South Grand

I’ve been reticent to post anything about the events in St. Louis/Ferguson/across the country because although I recognize that the internet is one of the most powerful tools, I also believe that that power comes with both heavy responsibility and, at times, heavy cost–factors for which I am frankly unequipped.  I dislike being the token St. Louisan in the room, expected to have a concrete opinion just because I live there ten months of the year.
But I thought I’d break my silence just a little bit to share these images. Back in December, I was running some errands on South Grand, where a number of protests (and unfortunately, riots) were staged. Many storefronts boarded up and hunkered down. In the aftermath of the chaos, the plywood screens were covered in images and words of hope, peace, and perhaps even the beginnings of reconciliation.
At the time I was reading a book by Aaron Kheriaty, who writes, “We are created in the image and likeness of God, and thus fundamentally good and endowed by God with an inherent dignity. At the same time, our nature is wounded, fallen through Original Sin, and thus inescapably flawed, inclined toward evil, and subject to illness and suffering… Indeed, we are able to find meaning, hope, and redemptive value even in the midst of suffering or illness”. So regardless of worldview/faith/belief system, I think there’s some wisdom–and hope–in that for everyone.
[For more pictures (before stores started taking the boards down), see this album from the South Grand neighborhood Facebook page]

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Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with thy God.

I’m not sure what to think about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson–not only because I’m ignorant of the legal system but also because I don’t have all the facts (and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone–not even Wilson himself–does or ever will).  But St. Louis has slowly become my second city over the past two and a half years, and so in that respect, I’m sort of obligated to have an opinion.  After all, what are the dinner guests going to ask me about at Thanksgiving after they’ve finished peppering me with questions regarding my classes?  Ferguson, of course.

Beyond having an opinion about the situation–beyond the rhetoric and the talking heads and the angry voices–I care about the situation because I am human.  Just like Michael Brown.  Like Darren Wilson.  Like each of the twelve jurors.  Like the protestors.  Like the innocent citizens whose businesses and livelihoods were damaged by rioters.  Yes, even like the looters.  And by caring, I choose to listen.  Not just to hear the shouting and breaking glass and cable news headlines, but to listen to people’s stories and hearts and lives–when I agree, when I disagree, and when I don’t know.

Most important, I believe we are called “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8).  I don’t think anyone knows or every will know what true justice is in this situation, much less how to implement it.  But even when justice and mercy seem fundamentally opposed, as they do to so many right now, we must both search within ourselves and look to our God to bring justice and to show mercy to our neighbors.  Because when Jesus called us to be a light to the world, He didn’t mean for us to light Molotov cocktails (metaphorically or literally).

For some further insights from people more mature and better educated than myself, see this article on Christianity today and this sermon from a local St. Louis church (audio link near bottom of page).  Edit: NFL player Benjamin Watson posted this extended Facebook status, which is also worth reading.

Summer 2014

I spent most of the summer working in lab doing this:

Yup, 5% sheep's blood plate. In the words of the grad student in charge of me, "Do I look like I'm going to deal with ox blood?"

Yup, 5% sheep’s blood plate. In the words of the grad student in charge of me, “Do I look like I’m going to deal with ox blood?”

Well, sort of.  For the science-minded, I was trying to make a knockout bacteria.  The bacteria didn’t want to cooperate until literally the last day I was supposed to work–I went into lab a couple hours before I had to leave for the airport and to discover that indeed, the appropriate colonies were growing on my plates.  Moral of the story: real science is never as neat and tidy as you think it should be.

Since then I’ve been home in Seattle.  Is there any doubt that my city is better than yours?  (The answer is no.)

My best friend since kindergarten invited me out on her family's boat for a few days.  I flew out on a float plane with her brother to meet their family in the Canadian San Juan Islands.

My best friend since kindergarten invited me out on her family’s boat for a few days. I flew out on a float plane with her brother to meet their family in the Canadian San Juan Islands.

Even when it's raining it's beautiful.

Even when it’s raining it’s beautiful.

I’m thankful that my boss gave me an extra week off: it gave me time to go boating (doing absolutely nothing for four entire days is actually kind of a beautiful thing) and to have some extra buffer time at the end of summer before school starts.  In theory, the extra time was supposed to help reduce stress.  We’ll see about that.

