Broken Jars

“I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it … If there’s nothing to this business of eternal life we might as well lose everything in one crack and throw our present life away with our life hereafter. But if there is something to it, then everything else the Lord says must hold true likewise.” {Ed McCully in a letter to Jim Elliot}

Calling. It’s like the cool Christian catchphrase. We don’t ask high school students what they want to do with their lives; we ask them what they feel they’re called to, and we get warm and fuzzy spiritual answers like: “I am called to reach inner city kids with the Father love of God;” “I am called to chip away at the foundations of humanism in our nation’s Ivy League universities;” “I am called to…” But what if we’ve missed something important? What if it’s not about being called to somewhere, but simply that we are called?

That may seem like a petty distinction. What difference does it make whether I am called or called to? Personally, I think it makes all the difference in the world. If I am called to something, then it is when I do that one thing that I am worshiping God with my life. But if I am called, then my whole entire life from opening my eyes in the morning to closing them at night can be an answer and a praise to the One who gives me breath.

Oddly enough, that’s not what I meant to write about, but it’s a decent segue. During my time at dts this past year, we had the opportunity to participate in several 12-hour long burns at the Life Center (it’s an extended community worship time, not a political hate meeting or a book censoring party). Lucas and Sam had taken one of the night watch sets, and I happened to come in halfway through. They weren’t really singing about the magnificence of God or giving Him praise for something He had done. It was more like a love song. I wish I could give you the poignancy of that moment, but words are insufficient. And in the midst of it, Lucas sang, “Let it be said when I am 82, ‘he wasted his life on Jesus…’ because it’s not a waste at all.”

It almost sounds silly when I type it out. And yet, there is something too powerful in this word “waste” to ignore the lovesickness of the heart behind it. What do we do for those whom we love? We lavish what we have on them. The classic prayer room example is Mary breaking her alabaster jar to bathe Jesus’s feet with costly perfume. So much is given because there is no other way to express the depths of love that would give more than “much,” would give “all.”

The Ed McCully quote that I began with is taken from Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot. A few pages later, she says, “On December 10, 1952, with eight-month old Stevie, Ed and Marilou sailed for Ecuador, the country where God had indicated He wanted them to spend their lives.” In my copy, I underlined the word spend. Each breath that we take is a withdrawal from our life’s bank account. We don’t have a whole lot, and the temptation is to use it all for personal pleasures. “I’m tired, so I will use this time to sleep.” “I have to finish writing a paper, so I don’t have time to help you edit yours.”

The heart of the lover, the wastrel, does not hoard those breaths and use them for selfish ends. It sees all that it has as resources for the delight and joy of the beloved. When Elisabeth Elliot says that it was in Ecuador that “He wanted them to spend their lives,” she quite literally means in Ed’s case that he was to spend all of the life that he possessed for the souls of the Aucas. True, Marilou and Stevie lived on, but they also gave something precious and powerful. And yet, even as they may have felt deep grief, theirs was the consolation of 1 Thessalonians 4, the solace of hope, because Ed “wasted” his life on the One whom he loved.

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men… God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the week things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:25,27)

Better to be foolish in love than wise in selfishness. Better to be prodigal and profligate with the hours that I have, giving them all in the service of the much-mocked “lost cause,” than to while them away on what does not endure. I think I should like that to be written on my tombstone: “The Prodigal Daughter.” She who wasted everything she had and gained Someone far better.


Of Pearls, Plato, and Other Worlds

I’ve always loved pearls. It’s not just that they are beautiful – because they are that – but they have a story. I guess I just never realized that sometimes the irritant that starts the process could be something beautiful too.

Why is pain? Nicholas Wolterstorff wrestles with the problem of pain in his book, Lament for a Son, a father’s outcry over the loss of a child. Ultimately, his conclusion is not a deeply theological one. There are no elaborate theodicies or brilliant countering coup de grace’s. He simply realizes that God also suffers, and if a God who is love suffers, then suffering is down at the heart of things where love is. It will radically affect each and every one of us, unless we, like those hardened few Lewis spoke of, choose to remove ourselves to the only possible haven where love will not hurt us, i.e. Hell.

But what is suffering? I think of the word “longsuffering” here, thanks to a discussion with Kevin Puckett, who could probably say a lot more and better on the topic. To suffer something is to allow it. Not quite what we ordinary mortals think of when we talk of suffering, but there it is. Save that definition for a moment as I move (inevitably!) to a more personal note.

For the past several months, I have been adjusting to life outside of the prefabricated community that is a discipleship training school or an IMPACT 360. Not only that, but in the space of a few short months, I ditched some serious life plans, packed up my entire life, and moved in with my sister (who is amazing and probably the only person reading this) to go to community college. Okay, nothing new there, I’ve probably whined about all of that enough to make my point. But I think I’ve finally found words to explain what the experience of that transition and its reverse were like, and in a rather unlikely place.

Two excerpts from Benjamin Jowett’s translation of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave:”
#1. Upon exiting the cave at last: “And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities … He will required to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day … Last of all, he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.”

#2: Upon being forced to return as one enlightened: “Imagine once more … such as one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness? … And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady … would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.”
(as written in Philosophy Through Film by Mary Litch -- if these are difficult to understand, think of Neo when he is removed from the Matrix and then imagine how it would feel if he were to somehow re-enter it or even if he had taken the blue pill)

I feel like the man who was led forth from the cave and saw all that truly is (or some of all of the One who truly is, anyway). I have, as Whitman put it, habited myself “to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of [my] life” (Song of Myself, part 46). But to be thus taken out of this world had its own purpose: to bring something of that light back with me when, bodily prisoner that I am, I had at last to return to the cave.

Suffice it to say, I did not bring back anything. I chose to ingratiate myself by acting as one who is blind to the shadows of the cave because my eyes were adjusted to a better light. I couldn’t forget all that I had seen and done, not quite, so instead, I systematically began to wrap it up as if it were a grain of sand. Instead of “suffering” the pain of separation and allowing it to spur me on to other things, I preferred to mute it by drowning it in a cushion of numbness.

I don’t think that this was a necessarily bad thing. It would be easy to look back on the past few months and wonder how I could do something like that: forgetting the joys, the trials, the intimacy. Easy, yes, but still a trap. (To reference Katrina’s favorite part of The Phantom Tollbooth, you get to the Island of Conclusions by jumping there, but you have to swim if you want to get back.) I haven’t gotten very far in C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, but I love the way that Hyoi talks of the hrossa’s experience of sex (and much of life) and the role of memory: “A pleasure is only fully grown when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. “

In other words, I get a second chance or maybe my first chance hasn’t really ended yet. I don’t know what happens when I make myself vulnerable once more to the sting of all of those sweet memories, but this is part of their story and part of my story as it unfolds through my life.


When the man dances, the piper pays him

I watched Fiddler on the Roof for the first time this evening (thank you, Sam!), and since this is Christmas break and I'm already feeling intensely reflective in a writing sort of way, I couldn't resist the urge to blog about it. Sorry. You can expect a lot from me in the coming weeks... I can't really restrain the impulse.

Reason to Love #1: The way that the music - not even the lyrics but the notes themselves - tell the story is just fantastic. From the moments when the fiddler plays the sprightly warning notes of his "tradition" tune to the last notes of his serenade that lift a weary man's shoulders for the road that still stretches ahead of him, it is both the storyteller and the storyteller's tool.

Reason to Love #2: Tevye grows up. This is not a story about three girls breaking from traditions and yentas and finding husbands for themselves, at least, not really. It is almost like a collection of short stories about minor yet significant characters that tell one bigger story about someone else entirely, not unlike the Bible. The real change is wrought in Tevye, who learns over the course of a heartwrenching season that certain things are more important than others. He finds out after 25 years of (arranged) marriage that he and Golda love each other. He realizes that love actually is important, that happiness is not dependent on wealth ("They are so happy they don't even know they're miserable!"), and that sometimes your opponents are your friends and your friends are your enemies but family is always family no matter what. It isa  hard and humbling journey, but one that is filled with grace.

