Archive for the ‘Melissa’ Category

A Culture of Sorrow: Part One

I called my Mom after work this evening to check and see if she was blogging tonight and when she said she wouldn’t be able to just yet I decided I would throw a little random post your way. Since I’m out of classes, you might find some random or boring (??) discussions on this here blog every now and again. What you’ll find here tonight is meant to be less of an assertion than it is a discussion about some new thoughts I find intriguing.

Last summer I read a book called Ain’t Too Proud To Beg: Living Through the Lord’s Prayer by Telford Work (2007). Dr. Work is assistant professor of theology at Westmont College. I don’t know him personally but I enjoyed him to no end through his writing. His book is a rare and thrilling infusion of disciplines. I don’t want to summarize or review this unique book here, but it is certainly worth a read. Even if you disagree with Work at various points, I promise you’ll learn some things along the way. Plus, in your heart of hearts you know you feel compelled to read a book by an author named “Telford Work.”

As I do with all the books I really love, I picked the book up again last night and started flipping through it and glanced over the places where I had highlighted or made notes in the margin. I loved this book so much that even my revisiting of it took me all the way to the epilogue. The epilogue is composed of several of Work’s sermons. One of these sermons in particular caught my attention.  In this sermon entitled “You Can Say That Again,” Work coins a phrase, “culture of sorrow.” He uses it in reference to our own culture and “the common sensibility that life’s true character is misfortune and that sadness rules over us” (226). He says:

“In our culture of sorrow, sadder is cooler. Joy may be desirable, but it’s not fashionable. What is? Ask the fashion industry! Does that look of aloof, disheveled, emaciated, sophistication strike you as happy? Me neither. But it’s cool! Or name a big pop band that has looked happy in its photos since the Beatles in 1964. Cool means hard stares, angry sneers, lust, and brooding . . . angst, ennui, existential despair, cynicism, political decline, environmental catastrophe, and social alienation . . . Master these and you’ll be the life of the dinner party” (226).

And taking it further, he says again:

“In our culture of sorrow, sadder is wiser. Misery has become our myth, our metanarrative. Joy is liable to be taken as immaturity or ignorance . . . If you want an Oscar, don’t go with a so-called Hollywood ending. Go with a gut-wrenching tragedy like Million Dollar Baby . . . Sadder is deeper. . . What moves a personal relationship from small-talk pleasantries to greater sincerity? Telling the truth, of course. And for us the deepest truth-telling generally involves the disclosure of pain, hardship, and anxiety. Relationships tend to deepen from shallow happiness to more authentic sorrow . . . Sadder is greater . . . Anger, fright, and fantasy bring out voters and volunteers, not joy. Fear and greed drive the economy, not joy. Sorrow acts and we react. It calls the shots” (227).

Brief Tangent: If you’re like me, you are becoming increasingly suspicious of the phrase “in our culture” because it is used so often to introduce all kinds of authoritative but contradictory statistics. I use this phrase “in our culture” out of sheer habit and because it is so delightfully malleable but I always question myself when I use it because I know full well it is typically going to introduce a generalization. Having said that, some generalizations are more legitimate than others. So even if you’re like me, and you’re super skeptical and annoying, you have to hand it to Work because his “culture of sorrow” idea sure seems to describe a significant aspect of our culture even if you don’t agree that it is indicative of our culture across the board.

The other day Colin and I watched “The Road” with Viggo Mortensen. The movie was based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Now to be fair, I did not read the novel but the movie, in my opinion, was one horrific and unimaginably depressing scene after another. Just when I thought I was watching the worst the movie had to offer we were abruptly hurled into a whole different strata of horror. And the characters didn’t even have names. Not my idea of a blockbuster night. Typically I like an emo and soul probing flick but I couldn’t discern even one strand of hope throughout the film and this led to the hardness of my heart.  Anyway, the book was evidently deemed one of the most important and brilliant movies of the year. I wish I could say that the accolades surprised me but they did not.  In my own opinion what was profound, was not the movie itself, but the very fact that so many people had heralded it as profound—to me that said more about “our culture” than anything else.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of this whole “culture of sorrow” thing… as soon as I read the phrase I was mentally slapping my knee thinking to myself, “Telford Work is just so painfully right!!!” You know those people who can articulate a once rather opaque phenomenon dead on– well that is sort of what reading this entire book was like for me. I just kept thinking, “I would have written this myself if I would have known how to explain it.” That is the best kind of book- when it hits so closely to home that you feel you yourself could have written it even if you don’t have a fraction of the writing ability that the author has.

When Colin and I were first married, people would say things like, “Tell us the truth, what is marriage really like?” I almost felt forced to whine, complain, bare my melancholy soul—or be exposed as superficial, inauthentic, or worse–simpleminded.  Now, of course, it is one thing to be honest when things really are tough and difficult, but even when things were not tough at all, and I was in fact enjoying my life and marriage, I would feel the need to give some token piece of what “reality” was really like or some slice of darkness to build credibility with my conversation partner. Good night . . . as though life is not tough enough without feeling pressure to forge expressions of grief. If you’re bothered by folk who tell you they’re “fine” when they’re really not, what about people like me who have, on occasion, acted as though things were tough when they really weren’t?!?

Egads.

I was laughing a few weeks ago when I was on our trip and someone made the comment, “Everyone on this trip, is just so . . . happy!” I gotta be honest, I was sort-of-kind-of thinking the same thing to myself at first, until I saw my own log in someone else’s plank. I mean seriously, would she, or I for that matter, rather them all be depressed and lethargic rather than happy and peppy? I’ve also, time and time again, fallen prey to the naive mistake of assuming that the most thoughtful and intelligent people I know, the “thinkers” if you will, are mostly those people I know who are usually despondent. Work’s discussion of “our culture of sorrow” gave voice to some of my assumptions that I hadn’t really given much thought to before.

