-be matchmakers in my life; God has done a better job with pairing my heart than I can even begin to understand (and He didn't need our help!). On that note, to all of you who are still feeling lonely at the top of your tower: don't give in to the temptation to let your hair down. Guys who have to pull on your hair to get into your life will just give you a head and heart ache. The right guy, a guy who's worth the wait and who knows you're worth the effort, will learn how to scale the wall even without your assistance. Some are so determined that they will camp at your locked window and knock on the glass until you finally break down and open it. Ladies, such a pursuit is well worth the waiting, and I can finally speak that with absolute confidence.

So, as my academic year is (finally) coming to a close the rest of my life seems to be bursting forward in revelation and reality. Two more weeks of placement and several weeks of summer prep (that I am SO excited for!) are on their way, then summer in full swing... but more on that another time.

For now, enjoy the sunshine and the leafing trees, the company of others and the hope that comes with tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

One Day Without Shoes

Click on this LINK, watch the video and begin to understand the genius behind this quickly approaching day. Here's the gist, in the infamous super-fast-I'm-in-the-middle-of-a-study-break-and-have-several-other-things-that-I-should-be-doing-with-my-time-other-than-blogging style.

You own shoes.
You are probably wearing some of them.
But you could take them off if you wanted to.
And then you could put them back on.
Some people do not have that option.
And by some I mean MILLIONS.
Barefoot by choice can be an incredibly freeing, wonderful experience.
Barefoot by poverty 
is a very different story.

A company called Toms Shoes is doing something AMAZING.
Brilliantly simple.
Liberatingly active.
Exposing, intriguing, daring, brave.

This Thursday there is an international awareness campaign.
The world will be fore to look DOWN at their feet
And recognize their IMMENSE wealth and blessing for what it is.


If you are fashion savvy, this is your thing.
If you have the standard two feet and ten toes, this is for you.
If you have more of less, you are still welcome.
If you know nothing about the manufacturing process that brings you the clothes you wear, if you are studying to be a biophysicist and have not interest outside of the mathematical realm, if you like people, if you appreciate oxygen - seriously.
EVERYONE should get involved in this somehow.

Every pair of Toms buys a pair of Toms for a kid
Who can't even afford the laces.
Your naked toes can save a sole.

Click and be inspired by the movement.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Colour of Audio

It is likely that you have already heard this story, but unlikely in this form. I'm in process of trying to podcast some of my stories (in my magical spare time...) and though I don't have a fancy space for if just yet, you can now listen to The Lemon's Aide if you click that title. Who knows? You might be getting in on the ground floor of a multimillion dollar storytelling industry. You could be famous.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Healing Touch

Jesus is a very affectionate person. He understands the healing power of a simple, caring touch, and he used it often throughout his ministry. Did He heal physical disease, deformation and disability? Yes. But I think He did much more than that when He made intentional, non-intrusive, personally loving contact with the people he met. Allow me to call upon one such example.

"As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them" (Mark 1:29-31).

This simple interaction between God in the flesh and the flesh of humanity has spoken volumes into my heart today. At face value this story is incredibly short and finite: after church Jesus and His core disciples are walking home, they meet up with Simon/Peter's sick mom-in-law, Jesus heals her and she serves them. But what the account says and what it is saying are two different things entirely. This is an amazing God moment. It is a snapshot of the entire gospel. Did you miss it?

In verses 21-28 of this same chapter we learn that Jesus had just spent the Sabbath morning declaring the Truth from God's word and being revealed as the Messiah/Christ by an evil demon that obediently shut up and left, an encounter which naturally caused a bit of gossip. Immediately after this story Jesus hits the road with his young gang of rabble-rousing disciples and they head over to Simon/Peter's house, for brunch, perhaps. When they arrive, however, they are not met with the customary, expected greeting from a traditionally hospitable Jewish woman. Instead of Simon/Peter's mom-in-law welcoming them into the home with food prepared and places set she is in bed, weakened, sick and rendered effectively helpless by a fever. Catch what happens next; the disciples explain her ailment to Jesus. Whether they were providing a reason to excuse her social offense or whether they were simply alerting Jesus to her situation, his attention is immediately focused on the woman in question. In response to her need, Jesus goes to her. He comes up beside her and takes her hand – unsolicited aide, but the crossed boundary is quickly appreciated. He helps her. Hand in hand Jesus takes this woman’s weight on himself and helps her to her feet. He takes the fever and gives her the support of his arm. He takes her pain and sickness and restores her body to health, simultaneously restoring her heart to a place of natural servitude – the willing sacrifice of a grateful heart.

Jesus pursues a person in need, makes the move to humbly help, offers his strength, takes her frailty and heals her, body and soul, freeing her to serve him back with natural and instinctive love. This is the man I love; this is the God I serve; this is the example I choose to follow.

A hundred times throughout my day I pass people who are living with physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Nearly every time I see one of those people I pass by with little more than a thought in their direction, whether I consider them a stranger or a friend. But what if? What if I choose to stop in the hall and pull them aside? What if I put my life on pause long enough to address the heart issues of others with prayer? What if I took a moment to share the burdening pain and grief that weighs and weakens both mind and body? What if I responded to need with action, even if the only healing I can offer is the simplicity of company and a caring touch, or a hug?

What if we all did?

I’m not necessarily suggesting that you organize a Free Hug campaign. I’m not necessarily promoting public displays of godly affection in every possible circumstance. I’m not necessarily forwarding the idea of a designated room where lovers of God would welcome anyone in want or need of prayerful intersession or encouragement or comforting. But I might be. I’m certainly putting myself to the challenge of Love. I’m certainly advocating that Christians allow Jesus way more room to work miracles through their lives. I’m certainly saying that this world needs a whole lot more of what we can offer.

Take a lesson from Jesus: you don’t have to go very far or do very much to change somebody’s life. Just respond to the need, and Love.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Episode 2: Splattered Dreams

Requested story elements: Angela Hoekstra-Steed; the Paper Bag Princess or Eeyore; a crazy Italian chef called Thomas; no two snowflakes are the same; there was an explosion in the spaghetti factory!

Splattered Dreams

The spaghetti factory in downtown Toulouse had three main levels. When Thomas bought the land for the business his neighbours jeered – the property that he swore would be his sustenance was only thirteen feet square, and so the man was labelled a “crazy” right from the get-go. The benefit of operating in such a small area was that Thomas’ taxes were very low – even for being downtown in such a popular city in France – but the disadvantages were painfully clear from the beginning of his project. And yet, with the blood of successful and very creative amateur businessmen of the past flowing through his veins, Thomas set to work laying brick upon brick until his dream structure had come to be a wonderfully unusual reality.

It was forty feet tall and a perfect thirteen foot square, right to the top. Because of the thickness of the walls (to adhere to the building codes), the interior of the building was only eleven feet and with the elevator taking up a quarter of that available space (as it was the only method of climbing the tower), there was very little room for a business. In spite of this situation Thomas remained a faithful optimist and he made the most of every inch of space he had, manoeuvring a sink and towel rack, a display case for his finished works, a cash register, a place for the cue line and a grand old wooden desk into the “lobby” of the bottom floor, still leaving space under the shoots to work on and package his goods. And now we come to the heart of Thomas’ factory: the shoots.

