28 December 2010

#1: Rez-oh-lü-shuns: simply living, and the art of not just getting by

As the final pages of last year were hovering at a 90 degree angle above the spine of the book in mid-turm, I found myself in constant joyous elation. All of the happenings of each day seemed to be a promise of happiness and newness. Even the timid sun had decided to show its face 'round these parts, almost as if its sole purpose was to warm my face with a shiny forecast of things to come. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, a new year is upon us! And my exuberant response is: "About f*@%ing time."

Why am I cursing the nondescript entity that simply forces the moon to pull the tides and pushes the sun in its predetermined orbit? That's a good question; because, as tempting as it is, I can't really hold gravity accountable for the several difficult trials that I have had to press through this year. And 2010's been tough one: in the past 12 months, I went through the diagnosis of clinical anxiety and started treatment for it, lived in a tumultuous living situation that ultimately resulted in a change in residence, experienced the tragic death of a family member, and had a sudden start and even more sudden end to a relationship. Of course, there were times of extreme joy when I experienced utter gratitude for my life, the people in it, my lifestyle, and happy changes that were happening; but, admittedly, I neglected to see those times for what they were, because I was still trying to catch my breath from those experiences that knocked everything out of me.

So, what's a girl to do? I looked over my last blog post I wrote when being confronted with my cousin's death back in October, and I appreciated my perspective of finding not only joy, but strength in the tiny activities of my day. I don't need to just feel ok, or better: I need to feel like I can do it, with strength and grace of God. Maybe listening to God and leaning on the comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit is to simply live: to get up, eat, work, play, love, smile, pray, kiss, and cry. To celebrate all things, great and very, very small.

And that is my new years resolution: simply living in the very, very small day-to-day. Most years I am tempted by grandeur thoughts of accomplishing very, very large things, like starting graduate school or getting out of debt or balancing my checkbook on a daily basis. But this year, I'm going to give myself as much space as possible, and allow as much peace to reign in my life as I can--not with the intent of learning life lessons in the space set aside, but rather just to quiet the noises. I don't want to be absent from those times that are good and bright, only relive them in painful nostalgia; I am going to make sure that I look at and listen to and taste and smell what's going on around me. I am going to simply be here.

Any sort of goal requires some pragmatic approach, so one way I am going to work towards the goal of living goal-free is to give myself space to reflect every day: reflect on where I am feeling strained, where I am feeling free, where I am feeling tired, where I am feeling joy. And, naturally, with any sort of reflection, things will be noticed and seen, and the process of learning what God will have us learn will unfold. Therefore, I've also decided that though I am not looking for any grand, sweeping life lesson to be taught in 2011, I want to intentionally look and note what I do find in this space I am giving myself, because, I think I will just be grateful for it. I also want to write and blog more this year, so I am going to kill the proverbial bird with one stone: this year, I will reflect every day through blogging on what I've seen, what I'm learning, and what I want to start doing (call 'em teeny, tiny goals, if you will). Note: I will probably break this resolution to write daily come mid-February, but, hell, you gotta give it a shot.

(I promise to everyone that I will try my very hardest to keep my daily reflections from being some myriad of trite and redundant grandiose statements about lessons we can learn about God through clouds and looking at the world through a child's or puppy's eyes. Please, if ever I write something that you feel falls in that category, you hereby have the right to comment that I am guilty of breaking the clouds, children, and puppies clause. Make sure to call it as such: the clouds, children, and puppies clause).

So, since I am already 9 days behind, I'm tempted to get to a-reflectin' and make 9 comments. However, after writing this post, I realize that my first goal prevents me from making up for the past week and half, because:

#1 Write shorter posts, because you won't write at all if you don't.
Seriously, I won't. I started writing this post a week ago. Brevity is not my natural-born strength, so I'm going to have to start practicing.

Happy New Year.

09 November 2010

Empowerment meals

What do you do when life literally becomes unbearable, and it's near impossible to enact your daily routine?
What do you do when you mention that the past two days have been great, only because you can't imagine that any alternative course of events leading up to them could be any worse than what you experienced?
What do you do to bring life to your aching bones that call out for mercy?