I was reading a Belloc essay about rest from his collection, "At the Sign of the Lion," and he speaks thus of the ending of things: "...One may say that in proportion to the largeness of [man's] action is this largeness and security of vision at the end." He is referring to a rest that is not death, but is rather the steadfast, sturdy peace of a life put through the fire of turmoil and made all the stronger for its pains. I think perhaps those last moments that we are with Tevye as he pulls his cart down the muddy track show a man who has tasted something of that rest. He has weathered far greater crises than this: it is not the end, but another beginning.

Reason to Love #3: Apparently, dancing is not the only activity that leads to illicit unions. I have it on good authority that reading books will gain you a very cute, very Russian, very unfortunately Eastern Orthodox and not at all Jewish husband. I'm not Jewish, therefore, I have no qualms in the matter. Bring on the books!

Reason to Love #4: I recognize that this is a fairly idealized portrayal of Jewish culture. However, I can't help but love the way that they wear black clothes and sober faces, but their age lines are laugh lines and their life is so extravagant as to make up for the color absent in their dress. From the dancing to the jesting to the drinking and good cheer, it is as if their everyday face nods sagely at the trials and torments of living while one eye winks puckishly and one foot taps slyly because they have realized that there is a far greater truth to be found, and that is joy beyond circumstance which tastes all the sweeter for the contrast.

Reason to Love #5: The dancing. It makes me want to watch "Riverdance: The Show" on repeat for a couple of days. Not the one with Michael Flatley though - the other guy, Colin whatsisface. Seriously, though, there had better be people dancing like that at my engagement party. Wedding. Whatever.

Suffice it so say, I was extremely impressed and rather loved it.


A VW Bus Full of Grace

...Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.
{Philippians 3:7-8}

God has a funny way of reminding me of His presence and who He is. Like I said before, I have had a lot on my plate recently and time with God was not high on the priority list. But one of the ways that His grace pointed me back to Him was through this verse. I'm beginning at the end though.

There is a well-demarcated distinction between life with a job and life without a job. For one thing, the definition of a "necessity" broadens considerably when you have a steady cashflow and the hope of its continuation. Out of the past 28 months, I've worked maybe 9 of them, with a few extra fragments of weeks and shifts thrown in for good measure. That sense of enforced frugality combined with the intention to go west to college and fit all of my possessions into my car led me to whittle down my possessions considerably. When I moved in with Katrina, my closet looked pathetic (I owned basically one pair of jeans) and the only substantial anything was my bookcase which had also been reduced from some 8 shelves to a mere four and a half. Thanks to a change in expectations and monetary circumstances, I have expanded on books, clothing, and a few others areas, to the degree that I feel like for the first time since high school, I actually have a lot of stuff.

It's only when we have something to lose that giving everything sounds scary.

I found it so easy to say, "God, You can have it all," while I was at dts, because honestly all was not a whole lot and I wasn't very attached to it. It's a whole heck of a lot harder when I take stock of all that I have now and realize that if He takes everything, there is a lot in there that I rather like, thank you very much. I am humbled by the realization that in spite of all of my smug mental condemnations of the spending habits of classmates, I am not immune to the cravings of the insatiable beast of want.

So I'm not sure if that brings us back to the end properly or not, but I guess that question that I was forced to ask myself was this: would I be willing to count all that I have as loss? And I'm not just talking about stuff here, because I'm not that attached to my skinny jeans and Toms. I also mean, could I leave Pennsylvania after finally connecting with my dad and given how quickly his diabetes will bring about degeneration? Could I give up my hopes of moving to England one day if that were no more than a selfish desire? Could I choose to live a quiet, outwardly unremarkable life when so much in me itches at the thought of something bigger?

I don't necessarily think that I will be asked to give up things that are near and dear to my heart like that in the near future, but the fact that I had to pause so long in processing reminded me of how thankful I am for God's...  allness? He is fully capable of being all that I need. Whether my boxes are full or empty, that is one constant in my life, and my desire is that I will rise to it and be able to offer myself with that same degree of constancy. Nothing barred from Him, nothing held back, all His, all a loss to me if it comes at the cost of the one thing I have desired and sought.

All roads lead home, and home is where the heart is, safe in His hands.


Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice...

There's this commercial for some energy buzz where the guy talks about how he used to not be a morning person. This is supposed to be in contrast to his wife, the cute blonde with her 5AM game face and running shorts. She's the one who actually LIKES seeing the dark end of the sunrise, while he can only drag himself out of bed with an all natural boost.

What am I motivated by?

And isn't that just the hundred dollar question? When someone wants to pretend that they're deep, it is so easy to say something like, "I'm motivated by compassion for people who have suffered a lot of grief," or "I'm motivated by a desire to see a better future." But honestly, right now, I am not motivated by anything even remotely altruistic. Oh, my answer would probably be pretty cute and pat too, something to do with the life of the mind and new ways of teaching or communicating. But take a second to look at the way I've actually been living, and you could probably figure out pretty quickly that there was a serious gap between what I was saying with my lips and what I was saying with my life.

When I get done with my 4:45 AM to 8:00 PM Monday, nothing in me wants to do homework. And you'd better believe that I am not waking up fifteen or twenty minutes earlier to meditate on Scripture. I can meditate (on the marvels of sleep) with my eyes closed just fine, thank you very much. It's harder to make excuses when Wednesday afternoon finally sneaks up, and all I want to do is zone out to Season 3, Episode 4 of Doctor Who, even as my to-do list remains pointedly ignored on my phone. I know there's so much I should be doing... But my time is MY time, right?

So my present motivation is generally instant impulse gratification (which is hell on the bank account - believe me). The sooner I can relieve that itch to do, eat, buy something, the better. Always fun to plunk a fast down in the middle of that sort of mindset. It's a nasty reminder of how completely undisciplined I've become, but probably a good check when we're in the middle of a season when overdoing it can be easily disguised as holiday spirit.

Thank the Lord for Christmas break. Sometimes the best cure for the tangles in an unrelenting schedule is... a relent. So here's to cutting back on the lattes, hitting the treadmill, and regular budgeting. What a novel concept :)



I hate that when I open my eyes at the end of this song, I am still a cumulative million miles from so many of the people I love. Nobody's fault, not a true tragedy, just... life. Maybe that's the appeal of marriage - for a time, anyway, there's someone who is going the same direction you are, come hell or high water, and you're stuck together. Sure, divorce rates suggest that many people actually find that annoying in the end... But they lose perspective, they forget that the more beautiful thing is finding "home wherever I'm with you." I suppose I've divided myself too much to find home in any one place, but who knows. Maybe there could be one person. Doesn't seem likely though... Most things end, like the Doctor and Rose, like missions trips, like semesters, like good songs, like long days. Some of them, we're glad they end. Others, well, we love them all the more jealously for that.


part the waters

This was the big fact about Christian ethics; the discovery of the new balance. Paganism had been like a pillar of marble, upright because proportioned with symmetry. Christianity was like a huge and ragged and romantic rock, which, though it sways on its pedestal at a touch, yet, because it exaggerated excrescences exactly balance each other, is enthroned there for a thousand years.
{Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton}

It can be downright embarrassing to read the church histories. To go from Western Civ class and the peculiar wrestling match of Arian Christianity versus Roman Christianity to a book on the monastery at Cluny with its gracious giant, Peter the Venerable, as he set himself ideologically against the Cistercian man of the hour, Bernard of Clairvaux... It seems like a tragedy in the guise of a comedy. How do I share of love and grace when the past 2,000 years would seem to declaim that charitas was never much of a Christian virtue?

The struggle between Peter and Bernard is a particularly intriguing one to me because I find it microscopically paralleled within myself. One man was a scholar who cherished the belief that reason was sufficient to convert Muslims, and who loved the classics and truth wherever it could be found. He did not deny himself or his monks simple comforts like warmth and a full stomach, believing perhaps, as Mullins would have it, that extreme asceticism was a far greater distraction from meditation on the holy. Bernard, on the other hand, was the desert mystic reborn. He was a high nobleman whose charisma drew several other family members to enter a Cistercian order. Life among the Cistercians meant complete self-denial, days dedicated to manual labor rather than liturgical chants, and the elevation of the mind through the denigration of the body. For such a man, the greater threat lay in the ideas propagated by an untransformed mind, and he preferred to set aside all such lofty pursuits in favor of a humble mind and righteous life.

