Sunday, January 31, 2010

"i'm yours and that's it, whatever."

When it’s late and it’s quiet, I listen to The Ballad of Love and Hate by The Avett Brothers. Over and over again. I wonder what my life will look like in five years from now, in ten. Sometimes I drive or walk, the gentle pulse of nighttime making space, making room for movement turned stillness and peace. The sky looks so low above our apartment, low clouds white or orange, lit up by the city, parking lots and stretches of industry, and then I’m down at Fort Fisher where it’s only the wind and I can’t see to step and the earth is lit up by the sky, a sort of turned-upside-down globe.

Josh would have been nine and there was a meteor shower and we got two sleeping bags and zipped them together, laid them on the ground in the darkest corner behind the trailer. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen and it was so thick they fell every couple of seconds and there was this one that must have been really low because it burned this really bright almost green color and it lasted several seconds longer before it exploded. That’s what I remember. All bundled up in the sleeping bag on the ground, waking up to the birds, my hair damp from the dew.

The trailer was actually two trailers with a room connecting them, an H or I, depending on how you looked at it. The back one was older, more drafty, but it had a tin roof and when it rained hard enough you had to shout over it. I was home sick the day the towers fell and I watched them from that back trailer, saw the second fall live, the woman’s face as she was reporting and it happened. There was the surgery I had, my appendix, and the collection of wine cooler bottles in the front trailer inside my mom’s room, colors like peach and yellow.

It was an in-between year if there ever was one, not quite what our lives would turn into but not what they’d been, either. For Josh it was something else. Everything changed.

I’m remembering these things, but lately it’s different. They don’t seem as close anymore. It’s hard to not think about what might have happened had things been different for my brother, but the rest of it—before, it was hands cupped with soil, our lives growing out of it. Now it’s this place my life has touched, has passed through, but it’s rooted in something deeper than that, something more stable. I don’t think I ever thought to identify myself or my brother or my family as anything other than where we had come from, what we had been through. We were what we had made it to the other side of, how we had grown from that. I realize now that it’s partly true. It’s not fully true.

It’s easier some days than others, but we aren’t what God’s saved us from. We aren’t even what we’ve become because of that. We’re children of God and that’s it. We’ve seen pieces of things and lived parts of others, but if I look at it the right way, I see that in one way I’m as nomadic as I always thought: I’m not rooted in the places I grew through. I only grew through them. My brother, too. And at the same time, we’re transplants. Transplanted from rocky dirt to some thicker, richer soil. Given new life, saved from death—I mean that we are adopted into the family of Christ, and the story of my brother, of myself only serves to be a reflection of the spiritual one.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”
Romans 8:15-17a

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Questionable hair? Sarawr's a monkeysaur face?

Glasses that are cute AND fit my face AND make me look more my age?


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the way we see things

Well, it was between glasses and a cat. And in the end, I'm holding out on the cat. I say that because I figure a new pair of glasses will last at least five years and a cat might too, but not if I move and have to give it away. There are little kitties everywhere just wanting to be adopted! That's what I keep telling myself. And snuggling with Horace the Dinosaur in the meantime.

It's about time I got a new pair anyway, about time being a bit of an understatement. I've had the same pair for about ten years. My eyes aren't really all that bad--I need them to drive and to see the board in class, that sort of thing. Wear them in the movie theater, all of that. But they're getting a little worse, I've noticed, and it's about time for another eye exam anyway. Problem is, my head is small. And mostly only kids glasses fit me. It just narrows in around my eyes so they always look gigantic on me. But the ones I picked out aren't so bad, and they're much trendier than I'd normally wear so that'll take some adjusting, but I'm happy about them. I'm getting the exam tomorrow, and from then however long it takes for them to come in.

