As I write this, I am downloading hours of Fast and Easy French for Beginners and Video Vocabulary lessons 1-17 on my iTunes. You may have passed me today on the road and honked or something because I was sitting at a green light mumbling: Bonjour. Bonjour. Bonsoir. Bonswaaaa. Comment allez-vous? Como tally vouuuu. Très bien, merci. Muy bien, gracias. No! Tray bien, gracias. No! I mean, merci.
I am a Spanglish bull in a French china shop trying to drive my SUV downtown at lunch hour. And to really make things worse, I keep bursting out in tears when the man on the CD says phrases like, Bonne Nuis and Mademoiselle and Ce sera sera, because I can hear my Aunt’s voice trying to teach them to me, and French will always be the heart of my memory of her. She usually slipped into French absentmindedly in the middle of a story and then she’d laugh and stop and say it slowly for us to repeat. Whenever we were having a meltdown about anything, she’d just throw her hands up and say Ce sera sera. What will be will be.
I could kick myself for not learning from her when I had the chance or for not taking this trip when she lived there, but what can I do? Ce sera sera.
The important thing is that I am going. I will be staying where she lived, seeing the vineyards our family owns, touching Candy & Jean Louis’ laser-etched gravestone, and visiting with family I haven’t seen in almost 8 years. It’s very important for me to be able to say things like: Can we stay with you for a few days? or, Will you pick us up from the train station? or even just, Hello uncle. It’s me, Brooke.
If you know French and you would like to help me make this phone call, e-mail me! Otherwise I’ll be left to translate through Alta Vista, and I’ll be pronouncing all the words with a Spanish accent. But thanks to French made easy and Video Vocabulary, I’ll be able to say numbers 1-10 and things like “microwave.”
In other news, I woke up today my same old self.
I have really been working hard at preparing my heart and mind for service, and generally, trying to become a more compassionate, graceful person. But its too hard. I’m not cut out for it.
Every time I get to thinking I’m good, I wake up selfish again. I wake up irritated and unkind, and sometimes I wake up mad at the same people about the same old things. Usually its because someone told an old story or brought up some unresolved issue, and those old feelings creep up, and I stay awake half the night stewing about it and rehearse in the shower the next morning what I’d say if I had the chance. After a few days, I come across the concept of grace or something, and I vaguely remember I am supposed to be practicing it. Then I have to start all over again at the very beginning of the forgiveness road, which is so annoying.
One day I’d love to just wake-up under control.
The problem is that I’ve got to write this story, a one-word themed testimony about God in my life that will call to action the life of a third-grader. What the? I can’t even call my own self into an action that lasts more than 24 hours!
I don’t feel equipped or call-to-action enough, and I feel old because my favorite people on the team are 14 and they’re done with theirs and totally excited about it, as they should be! But I had to email them and ask for help. I haven’t heard back. I’m kind of embarrassed because I was assigned the task of checking in on everyone else and helping them write their stories.
Usually when I hit a roadblock in my own life, I read a lot of books, and somehow everything just clears up and works itself out. That didn’t happen this time, but I did read something worth sharing that sort of changed my perspective about the point of this little testimony-story-thingy:
(Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis)
Imagine an average street in an average country. Let’s imagine person X lives in a house on this street. Next door is a Hindu and on the other side is a Muslim. Across the street is an atheist, next door to them an agnostic, and next door on the other side, someone from Ohio.
Imagine person X becomes a Christian. Let’s say she starts living out Jesus’ teachings so that she can become a compelling force for good in the world. She is becoming more generous, more compassionate, more forgiving, more loving. Is she becoming a better or worse neighbor? If we are her neighbors, we’re thrilled about her new faith. We find ourselves more and more grateful for a neighbor like this. We wish more people would be like this….
The most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the “un” and “non”, they work against Jesus’ teachings about how we are to treat each other…. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone.
Oftentimes the Christian community has sent the message that we love people and build relationships in order to convert them. So there is an agenda. And when there is an agenda, it isn’t really love, is it? It’s something else.
I think I may have had an agenda, because it’s really not that hard to share 3 minutes of God in my life. I don’t have to challenge anyone or shed tears or move the classroom with words of wisdom. I just share my heart for 3 minutes and spend the rest of the 2 weeks loving the kids and families and teachers genuinely, gracefully, compassionately, without an agenda.
My favorite line of the whole book: “Jesus lives; here’s a toaster!”
I want my life to be that sentence.
…Another thing to keep in mind is that we never arrive. Ever. One of the illusions of faith is that at some point we get it all mapped out and things get smooth and predictable. It is not true. The way of Jesus is a journey, not a destination. On a journey, the scenery changes. A lot. We can prepare for some things but not all. We make mistakes, figure it out as we go along, and try new things. Failures are really just opportunities to learn. If you are part of a church, is the dominant understand of faith in your church that of journey or destination?
What a lovely gem of a paragraph to remind me I’ll never wake-up in control. Nobody does.
I am happy to be journeying and not arrived, because it means I am still alive. And the great thing is that I finally went to Steve and Barry’s to check out SJP’s new clothing line, and she has all these great little t-shirts about peace and love, and one shirt that says in plain type on the front: do unto others.
I want that shirt because at least when I get all mad and discouraged and selfish again, I could just wear it to bed and wake up in a selfless shirt, if not always a selfless attitude…
Do you think she makes that in French?