Friday, February 26, 2010

radio silence

Five days seems like forever and most of the reason I haven't written is because the last week has been so stressful. I feel like a plane crashing out of the sky. But alongside that, it's been peace, it's been good. There's chaos and there's this other part of me that feels like it's just so small a thing next to the bigness of what's more important, what doesn't change.

"I am the Lord." You are.

And who could argue that on a day like today? Outside it's bright and alive, this canopy under which the only response is to live, to live furiously and fully.

Tonight I will go to my campus and, with a couple hundred other students, I will sing out to my God. "Se cantará con jubilo... te exaltaré mi Dios y Rey por siempre, todos los días te bendeciré. Te exaltaré mi Dios y Rey por siempre, grande eres tu."

Later this weekend I will sit on the floor next to the open blinds and I'll write a letter I've been looking forward to writing. And then, sitting in the winter sun, in the light that three weeks early is already starting to seem like spring light, and I will work on things for Link. And whatever happens, wherever I land, there will be this:

These last winter days spent in a whirlwind I wouldn't have guessed, with people for whom I am surprised to have so much love. I'll remember how sometimes, when you think about it, everything seems so small next to the whole world. What's walking to class or standing on a dock with a friend at night or watching another friend, holding her hand, feeling for her breathing? What's being squeezed in the backseat of a car between two very rambunctious boys, and watching some tornado of light twist its way around pieced apart clouds? What's all of this next to 'this too shall pass' and 'reaching the world?'

But then it's everything. It's learning to love people and sharing in life and restored relationships. This may not be my home, but my home is coming here. And meanwhile, this is it, this wonderful thing that's chaotic and difficult and unpredictable and, at the same time, good, full of hope, beautiful, light playing off each of our lives. And I can't help but to write this out, to write it in me, sew it into my heart.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

general thoughts about lent, the proxe station, and ''relinquish''

Well, it is Lent. Both my roommates and I are doing it this year (first time for me) and one of them has been writing about it. They're pretty funny--you can read them here. All three of us have given up facebook. I gave up Sun Drop as well.

Giving up facebook has been much better this go around. Last time I missed getting on it, was counting the days I had left, and ended up giving in a little bit early. This time, I don't know. I was looking forward to having the excuse to not get on, something to keep from doing it out of habit or not being able to sit still for too long. And the funny thing is, while the notifications I'm still getting in my email make me miss the ease with which I can keep in touch with friends who aren't around here, it has otherwise felt freeing. That's the word, the exact one. It's a funny thing. I'm not bound to facebook anymore. It sounds ridiculous when I type it out, but it's exactly what it feels like. Craziest thing. And I've been reading so much in the last week. I've gone through a book and a half already.

That said, all this giving up makes me think about it outside of the application of it, makes me think about it in theory, the ideology of the whole thing. This was part of the point of the evangelism event. Ideally it would have led to in-depth conversations about the giving up of Christ by the Father. With the exception of one fascinating conversation with a grown man and his son who at least came from a very churched background, mostly people stayed on the surface of everything. It's an interesting thing I've noticed about our campus, and we'll have to be much more creative. We're laid back, for sure, but it lends itself to passivity and if there's one word to describe our campus, it's definitely passive. I think about campuses like UNC and how much more active they are. Ours is more along the thought of it could be one way or another, and eh. I don't mean to criticize. I like the relaxed feel of our campus. I think people are more content here. But I also know passivity can be dangerous. Just thoughts.

The man with the son noticed that most of the stickers on our tri-fold (the questions were what would you give up, why, and where/how would you get the strength/motivation to do so) said things like soda and junk food. I think it's really important to live healthily. However, the man said that it seemed like everything people said they wanted to give up seemed like things that were more superficial, as opposed to things like bad relationships or worrying. And then he went on to say that no one had answered their life. He wrote that on there and said he'd be willing to give it up for his family and that his motivation would be that, well, he wouldn't even have to think about it, it's just something he would do automatically because he loved his family so much. And we were all like, yes! That's exactly what we're trying to communicate and then we got into a brief discussion about what that looked like on the cross.

We called the proxe station Relinquish. The event didn't turn out the way we thought it would, and as two of us watched from a distance and prayed for the team, for the people who we would talk to, we also prayed that we wouldn't be discouraged by that. I know that God is working on this campus and I see a group of students who want to be a part of that, who want to learn to do it better and better. We know that it is in his power that people come to him and we will meet him in that.

