31 March 2006

My Aunt Jane was a world traveler.

She never knew it. The only place she ever traveled was London. And even that left her insanely homesick. She wasn't really much of one to explore the world--at least not until now.

Jane Blair Chapman, or Aunt Jane as she was known to me, died on May 19, 2004. I was devestated. So was the rest of my family. Aunt Jane was our matriarch since I can remember. In reality, she was more of a grandmother to me in role than Aunt. I adored her. She loved me.

I remember the day she died, the only thing I could find to express what I felt was this passage from Lamentations 1.16. "For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed."

It was true. The cancer won. I'm not sure any of us are over it. Maybe we won't ever be.

For the past week, I was lucky enough to spend time in both Budapest and Vienna. These cities were both beautiful, particularly Budapest. I had traveled to Vienna before, only in the snow the first time. This round found Vienna rather rainy and grey. Budapest, however, I had not previously visited.

Coming from the States, I knew very little about Hungary. They only thing I really associated with it were ideas of communism, the eastern block, and dispair (after all, the country was named Hungary). What I found was a laid back, thriving city--full of faded elegance and imperial majesty of days gone by.

We drove to Budapest first, leaving Copenhagen at 6:30 Friday night, driving through the night as well as the next day and arriving in Budapest (pronounced more like Budapesht) nearly 24 hours later at 530pm.

After that excruciatingly long, yet not miserable, bus ride, I found myself in a city full of charm. European facades loomed over wide avenues. And, it was warm! No need for a winter coat--a welcome change from Copenhagen's random weather patterns. I also found myself need a break from my companions. So, with a small group of friends, we headed out to explore the city by night.

I tried to be jovial, making jokes and laughing. Even joking about my major by quoting Bible verses like "I am the way, the truth and the life." But in reality, I needed space. A group of 3 or so had grown into 7 or 8. I did enjoy everyone's company, but there was part of me that just needed solititude.

I became irritated, and right when I thought I might have to say somthing, our group turned a corner and saw St. Stephen's Basillica looming over us, lit beautifully. Cue the choir of angels. It was amazing. I remember being in awe. We were on the backside of the massive stone edifice. As we made our way to the front, I, at least, was dumbfounded. Right above the entrance to the church were the words "I am the way, the truth and the life," in latin, of course, but still there. Perfect.

We ventured on to see the Danube (which I eventually got to hear the song inspired by the river...played beside river), and I realized what an amazing place and moment I was in. And I thought about Aunt Jane, and how beautiful it would be to her too.

As my time in Budapest and Vienna moved on, I decided to visit churches. I like going inside them because there is a connection to something so much greater than us in them. You feel attached to a history that just isn't present in the States. At many these churches, there are alters in side chapels which you can light candles and say prayers.

I lit candles for a safe journey home, for friends and family, but mostly for Jane. You see, she might not have traveled the world, but I am getting too. And each time I light a candle for her, I know that she is there with me.

My Aunt Jane is a world traveler.


21 March 2006

21 in Købehavn

So for those of you dying to know how my birthday was, which I'm sure was a mass of you, here is the scoop.

My two dads woke me around 7 am singing happy birthday (in English) and waving flags incesently. I promptly got up, walked into the kitchen as was served a Danish breakfast complete with grainy rye bread and snails (not the slow moving shelled creature, but, in essence, cinnamon rolls). They gave me a copy of one of our favorite cds, Piece By Piece by Katie Melua. The first night I stayed with them, we listened to this CD and its infectious melodies and powerful lyrics during dinner. The best song, in my opinion is Nine Million Bicycles--check it out. The table was covered with flags and breakfast was wonderful.

Next I had to go to class, but as I walked outside I took pictures of the Danish flag that was waving outside our apartment to commemorate my birthday. (Notice a flag theme). At school, I was offered many birthday greetings, and made my way through the two classes and the meeting that stood between me and my birthday dinner.

For dinner, Per cooked Wienerschnitzel (I know I didn't spell that correctly). The table was decorated beautifully with an amazing table cloth with (of course) a Danish flag design. A bottle of champagne and red wine later, I was heading out to meet friends and celebrate the American way.

