Monday, November 30, 2009

here's my heart / thankful

Tonight was amazing, and God is so good. I'll tell you what. I love my church. And, and oh goodness, well I don't even know how to start this blog so I'm just gonna kind of go for it.

First, there was an amazing quote about giving thanks and Thanksgiving by Abraham Lincoln that Pastor Jeff read at church tonight and I've looked for the last twenty or so minutes and I can't find one that includes all of what was read, but if I can put that up later, I will. And I realized that the lyrics to Come Thou Fount are incredible. He was talking about how we go to God with things and ask him to come through and then he does and then later we do it again and he comes through again, and that goes on and sometimes we forget to really thank God for all the things he does in our lives, all the ways he blesses us.

He referenced a pretty cool place in 1 Samuel (7:2-17) where the Israelites have been really comfortable with all the ways God has blessed them and start to turn away from him and they're worshiping these idols and all of that. And Samuel comes in and says that if they're really going to return to the Lord with all their hearts, they can't serve the other gods anymore, they can only serve him. So they do that and all gather together at Mizpah to worship him and right around that time the Philistines decide they're coming after them again and long story short, Samuel's praying for them, he doesn't even stop, and God saves them in a crazy way. So after that, Samuel says that they should remember that moment, and so they build a monument to acknowledge and thank God for what he did for them.

So I tend to swing back and forth on the things. This is true in general, but especially so in God stuff, and slowly I'm becoming more consistent. One of the ways I'm still trying to get there is being thankful for the things he does for me. If I think about stuff, I'll be thankful in that moment, but I'm not thankful all the time, and I'll go whole stretches without saying, look at these things you have done for me, God! Thank you for blessing me and growing me and teaching me and bringing me closer to you all the time. One of my favorite verses, Psalm 30:11-12, which I put up the other day, says:

You tuurned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed
me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be
silent.
Oh Lord my God, I wil give you thanks
forever.

Oh Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever. Forever. Man. I love that, and the thing is, I totally want that. I want to be forever thanking my God.

We came home after church, Alicia and I and our friends Matt and Chris, and we were intending to pray about the evangelism thing we've got coming up (this Thursday! yikes! so close!) and we ended up having this crazy amazing talk about the message, talking about all the things God has done in our lives. And he has done so much. I was going to do a post over Thanksgiving, because I've never actually done one and for various other reasons, the obligatory I-am-thankful-for post, and I just ended up not doing it. The driving home post was forefront, but I'm wondering now if it's not too late.
Lately, I feel like God's been doing a lot of pointing out places in me in which he could be bigger, he could be better glorified. There's been a lot of reevaluating and reorganizing and a lot of putting a-shaped things through b-shaped places, and it'd go on way too long to get into now, but it's pretty awesome. It's hard, but it's good, it's God. And I'm so thankful for it.

There's a ton more I'm thinking about. There are the big things, the things where he's done the life-changing things, and in those places I've learned some of who he is, how he is. He's my rescuer, my father. He's hope for new life, redemption, and he's endlessly, infinitely good. And I'm learning more now about his grace, about how he is graceful, and it won't come easily but it is coming, and I'm understanding more, seeing more.

Whatever this is, I am thankful for it, and even if I'm still getting there, learning and growing and all of that, God is consistent and he's bringing me more and more toward him, and that's certainly something to be thankful for.


Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love...
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
(from Come Thou Fount)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the trip home

It was the nicest trip home it's ever been, I think, if I can say that without it being too weird. Weird for me, I mean. It was nice. And I had a good time. Driving to my mom's was something else entirely, headed west and the whole left side of the world this crazy dark blue and dark purple pink, a combination of colors I've actually only ever seen on fabric. There's this shirt or pair of something that Alicia has that I'm thinking of and the craziest thing was that there it was, stretched across the sky, everything else that was natural dark.

And then I was listening to something, I don't even know, some Relient K song, I think. Yes! The end of Deathbed, just singing out in the dark and sometimes I feel like it's meant to be exactly like that, just singing out. Reminds me of Romania, the mountains. God like a color I'd never seen before.

And then my car started making crazy noises, and I turned down my music to listen to it, praying and making sure I could hear if the bottom did fall out of my car. And after a little while it just quit altogether, the sounds I mean, not the car. And so it was quiet, just the road sound and I was having God time, and that was nice because I think too much in the car to ever really do that.

And then--in some ways the drive home might have been a trip, double meanings there intended--when I hit Raleigh the traffic got really busy, except we didn't slow down all that much. So going sixty-five or so, not able to see anything beyond all the tail lights all around me and guessing at the way the road went, basically blind except for the cars around me and the small space in between them and mine. Feeling like I was flying going that fast with cars so close. And the whole time, all I could think was it felt just like I was on Rainbow Road, you know the one on Mario Kart N64? And that level was scary, I always went flying off the edges, and my car pulls really badly to the left and once when I was looking through cds I almost drove off the road, nearly over-corrected, and felt my car's back tires do something. No idea how I didn't roll my car. Bigger cars flying past me like red turtle shells. Craziest thing.

And then being at my mom's was pretty good. Not one fight or argument, just all three of us living together and working at it and hanging out. My brother's doing well, at least at home. There's so much I want for him, and if I could have taken him home with me, brought him to Lifepoint with me, I would have. A lot of questions come up here, but I love that kid and that's all I'm really thinking about now. We got a good picture together on my phone and now it's my background and I kept looking at it as I drove. The word hope is my banner, and I think it fits with his picture behind it.