Now before you slap me silly, this post is not the end of the story.  And it isn’t even the end of Work’s sermon. I cannot sum up this entire discussion here.  This is only Part One. In Part Two of this blog (to come in the next week), I would like to explore the place of both joy and sorrow within a Christian worldview. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water (By the way, where in the world did that phrase come from? It is just beyond weird). So, for now, even though you haven’t likely read the book, what do you think about Work’s initial sermon thoughts? Have you encountered this phenomenon before? Is this perhaps a bigger issue for one generation than another?

Have you found that sadder is often “cooler” or “wiser” or “deeper” or “truer”?

Talk to me.

P.S. For those of you who have expressed a desire to buy the book–please know that this subject is not a major issue in the book, it is only in the epilogue in a short sermon.  Also, it is a fairly academic read.  Having made this full disclosure, I still think you will like the book.

;-)

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Shalom, blogworld.

שָׁלוֹם (Shalom), blogworld.

That was too predictable, wasn’t it?

;-)

I just wanted to say hello.

My mind is still a bit muddled from the jet lag but the tiny fact that I can’t seem to make out a single coherent thought has never stopped me from talking heretofore so I shall proceed.

And besides, y’all are forgiving and this should help:

Just another thing I love about Atlanta: Octane cappuccinos.  By the way, what is the best cappuccino you’ve ever had?  That is a random but profound question for a Friday, don’t you think?  It just makes my entire week when the barista makes the little intricate designs with the foam.

Have I mentioned that I keep waking up at 4:00 in the morning hungry for hummus?

Yesterday I spent hours on end making this very basic video slideshow from my pictures from Israel.  My new hobby as of late is photography (and yes–it has taken the place of cooking for now).  Israel is quite a location for the photo enthusiast, let me tell you.  Please understand several things before you watch the slideshow:

  • 1) I am not Rich Kalonick, though he did walk me through several things via text message yesterday.  For the first time I think I fully respect the work he does when he creates the slideshows for the LPL events.  It takes more time and work than you might imagine. So thanks, Rich!
  • 2) The slideshow is quite long, running about twelve minutes. By no means should you watch the whole thing if you are bored to tears. You have complete control and you can’t say I didn’t warn you!  ;-)
  • 3) This slideshow reflects about 5% of the people and places on our trip to Israel. I literally whittled down 2,000 photos to about 200. Sadly, there was just no way to include them all here.  But on the bright side, if I had included all 2,000 the video would have been about six hours.

Having made this disclaimer, I do so much hope you enjoy it!

Israel Trip from Melissa Fitzpatrick on Vimeo.
Music added: “Beautiful” by Shawn McDonald & “I Stand Amazed” by Chris Tomlin.

Our trip was truly incredible.  I have some more substantial thoughts that I would like to share but I will get back to you with those ponderings when I am not in such a fog–hopefully sometime next week.

Have a wonderful weekend, Siestas! We sure love you!

Warmly,

Melissa

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We Made It!

Whew! I can’t believe it finally happened! We made it to WordPress! Thanks for following us to our new home. Don’t forget to bookmark our new address or subscribe to the new feed if you like using a feed reader.

I’m sitting on my couch with my laptop, but I feel like I’m driving a new car with this unfamiliar dashboard in front of me. Just for kicks, and so we can all test drive the commenting process, tell me something fun or interesting about a car you’ve had!

My first car was a 1987 Mustang GT convertible. It was my grandmother’s car and she gave it to me when I turned 16. Can you believe that? I was really blessed, to say the least!  It was beautiful and fast off the line and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much fun my friends and I had in it.

I was a little too proud of that car and the Lord humbled me many, many times in it. For one, when it rained really hard, the water would leak inside from between the windshield and the top. I remember driving home from Texas A&M for an orthodontist appointment and it was monsooning outside. The rainwater was pouring in and I had nothing to soak it up with, so I took off one of my socks and tried to soak it up with my right hand while my left hand was on the wheel. Oh, and I was bawling my eyes out! I have no idea how I ever made it home.

On the night my sister turned 16, she did not have her car yet. She would soon be given a 1969 Camaro that she and my dad loved working on together. But that night I let her take my Mustang out to celebrate with her friends. Melissa and I just happen to be complete opposites of one another. For example, when the traffic light turned green I would accelerate as fast as I could to the speed limit. Melissa lived to blow right by it. As I remember it, on that night – the very night of her 16th birthday and the start of her official driving life – Melissa burned up the engine of my car! Bless my mom’s heart that she had to raise two daughters who are as different as night and day.

Every spring when the weather is as gorgeous as it is in Texas right now, I miss that car like crazy. Maybe one day when I’m done with booster seats and carpooling I’ll have another convertible.

Now maybe I can get my sis to tell us a Camaro story!

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God’s Shameless Love for the Poor

Today as I type this post I feel as though I am trying to take just a little sip of water out of an open fire hydrant.  There are so many stories that I will never get the chance to tell.  My heart and mind are processing so many things at one time that I am having a hard time sleeping at night even though I am beyond exhausted when my head hits the pillow.  I can honestly say that this trip is one of the hardest things I have ever done but absolutely one of the most meaningful. 

Yesterday I got an email from Amanda and she asked me if I could keep my eyes peeled open for a special child for her to sponsor.  So, Amanda, what do you think about Latangi?