The shoots extended down from the very top floor and were made of a flexible metal, lined with thick fondant icing. The inner space was about the diameter of a Canadian loonie, and the colourful coiled wire around the outside of each tube indicated what kind of pastas would be coming down through it. The rose-pink shoot was strawberry flavoured pasta, the blue shoot was home to fish flavours (a blend of tuna and cod) and the bright yellow shoot was for the no-fat double-butter flavour, and so on. There were nine different shoots and three that were unidentified (for special requests and large orders). The top floor of the building was the laboratory where Thomas would spend many hours mixing and blending his secret pasta recipes and though no one could definitively say what was on the second floor most speculated that it was used for storage or that it was the bathroom or perhaps that the level was entirely empty. Even now there is some suspicion as to Thomas’ intentions for that mysterious second floor.

Three days before the shop was opened Thomas hired two employees. The first was a young girl named Aoibheann-Rani-Gimbiyan-Ameerah-Sarai Takarda-Jakar; to limit the time it took to address the girl they summarized her name and her job description to “the Paper Bag Princess” and called her Cessie for short. Cessie was responsible for running the till and packaging the products when Thomas was finished with them. The second employee was Eye-Ore (pronounced “Ee-yore”), an unusually stout Irish man who seemed to have glistening pieces of that legendary lucky loot hidden deep behind his pupils of blue. The contrast between Eye-Ore’s bright eyes and his boorish nature was a strong juxtaposition indeed, but Cessie and Thomas were very fond of him and together the trio was fabulously efficient and happy. Eye-Ore worked on the top floor managing the machinery that mix the pastas and making sure that the paste passed without problems through the shoots and down to Thomas and Cessie who resumed production at ground level.

Here our story must jump for a moment to Mrs. Angela Hoekstra-Steed, an avid Walt Disney fan who was in the middle of a European tour, visiting the cities that had characters named after them. She was exploring the Aristocats legacy in Rochefort, Belgium when she first caught wind of Thomas’ business. There was a poster in one of the cheese houses that read “Tu n’ai jamais vu de telle spaghetti dan ta vie!” Although she couldn’t read the French, she understood “spaghetti” well enough and based on the odd little statue in the photograph, Angela assumed that the company was some sort of dinner-and-art-show, which is more accurate than you realize. Toulouse was already on her list of places to stop and with her Belgian adventure wrapping up like a Babybel, Angela grabbed her Eurorail pass and headed south.

Before his adventures in the noodle industry Thomas had been a professional (and struggling) artist. Though his sculptures were indeed beautiful, not many in Toulouse were interested in sculptures of stone or ice. In a stroke of genius he decided to combine his two life-long passions: portrayals and pastas. It was this idea that sparked his entrepreneurial adventure into the world of linguine and penne.

At eleven minutes after eleven o’clock, exactly a week and four days after it’s opening, Angela joined the line of customers in front of Thomas’ store. As the cue moved slowly towards the door Angela began to smell all of the flavours that were pouring out from the shop. You could almost smell the colours of the pastas that were being made inside: green wafts of fresh spinach and deep purples of blackberry filled Angela’s hungry lungs. When she finally squeezed herself inside the tightly packed waiting area, however, she almost forgot her cravings out of sheer amazement. Behind the barrier of the large, mahogany desk stood a young girl with a very long name-tag. She was whirling around with first money then ribbon then long sheets of paper in her hands, quickly wrapping and cha-ching-ing the cash register. Over her shoulder Angela could see Thomas dancing around a tall pedestal-like table with two long shoots in his hand. One moment he was looking to a posted note and carefully taking in the details of an order then he was weaving and folding and shaping the flow of pasta and in the next second he was standing there with a blow-dryer, setting his masterpiece and then handing it over to Cessie who took a photo of it, wrapped and packaged and then sold it to the person who had done the requesting. It was like watching a beautiful clockwork machine whose revealed dials and tinplates and springs are just as fascinating and entrancing as the intricate carvings on its face.

“What can we make you today?” asked the girl with the impossibly long name. Angela had not been paying attention to the shrinking line in front of her. “Well,” she thought aloud, “what are my options?” Cessie smiled broadly – the same smile she offered to every customer – a smile that never seemed to tire in energy or generosity or genuine joy. “There is no limit to the answers I could give you to that question. Thomas’ creations are as different from each other as God’s snowflakes. Reach into your imagination – test your creativity. Really, the sky is the limit!” Angela closed her eyes to think, knowing that there was an unspoken time limit to how long she would be left to search out an idea. “Can… can I have a duckling?”

With a grin Cessie typed “baby ducky” into the register and printed out a receipt on carbon paper. One copy she slid to the end of the desk and the other she tacked up on the wall beside the elevator for Thomas. The slip above hers read “pirate ship” and to her ever-increasing astonishment she looked over to the workspace where Thomas was working on the finishing touches to a perfect model of the Black Pearl, complete with the Jolly Roger and a sour-patch Jack Sparrow. Angela was in awe.

As Cessie took the picture and then walked back to the desk with the edible replica, Thomas took a look at his new order. Looking up at Angela with a smile he reached up to the shoots and took one in each hand – the yellow butter and the orange caramel – and set to work. In a flash he was swooping and pinching, flicking and pulling and wrapping the soft pasta into the perfect shape of a duckling. Thomas guided the noodle in such a way that the little bird’s wings looked tuft with down; its bright orange bill and black dropie eyes creaded the cutest face she had ever seen – the perfect balance of an anthropomorphic smile and a soft, almost plush-like docility. Sooner that she could have believed he was drying it to set the pasta in place and Cessie was wrapping it in thin rice paper, trying it with a liquorice lace that matched the little ducky’s salty eyes. As Angela counted out the coins to pay for her “dinner” and Cessie took her receipt off the wall she noticed with alarm that the form under her “baby ducky” request had only one word written on it: dynamite.

A chill ran down Angela’s back as she handed her money to Cessie. The girl behind the counter was similarly affected and her eyes flicked uncertainly between the cash in her hand and the stranger waiting for his order to be filled. If Thomas had been an entirely sensible sort of man this order would not have concerned anyone (explosive-shaped pasta was a normal enough request, considering the rebellious nature of the French), but Thomas was not an entirely sensible sort of man. Thomas was the kind of person who built a forty foot tall tower with a thirteen foot base. Thomas was the kind of person who put a three-cornered hat on a sour-patch-kid for the sake of authenticity. Thomas was the living definition of eccentric, and Cessie knew it.

When the artistic chef had finished with the duckling and was ready for another challenge, he walked over to the elevator and took a look at the next request in line. Then he took another look. It did, in fact, read “dynamite” and after a moment of processing the paper Thomas calmly washed his hands in the sink, dried them on a towel, walked over to the elevator and pressed the up arrow firmly. Cessie had stopped counting change and Angela had stopped waiting for it back. Both of them – all of them – were staring at Thomas. The doors swooshed open and Thomas stepped inside. When those doors swooshed closed again he left the lobby behind and in a swoosh that startled poor Eye-Ore half to death he appeared in the laboratory holding a small red vial containing a few drops of mysterious red liquid.

“Eye-Ore, I need you to mix this into a special order batch. Be very careful not to touch it. Do you understand? Take the greatest caution. Send it down the third tube.”

