Archive for August, 2009

>We did it!

Last night Nicole and I enjoyed a great evening at the UNA outdoor concert with Andy Davis… and as promised, here is our photo with him!
No starstruck PR professionals this time…

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>Honesty time. A while back, a couple of the students at HCU (where I work) came by the PR office (more specifically where I work) to let us know that they were planning a “Student Gospel Meeting” on campus, and to ask if we would be willing to help them with advertising and such like. Outwardly I smiled and said we’d be glad to, while inwardly I groaned and made that “tsk tsk” noise… until they walked out of the office, at which point I groaned and made the tisking noise out loud. There were a million reasons why I, in all my PR wisdom, knew that this was a silly idea. For one, it’s hard enough to get anyone to come to a gospel meeting anymore, even at their own congregations. So who’s going to come to one without congregational backing? For another, the people who will feel obligated to come – those of us who work for the university – have heard more than our share of sermons. Working as we do for a non-profit, religious organization, we are overworked and overstressed… and this is just another addition to our workload. For another, it’s the week of the biggest fundraising event of our year, so we’ll be much too busy… And etc., ad nauseam. These were my internal observations.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I had been in Birmingham all day for a doctor’s appointment where I had been poked, prodded, and stuck… tried to play catch up for the graduate class that I missed due to said doctor’s appointment… and haggled with a book distributor that has made preparations for the big event this weekend a nightmare. I really did not want to go to this “student gospel meeting”. Only my guilty conscience caused me to shove myself off the couch and make the trek to Florence. But like so many other things, I arrived to find that the Lord had a lesson ready and waiting for me… it just wasn’t hanging on a string above my love seat. I had to go out to get it.
This time, the lesson was this… this meeting was something these students needed to do. As ministry students, they needed an opportunity to learn how to organize an event… to introduce a speaker… to mail out flyers… to lead singing, and prayers, and all those things that they don’t always get to do at their home churches. They needed to learn, on their own, what things work and what things don’t. They needed to make their own mistakes, and adjust, and to succeed. It reminded me so much of… myself.
All of a sudden, sitting there watching them as they sang and introduced and preached, I remembered myself, not too long ago, at the Christian Student Center at UNA. The girls and I wanted to have a ladies’ day. We didn’t have congregational support. We didn’t know how to do – well, pretty much anything. But we wanted to try, and so Danny, the campus minister, let us try. He didn’t tell us we couldn’t, or that it was a bad idea, or that no one would come, or that we needed to do our schedule this-or-that way. I think he knew that some lessons we would have to learn for ourselves.
And we did. We learned that if you schedule a ladies’ day from nine to three, only your mothers will stay the whole time. We learned that the PR advertising techniques you used in class for businesses wouldn’t work with little old ladies from churches. We learned that you never, EVER try to make a million gallons of chicken salad, from scratch, the night before, or you will all be crying in the floor of the industrial-sized kitchen at 4 a.m. But all those things made us better, and stronger, and more capable. 
I should have been so much more supportive. I should have been proud that, out of all the projects they could have chosen to undertake, they chose to teach the gospel. Especially in the light of the sad news of the closing of Magnolia Bible College, I should have been glad that we have so many students who are eager and willing to preach. I should have been better. Our students – and I am so proud to call them our students – will be better, stronger, and more capable for having organized this week.
And one more thing… I realized, too, that I, one of the chiefest of sinners, can never hear more than my fair share of good preaching. But the great thing about God is that He keeps giving us room to grow, and lessons to learn. I’m so grateful for the chance to learn this one, and next time I will be better.

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>Yesterday was a very good day. After an entire summer devoted exclusively to its reading, I finally finished War and Peace! “Why?” I can already hear the masses asking… well, you tell me. There are a few reasons. For one, even Charlie Brown characters reference W&P when they want to tell you what another book is not. “It’s not like it’s War and Peace or anything,” people will say, and everyone nods like they understand what that means, even though they undoubtedly do not. So, I figured that if a book is good enough to be the litmus test by which every other book is undermined, then I should read said litmus test. Secondly, I read Anna Karenina a couple of years ago, almost by chance (chance here meaning that it was in the clearance bin at Books-A-Million, and anything in the clearance bin at Books-A-Million is sure to find its way into my car, house, and then stack-of-books-to-read-someday pile). And I LOVED it. I was blown away by Tolstoy’s ability to make every part of life so very… real. And third, I, evidently because I enjoy torturing myself, am attempting to read the greatest 100 novels of all time. There is some disagreement as to whether W&P should be on that list, but I figured I better read it just in case.

I won’t lie. There are parts that are tedious, and you have to trudge through them like a muddy Russian battlefield, as it were. I don’t understand very much about war strategies, and which army should go where at what time, and to be honest, I don’t care about it either. But every tedious explanation was more than made up for by the sections that were… absolutely… and… utterly… brilliant. Tolstoy has a way of creating clarity in a character that I have never seen in  another author. It’s like every other person who has ever put pen to paper is writing their account of what they’re seeing through a veil, and he is the only living (or dead, as the case may be) soul who can walk behind that veil and write the truth. Even as the characters are saying things that they believe to be true, he will show you by the slightest detail why they are lying, even to themselves. He will show you yourself, complete with all your fallacies and foibles, and basically make you see what a silly person you really are. And it’s never obvious. They don’t scream at you to notice them. It’s like mining for… universal truth. Okay. That might be a little excessive. But you get the point. 
Which is, I genuinely feel like I am a better person for having read it, and I’m very glad I did. That being said, I fully intend for the next book I read to be something completely free of thought… Bridges of Madison County, maybe. Or even better, I just got a free copy of James Patterson’s Swimsuit. Maybe that would do quite nicely.