Is she too much or what?  I met her today on one of our home-visits in an extremely poor village.  She totally could have fit in my suitcase but I figured Living Proof wouldn’t completely support kidnapping so I relented.  Amanda, you would have seriously died.  Her Mother has the daunting task of raising four children singlehandedly since her husband died three months ago of a heart attack.  Latangi, her Mom, and two of her siblings sleep in two tiny beds in a one-room 8×8 bamboo structure while her older brother sleeps on the hard cement floor.  She currently has no sponsor with Compassion and while her Mom works during the day she is left all alone.  She is four years old.  Four years old and left alone all day to do heaven knows what.  Just think, Amanda, if you sponsor her, Compassion International will provide the opportunity for her to be in school under the umbrella of the local church studying and learning skills during the day to dramatically boost her chances of survival.

There are hundreds of faces, hundreds of Indian children, who are just as precious and in just as dire circumstances who are in need of sponsors.  You can take a look for yourself here or you can just click on the Compassion India banner on the left of our margin.  The Compassion East India office partners with the local churches in a rigorous selection process to choose children who are in the greatest need of sponsorship.  They are generally among the poorest of the poor in their area.  I can assure you, every child you browse through on the Compassion website has a story that has the potential to change your life. 

Today the Compassion East India office briefed us on some administrative issues.  I’ve always wanted to use the word “briefed” because it makes me feel so Jack Bauerish.  And now I have and it was fun.  Anyway, each child has his or her own binder and inside that binder is a thick stack of papers that record everything from medical records to the complete log of child/sponsor correspondence.  My new and absolutely hilarious friend and fellow blogger Pete Wilson and I were shocked to see that one of the children had been co-sponsored by two High School girls.  Can you imagine?   Instead of buying an expensive designer handbag or a new pair of heels, these two seventeen- year-old girls combined their money to bring some hope to a child in India they have never even met.  It just downright blew our minds. 

Can I just tell you that the more I fall in love with the people in Calcutta the more grateful I am that we serve a God who cares deeply about the poor?  I could list verse after verse as far back as Genesis all the way through Revelation that reflect God’s concern for the poor and oppressed. I could quote the striking and slightly scary beatitudes in the gospel of Luke like “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” but right now I am far too consumed with Isaiah 58, especially the first eleven verses.  My Mom and Amanda both encouraged me separately with this chapter before I set off last week and I have been meditating on it throughout the week. 

These verses have spoken to me in so many distinct ways over the past few days but I am especially stricken by Isaiah’s definition of true religion.  I hope you’ll take some time to study this passage on your own but in brief, the people of Israel cry out with frustration because they do not feel that God is responding to their pious fasting.  The text goes on to convey that, in fact, God really isn’t all that impressed by their outlandish religious demonstrations like bowing their heads in “humility” or laying in sackcloth and ashes. 

No. 

His definition of fasting is cast in remarkably different terms.  If the people of God want to fast in such a way that they just might get God’s attention then they need to start being agents of justice in a broken world.  They need to stop believing that humility before God and apathy toward their fellow human beings, especially the poor and oppressed, could ever co-exist.  They need to loosen the chains of injustice.  Set the oppressed free.  Share food with the hungry.  Clothe the naked.  The incredible part about this passage is the promise that if the covenant people of God would really truly fast in such a mind-boggling and earth-shaking way, then light will break forth like the dawn.  The Lord will turn his ear toward them and His very glory will be their protection.  I take so much heart in the fact that our God is a God who loves the people in Calcutta who are bound by the tight grip of poverty.  That He thinks that caring for them is essential, that it is at the very core of our personal and corporate spirituality.  What a vivid picture of the bountiful and impartial love of God.

Now I think we all know that God does care deeply about the poor.  Scripture is blatantly clear about it but why do you think that God cares so deeply for the poor?  Why would Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor” or why would James ask his readers “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom”?  What is, in your opinion, at the bottom of His love for the poor? 

I am personally still thinking this through but I read something recently that Richard Bauckham wrote and it really rocked me.  He said, “Poverty, in a sense, exposes the truth of the human situation in its need of God.  It dispels the illusion of being self-sufficient and secure, with no need of God.  The poor are those whose material condition enables them to see more clearly than most the human need to be wholly reliant on God.  It is in this sense that the biblical poor are understood as paradigmatic in their faith.” (Richard Bauckham, Wisdom of James, disciple of Jesus the Sage, 190).   I’m not sure how exactly to explain it, but this statement really resonated with me.  Perhaps Jesus speaks of the poor as the paradigmatic people of God because the poor, kind of like the chronically ill, are most likely to recognize their utter need for God’s saving power.  Perhaps the Lord commands the rich (which in context of our global economy is you and me, even the poorest among us) to empathize and identify with the plight of the poor and care for the needy so that they too can glean this truth. Humankind in its totality is completely dependent on God’s power and provision.  There are no exceptions.  All material wealth is fleeting and fading quickly.  

What do you think? 

I can’t wait to read your thoughts and opinions.  I cherish you all.  I mean it.  I’m so grateful for all of your different personalities and perspectives.  I’m deeply privileged to walk this journey with all of you.

One of my favorite shots of the children’s little shoes: (P.S. Keely Scott, Compassion Photographer, rocks my face off)

Subrata and me.  He wants to be a Policeman when he grows up so that he can take care of his Mom and she never has to go to work anymore.  She cleans houses and he wants to do all the work for her so that she will be able to relax at home.  He is seven.  Seven-year olds shouldn’t have to think about taking care of their Moms.  But Subrata does.