Make soup. And bake.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned statements were not a use of hyperbolic narrative, though everything in me wishes they were. I am in a proverbial "life has handed me lemons" state of being--though at times it seems like life is scraping at the bottom of the lemon barrel to find all of the putrid and rotting ones to toss on over to me. Redemptive lemonade does not even seem possible, most of the time. I have no control over these things that have been handed to me (trust me: my efforts to seize the reigns have been catastrophic failures); nor does it seems that I really have control over my responses to them on most days. It's been fun to watch that motivational saying fly shamefully out the window.

However, what I do have control over is my fridge. (Sort of--there must be some month-old left-over pasta dish with legs that keeps moving positions on the shelves, because I can never seem to find what makes it smell so rank). I can control the rice on my pantry shelves, spoons and ladles, my spices collection, and my fresh parsley that needs to get eaten up. I can control my ability to successfully pair tastes and texture together and create something delicious. I can control myself from feeling discouraged and scared when I mess up, or if the meal didn't turn out the way I imagined it would. I can clear my busy weekday schedule to make an improvisational dinner with a dear friend. I can allow myself to enjoy something that's tastes good, and to give myself credit for creating it. I can make a mean Kale, Tomato, and Rice Stew on the fly.

There is something so cathartic, so healing about taking what you have in front of you and making it work. I think most people thrive on being successful, in some capacity. Or, at least, watching things come to fruition in the way we imagine it by our own hands. So, when the course of events in life are thrown off the axis and we no longer know which way is up, we desperately grope for something to reinstate our center of gravity. (I usually pick smoking. Or chocolate.) When our insides don't know how they are supposed to sit in their own body, and when our bodies forget how to move about in space, how can we possibly feel like we are capable of doing anything worthwhile? Coping mechanisms are simply devises for reaching out, grasping for control, and sticking everything back where we remember them previously being. Usually very ungracefully, as our hands are shaky from shock and our vision blurred by constant tears.

When I was plowed over by a semi a week and half ago (figuratively), I had to brainstorm on what to do with myself--what instructions to give my body. I decided to make a pizza with my boyfriend and watch High Fidelity. Tonight, I made soup with a friend and baked banana bread without spending any money. I even have left overs for lunch tomorrow! The past two days have been the first time in awhile when I feel my insides straightening up again, my head clearing, my thoughts more coherent and concise, and my hands feeling empowered to produce once again. I'm recognizing the places in my life--as little or insignificant as they may be--where I still have control. I'm learning to not grope and grasp and cling to it, but gracefully and respectively step in, allowing myself to remember what it feels like to be OK, even if for a moment.

The banana bread didn't turn out as sweet as I wanted it too. I add brown sugar and cinnamon on the top, and that didn't do the trick. I'll still sleep peacefully tonight, I think.

**And, if you are REALLY interested as using baking a means of empowerment, please check out my dear Danica's blog! Not only does she chronicle the life of a new, super cool and creative mom (that's her) living in Pasadena, but she bakes pies on a regular basis. Further proof that women gain super powers when they have babies, if you ask me.

01 September 2010

Bearing patience...

To Self: "No no no no, stop it stop it stop it stop it! It can't happen. Not right now."

Right? You all know the feeling: the constant dichotomy of wants and reality, always fighting against the need to concede. Or, fighting against conceding.

What does it meant to be OK in the place and space where you are, while yet leaving room to dream? How do we live faithfully in a place where we must wait, though patience is arduous, leaving little left to look and see (really see) what's around you? I have a hard time living beyond my desires that distract me, sometimes. I wonder what it would look like to walk along your side of the street with the greener side in full view, feeling free to smile and even whistle in your current stride...

I wrote this a while back with the memory of England, my once home, weighing heavily on my heart:

With windows down I stick my face outside to be flitted by the wind.
My hair trails behind me, and I let one or two strands be stolen
so that a piece of me will fly away to places I've never dreamed of, and there I will be where I cannot.