Maybe there are some people who fall to such distinct polarities as Peter and Bernard. But it is far more appealing (and difficult) to stand in the balance of what Chesterton would probably have identified as a paradox of Christianity. St. Augustine spoke of the human heart that it was restless until it found its rest in God. Inside of me (and perhaps you also), there is an almost mournful desire to leave everything aside: plans, loans, work, even family and friends, whatever the cares of this world are, and dedicate oneself to the one thing that is desirable. Not that other things have no appeal, but that this one thing makes them all pale in comparison.

"Mournful," I say, because it cannot be gratified. The separatism of the Desert Fathers was a shift: lovesick ones choosing the wilderness because it is from there that she comes up, leaning upon her beloved (Song of Solomon 8:5). And for their time, that was an appropriate expression. Still, to be other than the world cannot mean simply to be isolated from it. What purpose does that serve when our lives are testimonies of the work of God? A man alone is himself, neither short nor tall nor fat nor skinny, for these are descriptive terms based on comparison with something. A man in a crowd, now, he may be a point of contrast. The fire in his eyes is not the fire in everyone's eyes, but it could be, if he will only get close enough.

I guess Bernard and Peter were both right: somehow, we stand on the knife's edge and don't get cut. To live with an austerity born of singleminded desire for one thing above all else, but also to live with an awareness of the things of this world and a compassionate heart for the hurt and the broken.

Lord, my heart is not haughty,
    Nor my eyes lofty.
    Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
    Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul...
{Psalm 131:1-2a}


Figments and Choice

I'm headed home, yeah
But I'm not so sure
That home is a place
You can still get to by train

An unhappy combination of maudlin sentimentalism, a head cold, and a recent of episode of Fringe have me pondering my present life. In the episode, the Fringe team is still trying to work out what to do with Peter who knows enough of the world to belong to it, and yet enough is different that the world cannot belong to him. Everyone seems to have forgotten him in the brief span of time between his disappearance and reappearance - unless he disappeared in one place and reappeared in another, in which case, they did not forget him. They never even knew him.

Right now I feel like I somehow jumped the tracks, and my train is steaming somewhere that I didn't realize it could go. Just after I got out of high school, I wrote in my journal that I felt like a mountain climber who had just conquered the apex of the mountain which had always stood before her in her quest. The plain that stretched away before me toward infinity was one which I had heard tales of, but which I did not recognize. But at least I had my first points along the trail. I would go to IMPACT 360, and then probably to Hillsdale since I had deferred my enrollment for a year and had a decent financial aid offer. Oh, but when I reached IMPACT, I felt that Hillsdale was not the right direction for me and turned to CIU and Biola instead. When the thought of the debt I incurred from IMPACT stirred around in my subconscious, I decided to take off school for a semester to try to pay some of it back. Instead, God had other plans for me, so I ended up at a discipleship training school in Harrisburg for eight months. While there, I finalized admission plans for Biola and Torrey, setting my sights on the exhilarating possibilities for the future and a completely different world. Instead, my dreams turned to sand, and I found myself living with my sister near Philly, working at Starbucks and going to community college. Do I feel like there was a point in my life when I was seamlessly transferred into a completely different timeline? Oh heck yes. Whose life am I living and why do I act like this is normal? But how do I choose to live any other way? How else do I explain the way that I ended up here, barely in contact with people who've changed my life and with a vision that has narrowed even more rapidly than it expanded.

And perhaps that's over-romanticizing on my behalf. Perhaps it's an excuse, and a lousy one, for the way that I have chosen to allocate my time: to work, work, and more work, if only to cover the gaping holes. Whatever happened to the boundless wonder of "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day"? What happened to the sighs and gasps of delight over each new neatly turned paradox fresh from the pages of Orthodoxy? When did I cease to care about the things that fueled me with joy?

Hadassah shared with me recently about certain crutches that God has been removing over the past year. I could definitely connect with that. It's like when they talk about the beauty treatments that Esther and the other candidates for queenhood had to undergo: part of their rituals involved sloughing off a significant amount of the outer layer of their skin until it was soft as a baby's. Sometimes we get a massive build up of dead skin that we protect ourselves with because it's warm and safe and familiar. But God knows better than I do, so He lovingly begins to scrape away the dead bits. It's painful, oh, how painful, but He knows that when He's done, I'll be so much more beautiful and I won't be able to hide the life that is inside of me.

Abba, let Your love my heart's one desire and the fuel from which I am able to connect with others. So much of life feels small, but Your work is hidden from my eyes, and You are a painter on a finer level than what I can comprehend. Help me not to despair in this moments when everything seems strange and broken. You know the plans that You have for me, and I can rest securely in that knowledge.

I'm headed home, yeah
But I'm not so sure
That home is a place
That will ever be the same
{Southbound Train by Jon Foreman}



In an old episode of "Doctor Who," the Doctor and Rose meet Charles Dickens, who aids them in investigating the mysterious gas creatures who call themselves the Gelf. While the eminent author is at first incredibly skeptical, having sealed and stamped his understanding of the world, he ultimately saves the time-traveling duo when he recognizes a way to defeat the surprisingly dangerous Gelf in the nick of time. He walks off into the snowy Christmas evening with a spring in his step and a laugh on his tongue, because he has had a revelation. In the words of Hamlet, chiding Horation:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Hamlet has ghosts, Dickens has Gelf, and... what do we have? There is something intensely appealing about Hamlet's statement, something that goes deeper than a belief in any one bit of supernatural phenomena. I think G. K. Chesterton touches on a similar vein in his Orthodoxy, when he says:

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion, like the physical exhaustion of Mr. Holbein. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

With the reign of the skeptics, nobody is permitted to have anything less than absolute certainty about any given topic. Hence, I sit through my Western Myths class silent on the topic of my faith, because I have no fantastic defense to state when students laugh over the apparent absurdity of the parallels between Mithras and Jesus. Or when the teacher suggests by a wry tone that you would be foolish to maintain belief in the validity of the Bible when many of its foundational myths are obvious descendants of Babylonion and Sumerian mythology. Things that I have always treasured as sacred and beautiful are desecrated and spat on, but I have no words.

Among the many attributes that humility embraces, there is one that I appreciate above all others: mystery. Naturalism reduces all things to that which we can empirically observe. There is nothing more. But oh, what a universe is missing from that worldview! If it deserves that title, then it is a speck-of-dust world floating in a far greater cosmos that cannot indeed be "dreamt of in [that] philosophy." I think I should infinitely prefer someone who acts on superstitious beliefs than someone who mocks such people. At least the former understands that causation may be beyond our natural ability to see.

I don't think anyone can seriously and truthfully call our culture sexually repressed. Maybe the norm is not the absurd portrait that we are treated to in bursts from Slut Walks to American Apparel advertisements, but it is hard to deny that we are anything but repressed. And yet, sex loses its interest. So we must be more open, even less restrained? Until what end? What unhappy and vigorous appetite is this that grows as if its sustenance were Subtraction Stew? 

But what if there were more to the interaction than biology? What if we might just possibly be more than an evolved, pre-determined chain of physiological demands and body chemistry? What if there really were something so wildly fantastic about sex that it deserves to be treasured rather than set loose? No one without a grasp of mystery could believe it.

That is what I want when I sit in my Myths class. I want to burst with the beauty of something beyond our claims to the acknowledgment that human theories are the better uncertainty. I want to believe that there just might be something bigger than my tiny belief system can encompass, something that reason dares not prove or disprove, that science cannot substantiate or dismiss. I want to embrace the stories of St. Thomas levitating, St. Denis the cephalophore, and modern marvels of similar nature. True, all I have heard are stories. I'm not likely to run into someone who has a heart attack and resurrects at a prayer to heaven. But I can and do believe that it could happen.

For now, the handful of beliefs that I clasp in my hands are like the walls of house. I cannot see well beyond those walls into the greater world beyond, but they are something and they are real. Though I see through a glass darkly, someday I shall see face to face. And oh, what a glorious day that shall be.

