Saturday, March 12, 2005

Another Away Message

Dearest Friends and Neighbo(u)rs and Occasional Lurkers!

Well, it’s that time of year again, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of cleaning cars and slinging a baseball across a field….

Oh— …Wait a sec….. Wrong season. It’s still winter. And wrong gender, considering the fact that I’m female.

Okay, so, I’m writing this to let you all know that I’ll be without Internet access from tomorrow until next Saturday. Tomorrow, after worship service, I’m taking a train to Bremen, a city in northern Germany. Jim and Elsa Springer, who’ve worked with the church in Bremen for about thirty years, offer a Christian leadership training program in German, with one class in the spring and one in the fall. Ed and I took their introductory course last fall, and I’m now taking one of the advanced courses.

Every spring course is different; this year’s happens to be Church History of the First Five-Hundred Years. The class officially started two weeks ago, and we students have been working on assignments at home. During the coming week in Bremen, we’ll have class with Jim eight hours per day (probably about four hours on Saturday). It’s called an “intensive week.” Hmm, I wonder why. ;o) I’ll return back to Chemnitz on the train next Saturday evening.

So far, the at-home assignments have been challenging. For one thing, I’d planned to get a head-start on the reading (a 350-page church history book); on the 50-word glossary we have to compile; and the leadership interview we have to do. But when I was sick for two weeks in February, my brain just wasn’t functioning well enough to do anything intellectual. Thus, I’ve spent the last two weeks frantically trying to catch up, and I’m still not finished. Hopefully, I’ll be able to complete my glossary on the train tomorrow, provided reading-while-moving doesn’t make me sick at my stomach.

For those of you who are the praying type, I’d appreciate your prayers—not just while I’m in Bremen, but also for the duration of the course. Please pray for my health, which is a near-constant trial to me, and for my clarity of thought, so that I can make the most of this opportunity to learn. Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that I enjoy and covet the challenge of being a student, and I’d like to be able to learn this new material well enough that I can use it to help teach more people about Jesus and the truths in God’s Word.

See you on the other side of the week!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

seasonal peculiarities

*deepthoughts by Courtney*

So, it's about one o'clock in the morning here in Chemnitz. That's 1:00 a.m., in case the previous wasn't clear enough.

I looked out the window a couple of minutes ago. It's 1:00 a.m., it's snowing, and a man just skied past our apartment building outside.

A man just skied past our apartment building outside.

Am I the only one who's weirded out by this?

*/deepthoughts by Courtney*

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Flap your wings....see what happens.

Finally, after much wait and debate, I have found / made an opportunity to watch the movie “The Butterfly Effect.” Ed and I just finished watching it a few minutes ago, and I know it’s going to take me awhile to process all of my impressions. One initial thought is that I’m glad Ed and I watched this without anyone else present. There were some sex scenes in there that I sure wouldn’t want to watch in mixed company. Call me prudish if you will, but it just would have been weird. Plus, the language definitely made me wish we owned one of those TV-G (TV-Guardian?) devices, the things that bleep out whichever words you program into it.

However, I’m not trying to write an epistle on the rightness or wrongness of Christians’ watching R-rated movies. That’s a topic for another post, another day.

What I’m really trying to do is sort out my thoughts. The movie was pretty much what I expected—unfortunately, the previews give away most of the plot and the concept. (By the way, if you haven’t seen the movie but plan to see it, don’t keep reading. I’ll spoil it for you.) However, it still delivered quite a lot of food for thought.

Just to recap: Guy has blackouts as a kid; as an adult, figures out how to project himself into the past and change bad things that happened to him during those blackouts; ends up doing more damage than good; keeps going back over and over to try to fix things, but just ruins friends’ lives and his own life in the process; finally realizes that the only way to set everything right is to shut out of his life the one person who means the most to him.

So…of course, the question is: Could you ever change something for the better if you went back and altered something in the past?

We all have regrets, don’t we? I don’t think I know one person who has no regrets. I know at least one person who claims not to have any regrets. But that person has also told me of things in his life he wishes hadn’t happened, and that sounds like regret to me. Each of us has done and said things we wish we could take back.

But if you could take it back….what would it be?

What would I change? It’s hard to say, because I know that who I am and where I am today are a direct result of everything that I have done and said in the past. Were I to change something, it would be with the knowledge that I would be changing my present and my future as well. And that’s a frightening thought, because I can think back on a few choices that might have led me down different paths had I chosen differently—and some of those paths aren’t very pretty.

I’ve been sitting here, sifting through memories, wondering which one of them would be worth changing. Instead of a fistfight, a kind word to a younger kid when I was eleven? Instead of ignorance, giving a definitive answer for my faith when I was eighteen? Instead of passivity, a decisive “no” when I was twenty? Instead of criticism, a word of support to a friend when I was twenty-seven?

And my answer must remain: I don’t know. I don’t know if any of those incidents, altered, would be enough to change my life or another’s. Either for better or for worse. In the film, the main character made his life and his friends’ lives worse every time he went back and changed something. Each small alteration led all of them down a different, darker path than they would have walked had he left the past alone. Though he meant well, he entered a horrid, vicious circle that spiraled him and his friends down into despair and evil and madness. And the only thing that brought them out of it was his willingness to give up the love of the one person he loved the most. Hm. Somehow, loving sacrifice always ends up being the saving grace of every flawed hero.

Changing my past would make me a different person. And if I were a different person, I would have a different effect on those around me. Who knows what negative influence my smallest actions might have if I were a different person? Who knows what negative influence I have even now, without knowing it? Certainly, a change in the past might result in a better present Me, a better future Me…

…but then again, it might not. What are the chances that a change would turn out better? I’m no math whiz, but I’m guessing the odds are not particularly good.

God knew what he was doing when he gave us humans a linear, finite sense of time and the inability to move freely along the timeline. He knew what a mess of our lives and each other’s lives we would make if we could change our pasts. He knew that no matter how much we tried, we could never set right the things we’ve done wrong in the past. I’m grateful that he doesn’t expect us to.

Can the flap of a single butterfly’s wing cause a typhoon? One action you take, one word that you say, always leads to a reaction in someone else. You might never know about it…but that’s your influence on those around you. And your smallest action, your most insignificant word, could turn into something monstrous or something wonderful in someone else’s future. Your smallest good deed could turn into an heroic act of kindness by someone else somewhere continents away and years down the line. Conversely, your smallest meanness could turn into an atrocity by someone else, far away, far in the future. Either way, you’ll never know about it.

Either way, we’re all part of each other—all of us humans, who are butterflies causing typhoons.

If you could go back and change something…would you?