A precious girl named Rinky Roy’s little box where she places the treasures her sponsor has mailed her.  She has the best sponsor ever.  Her sponsor faithfully mails letters and has even bought her clothes and paid for a piece of furniture in their little tiny home. Rinky’s sponsor repeatedly tells her how much she loves her.  Rinky loves to study and has dreams to be a Doctor.  Tell me Compassion International didn’t have something to do with that. 

Me talking with the little women about their favorite movies.  They all apparently love Jurassic Park I, II, and III.  Who would have thought?  When did the third one come out anyhow?

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Speechless for the first time EVER but compelled to type.

Greetings from Kolkata (Calcutta)!

We finally made it. 

That statement deserved its own line. Seriously. It takes some time to get to the other side of the world.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers.  We have felt them and we have been in need of them. 

As our final flight descended down toward Calcutta, commonly but perhaps slightly unpersuasively called “the City of Joy”, I was shocked by the lush landscape. Calcutta has a tropical climate and is completely covered with Palm trees. Who knew? The sight was totally not what I expected. I couldn’t wait to get outside and see it up close. But, then we walked off the plane.

And. It. Was. 120. Degrees.

Suddenly tropical weather took on an entirely new connotation.

Shortly after checking into our hotel we headed off to visit Mother Teresa’s burial site, a must for anyone and everyone visiting Calcutta regardless of theological or denominational tradition. Mother Teresa’s tomb is on the grounds where the “Missionaries of Charity” order is still alive and well. I fully expected myself to be emotionally moved by this particular moment. But I wasn’t. Let’s just say that my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak. I was hunched over on a bench because I was completely and utterly spent. The twelve and a half hour time difference (ummmm…where does the half come from? anyone?) and the two days of traveling without sleep and eating only a handful of Cliff bars suddenly wasn’t working for me anymore. And wait, did I mention the 120 degree weather? Apparently Calcutta hasn’t had this kind of heat wave in nearly 30 years. Even the locals are impressed (not the good kind) by the intensity of the heat. I was afraid that I would go down in history as the obnoxious American who puked in Mother Teresa’s burial room. Luckily that nightmare did not actualize and I finally gathered myself together enough to walk around the grounds. 

I noticed that the rest of the team had climbed a narrow set of stairs and so I followed them and I could not believe my eyes. There was Mother Teresa’s tiny little bedroom that would make a college dorm room seem opulent. It was in that tiny little room that Mother Teresa had lived for about forty years and it was there where she also died. While her tomb didn’t move me like it did others, her little tiny room did. Not only because the room spoke of a life of simplicity and earthly discomfort but also because it reflected a life of unimaginable dedication in one consistent direction. An entire lifetime devoted to serving the unloved and untouched of our world.

I was struck by a quote of Mother Teresa’s that was posted in the museum area. It said, “Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow-men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger.” What a simple yet weighty statement. It directly contradicts our entire world system: a system that shows unabashed impartiality to the rich, famous, and the beautiful people. A system that so quickly labels off the poor and diseased as lazy, weak-willed, and unfortunate. I pondered the quote in my heart last night but I experienced the profundity of it today when we entered our first project, one of Compassion’s several child development centers in Calcutta.

I was so not prepared for what went down when we climbed out of the van. The children were lined up in a drum-line in matching uniforms and they proceeded to march us into the project grounds where we were each presented with a beautiful sunflower. My chin was quivering so fast that I could hear my own teeth clattering over all the noise. The spectacle did not end there, however. We continued to watch the children perform demonstration after demonstration for us, dancing and singing songs like:

God’s love is so wonderful
So high you can’t get over it
So deep you can’t get under it

I thought to myself something in the same vein of Mother Teresa’s statement. Just a whole lot less profound sounding. I thought, “Who am I that I would be esteemed by these precious children who have dealt with more in their few years than I probably ever will in my entire lifetime? And for whom I have done so relatively little?” But then in the middle of my self-loathing episode I realized I was giving myself way too much credit. These children weren’t performing for me or even for the ten of us. They were performing for their sponsors. For them, the ten of us are the closest thing they will ever see that resembles and embodies their sponsors. They won’t likely get the opportunity to meet their individual sponsors in this lifetime.

Several of you commented on my last post that you are already sponsors of a Compassion child. Sponsors, let me speak to you in particular for a moment. I want you each to know that today was as much for you as it was for me. I may have gotten to witness it, but those kids weren’t clapping, singing, and celebrating that ten random and goofy looking Americans came to visit them. They identified with us because we represented to them their individual sponsors. Let me tell you, no let me assure you- your sponsor child knows your name. Not just your first name. Your last name, too. They lined up with drums to usher you into the place you’ve financially provided for them. A place of hope. A place where that abstract verb “to dream” becomes something that just might be tangible. A place where they hear for the first time that they have dignity and worth before the Most High God. They treasure the letters that you write to them. They don’t toss them in the trash. No, they store them in a safe place. And this will really get you. If you sponsor a child in India, you’re probably the only one who has ever told your child, “I love you.” Our Compassion India specialist told us that in the Indian culture, particularly among the poor, parents do not express love to their children. She said, “Even though the parents really do love their children, they don’t show it. Rarely does a parent actually come out and express their love for their child.” Can you imagine? Let it sink in. You, even though you might think you’re just a little sponsor person who hastily filled out a form during a concert, are most likely the only adult who has blatantly expressed love for this child. A real living and breathing child.

One of the children presenting us with a sunflower:


The Compassion kids in a drum-line ushering us into the project. Unbelievable. 