The chatter in the lobby died down as soon as the elevator returned to the bottom floor and Thomas came out. He looked at the man in line and locked his gaze. “You want dynamite? I’ll give you dynamite.”

Thomas walked over to his table and took the third blank shoot in his left hand. With his right he grabbed a lazy-susan from under his desk and placed it on the pedestal table. With his teeth he picked up a pair of surgical gloves that had been hanging up on the wall, tossed them up into the air and in a move that is too incredible to describe in detail he slipped them on without even releasing the nozzle. With the tap of a toggle the shoot in Thomas’ hand started to squirt out bright red fizzing pasta. Cessie shot Angela a quick look and both of them glanced towards the young man in line. “I guess I should have asked for a basketball, oui?”

The lazy-susan on the table spun faster and faster as Thomas poured the pasta onto the platter like a potter working with clay. In a moment he had created a dozen cylindrical tubes that varied in size and length. The whole room smelled of sizzling cinnamon and the small lobby was packed with three layers of curious and slightly concerned customers. All were silent. All were waiting.

Thomas reached up above his head and pulled down the yellow and orange and green and purple and blue tubes so fast you could hardly keep up with the waving of his warms and the darting precision of his perfectly coordinated hands. He added lightning bolts and swirls, arrows and polka-dots and flowers so real you could smell them and indeed you could smell them – the whole building smelled of cod-flavoured blackberries, caramelized spinach, strawberries with butter and pickles and scrambled egg all swirled together in a sensory pandemonium overtop a thick cinnamon base that seemed to be growing brighter and brighter every second!

After three moments of chaos Thomas stepped back from his creations. With a shaky hand he took the cork out of a small red vial, identical to the one he had given Eye-Ore only moments earlier with the exception that this vile vial was full. A drop of the liquid fell from the cork to the floor and POPPED against the tile. This was no ordinary food colouring.

Thomas dipped the spaghetti fuses into the vial of liquid. He repeated this process thrice and on the third round he took his hairdryer and set them dry. His audience held their breaths in tense anticipation.

Angela noticed it first but there was not much she could do. Thomas had changed the design of his dynamite sticks and had managed to clock the alteration from almost everyone in the store. He had added cones to the end of each stick. Directional cones. Aerodynamic cones. Her heart nearly stopped. This was no ordinary pasta dynamite. These were rockets and they were already lit. Angela cried out!

“Aoib… Aoibheeee… Aoibheann-Rani-Gim… Girl behind the counter! This place is going to BLOW!”

Cessie gasped but there was no time to do anything else. Thomas, with a wild spark in his eye and a cackle in his throat emptied the remaining contents of his vial onto the pile of explosives and tore open a bag of Pop-Rocks. The customers who were close enough took cover under the large wooden desk and everyone else piled on top of them and plugged their ears, waiting for the bang.


The whole building jumped. Eye-Ore, who had no idea what was happening below, was catapulted from his cushy office chair through the roof and into the next lot (which just happened to be a public swimming pool that was experimenting with Jell-o pudding as an alternative to the traditional water, so the impact didn’t kill him). Inside Thomas’ store was a different story. Cessie, Angela and about half of the waiting customers had their eyebrows singed off but not one of them even complained.

The explosion was the most beautiful sight any of them had ever tasted. By some kind of culinary miracle the spaghetti had cooked to perfection. It was inexplicable and wonderful; a truly sensational phenomenon.

Angela’s hair was filled with pasta but she couldn’t have been happier even if she had actually found Toulouse in Toulouse. It was the perfect finale to her European adventure, and perhaps the beginning of a career in travel writing. When her initial shock dissolved, a sort of wonderment overwhelmed her heart and her senses. She stood up, looked the now bald and beaming Thomas in the eye and began to clap. Soon the entire store broke into applause, giving Thomas a standing ovation and the celebration that began on that day has yet to temper in France. Thomas is a celebrated hero even in local circles as the crazy man with a crazy dream and the courage to take risks to make it happen. He was awarded the Golden Fusilli (the highest honour for Italian cuisine) after only one year in business, which is an unheard of success.

But what was in the vial, you ask? I’m afraid that has become a carefully guarded trade secret. Some say it is an edible nitro-glycerine kept in a vault on the second floor of Thomas’ renowned forty-foot shop, but not even Cessie and Eye-Ore are entirely convinced of that theory. Perhaps it will remain a true secret forever.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Growing Up

His shoelace was dragging on the ground behind him as he trudged up the stairs on his way home from school. "Hey, little man! What did you learn today?"

His Mum smiled down with her warm, steady smile and held her arms open to the little boy in front of her. His mouth was turned down and his eyes were diverted and sad. "Honey, what's wrong?"

"Franklin died today. At recess."

His mother let all of the air out of her body with a long, reflective sigh. She closed her eyes and breathed a silent prayer for her son's little heart. Franklin was a chickadee that the kindergarten class had adopted after an intermediate student found it with a wounded leg, back in the spring. This was the first time that her boy had to face the loss of a life. Slowly she knelt down in front of her son, until they were eye-to-eye. She took the book-bag from his back and set it aside. "How do you feel?"

The little boy dropped his gaze as his lips began to quiver. "Oh, baby. My little man. Come here." She pulled him into a hug, wrapping her love around his five-year-old frame. He accepted and returned the embrace but he did not cry. He was already learning to balance compassion with bravery. Every day she was blown away and humbled by her beautiful man-child.

She leaned back and put a hand on his shoulder. "Mum," he said after drawing in a shaky breath, "do you think Franklin is in heaven?"

Oh the thoughts he could think. She smiled. "Let's find out what Jesus says."

She stood up and walked into the living room, reaching for her big leather Bible and his red-bound children's version and they sat together on the floor in the middle of their thick braided rug - as they always did with questions.

"Let's start at the beginning." Together they flipped to Genesis 1:1, as they so often began their family Bible studies. She read aloud from the first verse until she came to the fifth day, where she paused and pointed to his Bible, lying open on the floor. "Day five. Ready for this?" She read from hers first and then moved to his version, reading slowly and pointing to each word as she went. "'On the fifth day God made creatures to fill up the new oceans and the new skies. He invented all kinds of fish, great big ones and littler ones, and he designed every kind of bird. Then He told them to fill up the world with more swimming and flying animals like them. God blessed his creations and saw that they were good.'" Her son looked up expectantly. "Well," she said, "What do we know about birds from these verses?" She could see the wheels turning in this mind as he thought over the question. "God made birds..." he started, "so... God made Franklin?" She smiled. "He sure did, baby. Let's read another part."

The next passage was already in her mind and although she knew how to find it, she flipped to the back of her Bible and scrolled through the simple concordance under the word bird, teaching with every moment she had. "Ah ha," she said. "Matthew, chapter six. I thought so, but I wanted to double check." She gave him a wink and he blinked back. Again she read the passage from her Bible and then switched to his. "'Take a look at the birds - they do not work hard to plant or harvest from the earth, but your Heavenly Father feeds them. And you are much more important to God than birds are.' This part of the Bible is talking about people who worry and stress out about parts of their lives that they should just trust to God, but it also tells us about birds." She read the verse again. "Not only did God make the birds, but he also takes care of them and feeds them." Her boy looked hurt. "But Franklin died, Mum." "I know baby. Keep going, we'll find His answer."