Faith in the waiting. Lord, teach us your ways...

16 August 2010

Gender and Faith

I just had a thought that intrigued me immensely. I have been reflecting quite a bit lately on my journey with God since childhood, and the faith I've found: a faith that liberates me, a faith that restores me, a faith that promises me wholeness, love, and acceptance. However, a few months ago, a fellow woman at my church requested that the female members of our church write out a little vignette on what it has meant to be a woman in our life experience--particularly in the context of our faith.

Now, I also believe that my "womanness" embodied in the gender that God assigned me to plays a central part in my understanding of myself, which includes the faith in which I wish to fully embody me. My journey through understanding how my gender interacts with my life in Christ, mostly with the Church (which historically has not been necessarily very hospitable to women). Until I received the above request from my friend, I haven't been compelled to reflect on what it means for me, as a woman, to believe in God and live out that belief in the ways of Jesus the Christ. Not only as a member of the body of Christ, but simply as a person who has chosen the life of faith.

I understand that there are a vast array of perspectives when it comes to both faith and gender, but I can only operate from my little enclave of experience and therefore bias--which is there are true genders, that are not entirely socially contrived, which affect our experiences in life and our senses of self. Therefore, I really wonder: how do our experiences as men, women, and everything in between, affect our perspective of faith in God--or our choice to not believe?

I am well aware of the typical gender stereotypes that exist surrounding the interaction of both men and woman in the Church, which I would actually like to circumvent, if possible (though I know it is near to impossible to divorce God and Christ in God from the Church in which He is embodied on earth). Like I said, I am more interested in our experiences as individuals who believe. Individuals who experience those quiet moments when we find ourselves knowing Someone whom we know we are incapable of ever fully knowing--those moments that solidify our reasonings behind the illogical and rather crazy leap into the abyss that we've chosen to make. Those moments when we are know and are known.

When we stand before, sit with, lie down next to, run along with, walk towards, play with, delight in, be delighted in, love, or rejoice in God, how do we understand ourselves in the context of being gendered bodies and gendered people? How have our experiences as men, women, and anyone in between, affected our faith in God?

09 August 2010


#87.1 - YEASAYER - No need to worry / Redcave
Uploaded by lablogotheque. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

I will say that this video is one of my favorite things. Not one of my favorite performances, not one of my favorite songs (though those are both true), but one of my favorite nouns in life. It's one of those things that that transcends beyond the typical nature of it's own genre of subjects and topics to become something greater than it's intention. We all have at least one of those things: that poem that struck a chord in you that never really stopped ringing, that novel or essay which instigated a profound paradigm shift, or that speech given by someone you've never met, but who's words have affected you in a way that only those most intimate to you do. I wouldn't say that this recording of Yeasayer--though a favorite, I have to say--literally CHANGED MY LIFE; maybe I could say it helps me out by operating as a little illuminator to the way I see the world. (But Red Cave pretty much does make me tear up almost every time I hear it).

I think what is so wonderful about this video is that it records such a beautiful moment that is so precarious and fleeting: the decision of the band to sing that particular song for the video project on the subway, surprising both their fellow passengers and recording crew alike. The clear community of the band operating in perfect harmony becoming integrated into the temporary community gathered on the subway ride. The other passengers--who probably don't know what they are singing, as the video is filmed in Paris--joining along in rhythm and lyrics by quickly acquiring language. Everyone in that moment on that ride experienced something special that can never be recreated, which probably makes it all the more beautiful.

I would guess that the real reason I enjoy this video so much is because it reminds me of those moments when you raise your head up, look around, and realizing you are in the middle of something incredible. Call it the Kingdom of God realized on earth, call it the movement of the Spirit, call it simply a thing pointing to something greater than itself. Call it whatever you will, really; the words we use to describe these moments don't really matter, because it's not the words that move us but the vision we see before us of either the potentiality within or the trueness of something beyond. Whatever it is, it's something we look to and look for, and it's absolutely lovely.

