Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rob Bell

Two weeks after my trip to Seattle and I'm still summing it up on the blog...

Anyway, Saturday evening was spent at the Moore Theatre listening to Rob Bell. He was the 'motivating factor' for our trip to Seattle. Rob Bell is a Christian pastor in Michigan, and quite the post-modern thinker (not like relativist-post-modern, but actual-post-modern). His tour was a reflection on his most recent book, Drops Like Stars, which explores suffering and trying times and how that meshes with our faith.

He stated from the outset that we were not going to look at the 'why' of suffering. That's been beaten to death, and you can ask why things happen 'till the cows come home, but no one will ever know all the time all the reasons why crap enters our lives. Instead, he decided to look at the 'what' and 'where' of suffering. As in, 'what now' and, more importantly, 'where in context'.

Rob challenged us to think about the idea that suffering is what shapes who we are more so than successes. One of the highlights I took from the evening was the idea of The Box. We all tend to live in a box. And when people do off-the-wall things or think in different ways, we say, "he's thinking outside the box" or "he's a bit outside the box". But when we experience suffering, it's like the box is suddenly gone and we have no frame of reference for the life we had been living up until that point. We are left fully reliant on God to help us reshape our everything.

Lucky for me, there is a YouTube video summing up this highlight. I don't know why it's sideways, and I apologize on behalf of the videographer, but I think what Rob says is quite valuable. He had a lot of good things to say and for us to think about that evening, but this really stood out from everything else.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday in Seattle

So, Saturday started off with the ritualistic morning coffee (READ: Starbucks located in the hotel), and the walk over to The Container Store. The Container Store is one of those places that, even if you only have one item on your "need" list, you WILL come out with significantly more. I went in for a drawer organizer. Came out with that, plus hangers, paper organizer, water bottles (for 'my three', not me), wall magnet strips, and this cool strap thing to bulk items together and carry easier.

Had fun puddle jumping in the rain as we walked back to the hotel to get the car. The copious amount of precipitation in Seattle is one of the primary reasons I could never live there, but if I'm going to be there while it's raining, I might as well have fun with it!

After our rainy fun in Bellevue we headed into Seattle proper. We started by conquering the downtown core without a map to locate this little coffee shop that JM's friend had recommended, and then headed down to Pike Place Market. Our previous visit to Seattle had been crunched enough for time that we always found ourselves at Pike Place within an hour of it shutting down. We were able to get there a little earlier this time; JM appreciated that for the shopping factor, and I appreciated it for the photo opp factor. The market it an experience unto itself. I still have yet to see flying fish, but it's not like I'll never be back there. :)

We returned to Tilikum Place Cafe for supper, dessert, and drinks before Rob Bell's presentation (oh, yeah, the reason we came to Seattle this weekend in the first place!). We had visited this cafe on our first trip, and were so impressed with the quality of service and drinks menu that we decided to come back and check out the food as well. We have now decided that visiting Seattle without eating here is not an option!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fourteen Hours

That's how long it takes to drive from Edmonton, AB, to Seattle, WA. It includes 4-5 brief stops along the way for gas, food, and pee breaks. It assumes the roads are in good condition (which they were), and it assumes no major traffic issues (of which there were none). It does not (and cannot), however, presume anything on a qualitative level.

The sun was on the rise as JM and I took to the highway. While I could probably be swayed to do a through-the-night road trip again if the circumstances necessitated it, it felt almost like a treat to be able to do most of the drive during daylight. We watched the vast white Alberta farm fields and snow-capped Rockies disappear into interior British Columbia desert. And then we watched that disappear into the lush, green coastal state of Washington. We stepped out of winter and into a reprieve of spring.

Fourteen hours allows for a lot. First there was the Creepy Green Jetta. We passed him between Edmonton and Jasper. He was elderly, with a flamingo pink shirt hanging in the back window. And when we passed, he gave us a slow, creepy, wiggly-fingers wave. We shuddered a quick "ew" and continued on. We topped up in Jasper, grabbed lunch, and got back on the road. Within an hour we were on the BC stretch of the trip. Early in, mind you, I noticed an oddly familiar-looking car. "Is that that green Jetta?" I asked. Sure enough, as we passed, we were given another slow, creepy, wiggly-fingers wave by the elderly man we had seen before. Did he wave to everyone who passed him like that? Or were we 'special'? Fortunately, we kept ahead of him after that.

Then there was the devil himself. AKA U-Haul. There was a curiously high ratio of U-Haul trucks and trailers on the highways between Edmonton and Seattle, I thought. Every time we passed one, I was forced to mutter "spawn of Satan" under my breath, but was simultaneously impressed that they were actually moving, and not broken down at the side of the road. I'm not bitter, by the way. At one point... we had made a pit stop in Hope, and while you can get back on the Northbound highway from the exit we took, you can apparently NOT get back on the Southbound highway, which is what we wanted. So we backtracked a bit, until I could exit off on a secondary highway. From there I noticed a small roadside turnout. JM alluded to just pulling a full U-turn from the road and not bothering with the turnout, but I was bent on getting my car back in the right direction as conservatively as possible, apparently. All around the roadside turnout were trees, so it was not until I was actually in the turnout that I noticed the abandoned U-Haul trailer sitting there. I gasped. From beside me in the dark, I heard, "I told you not to turn here."

...You can explore a lot conversationally in fourteen hours. The lyrics in music; the plot lines of favoured TV shows; the circumstances of life, friends, and work; the character of God. Customs officers, apparently, don't realize this. We pulled through the border at Sumas (always cross at Sumas--skip the Peace Arch), and were asked the standard questions. Then she got into the seemingly random and unusual questions. Which we were fine providing answers for. But near the end of her inquisition, she asked--with a slightly incredulous tone--"you drove twelve hours just for the weekend?" Um, yes, actually. And we still have two to go. And not only that, we've done it before. AND, I know of others who have driven longer for the same amount of vacation time. How rare did she think this kind of thing was? Seriously.