On the drive back last night, the sunset was completely different. Still really dark, the whole rest of the sky, but really orange in my rearview mirror. Dark orange, like something burning, all the telephone poles and buildings and trees drawing dark lines upward against it. Just silhouette and sky. Glowing, again, but not like the kind that really lights up anything. Just glow, no long shadows. Maybe you see a second of it on someone's face or a flash in a reflection, something fast. That's what I feel like now, already looking back on heading home, how somehow it turned out perfect, this glow and all I can do it is look at it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

to clarify

Because several people have pointed this out to me since the post about grace, I thought it was important to clarify: I am not miserable. If you're someone who's around me regularly and know how I generally am when we see each other, it really helps to balance things out. The problem is that what I write on my blog very disproportionately represents me, since all it is is how I am when I write. And I am an emo writer, sometimes, nearly all the time when it's at night that I'm writing. I can bounce off the walls all day and when I'm around people, but if it's quiet and I'm by myself and in my head, and add to that being chill, low-energy, reflective and you get the sort of blogs I put up. I'd noticed it a bit earlier, so I was going to try to write less at night, more in the morning and all, but I'm definitely a creature of habit (and of schedule, school and work tending to dictate at least a rough structure for my days). But yeah. I just thought I should clarify.

The thing with blogging for me is just that it's so cathartic and once I make sense of things on paper--even if they tend to sound sad or hopeless--all the rest, the parts that matter like hope and God's goodness, they just shine. And that's the thing. Whether I'm frustrated or overjoyed, that's the constant--God's hope and his goodness. And I think I'd like there to be more of that in my blog, because it's exactly what I want to be living out of.

And that said, thanks for caring enough to say something, to look out for me. It really does mean a lot to me. And as always, thanks for reading.

from la biblia

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not
perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the desert
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
--Isaiah 43:18-21

He said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display
my splendor."
--Isaiah 49:3

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackclothed and clothed
me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be
silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks
forever.
--
Psalm 29:11-12

But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you yet more and more.
--Psalm 71:14

Monday, November 23, 2009

ungraceful

Oh boy. Well, this one's been a long time coming, and now, just now, at 2:33 in the morning between me and Alicia and the Holy Spirit flowing like crazy, we've got at something. I wanted to write about a week or so ago about how selfish I've been realizing I am. It's a lot of different things that have been happening, and it's strange because in some ways I'm the opposite, but I have to explain that and this is just so much at once, so. Let's see if we can do this.

Problem number one: selfishness. This one encompasses a ton of other things, but generalities first. I'm thinking about how I always write about myself, and I'm certainly always thinking about myself. This is aggravated by the fact that I'm so introspective, which I don't think is a bad thing, and it's certainly an area where God is working and I do believe he will use to glorify himself, this not being about changing my personality or anything (I don't think I'd be able to write if I weren't so introspective). I was listening to Alicia talk the other day about how she was praying for these different people and I realized that, while I do pray for other people some, and while it is genuine, I pray mostly about myself. What's going on in my life, how God's working in that, what I need help with, and me me. I write that stuff out. I talk about it in discipleship. This is just another example of how Alicia and I are so alike and so different, and complement each other in a very yin and yang sort of way. In this area, she's super compassionate, and after a little while, I'm quick to become selfish, to lose patience.

Immersing in other cultures, listening to people--in these ways, while I'm only good at these things because of God, I go on my own steam. And I can go a little while that way, but it does not last. It was never meant to. Of course, I was never meant to do any of this without God. I'm thinking about a specific moment with my friend who isn't a Christian. And for a while I cared so much about her and was praying for her and having these conversations and all of that, and in some ways she would be open, but she kept putting up a wall and I kept running against it. Enter patience on my own steam. And it worked, for a while. But then one night, it just pushed right over my limit (my limit being exactly what the word is, very limited). We were having a conversation and, in fewer words, she basically told me she'd rather be ignorant and selfish about all the really terrible things that happen in the world, because she didn't want to feel guilty about having it so good here. And there was some stuff about how she doesn't need anyone--she's one of the most self-reliant, independent, never wants to need anyone ever people I've met, which is problematic because how do you realize you need Jesus if you don't think you need anyone? And I just got so frustrated, so angry at her. Partly because I just threw in the towel at her resistance to anything to do with needing people and God (which is pretty silly of me, but just laying it out here) which reads: running out of patience. And that frustration turned into not really caring to be around her which led to me being passive aggressive and being a terrible friend in so many different ways and selfishness.

I do this thing when I hit this limit with people. I get fed up (so quickly) and I just don't care anymore. I'm done with it, moved on, over it. Well, whatever then.

Problem number two: I am keeping things removed from me, keeping my heart incredibly guarded and walled up, and I didn't even realize it until about a week ago. It's sort of typical for me I guess, but I thought I was doing okay. I can talk about all the crazy things that have happened in my life with little reservation. I'll go there with people, I love having conversations about real, hard stuff, getting into people lives and hearts. But I've written before about how I felt so distant from that, like Dave Eggers and the shed snake skin. And then the thing that came up a couple of weeks ago about not holding things too closely, about really hard things happening and being okay, too okay, nearly immediately.