I'm not sure how Yeasayer or the Take Away Shows crew would feel about this reflection, but I don't really care. All I know is that this simple, unpretentious and unassuming piece of art makes me a little happier to be alive. Or, at least, reminded of how "bless-ed" I am. :)

Enjoy enjoy enjoy. :)

19 July 2010


Peace, stillness, and rest...

...is to lay belly-down on the ground and see the world with the blades of grass and their molecules, knowing there is so much more you'll never know

...is to let the wind move the swing tied to the tree branch, and watch it sway like a pendulum, marking time at a pace much slower than you're used to

...is to allow the grass to make your legs itchy and the breeze your arms cold, welcoming the sign that there is still room for you to change

...is to lie on your back and feel very, very small; and then lie on your front and feel very, very large--always feeling the earth holding you the whole time

...is to smile at the dirt that covers your house, because it is still so lovable

I've moved into a house. And I love it. I'm challenging myself to spend time out of buildings everyday--which seems to be the quickest and most effective mood stabilizer there is. And then there's the beautiful walks in my beautiful neighborhood when I spend a few precious moments with my neighbor doe, who have descended from the mountains to eat the new figs off of tree branches. They make it hard to feel like you could ever be alone.

Oh, the blessings in the world around us. May we always find peace and rest and stillness in them.

23 June 2010

Do it!

Please enjoy this website algorithmically played by my favorite band, Yeasayer!


21 April 2010


Hello blog subscribers!

It is strange that this is a legitimate cyberspace greeting! I have noted that there has been an (unexpected) influx of readers to this crazy little thing called my blog lately. I have to say, I have really appreciated all of your comments and words of encouragement on some of the things I have written; I am both warmed and challenged by many of the things you say. All in all, I am really appreciative for our internet kinship that has developed. :)

Since there are people I actually do not know who are actually reading what I write up here, I figured I better tighten up the belt a bit and start being both more reflective and discerning about my posts. I want this to be a relevant blog to others, not just a place for me to vent about my angst about existence or give a comprehensive list of things I do not like to eat paired with Red Wine (the later topic might actually turn out to be more interesting than many other things I've written).

This is where your help comes in: if you would be so inclined, I would really appreciate hearing about why you are following my blog, what it is about my blog that you like reading about, what you would like maybe to be discussed in the future, etc. (If you never actually read this blog, and are actually quite confused on how you are subscribed in the first place, that's ok--let me know, and I'll say thank you anyway and give you instructions on how to unsubscribe.)

My parting words have nothing to do with this post, but just an out-pouring of my heart. This is an excerpt from one of my favorite books, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.

19 April 2010

Everyone must wonder sometime...

September 15, 2009

I wanted to write today, but I feel like I have nothing to say, really. It's funny that it's when you have the energy to express everything that's been weighing on you like a fine-tuned migraine that you don't have anything to say. Those terribly tiring, headache-inducing themes that seemed to have required compositional processing have faded, and have been replaced with whatever noun's meaning is correlated with the sincere answer of "Fine!" when someone asks how you are doing.

Only a writer would complain about life feeling positive: it feels more exhausting to think of something to write about than to find a way to properly articulate that which lays so heavy on you. Maybe that's why so many artists seem to sustain self-imposed neuroticism in order to create. Those aren't the smart ones, the truly creative. I'm probably one of those.

I guess I find that I discover what is good and what makes sense in those things and people that surround me, and I'm contended in that. The urge to capture and share has subsided. That is the question, really: how does the writer convey the things that compel her to know the world without falling prey to acquisition? Which is ridiculous--how funny that we humans believe that suddenly by imposing language we suddenly can own a thing, an idea, a person? Who among us has ever uttered, "Thus", and then beheld? None.