Here is a current list of things that I find stressful (this is more for my benefit than for yours):

  • Buying textbooks: so. freaking. expensive.
  • My car: I need to do a lot of (hopefully) routine maintenance.
  • My foot: I had a surprisingly decent race on Saturday, but now I’m moderately concerned I have somehow got a stress fracture while I was cooling down.
  • MCAT/GRE/the future: I probably should pay more attention…
  • Work: There’s way too much to do.  I also haven’t quite adjusted to the idea of going off work/study next semester.
  • School starting/leaving Seattle: typical.

Whenever I come back home, it makes me homesick for Seattle even while I’m still here.  And stressed out about leaving.  I like mountains and hills and a temperate climate and trees and runner/cyclist friendly roads and yes even the rain.  I don’t miss a lot of people here, but the people I do miss I miss a lot.  In a way, I suppose those relationships are more special now that I’m gone, since I have to work actively to maintain them, but that’s not particularly comforting right now.  I love the people at my church at school, but I love my church here even more because it changed my life.

One of those friends just wrote me an email that said, “Remember God is right there with you…going before you, standing beside you, speaking within you and holding you up when you need to collapse in Him.”  How prescient that is.

After Seattle Shooting, the Media Watched Us Pray

One more post in light of the shooting at SPU I found worth sharing.

TIME

Last Thursday afternoon around 3:30 p.m., a senseless act of violence visited Seattle Pacific University, where I teach. Within minutes, squad cars, fire engines, ambulances, helicopters, and TV news trucks had converged on the scene of shooting that took the life of one of our students and injured two others. The campus was on lockdown for several hours. But by 7 p.m., the mayhem had subsided and the campus community did something that has seldom been seen in the aftermath of the many school shootings that have occurred lately. It prayed.

And it was the praying, almost as much as the shooting, which seemed to capture the attention of the media in the next couple days.

SPU is a church-related school. All employees are professing, practicing Christians, and so are the majority of students. It seemed to be the most natural and needful thing for us to do at that…

View original post 606 more words

#prayforSPU

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You’re probably aware at this point that there was another university shooting, this time at a small-ish Christian college in Seattle.  It’s funny, because thousands of people die every day by violence and injustice and hatred and evil.  People who are sons and daughters, teachers and grocery store clerks, parents and siblings, janitors and doctors, strangers and friends.  And to these we often give at best a passing thought.  Because of course, bad things only happen to other people in other places.  But of course, everyone else is “other people” to other people.

So when it happens at a place so close to my home–and my heart–I pause.  I didn’t actually apply to SPU, but if I had been a slightly faster runner in high school, maybe I would have.  Maybe Otto Miller Hall–home to the mathematics and engineering departments–would have been my building.  I went to SPU Falcon Running Camp the summer before my senior year of high school: the people I met and the experiences I had there changed me.  But that’s irrelevant now.  Many of my friends attend SPU; the father of one of my good friends from high school (only girls in the low brass section!) works at SPU and his office is in the building where the shooting occurred (thankfully, he wasn’t on campus at time).  The student who took a risk and tackled the shooter went to high school near me and ran for their cross country team–we ran against them and went to camp with them multiple times.  All to say, though I didn’t really know anyone involved, it was alarmingly close to home.

On Thursday, one very evil thing happened.  But since then, hundreds or thousands of good things have happened and still are happening.  I thank God that it is the latter that has been mostly covered by the media.  That the name of Jon Meis, rather than the name and face of the perpetrator, is what people will remember.  That SPU is being portrayed as a school in shock and grief–but not despair.  That the community is lifting up victims and each other in prayer–as well as the man who acted out this evil, for it has not been forgotten that he too is made in God’s image.  That the church can be a place of life and light and hope in this time of darkness.

