Keystone State of Mind

Hur hur, I'm so funny, thieving from Jay-Z. Because everybody should do that at least once in their life. And yes, I did just investigate the grammar of that last sentence. Shh, if you don't tell, I won't. Onward!

Corn stalks, though fragile, can form quite a formidable barrier en masse. I can sympathize with Bing Crosby as he begs meltingly, "Don't fence me in." Somewhere between September 8th and the present day, my piedmont hills with their fur of rye, alfalfa, and the inescapable corn have lost their charm. Now where once they romanced my soul and left me longing to send my roots down into their soil, they crowd around me as if they would eventually enfold me entirely. I once said that I would like to be buried without a casket in the sweet, dry dirt of a field, but I didn't think that my world would take me seriously.

And no, while I have my personal paranoias, that's not really one of them. It's merely a means of describing the shift of perspective that I have undergone since leaving IMPACT: my "Keystone State of mind." Working 50 hours or 6 days (one week, all 7) with no end in sight has trapped me, strapping on a pair of binoculars that funnel out the great wide world and leave only Lancaster in view. I am so tired and bound up in it that I don't even care about school anymore. This is what it means to trudge.

It's not so horrible as I make it sound. When I typed the word "trudge," I was thinking of an early scene in "A Knight's Tale," when they meet Chaucer who is walking naked on the road. They look at him askance when he remarks that he is trudging, and he explains thusly: "To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on." It makes me laugh, even as I find myself seconding the sentiment.

And in the midst of this increasing awareness of an increasing change, I called Kennedy. He was texting me a week or two ago, and I sincerely wanted to call him but forgot/had no opportunity when recalling until today. He certainly doesn't change, although the call was surprisingly brief. Even his encouragement was standard Kennedy fare. And yet it was exactly what I needed someone to tell me. That my future matters. That I will not be holed up in Lancaster, working 3:30 to close Monday to Saturday and bemoaning the overripeness of avocados for all of my days. That through me, God has blessed somebody somewhere no matter how much I feel like I'm permanently stuck on myself, and that He can and is still using me.

And so the flame burns on, though it wavers from time to time.


Melancholy Pause

Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you and where you'd gone
And let the world spin madly on

Everything that I said I'd do
Like make the world brand new
And take the time for you
I just got lost and slept right through the dawn
And the world spins madly on

I let the day go by
I always say goodbye
I watch the stars from my window sill
The whole world is moving and I'm standing still

Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
The night is here and the day is gone
And the world spins madly on

I thought of you and where you'd gone
And the world spins madly on...
//"World Spins Madly On" by The Weepies//

One Tribe, Y'all

Apparently, the difference between transformation and conformation (not to be confused with "confirmation") is that the transformed heart embraces variety while the conformed heart only values and seeks those who are similar to it.

Interesting thought from a Bethel podcast sermon. I don't know where the connection comes in, however, because at first glance it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As I've been mulling it over, I think it's specifically in connection with the body of Christ.

Rejuvenated by the beating of the drum
Come together by the cycle of the hum
Freedom when all become one forever, forever

One tribe y'all, one tribe y'all,
One tribe y'all, we are one people
//"One Tribe" by The Black Eyed Peas//

For a moment, let's assume that the speaker in the podcast was right about transformation and conformation. The song "One Tribe" has been bothering me, not solely because we talked about it in class this past year. While the idea being most overtly promoted is peace, they seem to be suggesting peace brought about as a result of homogeneity. And there was the contrast.

The body of Christ: unity in diversity. Many members, distinct parts with distinct functions, all bestowed with grace but of differing casts. A celebration of all the things that make us unique. We are members of a body, not many bodies, all the same in form and feature but for some slight variation, composing one tribe.

It's a lot easier to make peace in conformity... But is it worth the loss?


Hold Life Like Water (CtrlPt2)

Somewhere between Mulberry and Charlotte Streets, I realized that there are some things I simply cannot do. 

This revelation is not one that I particularly wanted to have. If the (slightly truncated) earlier remarks on control were not clear, I like having it. I don't like to think that I have no ability to influence areas of my life. And true, there are times when I do so by not doing so, but my post-shift headache is on in full force and that just aggravates it. Point: I dislike feeling powerless. Point #2: Sometimes I can't do anything about it but accept it and move on.