Yet we think that if it is written, it is; a written contract is more trust than a verbal, the marriage license more recognized than the vows exchanged. Yet documents are more vulnerable than those who composed them, or whomever they are about, as they are reduced to ash at the first match strike. And, how much more life is exchanged when language is notably absent!--an embrace between two friends, two partners sighs of love, the wag of a dog's tail at the sight of it's master, the clearing skies right after a storm. I could never capture these moments in words without subjecting them to a severe reduction of meaning, robbing them of what they truly are. All because language wielded requires severe accommodation--most of all from the one who utilizes it as a tool of interpretation.

That's all we do, really: interpret. Funneling that which is beyond and beside this structure of sounds, inflections, and implied meaning into something we can name and thus own. How odd is it that we name--how audacious! Perhaps that's the problem: the implied ownership that the act of name implies. Parents conceive, birth, name, and thus own a child, even though they participated in the miraculous emergence of life only through incubation. Yet, for nearly two decades, they can itemize them on their taxes along with their second house in the mountains.

Maybe we are just irresponsible with our language; we categorize things prematurely--and often incorrectly--in order to understand them. Aristotle said the natural world was ordered thusly, and we nodded our heads in comprehension and conceded. "I name, therefore I understand." I wonder if it's the reverse that's true--that true understanding proceeds naming. If so, we would find ourselves in a wordless world, our eyes wide as we gaze at each other. We understand little and comprehend nothing, and so we build four-walled structures around us to shield us from the EXPANSE that surrounds us everywhere we are. I am anxious standing in the expanse, so much empathy is extended to she that fills up the expanse with thousands of four-walled structures and millions of implied-meaning-sounds to everything she sees in order to qualm her anxiety of the vastness of the unknown.

If only we could open our anxieties and buildings and words to prayer--that instead of burrowing ourselves away when facing the expanse, we life our hands to God and wonder, "What is it?", with no expectation of an answer! What if a mother's first to response to hearing the cries of the new life that had just emerged from her body was, "Who is this?" before declaring a name to call the child? If we wonder before we we build and name, then perhaps we will remember that it is not we who understand, and therefore cannot own.

10 April 2010

Technological invasion, or, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the Telly".

Here is a quick story about a self-posed question that I, much to my disturbance, could not find an answer to:

I am currently staying at my parent's house up North this weekend for a small vacation. We actually have been active on this trip that we usually are (it's amazing how many free things you find to do when you are in a personal and global recession!), so I am not complaining. However, inevitably, the T.V. always gets turned on every night, usually in three different rooms by their three typical occupants. This, of course, leaves me, a non-permanent resident of this home with no T.V. of my own, alone to sit at the table and thumb through a Sunset magazine (or go up in my room and write a blog entry). This, as you can imagine, frustrates me for two reasons: 1.) I just traveled 400 miles and spent quite a bit of money to spend time with my family, and 2.) I don't watch T.V. I will watch an occasional show on-line now and then, or watch a season of a T.V. show in succession once in awhile, but rarely ever do I just sit down and watch what's on. Mainly because I am too busy to devote a half hour to doing respectively nothing, and when I do have free time, I'd rather spend it with people. So my initial response to my family's recreational T.V. habits is that we should be doing something else. Anything else, because sitting in a room simultaneously being occupied by the same thing is not spending time together. (Can I get an Amen?)

But here's when my scenario takes a what I think is disturbing turn: immediately after haughtily thinking "we should not be watching T.V. right now", my next thought was...nothing . Sheer blankness and absence of thought. I could not conceive an alternative activity, at least one that did not involve media or technology. I was not capable of brainstorming a quiet family activity that did not include being entertained by some external electronic inanimate object. What did people do together before there were 7 T.V.s in one household? Seriously! Embroider? Talk about the farm? I am not being facetious here; I am posing a serious question. How can modern families, with all of the technology available at their fingertips, after spending 8 hours apart from each other all day working in isolated, unrelated jobs, spend time together without tuning out and being held captive by the T.V., or some other technological activity (including computers, an act of which I am entirely guilty as charged)?

Suggestions? Ideas? Theoretical Propositions? What do you think? Your ideas may save us all!

06 April 2010

That audacious, confusing, pesky hope we have...