In the past couple of days, many other things have been said about the events that have occurred since Thursday afternoon.  Three articles/posts, each from very different perspectives ([updated] newspaper reporter, student, faculty member, alumni/local pastor, and the student who tackled the suspect), I would recommend follow:

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2023794834_spufaithxml.html

“We can experience anger, even rage, but we do not give vent to vengefulness. We can experience intense grief, but we do not lose hope. We recognize the brokenness in ourselves and therefore try to extend compassion and mercy to other people whose brokenness has been unleashed,” Steele said. “This is our darkest day and our finest hour.”

http://laura-nile.blogspot.com/2014/06/Pray-for-SPU.html

I am grieving in so many ways that seem so small, at first I feel ashamed to even feel them. But as my favorite professor, Dr. Frank Spina, reminded our community last night- being a Christian forces us to be honest. In light of this tragedy, we must be honest...
Today SPU gets the terrible, awful, privilege of doing what we always do– modeling what a grace filled, Christian community looks like. With the world watching, we get to be reflections of the abounding of love of Christ. We get to reflect the Father’s broken heart for the evil in this world. We get to reflect the active and powerful movement of the Spirit.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jack-levison/after-the-shooting-at-spu_b_5460475.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

I’m not quite ready to talk hope. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, yes. I believe in the life everlasting, as the creed puts it. But for now I grieve, as sad at dawn this morning as I was at dusk last night. Sad for the mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends grieving a lost son, urging a daughter back to life. But I confess, too, to a certain deep consolation–maybe it is hope after all–lying somewhere inside me next to that ball of grief, as I recollect the faces and faith of my students.

http://www.theunitive.com/hope-in-heartache-a-letter-to-my-seattle-pacific-university-friends-tyler-gorsline/

I saw you giving interviews to media members and inviting them to pray with you, only to have those very media members weep alongside you. In your shared confusion and lack of answers, there was hope for those trying to tell your story, for neighbors, for our city, and for our world.

[updated] http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/spu-shooting-hero-jon-meis-releases-statement/ngG9x/

…what I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy. In the midst of this attention, we cannot ignore that a life was taken from us, ruthlessly and without justification or cause. Others were badly injured, and many more will carry this event with them the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.

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Why I Run, Reprise

A year ago today, after the Run of the Mill 5k, I wrote a post called “Why I Run“.  One day after this year’s Run of the Mill, my sentiments are the same: runners are incredible people.  I don’t say that as self-flattery; I mean it in an admiring way.

If you read last year’s post, I mentioned a runner I vaguely know named Katie.  It turns out that we’ve kept in touch off-and-on for the past year–yay Facebook–and that she’s going to college to run with one of my high school friend’s cousins.  The running community is strange like that.  (For example, a lot of post-collegiate runners end up marrying each other–that sounded…not quite right–so then you get an interesting web of athletes with the same last names.  The genes for being a good runner also tends to run in families, which complicates matters further when siblings marry other siblings.  Let’s just say that the predominance of speed in the Pacific Northwest is probably not going to go away any time soon.  But enough of this aside.)  She was in the senior all-star race (the division I ran last year) yesterday, and I didn’t have a chance to talk to her, but randomly enough, her mother walked up to me and said hello and then offered to let me leave my bag in their car while I ran.  I happened to have a parking spot about fifty meters away from the start/finish line (despite arriving 45 minutes before the race started; I got the last of two spots in the entire lot), so I politely declined, but the fact that someone who’s effectively a stranger (she was one of my dorm’s chaperone’s at cross country camp two summers ago, and I have spoken to her at a couple of races since then, but otherwise I don’t know her) offered to let me use their car for storage struck me as a very runner-ish thing to do.  It’s saying, “I’ve been where you’ve been; I understand.  Implicitly, I trust you, and I know you trust me, even though we don’t actually know each other.”  The running community is strange–in a good way–like that.

The second, probably more poignant story, from yesterday is that of the final finisher.  He was a big fellow–probably six feet tall and 400 pounds.  (As a slightly creeper-ish aside, after some Facebook stalking, it turns out that he appears to be the uncle of one of the leaders of another cross country camp I went to.  This may contradict my observation about running running in families, but who cares?)  While I was cooling down, I saw him walking, accompanied by the trailing cyclist, either a paramedic or a police officer, I’m not sure which.  One thing that struck me was the the paramedic/officer acted as though he was in no hurry: it was no burden to him that he had to snake back and forth on the trail as he peddled slowly along; it was no irritation that it took him a half an hour longer to finish his duty than it otherwise would have; it seemed to be more of a joy than a bother to spend time talking with this final finisher.  After I’d finished cooling down and was going back to my car, suddenly I heard shouting from the finish line, “Everybody, he’s coming!”  In my head, I suddenly understood why the finish line, clock, and timing mats were still up, half an hour past the posted time for the course to be reopened to vehicular traffic: the race management and the city permitted it to stay up so the last finisher could cross the finish line.  (The city of Mill Creek just won big bonus points in my head.  I understand that this obviously isn’t practical/possible in many circumstances, but kudos to the Mill Creek police/city officials as well as the race directors, the timing company, the volunteers, and whoever else for making it possible.)  Apparently, someone had asked race volunteers stay around, if possible, to cheer the last participant through the finish line, since it was his first event and he just came with his brother.  What turned out was probably close to a hundred volunteers, racers, and patrons of nearby restaurants and businesses lining up along the finish line, cheering and clapping as though he were the first one, not the last one, through the chute.

