Friday, December 24, 2010

Reflections on the Christmas Season

I have had more time this year to reflect on the Christmas season. One reason is because I don’t have InterVarsity end of the quarter stuff to do like I have for the past 6 years and two, because my church has been going through an advent series on Sundays. First I will start with my frustrations with the season. Many Christians including myself feel very conflicted during this season with the hype and extravagance of presents and spending. Some words or phrases that come to mind when I think of popular culture’s image of this season are: money, presents, angry shoppers, last minute deals, the economy, Christmas bonuses, Santa, sweets. The nativity scene is present but only as another decoration equal to Santa. I often feel overwhelmed with the consumerism of the season and pressure to spend a lot of money. I could go on about how burdensome I feel during this time, but this year I stopped to consider why our culture responds to Christmas in this way. There are a lot of negative reasons why but I would like to consider some positive reasons why our culture responds to Christmas with such elaborate extravagance. When it comes down to it I think we do really honor the tradition of celebration. We want to celebrate the end of a year and all the work that we have done, be able to take a break from it and party. We want to celebrate our families. We want to give them gifts to show how much we love them. Even the idea of Santa, we want kids to celebrate how they have been good throughout the year. And I think that this tradition of celebrating and wanting to show care for our families is a good thing. We are not a culture that is good at celebrating throughout the year like African or Latino cultures. So I am glad that we still have this season where people want to do that. Many Christians feel like our culture has lost all sense of meaning of Christmas but I disagree. Even if they are celebrating something different from what Christmas was originally intended for, to have that tradition rooted in our culture is not all bad. I believe that God can still redeem this season. As much as this season is a time of family, for many it is a time of loneliness. It can be a time where people see that they so desperately need something bigger than themselves to help them. As people find a need to Jesus in their life, I hope that our culture will translate that extravagance onto honoring Jesus. In my bitterness in the materialism I have lost the sense of celebration for this season. I do not prepare, anticipate, and celebrate the birth of Jesus the way that our culture celebrates “Christmas.” I think that I should come into the season with the same kind of passion and energy. Of course the actions of how I celebrate should look different but I think that reckless devoted attitude can be the same.

I am also thankful that our culture still has traditional “Jesus” Christmas songs on the radio and playing in malls. What other time of year do we get the message of Jesus pumped in radios and malls. This year I have noticed the richness in the words of these Christmas hymns that have really stuck with me. Here are some lines that caught my attention this year.

“God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies.” This is a huge reconciliation that is happening. People now have direct access to God. We should be celebrating like when slaves were emancipated, only a lot more!

“Hail the incarnate Diety. Please as men with men to dwell”. God made himself human to come and live with us. To understand us, relate to us, to experience everything we experienced.

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pinning. Till he appeared and the spirit felt its worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” I feel like this just so describes our culture. We are caught in sin and pinning for something better. We are a weary world that needs to rejoice that we have a God that can rescue us from all the crap we are in.

“Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease.” Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we. What a message of justice. What encouragement is this to people in the city or anyone in oppression.

“Go tell it on the mountain. Over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain. That Jesus Christ is born. “ I need to do this. I do not shout and declare that Jesus has been born. I need to go and tell it everywhere.

Another thing that has helped me connect with Jesus’ birth during this season is preparing for the birth of my nephew. I’m not going to lie, I am more excited about him coming into the world than Christmas this year. I am feeling the anticipation, hope, and excitement building. And I know when my nephew is born there will be rejoicing and celebration. He will finally be here and we will get to see and hold him and take him home. I can connect with the birth of Jesus that everyone was waiting for in anticipation. I feel like I can also connect more with how loved and adored this baby was. People came and worshipped him and brought him gifts, and he did nothing yet. Of course my nephew is far from Jesus but we love him so much alright and have all these gifts for him and he hasn’t done anything. He’s just sitting in my sister’s stomach, and upside down at that. But we absolutely love this kid who we have never met. It just teaches me how God loves us just because we are his. There is nothing that we have done or haven’t done that makes him love us. He loves us like I love my nephew, just because we are his.

I’m so excited to be Auntie Megan!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Favorites

Every year after Thanksgiving passes I go into hating the holiday season mode. The consumerism overwhelms me and I become depressed about the commercial nature of the season that has overshadowed the birth of Jesus. I avoid malls and Christmas music. Then at some point every year in Dec there is a shift for me and I love the holidays again. I am still saddened by how material things become obsessive but I allow the bitterness to subdue to enjoy the holidays for what they are. Here are some of my favorite Christmas things

· Favorite Movie: Elf

Favorite Elf quotes

o “Son of a Nutcracker”

o “I love you, I Love You, I LOVE YOU!”

o “I just like smiling, smiling’s my favorite.”

· Favorite Candy: Andies

· Favorite Family tradition: Opening the boxes every day in Dec until Christmas

· Favorite gift received- Mini handheld TV as a kid. It was so small and so hard to get any channels. I don’t know why I wanted it so much but I did.