My religion class continues to be interesting. We're on Christianity now and the professor grew up in church but isn't a Christian and the way he teaches it is very sterilized, and he'll miss the heart of a certain theology or teaching by a hairline, but it's enough to feel unsettling. The context is thrown, the words sometimes directly from Scripture but mostly they're his paraphrasing which seems to miss. It's little things but they feel important, they color everything differently. And then--well, I'm as frustrated about Pat Robertson as anyone, and I read something Don Miller wrote about all that, which handled it well. But it's already become all this ammunition against Christianity, all this bitterness, and I want to look at people--and myself, in the middle of being so frustrated at him--and say, this is not our God!

But I digress. I was going to say that I think if I could help it, I'd rather have Muslims teach me about Islam, followers of whichever religion teaching me about their own. I'm not sure whether this is wise, but I see how Christianity is being taught in this class--it's not terrible, but even from just an academic standpoint, something about it is off--and, knowing the professor isn't a believer, I wonder that any belief wouldn't be better taught by its believers. The problem is misconceptions. Right? People hear Pat Robertson and all Christians are painted by that. The same with Muslim fundamentalists--or even from teachers who understand something academically, but not at the heart of it.

I know what I believe--with a good amount of wiggle room for wrestling out questions with God--but how do I relate with someone who is Buddhist or even denominationally different (is that the right word?), an Orthodox Christian, for example, if I don't understand it the way they do? Maybe it's one of those things you really can't get at unless you believe. A guess would that the best missionaries to North African Muslims are North African Muslims who've become Christians. (Now that I type that I wonder how true that is because there'd probably be a lot of division following a conversion like that, but--).

Hrmm. I'm glad I'm in the class though. I'm glad it's making me think about these things. My natural tendency is to jump in, to immerse, when it comes to cross-cultural anything, and I think it applies here. Whether wise or unwise is the question. I want to be able to see clearly, and it's a hard thing to do coming out of my own beliefs, because I can try to understand other things but there's a certain truth that I believe. You see? This is where I think political correctness and 'everyone gets to God in his own way' camps take it to the other extreme. So how do I really understand? I don't think believing in one thing keeps you from doing that. Certainly believing in nothing isn't advantageous either, as evidenced by my professor. So where do I touch down in this? I want to see things as they are without defecting from the parts that I know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

ode to sundrop

there once was a wondrous thing
a drink choice fit for the kings
carbonation and love
sent down from above
about which you can't help but sing

from sweet caroline with caffeine
that bottle of yellow and green
your heart rate is up
'cause inside this cup's
the greatest drink you've ever seen

it's citrus mixed in with desire
your blood sugar keeps rising higher
'you're delicious to drink
can't hardly think'
rise up the words of the choir

'ode to sundrop!' is what they declare
with ardor, this frenzied affair
'love of mine, shan't we part
you're etched in my heart
and i swear you'll always be there.'

Saturday, January 23, 2010

streams in the wasteland

It's been a humdrum sort of week, and actually the word is phonetically perfect as well what with the rain these last few days. Even drumming sound, even grey-matte sky. It's cold again, too. Nothing like St. Louis weather, but cold enough to see your breath. There's always an early January warm spell, but this one lasted longer than usual and it's weird to be back to winter again. My body is so confused, seventy degrees one day and forty-seven the next, and it's taken to getting headaches as a means of protest.

And speaking of bodily ailments, I think I'm old and falling apart. My right palm--mostly the side by my thumb--has been getting pinpricks the last day or two. It's different than when your hand falls asleep. It's sharper and there are fewer of them. Best guess, as always, is the back. But I kind of shake my hand out when it happens--I don't know that it's actually effective, but already it's becoming unconscious. If only I could get it to make that slapping sound that all the cool middle schoolers could make way back in the day, right? And the knot on my head from Romania? Still there. Had my baby nurse roommate look at it and even she was weirded out by it. Good thing I have long hair. I'd make such a funny looking buzzed-haired kid.