“Dav-id!  Dav-id!  Dav-id!”

I think he was honestly a little bit surprised.  If it were me, I would have been dreadfully embarrassed.  (In cross country and track, and to be honest, at RotM last year, my main motivation not to be last was my fear of the “consolation clap”.)  I think, though, he could tell that people–myself included–were genuinely excited for him.  Despite what the world would tell him, he finished, in a few seconds more than two hours.  Afterwards, I found him sitting, exhausted, on a bench.  I told him, “I don’t know how to say this, but, you inspire me.”  He just said, “Thank you.”  I hope he didn’t think I was just being polite, because I mean it.  I hope he wasn’t offended, because I wasn’t inspired because of where he is–I’m inspired because of where he’s going.  On the days that I feel challenged, I’ll remember the people who face such bigger challenges.

This is why I run.

Flying Cars

I almost died today.

I don’t say that lightly.  Of course, there are inherent risks to even the most mundane of activities: you could slip in the shower and break your neck, a construction worker could accidentally drop a brick off a building as you traipse down the sidewalk, you could electrocute yourself with a faulty coffeemaker.  You could think of all sorts of Rube Goldberg-esque systems resulting in death (the dog chased the cat, which ran up the tree, whose branch bent and knocked over a house’s security mirror, which reflected a bright beam of sunlight into the eyes of a passing cyclist, who rode off the edge of the road into a pond, which eventually led to his demise because it was filled with radioactive waste…).  Heck, there’s even a unit measuring the increased probability of death from various activities.

Some people confront the menace of death on a daily basis: war, old age, chronic illness, an inherently dangerous occupation.  Some are surprised by it: a shooting, an unexpected diagnosis, an accident, violent crime.  I’ve never considered myself particularly at risk, and I stand in awed respect of people who do live at such a point, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.  I live in a safe area; I don’t participate in extraordinarily dangerous activities; I take proper precautions to prevent bodily harm (e.g., using a seatbealt, wearing a helmet, not drinking and driving); I am relatively young and generally healthy.  Aside from the sort of freak accident I mentioned above, I would not consider myself a good candidate for dying at this point in time.

Today, I learned how real those freak accidents can be.

No, it wasn’t a near death experience.  Neither I nor anyone involved incurred any bodily harm (as far as I know).  As I said before, every day people truly face the prospect of death on a much more serious scale.  In specific, those who risk their lives as members of the armed forces, police officers, and firefighters have my utmost respect.  But the realization that I was a hairsbreadth from what could have been disastrous freaked me out.

I was driving home from some friends’ graduation party.  I’m familiar with the road–it’s right near where I went to school from seventh through twelfth grades.  Her house is located atop a hill; the road is straight with a speed limit of about forty miles per hour until it starts descending, where the curves and the slope force it down to twenty or 25 miles per hour.  I’m exceedingly careful going down the hill (about ten years ago a girl going down the hill at night drove off the road and crashed into the ravine at the bottom, where she was found eight days later in a coma, but thankfully alive) and only slightly less careful going up.

Red: steep uphill from left to right (top to bottom of image) Purple: the truck's path/trajectory Aqua: my path

Red: steep uphill from left to right (top to bottom of image)
Purple: the truck’s trajectory
Aqua: my path

It was the very end of the straight part of the road, right before the first curve and the descent.  I’d shifted from fourth to third, practicing my heel-toe shifting technique (still working on that).  Suddenly, a large, new-looking red truck appeared out of nowhere (evidently from just out of my line of sight down the hill and around the curve), literally went airborne, and landed on the ditch on my side of the road.  Facing me the entire time.  What. Just. Happened.