What's left is thoughts about what giving up something truly truly hard to relinquish would be like. And I'm not talking about sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice, doing so in order to see if you can--I'll admit that mostly that's what not drinking Sun Drop's about. I'm talking about things that will bring you closer to God. I'm new at Lent and maybe this misses the whole point of it, and I certainly embrace a motivator to get me to give up crappy eating habits and way too much caffeine, but it's exciting to think about what it would look like to live all year long in the mindset that says to let go of the things that would keep you from the Lord.

So, five days in, we'll see.

Friday, February 19, 2010

putting two dinosaur-sized feet in my mouth

Sarawr the Dinosaur is really very good at it, is the thing. Example(s):

Tuesday was the Evangelism event. More about this later, but we were set up between the two student buildings and there wasn't a ton of traffic so when anyone would go by, we'd try to talk to them. (tense shift) So then this tiny little woman walks by. Looks like faculty, definitely not a student. But she's looking over, kind of hesitating, and I decide to see if she's interested, if she'll give us a minute or two. She is, she does. And let me tell you, she starts asking all these questions: who are we with? What is this for? Why are doing it? And we run through the proxe station with her while having polite conversation and all that, and so the perfectly natural question comes up:

"What's your name?"

She looks at me--she has sunglasses on so it's harder to gauge her reaction--but she looks at me and says, "I'm the chancellor. I'm Rosemary DePaolo."

Buuuh. The chancellor! At this point everyone is telling me that of course it's the chancellor, didn't I recognize her? And I'm stumbling over my words, near about hiding behind the proxe station and mostly just have my mouth half open while everyone laughs at me and she walks away and four years after coming to this school, whoops. We see that I still don't recognize her.

The thing is, this isn't the first I've had a face-to-face interaction with her. The very beginning of my junior year we had move-in for the new students and it was about 6:30 in the morning. (tense shift) We're in the dining hall and I'm still half awake and trying to drink some really bitter orange juice and this woman walks up to the group of three or four people I'm standing with. She's wearing teal Rainbows. I should say that the company did a special promotional something where they made teal Rainbows for UNCW. Anyway, this is their debut. The tiny woman walking up to us is debuting them.

And they are ugly. Let me tell you, ugly. And while the woman is talking to us I almost say that. But even I have sense (courtesy) enough not to be mean or rude to someone I don't know (had my friend been wearing them, in this case I might have said something--they're really that bad), so I rephrase the thought and ask, "Wait, are they made of real leather?" Normally they are, these are not.

She goes on to explain how, in fact, they are not made of real leather. They look like rubber styrofoam, if there ever were such an environmentally offensive thing. And as she walks away, I turn to the Colombian roommate and say, "Good gracious those things were ugly. I almost said it, too."

"...Do you know who she was?"

"No, but I know her shoes were ugly."

"Sara. That was the chancellor. Rosemary DePaolo!"

The moral of this story is to think before you tell people what you think. And to always be on the look out for the chancellor, and to know that sometimes she disguises herself with sunglasses so you have to be extra discerning.

And, Chancellor DePaolo, should you ever read this: your shoes were lovely on Tuesday. So you know.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


"[In regard to nature] it is the 'moods' or the 'spirit' that matter. Nature-lovers want to receive as fully as possible whatever nature, at each particular time and place, is, so to speak, saying. The obvious richness, grace, and harmony of some scenes are no more precious to them than the grimness, bleakness, terror, monotony, or 'visionary dreariness' of others. The featureless itself gets from them a willing response. It is one more word uttered by nature. They lay themselves bare to the sheer quality of eery countryside, every hour of the day. They want to absorb it into themselves, to be colored through and through by it...

Many people--I am one myself--would never, but for what nature does to us, have had any content to put into the words we must use in confessing our faith. Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me. I still do not know where else I could have found one. I do not see how the 'fear' of God could have ever meant anything to me but the lowest prudential efforts to be safe, if I had never seen certain ominous ravines and unapproachable crags. And if nature had never awakened certain longings in me, huge areas of what I can now mean by the 'love' of God would never, so far as I can see, have existed."

--C. S. Lewis

because awakening the dawn just sounds so cool

I should have something from the event in the next few days--and I'm really looking forward to writing it out--but all kinds of different things happened today. It was full, to say the least, in ways that were good and ways that were hard. And I started writing about that instead, so I think I'll post that and save the rest for a little bit later.

Father, this has been a really good day and a really hard day. You are the one true God and I know that. But it's hard to not feel, what? weighed down? when all day long all I hear is lies. I know that's what they are, I can recognize them for what they are and I thank you for that but I need some help standing under it all.