Realization: I am not letting my heart into things and I am not letting things into my heart. I thought I was, but I am not. Not at all. I was talking to another friend recently and I realized I'd been this way since breaking up with my ex. Which sounds ridiculous, I've never been one of those people and pretentious Sara, the one with no patience for people who use things as excuses not to grow, has always thought I'd never be that way, whatever would happen to me. But I think about how hard that whole thing was for me, how I held onto it for months and months, just hurt and bitterness like it would never quit. And I know that before, living with my mother, things were so difficult and I can remember how hard they were, how I didn't know if I could get through it. So I know that things have been close to my heart before. And then I think about the first genuinely difficult thing after all of that, when I met my dad in December, and how all that went so wrong. But it was never hard. I mean, it was, but it wasn't close. I skipped along the surface of that thing the whole time, and I never realized it, not until nearly a year later. Of course I can shoulder through, I can keep going with life because life keeps going when I don't let anything near enough to me to catch me. How I did that, how I have been doing that without having coming to this realization sooner absolutely blows my mind.

And it's incredibly easy to let things go, to drop them when I run out of patience if I haven't ever really invested my heart in them. I'm not talking about burning bridges or anything. What I mean is caring, how it's easy to quit caring and to say fine, forget it, I'm done when you never really cared well to begin with. You know?

Here's the part that really blows my mind. I'm saying patience, I'm writing patience, but really it's grace, grace masquerading as patience. That's the problem. And bam! Haven't I just started to realize this? How I do not come anywhere close to understanding grace. How I have so much trouble receiving God's grace. I've got a limit, but he does not. He does not. The problem is a grace problem. And if I can't receive, how on earth do I expect to give it?

I'm not sure how this ties in with unguarding my heart some, although I know it absolutely does. I know that God is working here, and he does not want me to be this way. He doesn't want me to be so mean and selfish and quick to quit. And he wants me to rely on him for all this, for giving people grace, for having patience. I can do a little on my own steam, but that's just it, it's only ever a little and I could never really do it unless he is doing it through me. So I have to let him do that. I have to let him pour his grace out on me first, I have to accept forgiveness and give him these places where I'm selfish and ungraceful and bitter, and he's got to be the one to unguard my heart some, because after all, it's his.

It is his. And it is a mess. And I feel like something big's coming, I've been feeling like this for a while now, and I'm so scared, but how do I learn to give hard, really hard things to God if I just deal with them (by not letting them touch me) myself? It's like asking for patience and expecting to just get it. Sometimes I don't really know how to give things to God, and it's especially true with this in that I never realized I wasn't putting my heart into certain things. How do I put my heart into something when I thought I was all along? How do I learn to be graceful? I know it's accepting God's grace first, but if knowing it meant my heart did, then this wouldn't be the problem.

I should have ended it a paragraph ago, but I just pray you would pour out your grace on me, Father, that you would help me to understand how to be loved by you, how to love other people and to forgive, how to trust you and put my heart into things so you can be glorified in them. I know that I am so tired of realizing how much of a mess I am, how selfish I am but I trust you, God, I know you're growing me and I don't even know what to do with it most times but right there, in that right there, God I pray you would press me into yourself, that I would lean into you and it would be just like what you want, you saving me from hard stuff. I don't even know, God I just. That's what I want, my heart to be yours, and I've been dancing around everything with this awful pretense of loving people and sharing life and learning to love you, but that's not something that can be done without the heart, and it is yours, God, I want it to be yours.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

shadrach, meshach, and to bed we go

It's Pre-Turkey Day today, and right now everyone in the house is running around and everything is crazy and I've got a whole ton of macaroni to make later. John Mark McMillan is playing and more than anything I just want to go somewhere quiet and close the door and just be there a little while. We're going to have probably forty or fifty people packed into the apartment and it's all gonna be crazy and loud and everything going on at once, and part of me knows that yes, this is where good things happen. And I'm excited for that. But right now I just want to go somewhere where I can be quiet without people asking me what's wrong.

I'm thinking about the story in Daniel, the one where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego get thrown into the furnace, and it's not really related at all to right now except that I'm thinking about it. I had a roomie date with Alicia Thursday night and we talked about it, and my staffworker and I talked about it a couple of weeks ago, and all I can think is wow. They said, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18) Even if he doesn't save us, our God is still big and mighty, he is still our God.

I was thinking about how when I mess up, or I'm in hard place and I need God's help, but I got there because of my own sin, I feel like I can't go to God with that. That I got myself there by being disobedient, and I'll have to get myself back out. And that is not true at all, that is a lie. Keeping in mind that, while I understand grace in that I can explain it someone else, I do not live out of the fact that I live under the constant grace and mercy of my King. And this is bad news. Especially when I don't go to him with things because they're my fault. I've said it before, and I am forever learning it: if he's the God of my life, then he is the God of my whole life, of the parts where I'm not deserving (all of it) and where I'm not good enough and the parts that aren't clean and pretty. And the good, too. Really, all of it.

I don't know when I'm going to get it through my head (read: through my heart) how freeing that really is. The thing is, even though I know I can't, I want so badly just to please my Father, to be good for him, to bring him something worth all this love he has for me, worth him saving me. You see this? As if I could earn it, and I can't, I know it. But there it is. I want to be good enough. I want to hear 'well done, good and faithful servant.'

I think the word in there I need to hear is faith. Just trusting God with all of it. Being able to stand and say, my God will save me! And even if he doesn't, he is still my God, the God of my whole life and everything else is just.. what is everything else, anything else next to my God?

That is how I want to live, out of what I want to live. Not out of shame or guilt or laziness or bitterness. I want to live out of complete abandonment to my God, my King.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pasare de noapte

So tired. Like, barely able to function tired. And probably going to get a D in a class now tired. This is equal parts bad time management, effects of seeing Paranormal Activity, and as of last night, creepy freaking people. I was talking to my Romanian friend last night and I said that I was becoming nocturnal, and he said they had a saying in Romanian, and that I was a night bird. Pasare de noapte. I like it, and it's prettier than night owl, for sure.