What else? There are some other things, most of them floating around in the indifference part of my brain. I blame the weather. Humdrum, monotone. I blame some other things too and I'm smack in the middle of coming out from behind apathy and letting myself let God care through me, because here I am defaulting to the things he wouldn't have me do. It's an interesting change, though. The default used to be frustration and now I'm quick to cut my losses. I had a whole post I was going to write about that, about how I shouldn't cut my losses because Jesus didn't. He didn't say, it's too bad about the one, he was a really great sheep, but at least we have the ninety-nine. I have to get there. Not because I ought to or because I should be better and certainly not because I want to. Because this is grace, too, and God is pouring it out abundantly on me. I asked that he would help me to love people, to really love them, and if I bail out when it's hard, I haven't learned anything. If I don't bail out at first and then meet resistance and throw in the towel then, well, same thing.

How do I move myself to care? The answer, I think, is: I don't. I can work all day, but I love imperfectly, I give up easily. It's got to be God. And I don't mean inaction, either, which I feel like is the easy trap. If I sit here and wait for him to love through me and I don't walk outside and meet the person I don't want to love, then I'm going to do a lot of sitting and not much doing. So somewhere in all that I've got to let go of frustration-turned-apathy, I've got to quit avoiding this with God. And I have to trust that he is working something new in me--"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." (Isaiah 43:19) I have to trust that if I do the things he's nudging me to do, he'll meet me in it, he'll work my imperfect love into something that glorifies him. That's something good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

in love with his creation

It was beautiful today. And my head's in a hundred other places. My heart's here and it's elsewhere too and I want to reach my hand across lines and oceans and borders and--

The T in me says, silly, look what a perfect clear day will do to you. It wants me to be reasonable, to be rational, but I find myself sitting here thinking of so many things, wanting to write sentences that don't end with words that liken stretched-out, flung-out sky to reaching, filled to bursting. I want to use words like expanse, cusp. The very cusp.

I think about how much a day like today will do to me. It was cool, but warm when the sun was on your skin, no humidity. It reminded me of Guatavita and the mountains in Romania. In fact, this morning I washed my hands with some scented soap, vanilla, and there was some lotion I used in Romania that smelled exactly like it. And I put on a pair of capri things I haven't worn since then and sitting there putting my shoes on, a couple of other things factored in, and I was right back. That soap has been doing that to me lately, bringing me back at unexpected moments. If it's not too strong a word, it's a little bit exhilarating. One minute you're walking to class and the next, all of a sudden you've got this feeling of familiarity--as sort of sensual deja-vu, I guess you could call it--and then a memory or two.

I think God must have known this when he made me--of course he did, so I suppose I'm saying how thankful I am that he did so this way. It's like someone leaving you a note, surprising you, something wonderful like that. God saying, remember this moment? And then I remember just how much he's blessed me, how much he loves me, where he's brought me from. That he has hope and a future for me. I'm in love with his creation, all twirly-spinny, nothing short of smitten. I feel silly. It was just so beautiful today.

It's late, but if I could be anywhere right now it'd be laying in the dunes down at the south end of Wrightsville, watching the sky through the long grass, forgetting about what's next or what six months ago was. Just cold sand, cold air, the swell and ebb of a whole ocean that only comes up so far, drifting like the tide.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


"If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, the difficulties in believing what the New Testament tells us about his life and work would be truly mountainous. But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father's agent in creation, 'through whom also he made the worlds' (Heb 1:2 RV), it is no wonder if fresh acts of creative power marked his coming into this world, and his life in it, and his exit from it. It is not strange that he, the Author of life, should rise from the dead. If he was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that he should die than that he should rise again.

''Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies,' wrote Wesley; but there is no comparable mystery in the Immortal's resurrection. And if the immortal Son of God did really submit to taste death, it is not strange that such a death should have saving significance for a doomed race. Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of this; it is all of a piece and hangs together completely. The Incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains."

J.I. Packer

Friday, January 15, 2010

for God so loved the world (and haiti)

Regarding Haiti, I have a confession: it's difficult for me to empathize in situations like these. I know how that sounds, but let me explain.

