April 26, 2010

(the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want)

When I was at Regionals, I felt that I loved God and loved people. I had opportunities to be real with people, to have conversations with them, to delight in them. And I found myself delighted in, as well. I found myself encouraged, smiled at, affirmed.

Now I'm home, I am afraid that I am not living righteously... I find myself far away from - God? I feel like I have less of myself, less to offer. I am only a self-centered girl who gets distracted when she's supposed to be doing physics. All that can be done, it feels, is for the sin to be cut out... to somehow try to purify my relationships, to live more righteously. And I'm left a pale, wilting thing, only able to cry out to God for help, for mercy.

I want to be more. I want to give of myself, and be made more real, not just less sinful. I want my parents to have something to appreciate.

April 25, 2010

"...redemption is creeping into the way we think, believe, and see the world."

This morning I discovered another thing I was afraid of... or rather, nervous about. Church.
Explaining our church-visiting would be complicated, and plus, it's not what I want to talk about. I want to tell you, I guess, how blessed I was today... how blessed I am.

There's a church gathering in our town that we've gone to a few times. It's bothered me that my family seems dispassionate about it. ...I've been confused how much we're trying to commit, or what it would actually look like to live and serve with these people. I've worried that it's disconnected from our hearts, or that we don't invest in the people there. But going today was immensely encouraging.

When I was at Regionals I thought a lot about dependency, and if I needed my friends and acquaintances. Collating my memories, I wrote, "my need doesn’t have to be for a deep outpouring of myself or of them, but a need simply for faces and voices and everyday life." That's kind of how it was today... we worshiped together, even though it was with people who I'd seen only a few times before. They are very welcoming to us, and I am so glad. I am thankful that Christ is all, and in all.

What made things even better was the theme of the sermon. It was specifically on 1 Cor 6: 12-20, but the pastor made purity in our bodies make sense in the context of redemption. He discussed how legalism only focuses on cutting out what's wrong, and so loses the good, and the joy of the Lord. He explained how license is permissive about the flesh, acting as if what we do physically is insignificant. But the truth is that evil is ended by turning it to good: by a whole-person change. (The law of the spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.) And the truth is that since the whole self will be redeemed, it matters what we do with our bodies. A free life is a united life, where action is guided by the Spirit.

So, I feel as if I'm learning about redemption in both mind and life. The past few months, I've been awed by how God shows me how everything of the life he's given me is valuable, how he uses my doubt and discontentment and disappointment. Today was an echoing of that. Being able to have conversations with people in my town, and see life and the Holy Spirit there, gives me hope for a community both physical and spiritual. It gives me hope for redemption.

(quote in the title is from David Dark's The Sacredness of Questioning Everything)

what if.

I tell myself that I'm not really one to write book reviews, but I know that I often like to explain my thoughts right after finishing a good book. Which is usually because they were inspired by the book.

So, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years....I'm thinking about living a better story; not just sticking to everything that is comfortable. I went to Don Miller's blog today, too, and found a post about "what if," about allowing yourself to imagine things that you've always wanted to do. That reminded me of what I was thinking yesterday, that there is little I want to do, and that I was concerned I didn't have big dreams, or ambitions, or any desire but to live well and truthfully and meaningfully. But then I thought about the story that Don Miller wrote in his life, and how what he did was all related to a life he had already established. He already wanted to ride a bike. He was already avoiding his father.

I wondered what parts of my life I could explore more. I thought about evangelism, and how I much it meant to me to have conversations with students at my county college. I thought about apologetics, and how having answers and polished speeches is only so much. I thought of how very little I know about talking about my faith with people who don't already agree with me. I realized that I am quite afraid of evangelism. Part of it is founded on ideas about not forcing truth in people's faces before you know them, part of it is based on plain ignorance, not knowing what's expected and what's frowned upon. I also feel like a poser, but that is only because I don't know what I'm doing or what I'm thinking of doing.

I know people who go on missions trips, and I've never been one of them. I heard, a few months ago, about a group that goes to malls to witness. I wonder what street evangelism does. See, I just don't know. I think of the time I went to Streetlight Church, and getting to be with people I didn't know, and having fun teaching kids, and feeling like I was doing something good and worthwhile, even though I didn't always know what to say.

You know, (well, maybe you don't, but I mean the casual, thoughtful tone if not the exact meaning) there are a lot of other what if's besides "what if I started telling other people about my faith?" Some of them are more far off, just vague ideas that I toy with: what if I took singing lessons? What if I started getting art or writing published? What if I learned how to use design software? These are possibilities, new ventures, that are less scary. I think I'm going to download GIMP when I get a free afternoon. I don't seriously consider singing lessons because I assume it would take a lot of time, and I have no aims to be a professional singer. Though I think about Micah and Andrew, and other NCFCAers who have bands, and I think of Serenity and Suzanna and their voices and pianos, and I find myself awed by people's commitment to music. I wonder if I should start getting serious about some type of art.

