Thursday, April 29, 2010

dumbledore and jesus

I spent the other night listening to the soundtrack from the sixth Harry Potter. It really has some amazing tracks. Sara Cafe and I watched a documentary about JKRowling and it's strange to me because in some ways I want to shake the woman but in others I fully relate. She writes idealized father figures. Those usually come out in older brothers for me.

It's interesting to me how her big theme is that loving people is the most powerful thing, how love will triump in the end of it all. Theologically this is interesting in the sense of God's truths shining through whether people give recognition to him or not, although I think she tends to be a hair off, that good and evil in people aren't counterbalanced, aren't like yin and yang.

But theology aside, I love the fact that love wins, that Harry wins, that there is hope for good things. After rewatching the sixth movie I went back and reread something I wrote about the fear in a specific part of the movie and everything hanging in the balance, the fact that ''good'' might not triumph. I told the Colombian roommate that was how I imagined the disciples must have felt after Jesus died. This guy who was their hope, who they didn't really understand but must have at least hoped he was really God--and then he dies. It's like when Dumbledore dies (or when Gandalf does). You think, this wasn't supposed to happen this way. And the uncertainty--this could really all fail, could all be lost. Having Dumbledore's funeral or Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, wrapping Jesus' body in myrrh and aloe and linens.

There is a difference--God has already won. But something in me, perhaps the writer side of me, comes abck to this moment where everything is unsure and so very human. Jesus seems more personal to me in no other part of the Bible than this, and what it means I'm not sure, but the music during these parts knocks me over. Something in me knows it--I don't know. This track--Inferi in the Firestorm--there is hope, but you don't know what will happen. (The part I'm talking about starts at around 1:08). (Also, this is a slightly better version because it's an actual clip but I can't embed it...)

If you clicked the video clip version, you'll have noticed that Dumbledore parts the fire like Moses. Pretty epic, even if is Harry Potter. I'm sure there are all sorts of things like that you can get into, but first, let me just say: music like this just gets me. Vast, reaching music. And when you pair it with that moment when you don't know yet, when people are fighting for good and for hope and you just want so badly for good--well, this is why I'm endlessly sentimental or literay romantic or whatever you call it. Big, epic stuff just gets me. But I do think that this goes along with that idea of story, of living good stories. I don't mean melodrama and constant crisis. I mean something like doing good (not well), living out your part in that story that's way bigger than you are.

Monday, April 26, 2010

ten things i learned in college

1. Sometimes you will feel awkward. That's okay.

2. Girls are aliens. That's okay too. You might even find that they're pretty agreeable once you get to know them.

3. Sentences can be as long as you like them to be. People will yell at you, but there's a rule. Once you know the rule, you can break it. That said: hold back sometimes. It's better.

4. If you can write a good enough paper, you can get away with reading one out of nine required novels in a class meant to study novels. You can even make an A in the class while your hard-working, disciplined friend gets gypped with a B+. Yeah, this is one of my more shameful moments in college. And for the record, the one book was actually half each of two different books. (To be fair, it was one of the best papers I've ever written.)

5. There are lots and lots of very skinny, very tan girls and no matter what you look like, it will probably be hard. Just remember you're pretty baller and beautiful.

6. There are a ton of really smart people. Do not be discouraged or imtimidated. Engage them, or be engaged by them. It really is fun. You'll learn more that way anyway.

7. It's not really that big of a deal. College, I mean. Let me explain this one. When I got back from Colombia two years ago, I didn't want to finish. I love to learn, I really do, and I could spend weeks and months reading about things I'm interested in. But I wanted to drop out and move to South America and my grades that semester reflected it. The thing is, though, none of what I've learned necessarily needs the academic environment. I'm a pretty proficient Spanish speaker now, but if I'd spent the last two years working in Colombia, I promise you I'd be fluent--maybe this is just how I learn, but I don't do much language learning in classrooms with textbooks. I do memorizing that might stick but doesn't help my communication which translates to my brain as a waste of time. Hence the wish to drop out. And with writing--well, I did learn a lot and I am a better writer now. But when I think of where I learned the most, I think of two TAs and a few professors. I don't think of workshops. I realize all of this sounds pretentious (in an inversed way like that one part in Good Will Hunting where Will tells snooty college dude that he could have gotten his entire Ivy League education in fifty cents in late fines at the library). I don't mean it that way, and I'm grateful. It's certainly good and certainly helpful, but it's not the be-all and end-all everyone makes it out to be.