On the one hand, it works. If I'm awake all night then I don't ever have to be scared about sleeping, because I don't get scared sleeping during the day. But going to bed at night has been a struggle for about a month now. I was going to write a whole post about this let me just say that seeing a movie about something you know bothers you, messes you up--it's just bad news, don't do it. Because images from that movie will stick with you and you will be scared every time you try to sleep and you won't sleep well, and I could get into the spiritual effects of a movie like Paranormal Activity but it boils down to, for me, some things I'm just really sensitive to, anything to do with demons being one of those, and I have to be careful what I put in my mind. Lesson learned, although I already knew it, the expense being little good sleep for the last month.

So that said, my sleeps schedules have been pretty thrown off anyway. And I do tend to be more nocturnal. One of the only things that keeps me from being awake all night and sleeping most of the day when I'm not in school is having to be at work at nine a.m. Good structure always helps me, but now I've gotten to the part of the semester where I'm burned out and really don't care about school anymore and when I'm not working or in class, I'm hanging out with my friends and getting nothing done. This weekend, for example: stayed awake all night hanging out Saturday night, went to see the sunrise and got breakfast, then slept a couple of on and off hours and went to the evening service at church. And then we all ended up hanging out again and it was 4:30 or so before I went home. Again, great for not having to worry about being scared--if I'm awake all night with people, no problem. And if the sleeping I do starts when it's just getting light out, same thing. So all of our sleep schedules have been so thrown off at this point that we're just dragging. This part is totally on me. Again, just bad time management and being convinced I can go on less sleep than I can.

But then, last night. I knew I was going to be up late working on a presentation due this morning anyway, but I was ready to just shoulder through it. And then around 2:00 or so, I hear tapping on the sliding glass door next to me. Ignored it, it happened again. Sort of gave a shifty glance in the direction of the door, figured it was my neighbor Sara and that she could go around to the front door and not be creepy, but then I heard the knock again. So I grabbed my phone and had my thumb on the nine, and of course it being really dark outside and the lights turned on inside, I couldn't see anything. Keep in mind we have (vertical) blinds and they stay closed at night, but one of the blinds is missing and since our apartment won't replace it, technically you'd be able to see in through that part at night.

Well I opened the door, thinking it was Sara, but it was definitely not Sara. It was some random dude, two in the morning, introducing himself and telling me he sometimes sees me through the blinds on my computer and just generally being really creepy. Problem is, I sleep on the couch next to the blinds most nights, and while I almost always have the lights off when I sleep, lately I've slept a few nights with it on because I've been scared. And who knows how long old dude (actually he was young) has been 'seeing me through the blinds.' So my friend came over, knife in hand if you'd believe it, and sat with me a while. And I finished up my project, and probably got two hours of sleep, tops.

As far as being a pasare de noapte, I don't mind that, although my body probably doesn't even know what circadian rhythm means anymore, and I wish I could catch up on sleep without missing out on the things I'm responsible for. So we'll see. The goal tonight is a full night's sleep. And a nap when I go home from work for lunch. And one before small group. And probably by the time next Tuesday night comes, I'll be in full out coma mode, and that's before I even eat turkey.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

quote-of-the-day

"I am a nomad - a wanderer; I have nowhere to lay my head down. There’s no point in putting roots too deep when I’m moving on. I’m not settling for this unsettling town. My heart is filled with songs of forever - Of a city that endures, where all is made new. I know I don’t belong here; I’ll never call this place my home, I’m just passing through."
--Thrice

Friday, November 13, 2009

hope this one gets updated

So. Today I was going to get Jack. I still may get Jack today, but probably not. I sent an email this morning to the woman whose cats they are, just to confirm and all, and it turns out they disappeared in the storm. We don't know where or if she carried them off, but mostly I just hope they're okay. All that to say, currently, getting Jack is pending. I think probably when it dries out a bit the momma cat will bring them back. Hoping.

I was telling my roommate that when she got home this morning and she pointed out that it is Friday the thirteenth, after all. Not that I'm particularly concerned, but you know what they say. And it's been such a weird say already. I took my other roommate to school this morning and because she was running late and I didn't have time to change. I'd slept in this giant tshirt/sort of nightgownish because it comes almost to my knees thing and I just ran out to the car with her in that and flipflops. And some funky hair. And of course it's just to school and back and no one's going to see me and if someone does, oh well. But then when I got back to the apartment and I was walking to the door, my Costa Rican neighbor/maintenance dude (not Jaime, he's the Colombian) saw me and goes 'ooooooooooooooh.' Now, he always messes with me, but in a friendly ha-ha neighbor way. But either way, oh dear gracious. So embarrassing.

Also, I missed yesterday. Had a headache and fell asleep after work and slept all night. And apparently blogger has deleted a post of mine, the la historia de juan one, so I'm just sort of waiting for that one to come back. And refreshing my email. Kind of a passive day for me, so far. But passive works, says the roommate who's reminding me about Friday the thirteenth.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

oh, ida

It's been a wet one, for sure. We've got flood watches up now, I think, and we're supposed to get ten or eleven inches. This city floods like nothing else. Poor city planning, mostly, although here in the sub-tropical we do get a fair amount of rain, at least in the summer. One time this past summer we had this huge storm, and it poured--not just rained--for something like six hours straight. I don't remember exactly what the numbers were, of course, but I sat at my back door, blinds drawn open, and just watched the water rise behind our apartment. It always floods there when it rains, but that time it kept getting higher and I watched it flood over the patios and into the other apartments. I don't know if it'll happen again this time. I can't tell, it's so dark. Probably not, but just thinking about that.