This was about more than a dead chickadee. This was about all death - the why, the why now, the what after. She needed to take her time with this and explain it right. And bring it back to Jesus. Bring this back to you, Lord, she prayed, guide me through guiding him through.

They flipped to a few more bird passages, talking about the bird that signalled the end of the flood to Noah, and the ravens that God sent to save the Israelites from starving. They looked into all four gospels and noticed that the Spirit of God came on Jesus like a dove, and they read about how God often asked for birds to be part of the people’s worship services and sacrifices – that He favoured them, even over really big animals, because they were considered pure and innocent. “God definitely likes birds,” his Mum concluded. “He created them and He talks about them a lot! But that doesn’t really answer our question, does it?” The little boy shook his head, but not sadly. He had forgotten most of his sadness with the excitement of learning more and digging in to a challenge, very much a trait of his father, but he was not yet satisfied.

“I have a question for you now,” she smiled, a little wryly. “A bit of a test from Sunday school and from all the other times we have sat down. What does the word sin mean?” The little boy laughed his airy, melodic laugh. “Mum! That’s easy!” It wasn’t easy for everyone to define something like sin, but he had been taught these things from the cradle, so in an almost jesting way he sat up and assumed the position of a teacher with his hands stretched out in front of him to do the actions that went along with the routine explanation. “Sin is anything you say, think or do that breaks God’s laws, and it’s when you don’t do good things that you know you should do.” He was a little smarty-pants, but she loved him for it all the more. “Right on. This one’s tougher: if I wanted to find out about the very first time God told people about the consequences of sin, where would I have to look?” Immediately he flipped back to Genesis chapter two and pointed to the familiar passage. She read from his version.

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden in the land of Eden so that he could work the ground and keep everything healthy and in order. Then God said to the man, ‘You can eat any of this fruit – I give everything in the garden to you except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Do not eat from that tree –if you do, you will die.’ But what did they do?” “They stole and ate the fruit.” “Does it matter who told them to?” “Nope. They did it and that’s what counts.” “So what happened?” “They got kicked out – and God said when Eve had a baby it was going to HURT! AHHH!” He grabbed at his belly and screamed in mock labour, falling over and rolling around on the floor. She had a second of flashback to his birth… it was a pretty accurate representation, all things considered. “How do you know what it’s like to have a baby?” she asked. “Dad told me.” Figures. She smiled and pointed back to the book. “There were more consequences, more after-shocks of their disobedience. What was the one that God said right off the bat?” He took her 'serious' cue and settled back down a bit. “He said they would die.”

His Mum took about three minutes to simply explain why God couldn’t put up with human sin and why death had to be the price for the trespass. She ran through key verses in his Bible, many of them already underlined from previous talks. She flipped to Numbers 15 and paraphrased a large section. “The Israelites had one priest who was allowed to go between God an His people. The priest, called the High Priest, made sacrifices for the people for the sins they committed, whether or not their sin was on purpose. Even if only one person sin by accident the sin still had to be paid for with death. When the price that God set out for disobedience right from the beginning was paid, it is called atonement, like at-one-ment, and the people were put back into a perfect relationship with God, with nothing in the way, no sin between them. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, this was a band-aid fix. It only worked until the next time somebody sinned then they had to do the whole thing all over again.” The boy scrunched up his brow. “That’s a whole lot of band-aids.” “You’re right,” she smiled. “And it wasn’t really working for anybody, and God wasn’t satisfied with it either. So he came up with a solution – a master plan.” She drummed her fingers together sneakily. “Do you know what that plan was?” He nodded that he did, but she was on a roll and the whole thing came out anyway. “Jesus came into time and space and history to become the High Priest and the Sacrifice all at the same time. He had a physical body and physical blood, but he also had an eternal spirit – a lifeblood that didn’t have a beginning and doesn’t have an end. When Jesus died he took on the sins of ALL people forever and because he was an eternal sacrifice, and his lifeblood became a replacement for our lifeblood that never had to be renewed. He became a substitute sin offering for the past and the present and our present and the future. No matter when we live in history, all we have to do is claim his blood as our blood – his sacrifice as our atonement (or at-one-ment) sacrifice, and God accepts us as perfect and clean again – at one with His perfect Love, with nothing in between us – with no sin.”

She took a minute to breathe and let what she had just said sink into the air and into both of their hearts. She was always surprised at how much God could teach her through His Word, even in moments of her own explanation. “So, Jesus became our sacrifice, paid for our sins and came between God and His people once and for all. But unlike the animals of the Old Testament, Jesus did not stay dead – not even physically.” She flipped to Hebrews chapter 10 and he followed. She paraphrased: “The laws from the Old Testament told the people to sacrifice animals to atone their sin – but this wasn’t God’s ideal plan – it wasn’t what He really wanted. This passage explains that those sacrifices were only temporary and that Jesus alone was the ultimate, lasting solution – but then it says this part…” She pointed to the eleventh verse in his Bible and read the next three aloud. “The priests in the temple over sacrifices over and over again every day – but they do not remove the sins, and they have become only habits and duties. But this priest (Jesus) offered one sin sacrifice for all time, and then he sat down right beside God, at his right hand. Since that time he waits – he is waiting for his enemies to become his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made the people who are being made holy perfect forever.”

The conversation had already been a long one at almost 20 minutes and her son was doing very well with only mild fidgeting and wandering gazes but she knew she didn’t have long to keep his attention. Time to get back on track with his agenda.

She flipped to Isaiah 44. “This is a prophesy,” she said, “which means it’s a part of the Bible that was written about something that was going to happen in the future, something revealed by God. This book was written about 700 years before Jesus lived as a man on earth but even though it is so much earlier, it still talks about him and about his work. Listen to verse 22 and 23: ‘I have swept away your crimes like a cloud and your sins like a morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing for joy oh heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath! Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all you trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and he displays his glory in Israel.’ Did you catch that? Not just people were getting fired up because there was freedom for God’s people… all of creation was getting involved! Even the trees and the forests and the mountains! Guess why?” She started moving fast, flipping pages like crazy, praying wild, silent little prayers all the time. God, I don’t even know how I know this stuff - thank you for highlighting my memory! Thank you for teaching me these lessons before now and for making this all so fresh in my mind!

She flipped to Romans 8 and read from his Bible, from the 19th to the 21st verse. “All of creation is waiting for God’s sons to show up! The whole world was brought under the curse when humans sinned – not by its own choice – but it was cursed only for a time, and now creation itself waits to be liberated in the same freedom from death and destruction that has been given to the children of God!” She was beaming and growing a little louder as her lesson began to reach its climax. She flipped once more into Isaiah, chapter 11. “Listen to the description of heaven that is given as prophesy here: ‘The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the colt together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.’”