It started out in my religion class and the similarities between Islam and Christianity. I know, in my heart I know that Jesus is the Savior, that only through him can I be reconciled to you, but even while I see where Islam is wrong, parts of it almost mirror the Old Testament. Technically, by the Qur'an's own standards "God will judge me" but for a second there I got scared too: it's a big thing to be wrong about. And even in that I see the lie. Hope in Christ has nothing to do with fear. By the end of the class I'd come to the conclusion that Satan works his best lies out of truth. I don't know too much of the history, but by the year 500-something, Christianity was doing something. So he took some of God's truth and threw in the lie that Christ is not the Savior and mixed up some 'good works will get you to God' and ran with it.

I have nothing to fear. God--my King and my father--you are Lord and you are good. And sovereign.

So. Add the miniature bombardment from this morning to my Spanish class today. To hear 'God is dead, Dios esta muerte' over and over again just wears down. I don't know what it is. I've heard that before. But she just went on and on about it, talking about how the idea of a God is just a figment of our imaginations for comfort and so on. It's not that I believe her--it's just a lot, it's hard. I know that, like my friend said, as a missionary I will be putting myself out on the front lines. This is something--well, I don't know. I need to put on the full armor of Christ, as it says.

And God, I thank you for not exactly sending me a person to work all this out with and feel better, but instead you sent your Spirit (the comforter!) and led me to the Psalms where I came across Psalm 57. This could not have been more perfect. 'I will take refuge in the shadow of your wing' and 'he sends from heaven and saves me,' from verses 1 and 2. And then verse 4: 'I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts--men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.' They are. They are cunning lies, but they are lies. 'Be exalted, O God.' And again, 'They spread a net for my feet--I was bowed down in distress.' I feel like it's so easy to get entangled and dragged down.

But then the Psalm turns to the truth about God, or rather the response to God's goodness and unchanging nature. 'My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn!' That's huge. I love how urgent it sounds, how excited. Quick, wake up and praise the Lord and awaken the dawn! It goes on, it's so good.

I ended here--I had to go to a meeting. But reading back over it now I'm really encouraged. It's easier, too, considering a good portion of the meeting was spent in scripture and in prayer, but I think among the things this is teaching me is how to go to God. There wasn't really anyone else and how good a thing that turned out to be! What's especially exciting is that now I can point other people to this Psalm, encourage them.

Hrmm. Not sure how to end this one. It started because I just felt beat up today, all the great things that happened aside. But it all came back around. And for reasons I'll write about later, and for the ones I'm coming to now, awake, my soul! Let's awaken the dawn.

Friday, February 12, 2010

oh snap!

"Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns."
--Psalm 22:21 KJV

Well dang. The unicorns.

The other English translations I'm looking at say wild oxen. Romanian translates as buffalo and the Spanish NIV says bulls. I'm gonna say good King James wins this one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

broken people/broken system

**Note: this starts out frustrated and kind of bitter but if you'll give me the grace to let it all out and then clean up the mess, maybe it'll be good. Thanks, friends.

What do you know. We might be diagnosing a little hastily after all.

Forgive the bitterness in that sentence--it comes out of being completely immersed in the system and seeing way too many eight-year-old kids diagnosed with three different types of mental and behavioral disorders and prescribed four different medications. This is strictly my opinion and it comes from years of observation and admittedly less classes/research than an undergraduate Psych major might have, but it does come out of all-around-me experience.

I don't mean to say that no one has any sort of mental illness and that no one needs any amount of medication--far from it. And I have a lot of friends, a lot of coworkers, a lot of people who are studying/already in this field whose opinions about this are totally different than mine and that I completely respect. However, it has frustrated me for a long time to see nearly every at-risk kid that comes through the system immediately diagnosed and medicated.

Now, I'm not a parent. I wasn't raised in a home where I got to see much good parenting. What I have seen are a lot of unstable parents and even less stable homes and kids that come out of all that with some serious issues, behaviorally, emotionally and otherwise. Of course, right? Why should they act any other way? Children even under the best of circumstances don't usually grow up perfectly behaved and complacent (this seems to be the standard of 'good children' who are medicated until they just sit there), barring the hope that they'll all grow up to only make good decisions and be fully in control of all their impulses.