We arrived at the hotel in Bellevue NOT exhausted, and with time enough to spare before bed to check out the hot tub. I could have spent 14 hours there, too. But alas, Bellevue and Seattle were waiting.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Crazy Cool Seattle

I am currently very excited; I get to go to Seattle this weekend! (I was there for the first time back in September) The initial motivator for this trip was to see Rob Bell, who is on tour speaking across the country. Seattle happens to be the closest he will be coming to Canada. But of course, it being the Family Day Long weekend for us Albertans, and Rob Bell's talk comprising a mere two hours of the entire weekend, there will be ample opportunity to revisit highlights from the first trip and create some new adventures, too!

So anyway, I'm a geek, and have off-and-on over the last month gleaned information about Seattle for fun. This evening, I just wiki'd Seattle outright. While Seattle's weather may be dull most of the time, Seattle is anything but a dull city!

For example, did you know that Seattle is in a major earthquake zone?! Or that its original name was Duwamps (after the Indian tribe)? ...I already knew that Starbucks originated in Seattle (saw it close up). I did NOT know that, despite having a population of a mere 600,000, Seattle is one of the most congested cities in the US. I recently learned that a major fire in 1889 burned most of the downtown area, and the city was rebuilt ON TOP of itself. Seattle has an underground city!!! ...This is cool stuff!

I have quickly fallen for this city. When I was there in September, I could not get over the amazingly amicable people, and the beauty of the rolling hills and the ocean. ...Alas, the poor city only averages 58 sunny days a year, which is the main reason I could never live there. I grew up averaging 333 sunny days per year in Calgary (top sunny city in Canada), and living in Edmonton still affords me about 321 sunny days per year.

But a weekend road trip? Sign me up anytime!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


After a long week, it was so good to enter the weekend today! I slept in 'till 11am, giving me over 10 hours of sleep; it was fantastic. Today's agenda: snowshoeing and groceries.

JM and I broke out the snowshoes in the River Valley this afternoon. I have taken a real liking to snowshoeing since I tried it for the first time last year. This year I gave up renting and bought my own pair; I have been several times this winter. Mostly it's just JM and me, but we are slowly pulling people over to the fun side of winter! ...The goal is usually to trek for about an hour, so while snowshoeing, we usually catch up on the other person's day/week, and chat about whatever is at the forefront of our minds at that moment. Such was today, until about 40 minutes in...

As we were making the loop around the ravine to come back to the main park area where we had started, JM noticed some kids playing in the creek below and commented on how it reminded her of days gone by with her older brothers. The scene was a brief recollection of childhood for both of us until we realized one of the children was crying and uncomfortably trying to get over to where his friends were. The kids realized we were there at the same time we realized that we should probably help. I slid down the hill into the ravine, asking to help, while simultaneously changing the gears of my brain into First Aid mode.

It was a big relief that we were not dealing with blood-and-bones-type injuries. Still, his foot had gone through some thin ice in the creek and he had filled his boot with cold, icy water. The poor kid was wet from the shin down, and therefore cold. He definitely didn't need to be down the ravine any longer. From the bottom of the hill, I started helping the kids up towards JM so she could continue pulling them up with her ski poles. At the top, we created a more organized action plan to get them all home. JM put her mitten on his foot, and piggy-backed him while I carried poles, boots, etc., and walked with the other three. Except our cold little man didn't want to go home. Suffice it to say he wasn't exactly s'posed to be playing down there in the first place. I'm sure he felt like strangers returning him to his parents would be adding insult to injury. I understood. But I also had the word 'hypothermia' screaming in my head, and knew that an adult needed to be available on the other end. We briefly considered heading to the house of the other children, but as he was still shivering quite significantly when we finally got around the ravine and up to the residential area, we stuck to the original go-home plan.

Yup, discipline was alluded to by his parents as we dropped him off at his house. I tried to reassure them that he hadn't been anywhere dangerous--he was just wet and we wanted to make sure he got home safely.

As JM and I walked back to the park, we chatted quite animatedly about this impromptu adventure. At one point, JM commented on the randomness of the event and wondering what God had meant by placing that in our afternoon. What were we supposed to glean from it? ...We didn't really conclude anything substantial.

As I was driving home from my grocery shopping, mind you, I thought to myself, maybe God didn't mean for us to get anything out of the afternoon. God uses a lot of circumstances and events to allow us to learn something about Him, His world, His children, and to learn something about ourselves. But that's not the primary reason for anything, is it? All situations, all interactions, all events--they're for His glory. Are we so arrogant to think that God orchestrates events so that we can learn something from them?

...Now, ironically enough, I realize that by gaining this insight, it means I have learned something from my adventuresome afternoon, albeit indirectly. But we so linearly think that big or unusual events must come with meaning. It's not like I learned something new about interacting with children this afternoon; all the skills I used I already had. I didn't gain any parenting wisdom as I was helping the kids or interacting with the child's parents; it was familiar social territory. I didn't gain any new friendship insight; JM and I have been through crazier. The actual situation didn't remind me of anything I didn't already know. And I don't think those kinds of situations (and even bigger ones) necessarily need to bring new insights or learning. Is it such a stretch to think that God might just take the skills and talents He's already given us for nothing more than His glory? So that we (and others) might see a glimpse of Him in their day? And not to learn anything from that glimpse of glory but to just experience it?