I actually didn't even know about the earthquake the night it happened--I forgot to check my iGoogle news before bed, and without cable or the digital box, it's the only way I find out about things anymore. And then I wasn't on the computer until I got to work around lunchtime the next day. I read a few articles and it was crazy, looked through some pictures and at one point I nearly cried. It came up in conversation some throughout the day, but generally, once I got to work it was just another thing.

The news keeps coming, and in some ways it's worse, more shocking than the first reports. In other ways, I'm astonished at how people are coming together to help, to give, to pray for Haiti, and that amazes me. But in going about my day, it's so easy for news--even news like this--to become just another thing. Another earthquake, another tsunami, another school shooting. The same thing happened my freshman year with Virginia Tech. It's just so big, so far away.

However, this post isn't mean to lament my inability to empathize fully, but to say: we have a God who loves us and cares about how we feel, how we hurt! All throughout the Bible, you see people crying out to God, and he hears them. He hears the suffering of the Israelites, and he delivers them. Nehemiah mourned over the state of Jerusalem, prayed to God on its behalf, and God made a way for the wall to be rebuilt. Jesus walked around and healed people, freed people from bondage to sin. And God sent that guy to save the whole world! For he so loved the whole world, including Haiti.

I know that my God is a God whose heart spills over for all of creation. All of creation. Not some of it at one time and the rest can wait until he's finished with this other piece, not the ones who ''deserve'' it only or who are ''more in need'' of it. He loves the whole country of Haiti and I believe his heart is breaking right now over the pain they are feeling. And he loves Pat Robertson, and he loves me, even if I forget or find myself caring more about a passing problem than God's people.

And in the face of that, this is what I come to: all this talk of God's love being enough? It is. It really is, it's so much more than that, even. And I know that if we continually give our hearts to him, that he is working to replace it with his own. And that's something good.

''And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.'' 2 Corinthians 3:18

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

aaaand... smooth

My buddy Nathan and I showed up to class this morning looking like this, the class being a religion one, no less. Whoops. Completely accidental, too. And I proceeded to put my hoodie back on, thermostat set at something like eighty.

It's looking to be an interesting class, though. It's Great Books: World Religion and at least recently I've been interested in learning more about other religions, specifically Islam. So we'll see. Class today didn't disappoint. The professor accidentally knocked over his opened water bottle and didn't realize until someone said something. He jumped up, yelled something that starts with a sh- and rhymes with fit, started wiping up all the water and picking his pretty-soaked-through religious texts. And then! Then he said, this is a sign--I don't know what it means, but that right there was a sign! Once everything was wiped up he went back to being mild-mannered and shuffled over to the podium and kind of mumbled, sorry for anything I might have said. So today, all around, all parties considered: facepalm/fail/smooth, all in the best way possible.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

i will bring you back

I've been reading in Genesis lately and the last few days I've been reading about Joseph. I never really knew the story of Joseph, actually--between never having read it or been taught on it and, no, never having seen Joseph, King of Dreams, I just couldn't have told you anything about him. And so tonight, reading this, once again God and the story of his people blow my mind.

"'I am the God, the God of your father,' he said. 'Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt to be with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes.'" (Genesis 46:3-4)

Let me back up first. Joseph was the youngest son of Jacob (Israel) and when he was seventeen his brothers sold him into slavery. He was brought down to Egypt where he was servant for a while in the house of his master, put in charge of the whole household. But then he was accused (falsely) of rape and thrown in jail, but God was with him and he found favor and was put in charge of everything there too. Some pretty amazing things happen in jail where he interprets dreams and eventually is brought before Pharaoh and is then put in charge of all of Egypt.

All these crazy hard things keep happening to Joseph and at the same time God is with him, people find favor in him wherever he goes. So then there's this huge famine in Egypt and all over--Pharaoh had a dream about this that Joseph interpreted--and Joseph's brothers come out of Canaan to Egypt where there's food stored up and they come before him. But these brothers were gonna kill him, they faked his death and sold him, right? So Joseph hasn't forgiven them at all and he makes them do all this jumping through hoops and sends them back and forth from Egypt to Canaan several times. And his father Jacob thinks that now he's lost both Joseph and Benjamin, his two youngest sons.