*Warning: this is a long one! I guess I am making up for lost time. I wish this thing was wider, then this post wouldn't take up so much room!*

Oh, hello again.

I know, I know it's been a long time. This is due to the fact that, of course, I try to fit an infinite amount of activities into a very finite space, such as the mere 24 hours we are allotted every day--16, if you take time to sleep. (Which, trust me, I certainly do). This past weekend, Holy Weekend, I especially felt the finite nature of time; I know that celebrating the Feast, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is a beautiful, communal Church event, but, man, does it make for a busy weekend! But anyway, Easter is one of my favorite religious holidays: I love the time we spend preparing for it through Lent; I love that our whole lives and schedules become wrapped up in each other as we remember together; I love that Spring has usually sprung when it rolls around. I don't really love all the commercial/consumerism that surrounds it (what the hell is an Easter basket, anyway?), but man oh man, do I love those Cadbury Eggs. I love that we celebrate the new life that surrounds us in nature, and that we hope in all things made new in the Resurrection of Christ.

Easter is usually the season when I am most reflective of my life in God, and of the "Kingdom lifestyle" I have chosen to orient my life around. In fact, around 8:25 am Sunday morning (35 minutes before church started), as I was furiously whisking eggs in my pajamas, I started to reflect on Easter last year. I was in the midst of a bout of serious depression, struggling minutely with anxiety, desperate for consolation and guidance on dealing with Ed's impending death (he died two days after Easter last year), and felt isolated and withdrawn from life around me. The season of Lent and Easter was actually a dark season for me: in this time of life and newness, I was feeling grief, pain, and despair.

Thankfully, within the next few months, the clouds of depression started to lift, and the sun of hope and peace started to shine once more. I was able to make some internal and external life changes that reduced my anxiety and increased my connection with community. I made many new friends, deepened the friendship I had, and started to seriously reflect on the next steps I would take in my future. I felt alive and liberated: hope was no longer something I anticipated, but something I lived in. Though this year has certainly been hard, I think I will (hesitantly) declare that I am more healthy than I probably have been in awhile, if not ever.

And, you know, Thanks Be to God, right?! I am so thankful for this time in which I really live in hope for the future. And I'm sure many of us are able to relate to this scenario: life is hard (really, really, really hard) sometimes, and it sometimes seems impossible to get out of bed and go on. But, sometimes by making good choices, and sometimes by sheer miracles, things turn around, and life seems livable again. The possibility of good things continuing to happen doesn't seem so remote.

However, if that is what hope is--painful situations alleviating, and us feeling like life is good and possible--then I don't really like it. I don't think it has a place in Christianity, to be honest. It makes hope contingent on the diminishing of pain, trouble, despair, and death; it leaves no room for miracles. And don't get me wrong: I am not discussing the daily troubles and problems in life; I am talking about the devastating, crippling problems in life--both death of the body and the death we experience in life. The things that overtake us, that entrap us in despair. The things that make us not want to get out of bed in the morning because we know we must face them.

In the little Evangelical Church I grew up in, we would equate deliverance with the movement of God: if someone's illness was healed, if someone's difficult financial situation turned around, if major church problems dissipated, then all thanks was given to God. If we kept praying and praying with no avail, then we still gave thanks to God in the hope that eventually it would, because God is faithful to us. A gratefulness that I certainly admire, but an expectancy I am not sure I can jive with. This is why: in our finite minds, in our finite understanding of time, we try to fit what God's faithfulness is into a timeline we can understand--namely, in our lifetimes. We expect that eventually, things will turn around, because that's what God's faithfulness means. And who can blame us, right? How else are we expected to get through life--which for most around the world and in history is "nasty, brutal, and short"--without hope for deliverance? Maybe, maybe we live with the hope that even if we do not live to see our situation in life turn around, future generations will see that hope actualized.