Ejemplo: Today was brutal. It was alright from 8:30 until noon and then again from two until five. But in those two hours in between, Dominik and I faced a full board of tickets to the point where Eric had to turn them sideways and stack them at the end to fit. Suck a freaking egg. All we could do was give a wait of forty-five minutes and hope it would discourage one or two people while the rest had a degree of patience. There is only so fast that you can move when there are two of you working with two grills, one toast, and one and a half microwaves (one was blowing up eggs like World War III), plus you have to (as Carl puts it) dosie dough a lot to get things out of the bain. So we've finally dealt with all of the orders and I'm working on a stocking list and a few drink orders when Mandy announces that someone posted something on the Facebook page about how she had to wait 40 minutes for her to go bagel, and so on. Cue headache. And a certain sense of disappointment. Could we have done better? Maybe. We do try to send out cups of soup and bagels faster, the things that don't take any preparation. But anything that takes more than a cut and a toast will stay in the food line-up along with all of the other tickets, and we can't work any faster than we do. We did our best, it was over, and a customer had a complaint that I couldn't fix. 

Sometimes all I can do is ask God for the grace to lay down the arms of competence in an unconditional surrender. Today's example was a small one and not terribly significant in the grand scheme of my life, except that work = life for me for the time being. But in the small things I see the shadows of the big ones, and so it lies. I must hold life like water, and as it flows through my hands, untamed and untamable, perhaps if I am lucky the lines of my palms will leave an impress on its metamorphosing form.


Thunderstorms and Lullabies

Peace at the eye of the storm. A friendly voice in a hostile crowd. A gleam of light in a pitch black cave. We hope because without hope we falter. All trust is bound in hope. All adventures thrive on it. And yet... Even hope fails. Only one candle remains, and in His arms we rest.

I pray light will
Leak from our pockets
We'll be drenched, overcome
At night the fireflies
Streamers at our sides
Silent flaming arcs of hope
All things will change
We wait for the rain
And the promise remains
//"Jacaranda Tree" by Josh & Michelle Garrels//


Control & The Only Reason I Feel Secure

Two titles of cds by the band Pedro the Lion. I had them, once upon a time, on a single disc that mostly spent its time in my cd case, never listened to or even thought about. But those titles side-by-side have stuck with me, occasionally running through my head long after I threw the cd in the trash.

Why do we need to control? While Sam and I were en route to Philly on Tuesday, we started talking about vegetarianism. Her ex-boyfriend was a rigid vegetarian for ten years, and in a passing comment, she said that it seemed to be a need for control rather than something arising from animal love or health concerns.

I was chasing a mental bunny trail about the opposite of control and a line from "Fight Club" came to mind. As Tyler Durden rather crudely puts it, "Self-improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction..." What is masturbation but a form of control? What is self-improvement but some level of self-control? And yet his response is to engineer chaos, not unlike Nolan's Joker, whose claim is to randomness. But in the creation of chaos, control is exerted. It is those who are at the receiving end, the victims, who feel powerless.

Is control the only reason I feel secure? Do I, like the mayor in Fight Club who promises to bring down Project Mayhem, seek to wrestle it back even when everything says no? And if my answer to those questions is, "No, I feel secure for other reasons," then why am I thrown off balance by circumstances that make me feel powerless?

While I've always liked the one and only translation that trades the word "secure" for "hope," recently I've begun to embrace the more common form of Psalm 16:8-9.

I have set the LORD continually before me;
   Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;
   My flesh also will dwell securely.



Stars hide your fires / These here are my desires
And I won't give them up to you this time around
And so I'll be found / with my stake stuck in the ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul...
//from "Roll Away Your Stone"//


When the Rain Comes...

For a variety of reasons, this has not been the easiest summer. I'd say to review some old posts and figure that out for yourself, but as past experience and experiment has shown me, I get a lot more depth and texture from what I say than any other reader.

Anyway, Kennedy texted me the other day, just to ask how I've been and what I've been up to. My response was fairly simple: "Dear Kennedy, my summer has not been easy, but it has been blessed. God uses all to His glorification." At first, it seemed like a sort of sell out comment to make, probably influenced by the recipient who would say something similar. But when I reread it, I realized that it is not untrue.

Am I harping on the same theme? Does this unending talk of my melodramatic misery and God's unseen but felt grace begin to grate at your nerves like Joanna Newsom's voice? Not that it's a bad story to tell, if I do say so myself, but perhaps there is still the desire to shake me and ask, "Have you gotten it yet, Christy, or are you still as daft as a fence post?"