She could barely contain herself, but she slowed her pace for the sake of her son. Working through something like this makes her heart race and it’s hard to temper that kind of passion. “So here’s what the Bible says. God made all animals, birds included, and he loves them and cares for them. Even though creation apart from people has not sinned against God and broken his rules the whole world, maybe the whole universe, has suffered the consequences of human disobedience. For a long time God allowed people to make a temporary atonement with him by using an animal’s blood to replace their own blood, but Jesus came and sacrificed his eternal lifeblood, offering us permanent at-one-ness with the Father and with himself. By doing this, Jesus brings not just the people who choose to love him back into a right relationship with God, but also all of creation is redeemed or atoned for… the whole world, at the end of time, will be at one with God! And how will we know this? The animals! There will be peace among the wild animals and the barn animals – they won’t be fighting with each other or eating each other. There will be perfect harmony between all animals and between animals and people, even children. A viper is a huge, poisonous snake with long, hollow fangs that could stab right through your arm in a second flat! You sure don’t want to mess with one of those right now, but in heaven, when Jesus comes to finally restore peace to this whole planet and to make everything right in his own way, there will be no need to fear anything – not even a viper.”

The little boy’s eyes had grown larger and larger at her description of the snake and it took a few seconds for him to follow through with the rest of her statement. “But there will be animals in heaven?” It wasn’t really a question, so much as clarification, but it was good to know that he’d been able to keep up with her. “Sure sounds like it to me,” she said, closing her Bible for the first time since they had sat down on the floor together. “The Bible doesn’t tell us directly what happens to animals after they die. Animals are different than people – they don’t have the same kind of mind or heart or soul as we do – they can’t choose whether or not to love God and obey him. People and angels are the only two elements of God’s creation that God gave the choice to say yes or no to His Love. But you know what? God is very just and fair. If he has given all creatures an eternal nature – if they go anywhere after they die – I don’t believe he would send them to hell. God doesn’t give us all of the answers to all of our questions – if he did, we wouldn’t need to trust him with anything, would we? But he does answer all the really, really big questions and for the rest of it, he gives us enough information in the Bible to make a good guess at what he might do. This is one of those cases – we don’t really know, but I think we can guess. The animals in heaven just might be the same ones that have lived on earth already… but to be really, very sure we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The front door swung open with a creak and they both turned to watch Dad walk in carrying something that smelled a whole lot like dinner. In a flash the little boy jumped up and ran over to the man, wrapping his little arms around his legs. “Dad! You’ll never guess what we just learned… vipers have hollow fangs and can snap right through your arm like this!” The boy clamped his hands around his Dad’s arm and pretended to bite down but quit a second later in a fit of giggles.

“What have you been teaching our son?” She smiled, and he gave his wife a welcoming kiss. She laughed, “You should have heard him talking about childbirth a little while ago.”

With the smell of chicken floating in from the kitchen and with tears quite dry and the bird almost forgotten the family of three sat down together and prayed over the meal. “God, thank you for being so real and so good. Thank you for your Word and the lessons that you teach us every single day. Help us to Love you with every part of our minds and our hearts and our actions… and our bellies. We praise you for everything you have made and everything you are. We pray together in the name and authority of your son, Jesus. Amen.”

Thursday, 25 February 2010

An Ode to the Best

My best friend is one of my favourite things in all of God's vast creation: the sun is awesome, but one of her hugs can warm just as well; the seas are unthinkably full of life, but a single tear from this girl and I'm overwhelmed and weeping along with her, whether in grief or in joy; though there are many beautiful plants and animals on our planet, nothing makes me smile faster or truer than her smile.

Jaleesa, this is for you.

You are beautiful in heart, mind, soul, spirit, personality, attitude and body. You are not flawless, but you make imperfection attractive. You are a striver, an organized whirlwind, a pursuer of better things, a simplifier of the unnecessarily complicated. You paint beauty onto blanked canvas, you create art with the full knowledge that you can only ever imitate His art. You credit where credit is due and often restore that perspective to my life when we speak. You lift my spirit, you brighten all our lives, you are so strong - but you are not afraid of sharing your weaknesses with those you love and trust. You inspire the writer's block, you clear the clutter of my thoughts, you wrestle out questions that no other would even notice or wonder over - and you do all this even from a distance, even when you are only present in the presence of a memory of you.

You are deeply missed in my life.

When I think back on the things we used to be able to do when life was simpler and the distance between us not so large, I am nearly overcome by such a strong mix of emotions that the only response I can muster is to write it all out. I wish we could go back the photography of our Monday dates, but I wouldn't wish for the experiences we've gone through since to be erased. I wish we could go back to murder mysteries and spinning around with our arms outstretched in the basement of that church that looks so different now, but if we had not moved on from the relative innocence of that time I could not be here, trying wildly at a computer that is too out-in-the-open for this remembering to be as consuming as it usually is, and you could not be wherever you are - with your Love, in the city that holds so much promise and hope for your future, even on days when you feel you should just move in to that sewing lab and have your possessions and meals delivered.

You, my friend, are going places. You are going to be changing this world. I believe that you will find a way to bring your love for Jesus and your heart for stylistically relevant and modest men and women into the fashion world. You will be making a statement to this slave-labour oblivious culture of ours, and you will be able to help people. You will be able to help people that you don't even know.

So, Jay, my best of friends from now until forever and a day, take courage in you. I take courage in you often, far more frequently than the times I take to tell you. You are loved, fiercely, by many, many, many, many, many, many, many people.

Of which I am only one.

And I think God gets three of those credits. And Evan, and your Mom and Dad, and the rest of your innumerable family members, and all of your friends from all walks of life, and my friends who know very little about you except that I love you (and I know that, if you ever meet them, their love would be quick to grow). I'm just reminding you of the truth - there's a lot of Jaleesa focused love going around, and it's my pleasure to bring it to your attention once more.

I love you, my Best. Know that truth today - and smile.
With a prayer,

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Greater Expectations

School is piling up.

While walking down the hallway today I saw a poster for time management services - a poor student with a frightening armload of books stacked up so high that his (or her?) entire torso and face were hidden behind his (or her...) homework.

I'm beginning to feel like this unfortunate student.
The problem is that I just don't care.

It's not that I don't value the education that I am receiving while I'm here at university, because I do - I'm even interested in the information that I am collecting in class. It's not that I feel incapable of completing assignments and papers, because I could - I have the skills and the smarts to pull everything together and deliver a strong argument. It's not even that I'm finding the timing of the workload completely overwhelming, even though I do have four projects due in the morning. It's that this work doesn't really matter.

Let me draw you a parallel. In the summertime I run a program for youth completely based on a points system. If one of my kids does something positive (win a game, memorize a verse, lend a hand without being asked), they are rewarded with a point value between 50 and 1000 points. Similarly, if one of the students breaks a rule or is caught in a lie or acts out in physical violence, etc, they face the consequence of losing points - both individually and for their team. It's a system that has been incredibly effective for keeping them focused and in-line by creating a healthy, competitive atmosphere. It works the same way in university. If I write a good paper and present my thoughts clearly and efficiently, I am awarded with a point value somewhere between 70 and 90. If my paper shows off a poor effort and makes it clear that I really couldn't care less about my topic I can expect a score that falls in the range of 40 or 50. But here's the part that I really can't get over in my mind:

Points don't mean anything.

You cannot eat a grade. You can not trade them or spend them or share them. Scores, like points, are in and of themselves completely useless. They are non-valuable. They are nothing - just numbers on paper. Meaningless.

I am having a hard time putting my heart and soul into a system that reaps no physical fruits. Will this paper on Ancient Athenian democracy and the execution of Socrates (assuming that he did indeed exist at all) have a lasting impact on my life? It will not. When I write my Children's Literature essay for tomorrow that explores and compares the significance of large houses in two modern novels, will my entire paradigm of writing youth fiction be rocked into a new reality? It is not very likely.