It's very easy for me to just toss ideas back and forth indefinitely, and continue sitting at home doing the things I always do. I wonder if I need an inciting incident... or perhaps I need to actually care enough to think and move and act. It's not that I think I'm not doing good things now, it's just that I want to do more, and I am pretty sure that will involve doing things I don't want to do, things that don't seem necessary. (But don't worry Mom, that doesn't mean I'm going to let up studying for the Physics test next week. That most definitely falls in the category of things that I don't want to do, even if it's not something completely different from what I've done before.)

So I guess, I want to continue thinking of worthwhile what ifs. And then actually accomplish them. Also, do you have any wisdom to share with me about witnessing?

April 24, 2010

(food metaphor)

this heart is shifting out of my control
it reminds me of jello, flipping around and sticking to things
sweet, and staining.

please, melt it down and pour it away
restore me to something solid:
the grip of bread, the crunch of apple, the heartiness of carrots.

April 23, 2010

Escape. (I know this lacks context)


I felt, for a moment, for a minute, for a half-hour, that I was understood, because... in their moving to where I was, and in my seeing through my own eyes, it seemed our minds were one.
Seeing another side of them, themselves to each other, made me realize that I was actually apart from them. I feel like I've lost the warmth, but not the understanding. Writing this, finding my place, is helping me escape the fear of being rejected. I may be alone, but I am not turned away. I may be an Other, but I am not lost.

April 16, 2010

Today I went out for an afternoon walk. It was breezy, and the wind nipped at my face, not strongly enough to be vicious, not gently enough to be caressing. I was thankful for chilliness again. I don't usually think of myself as one who likes to be cold, but it was a pleasant change from the rather sunny days we've had lately. And there is a certain appeal of going out by oneself in chilly weather. It seems raw and open, adventurous and independent. To some degree, every walk by myself is independent, but sometimes I feel more connected to the other people around me than others.

There was much to think about, thoughts that swirled around me and mostly into me. It's easy to be introspective and self-indulgent when by myself. I can let myself feel however I feel, sing as loudly as I want, skip or trudge or swing for as long as I see fit. Being by myself makes me think about God. It seems almost a shame to not think of Him when there is time and ability, and my mind isn't focused on people or something else. I wonder if this is right.

When I went out today, I had read half of "A Grief Observed." Which is strange, because I chose not to ask for "Of Mice and Men" because I wouldn't have time to read it. But my mother brought "A Grief Observed" home from the library for me because it was by CS Lewis, and thought I would be interested in it. And so I ended up reading that, instead of the book I said I was going to try and read before Regionals. How things do turn out...

In any event, the reason I mentioned the book was because it colored my thoughts on my walk. I don't know if I can exactly articulate what it changed, (besides the general thought of wanting to believe in God, not my idea of God) but perhaps the book is the reason I was thinking about life, and where life goes, and mostly about sanctification. By now the thoughts have become misty and intangible. This may capture it: life seems to be about making us more righteous, and God shaping us and teaching us. I also wonder what more there can be to learn, if we already have the cross and the knowledge of the gospel. Then I thought that God may not give us more ... fact, or even more knowledge, but more life. That we know what is and should be more deeply, more meaningfully as God shows us and tests our feeble faith, shatters our icons of what we paint reality to be. And that this learning, and experience, trains us more closely in the way of the spirit. So that our lives accord with God not just in conformance to rules, but that our feelings and desires and existence is righteous, real.

This is reminding me of my wonder at realizing (from 2 Peter 1) that we partake in God's nature. I almost think that when we die, we become wholly united with God, like a rivulet joining an infinite ocean. And so perhaps it makes sense to have faith in people when they die. I wonder if they can impress on us a realignment of themselves, as God I suppose does. I do wonder how to ever trust ourselves or our interpretations on our concepts of God. How are we to know when we hear God and when we're only hearing our own voice's echo?

It's strange, trying to relive today, more broadly, trying to go back to the past. I feel obligated to explain that I had to leave this for a while, and so have forgotten if there was something else I was trying to say. An observation is that after I finished reading "A Grief Observed" later in the day, I was very peaceful and joyful, inspired I suppose. It corresponded to, or flavored, or flooded into my perception of my entire today. I see today as one of interesting thoughts that are pleasure to consider, and don't beg for answers.