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>I love it when you find something out there that makes you wonder where it’s been all your life. Recently my friend Holly introduced me to the musical genius that is Andy Davis. She sent me a video and told me that she knew I was going to love him, and the first time I played it I realized that she was more than right. And then… I found this. (Sigh.) He is very good. He is also going to be at UNA very soon, and I am going to do my best to pass myself off as a college freshman and participate in the wonderfulness that will follow.

One of the most exciting parts of this opportunity is the chance to redeem myself from my moment of star-struckedness a few months ago at the Joshua Radin concert. The short version is this: Nicole and I went to Nashville to meet Holly and Gina for an evening with the great Joshua Radin. He was better than good. He was amazing, I nearly wet my pants, and I screamed and giggled like a schoolgirl the entire time. I think Holly may have even flung her bespectacled self at the stage when he sang, “Lisa Loeb glasses, I’d sure like to ask you to stay”. Fast forward to the end of the concert. There we are, three public relations professionals and a public schoolteacher standing outside the Exit/In chattering and saying goodbyes, when who should come walking toward us on the sidewalk – alone and in a toboggan, no less – but Joshua himself. He even slowed down and looked right at us when he walked by, clearly expecting us to ask for an autograph, a picture, something. What do three PR professionals and a public schoolteacher do in a situation like this? Stand frozen with our mouths open, paralyzed with utter disbelief, that’s what. He walked within three feet of me, and I just stood there like I was Mr. Tumnus or Kalijah or something.

So, where the picture of me and Joshua should be, there’s just a sad spot on my wall. But… I have another shot, theoretically, with Andy Davis, and I plan to make the most of it. Stay tuned for updates on my quest to get a pic with Andy…

In the meantime, enjoy this little jewel:

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>For about a week now, I have been working my way into the shallow end of my newest project… World English Institute. WEI is an online program that teaches English using passages from the Bible. For those of you who know the LST program, WEI is like LST online. I had been praying for some time that God would send me some way to reach out beyond the borders of the small and saturated area in which I live. When we made the decision not to carry out our plans for a move to Brazil, my desire for outreach to the world was not diminished. I just honestly didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I heard about WEI through the illustrious Perry “Maywood Shorts” Taylor, and felt at once that it would be something I would feel at home doing. And I have to say that the program is set up better and more effectively than I dared to dream. When a student takes a test online, the English/static questions are automatically graded, complete with an explanation of the correct answer. The teacher then makes any comments he or she desires and makes remarks on the discussion questions. This is where your effective outreach lies – basic conversation based on what the students have read in Scripture. The other positive is that it does the monotonous work for you, leaving you free to spend your time interacting with your student. The nine students I have so far have been from places I could never go, even if I wanted, and other places I dream of going – places like Libya, Palestine, Egypt, and Brazil, just to name a few. The lessons are beautifully done, not cheesy, and they’re modern (not 1950s leftovers). I’m so grateful for this chance to share with others, and so happy that people out there have the vision to use a tool like the internet in such a powerful way.

If you want to check it out, the website is www.worldenglishinstitute.org. There’s not a lot out there for the teachers (intentionally), so if you’re interested let me know and I can get you in touch with the appropriate person.

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>Today we went to see “Julie and Julia” with my parents. It was a good movie; not anything over the top, not anything extraordinary. Just a girl with a dream, living life the best way she knows how. She was a girl a lot like me. No less than three times during the movie, I got poked in the ribs, patted on the knee, or pointed at, all because the things she was saying were things that I say, or the things she was wishing were things that I wish.

Here’s the premise of the story. Girl, thirty years old, with a husband and a cat, has half finished novel and an awareness that her life at thirty is not at all as she planned it. She was supposed to be a published author. She was supposed to be successful. She was not supposed to be living above a pizzeria. 
Meanwhile, here’s my story. Girl, thirty-one years old, with a husband (the cat kicked the bucket), has finished novel and an awareness that her life at thirty-one… well, you get the picture. 
It was a neat thing to see how the things in her life came together. She found her emotional center with the help of a Julia Child cookbook, a kitchen roughly the size of a telephone booth, and a blog. In my case, I can say with absolute certainty that Julia Child will have no part of my future. I have no interest in steaming a live lobster, deboning a duck, or making a jello mold out of the meat juice from a cow’s hoof. (Blech.) But that’s all right, because the point is still the same. You just keep doing what you’re doing, you don’t give up, and you try new things, because amazing things can and do happen every day. Sometimes they happen in big ways, and sometimes in small ones, but they happen.
And even if they don’t, at least I don’t live in a 900 square foot apartment above a pizzeria in Queens. There’s always that.

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>I’m a big fan of University of North Alabama football, and I’m a big fan of grammar. Unfortunately, the two don’t always mix. Below is one of my favorite grammatical atrocities from last year:

This time, I’m sticking with my gut

Published: Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 11:08 p.m.

Take it from me: always go with your gut instinct.

I learned that the hard way last week. In this very column, I pointed out that UNA, despite playing like national title contenders all season, was due for a letdown at Delta State. I held that opinion for three weeks, but changed my mind at the last minute and went with the Lions.

That was dumb.

UNA did just what I expected. It went into Mississippi and looked like a team that had played three games in 13 days. Delta State won, and I found myself slamming my head into my desk at an alarming rate.

I felt just as strongly that UNA would rebound and destroy defending national champion Valdosta State at home. This time, I’m stinking with my instincts.

I’ve got to give it to him. At least he’s honest.

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