I am feeling the call once more to a world overseas where the money I borrow is spent on more than attaining invisible, intellectual status. My heart, now more than ever before is being pulled to other places, to the work that my hands could be doing, to the mouths I could feed and the little bodies I could teach and hold and love. I so much want to be freed from the restrictions that are placed on the skills that I have and I want to be released to chase my imagination with a criticless pen and few sheets of paper. I want to tell stories that matter. I want to do things that mean something. I want to change somebody's world, but I don't think I can do that while sitting in a lecture hall. How can I balance the call of greater expectations with the life I must presently live?

I know I am here for a purpose... I just don't think my purpose is going to be here for long.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

I Can('t) See It Now

Close your eyes, relax and tell me about your childhood...

"Picture your favourite childhood memory. Got it?"
Yes. I remember a scene around the campfire at Snow Lake, where several girls are, rather innocently, roasting sunfish alive - but I don't explain the memory yet.
"What do you see?"
Well... I remember the fire and who is present and roughly where we are, the lake, the hunt camp, the outhouse behind us, the trucks... but what do I see?
"Do you see in colour?"
No, not exactly... actually, no, not at all. I don't see anything. I can remember, but I can't see.

Turns out, I am not normal. My mind has been BLOWN.

Did you know that some people can see their memories? They can close their eyes and actually SEE pictures, scenes, faces, views...

If you can do this, I have news for you. In my mind, you are very abnormal and very, very lucky.

I cannot see my memories. I see the black nothingness of the back of my eyelids. No matter how hard I try, I cannot draw up a visual image associated with anyone or anything I have seen with my eyes open. I have always thought I have a very visual mind (the art, the photography, even the creativity in pictures I can "paint" with my words), but now I must question what I really understand as visual.

I'm still tripping about this - you can close your eyes and see?

According to Carolyn (who opened my eyes to this reality, so to speak), both of us are part of the 5% of people who can't recall visually. Though I have visual dreams and Carolyn does not (she describes hers much like a detailed story), both us us "draw a blank" when we consciously try to remember anything no matter how specific. I can describe it, yes, but I just don't see the light!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Ponder, Ponder...

Some lessons are very quickly learned. For example: music is absolutely EVERYWHERE and I think not all secular media is bad.

I'm in a familiar place. I commit to do something and I quickly discover that "maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all." I think we're allowed to have these moments. I think that it's in these times of consideration and reconsideration that we learn a little more about reality. So, now I'm trying to figure out exactly what I really want to accomplish by a "detox." Here is some of what I'm thinking through... and, considering my audience of friends who are close enough to care about all of the random things my artsy fingers can plunk out and family that is obliged to such attention, I'm looking for feedback if you're willing to offer it because I think I'm not really sure what I think.

I want to be like Jesus. And a lot of the Bible is pretty clear cut about how to accomplish such goals: "Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked" (1 John 2:4-6). And further along in the same chapter, verses 15-17: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions — is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

I'm at a loss, guys. How do I balance this? I need some insights.


I've already sought some of this advice. I've been challenged to keep my one-month commitment, if only for the purpose that I have said that I would. It was a decision quickly made, but every commitment deserves completion (and it will re-teach me the lesson to really think through these commitments before I decide to express them). Am I going to stick my fingers in my ears and yell "LALALALA I'M NOT LISTENING" when someone else is playing their music? No. But I'm going to clean out my iPod (...when I find it...) and I'm going to skip out on movie nights for the next few weeks. Excellent timing, what with reading break and home only a few hours away, but I'm going to stick with it.

Do you think I'm wrong? Do you think I'm right?
Either way I welcome advice and commentary.


Well I've been challenged yet again, and it's just confirming my conviction. If you use iTunes, look up Pastor Tim Lucas and his series on Porn. Then we can talk about our culture and our minds.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Filter the Incoming

I'm sure you've had one of those moments... the kind when you know you're getting a talking to. Sometimes the person doing the talking doesn't really know that they're speaking such a direct and sharp word into your life, but you know it and once the fact is realized there is no escaping the conviction that grips your heart in the hearing.

On Sunday morning my pastor was preaching at me - right between the eyes. I've had this experience before, especially with pastors, where their message is so applicable that it's not even funny. It's like God sat him down and they went over exactly what I needed to hear and then together they delivered the blow.

Usually my pride takes a hit in such heavenly ambushes. I am a terribly proud woman - of my skills, of my thoughts and sometimes of my actions - and the vast majority of the right-at-me lessons I take in from church follow this simple yet poignant pattern: "Hey girl. You need to step back and remember who you are and who I AM. You are a girl, a small, weak, limited little thing. You are no better than that person or that person. Child, I am God. Now, I love you, but you had better check that attitude of yours mighty quick or there's gonna be trouble." (In my mind, God has the voice and vocabulary of a black man, rumbling and deep, like that of James Earl Jones, right to the point, no side stepping the matter at hand, just laying it all out in the open in a gentle, friendly sort of way.) That's my Father for you - and so I respond, bite my tongue, say I'm sorry and temper my ego. But today's lesson was not about pride. Today was about the filter... or lack there of.

Allow me to briefly summarize and paraphrase part of Pastor Tim's lesson: "Consider airport security. Why do they check you on the way in? You go through metal detectors and x-ray machines, they root through your luggage, they give you "the look" and you run the gauntlet of precautionary measures. If there's a threat, it's met on the way into the plane and immediately eliminated, blocked out, guarded against. But when you get off the plane, you're free to go - you can walk right into a giant crowd of people and disappear without so much as a once-over. There is no check-out checking. Why? Well, the answer is, perhaps, obvious: by the time you're on the plane, it's too late to check for problems and threats. By the time you get off, the damage you could have inflicted to the passengers of the plane would already be done and so there is no need to re-scan and re-secure the exiting passengers. Whatever has gone into the plane has come off again, and as long as the security was tight upon entrance then you don't need to worry about what comes out again - it is clean, bomb-free, secure, good. And it's the same thing with the heart."

So, the old adage of "garbage in, garbage out" proves true even in the practical circumstances of life. Jesus says it this way: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). Your heart (mind and emotion) feeds your action. How healthy is your heart?

I thought my heart was healthy, but God has shown me otherwise.

I think I can compare my metaphorical heart to the physical heart of an athlete who trains regularly and eats well and does much to care for himself, but also has a drinking problem. The athlete looks really good until you discover his one weakness and when you get an eye-full of that, you start to realize just how much it affects the rest of his lives. My parallel runner is healthy... except for his booze. I am healthy too... except for my lust: mental, sexual and emotional.

Feel free to take a moment and knock down that pedestal you've put me atop. I am not the spiritually righteous person you have believed me to be. And please don't excuse my behaviour and my failure because I will tell you openly that much of my sin has been absolutely, deliberately defiant. I have seen the escape from temptation that God promised and I have slammed the door in his face so many times. I have given the devil a hold in my life that I very much want to shake him from and part of that process starts with confession... even if it's the awkward blog kind.