So that said, I'm afraid I'll look back on this in three weeks and realize I'm just being loud-mouthed and obnoxious, so I'll say again: this is only my opinion, and while I'm coming out of a lot of a certain type of experience, probably I'm not very qualified to have it. And I don't have an answer to it. Nearly all of my frustrations with the system have stemmed out of this, but I have no solution either. I've seen a lot people helped with this sort of thing, with certain medications, and my argument doesn't address the need for therapy either or the place for God in all of it. The truth is that I've seen diagnoses and medications combined with therapy work. And there are more people who come immediately to mind who have been diagnosed and medicated (medications that change every few months or years in the search for something more effective, something that works) from very early, have had the therapy, all of it, and are worse than ever.

I have no idea what to do with this. Do I think if my brother had been raised with in some other environment than the reality that things would be different for him now? I honestly do. I don't think they'd be perfect, but if the help had been sooner and different, I think he would have learned a lot of coping skills that he hasn't fully gotten yet. I wonder what's been done by eleven years of brain-altering chemicals, almost all of which were switched every so often because they turned out to not be what he needed. This is incredibly subjective--I won't deny that I don't think I can be very objective with this.

What I'm saying is that there is a need which has arisen from an inability fix brokenness. I'm not discounting any of the ways we try to help--medication, therapy, etc. Just that there is not one thing that fixes all--apart from God, but even that's fuzzy since our definition of 'fixed' may not always look like his--and there is certainly not one thing that does it quickly.

My gut-reaction has always been to push all of this away out of frustration. The way it's being dealt with, the way specifically described in the article, has had me throwing up my hands. What do you do? A 'fix' is years and years and years and a lot of work, a lot of love, a whole heap of frustration and difficulty, a lot of the same things over and over again until finally, imperfectly, there's change and movement and hope. And even then it's not fixed. It's moving toward wholeness. More than anything, and especially more than before, I want kids like this to be helped, to help them. To help people whose lives and abilities/motivations to make good things are all in pieces.

How? Again, I'm really not sure. But I do think it has to do with a lot of time, a lot of love, more perseverance and determination not to give up (maybe this is the hardest part?) than probably feels possible. Stability's a big one, too. Most times I think our system is overwhelmed (they do too much and not enough at the same time), but other times I see it doing good things--don't misunderstand me, because I do believe that. And I don't think by throwing out one flawed approach we'll discover a perfect one.

I guess the answer is mostly in not throwing my hands up, not giving up. Knowing that good can still be done in an imperfect system. Okay, there's that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

gettin' dunked

I've been sitting on this post since Sunday, trying to get a few days' perspective before writing it. And now I'm not sure what to say. I got baptized! I'm really excited about it and it was pretty amazing. There were about thirty people all together who got baptized at the service and all leading up to it we were nervous and excited and all of that. I remember during the first part of worship and then while standing in line (they kept singing while we were being baptized) I could hardly hold it in me. I don't know if anyone reading has experienced this, but every once in a while worship is really amazing or I'm just so filled up and yes, God and really I don't know how to explain it other than that, I kind of start to laugh. Not like I'm clutching my sides and falling over because something's funny. More because it just builds up inside me and spills out and there's this huge smile and a little laugh and my God is glorious.

Interestingly, that's the song they were playing before I got on stage. Glorious One, I mean. There is none more beautiful, and light of the world, you outshine the sun. And then right when I got up there and climbed into the baptism pool the song ended and it got really quiet but I only noticed a little and Pastor Jeff was asking if I'd given my life to Christ and if I wanted to live for him all the days of my life and all I could do is nod and big-ol'-grin as hard as I could and then he baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Something about all of it, having been baptized, feels so powerful. I know that it is. I was dancing around all day. My friend Arielle went right after me and several of my friends went as well. How awesome to be able to say yes! We will serve the Lord all the days of our lives! And how much more awesome to say it in front of 1,000 people. As always, God is so good. So thank you to everyone for the congratulations and being excited for us and all the support and for a certain two people hollerin' from the balcony. Thanks to everyone who was there, and for
those who weren't:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

bridal showers and jeremiah 3:15

Today I went to a bridal shower and the girl getting married is one of the most genuine people I know. First my staff worker and now her--it's exciting and scary and surprising to think that this is already here. Watching people grow through this is so new. We watched her open her gifts wearing a princess crown and I'm happy to get to see the joy and the anticipation that comes along with this. Learning more about the role of the church as the bride and Christ as the bridegroom puts a film in front of it all I hadn't ever thought about before.

After the shower we ran down to the sound to take pictures and nearly froze, wind flying off the water, hard sharp wind like sheet metal, and I couldn't help but think about most of us there are all preparing ourselves in one way or another for this. We are seeking our God, we are learning and growing and really none of this ends in marriage but I see the way life reflects the spiritual one.