8. So that said, it might be one of the best things you can do. I would do it all over again in an instant and I learned more in the last four years than I can articulate. And I don't recognize the kid that came to this school in 2006. I'm certain everything would be different, I wouldn't be going to Romania--possibly somewhere else, but not Romania--and--well, I don't even know how to say it. Almost every one of the people I love the most are here with me now, and without getting too much more sentimental, I'm glad for it.

9. Listen to what people care about, what they're interested in, what they're passionate about. I promise they'll feel loved and you'll feel free (you begin to realize that it's not really about you, anyway).

10. And last: pants are completely unnecessary. They are the bridles of society, the tool of the man. Take those things OFF!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

d-d-done, baby (almost)

And ten hours of writing papers and translating later, I am DONE, baby! I still have one more exam to go, but it's one I'm not worried about. In fact, I may even enjoy it, as far exams go. Oh and then there's that independent study I have to do in the summer but it's writing a personal essay, and as far as writing personal essays goes, I may enjoy that too.

And then I'm graduated. Done done done, and I wouldn't have thought I'd be so glad. Already a hundred other things I have to do are making their way into my mind, but tonight I fully intend to eat a milkshake from Cookout and watch an episode of ER, and that's it. Sounds glorious, yeah?

What else is there? It's been a week almost. Saturday I did this great thing called Oozeball. Volleyball in the mud. I can't tell you how much volleyball I played this past summer. And it's a well known fact that playing it barefoot in the mud and getting down right filthy is the best way to do it. I felt like I was about eight. We lost, but we lost covered from head to toe in mud. Obligatory picture (for those of you on facebook, whoops):

Friday, April 16, 2010

for my IV family

Here nearly at the end, I am overwhelmed by the love of my friends. I am overwhelmed by the love of a God who would take my hand and bring me into life. And by tonight, by the way the line of the horizon glowed red-orange for half an hour, the rest of the sky darkening, smooth like silk, purple then navy then black, I am overwhelmed.

We had large group at the beach tonight and I am convinced there is no better part of living at the beach than being able to go down to the south end of Wrightsville at sunset and think or worship. And I'll tell you, it was freezing, the wind coming off the water like sheet metal. When we go down there we sing and sometimes go on our own and pray and usually we have a time where people come up and talk about what God's been doing in their lives. So we were all hunkered down in the sand and people got up and did that.

It's a strange thing to hear someone stand up and say that their life has been changed, that the Lord has brought them from death into life, that things might have been another way. I say it's strange because, at least for me, it's easy to hear stories like this all the time without ever realizing what it means for something like that to happen. One after another, all these students saying this, that through being involved in the chapter, God has somehow changed them, grown them. When I think of it inverted, when I see my friend and imagine the might have been, it's suddenly a lot bigger, a whole lot more real.

And, the whole dome of heaven stretched above us, it really is real. It really is. And he is good.

I was going at the end after everyone else and even though I missed my cue and the wind was blowing toward me so my voice went the wrong way and then my leg was shaking because I get nervous in front of people, I wanted to say so much. I don't think I'll be able to even half articulate it unless I write it out, but I was supposed to talk about Link and raising support and all I could think was exactly what everyone had been saying. God has provided so much and I wonder what I'd be doing now if not for this group. I can't imagine being where I am, being on the cusp of something like this, except for them, and standing up there, I couldn't hope for anything better than that same group to be the one to send me, to pray for me, to be the home and family that they are. So I said that.

Everyone prayed for me at the end, and I'm telling you, I don't think I've ever felt loved like that. I don't know if any of you guys read this, but if you do, thank you. For tonight, for these last years. It means more than you'd guess.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

writing like my life depended on it

I've spent my entire day so far reading. I read Father Fiction and I'm about a quarter of the way through A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Plan to finish this one too. Right now what's sticking out to me is a passage about how God made every person, placed each of them in a womb to grow and then be introduced to life for seventy years or however long, just waking up and learning. He talked about each of us, individually, being a part of the whole story God wrote. And I started thinking about just how many people that would mean. Six billion something now? Plus all the people who have ever been alive, and I'm sure someone much smarter than me has estimated this number, but imagine that.

The first thing that came to mind, honestly, was Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and all those kids they've adopted, plus their own. Brangelina's brood, I've heard them called. And that word for some reason, when paired with the idea of God having all these children and how he loves us so much that one or two wasn't enough, is delightfully and wonderfully funny to me. The internet tells me that this is how many people who've ever been born: 106,456,367,669. This brood of a hundred billion people, a hundred billion kids God made because he loved us all so much.

