Song and Sun: Ireland, Week 2

Oasis Chorale Tour Continued
After staying up all night on the ferry and visiting Powerscourt Gardens, we gave a concert at a YMCA in West Dublin. This concert experience was quite informal, and we deviated a bit from our normal repertoire. First, our choir had been advertised (via a huge sign outside) as an “American Gospel Choir.” I hope no one in the audience was disappointed with our predominantly sacred choral selections! Yet due to the nature of the space and the amount of children in the audience, we made it a little more fun by doing crazy Oasis warmups with the audience beforehand and even singing Irish and American folksongs as warmups. We sang “Home on the Range,” lol. After intermission, we collaborated with Maureen, an audience member who sings with a gospel choir in Dublin and who sang for us “There is a Balm in Gilead.” We also pulled out our improv skills when a young boy in the front row (from the Irish Travelers cultural group) asked us to sing “O Happy Day.” It was after this concert that I enjoyed talking with the Irish audience members over “tea and buns.” I met two Irish women who were friends, and we had a lovely chat. (I was interested, however, that they described themselves as being from two different religions, Christianity and Roman Catholicism. ? I was uncovering even more layers to the religious culture of Ireland.)

Tuesday we had a much-needed mid-tour rehearsal. I haven’t written much yet about the choir experience, but I will say this. We are blessed with an amazing director who recognizes the diversity within our choir, especially regarding musical experience, education, and talent. Patient and encouraging, yet prodding and stimulating, Wendell Nisly empowers choir members by creating a safe space for musical giving and taking. Responsibility and a humble heart are the core values this year. And these come through discipline. Our director’s humility, creativity, and resourcefulness, specifically this year, continue to push Oasis to further artistic integrity, and it’s so exciting to be a part of it. We as a choir are learning from each other what it means to be disciplined musicians who humbly give their gift, both abroad, and at home in our own communities.

A sappy quote from my journal from this day: “By this point in the trip, I’m realizing that I’m having so much fun. I’m making friends, having interesting conversations, making beautiful music, and touring beautiful Ireland and meeting wonderful people. It’s touching.”

Tour Life
To give you a little glimpse into choir touring culture, I’ll explain what our typical day looked like. Many times we stayed in hostels and had breakfast together at the hostel. Then in the mornings we traveled or spent time touring local areas. For lunch, we were dropped off in city centers or at travel stops and we were on our own. These were always fun times to try local food. We would get back on the bus with all kinds of stories about the little pub we found or the new food we tried. This particular day in Drogheda, I ate at the Copper Kettle with Joy, and I tried brie and bacon on brown bread with tomato relish. We also ordered “tea for two”. My dish came with a salad, red beets, and coleslaw.


Debbie Downers
I should also at some point post pictures of the REAL travel life in Ireland. You guys get to see gigantic roses and pictures of gorgeous architecture, but you don’t have the privilege of seeing midgies (Irish fleas). Or daily lugging your suitcase up four flights of stairs at a hostel with no “lift.” Or banging your shower knob every 10 seconds so the water stays on because if you don’t it automatically shuts off so that you, the wasteful American, don’t use up all the groundwater in Ireland. Yes, these are the real Oasis Ireland tour memories. But. I think tourists can focus on certain inconveniences, or they can simply deal with them, as an adventure, make memories, and LIVE UP the trip of a life time!

So that even when we ran out of time to visit Newgrange in Ireland (an earthwork structure in Ireland that PREDATES Stonehenge) you simply sigh wistfully, and move on. But also try to get a picture of it while the bus is zooming past.


It’s there! It’s there! I can see it! There on the left? The round dome?

On Tuesday night, our choir was once again warmly received by the hosting congregation, Drogheda Presbyterian. We were delighted to sing to both church members and visiting community people. A big shout out to John Woodside for his promotion of the event! By this point, we were becoming increasingly attached to our audiences in Ireland… their endless thanks and appreciative encores. The times of fellowship following our concerts were highlights enjoyed by all of us.

Thoughts on Choir
One reason I continue to sing with Oasis is because of comments like this that I heard: “Your music brings us back to what it’s all about. It’s very special in that way.” A capella singing, sung beautifully, with a message of truth, has the power to do that, I believe. At Drogheda, I had an interesting conversation with someone about the crafting of our repertoire, and its mix of sacred, emotional, and even evangelistic pieces. I think that the type of music Oasis sings has an awakening power. I have been to choral concerts that have awakened in me a sense of longing, one that I can almost not articulate. It is a longing for beauty and peace, which we get a temporal taste of through good music. It is my desire that those who experience this longing will turn to Jesus Christ, God’s Son, through whom we find eternal life and that beauty and peace which all humanity longs for.

Another part of choir tours is the indispensable bus time. A note: jamming over 40 emotional, spontaneous, artistic musical divas onto a bus for two weeks can certainly make for some interesting times, not to mention ridiculous games and memories, like “Bus Hide and Seek,” group surveys, and endless verses of “The Fields of Athenry”. We also get into really great discussions about things like music, architecture, poetry, bear hunts, and avocado. I was in this great conversation about the problems and issues of poetry and theology in new hymns, and we were reading a new hymn in which the theme was about how our eyes will be opened and the veil will be drawn away once we get to Heaven, and we will know God fully. I was commenting that I agreed with this sentiment… Here on earth, we do not fully understanding God’s ways… in our humanness, we cannot fully understand God now, but we will know Him fully once we get to Heaven. (This made sense to me because sometimes I feel very distant from God.) Then someone, almost irritated, said, “He will only be fully known then? WHY?”

That comment convicted me. I realized the indication. If God is not fully known, whose fault is it? Is it not true that God will be found by those who seek Him? “Ask, seek, knock,” Jesus says.

But many people react to this truth. Many people respond: “I HAVE sought. I HAVE tried.” Perhaps we sometimes forget the amount of time it takes to “seek” something. Remember that a little bit every day goes a lot farther than one cram session at the end. The Lord will be known, and it will be by those who actively, regularly seek Him. Discipline, then, is indispensable to the Christian life. Discipline is my goal. Seeking God, His righteousness, and His purity. If God’s love and comfort are the deepest longings of my broken, sinful heart, I must seek Him with all diligence. This idea of discipline is something that has been rolling around in my mind for a while. It’s true that diligence and discipline bring results in many different areas of our lives. I have seen this work personally through things like long-distance running, music preparation, and even in developing a prayer life. But this is a lesson I’VE learned, in very personal ways, recently. So simply “telling” you this may not be very inspiring.