· Favorite gift given- So last year I tried to be creative and kingdom focused with my sister’s gift. I got her a punch of little rubber duckies which I wrapped up individually. So as she was opening them, she’s like why are you giving me this? Then the last present was from World Vision. I bought a duck that would be given to a needy family in her name. Get it?

· Kids Christmas Song: Must be Santa by Raffi

· Classic Christmas Song: 12 days of Christmas

· Jesus” Christmas Song: Go Tell it on the Mountain

· Modern Christmas Song: Merry Christmas Happy Holidays by Nsync

· New Discovery Christmas song: Donde esta Santa Claus?

· (Ok so I like a lot of songs. As Buddy says, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is sings loud for all to hear)

· Favorite part of the Nativity story: Joseph’s conversation with the angel.

· Character in the Nativity: Sheppards, no no I mean Jesus, yeah.

What are your Christmas favorites?

Monday, December 13, 2010


This is the clay mask at made at Creativity in the Classroom. His name is Sloppy. He is a street dog that lives off scraps from the dumpster. He’s so colorful because one day someone dumped a bucket of paint on him while he was in the dumpster. Since there was no one to wash him, the paint stained his fur. Sloppy is a very sweet mellow dog who dreams of one day getting to be one of those dogs they bring into hospitals to cheer up sick children.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Part 3

This is my final reflection on my training with Creativity in the Classroom. The last day went out with a bang! We started the day with a memory visualization exercise. I was really excited because I have done this before in theatre and it has always been really powerful for me. We did a much shorter version this time than I have done in the past. We started from a relaxing place and then were told to let a memory come to mind. It could have been from years ago or days ago. She had us pick a pleasant memory. She asked us so notice what we saw in this memory. Really take time to see everything that is going on in that moment. Who is there, what’s around. Then she had us notice all the different sounds in this memory, then the smells and even the tastes. Then we noticed how we felt in the memory both physically and emotionally. After we left this memory she had us write down as many words as we could think of about this memory. Not phrases or sentences, just words. The she had us put those words into 3 categories. One column for all words pertaining to the environment, another about the action or what was happening in the memory, and a column for words related to the emotion or what we felt. Then we circled a few words from each column that we felt really captured the memory. Then we picked words totally 5 syllables from the first column, 7 from the second, and 5 from the third. See where we are going with this? We made a Haikou. I never really liked writing Haikou but this process made it so easy to write and connect to because it was based off a memory. Then we shared our Haikou with a partner. Our partner then found a musical instrument to play while we read our poem to enhance the tone of the poem. Then we presented the poems to the class by reading them and having musical accompaniment. I really enjoy how there is always a build to a performance and it involves several types of art forms.

Then we got to see our clay masks that we had glazed in our last session. It was really cool to walk around and see how everyone’s turned out. She then had us spend some time with our masks and pick a name, a time period this mask was from, an occupation, and a dream. Then we wrote a letter from the perspective of this mask’s character. Then we walked around the room in the mode that this character might walk. Then we came up with what gesture this character might have. Then we came up with a movement sentence. A movement sentence combines several different types of movements that can be repeated. Then we got into groups and picked one mask from our group. Someone read the letter from the character, another did the movement sentence, and two others played instruments. Another build up to a performance. This activity had creative writing, drama, music, visual art, and dance. So cool!

In the afternoon we did an intense session of scriptwriting. It was quite an adventure. First we started with coming up with an environment. Then we picked characters that we wanted to be in our story. A few of them were from the masks that we had created and we added in some new ones. We named our characters. Then we came up with the basic frame of what we wanted our story to be about. This took the longest time. We may have spent 1 ½ to 2 hours on this. With everyone’s different ideas it was hard to come to consensus. Once we got the story down we were running out of time so we split up into 3 groups and each group wrote lines for the beginning, middle, or end of the story. Then we quickly cast roles. Our teacher brought out simple things to make costumes and set pieces. We put on costumes and came up with a simple set and performed the play. That last part was put together in about 15 minutes. It was quite amazing. I don’t know how we pulled it all together so fast but we did. It was so much fun to see all these adults into it with outrageous hats and prancing around. We were pretty proud of our play so I wanted to share what it was about.

The Legend of the Bayou Swamp

Pierre and Pietra are newlyweds who have come to the Bayou swamp in search of Moonie’s legendary moonshine that promises to give a perfect life. Pierre hires Triton, a ship captain, to take them on his boat to Moonie’s hut. Drecamus, a pirate king who catches people’s dreams to make them come true, also come along for the ride. As they travel down the Bayou, Pierre is bitten by a Mosquito named Zzzt. They must take Pierre to the Shaman to be healed. While Pierre is unconscious from the mosquito bite, Drecamus sees Pierre’s dream of having the perfect life with Pietra and worries that they are chasing after a fake solution. While the shaman is healing Pierre, Pietra hijacks Triton’s boat and continues on to find Moonie to pursue the dream of having the perfect life. Pierre awakes and sees that Pietra is gone. Xavier, the shaman’s guardian owl, offers to carry Pierre to save his love. As Pietra approaches Moonies hut, an alligator named Alaster bites a hole in the boat and it begins to sink. Xavier, Triton, Drecamus, and Pierre swoop down to save Pietra just before the alligator is about to eat her. Pierre and Pietra