It's been a strange one, too. It's been dark since I got up and it never really lit up much. Felt like six or seven all day today. I like it, though. And then in senior seminar tonight, the proofs for our anthology were handed out. I've seen things I've written printed before--a few contests before college, Atlantis, nothing prestigious or anything like that. Just little places. And I know the anthology our class puts together is nothing big either, and although I'm almost certain it won't have a barcode or anything like that, it will be printed in a book. And while it's exciting to few other than those of us printed in it, that's the closest thing anything I've written has ever looked to what it might look like one day, should I ever get published. Pretty exciting. Makes me want to write for real.

And the most exciting thing: I'm getting a kitty! I've wanted one for years, and I've been putting it off and talking myself out of it for various reasons, but I finally said yes. Little baby grey and white thing and I'm gonna call him Jack, after C. S. Lewis. I'll post pictures on here when I get him, which will hopefully be sometime Friday.

Aaaaaand now, I'm not sure how to end this post. Been typing and retyping and trying to ignore blogger for the last fifteen minutes or so, so I guess this is part where I just stop typing. Night, y'all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"let us fix our eyes on Jesus"

All right, with the assurance that the hiding-under-the-blanket-because-I-wasn't-wearing-pants post is coming--I really am not very good at writing blogs when I've got other things on my mind, and I just haven't sat down to do it clear-minded yet--here comes the processing.

The thing is, I am sad. For a friend of mine, because of the ways that none of us do anything anywhere close to perfectly, and because sometimes things just don't go down very well. I know that being obedient to God is foremost, and that he doesn't promise that that won't be hard, only that his will is to be done, and that it is infinitely better than any plans or even hopes of our own. The problem is that sin gets in the way of everything. Our own and everyone else's. It's hard for me to logic this out, because on the one hand I know we are free from sin, we are no longer bound by it. But that doesn't mean that I don't find myself reaching back for it every day. And it is messy. Even in submission and obedience to God, sin's still hanging out making a mess of everything. It's ruining relationships, growing up bitterness, and mostly, even in the good we try to do--even the good that doesn't feel good or look good or seem good to all involved--it's there pointing us in every direction we could go except toward God.

How do you point to scripture and say, this is how God would have it, this is what he says to do when you yourself don't live up to it? Accepting that none of us do, and that whatever standard or hope there is lies in Christ, how could we shrug off our own sin by pointing at the sin of others? Isn't the whole point that none of us are good or are worthy on our own, and that we are fully and desperately in need of God? Of course I am not good, of course I screw up, and the same is true of every person, and I don't claim anything otherwise. If we duck out that way though, we miss out on the whole point of the need for salvation.

I was thinking earlier about how before I'd sometimes have a hard time relating to the Christ part of the trinity, which really makes no sense since it's so vital. But I never really felt convicted of how much I needed him. I was thankful, certainly, as much as I suppose you could be without really understanding. But I always thought I was a pretty okay person, and while I can get mean, I was doing all right, and was growing, which was important. I never really realized the weight of sin and how badly it can screw things up and how, that one time I got really drunk and threw up everywhere or the other day when I lied to my teacher, those things on their own would keep separated from God forever if not for Christ. How desperate a situation I am in without my God.

If my heart breaks for my friend--and it does--it doesn't do it without first realizing how badly I fail to measure up. Being sinful and imperfect doesn't keep us from being able to help one another, to point each other back toward Christ. I feel like that's the whole point of relationships, in the end. And when we point everywhere else, at everyone else and gather to ourselves every little thing, hold it all in until there's nothing but bitterness and anger and lashing out, then we miss the entire point of the Gospel. We should be looking to Christ, and pointing one another there too, or else we are completely swept away by sin and all the hurt and mess it causes. Don't look at me or other people, or even the people you think are good, because if you base your faith in Christ on the people who follow him, you'll end up empty handed.

Right now I am sad and frustrated because I'm feeling pretty much like there is nothing I can do, and of course there isn't, but it's hard. If the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then I realize that unjust anger and bitterness are not of God. And I also realize that it's me screwing all that up as much as anyone else. And the whole point is that none of us can plug up his ears, and there is nothing edifying about pointing at one another--you see? We are to be pointing each other toward God, looking toward him ourselves, even if we do that badly and in the midst of sin, and there's no getting around the fact that that's how it will go.

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."Heb. 12:15

And "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."Heb. 12:1-2

Sunday, November 8, 2009

limerick time

Pants-Off Dance-Off

There once was a girl with no pants
Who neither wore skirts and would prance
Around sans-culotte
Just look at her go
With only one thing to do: dance.