Everything carries with it a tinge of not quite regret but imperfection. I wonder if I should feel guilty that I wrote this instead of my negative case. I wonder sometimes if I hold myself to too lax standards. Other times I feel that I'm being ridiculous, and finding things to pick about instead of living by grace. "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." That gives me something more to think about. I also think about the everyday drama and small unexpected convictions that come from living in a family. I think of the minuscule sacrifices every day involves. I think of feeling not-spiritual-enough. I think of the conflicting beauty and tragedy of life, and how they can both seem to misunderstand and misrepresent one another. I think of carrying a song in your heart without trying too hard to remember the words you've already sung, and traveling on.

April 15, 2010

implications and complications

I've been thinking a lot about college lately. This is because I've finally started to wonder what I'll do next year. See, the problem is (and really, most people wouldn't call it a problem) is that I have a lot of credits already. And there are only a couple of subjects I should do before I graduate: Greek, Malay, and Home Economics. None of which are especially important subjects. Of course, I could go further in math, or take another AP course, but there's just not that much for me to do academically next year.

So one proposal is to finish high-school in the fall (I'll also be taking Psychology at the County College -which I'm happy about) and then go to Rutgers in the Spring. And then, whether or not I intern with CFC, I can attend Rutgers until Kristen graduates. This is slightly exciting to me, mainly because it's something new that I hadn't thought of before. But it's disconcerting, because it means I can't compete in NCFCA.

I don't think I'm writing about this very feelingly, but I am distressed about it. I suppose I've kind of come to grips with Hayley and Micah leaving, if coming to grips means not talking to them very much. Then Lilly might not compete next year. And then I start thinking about all the other seniors there are out there who I don't want to leave. I've tried to comfort myself over that by reminding myself that I still have another year to spend with Liz, Michael, Tabitha, Cody, all the rest of beautiful Region 10. But what if I don't? I don't feel like I'm ready to leave yet: I'm still attached to apologetics, I wanted to do some platform speeches next year, and most of all, I don't want to leave the people I know and love so much.

I'm confused about this, because I don't know exactly what I'm leaving. Part of it, I think as losing a community of people who understand me and who I've gone through a lot of things with. But I don't know. My family members are the only ones I live with physically *and* emotionally. My thoughts are all jumbled.

Part of the appeals of college is the idea of doing everything with people, and coming to have friends who you are close to whom you can see every day. That's also one of the appeals of interning, though I guess I'm making it out to be better than it is. It's just... Kristen has a group of friends that she's allowed to count on. I could count the friends I have to be the same. And I'm very distressed about leaving them(/you) to go off to college.

It's strange, most of you I've only known well for a little over a year. I know how to make new friends. But I don't like to think that friendships are disposable. I wonder if it's enough to know that people care about me, if I don't get the chance to do things and discuss things with them. I don't think that not talking equates to losing a friendship, so I don't think I'm going to lose my friends, but I don't know what it will be like to not ever see you. I don't think it makes sense to have a spiritual/emotional community online, and then try to cobble together a working, living, community at college. Things are so complicated.

I feel like I've spent a long time writing out very disorganized thoughts. I feel a little unsure of what separation is bound to come, and I will find a way to endure, and what I may bring upon myself. I also forgot to develop my thoughts on devoting myself more to ICC. I feel like the only way to develop deep friendships with people there would be to lose my friendship security here. (say when I go to camps, or county college classes, I am not too stressed about making good friends because I already have such amazing ones) But that is a little silly, because I do have good friends who I've met there. (hi, Kaitlyn and Catey) Just now, I am encountering the thought that I'm treating you people like assets to be traded or saved. Ugh. I really don't mean to do that to you. Nor do I mean to ignore the people I hardly see and will see even less when they go off to college (unless I decide to transfer/attend Grove City or Wheaton: they are on my list. Though St. Olaf isn't).

This was a very insecure and awkward post. I'm sorry. I just want you to understand.

April 5, 2010

Passively.


I feel that I begin to be wild, sensual and strange, awake to how things move me, but unable to engage.
I feel that I'm a glass full of chemical reactions, a prey to inner happenings, repulsions and attractions.
I feel that I am distant, without a word to give, resigned to turn away from thought before I learn to live.

April 4, 2010

Why I want to learn to write fiction well

Fiction gives me a place to write out my anxieties and insecurities about relating to people. Fiction captures nuances of feeling and interaction and thought that you don't talk about in real life. Fiction tells a story that will let the readers feel with you much more than if you just told them generally about life as you observe it. I don't always think people want to listen to me, but maybe, maybe they'll read what I write.