"Jesus goes relentlessly to my heart"--I won't forget this one. From Urbana. And it's true that he is pursuing us the way a suitor pursues his to-be bride, leaving notes in the way the air feels or the stretch of glow to the west, running after us when we run. And teaching us, calling us to something bigger. I haven't got this figured out, but I think about praying and talking together with people and we are preparing ourselves for the coming together of Christ and his bride.

These metaphors get away from me--I don't understand enough of it yet, but I like to think about things by means of other things. It's not just the things we're doing, but it's pictures of how they're meant to be done, parts of what they'll look like in whole one day. I don't just mean marriage. I mean living and loving people and all that.

Jeremiah 3:15 says "Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding." I think it means several different things, but particularly within the context of the bride, the Lord will send us shepherds whose hearts are for him and his purposes--and in that context, our husbands. It feels mostly hypothetical for me right now, but it struck me like a promise, a personal one, one that I wasn't looking for or expecting. This is all far-off talk, but a verse like that makes me okay with thinking of it less hypothetically and more as a potentiality. And I see already how it's true--this time outside of the context of marriage--in our staff, in our pastor, in the spiritual mentoring and friendship of a woman seven timezones away. It goes back and forth between my roommates and I, each of us switching roles and calling each other to more of God. And it's in the relationship I have with my disciple who is also my friend--and I've got to be continually after God's heart for it to be right. This set-up, God's plans--it's all so good.

Right now all of this looks like my friend who is getting married. Right now the whole idea of that, spiritually and otherwise, is so new to me. What's most exciting to me is getting to see the new ways he will work in what their relationship is growing toward. Every time I think I'm starting to see the whole picture, God comes in showing me how there's still space for more of him. How cool that this isn't even close to all of it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

not being so afraid anymore

Last night was the first night I've been scared in a while. But this is good news! This is a good blog! I think it's been since Urbana, I'm not really sure, but at least over a month now I've been sleeping soundly. And I'll tell you what, it's amazing the difference between getting sleep and not. When I don't, I'm afraid I get a little bit crazy and a lotta bit emo. I've always had a hard time being scared of the idea of ghosts and worse things I can't see, but it got really bad for a couple months after seeing Paranormal Activity. Don't see it. Seriously. While I know that I am protected, it's just really hard for me not to still be scared. Images stick with me, words and sounds, all of it.

This is complicated by the fact that I think I've been having some sort of sleep/dream disruptance. I've wikied the heck out of this, and it may be that I'm overthinking, but every so often (more frequently last semester than ever before), usually within the first couple hours of falling asleep, I'll open my eyes suddenly and I can see my room and I can also see something about a foot from my face. It wakes me up fast, and I almost always roll over immediately and throw the covers over my head and pray furiously until I fall asleep again. Sometimes it's something that I can see but also see through. Other times, like last night, it's more solid. Something I want to fling away from me.

Now I've come to the conclusion that I'm having some sort of mixed dreaming-while-awake hallucinations, and while typing that sounds crazy, I am seeing something that is very real to me and scares the heck out of me, even while I've gotten to the point that I'm pretty certain nothing is actually there. It's jolting and terrifying to wake up and see something very vivid floating above your head, especially if you're already scared to begin with. My brother's had night terrors in the past and I wonder if this is related.

Here's the article I'm looking at. While I'm not paralyzed (I'm able to immediately flip over), they have most often happened when I've been lying on my back. And I'm usually having really vivid dreams. This seems to make sense to me. I'm wondering now about my diet, my schedules, and if there's anything I can do about preventing it.

There's this, though, and it's what helped a lot last night:

"But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: 'Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?'"
--Isaiah 14:15-17

It's incredibly comforting to me. It's like, really? You're the one who's been causing all this trouble? Seriously? "Flesh and blood cannot come to the Mountains [of heaven]. Not because they are too rank, but because they are too weak. What is a Lizard compared with a stallion? Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed." C. S. Lewis wrote that in The Great Divorce. (I realize he's talking about something different, but it reminds me of this.) What's this tiny, weak, noisy-scurrying thing when compared to the power of God?

I still ended up having some freaky dreams after falling back asleep, but I'd just read those verses a few days ago and as soon as I got scared, there they were. It was the first thing that came to mind when I rolled over. I'm not saying I wasn't still afraid, but the head knowledge is starting to make its way to my heart. How often in Scripture does it say, do not be afraid, the Lord your God is with you! It's true, it's good, and he is.