On the Road Again
Wednesday we drove to Limerick, Ireland, so obviously we had a limerick writing contest! The Listowel congregation graciously hosted us in their homes, and we were treated to some good ole Irish hospitality! Our hostess treated us to tea and a walk to the nearby beach. She also served us British goodness called Eaton Mess (strawberries, cream, and meringues). The best dessert I ever had in Ireland! Our concert was held at a community center, an old church that has been renovated into a concert space. In the morning, our hosts drove us the scenic route on our way to meet the bus… past the mouth of the River Shannon, to Ballybunyan beach (where John Bunyan was from), past the Bill Clinton statue (?), and the Jesse James pub. On the way, I had an interesting conversation with our hostess’s son about the use of story in music. He’s an Irish country music singer/songwriter who dreams of making it to Nashville. All the best, Stefan!


Apparently palm trees grow in Ireland.


Touring Ireland
Tourist day! Thursday we went to Killarney! Or, as the locals call it, “KillARRRney.” It’s one of the most famous tourist towns in Ireland. Here I ate my first “fish and chips” at an Irish pub. Later I also tried the European goodness of “affogato,” a coffee drink made of espresso and ICE CREAM. In the evening, we checked into our hostel in Cork. Joy and I darted off to the city center. We were content to bum around Ireland’s second largest city! We met other choir members on our walk back, and we ended up goofing around, gadding about the city. It stays light so long here. It doesn’t get dark til after 10:30 because it’s so far north.


St. Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney




Plaich and chips.


Cork at night.


Fanta at night. :)

Nearing the end of choir tour, it’s easy to get “peopled out.” Crammed on a bus all day, it’s very hard to create necessary “alone time.” However, Friday’s Dunmore East cliff walk was healing for the soul! The tide was in, so some of us had to dash through the water, and others over steep rocks to reach the cliff-side trail. The sun was out in full abundance. The gulls, the waves, the grass… all things bright and beautiful!



The ground and grass were so soft, it was like jumping on a mattress!








In the evening, Oasis Chorale hosted a dessert social at Dunmore East Christian fellowship in order to meet the church people. Lots of fellowship, tea, and music-making. Saturday we held workshops with the children and church people. Those choir members not involved in the workshops were free to go down to the cliffs or explore the city of Waterford (of Waterford Crystal fame).


Shiny Waterford Crystal blingy bling.


Saturday evening’s concert was at Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford. A lovely location with an engaging audience. The church sits on the site of the most famous marriage in Irish history, the marriage of Aiofe to Strongbow (a Norman from England) in 1170. This marriage effectively gave him rights to the Kingdom of Leinster. Luckyyyy. Now Ireland belonged to him.


In an interesting note, this church was built in the 1700s. Before that, a much larger cathedral sat on the spot. Men from the city tried to convince the church leader that they needed a new cathedral. The church leader was very confused because he was quite content with his Gothic cathedral. The men wishing for a new cathedral, however, were local businessman and builders whose pockets would quite benefit from a new building. When the church leader walked into the cathedral, these businessmen would have someone hide and drop mortar down on him to convince him that the old cathedral was falling apart. He finally consented to build a new cathedral. But tearing down the solid piece of work proved to be a failure! They tried and tried to break through the eight-foot thick walls, but they could not! They finally resorted to blowing up the church with dynamite.

The new architect was interested in creating a space with a lot of light. You’ll notice the yellow walls and the lack of stained glass. Interestingly, there exists a sun star with Hebrew lettering at the front of the church. The letters spell the word “Lord” but this symbol is Masonic, and it’s conjectured that the architect was a freemason. The chandeliers have been donated by Waterford Crystal.


We certainly enjoyed the acoustics in this space!

Sunday morning we worshipped with the Dunmore East congregation, and our last concert was at Kilkenny Presbyterian Church. I might comment here that, interestingly, this is the first time we heard the Gospel message explicitly preached in Ireland. I appreciated this introduction by Pastor Martin.

This was an emotional concert for us as it was our last concert. The bus ride to our hotel was full of laughter and giddiness. We checked into our rooms and then congregated on the hotel lawn for one last loud hurrah. My choir friends and I laughed and giggled til early in the morning. Then we all farewelled. I was really glad this was only the half-way point in my crazy trip! I was sad to leave my new friends, but so excited for two more weeks of English countryside!




Next up: Weeks 3 & 4 – The British Invasion!

Crosses, Tea, and Buns: Ireland, Week 1

Greetings from the United Kingdom! I’ve returned from across the pond! I can’t wait to share memories and pictures with you all.

Perhaps I will start at the beginning.

Recording Stateside
Five weeks ago I traveled to Lebanon, Pennsylvania for rehearsal and recording with the Oasis Chorale. We rehearsed at St. Luke’s, an Episcopal church built in the 1880s. Gorgeous architecture.



DSC_0136The first day was a great day of music-making, but I lost my fervor as the day wore on because I noticed I was developing severe throat pain. But this could not dampen the joy of joining 40 singers and nailing Lyle Stutzman’s “Shout for Joy” at the first down beat. These singers energize me! Thursday I was brokenhearted. My throat pain had only worsened. I was convinced I had developed yet another case of strep throat, and I was sent straight to the doctor. While the choir spent hours recording beautiful hymns that I had practiced for months, I sat in the waiting room at an urgent care facility.  I spent the next two days sucking zinc lozenges and taking naps, trying to beat the virus I had contracted. (So, no strep throat. But seriously?! What is with the sickness?)

By using the zinc, downing EmergenC, and gargling warm salt-water, I was well enough to sing at our Saturday and Sunday concerts, which was very exciting for me because these were our only state-side concerts. And, my parents had surprised me and had driven out all the way from Ohio to attend both concerts!

Our last concert, at St. Luke’s, was packed out! It was standing room only, and we found out later there were nearly 100 people standing outside listening in through the windows. A rather warm evening, but so beautiful! I felt so much gratefulness in my heart to God for giving me this opportunity, especially after I had just gotten over the virus. I had had a lot of time for personal reflection, having sat out of several rehearsals, and I felt very settled at the concert. It seemed very worshipful. I felt privileged to sing about God’s goodness. And His grace and mercy. And purity.


Afterwards, the warm lights of St. Luke’s lighted the joyous fellowship. And I’m not just using million dollar words right now. That’s really how great it was. An excellent introduction to good times ahead. Monday: we fly.