The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them ... The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid ... The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. {The Maniac, Orthodoxy, Chesterton}


Writer's Block

If you couldn't tell from the massive chronological gaps that tend to fall between my posts and kind of resemble the ever-elusive fossil records of missing links, I am not exactly immune to writer's block. Okay, well, in that case it's more of a lack of ignition fuel rather than a failure to finish a thought, but what's the difference?

Right now, I'm trying to write a rough draft of a creatively formatted argumentative essay. First things first, I am not into creative arguments. I like to say what I have to say and own my words. The whole idea of giving my thoughts to a fictional character smacks too closely of ventriloquism, and I am not a ventriloquist. I can't do the "speaking with my mouth shut" thing. Plus, it takes twice the brain power because I have to attend to the balance of two simultaneous threads. One is the meat of my argument and one is the personality of my character. Is it obviously distinct? Appropriately gruff? Can you stomach his argument even though he's a bit of a snob? I like a world in which the quality of an idea determines its ability to be received rather than the character of its proponent, but the Sophists demonstrated that my world is an idealistic fantasy rather than a likelihood.

So second things second, I am stuck. Calling everybody stupid is not a good way to make them like your character. And I have realized that my understanding of the past is extremely biased because the people who have been elected to represent various eras are, generally, those who were more cultured. Writing was not a middle class profession in the 1700s because they barely had a middle class. So how can I judge the present state of education in classical knowledge when the reality is that it probably hasn't changed that much? Sure, C.S. Lewis can toss out references in French and Latin without bothering to translate them in his Allegory of Love, but chances are decent that he had a far better education than most young men of his time, and he was an academician writing to other academicians so he could afford to assume that his audience would understand.

Where does that leave me? With the startling revelation that my topic is crap. Baseless, structureless crap that I am forcing a misshapen, ill-formed character to surround himself with so that I can write an argumentative essay. No wonder I have writer's block. It was just a matter of time.



I smelled my past this afternoon,
A lost thought that floated in
Through my open car window.
Sometimes I get the impression
that I'm growing older.
On days like today, though,
Days stained with cut grass musk,
I know it's what I've always done.
Like a song stuck in someone's head:
Doomed to remember myself
Until at last I forget.



Sometimes I think we should change the way we analyze plot structure. It seems overly simplistic to dwell on actions and descriptions; after all, people are more than what they do. Somehow, to speak of a story in terms of expositionrisingactionclimaxdenouementconclusion feels cold, calculating, empty. As if a story were only the sum of its parts and no more than that. I guess all I'm saying is that

Every story is a timeline of brokenness, and every ending takes a stab at hope.



There is something innocently sweet about an eyelash when it has lost its roots. I hate when I have to pick off all the strands of hair that I've left on my pillowcase after a good night's sleep, but I can't begrudge the delicate arc of a lost eyelash. They're funny like that; even when they're not surrounding your eyes, they make a statement.

I just watched Dirty Dancing for the first time. I know, I'm almost twenty-one and, guess what, I've never even seen Grease, which is probably a crime against humanity or at least against culture. I don't think I can really recommend the movie, to be quite honest, and there are a lot of tangents I could go down, but I think one of the significant reasons why that movie works is because it has a lot of hope. Sure, it's a fairly standard bildungsroman, with Baby as the wide-eyed idealist pitted against the jaded but alluring society of the camp staff with their gritty tragedies and local horrors that can't be cushioned against like Vietnam and war. She is quickly drawn in by her attraction to Johnny and the rest is history, except it kind of isn't because movies aren't like real life and instead of letting herself be changed completely by the prevailing sentiments, she maintains her optimism and manages to not only be changed but also to change others.

It is easy to feel tired when everyone around you is something else entirely. I have a dear friend who is so unlike anyone I've ever known. She is tenacious, determined, funny, and intelligent, and she stands out because she is swimming against the current instead of letting it take her where it will. Sometimes she doesn't get it right, and she's humble enough to know when, so that mostly she tells me about her failures. But I like knowing that she's alive being stubbornly who she is (and she would probably hate that I'm describing her that way). She's like my Baby because she gives me hope.

You see, an eyelash is an eyelash wherever it is. It's not entirely out of place on my pillowcase, but if I found it on, say, a brick: its rough surroundings would only highlight its delicacy. Baby means something because she is who she is wherever she is. My friend means something because she doesn't want to change in any of the easy ways, so she's willing to tough it out and be who she is no matter what. And they all make me feel like I can do it too, because I lied about Dirty Dancing being a bildungsroman. The world doesn't change Baby- Baby changes her world.


Blossoms and Autumn Leaves

Open a book that's yellowing around the edges and your first responsibility is to swoop your nose, be it button, Roman, or whatever variety you fortunately possess, directly into the spine and have a deep, olfactory drink from the fount where the beaded bubbles of blushful Hippocrene ever overflow.

I love books. Too much, in fact, to slip in a snarky comment about Kindles or Nooks. It would detract from the glory of mystery and that overwhelming reverence one has as the slightly tattered (or well-cared for) cover lifts off the first page and those first sentences sink in. What sort of characters are about to parade into your life, well, only continued perusal will tell, but they might just be the ones that change your life. It only takes a whisper, you know. Butterfly effect breath effortlessly taking flight from ink and old paper to alight in a rapturously attuned ear... Strange, how struggles not our own can inspire us to overcome real hurdles, how romance can carry off our fancy and yet also clear a foggy perspective.

Sometime I feel a little bit like I might be a failure. I know it's a little bit early to be passing such a sweeping judgment over what shall very likely only be but a small segment of a much longer life story. I was the kid who was homeschooled, so of course I was socially awkward and unconsciously intelligent. Meaning that I did not exactly measure up if my intention was to be friends with everyone and caring about what other people cared about. I did everything I wanted to coming out of high school. There was travel, two years studying what I wanted to study, work at a cafe, establish close friendships and future educational ties... All kinds of glorious shiftlessness. Even, for however brief a time, delightful possibilities. But here I am, trying to be adult and going to college now because otherwise I probably never would, and all of the fun seems like foolishness and frivolity. But as I read all that, I can't make myself feel like a failure. I don't have a job right now, and that's tough because it's not for lack of trying - I even wrote my first resume with no encouraging success to show for it. I'm going to community college instead of a 4 year, Great Books program on the other side of the country or at least a couple states away. But I can't measure my life in bullet points. Maybe life is more like a dart board, and sure, the target area might be small, but there's more than one spot that you can hit and still be in the bull's eye.

I'm incredibly optimistic right now because I've just read the first four chapters of G.K. Chesterton's biography and I feel like we have a few things in common. Namely, this particular period in life. I have no idea what I will do in the future in terms of real, concrete actions, but it's hardly fair for me to assume that because I feel like I'm doing everything backward, upside down, and inside out, I'm not still hurtling along with the right momentum in the right direction with the occasional navigational nudge from my Daddy.

I like biographies. I like to think that maybe someday mine will be worth reading by someone else and maybe that someone will get a little more hope than they had before.

Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime.
And, departing, leave behind us,
Footprints in the sands of time...


In the Rough

Pretend for a second that you have a child (or maybe you actually do, in which case, I advise against pretending as it might unleash a string of delusions which ultimately result in serious mental scarring for your poor, innocent baby). When that child comes in covered in mud or dirt, you don't value him less than when he is clean, do you? What's underneath that temporary external gunk is still the precious little character who brings you joy by the simple fact of his existence.

So why is it that in my head, I feel like I have to make apologies for where I'm at? For instance, going to community college does not exactly have the most glamorous reputation. Apparently it's where a certain personality of people go... You know the ones. But that's not fair. Based on my orientation group and the one girl I met that day who was not in my group, there are lots of reasons why people choose community college, and not just because they're slackers. Okay, so I may wish that I were going to a prestigious four year university, but the reality is, that I am not less of a person because I am not going to one.