I didn’t even swear: in my surprise, I didn’t have enough words (or spare brain cells).  I shifted into neutral and hit the brakes (that’s one of the many reasons sticks are better than automatics: you can decelerate more quickly in an emergency by disengaging the gears).  As I started to pull forward, a smoky substance started to rise from the truck, which worried me until I realized it was the talcum powder from the airbags which had deployed despite the “landing” being relatively clean (right-side-up with no major frontal impact).  I made a last minute decision to pull into the last driveway before the hill; unfortunately, this may have been the world’s longest single-track gravel driveway, so it took a couple minutes before I could find a place to turn around to pull back onto the road and check on the driver.  By the time I reappeared, he had hopped out of his car and was on the phone, and another couple had stopped to make sure he was alright.  It seems that he was simply driving too fast at the end of the hill (where it becomes less steep, giving the false impression that it’s safe to accelerate) when he hit the curve, lost control, and over-corrected, somehow sending him airborne (not sure how that happened) across my lane and into the drainage ditch.  Oops.

If I’d been two seconds farther down the road, the flying crew cab truck would have been a flying projectile, which would have absolutely massacred the tiny Saab 9-3 I’m borrowing this summer.  Since the truck was coming from the opposite direction, it likely would have resulted in either a head-on collision or a driver’s-side impact collision.  And since I was still traveling a little less than 35 miles per hour and he must have been going faster than that, the resulting crash would not have been pretty.

Why was I not two seconds farther down the road?  There are a lot of possible reasons, but most notably, I normally speed on the straight part of that road (I know, I know…).  Today, I made the conscious decision not to speed for two reasons: firstly, yesterday, a former classmate posted a Facebook status about getting ticketed for going 65 in the left lane of a sixty zone, and secondly, it had just drizzled a bit after two days of sun and I thought the air smelt nice.  I remember reasoning as I pulled out of my friend’s street, “Well, the cops are kind of crazy, and I just want to smell the air, so there’s no harm in going the speed limit for once, since I don’t have anywhere to be.”  Had I been going five to ten miles per hour over the speed limit for the short distance from where my friend lives to the site of the crash, my car might have become the object of a live-action wrecking ball.

Another, slightly less serious thing I’m grateful for is that there wasn’t anyone following me closely from behind.  Though being rear-ended generally doesn’t result in death, it can bear some nasty bodily reparations (one of my teammates lost her junior and senior years of running due to whiplash), not to mention the damage incurred by the car.

As I began to realize exactly how close that had been, I had an odd thought: had I died right then and there, I would have been perfectly at peace.  Not in a suicidal sense, but in the sense that I had spent the day with people I love and was content with where I was in life.  A year and a half ago I wouldn’t have been able to say that.  As at peace as I might have been, I’m so thankful I’m alive.  Like most people, I wish I knew more about why I exist.  At the very least, I’m happy for the confirmation that I’m glad I do.

Right afterwards, I texted one of my best friends, who had been at the party.  Our exchange went like this (spelling and grammar corrected; ellipses as written):

Me: The dude in front of me just drove off ____ Hill Road… o_O  Good thing I didn’t leave 2 seconds earlier

Her: Yikes!  The hill itself??  Is he okay?

Me: I literally might have died… You know where you turn off to go to [mutual friend]’s house?  He was coming up the hill and literally flew off the road and landed in the ditch on the other side.  I was about to go down the hill, and I’m glad that a) I wasn’t any earlier because I would have been squished like an insect and b) that there was no one behind me.  Moral of this story?  Don’t speed down OR up ____ Hill.  And God is good.  He’s fine though.  Another moral is that adrenaline makes you extremely tachycardic

Her: Amen amen

Was it God?  Was it chance?  Luck?  Probability?  I don’t know.  But I do know that God is good.

In church today we sang the Chris Tomlin song Whom Shall I Fear.  After the incident, I turned on the Christian radio station because all of my normal stations (alternative, rock, hip hop/pop) were on advertisements.  Whom Shall I Fear was playing.  When I got back in my car this evening to run to the grocery store the song was on again.  (Admittedly, the Christian radio station here is notorious for repeating songs).  I doubt this song isn’t a divine message from Heaven or something, but the truth of its lyrics resound in my head and my heart:

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side