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cooking Risks

I was recently criticized for not being adventurous enough to try to make a Thanksgiving turkey for our church Thanksgiving feast (see previous post). This person didn’t really know me, but for those who do know me… this is a ridiculous request to make if you are wanting something edible. That being said, I have come a long way in my cooking journey in the 3 months that I have lived here. Because my roommates and I cook for each other, it has forced me to delve into a world I have avoided most my life. Although I am not at Thanksgiving turkey level, I would like to acknowledge the strides I have made in my cooking.

When I did the Los Angeles Urban Project, we lived on a fixed budget for food. However, I probably ate a lot better on this mission’s trip than I did normally. My most absolute favorite dish that we made was what I call the cabbage dish. Whenever one of my teammates has people over for dinner I always beg him to make the cabbage dish. I was afraid for so long to make it, convinced that I could never make it like my teammates. But recently I decided I would take the leap and try it. I probably asked my friend a million times what the steps were to make it. And miracle of all miracles it turned out well. I made it for my roommate and she really enjoyed it. Then I made it for my sister who said it was, “bomb.” Coming from someone who is convinced all I eat is French fries, this was quite a compliment. Looking back it’s really not hard to make at all, I don’t know why I was so hesitant.

After cooking I ventured into the world of baking. I have never baked anything in my life, even cookies, no joke. My mom makes the most bomb pumpkin bread in the WHOLE WORLD. I look forward to it every thanksgiving. I wanted to make some to give to our neighbors as a thanksgiving treat, so I asked my mom to show me when she came up to LA to visit me. The first attempt was a bit of a painful experience. It took probably 2 hours. As we were cooking my roommate in the other room could hear me exasperating such phrases as, “I’m so over this.” “It’s takes an HOUR just in the oven.” “This is soooo not worth all the work.” My philosophy in cooking is that if it takes longer to cook it than it does to eat it, it’s not worth making. So this was quite difficult for me. But I made it. And my roommates loved it! Then I made it again without my mom! I still had the supervision of my roommates but I was very proud of myself. And I have decided because this pumpkin bread is so delicious, it is worth the time put in to make it. Although I would not make it every week.

So I may not be able to cook a Thanksgiving turkey but I have taken some major risks for myself personally in the world of cooking. I successful created my favorite LAUP dish which only took me 4 years to get up the courage to try and went into the world of baking through pumpkin bread.

This is not a cooking blog so I will not post the recipes but you can contact me if you would like either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Earning favor with kiddos

I got a chance to babysit for a 1 year old whose parents are in the small group I started going to. As you can imagine, this was very exciting for me. I’m working my way into the babysitting circuit. Wohoo! He did very well having not known me at all previous to this. We bonded over piggy snorting noises and fire engine sound effects. At the time that I watched him he was walking with the assistance of a hand but not on his own.

A week later when I went to small group he was taking steps on his own. This was the highlight of the evening as we all cheered that enticed him to walk toward different people in the group. Now, I was told that this baby particularly only likes going to men. The women in the small group were trying to bride him with different toys to walk over to them but he kept going to this one guy in our group. But after a little while he walked straight to ME!!! You can imagine the elation in my heart. He SUPPOSEDLY only likes guys but he came to ME! He then walked with me all around the house. Even his mom said, wow Megan he really likes you. That’s right we bonded! Although I absolutely adore children, I wouldn’t say I’m a kid magnet. They don’t flock to me like they do my little sister. So when I earn the favor of a young child, basically…. it makes my day, maybe my week. I’m trying to not find my worth in children’s love. Hahah, jk. Oh the simple joys in life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holistic Family

Last week I went to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with the church I attend. Somehow we had the entire church into one house. Going in doubted that it could be done but it was far less chaotic than I anticipated. It was a great environment to meet more people from a church. I don’t think I have seen so much food in my life. We probably had over 50 dishes, no jokes. The food just kept going and going. I also got to watch the kiddos for a bit which we all know is where my heart. I played beauty salon with some 5 year old girls and I got my hair done. It was really nice to see one of the Dads come in and play along with his daughter as well.

I have never really experienced the church family thing. I would consider myself a believer in Jesus for 15 years and a follower of Jesus for 6 1/2 years. But the church experience I have always been an outsider to. InterVaristy was definitely an amazing family to me but they were mainly all my peers. To be in a church with babies and kids and teenagers and Dads and Moms and peers is a new thing for me. It’s outside my comfort zone. It feels more holistic to learn and receive from all these different types of people in the city. Although I am still an outsider in the church they are making me feel welcome quickly. I am only an outsider because it will take me a while to open myself up completely to them and let them become family to me. I am excited to experience God in this new community and let him heal me through this new experience of family.