The greater loss is that I can't seem to get a job at a coffee shop. Oh no. For over three years, I have prided myself (ha, surefire why to get yourself a new career - pride... thanks, Jesus) on being able to call myself a barista. I get to be a coffee snob because I can ... steam milk really well? Okay, yes, it is an artform. And the fact that I can't do it now (the lack of machine is a major factor) is kind of disappointing for more reasons than the removal of a title. But there was some part of me that derived more than just satisfaction from that designation. I was getting something of my identity from it too.

In Psalm 32:8, it says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you." We're on this awesome journey together, and as a wise man recently said, the epitome of that journey is probably when you reach the realization that it's not about the journey, it's about being together. To reach that point of realization, however, requires a degree of humility. And so He's instructing me and teaching me to take a way that is not comfortable, but perhaps contains a far greater lesson in valuing self and valuing Him. I have a tattoo on my wrist that says, "Beloved"... I guess He's still helping me see what that really means.


Let's Start a Revolution

I've been listening (at last) to an audiobook that Basie passed on to me over a year ago that is called Emotional Intelligence by renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman. The thesis of his work centers around the idea that there is a second (or, if you're a subscriber to Gardiner's theory of multiple intelligences, a third/fourth/fifth/whatever) type of intelligence which may be a more significant predictor of success than IQ or standardized test scores. Since I have always been inclined to believe that there is more to intelligence than aptitude at a handful of acquired skills, I am not terribly surprised by his conclusions. They do set me at a slight disadvantage, since I would tend to place myself in the category of less socially and emotionally intelligent people, but we all have areas we need to grow in. It's called maturation, and everybody has to do it sometime.

What if we didn't hand out grades? What would that kind of a system look like? As I was filling out an application for a job today, I was asked to respond on a scale to a variety of statements. Among them were several regarding motivation through praise versus negative criticism. A grading scale is all about perspective and can kind of go either way, so it's not a terrible thing until it is placed in the hands of some poor child's parents. I'm pretty sure my mother and father had no feelings either way about what grades I would get - they would have liked me just fine if I had gotten straight Cs rather than straight As. But given the right slant, even an A can be short of the mark if it's not a 100. I know that's a rather indirect accusation, but let's just call it a vague dissatisfaction with the way things are and leave it at that.

I can feel myself preparing to ramble about the lack of personalization, the need for more teachers and smaller classes, whatever happened to community? and for that matter, let's just all go back to 1807 and be traditional families that homeschool and apprentice. Actually, apprenticeship is still a great idea. Anyway, suffice it to say that there is a flood waiting to burst forth. Why do I have to have so many opinions without the diligence to see them through?

In Defense of Gap Years

Ignore the title. This is just a resource list which, if you're bored, you may peruse.

Explanation and FAQ Re:Gap Years

Funny Clip:

IMPACT 360 Promo Video:

Promo for Summit

YWAM/Fire and Fragrance Harrisburg



What's in a memory?

Today at the kitchen we were talking about the way that certain songs recall certain seasons or moments, a conversation initiated when Buckles mentioned that Iron & Wine always makes her think of winter. Every time I hear Feist's The Reminder, it takes me back to late nights in the spring of my senior year of high school when I would drive home at 11:30, exhausted after a full day of school and work. Or that strange potion of Owl City, Jesus Culture's Your Love Never Fails, Josh Garrels and Jacaranda Tree, and the song "Stole My Heart" by Little & Ashley, which somehow can't quite shake off the scent of last summer.

I don't entirely know how to live in this new world. I am sitting on top of a mountain of memories, but to climb down the mountain is to encounter not only roses, but thorns also, which grow in greater profusion. How do I hope when I feel as if my hope operates backwards in time? I have so much life ahead of me: I know. But something has been quietly, slowly crushed and left to die, and now it's a hard thing to know quite why I ought to move forward except perhaps that in this fast-moving current I cannot stand still, and so must float. And yet...


Peripatetic Popsicles

Confession: I was going to entitle this "Peripatetic Poopsicles," but a stuttering, over-eager pinky saved you all from my juvenility. Although I think in most cases it is appropriate to say what you mean and mean what you say, I shall relax my rules for myself. They may be good enough for you, but not for me! ;)

Anyway, if you're wondering what "peripatetic" means, it's mostly just a fancy word for pacing, but it originates with Aristotle, referring (according to my Mac dictionary) to his practice of walking back and forth while teaching. Education is a funny thing: it's expensive, hit or miss for actual value, and one of America's peculiar goddesses. We've taken a thing that was meant to be living, growing, and organic, capable of adjusting to fit special circumstances, different weather, and new terrain, and hardened and cut it into a particular likeness of unyielding stone. Statues aren't much good to anyone except the pigeons, and I don't think that's the kind of life we have in mind for the sphere of education.

Yesterday, I spent some time talking with my high school's headmaster, Mr. Cote. I can't remember if we talked about this during dts or if it was just blatantly obvious from the various stories of movements like 24/7 prayer, which was kicked off simultaneously in England and the U.S. with Pete Greig and Mike Bickle respectively, and yet there was no collaboration, just a separate, similar move of God on the hearts of two men who He was preparing to lead the latest thing on His heart. It's cool how He works it out that nobody has to be alone, not even in their ideas. Back to Mr. Cote, though, he talked about re-envisioning what kingdom education looks like. And maybe it's less about competing with public schools (which, let's face it, are based on a failing model anyway), and maybe it's more about discipleship. About community and asking questions and realizing that it's not about me, it's about other people. Education shouldn't inspire us to go for more education: it should empower us to go out and turn all that we know into something beautiful for the world. And that doesn't need to be limited to going into a pastoral office, which is what we seem to think we must aim for if we're going to make a difference. You can work for a church and do virtually nothing to glorify God and spread His love and justice. You can work for a big business at a desk job in a position with high demands on time, mind, and focus, and glorify God in a way that shakes the area around you. It's all a matter of perspective, which I'm increasingly coming to see makes all the difference in the world.

I'm excited for what the future has in store. We have a hope like none other, so we of all people should not look to it with fear and anxiety. And the coolest part is that when He wants to do something, He hearkens back to another time and walks with us in the cool of the day, sharing His plans and joys and desires with us and then giving us a fatherly nudge to go.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..."
Ephesians 3:20


All Things New

It's hard to explain what seeing Josh Garrels live in concert means to me. How do I capture for someone else how significant his cd, "Jacaranda," was to my summer of 2010? The best I can do is to call it my summer soundtrack for that year, but then all you know is that I listened to it a lot and its sounds colored the texture of the night air, and even then, it doesn't quite get it.

I never thought I would have this opportunity (let's start there). I first heard his music through my friend Debbie, who put one of his songs, "Sweet River Roll," on a mix she made for me before I left for IMPACT. I listened to and liked it quite a bit, but had never heard of him before nor heard any of his music (not necessarily a redundancy, for anyone who cares). As it so happens, he rarely does shows on the East Coast, despite being a Carolina native, but several years ago, he played at Senorita Burrita, a little burrito joint on Prince Street. I missed that show by a year or two in terms of knowing who he was, but by the time I did, I sorely regretted my ignorance. The likelihood that he would ever be in my neck of the woods was slim, and I knew it.

Re-enter Debbie, a week ago. She tells me that he's going to be in town again. Understandably, I am over the moon in joy. Finally and surprisingly, I would get to see him in concert! But when I looked up the details, it appeared that he would be playing late on Saturday evening, when I was already scheduled to work. Disappointed, I let her know that I wouldn't be able to go, and that seemed like the end of it. But, surprise again, he was actually playing TWO shows this weekend, one with the P.A.P.A. Festival (partners with Shane Claiborne), the other with a Lancaster organization called The Rowhouse. The second show would be taking place on Sunday at 7PM. And most conveniently, I could go.

What do I love about his music? He is undeniably good. His music is like rich, thick, sweet molasses, something that has a bite to it, that wakes up something inside of you and you know life shouldn't be the same. There's a lot of rawness, genuine fervor, connection, and a Christian mystic's understanding and words for who God is. He has his pulse on the threads of the world and of culture, but I think he doesn't realize his prophecy for what it is. Bringer of hope, speaker of truth, singer of songs that will never grow old and only grow sweeter.