Monday we rehearsed in the morning, then drove to NYC. We left for Dublin, Ireland at 9 p.m. and for once in my flight life, I had one of those really cool airplane seat mates who you can talk to for hours. We discussed education, religion, and Irish culture. She recommended a movie for me to watch, and we ended up both watching it and discussing it. It’s an Academy Award-winning movie about a very specific event in Irish history. Apparently, in the mid-twentieth century in Ireland, girls who had children out of wedlock were ostracized by their families, turned out on the street, and would end up living with nuns at convents. Many times, the children were seized from these young mothers without their consent and given up for adoptions (truly, “sold”) to American families by the Catholic Church, the money from which was used to fund missions endeavors in Africa. (??) The movie, based on a true story, follows a journalist helping one such Irish woman, now in her 50s, trying to locate her son in America. The story is complicated by religious undertones whereby the journalist is an atheist, and the melancholy mother is a staunch Roman Catholic, despite what the church has done to her. One of the great themes from the movie is forgiveness; in an emotional scene the mother returns, years later, and forgives the unremorseful nuns who took her son away and destroyed information that would lead her back to him. The atheist journalist is almost angry at the woman: “How can you forgive them after what they’ve done to you?!” The Catholic Irish woman replies with strength: “That’s the difference between you and me.” It is a moving scene, very thought-provoking.

Watching this movie before landing in Ireland was an interesting introduction to Irish culture. Here I was, singing with a Mennonite choir from an evangelical tradition. How did that connect to a very Catholic country? Would my own faith tradition have any relevance to the Irish tradition? To the non-churched, how would my association with church be received, especially considering the people are dealing with certain hypocrisies in the Catholic tradition, including the Irish baby adoption scandal, not to mention the child sexual abuse issue that is very real for some individuals? How did my trip, my faith, and more importantly, Jesus, play into all of this? Was their healing to be had?

I can tell you that my thoughts were whirling when we landed on the sunny runway. My Irish seat mate left me with this: “Dancing, drinking, storytelling, and religion. These are what make up Irish culture. I hope you get to experience all of these things.”


Tuesday was that evil day of jet lag where they try to keep you awake all day even though you didn’t sleep at all on the airplane and it’s like 4 in the morning in your body, but sunny and 9 a.m. in Dublin city center. You feel like cursing, but you’re supposed to be a pleasant tourist all day, so you stand in line for like a half hour to see the Book of Kells and then go souvenir shopping. I caffeined up at a tiny coffee shop and tried not to whine too much. It had been a while since I had pulled an all-nighter.


Cheesy tourist picture at the library at Trinity College. I wanted to bottle the old book smell and save it forever.

The Book of Kells was amazing! The Trinity College exhibit was excellent and very exciting to see! Call me a nerd if you want, but that sort of artistry AMAZES me. The idea of scribes spending years copying, preserving, and decorating the words of God is amazing! And then the artistry is exquisite! The tiny detail, the tiny images and imageries… the figures… and all this preserved through Viking raids and the Middle Ages! I caffeine up with a real macchiato, and then I decided I needed a healthy meal (because seriously, what meal am I even ready for right now), so I ate…  GET THIS: Nutella gelato. I decided I kind of liked Ireland. Next, we drove to the beautiful Glendalough Hotel, and with zombie smiles, enjoyed the grounds, the trees, the green clover, by the brook, near potted plants, before we were served the most delicious meal. Stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon, mashed Irish potatoes, and a “banquet” of vegetables. Then I had my first cup of Irish tea and an apple dessert, before we fell into our beds at the nearby (sparse) hostel. We are here!


My first cup of Irish tea.

Week 1: Rehearsing, Sightseeing, and English Concerts
The next few days were spent rehearsing and resting. Wednesday we rehearsed at the hostel before exploring Glendalough Visitor’s Centre, which has a wonderful museum display, passionate tour guides, and an informative video, explaining the importance of Celtic Christianity and the early Irish monastic tradition. No other place we visited in Ireland gave such great information of this period of church history. We learned about the history of St. Kevin in the area, the churches from the 900s through 1100s, the Tower, and the Celtic crosses on gravestones.



We choir members were then left to tour and hike at our leisure. I wanted to make the best use of my time and see All The Things. So I set out for the two hour hike, which we voluntarily turned into the three hour hike, because, hello, we’re only coming to Ireland once in our lives, and we should probably hike the rim, wouldn’t that be really cool? I mean, who cares that I’m just wearing off-brand Converse? Heh heh. Let me say: the views were amazing and so are my calves now.


Planks laid over spongy bog ground.



Hmm, yes, we DID come a long way on that windy trail.


With Pheobe, the gentle hiker beast.


Worth it.

Thursday we ferried to Wales! I’ve never been on a boat that big before, and I was nervous that I might get the sort of seasickness my dad gets. (His stomach turns by simply looking at a canoe.) However, I found that if I stayed in my seat, I felt just fine. Walking around made me a lil woozy though. It was pretty big ferry, with a gift shop, and several restaurants, would you fancy that. We spent the rest of the day busing to Bristol.


Hello, let me pose with this nautical orange disk.

I didn’t know much about Bristol, England, but our two-hour, double-decker, open-top bus tour gave us a lot of historical information about the city. A pretty cool town! The perfect mix of old and new. Our bus tour ended at the Church of St. Thomas, the Martyr, a place with an organ so awesome that Handel liked to play it. We tiptoed in after visiting hours (we knew a guy) and enjoyed making music in the space. The church is no longer used as a place of worship, and it’s actually smack dab next to Bristol’s best night club, ironically. So while the side street was overflowing with tables and taps and rowdy conversation, we made music inside a beautiful church, which sits empty, with a lone organ, played by the likes of Handel, that sits silent. I’m sorry to say this to the Bristol British, but honestly, you are idiots. (Sorry.)




Bristol British having their cake and eating it too: nightclubs, beer, and Handel history.

We stayed at a riverfront hostel, and once the sun finally went down, we saw a little taste of Bristol nightlife. Yeah, they don’t really go to bed early in that town. We enjoyed a hearty British breakfast the next morning at the hostel: eggs, fried tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms, “rashers” of bacon (thick bacon, slightly fried), and of course, tea.

Next we boarded the bus for Oxford! A two tour walking tour whet our appetites for amazing architectural and literary history! It seemed surreal. I had to remind myself I was in England. I could have spent days there, exploring the streets C. S. Lewis and Tolkien walked, eating at the Eagle & Child pub, and visiting all the lovely sights.


Ye olde Radcliffe Camera!


A lamppost very near the Camera, pre-dating C. S. Lewis, and believed to be the inspiration for Lucy’s lamppost.


The lion carving in the door predates Lewis and is believed to be the inspiration for Aslan. Notice the faun, in gold, beside the door?


The favorite pub of the Inklings: where Tolkien and Lewis discussed what Bilbo Baggins should do next.

I joined a group of choir members intent on eating at the Eagle & Child, but we managed to miss meal time (they don’t serve food all day), so we had to go down the street to a St. Giles Café where I ordered eggs, bubble, and squeak. Bubble and squeak is like a potato cake with cabbage in it. It was all very delicious.


Our accommodations for the evening were at Keble College, which rents out its rooms in the summer to tourists, buts functions as a college during the school year. Absolutely stately grounds, and the breakfast in the large dining hall was palatial.