'Cause pants? They're restricting, not free
They're better off ripped off, you see
You can't feel the air
Unless you run bare
So off with them, then run with me

The Economy, or My Career as a Rap Artist

I write now because I am poor
I'll stare at this taped to my door
Don't have no cash
Did something rash
Good thing words are worth more

Yeah that's what they say and it's crap
Turns out that someone's a sap
Flat out, I'm broke
No money, poor folk
And that's how I started to rap

G-G-Gangster

This girl is gangster, she rhymes
Spits lyrics, rides bikes and mimes
She's Southern to boot
And will steal your loot
And takes part in mischief and crime

She steals things like paper and books
And won't take crap from those crooks
Who say it's not cool
To hang out at school
But truth: she's as fly as she looks

Saturday, November 7, 2009

i said no more emo posts, but oops, it's 10:43 and here i go again

How do I write about what I'm not thinking about--I'm asking around it. How do I not write what I'm thinking about, but that's not quite right because it's something like how can I keep myself from writing about something in me and that's part of it, but it's not what I'm trying to say. I don't want to write about what I want to write about, what I've sat quiet thinking about for an hour and a half. I want to keep it in me because it puts me in a dangerous place, makes me close to the line that asks me to make decisions out of impatience, out of want for something that wouldn't be right right now, that I can't want right now, that wouldn't be right even if I could.

I don't know how not to write about it. I don't want to write about it, because I know that I am in a precarious place right now, and being careful about things affects more than just me, and sticking to wise is better than batting eyes at want.

So what do you do? Good question, is all I can think to say. Write about how I made it all week without Sun Drop. And how I'm twisting my ring around my finger trying to think--not of what to say, but of what else to say. Thinking about how my friend who edited my submission for the collection our seminar class is putting together, how she corrected where I used how the way I'm using it now. How grammatically it doesn't say what I'm using it to mean. My grammar is messy, and it's Southern. It's inconsistent and my comma placement is too (you see?), and so is my capitalization, italicizing, all of it. I write how I think? And it's all wrong, Chicago says. I have mixed feelings about this. I don't want to sound like I can't control this language, but there it is. There it is. I've got something. I can't control it anymore than I can control the thoughts and feelings that work their way into words. It's no wonder I'm not able to write what isn't pushing to be written, no wonder I can't even write that sentence to say what I want.

It's words and they're that vehicle, that carrier of meaning but I can't change the meaning, so everything waterfalls over that. Here's the metaphor: the stones, they're the meaning, the riverbed, and the water is rushing over and sometimes it's winding, dabbling, trickling, these words that aren't quite the right ones--the water is the words. And I'm picking up silt, or the water is, or the water's mixing in and now it's cloudy and the stones are wearing into years worth of something learned. And they don't look like what they'll look like in ten years, but already the metaphor's gone, it's lost, it doesn't work. It gets away from me, this language I can't control. Too fast, too big.

I'm trying too hard now. Thinking about wanting to lie in the river after the accident in Romania. It's forced, it's trying too hard. I don't want the ending to come, I don't want an ending that's been built to, that comes around. I don't want a good ending, I want to not make any sense at all because that's how I feel, I feel like I'm not making any sense in thinking about the line I've toed, because I've just got to turn this toward God. It's just got to be that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

getting it right

I meant to write about the Bob Dylan quote I put up last night but I was just exhausted and I figure the quote is pretty stand-alone anyway. What I wanted to write about stemmed from one line in particular: "If anything, I wanted to understand things and then be free of them." This line really struck me.

What's funny is that it's been popping up in that thematic sort of way things tend to do, and I'm starting to realize how, when things do that, it's probably that God's trying to tell me something, to teach me. I think about that, and in all this I'm not exactly sure yet what it is I'm meant to be taught, but there's something there, because whether the quote came first or not--I can't remember--this sort of idea has been coming up everywhere.

I think I've talked about this before, but I'm thinking about understanding something, working it out, writing it down, and then being free of it. And the particular context I'm thinking of, I don't know that I would use the word free, but--actually, yes, I remember I have talked about it because I likened it to, like Dave Eggers said, shedding skin. But I've realized that I don't really hold onto things. Again, that's not exactly it, but thinking about some of the crazy things that have happened to me (ask), I just sort of take it, process it, come to some sort of understanding, however stilted, and then keep going, shoulder into it and try to use it, make it into something good, because what else do you do? Life won't stop. I'm thinking that maybe this is a flawed approach, and probably it is, but that just means there's an opportunity to learn and understand better and to grow.

But then there are the things that I don't move on as easily from, although it's hit and miss--there seems to be no rule to figure which experience falls on what side of this, at least not one I've recognized yet. And those--they're the strange ones, because they'll sit with me, just really heavy and really detailed, precise, until finally I write it out. Writing really is cathartic, and in this case it's even more than that. I'll write it out of compulsion, but then it really is shed skin. It's a summary of 'this crazy thing that happened to me once' in a bag of crazy things that have happened to me. It's almost, I don't know-- for me there's something distasteful about it, hanging out dirty laundry or whatever that expression is. But it's removed from me, and often I don't even remember how whatever it is happened, I remember it as the story I wrote.

It's like Bob Dylan says. I want to understand those things. I don't know about that second half though. Do I want to be free of them? I don't want to forget, not ever, and these things are important to me, things that have shaped me. Probably it's easier for me to say this since they do feel so removed--they're real, they've been hard, but they don't affect my day-to-day life. Shoulder into it, keep on living. All of that. If I mean to say I want a freedom from it, it's in that ability to go on and grow, and so maybe the compromise is writing it down. I understand, I'm free from the negative parts, and then I can take it and work it into good.

I don't know about this. I realize I'm being vague. 'These things' that have happened to me, but I'm not saying what. Again, ask and I'd love to share. But after writing about a lot of it already, lately I've just had a distaste for it. Like parading around dirty laundry, being flashy about ugly things--the term that comes to mind here is tell-all--and while I know there is merit in those things, when you use them for good, for edification, but right now for me it just feels like bad form.