I feel like this whole evening was a present from my Father. Even the song list... He played Don't Wait for Me, Break Bread, Train Song, Zion & Babylon, The Resistance, Further Along, and even (though he said he rarely plays it live) Little Blue. The others, Ulysses, Flood Waters, Freedom (a new favorite), Slip Away, and the live-only song Joyful Boy, were all stunningly awesome. I don't think I have ever smiled out of simple bliss for so long in my entire life. It was perfect. Thank you, Abba, for giving me a sort of reverse Father's Day gift. It was everything I could have wished for, but never would have dreamed of having.



Life is not always as we expect it to be. I should know that by know, it's true. After all, my own life got turned on its head in the space of two weeks during last September. But at least that time I had a pretty good sense that whatever happened, it was what was supposed to happen. Sometimes circumstances are not quite so clear cut, and the road is not such easy going. Like right now...

I have always been someone who has a plan, who shies away from uncertainty and attempts to craft realistic plans for the future. Always, there is a next step, even if it's just a small step or the accepted one that most people take. So I at last went through all of the steps to apply to Biola, completed all of my enrollment items save one or two that still needed to be tied up, and thought that I was ready to go. But what I didn't notice from day to day was the sick edge of stress that was wearing at the edges of my nerves. It was money. I hate money. Or, well, I suppose I don't mind money itself. It is a means to an end: the hopefully superior form of the bartering system, whereby I give you the means for you to get something you want and you give me something you have that I want, or vice versa. I just hate that it's impossible to get by without it.

[I feel like this is an appropriate time to make a confession... I sometimes wistfully daydream about living in one of those post-apocalyptic storylines. When technology and information systems are destroyed, when roadways are rendered virtually impassable, life has to get simpler. True, there are downsides. Healthcare is in its rudest form, the transmission of knowledge is limited... But with great knowledge comes great responsibility, and our knowledge base has far outstripped our ability to be ethically responsible for its use. And college would basically not exist in this other universe, so I could learn the way that I want to, since that is probably more along the lines of the ancient methodologies anyway, and nobody would complain if I wanted to teach without having a degree in something useless for which I paid half of my life's labor. Yeah, I'm not bitter, but I'm disappointed.]

So at last, as I was lying in bed, I finally told myself that it was okay to turn down the apparent school of my dreams. In some ways, I feel like I'm in a relationship that took a downhill turn. Y'know, "How many bases did you go with him?" And the more bases you cover, the harder it is to break-up even when you know that you should because it's not going anywhere healthy... Well, this is the farthest point I've reached with any college, so it's hard to break my plans and daydreams of the future from this setting. What's a play without a backdrop? There is no grounding for what takes place. And for the first time in my life, I found myself staring at a big, blank, scary Nothing. I panicked.

So the last few days have been a little tough. They have gotten better, slowly but surely. I spent most of Sunday in a drained, depressed stupor, freed from one stress only to get stuck in another. But Monday was good, and today was better, and tomorrow will probably provide some clarity about what my options are. Probably the reason I am doing as well as I am (because, from prior experience, I ordinarily wouldn't be) is simply that in the midst of it all, God has been so sweet to me. My pastor has been talking about the prophetic, and during the post-message demonstration time, I knew that someone would have a word for me. Even though I was on a bit of a time crunch, I waited until the end, and sure enough, Frank simply said that he felt like God was saying He was my protection and safety. Is there balm in Gilead? I don't know, but we've got some here in Lancaster. There have been other moments, captured in the midst of the rush of the day, each one inspiring me with the courage to walk a little further forward. And I guess, really, this is what I asked for: to grow closer to Him, whatever the cost. So I shall take the advice of the beloved hero in Meet the Robinsons and "keep moving forward."



Something there is that does not love to unpack. It's probably the part of me that realizes that once again, I will have to sort, throw out, and donate so much stuff. Thankfully, the vast bulk of the effort was undertaken last year, but I don't really enjoy the prospect of doing it again - it just makes me want to gag. Plus, unpacking is the final surrender to the realization that I'm home, that dts is over, that for nine long weeks I am going to be in Lancaster. But let's be honest: nine weeks is no seven months.

I'm a tricky sort of character. I don't think I'm lazy, per se, I just have other things that I would rather be doing. But when you can't walk from your door to your bed (four feet away) without tripping, something must be done. Still, I have to trick myself by pretending that I'm oh so casually picking up a stray piece of paper and tossing it in the trash. Then I oh so casually pick up another one, and another one, and before you know it, there's actually a few square feet of linoleum visible (yes, my bedroom floor IS linoleum... I live in the basement... carpet is impractical if the sump pump overflows...). So really, it's just a matter of misleading myself into doing what I want me to do.

So now I'm in the procrastination bit because I feel really accomplished with my two trash bags worth of stuff carted away. True, one hasn't made it to the thrift store yet, but that's because it's not open on Sunday. Hopefully Mother doesn't panic about the recurrence of floating trash bags outside my door. She likes it when I clean, but doesn't understand that it ALWAYS gets worse before it gets better. In her defense, usually the worse sticks around for years before I get a brain short and frenetically throw everything away with the air of one doing something profound.

And what does procrastination look like, you might ask (just pretend, k thanks). It looks like I went upstairs to put away my french press, coffee grinder, and mug, got distracted by what looked like a cobweb in my eyelashes, plucked my eyebrows, ate applesauce, checked facebook, ate cole slaw, got caught in a chat conversation with someone I haven't talked to in years, ate potato salad, listened to some other rough cuts of Brad Owens's songs, decided that now would be a splendid time to write a blog post. The stupid part about all of this is that what I ultimately wanted to do was to spend some serious Jesus time reading all of the shorter Pauline epistles, so I'm really just shooting myself in the foot because I still have laundry to put away and a bathroom cart thing to deal with before I can say done for the night. And tonight is early crash time because a) I'm still post-dts tired; b) I haven't had caffeine in the past six hours so I'll actually have a chance of getting to sleep early; and b) I have to work tomorrow. Yes, I did just use "b" twice, no, I'm not going to correct it.

Now... If I can only convince myself that I'm just going to put away my dental floss or something...


The Thing Is...

This morning was our last worship time together as a school, and we had Brad Owens leading us. Brad is a musician who has spent quite a bit of time with YWAM and has recently moved to Lancaster to work on the soundtrack for the Sex+Money documentary (find out more at sexandmoneyfilm.com), so in addition to his leading worship, Jeremy also asked him to share one or two of his own songs. Two lines from one of the songs especially hit home. It's a song about a man who has lost a woman to another man, but the kind of bittersweet pain expressed is so much broader than just that.

Holding on is painful,
Letting go is moreso...

How else to capture the dichotomy of saying goodbye? In high school, it wasn't so difficult. These were people I was stuck with, and I was too selfish to care too much about 75% of my class. At IMPACT, it was so much harder. We'd fought through some hard things together, or even if we hadn't really applied ourselves to fighting, at the very least we'd lived and grown together, experienced unique chunks of the world and slices of life together. That counted for something. And now, I find myself at the end of dts, saying goodbye one more time. If anything, my aversion to 'goodbye' has only grown with each successive year. Perhaps you might see this as a good thing- it suggests that my capacity for love has grown also.

But I still don't like it.

Even while we were in Cambridge, I was struggling with that gnawing beast, attached as it already was to my heart. Lewis once said that "the only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." While we were in Oxford, I mentioned a little bit of that sense to Tyler, and he pointed out that for all of us here (I speak with reasonable hope), even if I don't see anyone again in this lifetime, that's only a matter of, at best, 80 years. But I told him that 80 years was too much, that I would still be sad to miss that part of his or anyone's life. Being a smartass, he asked me if I was hitting on him, but he missed the point. I can only repeat last summer's refrain from Edna St. Vincent Millay, seeing every goodbye as a death no less solemn or worth mourning:

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

{from Dirge Without Music}

Still, I have to let go. Otherwise, I can't move on and into the wonderful things that God has for me. Already, I can hear the distant music floating through the crack in the door that I'm about to pass through, and it's inviting, golden, welcoming. But I hear also the laughter, the songs, the tears, the hugs, the exhausted exhortations of the past eight months like a symphony drawing to a close. Not even the final crescendo now, but the last sweet strains. And this song is no less valuable to me. The question then remains, how do I not callous myself to fight the wounds of separation? How do I set my face forward when it lingers backward? How do I, who so loathes the word, safely say goodbye?