Friday evening was our first U.K. concert. We sang at Littlemore to an appreciative audience. Lovely hospitality, and it was great to interact with the audience afterwards.



Saturday we toured Warwick Castle which was a very interesting experience. It was at this point when I realized my knowledge of British history is sorely lacking! Wait, William the Conqueror? Who was he again? The castle grounds were very commercialized and less historical. Very, very kid-friendly. I spent the day being sad that I wasn’t enjoying the experience, and irritated that I could never bring my Indiana junior high students here who have been dazzled beyond belief.


Saturday night we sang at Aylesbury, a 13th century church. For some reason, we, or I, felt a special connection to the small audience. I think the progression of our repertoire moves in a specific way so that by the time we sing “God Be With You Til We Meet Again,” the little grandmas are teary-eyed and so are we.


Our last English concert was Sunday afternoon at Sandiway Gospel Church. What lovely hospitality and reception! The pastor warmed us with his words: “You’ll notice we’ve left the front row empty. That’s for the angels. They’re there to take some lessons from you!” After some wonderful food and fellowship with our friendly hosts, we headed off to the Colwyn beach in Wales to kill time before taking the night ferry.


I had heard NASTY things about night ferries and not sleeping, and ever since our first jet lag, I was determined to get my sleep. We boarded the ferry, and I dashed to find an empty bench. I donned my black eye patch and warm socks and I was out like a light until the captain announced we were back in Irish waters. The next morning, in County Wicklow, we toured Powerscourt Gardens, the third-ranked garden in the world (according to National Geographic). I spent the morning in quiet exploration, poking around the world-renowned living artwork with my Oasis friends whilst sipping an impeccable latte.

No, my readers, but the roses. The ROSES! They were huge! Ancient. Larger than life. Larger than your hand.




If I ever go to Ireland again, I will go to Powerscourt and spend all day in the walled garden.

We left Powerscourt for our Wicklow Hostel, Knockree, way back in the mountains. Beautiful, beautiful landscape. Rain. Mist. Sleep.



Coming soon: Week 2 and Saying Goodbye!

Tally ho!

Hey everyone!

Shasta’s Fog will be taking a little hiatus while I travel to Ireland and the U.K. for several weeks with the Oasis Chorale. Yes, that’s right, I’m going to England! You could say this English major’s just a liiiiiittle excited.

This is my third year singing with Oasis Chorale, and I’m really excited to reconnect with some of my favorite people. I’m also excited to meet new friends in Ireland, Wales, and England! This year’s program features some amazing music!


Some things I’m looking forward to:
1. I look forward to the community of our choir.
Oasis Chorale functions out of a portable classroom. Our members live all over the United States and Canada. We receive music early in the year and rehearse on our own. Then we come together for one spring rehearsal weekend before going off on our annual summer tour. After months of personal rehearsal, we are sooo ready to sing IN COMMUNITY. And this is what choral singing is all about anyway.

2. I look forward to meeting Irish and English believers.

3. I look forward to singing in a cathedral.
And other churches with great acoustics. That is, better acoustics than most poorly-designed Mennonite churches. :)

3. I look forward to my first real cup of British tea.

4. I look forward to the After-Party: wherein I shall conquer ye British highways and byways in a rental car with some lovely ladies post-tour. I’ll spare you all the grimy details, but it includes R&R on England’s north shore, downtown insanity in London where we will do all the things, a plethora of authors’ hometowns and museums, fish & chips, and some very scary driving by Yours Truly, wherein I shall drive on the left-hand side of the road, with a gas petal on the left, and the driver on the right.

If that’s too much for you, revive yourself here:

See you in August!


Battle of the Brands: You’re about to get licked

So as a newcomer to Elkhart County, I simply had to try all the local ice cream places that everyone keeps raving about.

Admittedly though, when I moved here, I was a bit smug toward any ice cream other than Jeni’s. As a central Ohio native, I know that no ice cream can compare to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams of Columbus, Ohio. Jeni’s ice cream is organic, made with local ingredients wherever possible. With flavors like Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, or Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries, this ice cream is not for the faint of heart. (Do not judge the sweet corn. You have not tried it. It is AHmazing! Says the girl who hates anything healthy in her ice cream. Like fruit. Much less, vegetables.)


My friends from Goshen being introduced to central Ohio goodness.

But my Elkhart county friends and acquaintances keep raving about Rocket Science and The Chief. Whenever The Chief is mentioned, there this sort of sober consensus and accompanying moment of silence. “Mmmm, The Chief.” They silently transport themselves to another place—warm summer nights, sticky fingers, and happy taste buds. Then there’s my town, whose only claim to fame is its ice cream shop. “You live in Nappanee? Oh, they have that ice cream place Rocket Science.”

Rocket Science is a little ice cream shop in the Coppes Commons building. This place is a novelty because the “cream” of your “ice cream” (and any ingredients you choose) are frozen in front of your eyes using liquid nitrogen. There’s a huge tank of nitrogen that newcomers warily regard and and ice cream workers cheerfully pump from as they prepare your ice cream.

I finally visited The Chief last week, so I’m going to rate these two ice cream establishments based on taste, texture, customer service, and environment.

First, let’s rate Rocket Science.

Taste: Yummy! I like how you can choose their flavored creations or you can make up your own combinations (similar to Cold Stone Creamery). I prefer very rich desserts, so Death By Chocolate is a definite favorite. (Hint: it is possible to get a shot of espresso in your ice cream! The nitrogen simply freezes it in as another flavor.)

Texture: Firm. The fast freezing of the liquid nitrogen makes it very, very frozen. Sometimes it is better to let your creation melt a bit before consuming, so you can enjoy the full flavor.

Customer Service: I’ve only ever been helped by smiling, cheerful workers. Last summer, one worker even started remembering my order. I stepped in the door. “Death by chocolate?” she grinned.
Also, while the lines are short, it takes a few minutes to create your individual flavor. The wait time is similar to getting a specialty drink at a coffee shop.

Environment: You can spend your time waiting choosing a seat indoors. There are small wrought iron tables and chairs in the front, or you can sit at larger tables, or even couches, in the large seating area beyond the shop.

Bonus: the indoor accommodations mean that you can enjoy this ice cream on a rainy day. Another perk? There’s a drive through, and the shop is open year round.

Let’s move on to The Chief. It is LEGENDARY. (Hee hee, legen-dairy.) Or so I have heard.

Taste: Very nice. I tried the Peanut Butter. I found it to be light at first, but as I ate my waffle cone, I found there to be a very nice after-taste.