I'm coming to the last line in the the quote: "You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of song if you could get it right." That's what I want to come to, but in the meantime I cranking out paragraphs and paragraphs and it's a whole dense mess a lot of times, interesting to no one but me in my endless introspection, but if I could get it into a line or two, an essay--well, I'm not looking for value or justification in all of it, but there, if everything else turned out to be worthless, that's where it'd be worth it. And I'll tell you: I don't feel like I'm building any new life either. It could never be that--if there are things, people, experiences that I never had, then those places have been filled with bits of everywhere, everyone, everything. Outside of salvation, of course, there is no moment of new life, no point where the old one is turned in. It's all a mishmash, and it's new every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

quote-of-the-day

Compliments of Jamie:

"If I was building any new kind of life to live, it really didn't seem that way. It's not as if I had turned in any old one to live it. If anything, I wanted to understand things and then be free of them. I needed to learn how to telescope things, ideas. Things were too big to see all at once, like all the books in the library--everything laying around on all the tables. You might be able to put it all into one paragraph or into one verse of song if you could get it right."
- Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One

about loving music

First things first: I think I'm gonna stop writing these posts late at night in an effort to be less emo.

That said, here's what's on the mind: music. I'm not really one of those people who knows a ton about music. I'm pretty easy to please, and although my favorite kinds are movie music and chill music, like they say, I'll listen to almost anything. I grew up listening to country with my neighbors and later, when I was a little older, just regular top forty. I always joke that I'm not very cultured, and while it's less true now I suppose, my brother and I didn't grow up in a way that would turn us into young adults with knowledge of wines and art, the Louvre and literature and music, good music.

And of course, what's good music, anyway? Well I don't know, how would I know? So following my half joke that I'm uncultured, I tell my friends to teach me, to show me music. So before I tell you the rest of this, first I want to say that one of my favorite things is to listen to people talk about what they're passionate about. I think it's, in part, just because I get really excited about things and then love it when other people do too, and also because when I'm feeling awkward or not sure what to talk about, the easiest thing for me to do is to get the other person talking about what they care about, because people really love to do that and it makes it easier for me when I need it to be.

So getting my friends to share their music with me was two-fold. On the one hand I wouldn't be the kid who didn't know All You Need Is Love is by the Beatles, and on the other I'd get to know about the things that other people really love which is always interesting and oftentimes serves to take the pressure off me.

And since then, I've learned so much about music. And here's the thing. It hasn't just been in one genre. I'll tell you something that's a pet peeve of mine and I hope it isn't pretentious and I hope I'm not that way about books, but I hate when people profess to love something, and we'll use music as the example, who are really into music, but all they love is screamo. All they care about and listen to and talk about and say is good is this one type of music, and to that I say, you don't love music, you love this type of music. Just like people who only love literary books don't love books, they love a certain type of literature. Maybe love is the wrong word for this. I think it is. What I'm talking about specifically is a friend of mine who will listen to any type of music as long as it's music, and he may not like it, but he can appreciate it. He recognizes the things that are good in it. He doesn't love metal or bluegrass exclusively, but he loves music and he appreciates it.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this from here, but tonight I listened to Porcupine Tree. Something I never ever in a million years would have listened to on my own, a band I've heard of kind of off and on for a little less than a year, but have never taken any initiative with at all. And I really liked some of it. Not all of it--not that I disliked any of it, but there were definitely parts that struck me more than others. And on top of that, this particular album came with a book of photography and I got goosebumps looking through it. I'll tell you what. You never really know. I'm learning to listen better, to people I mean, and it's funny how it works out when the vehicle is already your ears.

I could list the bands I've been introduced to in the last year or so, the music I've come to love, to appreciate, and the music I haven't. I love music, but I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who really loves music, who knows a lot about bands and different genres and decades and all of that. I just like to sit back and feel it, and words are my thing anyway, the first thing I ever began collecting and listening to and trying to create with.

And I'm learning that listening isn't just giving people the space to talk or share the things they love, but it's meeting in what's shared, something like taking it by the hand. And when you let go sometimes you find, there in your own hand, you've come away with your own piece of what they love.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

just sort of a collection of thoughts

This always seems to happen. And it's always with my hair. And the funny thing is, I'm not a crazy hair kind of person. I'm a pretty average, dark hair kind of person. But my roommate was upstairs and she was putting this reddish stuff in her hair, cinnaberry something, and then there was extra in the bottle and before I knew it, there I was rationalizing it for about three seconds, saying, well in the sun my hair gets reddish highlights and I tried to do purple streaks last semester and it didn't turn out and then the stuff was in my hair. It actually kind of worked out because my hair's so dark--not quite black, but about as dark as you can get without actually being black--and there's little short of bleaching it that holds. So cinnaberry in my hair turned about to be something more like a really dark red/purple that still looks pretty natural and you can only really see in the sun. More like the suggestion of red/purple rather than red/purple itself. Well, then. Here's to that whim.

Today it was the coldest it's been yet, although I doubt it got below fifty, and I started shivering for the first time since I was in Romania. And a few nights ago I learned four chords on a guitar and played them for two or three hours, mostly just trying not to be scared, but my fingertips on my left hand still feel strange, they way they do when they're un-numbing after being in the cold. And I will say that trying to play a guitar, that playing a guitar very badly helps a lot with being scared (more on this later, most likely when it's daylight), and although the part of me that loves hands objects, I'll take the funny feeling fingertips.