All 295 of the children in the project we visited today.  225 have been sponsored.  70 are still waiting for sponsors:

The kids and me playing with bubbles. They LOVE them: 

A family I fell in love with.  The little girl named Susmita is 13 years old and her Father died in an accident and then her Mother walked out on her.  Her uncle and grand-mother, sickly and frail, currently take care of her.  Susmita followed us out of the neighborhood as far as she could because she didn’t want to say good-bye.  It broke my heart. And it made my day:

This picture speaks for itself. Period. The end. 

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Come Away with Me

I’ve been waiting for just the right time to tell you that I (Melissa) am going, along with four other bloggers, with Compassion International to Kolkata (Calcutta), India. The “right” time has quickly turned into “oh my word, SERIOUSLY, we are leaving Friday!!!” And so here you have it. The five of us will be led by a handful of staunch Compassion-folk on an exciting adventure; a journey I can only guess will be filled with moments of piercing sadness but also bursts of laughter and stimulating conversation. A journey that engages and confronts all of the senses in an unexpected way and that makes an impression that lasts not just a week or two, but for a lifetime. I will be attempting to put this journey into words for you straight from Kolkata on this blog next week, April 26- May 2.

The first day I learned of this opportunity to go along with Compassion to Kolkata, I knew I was supposed to go. Period. Sometimes the Lord makes something unmistakably clear. I won’t ever forget the seriousness in Shaun Groves’ voice as he said, “Take your time making your decision, Melissa.” He said, “I’ve never been to Kolkata but from what I’ve heard, this may be one of the more difficult trips.” Now, I’ve heard the dude speak and sing and I thought he was supposed to be funny. Well, he wasn’t throwing the jokes. He actually sounded really serious. Even so, I didn’t have to take my time making the decision. It was just one of those moments. I take that back, I did have to ask Mr. Fitzpatrick what he thought first and he said, “You’ve gotta go. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.” I was actually stunned by his absolute selflessness. Well, let’s just say that the closer it gets to Friday the less I am seeing him effuse this virtue. Actually he is getting quite controlling. Every time I so much as cough he looks at me like, “And you’re going to Kolkata?” *Grin.* I guess it was easier for him to imagine it all when it was still months away.

Let me tell you, over the past month I have gotten some crazy reactions from people about my going to Kolkata. Most people look at me like I’ve lost my mind and I know exactly what they’re thinking… “Why not Paris or Amsterdam or somewhere even slightly pleasurable?” I want to say to them, “Life isn’t all about fun.” But I don’t. I just keep my mouth shut. And anyway, they obviously haven’t met any of the team I am going along with. It’s an entertaining group of people. A group that I suspect could have a little tiny bit of fun even in the darkest of places. Can’t keep the sarcasm from dripping off my computer screen when I glance over their emails. Oh, and I even had one girl tell me that India is “impossibly filthy” and that I need to watch out for the rats. The negative reactions were becoming tiresome, so I was pleased when the popular, Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire” finally came out on DVD. The timing was totally ordained for us, don’t you think? I finally started getting some positive responses from people. You’ve gotta love pop-culture. I’ve been conveniently leaving out that we aren’t going to Mumbai and that Compassion International probably cares very little about us getting to meet the beautiful Latika in the flesh.

In spite of all the strange reactions I have gotten, there really are no words to express my excitement about going to Kolkata. I know that I am going to see poverty unlike anything I have ever seen before, but at the same time, who better to see it with than Compassion International – one of the world’s most effective Christian relief organizations? We aren’t going just to sit back and observe the poverty. We’re going with an organization that actually has the resolve to try and do something about it. I don’t know exactly what to expect and I’m trying not to assume much. My heart’s desire is just to go – to go with my heart and mind open. And by the way, I actually get to meet two of the children that Colin and I sponsor through Compassion. Like I actually get to have lunch with them.

I will tell you more about the details of our itinerary as next week unfolds, but for now I just wanted to tell you the news and ask for your thoughts and prayers as we prepare ourselves to head out this Friday. If you would be so kind and thoughtful to pray, here are my personal prayer requests:

1. Pray that my own cynicism wouldn’t rob me of a blessing. I’ve gotta be honest, I feel sort of faux for going on a trip like this. I’m not a missionary. I’m not an activist. And I’m certainly not a nun. I have the “comfort” (whatever significance that word really holds) of knowing I’m coming back to the United States in two weeks. That is the honest truth. And so I fight my own self-defeating thoughts. Thoughts like, “Melissa, you’re really nothing more than a tourist, nothing more than a weak poser wannabe missionary going over to Kolkata and acting like you’re some Mother Theresa type.” Since I have an all-or-nothing personality, I tend to feel defeated if I can’t go all out. For example, since I am not taking a vow of poverty or moving to work in Kolkata for the rest of my days, it makes me want to shrink back from doing anything at all. My own personal fear of false piety could keep me from entering into this experience and I don’t want it to. I want every fiber in my being to be impacted. Pray for me – that I’m not my own worst enemy.

2. Pray for Colin’s peace of mind. It is his responsibility to care for me; so naturally, he is a little concerned about my safety and whatnot. Please pray the Lord would have something unique in this experience for him as well, even though he will be in the States. He is, after all, as involved as I am with Compassion. He was actually the one who suggested that we sponsor our first Compassion child, Aimar, who lives in Colombia. It wasn’t even my idea. In that moment, I was actually more concerned about hiding our cash under the hardwood planks of our apartment. Right next to the one hundred pound bag of rice and ginormous jar of peanut butter. Kidding. Sort of.