Turns out he hasn't. Turns out that even though Joseph is so bitter, he still forgives his brothers and asks that his father and the whole extended family be brought to Egypt to live. Joseph tells his brothers to tell their father, "about all the honor accorded [him] in Egypt and about everything [they] have seen." (Gen. 45:13) And it turns out that all along God was with him, that he was turning everything on its head for good, and that even before Israel went to Egypt, God promised bring them back again.

Now let me tell you, I know about some unforgiveness in the family, and I know about wanting to have something good to show to the Father. And mostly I know about how you look back and you see how God's been working all along through everything. Who would have thought that before the Hebrews went down to Egypt, before they cried out to him, God was saying I will bring you back. That he sent Joseph first to save their lives.

All that brokenness and unforgiveness and we've been that way since the very beginning but our God is a God who works things for good and for hope and for purpose. I think about the way I hang onto things and become bitter, how I hear reconciliation taught and still struggle to let go, and now I think about how all over the place lately God has been showing me that his forgiveness, his love--these things are enough. And then I see Joseph, weeping because he loves his brothers and he's angry and there's all this baggage and hard stuff to deal with and how do you do it?

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come close to me.' When they had done so, he said, 'I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God..." (Genesis 45:4-8)

For a while now God has been quieting my whys, telling me to be still and know that he is my God and that is enough, and I see him all the way back now, can do nothing but walk forward knowing that he's ahead of me too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I'm avoiding writing this post only because I know if I start trying to write everything out it really will be everything. All of it in one massive long rambling run-on thing (omission of commas purposeful--suggestive of how such a post might read). I will say this: God did amazing things at Urbana and I want to write all about those things, how God 'goes relentlessly to my heart.'

For now, here in the first days of the new year, I'm thinking how different--and how similar--this one was to the one my freshman year. That year, oh goodness. I didn't go home for Christmas and wound up hanging out at my godsister's house for a while and then heading to what I think is a Baptist conference called Big God. New Years rang in full-out praise to God, just like Urbana. Only I think there was a lot more guilt then, mainly about my relationship with God, weighed down by never feeling like I got it right with all that. I wouldn't say that now I do really well or anything like that, but I would say that there is no shame in Christ, and my God is growing me and drawing me closer to him and it's not about what I can't or don't do but what he IS doing, every single day, and his love, his freedom from sin will be enough, is enough.

I learned today that the Romanian word for New Years Eve is revelion. I'm not sure of the Latin roots for this word, so this connection might only be my own, but the first word that came to mind was revel, some sort of noun from that, revelry maybe. And how perfectly descriptive of the way we worshiped in the beginnings of the year. I'm thinking to revel in the sense of being festive, taking delight in something. I'm not talking about it being about how we felt, necessarily. I mean that we were delighting ourselves in the Lord, we were partyin' it up for Jesus, just all of us and all the joy and excitement and fervor for him you can imagine, joy being the closest word. Something like what I imagine heaven being like, all of us worshiping together and not ever wanting to stop and how good God is, celebrating his goodness. That's it, there it is. Just celebrating his goodness.

And then heading out of the dome after we missed the countdown and then did it anyway, after we had to leave, all the spontaneous singing, taking St. Louis by storm, yelling things like all y'all love Jesus say yeaa-ah, and yeaa-ah. Revelion. I don't know about in Romanian, but in English I think mostly this word to revel has negative connotations, at least to a community that associates it with a kind of Bacchus attitude. But I think that word, revelry--couldn't to revel be something like this? Something to do with losing ourselves in God as opposed to losing ourselves in the things to which it usually refers. It's exactly what we did, hands stretched upward, the love of God contagious.