Saving for later purposes...

"In every well-appointed gentleman's house, I reflected, there was the front door for the gentlemen, and the side door for the tradesmen; but there was also the top door for the gods. The chimney is, so to speak, the underground passage between earth and heaven. By this starry tunnel Santa Claus manages--like the skylark-- to be true to the kindred points of heaven and home. Nay, owing to certain conventions, and a widely distributed lack of courage for climbing, this door was, perhaps, little used. But Santa Claus's door was really the front door: it was the door fronting the universe."

{Manalive by G.K. Chesterton}

"`I don't deny,' he said, `that there should be priests to remind men that they will one day die. I only say that at certain strange epochs it is necessary to have another kind of priests, called poets, actually to remind men that they are not dead yet. The intellectuals among whom I moved were not even alive enough to fear death. They hadn't enough blood in them to be cowards. Until a pistol barrel was poked under their very noses they never even knew they had been born. For ages looking up an eternal perspective it might be true that life is a learning to die. But for these little white rats it was just as true that death was their only chance of learning to live.'

And additionally:
"It will be enough for many to say that I had passed a night with a maniac. What other term, it will be said, could be applied to such a being? A man who reminds himself that he is married by pretending not to be married! A man who tries to covet his own goods instead of his neighbor's! On this I have but one word to say, and I feel it of my honour to say it, though no one understands. I believe the maniac was one of those who do not merely come, but are sent; sent like a great gale upon ships by Him who made His angels winds and His messengers a flaming fire. This, at least, I know for certain. Whether such men have laughed or wept, we have laughed at their laughter as much as at their weeping. Whether they cursed or blessed the world, they have never fitted it. It is true that men have shrunk from the sting of a great satirist as if from the sting of an adder. But it is equally true that men flee from the embrace of a great optimist as from the embrace of a bear. Nothing brings down more curses than a real benediction. For the goodness of good things, like the badness of bad things, is a prodigy past speech; it is to be pictured rather than spoken. We shall have gone deeper than the deeps of heaven and grown older than the oldest angels before we feel, even in its first faint vibrations, the everlasting violence of that double passion with which God hates and loves the world."

Why not add:
"`I mean your sort did!' exclaimed this personage. `Yes, your damned smug, settled, sensible sort made the French Revolution. Oh! I know some say it was no good, and you're just back where you were before. Why, blast it all, that's just where we all want to be--back where we were before! That is revolution--going right round! Every revolution, like a repentance, is a return.'

And from A Short History of England...
"Slavery was for the Church not a difficulty of doctrine, but a strain on the imagination. Aristotle and the pagan sages who had defined the servile or "useful" arts, had regarded the slave as a tool, an axe to cut wood or whatever wanted cutting. The Church did not denounce the cutting; but she felt as if she was cutting glass with a diamond. She was haunted by the memory that the diamond is so much more precious than the glass. So Christianity could not settle down into the pagan simplicity that the man was made for the work, when the work was so much less immortally momentous than the man."


Seasons of Love

As I was lying on my sleeping bag perusing Encyclopaedia Brittanica articles regarding such topics as St. Anselm of Canterbury, Charlemagne, William Wilberforce, and Christian mysticism, I was struck by the strange way that God has of doing things. Generally, to start with, He doesn't do them my way. In my head, my way is quite logical and sensible and probably very boring. True, His order of events is rather more difficult, since I have historically chosen the gentler incline when selecting onward and upward paths, but I will definitely say that it is more interesting this way, and the scenery is considerably more varied and awe-inspiring.

How else do I explain my life?

While we were at Harvard and MIT, I happened to pray for a graduate student who is from Malaysia. The most overwhelming impression I had was the hand of God on his life that had brought him, out of all the people in the world, to that place at that time. The likelihood that the two of us would ever meet over the course of our lives was minute at best, and yet there we were, both of us hundreds of miles from home, connected by this God who is more amazing than we could ever conceive. That impression has come back time and again with each place we've been here in England and with each person whom I have had the delight of meeting.

My ridiculous life...
It began a long time ago, but just for inspirational events, let's start with the Spanish class trip to Guatemala at the end of my sophomore year of high school. First international trip, my passport arrived the day before we left, and I got to spend a week in an out of the way city called Xela learning Spanish with Cuqui and eating a lot of pan from the panaderia that was just down the street from the escuela. We got trapped in our terminal with my conspiracy theorist teacher (who is still one of my favorite characters in the entire world, so I mean no disrespect), went to a natural mountain sauna, and ate ice cream every day.

The next year got a little more epic. Katrina moved to the Caribbean for the winter with Cape Air, so I went to Puerto Rico for spring break. Nothing will ever be able to erase the memory of that Ben & Jerry's shop in Old San Juan with the clerks dancing to "Mr. Brightside" while the already hot sun streamed in through the brightly painted windows and we ate Coffee Heath Bar Crunch from a pint container. Then there was kite flying, my first time eating Papa John's Pizza, sitting out on the balcony of Katrina's condo, and the day we drove to Rincon to eat at a place that was on a surfing beach with huge, beautiful waves washing in every other second as the sun went down. We listened to Dido as we drove back across the island, and the song "Sand in My Shoes" is forever stuck in my memory as my post-vacation come down.

Later that year, I travelled to Peru for my senior class missions trip. We stayed at the Mision Tecnological something or other, which were some fairly cushy digs for a place like Pucallpa which is on the eastern side of the Andes, set just off the Ucayali River. Sure, the showers were cold and you had to pour rubbing alcohol in your ears if you swam in the lake, but that same lake made for some stunning sunrises. The Shipibo Indians were hospitable and friendly, the days were full of sweaty but joyful labors, the rice was beyond delectable and into divine... Not to mention the opportunity to eat boa constrictor, maggots, and the rather more appealing paiche (a delicious local fish). Inca Kolas, King of Hearts drama presentations, tarantulas, Christina, Tia, Hayden, Alicia, my first trip with a new digital camera, and a panic attack during an incredibly long farewell celebration that ended with a stunning night sky in the Southern Hemisphere.

Then there was this place I started working at in the spring of my junior year, halfway through another season of managing girls' varsity soccer. Prince Street Cafe has been the setting for some of my biggest laughs and best times over the past couple of years. I've worked seven day weeks, drank more caffeine than my body should be capable of handling, charged through First Fridays, enjoyed the occasional night shift, laughed hysterically over nothing with Sara Martin on Saturday afternoons post-lunch rush, been surprised with a visit from dear friends from Georgia, and just generally lived in an incredible way through so many memories there. I hope that I may be so blessed as to have a workplace that I enjoy even half as much, but that's a pretty tough standard to live up to.

Can't forget about IMPACT 360, a Christian worldview and student leadership training program. One thing I appreciate about England is that they understand gap years. Nothing blows your paradigms about what life could be quite like eight months spent in community learning from some of the greatest Christian minds of our day. Glow stick parties, throwing pita bread, stomping on purple plastic bowls, listening to Bach, an open door all year round, Christmas lights, Aaron Ford lighting fires, the most amazing bomb of a potential relationship ever, John Basie who gets a whole segment of his own, backpacking, Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy trips, drinking tea, listening to Passion Pit while speeding down the mountain from volunteering, learning how to write concisely, giving nerve-wracking presentations, leaving home at 1AM to drive back, watching movies in the classroom, hall meetings, the Gospel of John at 737, Bill I-freaking-love-him-so-much Bain, Preview Days, Ultimate Frisbee, my dear Miss Renee, Sage's Ice Cream Parlor, Callaway, rain, that day they cut down the hedge, turning cartwheels in the front yard with David, destroying bottle caps with Mary Michael, and learning a little bit more about what it means to worship God in spirit and truth.

