That old gospel music

So if I had tons of money, I would splurge on an iTunes hymn cd buying spree... And there might be a few of The Black Keys' cds in there too, but shh. Anyway, a taste of the music:


Dear blog,
How have you been doing lately? Whenever I read your posts, you seem to be needlessly cynical and tired. Maybe it's time for a little pick me up. So consider this my gift to you: a non-exhausted, delightful muse on the glory of God.

Yours always,

Today's sermon was on... Well, I can't quite remember. It had something to do with the contrasts between the old and new covenant in 2 Corinthians 3, but honestly, I got distracted with journaling through a few things from worship, and then I saw verse 18 and I was a goner. Gosh, this is fun. Just thinking about it makes me a little bit giddy.

I love the story of Moses encountering the glory of God and Israel's response. It is both heartbreaking because of their rejection and uplifting because we are offered that same choice to behold His beauty. That last phrase is borrowed from a song that Tiffany Aitken often sings when she leads worship at Life Center: "Put Your beauty on display / Around me / Put Your goodness on display / To You be / All honor, glory, and praise forever and ever ... / We have come to behold Your beauty / Drink in Your goodness / And give you praise..." It's such a powerful song because it expresses something deep inside our hearts: we want to see Him.

Exodus 33 tells the story of a rebellious people who would only allow God to rest nearby rather than in their midst. Oh, maybe that's an overly harsh interpretation of why the Tent of Meeting was placed outside of the camp. I might also say that perhaps God desired to establish that pattern of Him pursuing us pursuing Him, that anyone who wanted Him would have to "go ye." David changed all of that when he placed the Tabernacle in the middle of the city, but that was several hundred years later. In this time and this place, they were former slaves wrestling with this strange reversal of circumstances by a God who scared them more than their brutal former masters. ("Not as slaves, but as sons!" Oh that's a good one too... *happy sigh*)

Right. So in their midst, we get a glimpse of a few guys who have come a long way since slavery and who realize that they want God more than they fear Him. He might not be safe, but He is good. It's in the middle of that discussion that we end up with Joshua remaining behind to catch every last drop of the rain of God's presence. But Moses took it a step further. One day, as he was chatting with God about ways to save these stubborn Israelites from themselves (oh wait, did I mention - he was chatting with God?! And that in the same verse where it talks about Joshua staying behind, it says that he did so "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend"? Whoa show shaka dakine and then some), Moses sort of casually slips in there, "Hey God, we've been through some tough times together and since You literally JUST said that I have Your favor ... Uh, can I see Your glory? Pretty please?"

And God says... Not exactly yes. Apparently it's a pretty common feature of deities that you can't look on them in their full godliness or you'll die. Zeus was apparently kind of stupid about that one on multiple occasions. But hey, this is not a light request we're making. The human mind was made to hold the universe at most and nothing more. How can we who are bounded by laws and natural order even begin to comprehend the sight of the Most High?

Instead of saying that He'll show Himself to Moses, He says He'll do three things: 1) He'll make all His goodness pass before Moses. What does that even begin to mean? Apparently we can only handle one attribute of God at a time, and even then we'll be missing about 99.9% of the fullness of God in that one area. What the? Who is this God?! 2) He will proclaim the name of the Lord (i.e. His name) before Moses. Tangent: The first task ever assigned to Man was to name all created things. In some ways, this is an extension of his dominion over creation. In many cultures, the idea of naming as a divine superpower is pretty strong. The Mesopotamians unsurprisingly shared this belief, as did I think the Egyptians and the Mayans if I remember much from my mythology class. So to have someone's name might mean control over them. What do you do with a God who doesn't give you a name, just His state of being? I AM THAT I AM, the completely uncontrollable God. Apparently Moses has matured since his encounter with the burning bush because God was about to do some proclaiming.

After those two offers, there is no response from Moses, but God seems to be having some kind of inner monologue (dialogue?) because He says that Moses can't see His face, but then He makes this "seeing Him" thing happen. So 3) He'll tuck Moses into a cleft of the rock and then after He has passed by, Moses can see His back (or as someone once put it, probably Rob Bell, the place where He was a moment ago). I especially enjoy the latter translation. Imagine a God so mindblowing that we can only just handle seeing the place where He just was - and that, only after we've spent hundreds of hours acclimating ourselves to His veiled presence.

Moses ends up hanging out on the mountain for forty days and nights, neither eating nor, get this, drinking. Boo yah, three day maximum. When he comes down from the mountain, his face is glowing with the radiance of exposure to God's glory. Exodus 34:30 says, "When Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him."

Let's get one thing straight: God is not safe. It's the Aslan comparison all over again. So they were right to fear the Lord. But at the same time, He is good. When we know the fear of the Lord without experiencing the love of God, we either reject Him or become intensely cruel as we become like what we worship. The heartbreak of this story is that God's own people asked Moses to veil his face because they were afraid of their God. What we fear, we do not fully trust. What we do not trust, we keep aloof from. What we keep aloof from, we harden our minds toward. How to receive as a Lover the God whom we fear?