Around 9:30 pm, about 25 of my good DIS friends convened on a student bar for cheap drinks and good times. We hung a classic Happy Birthday banner that my parents had sent me on the wall and hung out until the bar closed. We proceeded to the next bar, birthday banner in tow, and set up shop there until that bar closed at 2:30.

All in all, it was a great nigh with good friends and amazing memories. I missed the folks at home and those who seem to be an ocean away. All the same, turning 21 in Copenhagen was amazing.

An the celebration has yet to end...Here's to three weeks of travel break.


18 March 2006

Train Hopping.

Saturday, I went to see Viking Ships. Exciting, I know. Actually, I didn't see any ships, just the remains of 5 boats over 1,000 years old. I like seeing old things just like anyone else, and it was certainly enjoyable for the first couple hours. Eight hours later, on the bus ride back, I was exhausted. My friend, Andrea, and I dressed up as vikings, complete with fur and shields and we all had a genuinely fun time.

The morning started off rough. I was functioning on about 3 hours in bed (as my friend David would say, in bed isn't the same as asleep). He was right. It was St. Patrick's Day. No more needs to be said.

We didn't leave on time though. Many trains were delayed that morning as a man had thrown himself in front of one of the S-togs (s-trains) earlier in the morning at one of the city's busiest stations. Needless to say, things were a little held up. None of us non-danish speakers were aware of what was going on until one of our professors made the announcement.

For the period of the next 24 hours, I thought that the man was dead--an attempted and successful suicide. Well, I can gladly report, that the man apparently (1) didn't throw himself infront of the train, he fell (because he was drunk...) and (2) he isn't dead, but alive with minor injuries. Whew. Thank goodness.

Overall the weekend was a good one. I had some close friends over for birthday tacos, which I must say, were delicious, and conversation. They even surprised me with a tasty homemade chocolatecoconuthazelnut cake on which we placed a tea light and a tiny American flag. (I dunno, Danes are big on flags and birthdays together.) After a pleasant evening of sleep, waking up on time, and a nice hot shower, I am prepared for the week.

Just one more week until travel break, so I am counting down the days. Budapest, here I come!


16 March 2006

Weekend Excitement...

Last night, I realized that it had been a rather long time since I last updated the Dog Dooner Cafe'. As I thought about what I should write about, I came to the conclusion that nothing truly exciting is going on to tell. And, in a way, that's kind of nice. I've found a routine now, going back and forth to class, drinking tea in charming (albeit smoky) cafes, and genuinely having a swell time.

This past weekend did show me some excitement. Friday Night/Saturday Morning I was hanging out with some friends in the city, dancing and just having a good time. I should preface this story with some explanation about nightlife in Købehavn. First off, it runs much later than in the States. Things don't really get started until at least midnight, if not later and generally clubs and bars keep rockin' until around 5 in the morning.

That being said, it was around 3:30 am Saturday morning and my DIS friend, Malyna and my Danish friend, Martin, and I were at a fun little bar called Cozy Bar. We had just gotten a drink and were surveying the scene, when what happened? A fight.

Well, needless to say, I was terrified. Coming from Atlanta, and not really ever enjoying the bar scene before, I had only heard of bar fights gone bad exaggerated by WSB-TV and my parents. My initially reaction when my friends and I heard screams in Danish (which is far scarier than English screaming) was something along the lines of "ohmygodwe'regonnadie." I was totally prepared to haul out of that bar, thinking that bullets would start flying (remember, I am from Atlanta. Us country folk have all sorts of assumptions about you city people). Before we actually decided that we should go, the two bartenders had four guys in head locks (pretty impressive) and had thrown them out, slammed the door, and promptly thrown the deadbolt. We were stuck.

Now, I'm not one to genuinely freak out, but as the people who were thrown out began to run at the door, slam into it, and shriek, I must admit I was a tad worried. Not to mention the fact that we were LOCKED IN. I looked to my friend Malyna and questioned "Isn't this a fire hazard?" No, I'm not American. Not at all.

Needless to say, the police came, and everything was OK. Guns are illegal in Denmark, and they have a really effective system of keeping them out of bad hands.

The next morning, I looked back on that experience and wondered if that is what America had done to me? Has it made me so ancy when I go out as to genuinely be concerned about being shot? Surely, there's a line between awareness and fear.