3. Pray for my health. Please pray that my own physical weaknesses would not be a hindrance to me or to the team. I’ve had a series of intense migraines for the past few months, and while I plan to stuff Excedrin Migraine in every crevice of my suitcase, please pray for a supernatural release from these migraines. Even if it is only for this two week period. (Praise Him – He has given me a release in the past week, but I do pray that they will not return during the trip).

Oh, and I almost forgot, I need your advice. I am taking little care packages for both of our Compassion children in Kolkata. As you know, Colin and I don’t have our own kids, so I need your help. I have no idea what kids like. I consider myself an adult person and buying for kids does not come naturally to me. We have a nine-year-old boy named Manot and a twelve-year-old girl named Pramila. What do nine-year-old boys like? And what do twelve-year-old girls like? Now, I don’t want to rush over to India in a naïve Santa-Claus costume with a bagful of toys. I’m not going to put on a red superwoman cape and presume I could save their day. I can’t save their day. But at the same time, I want to make their day. I want to make their day special without making them feel overwhelmed or intimidated by too many gifts. In your opinion, where is the line? Do you have any thoughts? Ideas?

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Palm Branch Nostalgia

I love Holy Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday. I’ve always loved Palm Sunday.

As a little girl I remember sitting in Sunday school class waiting with great anticipation for “big church.” Not just because I scorned that our church wouldn’t allow me, seven-years-old at the time, to matriculate into my Mom’s adult Sunday school class. And not even because the allotted big church hour was a sure-fire promise of an extended arm-tickle from the hands of one or both of my parents who were clearly trying to keep me sedated during the service. I’ve just loved the theatrics of Palm Sunday from the beginning.

You see, on Palm Sunday, the choir at Houston’s First Baptist Church would come flooding out of all entryways into the sanctuary carrying and waving massive palm branches. I can still picture them in their formal robes down to the floor streaming through the aisles. Yes, I said aisles, for ours was a sanctuary with multiple aisles. A whole bunch of them. I never have understood what all the fuss is about a center aisle. The more aisles the merrier. In my mind, if you’re really a good Southern Baptist, you want more aisles for the invitation at the end of the sermon. It’s less about pretty weddings and more about evangelism, church growth, and Lottie Moon. That’s how we roll.

Fast-forward fifteen years. Times have changed in typical fashion and since I have been out of my parent’s house, I have not attended even one church that has incorporated palm branches into their worship service on Palm Sunday. It’s funny because I tend to think of myself as sort of an old soul, yet I always attend contemporary churches. And I love contemporary churches, I might add. I also really like palm branches. This has created something of a dilemma for me.

An aside – so, last week was a bad week. Now, I didn’t say horrible, but it was relatively bad. I was having some severe migraines that were keeping me tied to the bed, which I hate. Then, my car got hit while it was sitting parked on the street. Hit and run. Go figure, right when we’re trying to pay Uncle Sam. Colin duct-taped it back together so we’re okay now. I then tried to gather myself enough to walk outside so that I could hunt and gather some food, so as not to fail my little family unit. I went to the store, bought all my groceries, and when I got home my rotisserie chicken was raw. It was raw. I have never even heard of a raw rotisserie chicken. Nearly threw me over the edge.

So back to the dilemma. Since I had a relatively stinky week, I knew that another Palm Sunday without palm branches would simply be too much for me to bear. So, we decided this past Sunday to search for the most liturgical church in our area. One that might just have some palm branches. Palm branches are the theme of this blog if you have not gathered it.

Have I told you how much I love the Lord? Sure enough, the congregation had gathered fifteen minutes early in the parking lot so that the branches could be distributed to each congregant. As we walked in the sanctuary, the congregation in its entirety were waving their palm branches. It wasn’t quite like I remembered it, but I didn’t give a rip. I was thrilled. I wanted to make a scene, a scene like David made with the ark of the covenant. I wasn’t planning on stripping off my outer garments (2 Samuel 6:20). But I wanted to make a scene. And I’m not even the especially demonstrative type. I’m actually quite reserved. In our family my mom sort of takes the cake in the dramatic worship department. And we let her. Well, she doesn’t ask for permission. But anyway, there is just something about Palm Sunday. It just moves me. I’d like to think that if I would have been in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago, I would have joined with the multitudes and gone out to meet the living and incarnate God, King Jesus, with a palm branch. Now I probably would have been too stubborn or even too self-conscious, but I like to think that I would have cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD, even the King of Israel!” For, He was and is and is to be worthy of such outlandish and royal acknowledgment.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think all churches everywhere need to have palm branches for people to hold on Palm Sunday. I just like it when they do. It is a tradition that I love. I tend to like it when we in our modern day churches try to engage the text and enter in. Palm Sunday is an example of experientially engaging with the text of John 12:12-13 and chiming in with those ancient voices. The modern fused together with the ancient – that’s what’ll get me going all mystical on ya.

Well, at the end of the Palm Sunday service I noticed the sweet lady next to me had several palm branches. So I gently and sneakily took one for myself to keep as a reminder for me during Holy Week. Colin keeps saying I stole her branch. But I didn’t steal her branch. She had like five. I just wanted one. One stinking palm branch to cover up those bleak palm-branch-missing years. Now I realize I should have probably asked her, but I blame my thievery on the Excedrin Migraine.

Oh, and as a side-note, Amanda just called me. She bought Annabeth’s first Easter dress. I’m not bitter. I promise.

Sigh.