And now it's daylight savings time, fall backward. And it was almost dark riding my bike home twenty after five. And I'm just thinking about things, everything kind of scattered. Scattered thoughts, everything bits and pieces and I'm certain this all fits together somehow. I'm thinking about the movie I should never have seen, how going to bed at night has been really hard for over two weeks. And daylight savings time, winter getting closer. This all sounds very dark but I don't mean it like that. As always I'm thinking about the way the air feels. And movement. I'm not sure how that terrible movie relates to that, but I feel like there's movement in the direction of something big, and I don't know what. But it has to do with it getting colder, and I don't know how to type that in any way that doesn't sound like I'm being emo.

I think the thing is just that I've got a lot of things floating around in my head, and it all wants to be processed and understood and fit together, and I feel like it does fit, like there is some sense to be made of it all.

I'm just thinking. I'm looking forward to this: driving eighteen hours or however many it is to URBANA. I can't tell you why, except I love car trips and I'm excited that we're leaving the night before and driving through till morning. But I'm looking forward to it more than pre-Turkey Day Celebration and even when Christmas break starts. Everything else'll be stressful in one way or another, but there's nothing like just riding. And talking and listening to music and watching the lights in the dark, and unfolding the country between here and St. Louis in a car full of people you'd rather be with than anyone else.

Monday, November 2, 2009

one part words, two parts music, and equal parts /to create/

I'm listening to the soundtrack from Blood Diamond again. I've been listening to it for days, and probably I'll go on listening to it for another week or two. I always do this--if I find something I'm interested in, it's nearly all you'll hear from me until there's something else, and it could be a few days or a year, depending on the nature of the thing that's gotten my interest. Of course, for anyone who knows me or has been reading this for a while, I suppose it's obvious enough. I just go through phases, and you can see how what I'm thinking about fluxes and changes and grows. What does that mean? Who knows, although I'm sure it could mean a hundred different things. What do I mean? Thanks for listening, for bearing with me, for caring.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I was having a conversation last night with one of my friends and he was telling me about a person he knows who refuses to depend on anyone, not physically or emotionally. And I can't understand that at all. I mean, I can, I can understand why it happens and what makes people that way, and to be perfectly honest, with everything that happened with my family, I might have gone that route as surely as I've gone another. So while I'm trying to suspend judgement (is that the right phrase?) and be understanding, there's also this: we were created to be in relationships. To be in relationship with the Father and with one another.

I know this is a blog and it's the internet and often it's as weird as it is good, and I know most people would say that it doesn't count on here. And I do prefer a lot of the time to sit with people and talk about life with them. To lie on my living room floor or sit on the swing by the turtle pond on campus and just talk and talk. And while I do process verbally, work things out in conversation and come to understand things by talking them out, I'm way more coherent when I write. It takes a lot of time spent with me to figure out what I mean when I talk, I think, but in writing it's just much easier to articulate things. Perfect world? I would have those amazing conversations with people who also care enough that they read my blog, and I could reciprocate that too, listen to the other ways they communicate as well.

So that said, I'm so thankful for this sort of thing, blogging and all that and everyone who takes the time to read. I was talking to one of my roommates earlier (the Colombian one) and I realized how much it really does mean to me when I find out people have been reading things I write--just another way of caring for me. And as far as being relational? Well, of course I don't only relate this way, and I wouldn't want to. I could never not depend on anyone, not share life and thoughts and conversation and hopes and all of that stuff with the people I care about, and this is one of those ways of sharing. And it's pretty neat what it can turn into, what can come out of it (hello Jenny!), so you never really know, I guess.


So, if you haven't listened to the soundtrack from Blood Diamond and you like soundtracks, you should think about picking it up. It's incredible. I've sort of gotten on an African music kick, lately. There are songs on the Tsotsi soundtrack I've been doing this with too. I still don't know how to embed just music, so I've found some youtube videos. This one's probably my favorite from Blood Diamond, and once I figure out how to embed music I've got on my computer, I'll put a couple up from Tsotsi.



Cool thing for me about soundtracks and scores in general: I don't generally need words. I mean, words are great, I love words! They're my favorite thing! But in music, it feels to me like something more true. That's not what I mean, how do I say what I mean? People who love music way more than I do have said this way better than I have, but I mean something like it's more purely emotion. And particularly for me when it's in a soundtrack, because it's already telling a story. A funny twist on that is music in other languages, like this stuff from Blood Diamond. It'd be different if it were a language I could pick words out of, but the language they sing in (Krio, I'm guessing, only because that's the one they speak in Sierre Leone, although English is the official one) is something so unfamiliar to me that it could just be sounds.

There's a band my friend Matt loves called Sigur Ros and they're from Iceland and they have this whole album where they sing in a completely invented language called Hopelandic. It's not translatable, exactly. It's just emotic syllables. I'm digressing a ton, but what I'm talking about is the knack music has for expressing things I can't get at any other way, and if the sounds of Krio are to me that--sounds that don't mean to me what they're meant to represent--then, when put to music, I begin to understand something.

"Words seem so indefinable, so inexact, so easy to misunderstand compared with real music, which fills the soul with a thousand better feelings. What is expressed to me by music that I love is not too vague to be put into words, on the contrary, too precise."
--Felix Mendelssohn

Why do I write then? Well I don't think it's useless, by any means, and they certainly have no monopoly on expression. It's a compulsion, probably. Most times I can't not write, and when I can't, I don't. I love to write, and there are things that words can do as well as music, and vice versa, and there are also things that words do better. Actually, here I am typing this and I haven't even really thought it out, I'm just kind of thinking as I go. I think the real answer has less to do with what mode of expression better express and more to do with:

"The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a creator God."
--from the back cover of Art and the Bible