I've been in my head all day with these two books and Blue Like Jazz. I sat down and read Father Fiction straight through, and I'll tell you, I identify so strongly with Don Miller that I feel like he's taken the inside of me and strung it into words. I don't just mean the issue of growing up fatherless. I mean that, and I also mean how he related to God both emotionally and intellectually, how he grew through certain things, struggled with others, the things that he learned.

This last one, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is about writing your own story. This has been coming up lately, in conversation, in a friend's blog. When I was seventeen, a few weeks before I left for college, I was sitting in church and the pastor was talking about a certain passage in--I think--the end of John where he says that if it were written all the things Jesus did then there wouldn't be room in all the world for the books there'd be. What it boiled down to was living a life worthy of writing about. This struck me doubly because I've always wanted to write and when he said that I felt like I should write, I ought to.

And now more than ever I want to write like Don Miller. In the last few months or semester or so, I've gotten so tired of writing blogs because I write about myself an awful lot, just about everything I write. And he says this too about the sort of book writing he does: "It gets wearisome, all the bellyaching and feeling and thinking about the world and how you interact with it... Who thinks they are so important they need to write books about themselves... and how did I become one of them?" But then there was also a part he was talking about in the introduction to Father Fiction, how it was hard to write about certain parts because he didn't want to go there, and even though there are lots of places I will go, there are some I will not, I don't want to go anywhere near. I don't want to write about them, I don't want to deal with them. They become the highlight-delete, the torn out pages, but even in my heart I know it doesn't really work that way. And even while I already don't want to, and added to that that am tired of writing anything to do with myself, I feel like there's a place for that in my life (maybe not here, don't worry) and I can't just be through with it.

Somewhere in all this living and writing and all of us feeling around and trying to figure out what the heck we're doing and why we're doing it, I go back and wonder how the story of a hundred billion people will look when the whole thing is finished. I know major themes will be redemption and grace, and even now I understand why I hate stories and movies that are hopeless and do nothing but get worse until they crash into the ground. There is a reaching God across a reaching chasm. It gets ugly here in the world, but something beautiful is coming to light it up again.

Here in the end I don't remember where I was going with any of this. Just that reading Don Miller makes me want to write like my life depended on it, and if you look at it the right way, maybe it does.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

about link

I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for days. And just like when there's something I'm thinking about and can't say, I have a hard time saying anything else. I've been waiting, too. Letting people know in person, via phone call, in email--rather than finding out on the blog. And so because I don't know how to say it except to say it:

I got the job with Link. There's still probably another month or so of finalizing the main details, and then after that there's the very large task of support raising, but my pending placement is Romania. It's safe to say I might be going back. Crazy, right? The interview was great. It was a phone interview and because I don't get good reception inside my apartment and my other option was having it in my staffworker's office (which would make me way too nervous), I decided to hang out in my car. I don't know that I really thought it through all that well. As soon as they called five or six guys with leaf blowers came out of nowhere and started blowing the pinestraw they'd just put down. So there I was, half yelling into the phone, trying to explain the noise, and also, since it decided to be summer for the last week, I was sweating through my clothes. And they laughed with me, I told lots of stories, and then out of what felt like left field (this normally happens a few days later, yes?), they offered me the job.

Wednesday night, in between all the excitement, it hit me what all this really means. The strangest part is moving it from something that's been almost fully in my head for months to the realization that this is a tangible, actual thing now. That six months from now I very likely will be in Romania. Or Turkey or Spain or who knows. But, provided I've raised enough support, that's something that will happen as surely as I'll graduate. Am I convincing myself? Depends on how you look at it. There was the brief thought: what the heck am I getting myself into?

And then: relief in the form of not me. I started thinking about all the people over there that I care about it. I thought about the first night at camp, all those people packed in a stairwell praising God. How he was working crazy good things amongst them long before I got there and will be long after, how the real blessing, the real thing to be excited about is how I get to step into that. How it's not about me or the things that are scary about all this pertaining to myself.

The bigger picture, still fuzzy in places, may not always look like that one night, exhausted and overwhelmed and straight joy. I know it won't. But it will be made of all those things. I expect to be exhausted, to be overwhelmed in both hard ways and good ways, and for there to be joy in seeing how God's working in students I don't even know yet. Scary? Oh yes. Good? That too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


"My eyes are small but they have seen the beauty of enormous things."
--David Crowder


"I am so small I can barely be seen. How can this great love be inside me? Look at your eyes. They are small, but they see enormous things."

I see Mr. Crowder has been reading Rumi. I am impressed.