Texture: A firm smoothness, somewhere between ice cream and frozen yogurt. The texture was a bit of an anomaly. My friend Camille suggested that to have the full effect, I needed to try the ice cream on a hot day. (It was low 70s.) This consoled me. I would like to try the ice cream on a very warm day and compare the consistency.

Customer Service: Long lines, yet fast service. We went on a Saturday evening, and there were probably about thirty people in line. I spent the time in line choosing the perfect flavor and listening to locals rave about the ice cream. Goshen—you are loyal! Once we got to the window, a pleasant high school student took my order and quickly served me my ice cream.

Environment: It’s a busy place. There are a few picnic tables out back. If those are full, you can either stand or sit in your car. Honestly, it’s just fun watching the locals flock to the place. Very diverse crowd. Elderly, middle-aged, kids with young parents, and teenagers on dates.

Bonus: The Chief employs local high school students, providing them with jobs and even scholarships. A business that gives back!

So now it’s time to vote: what is your best ice cream experience?


Chandeliers, Tolstoy, and Mennonites

Armed with a gift card and a ferocious excitement for my summer classic choice (Tostoy’s War and Peace) I trotted into Barnes and Noble to pick out the classiest-looking version I could find.

Yes, I’m a print girl. No Kindle yet for me.

We print people get to be choosy when buying classics. That is, on those occasions when we’re actually buying new books, rather than sniffing out old, bargain-priced copies at garage sales or Goodwill. Amongst booksellers, Barnes and Noble stocks the largest variety of versions, printings, and editions. Barnes & Noble, then, is a great stop for a picky book buyer. And we print people are especially picky concerning cover art.

I’ve been interested in cover art since I first noticed it in my parent’s little home library. (I get my book buying honestly.) While not exceedingly broad, my parents’ reading preferences (from Christian fiction to forty-year-old Bible college texts to my father’s current affinity for Jewish studies) exhibit the phenomenon that pop-culture inspires cover art. Digging through my parents’ books in the basement, I was never really quite sure what groovy font, bell bottoms, or afros had to do with the subject of prayer, but it certainly made sense to book cover illustrators in the 1970s. Cover art becomes so quickly dated but can, nevertheless, remind book buyers of the period or decade in which they buy a book.

Hoping to make a simple choice between a classic hardcover with gold edge gilding and a 2014 pop art cover, I wasn’t prepared for a heavier decision: choosing translations. I had not done my homework before buying War and Peace, and I wasn’t prepared to choose between various English translations of Tolstoy’s Russian text.

So I was reduced to judging a book by its cover. (And the little reviews on the back.) For example, did I want the most-read English translation? Or did I want a brand-new twenty-first century English translation? (There were two: a 2005 Briggs translation and a 2007 Pevear and Volokhonsky translation with the French sections still intact) Would I rather be familiar with the versions most English speakers my age have read, or would I rather read the newer translations? Would I gain something from reading a classic version of a classic? Or should I cheerfully accept a highly-readable modern translation with modern grammar, vocabulary, and syntax? Or would that be jolting, since War and Peace is classic-y? Would the contemporary language take something away from the historicity of the text?


I reminded myself, though, that Tolstoy’s original audiences would have read War and Peace in a Russian text that to them would not have sounded antiquated. The same for English audiences soon after the 1904, 1923, and 1957 translations. I fingered the 2005 and 2007 translations. (Which incidentally had two cover choices: a heavy colorful volume with eastern-inspired art, and a bulky, rough-edge gilding little beauty, sporting a bronze chandelier, which I’m sure has nothing to do with War and Peace but has everything to do with fashion design trends of the 2000s.)

The point is, War and Peace is in modern, global English for the first time in 80 years. (The ’57 version used exclusively British English.) English audiences today (and in the next decade or so) get to have an experience with the text that will not happen for another fifty years. We get to read it in our contemporary language. Picture this: it’s 2074 and a professor of English soon realizes that her students, or her grandchildren, struggle through War and Peace. The diction and vocabulary are complicated and outdated. A re-translation will occur. Language changes over time.

Since I did not have a smartphone with me at the bookstore to google which translation I should choose, I went with the Briggs. Later, I learned there is a quite a controversy between the 2005 Briggs translation and 2007 Pevear and Volokhonsky, some of it having to do with class (intellectual snobs arguing that Tolstoy’s book wouldn’t have been easily accessible to all social classes, since he wrote portions in French and not all 1860s Russians were bilingual, so modern English translations should also keep the French portions original to maintain the inaccessibility), some of it having to do with style (Tolstoy’s Russian was choppy, so English translations should be choppy), and some of it having to do with Britishisms (can we really handle Russian soldiers popping out in lower-class British dialects). But you can read all this scholarship for yourself. By googling it.

Or. You could simply sit down and read for yourself for the first time a very accessible classic. I went with the Briggs, which leaves out the original French. It proves to be highly accessible, and I am devouring it more voraciously than even this winter’s A Tale of Two Cities.

Reader, you have raised your hand, I see.

“Why do we read Tolstoy?”

We read Tolstoy because he became convinced of the relevance of the teachings of Jesus Christ for everyday living. Fifteen years after publishing War and Peace, Tolstoy announced himself a pacifist, inspired by Jesus’ Sermon the Mount. (This fact alone drove this twenty-first century Anabaptist to read his earlier work. What could I learn, I asked myself, from his early questioning?) In fact, Tolstoy’s rejection of government involvement due to his pacifist leanings got him kicked out of the Russian Orthodox church. Interestingly, Tolstoy’s writings on nonviolence went on to inspire the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. These reasons, dear reader, are why we read Tolstoy.

Nonetheless, to first-time readers of Tolstoy’s amazing work, choose for yourself between the twenty-first century Briggs and the Pevear and Volokhonsky. But do it sometime in the next decade. The freshness of the dialogue will not occur again for another fifty years.

Survival Tips for First-Year Teachers

Last week I talked about some of the hardest lifestyle adjustments first-year teachers make. This week I’m giving a few survival tips for first-year teachers in regards to relationships.

Make friends with the other teachers (for the students’ sake).
Engaging other teachers in constructive conversation reduces stress by challenging your one-dimensional views of students. I was sitting at a basketball game this year, cheering for my boys, and I leaned over to another teacher: “I kind of forget that they do things other than English.” And I don’t need to tell you that that’s a problem. Certainly, having chosen the field of language and literature, I obviously see the English classroom as a very important part of development on the part of a student and an individual, but I need to remember that their performance in my class does not represent their entire being. You might only see students in the context of your class, and your class might not be their best subject. What happens is that you begin to make a little box and put the student in it. Talking to other teachers can help round out a student.

“Jake is doing poorly in my English class. He’s very quiet, he hardly says anything, and he doesn’t perform on tests and quizzes the way I’d like him to. How is he doing in science?”
“Oh, he’s doing very well in science! He participates so well in class! I can always count on him to raise his hand to answer questions. He’s so interested by biology!”