Let's jump back to the airport imagery. What I've been doing in my life is scanning the exit. I carefully control every thought that leaves my mind, every action that is performed, every word that escapes my lips and when I find something that I know shouldn't get out I thrown it back onto the plane by the collar... where it does who-knows-what to the other thoughts, potential actions and yet unspoken words that are waiting to get out and do some good. On the entrance side of things I'm pretty welcoming to all sorts and kinds of input. Without questioning I let in the good stuff - the Bible lessons, the sermons, the love, the friendships, the prayer, the school (sometimes), but with them I'm also saving seats for their opposites: the supersexual music videos, the violent television shows, the angry music, the cursing, the perversion of our culture... all of those things that I hypocritically criticize and then secretly indulge in, the things that are slowly poisoning the clean thoughts and the pure ideas and the godly influences of my life. It seems inescapable and easily justifiable, but is it really? Is sex so unavoidable? Is it truly impossible to block it out?

I don't think so. I think it is going to be stinking hard to fix my filtering system and it might take some very dramatic measures to move my security guards back to the in-cues without letting the filth I've been collecting in my heart and my mind to get off the plane. I have this mental image of my burly body-guards pushing their way between the seats, dragging the crap with them as they go while giving the good thoughts a brush-off and a straighten-up. Then my guards will chuck the slimy, lusty, disgusting and shameful memories out of my heart, over the barricades and back to the cue on the outside of the airport. It doesn't mean they will go away... but it might give me the time I need to get my feet under me again, to re-organize my filtering systems and to mop up the plane, as it were. Unfortunately I do not have microscopic security guards who are going to do this for me... it's just me in my mind and so the plan has to be something I can do on my own.

I am going to fast Secular Media.

I don't know if this is going to work, but I think it's worth a try. With the exception of anything directly assigned for a class, I am locking out all television, all explorations of YouTube and all music that does not honour and glorify Jesus. Sadly, this will include girly, "harmless" pop. More sadly, this includes country.

I don't know how long I need to detox my spirit. I'm going to start with a month and see how I feel and how I think after that. Maybe this needs to be permanent, I don't know, but I do know that I need some pretty dramatic change in my life and this is step one for me.

What is step one for you? What are you letting sit on the plane that should be locked out of the port? You don't have to expose your heart to the world and confess your vice in the open, but open your eyes to your own downfalls. Acknowledge your weaknesses and stop giving in to them. Choose to fight. Choose to guard. Choose to filter the incoming.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Loser Has To

Have you ever experienced a memory so wonderfully clear that you can close your eyes and re-live not only the visual mapping of whatever moment in time your mind has flashed back to, but but also the physical, spacial sensations? For one blissful, joyful, overwhelmingly nostalgic moment I was standing on the side of a mountain in the late evening with a group of close and crazy friends and witnessing a game of loser has to.

I've been thinking a lot about Costa Rica lately, but my memories are not usually as strong or as lasting as this one a few moments ago. I could feel a temperature difference, a change of lighting, the smells of lemon and jungle and life, the flickering of fireflies up the road towards the cattle and that very unusual chicken farm. This memory started on Facebook with a video of the actual race: Melissa and Frankie facing off in a very bold challenge of eating half a wild lemon each. First to complete got the bragging rights and the loser had to jump in the pool (fully clothed, of course), even though we should have been on our way to bed - and it was pretty chilly, at least compared to the daytime blazes. The video lasted just over a minute, but even now as I write a bit of this out I'm there in my heart - the hills, the beaches, the creatures, the people, even the lemons! There is something about that time in my life that I will never be able to forget or part from however many years I am removed from such adventures. One day I will go back there and walk Campamento Roblealto's tropical trails again. I will be braver upon my return; I have grown so much, learned so much, become so much more. The past three years have been incredible in many ways and because of many, many people - but it all started there, in Costa, in Boundless. My faith is rooted there. My heart is rooted there.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Oh, the Weather Outside...

Winter itself has been acting a little bipolar this year, and so is it any surprise that my moods have daily been following suit? This morning was bright and clear as I woke up with a comfortable kind of stretch and a snuggle back to sleep like a cat in the sun. By the time I opened my eyes again (at 8:00 for my 8:30 class) I was in a bit of a flurry to prepare and (thanking God for my chipper cabby) the wind picked up the snow and blew me right to my seat with a minute to spare. An hour later I was lost in the world of heavy flakes and white skies as the wonderland beyond my desk told me stories of wintry walks in a Narnian kind of place. The parking lot has never seemed so adventurous. Now as I sit indoors, en route to class in a moment or two, I stare out at my peers as they frolic in the fresh fallen flakes with a blended felling of melancholy, envy and contentment that is quite suited to the huge, soppy clumps of snow that are blanketing my northern world. The weather changes quickly – as fast as life itself – and keeping pace can be a difficult thing, even in the simplest of ways.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

B. Ball Academy

Rick, Sam and Alex were three-way best friends and the three best players on their school’s basketball team. Successful sports had been the school’s pride and joy for the past three years and unfortunately for the rest of the school, the athletic program was really the only thing that the school ever put any money into. Before long, the school had an amazing gymnasium, brand new uniforms, a wonderful basketball team and a building full of classrooms that were totally falling apart. After a while the board shut down their school and all of the kids had to find new places to study. Big schools from the city came and collected students for enrolment, and one of these schools was the B. Ball Academy for Boys.
Sir Benjamin Ball, the man that the school was named after, was a huge fan of basketball. Down every hallway of his school there were gigantic trophy cases filled to the brim with all kinds of metals and pictures and awards. Mr. Nezz, the basketball team coach at B. Ball Academy, was always looking for more players to help him win. He had the best basketball team in the whole province and he hadn’t lost a single game all season. As soon as he heard about a school closing its doors, he made sure he was right in the middle of the chaos to scoop up all of the really great players.
Rick, Sam and Alex were at the very top of Mr. Nezz’s list. Before they even realized what was going on they were suited up in the Academy uniforms at their first practice. “Welcome to the team, boys!” said Mr. Nezz as everyone got together before their work began. “As many of you know, this year we are finally in the running for national championships! And this is what we are going to be working for...”
Mr. Nezz unrolled a giant poster of the national championship trophy. It was a huge, shiny, golden masterpiece of metal. “Okay boys, here’s what we’re going to do. Ten minutes before every game we play this season, I’m going to start this CD and for the first three songs we are going to sit in front of this poster and visualize.”
Mr. Nezz explained that visualizing meant that they were going to picture themselves winning the final game and holding this trophy above their heads. Then they were supposed to think hard about how much the trophy meant to each person and to the team as a whole. After the third song was over they would get up and chant “Champions! Champions! Champions!” until the game began.
“Anyone who does not do this as part of the team I will assume does not want to part of the team at all. I won’t kick you off, however you won’t be allowed to play for the rest of the season. Instead, you will become a waterboy and equipment manager, in charge of doing the laundry and washing the change rooms. Make your choice and make it quickly. Our first game starts tomorrow morning.”
The next day the team gathered together in the locker room. The poster of the trophy had been framed and put up on the wall above the drinking fountain. The whole team sat in a circle and ten minutes before the game began, Mr. Nezz started his music. The team closed their eyes and started to visualize.
Rick, Sam and Alex did not shut their eyes or bow their heads in visualization. Instead, they stood up and walked over to Mr. Nezz who was mumbling “championship” under his breath. Alex tapped him on the shoulder. “Umm, sir? We really don’t want to do this... it’s... wrong. Can we please leave?”
Mr. Nezz looked frustrated. “Are you sick? Are you going to throw up?” Rick shook his head. “No, sir. We just think it’s wrong to focus on the trophy like this. We don’t want to visualize. We just want to play basketball.” Rick and Sam nodded.
Mr. Nezz stood up and cleared his throat. Everyone looked up from their visualization. “Well boys, looks like we found ourselves a couple of waterboys already! Let’s get these kids to work!” Two of the older kids got up and grabbed Alex under the armpits and lifted him up off the ground. A few other boys came and picked up Sam and Rick the same way. Then the bigger players carried Rick, Sam and Alex through the locker room and into the change rooms where the laundry was kept. Rick, Sam and Alex were thrown into the bins along with the dirty uniforms and smelly gym socks.
“Have fun cleaning, boys!” Mr. Nezz and the rest of the team walked out to the gymnasium to play the game. All that could be heard was the chanting of “Champions! Champions!” as the door to the change rooms swung closed.
Rick, Sam and Alex climbed out of the laundry hamper. They looked around the room, expecting to see a huge mess but instead they saw sparkling floors and tidy equipment. They looked back in the laundry hamper they had just climbed out of. The laundry was mysteriously clean and folded. They looked towards the door that the team had just walked out of. There, leaning against the wall with a mop in hand was a kid in a strange uniform.
“Enjoy your night, boys! I'm pretty proud of you for standing up for yourselves and for what you believe in. Well done.” At that moment the door opened and Mr. Nezz came back in. He was reaching out for his whistle when he froze and stared at the floor. It was all... sparkly. His jaw dropped as he looked around the room and then up into the faces of Rick, Sam, Alex and the mysterious new kid. He blinked hard and gave his head a bit of a shake. When he opened his eyes again, the fourth kid was gone. “What just happened here?!”
“That kid...” Rick was having a hard time making sense of it himself. “He just... did everything so fast and he saved us like... hours and hours of work! Then he just... disappeared!”
Mr. Nezz was in shock. “Wow, I... don’t know... I mean, that kid! ...You know? Okay, boys. I don’t know what just happened, but if you can clean this fast you must be like Speedy Gonzalez on the court! You’re back on the team for sure. And no more of this crazy visualization stuff anymore. Clearly you don’t need it! It’s probably not a great idea anyway. Maybe it’s even wrong. I’m sorry I tried to force you. Will you come and play now?”
Rick, Sam and Alex played an amazing game that night and Sam was even made captain a few weeks later. The coach made sure they never had to visualize anything about that trophy ever again... and they still won the championship!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Classics Notes...