This year I am nostalgic for all things Easter and all things Houston and my family. The Fitzpatricks don’t have the luxury of going home to Houston this year – I’ll say it again, we just paid Uncle Sam! And he is seriously grouchy. But, what I would give to buy a pair of outdated white patent leather shoes and a matching floral pastel dress and white hat with Amanda again – if only to embarrass her. She never was much for us matching. She was always too cool.

So if you’re still out there and you haven’t fallen asleep from my various tangents in this blog, then I would love to know what you love most about Holy Week. What is one of your favorite traditions in your home church? Something you look forward to year after year? It doesn’t have to be dogma or even something exceptionally reverent, though it might be; but it could just be something fun or sweet that your church does year after year to build community or even just to set apart this week as unique on the church calendar.

A peek at Easters past…

Annabeth comes from a long line of bow heads.

Look at my face! Is all my nostalgia really a hallucination?

Here we are with our Memaw. And I think that’s the Impala Amanda mentioned a few days ago.

I called my sister and said, “Look at the one of us in the hats.” Then Amanda pointed out that we are, in fact, wearing hats in every picture together. Also, notice her purple quilted Bible carrier.

Happy Holy Week from The Matching Hat Sisters!

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A Couple of Hard Cases

Greetings Blogworld… from the great and beautiful city of Atlanta.

I just had the most surreal moment. I was standing in a coffee shop a few minutes ago (no big surprise) when I heard the song “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart” by Shenandoah and Alison Krauss. Have you heard it? I kid you not, I was teleported back to my 8th grade dance. I had forgotten how awkward yet glorious that historical moment was. Awkward because I was still sporting my braces but glorious because a person’s first big school dance is a rite of passage. Good or bad, it remains a milestone. I mean, I spent a month in a tanning salon preparing for that dance! I still remember exactly what formal dress I was wearing and even what my corsage smelled like. My date and I were attempting to two-step to this very passionate country tune. We were very much wrapped up into the song, so much so that I think I may have even put my head on his shoulder. Who doesn’t get caught up in the moment under a disco ball? You laugh…but this was a big move for an innocent thirteen-year-old girl with very well known parents. In between our very emotional embraces I would glance to make sure my homeroom teacher wasn’t looking because I knew darn well she was going to tell my Mom. Total downside of having your homeroom teacher doing your mother’s Bible studies. Okay, I digress, but today as I listened to the lyrics now from the perspective of an adult, I about died. Please take a minute to read the first two verses of this song:

Thousand miles
Of lonesome highway
Drinking gallons of coffee in a little cafe
Brought me here, and it’s so good to find there’s someone who’s got
The same story as mine

Just look at us, we’re a couple hard cases
So how’d we end up where we are?
Somewhere in the vicinity of the heart
I feel somethin hittin me awful hard
I don’t know where it’s gonna lead
I just know it starts
Somewhere in the vicinity of the heart

When I heard these lyrics again today I nearly went into hysterics. To think that a couple of suburban kids who had never so much as kissed were honestly identifying with these lines is completely absurd. But there we were. We were identifying, alright. Just a couple of hard cases looking for someone else with a similar tumultuous relational past.

Okay, so it’s your turn- I want to know what takes you back to the past? What was your best or funniest memory at a middle school or high school dance? To what songs did you dance?

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Meanwhile…Melissa needs a Mentor

Happy 2009 my fellow blog sisters… I know this is probably an anticlimactic salutation since it is already January 7th and all of us are back in the hectic swing of life. I don’t know about you, but I love a new year and all of the hope that it represents. It’s sort of like a new binder or a new journal. I love blank pages. I even love the smell of blank pages. Well, on our drive from Houston to Atlanta I was full on in my dreamy state thinking of all the lofty things that I want to get right this year…like, I am going to pray WAY more often or I am going to call people rather than text them (already buried that one in the grave). And then it happened…GASP. Colin said to me, “Darling, we need to talk about the budget I have planned for us for 2009.” Budget? And then I opted for the semantic argument which I hoped would stop him dead in his tracks by saying, “What exactly do you mean by that word, budget? Can you exegete that for me?” He ignored my question entirely and later handed me twelve envelopes with labels for January- December 2009. Yep, folks, Mr. Fitzpatrick wants me to gather each of my receipts, no matter how mundane (like a pack of gum from the convenience store), and place them in the month-appropriate envelope. And he is going to review them. Can you imagine? I haven’t been this terrified since I took my SAT’s. Now, don’t get me wrong the two of us don’t spend heaps of money (we simply don’t have heaps of money) but Colin’s point is that we can do better. Apparently a new year is about living more skillfully, more wisely. And so, in light of me being the very submissive wife that I am, I have gotten my heart in gear and I am really trying to jump on my husband’s bandwagon. I even ran out of Nordstrom right after I met my friend for lunch at Nordstrom Café…I kid you not, I was like Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. One more minute in Nordstrom and I would have been a very fashionable sheep fattened for the slaughter. Sigh. You really should have seen that jacket I passed up. It was oh so fine.

Okay so this is my specific question for you: How can I save money at the grocery store? Obviously I know how to avoid the Mall (though at times it appears to draw near to me) but I am downright lost as to how I can save serious bucks at the grocery store. What do YOU do to save money on groceries? How do you make your food last the longest? Do you have any tips or any secrets to offer me? If your resolution for 2009 was to mentor a fellow-sojourning woman this year, now is your chance. Mentor me. Please? I would have asked my Mom who is normally the ultimate mentor but as it is she avoids the grocery store at all costs.

Are we almost to 2010 yet? I’m exhausted.