(Near verbatim conversation that I had this year.) Having these conversations can help round out a student because you can begin to pinpoint the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. You can share the triumphs of students who excel, but you can also gain helpful information in understanding where your struggling students’ strengths and interests lie. These cross-discipline conversations are very important. For example, it can lead you to ask the question: what would happen for Jake in English class if we wrote English research papers on biology topics? What if we discussed a controversial bio ethics issue for the speech class debate? These constructive conversations can actually make you more hopeful about a struggling student’s future performance.

(A note: these conversations also lead to discussions about social dynamics among the students. For example, one student may be quieter in one class because of a certain peer group, but be much more engaged in another class. Noticing those peer group patterns and discussing them are insightful.)


Make friends with other teachers (for the teachers’ sakes).
It is a good idea to try to serve your fellow teachers.
Cringe. Pat pat. It’s going to be oooookay.
Certainly, the little things pile up. But you might think of finding ways to be available to your fellow teachers. If you hear a teacher complaining about a task that comes very easily to you, you might offer to help. (Little. Little tasks here. Not school-play-costume-sized tasks.) Think instead of things like: “I can bring back those copies for you.” “I can make that announcement for you.” “I’d love to brainstorm with you about the hallway behavior problem you’re having.” Showing other teachers that you are human (that you are available and that you care) builds a positive atmosphere and might just work in your favor down the road. Like when, after your emotional wailing about the rented costumes getting ripped, a helpful co-teacher (who happens to sew) offers to mend the ripped costumes. And she acts like it’s no big deal at all.

Find a way to connect (to the students).
I’m not sure how to put this. If you have not seen the movie Frozen, you are NOTHING. I’m suggesting that it’s important to stay marginally informed of kid culture. No, perhaps you’d rather not watch The Hunger Games or another Duck Dynasty episode. You don’t like country music, and you think One Direction has terrible lyrics. Maybe you don’t even have a smart phone yet. However, my advice is: get in the know. Try every now and then to be relatable. Otherwise you might end up having an awkward conversation with a car load of eighth graders, where, when asked about a cool movie you recently watched, you do a comparative analysis of the French government’s round up of 8,000 Jews in Paris in 1942 to America’s modern-day abortion genocide. As for the eighth graders, they will probably stare at you like you are from Mars. A better response might be: Despicable Me.

Find a way to disconnect (from the students).
A fair warning to new teachers: you will get very wrapped up in your students’ lives. You will spend outrageous amounts of time thinking about your kids. (Even if you are a content teacher, or, one who teaches because they “love science!” rather than because they “love kids!” Content teachers still care a lot about their students and their success as individuals.)
However, this involvement can be a source of stress. Teachers can stress themselves out by thinking that they are the child savior. This year, I would periodically get overwhelmed because I would feel like a child needed so much, and I need to give them more, but I realized I couldn’t give them everything they needed. And that was true.

I’ve heard it explained like this: we as teachers have both responsibilities and opportunities. We have the responsibility to teach grammar and lit, to test for comprehension, and to lock the classroom at night. We also have opportunities. We have the opportunity to encourage a failing student. We have the opportunity to reach out to a child who is struggling at home. We have the opportunity to love a child unconditionally and to teach them to spread their wings and fly.

However, we cannot get our responsibilities and opportunities mixed up. For first-year teachers, I think that responsibilities must come first. The first year of teaching is about mastering the content, simplifying the busy work, and honestly, just surviving. From my own experience, I would encourage first-year teachers to prioritize immediate responsibilities rather than spending too much time trying to change the world. (But, we feel the pressure to, because there are so many haters of the mistakes of first-year teaching. Why must all seasoned teachers and popular teacher/authors continually disparage what goes on in your first year? It is really discouraging!)

The days will come where you look at you bulletin boards, and realize they needed to be changed two weeks ago, and your report cards are due, and also those thirty research papers, and you will burst into years. Because you will remember your sick neighbor (who probably deserves a casserole), your filthy kitchen at home, and those bills that need to be paid. But on top of all this, you will find that you cannot stop thinking about that undisciplined student who is failing, who said today, “I’m not smart enough to go to college.”

It is at this moment that you need to remember: do the responsibilities first. The opportunities will be there tomorrow. You have a lifetime of teaching. Changing the world tomorrow might mean taking the sticky-tack off the wall today. Opportunities are sweet. But they should not be contrived.

Strangely, the survival tip here is: get away. Take a weekend off. Go visit family. Play a game of soccer. Go out for coffee (with non-teachers). Get a hobby. Do absolutely no school work. You will be amazed at how clear your mind will be when you return. I especially encourage the weekend thing. In late winter. To a place with lots of sunshine. Give yourself a sanity break. You (and your students) deserve it.

The Hardest Things About First-Year Teaching

It has been said: “Calm first-year teachers are like magical unicorns. They are rarely found in the wild.” And to that I say, “Duh. They’re at school lesson planning.” The teachers, I mean. Not the unicorns.

At the end of my first year of teaching junior high and high school English, I decided to come up with a list some of the hardest things that first-year teachers face. Some difficult things about a first-year teacher’s lifestyle include:

School Dayz

Getting used to school culture.
Day trips to Chicago? Thanksgiving lunch exchanges? Formal Christmas banquets for junior high students? Regional spelling bees?
Are you kidding me? We never did anything like that in school. Well, that’s not true. We had Dress-Like-A-Book-Character Day. And we saved up money to go to the Spruce Lake Outdoor School in the Poconos for a week. So I guess we had our fun too.

It can be difficult to adjust to a new school culture. Beware. These cultures exist. Students, teachers, and school administrators plan with happy fondness these annual events. However, to new teachers, these events seem like Another Abominable Addition to the Abiding To-Do List. New teachers: the events aren’t that bad. Try to embrace New Ways of Doing Things.

Realizing you aren’t hip anymore.
If you are a twenty-something jumping into the junior high and high school classroom, it might be a little jolting to embrace your new identity of an authority figure. Teaching high school makes the school memories come flooding back. Only something’s different. You aren’t part of the crowd. Things have changed. You’re an authority figure now. And you aren’t hip anymore. You probably mention the 90s. You probably talk about things from five years ago. You probably wear flats that were bought in 2012. Sadly, new teacher, in your students’ eyes, you are now a part of that homogenous clueless adultness. Also, you’re really old. If you don’t figure that out, your students will remind you, eyes bulging, when you tell them how old you are.

Getting up at 5:00 a.m.
First-year teachers work incredibly long hours. We put in twelve hour days several times a week. And that doesn’t count the grading we take home for “homework”. So, perhaps you’re one of those Type A persons who has always enjoyed getting up at the crack of dawn. (And in the winter, getting up when it’s dark and going home when it’s dark.) I, for one, am not that kind of person.