Following Christ

Seeking God is a strange thing. At once I know there's something missing, and don't always know how to find it. I try to approach, remembering how I have seen Him before, all the while afraid that I'm being ritualistic or treating God like a recipe when I want him to be my feast. It's funny, how my own sin can seem to push me to God, and then when I know him more deeply, I find that he is the one drawing me to him, preparing the table and offering himself.

Last night, reading John and Isaiah 53, I felt with my mind and my heart the weight Jesus's death. Somehow, it became real and I was there with him when he died.

...
Everything faded away as He was killed solemnly, inevitably, heavily. I feel, along with the disciples, the heartbreaking certainty that it was my shame and sorrow and sin that crushed him and nailed him to the cross. I imagine myself, during that Friday and Saturday, knowing only that we killed him, and we are now his legacy. We must press forward, tell with mournful assuredness that Jesus is dead but we are alive. We must accept his death for us. It is all we have. This will be the greatest love we will ever experience. We have been loved with an everlasting love, and nothing in the future can surpass the love of Christ in his death. Except - I whisper to myself as I fall asleep Saturday night - except Christ himself, alive.

It's Sunday morning, and I imagine Mary Magdalene, weary and exhausted, tired from crying, when she goes to the tomb. Unwilling to face yet more sickening reality, she is thrown into confusion when she finds the stone rolled away and Jesus's body gone. But then, she sees him and hears his voice. If I was Mary, I would run up to Jesus, clinging to him, wanting to touch him and reassure my whole self that he was real. I would be swept away with relief and gratefulness and wonder, not needing to know how it had happened, not thinking about having to part from him again. It would be peace after being lost in a storm and joy after desolation.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, he breathes on them and says, "Recieve the Holy Spirit." It seems to me that this is a beginning. Now, what Jesus was and is can be replicated in our lives. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices. We forgive as Christ forgave, and love as He loved. We suffer with him, and will be glorified with him. I think... before this point, the disciples could not think of themselves as imitators of Christ, only students of him. Now, we can follow him not physically, but in Spirit.

I wonder at how personal this all was. Palm Sunday was much more loud, more triumphal, than the Sunday we call Easter, though Jesus's resurrection was a great conquest of sin and death. Did the disciples go around proclaiming "He is Risen" to everyone they knew?

Jesus's talking to Peter must have been bittersweet. Peter, in humble insufficiency, trying to declare his fortitude. Jesus, trying to show that if Peter loved him, he must feed his sheep. What does this mean? Was Peter called specifically to serving the believers? Did Jesus mean that love is more than anguish at his death and joy at his resurrection, but obedience and trust and a life given wholly to him?

I went on to read 2 Corinthians 3. "When they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. ... When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. " I saw another significance of Jesus' death. It didn't just have power because it was blood shed for my sin. Because Jesus died, I could experience what he did, and love him as a real person, not just a book. And because he lives, I am being transformed by his presence in me. I want to hold on to this knowledge of forgiveness, and hold on to hope. He is alive.

April 3, 2010

Easter Eve

I want to be reverent. I regret to say that not all of me wants to be reverent, or else I would have tried harder to be. What I mean is, I want the feeling of truth encompassing my being, I want to feel humbled and convicted and loved, and most of all I want Easter to be meaningful.

Holidays this [school] year seem to have crept up on me. Things that used to be a big deal haven't been made much of. Take Christmas, for example. Since we were in Malaysia during the time, we weren't able to celebrate it with the same kind of traditions. I remember journaling on Christmas eve, longing and aching to feel the significance of Jesus's birth. I remember Micah saying something about wanting holidays to be holy days. I sympathize entirely.

And then Christmas came, and it wasn't like what I expected. It was calm, kind of withdrawn. It was simple, but true. We went to a local church building for their service, and I appreciated being reminded of Jesus Christ himself, and our need for him, even as I didn't appreciate hearing The First Noel sung. I cringe whenever I hear that song, because of the rhyming. But no matter. I remember coming away from Christmas thinking about the cross, and the significance of Jesus's death. I thought about how God could only forgive me of sin because of the death of His son.

The first time I really thought about Easter this year was during the 30-Hour-Famine. The group of us were having communion to break our fast and I felt like I finally understood what it was about. We had just spent thirty hours not eating, and seen what it was to deny ourselves. And it was so meager, so simple. It felt so worthless compared to all the suffering that so many people must endure. I was weighed down by my own insufficiency. Then, to hear and remember Christ's body, broken for me, and Christ's blood, shed for me meant so much. I can never hope to be enough, and Jesus's death paid it all. I struggled to think how I could live in joy, and let myself be content, when I felt too unworthy to take what He offered.

Now, it's nearing Easter, and it feels like something's missing.