For that, I can only say that I am sorry if you feel that way, but I won't apologize for my absurdly drawn out learning process. We walk, we run, or if necessary, we drag ourselves forward on our bellies with what feels like the weight of the world in a pack on our backs, but at the very least we keep moving forward, for the alternative is not worth any moment's consideration.

As August approaches, my anticipation grows. Alumni reunion marks a spot of light on the calendar blocks that I am so slowly checking my way toward, not the least for getting to spend some time with Leah the virtually inaccessible one and to escape work for a precious few days. But it is not the climax of my next few months of existence, from which all goes downhill on the gentle slope of the falling action.

Back in March, Kennedy had a word for me (accompanied by a rather amusing, Kennedy-esque prophetic moment... I miss my crazy Kenyan friend). It was something of a confirmation, but his word was to wait. At the time, I thought perhaps I knew what was meant by that, but I'm starting to think that God's fruit bears a startling resemblance to onions. Sharp, piercing, distinct, recognizable... And there are always layers to be peeled back, often a fresh understanding to be had.

Hence the anti-climax of reunion: it ends nothing, decides nothing. I sense no cessation to this wait, though of late I have been given renewed strength. The middle land, the wilderness between the promise and the Promised Land, is a barren place, but God met Moses in the wilderness, trained Paul there, prepared His Son for earthly ministry and the divine act of redemption. Though barren, it is not empty, not void. Elijah heard the whisper after the whirlwind, and so I listen for God's whisper to rise above the roaring silence and watch longingly for the first cast of green to break through the gray. Until then, I revel in the windswept kiss of His present provision and grace.

I told Debbie the other day that I really wanted to fly, but perhaps that's just blindness. For, as the Denise Levertov poem illustrates, I am already suspended, caught by arms eternal, and that is as glorious a flight as I could ever dare to hope for.



"Don't you remember on earth -- there are things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right? Shame is like that. If you will accept it -- if you will drink the cup to the bottom -- you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds."
//The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis//


Childish Moments

When I secretly want to rebel, I eat fruit without rinsing it.

My mom would be so aggravated if she knew...



Mornings are a better time of day. Unfortunately, thanks to the vagaries of an ever-fluid work schedule, I rarely wake up as early as I would like. Even if I try to set my alarm, my half-slumbering fingers know that they can hit the snooze button as many times as they like because there isn't much to beg my time.  This particular morning, however, I had made plans to meet Hadassah and Debbie at Chickies Rock to run the trail to the overlook, so I roused myself with rather less grogginess than a mere five hours of sleep (after nearly ten hours at work) ought seemingly to have dictated. 

They failed to show up, one because she didn't want to miss church, the other because she got lost and my signal is never good on the hill so I couldnae direct her. But I still had the opportunity to run by myself, which I did, every sore, stiff, and out of shape inch of me.

As I was sitting on a stone column of the fence at the overlook, I was contemplating the water as it rushed downstream. Even from many feet above and away, the distant thunder of water against rock still reached my ears. A glorious symphony, free and fierce. What classical music (save, perhaps, that of good old Elijah) has ever made a morning brighter?

But I realized something. The water's music, every wonderful note, was the music of pain. It could not produce sound of such volume or perhaps at all if it were not for the rocks that barred the way. As it cast itself against and around the stones in its way, it was then that the notes issued forth. "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few..." (Matthew 7:14)

"The Water Song"
         from Hind's Feet in High Places
Come, oh come! Let us away--
Lower, lower every day,
Oh what joy it is to race
Down to find the lowest place.
This the dearest law we know--
"It is happy to go low."
Sweetest urge and sweetest will,
"Let us go down lower still."
Hear the summons night and day
Calling us to come away.
From the heights we leap and flow
To the valleys down below.
Always answering to the call,
To the lowest place of all.
Sweetest urge and sweetest pain,
To go low and rise again.

To be brought low. Humbled. To embrace pain not for itself but because it is but a small price to pay for the better thing. And then to rise again...



I had grasped God's garment in the void
But my hand slipped
On the rich silk of it.
The 'everlasting arms' my sister loved to remember
Must have upheld my leaden weight
From falling, even so,
For though I claw at empty air and feel
Nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.
//"Suspended" by Denise Levertov//


Handprints on My Heart

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime
So let me say before we part,
So much of me is made from what I learned from you
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you...

I have been changed for good
//For Good, "Wicked"//