The rest of my weekend was rather uneventful. Thankfully.

We are in the middle of midterms. So to all you Elon folk, I have little sympathy. Also, I know your spring break is coming. Enjoy your week off. I'll be thinking about you during my three weeks off touring Europe.

And, just by chance you were still wondering, yes, it's still cold. But I'm okay with it now. To quote my friend Summer "Sometimes, I think it's beautiful."


09 March 2006


The only class bordering on religion that I am taking this semester is about Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard, a Danish religious philosopher, was a prolific writer and serious thinker. He wrote texts such as Fear and Trembling, The Sickness Unto Death, and The Concept of Irony (his dissertation). Notice a trend? Perhaps a little bit of a downer? Maybe on the surface.

But what Kierkegaard is able to do, is delve into human interaction and nature. He questions the vailidity of our lives, wondering what, exactly, reality is.

Currently, in class, we are reading a book called Either-Or. Or in Danish, Enten-Eller. To understand the title, you first have to understand the usage of Enten-eller. It might be best translated into current American vernacular as "whatever." When are we going to dinner--five or seven? Enten-eller. Whenever. I don't care. Either-or.

This book's construction is complex with multiple "authors" all of which are singular, yet pulled together by a single author who compiles their letters, notes, and jourals. Confusing? Tell me about it.

But what is particularly fascinating is the front that Kierkegaard has one of his characters present to those who go through life with an "either-or" attitude. Kierkegaard questions what the point, then, is if one is to face life through the eyes of a mind focused on "either-or." In living in such a way, he claims, we can never really know others because we end up never truly knowing ourselves. We will never be able to love, because somewhere in ourselves, there is some fear--and love does not include fear.

The author of 1 John writes something similiar. In chapter 4 (verse 18), he writes "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love."

So, then, if we fear, where is the love? And if we love, how can we still fear? And if we claim we love our neighbors, how can we still fear them?

If we love the sinner, then why do we fear the sin to the point that we are supposed to hate the transgression?

The obvious answer to this is that there is a difference between "perfect love" and "love."

But is that a reason to keep from craving perfect love? Should we just settle and call it a day?

Or should we keep searching for perfect love and make it our life's ambition?

06 March 2006

Cold Ears (or, How I never remember to wear a hat)

It is 2:38 pm in Købehavn.

And it is snowing. Surprise.

Last night when it was snowing, it was snow of the magical sort--flying sideways and upways and every-other ways that you can think of. It wasn't a blizzard, just snow floating on wind. It was pretty and I was inside, so it was even prettier.

My biggest qualm with snow is that it's wet. Duh, jon. Obviously. Well, see, this wet part, it catches me by surprise. Every morning, I leave the apartment thinking that maybe, just maybe, it might warm up. The trick comes after noon, because it is then, inevitably, that the weather goes significantly downhill. Previously breezy days turn into windstorms, and snow that was sparingly lilting from the sky now hits you hard on every exposed part of your body. Then it melts. So not only are you cold, but you are wet.

And because my eternal hope always gets the better of me, I never seem to remember a warm hat outside.

Granted, this makes coming into any building or shelter surprisingly satisfying. It also makes you exceedingly happy for dry clothes and the amazing pre-warmed tiles found in most Danish bathrooms.

The snow isn't really that bad, and it can only make the spring all the sweeter. It's just that trudging through snow can't really be compared to lollygagging through the sun, the latter being much preferred.

But snow is part of the deal. You got of live through the ice and snow to get to the flowers and birds.

Here's to making it quick!

03 March 2006


I'm never quite sure what to think when I hear the word "behold." When I read it, I often find myself chuckling. Most of the time, I find it in Biblical texts and as I'm reading through the various verses, I see that word and suddenly imagine some Hebrew superhero flying through the sky and someone yelling "behold!"--sort of an archaic "is it a plan? NO, it's Superman." Other times, I read it as a warning "behold, you better move your lazy ass or it's gonna get run over." And there are more meanings.

Everytime I see the word, it's to get someone's attention. Almost a verbal splash of cold water. Hey, you. Behold. Look here. Now. Pay Attention.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, says "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43.19)

When the angel Gabriel came to Mary in the annunciation texts, we witness "Behold" in a new light--one of grace and hope. That "behold" is beckoning Mary to listen with care, for her life is about to be changed.