And in the midst of that burden, He says, "Look at Me. Behold My beauty. Look at the place where I just was." If we can open our eyes for but a moment to gaze on His face, we will never be the same. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that we are beholding the glory of the Lord in a mirror and it's changing us. We don't even have to look directly at Him: His reflection does the work. The cool thing is, Moses's face was veiled because the people couldn't handle it. He had seemingly become the reflection of God's glory. An if we're all walking around with unveiled faces, we get to experience God's glory both one-on-one and as a community of believers. The radiance of your face is not the same as the radiance of my face, because God has shown us different aspects of who He is based on what we need and what we are seeking. Together, we can participate in the teaching experience by building one another up in the knowledge of Him.

So in case you were wondering: God is awesome. He's unbelievably hard to wrap your mind around, probably because He's infinite, and He is unbelievably fun. Even though I'm not-so-secretly in love with the Doctor, I would hang out with God over taking a ride in the TARDIS any day. Oh, oops, conviction. Do I make that choice in everyday life? Okay, we'll save that discussion for another day ;)


Garbage Man, Garbage Man...

There's a legitimate reason why I am more likely to blog when I am working on essays, and it's really an almost elegantly simple one. Essays are very structured and bounded, written with a particular audience in mind. In order to focus on what I should write, I have to empty the rest of the stuff that is muddling up my head so I can see clear to the other side.

The question I'm supposed to be answering is about my wish to attend Thomas Aquinas College. Do I know the structure and special nature of the program? Do I understand and accept what it means?

The answer I'm not going to give is this one: I have finally reached the point where I almost don't care if I go to any college much less a Great Books one. Every single school that I have been intensely interested in has turned out to be too expensive. Even after $19,000 in scholarships, King's was ridiculous. Biola didn't offer that much and they were even more costly. Thomas More wasn't too bad, but it was still enough that I was unwilling to make the transition. So the reality is, dear admissions folks, that I am tired. I am tired of writing essays about how much I love learning and how much the structure of your program appeals to me. I know exactly what Great Books involves and that's actually why I found you and was even remotely interested in applying. I love it: getting to read all of the originals, discuss them, and write about them - that sounds like holidays all year round. But the reality is that you will probably be too expensive for me. I don't want to write 7-15 pages worth of bs about how awesome you are because you're not original. You're just Plan J and you're asking a lot of me right now and I don't have a single creative way to say all of the same tired sentiments that I've been saying on the other eight + one applications that I have submitted.

Dear college education: you shouldn't be cheapened like this. But now you're selling yourself to the highest bidder like a pricey call girl, and that's not what I wanted. I want true love, and all you're offering is sex. I want our time together to lead me to higher planes of thought and perception, but all I'm left with is an aftertaste of bitter disappointment and the vague sensation of mental exhaustion. I never intended to treat you like you could be my salvation, but you were the logical next step and now I've tripped and fallen down the stairs. So where does that leave us?

I'm not sure. But I don't think this is going to help me write my essay.

Sorry for the melodrama. It has been a long day, and ChickfilA doesn't deliver.


What Will You Give?

I'm supposed to be writing a paper on determinism, free will, and moral responsibility right now. Apparently no one told Pandora that this would not be a good time to distract me, because City & Colour's song, "The Girl," just came up on my Josh Garrels station.

It's a really sweet song about how this guy is so grateful to his girl for staying true to him while he's off living his dream, and how he wishes that he could do better.

I wish I could do better by you
'Cause that's what you deserve
You sacrifice so much of your life
In order for this to work

While I'm off chasing my own dreams
Sailing around the world
Please, know that I'm yours to keep
My beautiful girl

Maybe it's silly, but that song reminds me of all of the reasons why I don't know if I should ever be married. For starters, all of the soft, emotional, I'm a girl so of course I love Disney princesses when I'm not making fun of them parts of me are all in favor of marriage. But there's a reason why I've always secretly (or not so secretly) sympathized with Brennan's character on Bones: when I see practical considerations that override an emotional response, I usually go in favor of the practical at the expense of the emotional. If that were not the case, I'd probably be in my third semester at CIU.

The thing is, I don't want to be that girl. Hmm, well, redaction: I'm more concerned that I would be in the singer's position. There is too much that I want to do, too many places I want to see. I don't want to settle down in virtually the same place I grew up. I want to live in another country or at least travel a lot, and to be honest, very few guys that I've known seem inclined in that direction. I would never want to ask someone to be the one waiting loyally either. 

But that seems like such a thin excuse when it's laid out like that. If my heart says yes and my head says no, maybe it's just an attempt at self-protection. God forbid that the independent one should expose her brokenness, quiet her flightiness, and rest at peace in another song lyric, that "home is wherever I'm with you."

So much of my past few years has been a tug of war with home. I have a home: a place where random waitresses recognize me, no road leads to an unknown destination, and life is predictable. Or perhaps it's the people who I've known and loved through 21 years of knowing and loving, and home is wherever I am so long as they are no further than a phone call. Maybe this wandering grey pilgrim who will not be satisfied where she's at just needs to teach her restless heart a song of thanksgiving and put away her suitcases to gather dust.