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Melissa’s Fall 2008 Top Ten

Greetings blog-land! I do believe it has been months since my last entry and I could not wait another minute to say hello. Seriously, I miss all of you fine women! Unsurprisingly, my Mom has been working me harder than ever before over the past few months. The name of the game has been ‘focus’ and ‘more focus’ and so unfortunately my blog time was obliterated. So, in an effort to catch up with you, I’ve composed a list of my top ten Fall 2008 highlights. You’ll find that they are in completely random order. I know, how predictable, right? So here goes:

1. Living Proof Christmas Pictures. Have I mentioned how awful our Christmas pictures were last year? They were beyond hideous. The weather was so humid in Houston that not even photo-shop could cover the multitude of our hair sins. Well, this year we were determined to have better results. All was going well until my Mom looked at me half-way through and said, in front of everyone, “Melissa, check your barn-door.” This was my Mom’s archaic way of telling me that my zipper was wide open. Yes, apparently, my fly had been open throughout the entire first half of the photo-shoot. So much for earning respect from my fellow LPM staff!

2. Seeing a true Autumn season for the first time in my life. I walked around my neighborhood in Atlanta last weekend with tears in my eyes. The trees were raining leaves in all kinds of glorious colors. I will ponder that moment in my heart for as long as I live, a moment when I was content with merely having a set of eyes to see the beauty of God’s creation.

3. Reading Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright. What a great and refreshing read. Here is just one quote I love, “the Bible isn’t simply a repository of true information about God, Jesus, and the hope of the world. It is, rather, part of the means by which, in the power of the Spirit, the living God rescues his people and his world, and takes them forward on the journey toward his new creation, and makes us agents of that new creation even as we travel” (191). Just a glimpse into this wonderful book.

4. The Siesta Fiesta in San Antonio still makes the list! Not only did I have such a wonderful time seeing many of you in the flesh, but I am still pondering the profound implications that the theme of inheritance has for us as the covenant people of God. I have a feeling that we have barely scratched the surface of that one. What a great time of fellowship, worship, and the Word!

5. Walking into my home in Atlanta last week to find an embarrassing display of flowers and a new sweater from Colin Fitzpatrick. The best part was that it was completely unexpected. I mean, we weren’t in a fight or anything! I never knew that a little bouquet of flowers could mean so much. I’m learning more and more that little thoughtful things make the big things in marriage a whole lot smoother. I love my husband madly and I’ve had so much fun settling down into ‘normal’ life with him.

6. Auditing a Hebrew Reading class. We have translated Deuteronomy, some of the Psalms, and are scheduled to translate some of 1&2 Kings for next week. That is a whole lot of Hebrew, let me tell you! It has been so fun to be back in the formal classroom. My strength as a Biblical Research Assistant would be greatly diminished if I did not keep up with my Hebrew and Greek reading skills.

7. Driving to Macon, Georgia to visit our very own Georgia Jan. She is even more charming in person than she is in blog-world. We ate at a quaint little French-country restaurant called “The Back-Burner.” If you live near there, I strongly recommend it. Georgia Jan is my kind of woman- she can cook and talk some Scripture. A rare woman, indeed.

8. Teaching LIT. My Mom and I have been co-teaching a class for 17-25 year old women. This Bible Study is unlike anything we’ve ever done at Living Proof. For better or worse, I planned and outlined the study. It has been fun to actually see it run its course, in spite of how absolutely over-ambitious it was. I am really proud of my Lit ladies. They’ve paid attention to all kinds of tedious things, including transmission issues, translation theory, and biblical genres. And that is only a start. Just in case you may be interested, we asked them to do the following for their bonus project:

  • Choose any passage (about 5-9 verses) of interest, preferably a passage that you are not overly familiar with.
  • Read the passage several times, at least twice out loud.
  • What book of the Bible is your passage in? Who is the author? Who are the Recipients? What is the occasion and genre of the book?
  • Compare your original Bible translation (whether it is NIV, NASB, etc.) to other translations- use at least three or four translations. Make note of the significant changes/differences in a chart or some other helpful way.
  • If there is a word that sticks out to you in your original Bible translation, use a concordance to do a word study on that word. What is the Hebrew or Greek word that your English translation is rendering? Where else is it used?
  • Are there any topics/places/concepts in your passage that are unfamiliar to you? Use a Bible Dictionary to look up unfamiliar concepts and to answer general questions.
  • After you have done as much of the leg-work as you know how or have time to do, then consult one or two solid commentaries on your passage.
  • Conclude with how these resources contributed to your understanding of the passage. (P.S. I just noticed that I created an outline within an outline. I am annoyed by my own self. Anyhow, I really am so proud of the Lit girls. Some have already turned in their assignments. I could have cried reading one of them today. I was astounded by the spiritual insight. We all bring something important and different to the interpretive table, with our various experiences and backgrounds. It is beautiful. I can’t wait to read the rest of them.)

9. Making the entire Thanksgiving menu in Mid-October for our next-door neighbors. I made my very first Turkey! I labored for two days straight. I stuffed it with fresh sage and quartered onions and all kinds of stuff. I also made two different kinds of stuffings, a traditional cornbread stuffing and an apple-rye stuffing. Both were divine. Did I mention that my husband has gained ten pounds since we got married? Blush. I’m so proud.

10. Waiting in anticipation for my sweet niece that is coming into the world this February! Glory to God in the highest! I got her the cutest little diva boots. I am not sure Amanda went for them, though. Boo. (Amanda says: Whatever! I LOVED them!)

Enough talk about me, though, what the heck have y’all been up to? What have been the highlights of Fall 2008 for YOU? So please, de-lurk and tell me how you are, if only for the sake of proper social reciprocity!

Much Love,
Melissa

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