Perhaps this is one of those “You’re not in college anymore” moments or a “Now you’re a responsible adult” thing. I mean, I’m coming off a college lifestyle where 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. are perfectly acceptable bedtimes. And three and four hours is an acceptable night of sleep. (You know what they say about college. Homework, sleep, friends—pick two.) I happened to be one of those students who went to school full time and worked part time. You do the math for a sleep schedule. Anyway, in college, when you’re only taking care of yourself, you can get away with less sleep. Nobody notices if you are a zombie in statistics class every now and then, or if you get a little dizzy on the university sidewalk. Sleep would have been nice, you think. But that all-nighter was totally worth the GREAT essay I just turned in! Must find caffeine. Must have Americano!

But when, as a teacher, you are required to be on top of your game every single day, and when you are required to respond patiently to all the fifth graders’ questions (there are many; they wonder about all the things), it is essential to have adequate rest. In other words, first-year teachers: grow up. You’re an adult now. Start sleeping like one.

Getting sick.
When I started my first year, I was totally unaware of the fact that first-year teachers catch virtually every flu bug. It was August, week two, and I was out with strep throat. This year, I contracted a total of three cases of strep throat. Vitamins (and extra sleep, as we have learned) became my best friends.

First-year teaching, with its schedules and germ-carrying little dears, doesn’t have to make you sick, but it can certainly do you in (quite quickly) if you combine it with any other sort of immune system stress. For example, during my first year of teaching, I decided to train for a half marathon. However, long distance running can weaken your immune system. Also, healthy runners also need to get extra sleep. So mixing the stress of first year teaching with half marathon training was, in some ways, a recipe for disaster. Which is why I spent race day on my bed at home in Ohio, wailing to my mother about three months of “wasted” training, while she wiped my feverish brow.

So what habits would I recommend for first-year teachers to start developing? Check back next week for “Survival Tips for First-Year Teachers”.

Why Matt Redman’s “Never Once” Should Be a New Hymn

The term “new hymn” may sound like an oxymoron. Certainly, an a capella hymn-singing tradition is uncommon in contemporary Christian church services. However, in conservative Mennonite churches today, four-part acapella hymn singing persists as the prominent music style of choice. You might ask: how does this tradition continue?

Mennonite churches seek to celebrate and to further this special tradition though the use of hymns in weekly services or in annual “hymn-sings,” which build in singing practice and promote familiarity with canonical hymn texts.

The newly-published purple hymnal popping up in conservative Mennonite churches

The newly-published purple hymnal popping up in conservative Mennonite churches

One important factor of this tradition is the careful selection of which hymn books will be placed in the church pews. Currently, a newly-published purple hymnal is popping up in conservative Mennonite churches (to include certain northern Indiana Mennonite congregations and schools). John D. Martin spent twenty years compiling the new Hymns of the Church, which features 65 Anabaptist composers. What sets this hymnal apart is that it features hymns that specifically cover Anabaptist themes: the Lordship of Christ, discipleship, obedience, cross-bearing, separation from the world, nonresistance, and the present Kingdom of God.

The a capella hymn-singing tradition is also promoted to Mennonite young people through choral singing opportunities at winter Bible schools. After high school, many Mennonite young people attend Bible Schools before starting a full-time job, starting college, or getting married. Most Mennonite Bible Schools have choirs in which young people practice and memorize a capella choral pieces. These newly-formed choirs then embark on tours across the U.S., visiting various Mennonite communities, churches, nursing homes, or even state prisons. It may seem unlikely, but most Mennonite young people have sung with some sort of touring choir, whether it was a church youth chorus or a Bible School choir.

(This is not to say that conservative Mennonites solely prefer acapella hymn-singing, but it is an unmistakable part of the conservative Anabaptist experience. What I mean is: my young Mennonite students still like their mainstream Christian pop and, gasp, even a little bit of country.)

Shenandoah Christian Music Camp Touring Choir 2010

Shenandoah Christian Music Camp Touring Choir 2010

Another way that Mennonites promote hymn-singing is through music education. Within conservative Anabaptist communities, there is a renewed interest in music education, and this is seen through the recently formed Shenandoah Christian Music Camp, which is held annually in Virginia and Ohio. Conservative Anabaptist music enthusiasts, song-leaders, worship leaders, and youth having been attending these summer camps since 2006. The camps feature classes in musical development, choral conducting, congregational music, and composition. Conservative Mennonites are beginning to see the need for education in order for this tradition to continue.

A capella hymn-singing is also promoted through the composition of new hymns. For one example, for the past several years, the Shenandoah Christian Music Camp has been commissioning new hymns through its annual hymn contest. The camp accepts submitted poetic texts and chooses a winning text. Then, conservative Anabaptist composers (amateur and trained alike) go to work. These composers submit their own musical version of the text, and another winning selection is made. The new hymn is sung at both the Ohio and Virginia camps.

Recently, the idea of new hymns has been on my mind, and I have thought: is it possible to arrange Christian pop songs into sing-able a capella arrangements? It’s been done before. Larry Nickel, a Canadian Mennonite composer, beautifully and effectively re-arranged the Christian worship song “In Christ Alone” to a choral acapella setting. (And where did I first hear that arrangement? Last month at a service in Nappanee featuring a Mennonite Bible school choir.)

It worked wonderfully, so I have decided that I want someone to re-set Matt Redman’s “Never Once.” Matt Redman, a Grammy-award-winning British Christian song-writer wrote the Christian pop song “Never Once” in 2011. This anthemic song is a Christian declaration of the presence and the faithfulness of God to humankind even in life’s toughest moments.

Why did I choose “Never Once” to be a new hymn?

First, it’s anthemic, musically.
Its simple tune and repetitiveness qualify it for the serious tone and chant-like treatment of anthems in contemporary classical music. (Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli and all that.) Personally, I think there’s tons of room for Eric Whitacre cluster chords. (Don’t laugh. It will work.) Its declaration of an aspect of Christian belief (the existence of God) defines it as a credo and also qualifies it as an anthem. Mixing all these elements means that “Never Once” qualifies for new hymn material.