Is that the right answer?

Because usually when I ask, the only thing I hear is, "Trust."

It's not very satisfying.

(In case you're confused, so am I. Not sure how I got from point A to point Z, but I blame Bon Iver and Peter Bradley Adams)


Dialectics and Real Life

A confession: I don't always like to write about things that I am experiencing. It's an ever-present inner battle between linguistic determinism and memory loss. To forget this moment, why that would be a tragedy, like dropping diamonds into a sewer grate. But to lock so much feeling and so much ... muchness into a prison of words... That too would be a loss.

They say the difference between a tragedy and a comedy is that in a tragedy, everybody dies, but in a comedy, someone gets married. I don't see any marital prospects for this little humdinger until I can remember everything, but the psychology textbook tells me that my memory will only get worse before it gets better.

Then again, the last time I was resistant to the power of words, the memory turned out to be painful rather than joyous. Maybe I should learn from that time and imprison this one before it has a chance to flay my heart open?

I guess, in the end, it doesn't really matter what I do. I've been complimented on my way of putting thoughts into words, and Leah even said this past weekend that if I published my journals, she would read them. I suspect that they are rather less exciting than she seems to believe, or perhaps they are more exciting than I seem to believe? Either way, I am bound because I want to savor my memories and chew every flavor of their bountiful array, but no one else can appreciate them as much as I do until I surrender them to phonemes and morphemes, at which point, they will be given to the world but lost to me.

All that, because every time I listen to Kristene Mueller's "Praise the Lord," I want to weep over the simplicity of beauty and the way Julia looked as she walked up the aisle and the way nothing is the same but we don't give up on each other we keep fighting and we take the pain because we know that "every lament is a love song," and maybe some day our love songs will not be laments.*

*Lament for a Son, Wolterstorff


Just for Fun - Book List 2011

I keep a record of the books that I read each year, mostly to avoid driving myself crazy at a later date when I try to remember the name of that one book where that one character said/did that one thing... So without further ado, the list:

2011 Book List
1. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World- Joanna Weaver
2. Uprising- Erwin Raphael McManus
3. Why Revival Tarries- Leonard Ravenhill
4. Can Man Live Without God- Ravi Zacharias
5. Redeeming Love- Francine Rivers*
6. Think- John Piper
7. Traveling Mercies- Anne LaMott
8. Nazirite DNA- Lou Engle
9. Red Moon Rising- Peter Greig and Dave Roberts
10. The Book That Transforms Nations- Loren Cunningham
11. The Ball and the Cross- G.K. Chesterton
12. The Cost of Discipleship- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
13. Forgotten God- Francis Chan
14. Letters to Malcolm: Thoughts on Prayer- C.S. Lewis
15. Miracle Workers, Reformers, and The New Mystics- John Crowder
16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- J.K. Rowling*
17. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- J.K. Rowling*
18. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- J.K. Rowling*
19. Persuasion- Jane Austen*
20. The Pilgrim's Regress- C.S. Lewis
21. Manalive- G.K. Chesterton
22. The Scarlet Pimpernel- Baroness Orczy
23. Uglies- Scott Westerfield
24. Pretties- Scott Westerfield
25. Specials- Scott Westerfield
26. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- J.K. Rowling*
27. The Red Garden- Alice Hoffman
28. Airborn- Kenneth Oppel
29. A Third Testament- Malcolm Muggeridge
30. The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
31. Unseen Academicals- Terry Pratchett
32. The Prodigal God- Timothy Keller
33. How Shakespeare Changed Everything- Stephen Marche
34. A Grief Observed- C.S. Lewis
35. She-Wolves- Helen Castor
36. The Irresistible Revolution- Shane Claiborne
37. Christy- Catherine Marshall*
38. Idylls of the King- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
39. Ben Hur- Lew Wallace
40. Love Walked In- Marisa de los Santos*
41. The Great Game- Frederick P. Hitz
42. G.K. Chesterton- Michael Ffinch
43. The Salmon of Doubt- Douglas Adams
44. Lost in a Good Book- Jasper Fforde
45. The Memory-Keeper's Daughter- Kim Edwards
46. The Well of Lost Plots- Jasper Fforde
47. Alfred the Great: The Man Who Made England- Justin Pollard
48. Snow Crash- Neal Stephenson
49. Something Rotten- Jasper Fforde
50. Rakkety Tam- Brian Jacques
51. Little Dorrit- Charles Dickens
52. Rules of Civility- Amor Towles
53. Fire and Hemlock- Diana Wynne Jones*
54. Thursday Next: First Among Sequels- Jasper Fforde
55. Cluny: The Search for God's Lost Empire- Edwin Mullins
56. Water for Elephants- Sara Gruen
57. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe- H.R. Ellis Davidson
58. Russian Fairy Tales- Moura Budberg
59. Jude the Obscure- Thomas Hardy
60. The Human Factor- Graham Greene
61. Through Gates of Splendor- Elisabeth Elliot

*denotes a book which I have (probably) read before