In the middle of that was a month long trip to Brasil. Who could forget the amazing Brazilians from Igreja San Juan Bautista or Igreja No Lago Sul? We didn't know what we were in for that first weekend at Agua Viva, meeting people like the Saatkamp family, Lycia and Andre Marra, or our translators Larissa and Little Andre. There was the night that I slept out on the porch in a hammock only to wake up to a thunderstorm at five in the morning, freezing from the breezes passing underneath me. Or the many hours spent out there during the day, reading Chesterton and growing closer and closer to God. Goofy hours of travel spent in the back seat of the van with Leah, laughing our way to near hysteria as each bounce jarred my swollen knee that I twisted while dancing with Grande Andre at the spiritist orphanage. There was the children's service in Aracaiba, when I gave my testimony to a hundred kids while relating my whole life story to bubbles and we did a dramatic interpretation of Noah's Ark. God cheekily isolated me multiple times in a coercive effort to make me a bolder street evangelist and forced me to assume leadership when I tried to step back. Pao de quejo started each day out right, and the candy-like Brazilian coffee was a great note to end on. And if I was tempted to forget Brazil, well, the fungus on my foot leading to a nasty allergic reaction in addition to a month long battle with lice did their bits to make sure it stuck in my head.

As I left IMPACT, I expected to spend eight months working, paying some money back to my dad, and making a final decision about which college to go to before starting in the spring semester. I got more connected with my church, got a tiny hankering to go do a YWAM dts since they're all former YWAMmers, and in the space of two weeks turned all my plans on their head when God dared me to dare Him to see what He would do. I found myself in another community, this one with a totally different focus and character. Where God had been whetting my appetite intellectually, He at last drew me in to a place of intimacy with Him and a time of learning more about who He is and what He is doing right now. Through that wild, unforeseen ride, I find myself going to Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, and Bradford, making friends for life in the form of the most fantastic outreach team that has ever existed and having my whole paradigm for what life can be like totally wrecked.

What did I do to get this life?! What am I doing in England?! Am I seriously moving to southern California to do a Great Books program (only one of the first and biggest dreams I ever had about college) with yet another rad community which might involve a summer exchange back to Cambridge? Am I going to the beach with the best sisters in the whole world then roadtripping across the country and stopping by Mexico with the best friend in the whole world? Am I psyched about all of this? Heck yes...

Life with God is NOT boring. Anyone who says differently hasn't tried it yet.


Spirit of Wisdom, Open My Eyes

One of the strangest parts of this discipleship training school has been the whole concept of prophecy. From day one, I knew that God 100% wanted me to be here, so I dove wholeheartedly into everything that was placed before me, desiring to learn all that God could hope to teach me. Part of that journey has been the prophetic, which I don't recall questioning much, although I do remember wondering how anybody ever got anything and what it all meant. I guess when you read the Bible for what it's worth, it's hard to avoid the reality of prophecy, so that wasn't really an issue for me. It was more how to go about it that I struggled with.

I'm not saying that I'm anything more than an infant in this area, but I do think that what little I have learned about hearing God and discerning His heart has made a significant difference in how I relate to people. As someone whose #2 on the strengthsfinder test was "individualization," I already have the natural ability to recognize and call out traits in others with at least a decent degree of proficiency. Add prophecy into the mix, and it's kind of overwhelming. I guess... It's hard to explain without sounding like I'm being arrogant. I don't think I am, but...

This weekend, I had the interesting experience of meeting someone, getting a word for them that I still believe to be true, but then also spending a brief period of time with them that was long enough to get a sense from absolutely nothing they directly said or did about who they were. I even had a rather strange dream regarding that person. On this side of things, I have seen at least a little confirmation of my previous impressions, and I am almost tempted to think that the word was for my benefit more than for that person.

I'm thankful that God is eager to share His heart, because if I just went off of my gut instincts, I suspect I would be very arrogant and suspicious. But we are all works in progress and He is gloriously up to the task of transforming our understanding so that we first see the 10 in others and then the progress.

All of which is to say... Nothing very inspiring, really. Except, y'know, that I freak myself out sometimes.


A Lavish Offering

It was just another 3AM set at just another twelve hour burn midway through the year. The night was chilly and though I had awoken earlier than I planned, it turned out to be a good thing because I was able to drive Elizabeth back to Green Street after she had gotten accidentally stranded at the Life Center. By the time I returned, Lucas and Sam were halfway through their nightwatch set. I didn't really know what to expect and so had no great expectations, but it was bare moments in before I was flooded with the love and presence of God.

When I'm 82, let it be said of me, "He wasted his life on Jesus."

No fragrant perfume this, but a far more costly sacrifice. One year's wages can little compare to a whole life's years. It is almost a silly word to use in that context... "waste." But it demonstrates perfectly the extravagance of love, that giddy desire to give more than sensibility or society dictates to be entirely... well, proper.

I remembered those moments some two months later when Levi Miller led our afternoon prayer room set during a quick visit. It's kind of an understatement to say that he is an intense guy, but in the middle of the raw worship (and broken guitar strings), he flowed into Phillips, Craig, and Dean's Pour My Love On You. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere shifted into that strangely familiar tone of lovesick devotion, the kind that is willing to pledge itself to a "wasted life."

Like oil upon Your feet
Like wine for You to drink
Like water from my heart
I pour my love on You...
With praises like perfume
I lavish mine on You
Til every drop is gone,
I pour my love on You...

I know what C.S. Lewis says in his Letters to Malcolm about setting up a standard by focusing on our ideal moment and then missing the blessing of all the lesser but still precious moments after. Still, I want that passion burning in my heart and soul, to live out with a laid down life the words that tore themselves one by one from my throat. It doesn't feel as romantic, as tragically glorious once you leave the prayer room, but He is there always, drawing me away to be with Him in the secret place even in the middle of a busy day, even with the briefest fall of eyelids to remember and whisper love. Til every drop is gone...


You Are My Hope

After last night's tossing and turning and getting thoroughly enmeshed in the sleeping bag, I'm rather tired and not entirely sure how to say what's in my head and on my heart. I've been doing and learning so much that sometimes it all just piles up until I'm almost afraid to open the floodgates for fear that I'll drown in the deluge of my own musings.

These past few days have been especially difficult (sorry! I am apparently too happy and outwardly focused to write when I'm actually having an easy, breezy time in life) for reasons of their own, but this morning I opened up to my daily reading in Psalm 31 and was drawn to verse 24.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the Lord.

I find it so, SO easy to wallow in my own miseries, misfortunes, and failures. I'm still learning how to walk in the balance of recognizing my sinfulness in the light of God's holiness but also humbly receiving His grace and love that have sanctified and are sanctifying me. Humility is such a beautiful characteristic when someone actually walks in it, and it is such a sweet thing to be able to receive from the Lord. Part of the difficulty I have been facing is simply the oh-so-easy downward spiral of navel gazing that forgets the purpose of outreach and even of life, which is to glorify God and make His name known throughout the earth, and focuses instead on some too slowly evolving inward landscape that can only become beautiful when it is left to the master gardener Himself. As I have been fixating on my flaws, I have felt weak and ineffective, willing to do what is on the schedule because I have no choice, but gradually shriveling up inside.

Last night was sweet though, like a refreshing breeze blown in off of the sea. It was the end of a long day, with daily morning team time, then evangelism, a game of Ultimate Frisbee, a hastily consumed dinner of tacos, and an evening youth service/ministry time, wrapped up at last with a worship gathering at the African-American Center on Yale's campus. I hadn't even really had much of a quiet time that morning because I was exhausted and frustrated, so by the time we got to the 10PM worship I was flagging.

We talked once about the tendency of binding things in the prayer room or during worship, then walking right out of that room and loosing them once again. That's kind of what I felt was happening between the early evening ministry time when I had some personal breakthrough even while praying and prophesying over high school students, then lost my grasp of it five minutes after we walked out the door. By the time we reached Yale, I was ready to curl up in Daddy's lap and cry on His shoulder for a while. The eternal question: how do we walk in what we have received when the revelation is so contrary to established habits and thought patterns?

But always, at the moment beyond hope, God sends His messengers to whisper, "Be strong, and let your heart take courage..." Our hope is fixed on a firm foundation that the storms of life cannot shake. He is so good to me, and I will rest in Him.