Second, it’s accessible (textually).
One of the problems of hymn texts can be accessibility. The antiquated language and difficult (culturally irrelevant?) metaphors are obstacles to enjoying beautiful hymn poetry. (For instance, in old hymns, there are a lot of “anchors,” “billows,” and “stormy seas”. Personally, as a Midwesterner who happens not to own a yacht, these aquatic word pictures are a little vague as best. But as Emily Dickinson would say: a good imagination can fix that: “I never saw a moor / I never saw the sea; / Yet know I how the heather looks, /And what a wave must be.”) What I’m arguing: unless a congregation is filled with singularly imaginative folk, hymn texts can be hard to relate to. I run into this problem with my junior high students during hymn-singing time. (Oh, that’s another place that Mennonites sing. Elementary school.) Sometimes, these students lack the critical thinking skills to access the complex poetry. However, this would never be a problem with adults because we all learned to love the study of poetry in high school, right? (Ahem.) Understanding poetry, then, is necessary for the accessibility of hymns. However, while “Never Once” uses poetic metaphor, the metaphors are not obscure. Life is compared to a mountaintop and a battleground, and those metaphors are accepted generally. Thus, the “Never Once” text is accessible and congregation-friendly.

And finally, it’s communal (textually).
The diction of the personal pronouns is communal. “Never once did we ever walk alone.” This communal diction works for an a cappela choral arrangement; a hymn is meant to be sung in community. Redman’s piece, then, once rearranged, is conducive to be sung in a group, at least textually.

And perhaps that is why Mennonites prefer hymn-singing in the first place. A capella hymn-singing is community. And in our swipe-screen, social-networking solitariness, isn’t community what we all long for?

Do Antibiotics Cause Nightmares?

Do antibiotics cause nightmares?

(I suppose I could say that nightmares cause antibiotics. My current nightmare, contracting my third bout of strep throat this year, has definitely brought its share of antibiotics.)

But I ask the question because after my latest bout with my “favorite” infection (streptococcus bacteria), after taking my antibiotics religiously, I have been REALLY BAD DREAMS. I mean really bad ones. Vivid dreams. Scary dreams. Some real HUMDINGERS! I’ve had one scary dream every morning since the start of my antibiotic. There must be some connection.

So anyway, the dreams have been going as follows:

Nightmare #1: The Yogurt Rebellion
To date, I’ve had teaching nightmare dreams (where my lesson plans disappear, or where I show up at school totally unprepared). But I have not yet had a student nightmare, where the resident (student) evil rises up with restless rebellion and malevolent angst!
It was a very anxious dream wherein I could not maintain classroom control. Students were yelling and running around the small classroom. I raised my voice, demanding quietness, to no avail. One little seventh grader was yelling, name-calling, and flinging globs of purple yogurt on the floor. I yelled at him, “Stop that!” I tried to reach him, but my arms and legs would hardly move. I slowly oozed over to him. Why couldn’t my arms move faster?! I tried to grab him. He sneered and flung purple yogurt at me with his spoon. “Taaaaaake thaaaaaat!” I was so furious that I grabbed him by the neck. He spit purple yogurt on me. … … And then, I spit it back. No amount of yelling could stop the chaos….

Nightmare #2: Disney World Apocalypse
My oldest sister moved in next door to Disney World. She was able to get free tickets to Disney, so I traveled south to hang out with her. Her daily free tickets were only good for up to an hour every day. We got in line, and finally, we were inside! A whole free hour at Disney World! “What do you do here?” “Well,” she said, “We can go on rides. Let me show you the bathrooms.” The bathrooms at Disney World are very spacious. They have twelve foot ceilings. When we came out of the bathrooms, the sky in Disney World was the strangest color I’ve ever seen. The color of the sky struck me with the deepest fear in my little first-time-Disney-World heart. It was purple. It was the oddest, scariest, stormiest shade of purple you had ever seen. It was a black, fuschia purple, and the clouds were broiling. Just looking at the color made your stomach turn over. We had to run. We knew we had to get out of Disney World because “it” was coming. I’m not sure if “it” was a storm, an apocalypse, or a war, but “it” was indicated by the purple sky color, and everyone was in hysteria. We tried to exit Disney World, but you had to wait in line even to get out! We stood in line, waiting, on faded pavement, trying not to think about the purple sky, and trying to remain calm amidst chaotic fears of the end of the World.

Nightmare #3: The Kansas Youth Girl Apocalypse
My third nightmare has been the most disturbing one so far. It was about my old youth group in Kansas. I was having a great time seeing all my old chums again. We were walking in the cool prairie grasses, under a cool gray sky, near a dark contemporary building, when someone mentioned that the “deaths” would happen that night. “What deaths?!” I cried. My Kansas friends explained that it was common for the younger youth girls to be put to death to make room for more people in the community. These deaths happened about once a year. Quite a few girls were normally chosen. This year eighteen youth girls were going to be put to death. My friends were spending this last week making the girls comfortable. “It’s sad, but they understand that it’s just to make more room for everyone else.” Later, back at my house: “THIS IS SO WRONG!” I wailed to my mother. “And so unfair! I can’t believe this!” I was so livid! I was enraged! Everyone was acting so calmly about the deaths. Several days went by. No one would do anything. And no one understood how angry I was. I told my mom that I was even thinking about telling the police of the plans of the Kansas community. (THINKING?! THINKING?!) I decided to tell about the planned homicides even if it meant that my Kansas youth group wouldn’t let me be a part of it anymore. (Me, the little martyr.) I closed my eyes. And then I heard a train whistle. I heard a truck rumble past. My cell phone started beeping. I was laying in my little bed in Nappanee. I was anxious, sad, and heart-broken. For several minutes. Until I realized. THAT IT WAS ALL A DREAM, PRAISE JESUS! IT’S FRIDAY!

Sadly, there were no Purple Things in Nightmare #3.

Yikes, guys. I still have a couple of days to go on my antibiotic. This could get interesting.


Thank God for Facebook: A Poem About the Status of Affirmation Markets

Where else can you buy friends through
the economic exchange of numerous pics and posts?

It is a curious thing to donate your time and energy to
agreeing with ideas (that can be counted).

The worker’s wages are classical conditioning,
minus the cost of employment
plus the benefits of feeling less lovely
and then you can add a photo.

The more you complain and comment,
the more you’re liked and loved.
You don’t count it all joy, but
you do count all your notifications.

You search for people, places, and things,
You update statuses and “save changes,” yet
you never save changes in your first relationship
(because you don’t relate to the sonship
you once knew).
Your spiritual profile needs updating,
but first you need help editing your on-and-off-line relationships.

You shop for affirmation in your newsfeed–
You skim ads, looking for a better life than the one you’re already buying into.
You’re shocked to learn that it costs to promote yourself.
(You know,
it shouldn’t be a surprise that
this free market costs a lot.

I’ll tell you that your self-promotion is expensive.
It cost him, who made himself nothing, everything.
You don’t remember him?
Maybe that’s because you defriended him
and bought friends to replace him who bought you.

I think you must feel that the economy of immediacy is more valuable
than the price of eternal intimacy.

It’s clear you’re selling out.

You might say: who needs God?
You certainly don’t need him because you have: a white rectangle that’s asking what’s on your mind.