I'm sure this is bad form but I'm not sure what else to do. Until this evening I've had no complaints about my lovely new MacBook - but now, as I sit in my lecture hall with naught but this computer, I'm at a loss - I do not have my notebook which I didn't expect to be a problem, but surprise! It really is. Why? I have a Mac... and Macs do not have Word.

So, here I am with Internet but without Word and so I'm going to take my notes here, for the world to see. Welcome to CLAS 2146 and forty-five minutes in the academic life of yours truly.

Kypselid Policy

Many tyrants in Ancient Greece funded one of four major, acknowledged Games (i.e. the Olympic Games) to show off and increase their own reputation. They favoured the lower classes over the aristocracy (gain control over and support of the majority of the population) and established their rule by extensive, violent military power.

In Corinth, Kypselos (a tyrant) exiled the Corinthians and those he did not banish he castrated (a generation of eunuchs ends their population). When he finished his rule, his son took over and for a time was not so violent but he ended up being even worse, killing any suspicious or outstanding and potentially threatening people under his control. Together they ruled for about 70 years.

Corinth became a very, very important cultural and economic centre under the Kypselid Dynasty. Why did it end? Basically Periander (the son) ticked off enough of his enemies that they banded together, expelled him and took over, establishing an oligarchy (aristocratic rule).

Tyranny of Sicyon

Reminder: history is sketchy in the archaic period because we don't have any recorded evidence until nearly 200 years later... It's a lot of interpretation and guess work which is what makes it difficult to trust what I'm learning, or personally invest my mind here.

Sicyon was a victor at the Games and expanded them while he was in rule... he replaced the flute-singing competition and added the chariot race. Attaboy, get those horses going and ditch the arts... a macho move, but an effective one for raising his popularity scores.

Polyrates/Samos Tyranny

535 BC(E) power is taken over by three brothers (until Polyrates kills one brother and exiles the other) and the island is set up as a military naval power. He sets up political ties with the king of Egypt and gets building and expanding (plundered and captured a whole load of people - a pirate king of the Mediterranean... and captures the Lesbians?).

Built a huge tunnel/aqueduct on the island (900 feet under a mountain?!) which still survives.

Death of: he was crucified with his men by Magnesia and the Persians free the people (disposed of the leaders) and then take over.

Gela on Sicily

505 BC(E) mercenaries (lead by Cleander) from the outside take over and rule until he was assassinated in 498 and is followed up by his brother (Hyppokrates) who rules in his stead and tries to expand (where he is killed trying to conquer another city). When the city finds out their tyrant is dead, chaos is temoratily restored until Gelon takes over and establishes his tyranny until 478 BC(E).

Gosh this shrinking BC-AD timeline is confusing. And my prof is moving SO fast!!

Herodotus: "Gelon pretends to protect his son but then he basically turned on everyone and took over. When a tyranny is established the polis (city) begins to flourish... but the people are not fond of him and it's a mutual distaste."

Gelon: "You're a jerk, men of Hellas, and I can't trust you. You're asking me to help but last time I helped you you bailed on me hardcore. But I'm better than you and I will help - I will send you men and provisions... but you have to let me be the ruler of everything." (They said "Thanks but no thanks.")

Question to the class: "Is there something about the surviving accounts of Greek Tyrants that causes you to be cautious?" Potential biases of their sources: there are huge gaps (roughly 200 years) between the actual event and the records. They are very similar in pattern and so it is very mythologized: a prophesy of the oracle, come to power with good intentions, suffer from hubris (arrogant pride), they are corrupted and they fall and order is restored by another power.

Tyranny leads to irresponsible abuse of power? Can't be assumed but there sure are a lot of examples. However, "if anybody goes against the demos (people) he is to be overthrown immediately by the boule (judges?) and the tyrant and his decendants are to be stripped of all rights forever," at least in Athens.

The Balanced Perspective

Tyranny is very close to democracy - popular of the common people and takes them into account. Brings a more even distribution of wealth, relieve debt and make improvements to the economy. "You harm your enemies and help your friends."

Euergetism (structural growth of the city, etc) and tyranny go hand in hand... To come? Sparta! Class over! Run away!

Well, I hope you've enjoyed dipping your toes into Ancient Greece. I've learned that it is unspeakably difficult to take notes on the computer and pay attention to the visual stimuli in my lecture. I can't type without my hunt-and-peck when under the pressure of keeping up with someone else's thoughts... so, next class I will be back to my good old pen and pad.

Soon I will write a note worth reading. Until then, I leave you with this one little-known-fact that I picked up in my biblical studies today. When locusts swarm there are as many as 40 million to 80 million locusts in one square kilometre! Makes you think twice about the eighth plague, eh? Not fun for Egypt. Not fun at all.