How often are we told to "behold," and only respond with a passing glance and a mere 'eh?'

01 March 2006

Easter People.

Two friends and I were discussing our various religious traditions today at lunch. The subject of Communion came up. I'd thought about Communion and its meanings before, but the discussion at this meal challenged me to elaborate. Here were some thought (old and new) that I came up with.

It was Communion Sunday. All the words were said and the baskets filled. And as the choir stood to sing, the congregation readied itself to enter the place of Communion. Expecting an ornate choral selection, the congregation was surprised by what they heard. It was a simple tune with simplistic notions. No large swells or dramatic pauses, plain harmonies. The words paralleled the simple structure. It began “At the table of the Lord bread is broken, At the Table of the Lord, we are fed, We remember now the words that Christ has spoken, ‘this is my body,’ He said.”

When I was growing up, I always thought Communion was fun. It was the one Sunday a month where it was perfectly acceptable to eat in Church, not to mention the fact that my fruit juice of choice was always served. I knew that it was special, but for different reasons than I recognize now.

I grew up in a tradition in which Communion was highly symbolic. As Jesus requested, we did it to remember him. But as I evolved in my own faith, I realized that Communion is hardly just a memorial that we do weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

On a planning retreat a little over a year ago, my peers and I were eagerly scheduling events for the coming semester. Our advisors jumped in the process with us—as eager to plan as we were. But it was tiring and we all went to bed exhausted. The next morning we students awoke hungry, but our advisors would not allow us to prepare our breakfast. Instead they insisted we wait in the common room. Sleepily, we obliged.

They came into our meeting room with a loaf of bread and cup of juice. That morning, before the craziness of planning and brainstorming, before even the satisfaction of pancakes, we were afforded an even more simplistic satisfaction. We were served the Eucharist. It was the first nourishment we experienced that day—physically and spiritually. We were embraced in the commonality of our beginning and encouraged to acknowledge each other as a beloved child of God.

Communion is so much more than a simple act, a simple memory. It is remembrance of the reason for our life. In taking the bread and wine we are renewed in the most fundamental reality of our Christian lives—that we are an Easter people.

Taking the bread and wine, we are reminded that Jesus did die. He did suffer a horrible death imposed by a ungracious people in a harsh world. As we share the simple feast, we are reminded that we are part of that ungracious people and we are still living in that harsh world.

But in the Eucharist is also the truth that the world did not end on Good Friday. Christ died. But He rose. Communion often entrenches guilt on those who partake of the feast. Breaking the bread and drinking the juice reminds them of the suffering of Christ. Communion is much more than a time of mourning. The Eucharist is a grateful meal—one eaten with respectful remembrance and hopeful joy. Yes, Jesus died. Hear the good news! He rose. The Table of Lord is open to us. We are an Easter People.

Every year on Ash Wednesday many faithful attend services to have the ashes imposed and to begin the season of Lent which leads up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course, Easter. Oftentimes, it is a somber service. A time of remembering the sacrifces made by Christ as we approach his crucifixion and his resurrection.

Tradition is that in Lent, we try to deny ourselves of something paralleling Christ's 40-day temptation, but also reminding us of our everyday challenges. We try to give up something, but rarely are we ever truly successful. I used to find that fact extremely irritating. I would think "I'm trying so hard..." But that's the point. We try desperately to change, to follow Christ, to find God, but we're human. And in our humanity, we can only hope. The key, then, is the hope in the reconciliation we find to God through Christ.

We aren't supposed to succeed on our own. Through grace we are transfigured and given strength.

And as we wind our way through Lent and approach Easter Sunday, our need for that connection through Christ becomes more apparent to us. We realize we can't do it on our own. We realize we need help.

And just when we are ready to give up, in the midst of the darkness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we see the dawn of the third day coming. And we know it's going to be alright.

Each time I share the bread and the cup with my friends and family, I remember the sacrifice, the dispair. But I also am reminded of hope and light. Grace and reconciliation and justice flow through that cup and are mixed in with the bread dough. We partake in those ideas and they nourish us as much as the juice and grains supplement our diets.

I take Communion and feel whole again.

That's what communion symbolizes to me.