But, what if it doesn't? What if none of us live to see all of the poverty, all of the injustice, all of the pain, all of the sickness, all of the despair vanquished? Does that mean God is not faithful to us? Yes, God promises life for all in the future Kingdom, but God also promises death for all who choose to follow Christ. The story I told to the kids on Easter Sunday said that, yes, we remember the Crucifixion of Christ in light of the Resurrection, but that we also remember the Resurrection in the light of the Crucifixion. We cannot have one without the other, they cannot be pulled apart. Death has lost it's eternal sting because Christ died; God showed faithfulness on Holy Saturday by communing with the dead and the damned. And when He rose from the grave, his body was still wounded; and Scriptures don't give us any reason to doubt that Christ's body was wounded when He ascended into heaven. Therefore, the Church, as the Body of Christ, still displays the wounds of the Crucifixion.

So, what does it mean for us to hope when we are eternally wounded? I guess it means that, a.) hell, let's still live in the hope in the future Kingdom of God being made full! That still remains to be God's promise to us, I think. But, also, b.) we must remember that the God of the universe, stars, little bunny rabbits and precious children is also the God that communes with the poor, the hungry, the outcast, the depressed, the sick, the disabled, the political prisoners, the terrorists, and the damned. God sits with them. God grieves with them. God dies with them. God does not promise that we will not suffer, but rather that God suffers with us. When we hope for life, God brings it by sitting with us in our suffering, but not necessarily by alleviating it. We hope in life actualized in the nearness of God.

Please don't get me wrong: I believe in goodness, I believe in joy, and I believe in rest. These things are all in God, I think. And I really do believe that miracles happen--that Jesus still spits down in the dirt to make mud to heal a blind man. But I hope never to dismiss the reality of death--which is not final, but certainly very, very present. Right now, my thoughts go to my grandmother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Her mind, literally, is deteriorating: she is loosing her memory of her life and loved ones, and there are days she is but a shadow of her former self. And I don't believe that when she dies, her soul--"the real her"--is going to be released from her body and then go to heaven, and everything is going to be ok (mainly, because that's neo-Platonic, rather than Biblical). But I do believe that God sits with her as she suffers, and that God suffers with her. The Creator of the Universe sits and communes with an old woman who doesn't even know who she is anymore. She is never left alone.

What hope, then, have we in God's faithfulness! God is the life that dwells among death.

18 February 2010

compiled thoughts on death that will one day make life..

(I wrote most of this almost a year ago, which means it's almost been a year since Ed 's death. I figured the Lenten season is a good time to reflect on our mortality and the hope which yet carries us through. I still miss you, Ed...)

April 20, 2009

The first hour of my drive up north is always hard because I am driving through all of the familiar places, knowing they are not my destination...

I have traveled to the place where I was raised to attend the funeral of a man who helped shape my sense of self. I, as did he, found out he was given 6 months to live a month ago; the prognosis changed to two weeks on Sunday, then two days on Monday. He died early Wednesday morning. I cried almost constantly for those two days until I received "the news", and stopped until the moment I entered the room where his funeral was held. I had to protect myself: death had entered into our lives with much violence this week.

I have an interesting relationship with death. My knowledge of it isn't through witnessing the path of nature approaching its completion, the circle of life coming to a close. We Dosens are a hearty people--I have been to more 90th birthday parties than I have funerals of my aged relatives. The death I've know is only in the raw, knawingly tragic way. A 19-year-old church member killed in a car accident when I was 16. My mother's best friend succumbing to lung cancer before 50, leaving behind a 14 and 5-year-old, though she had never smoked a cigarette in her life. My dear high school pastor, mentor, and friend, Ed, who left his 7 and 5-year old at 37 last Wednesday, along with a host of communities that were touched by his faith, love, and compassion. I haven't known poverty; I haven't lived through dire injustice; I haven't seen genocide; but I have mourned. I am thankful that my hope in life has remained.

The funeral was a blur: I kept trying to hold back the immensity of tears that were building in my eyes, the constant reflections on Ed's wonderful life and cheesy humor acting as the scaffolding to my composure. After the service, I went out for lunch with a group of my old friends from high school. It was an entrance into the perpetual circle of attempted reconciliation and painful reminders that all of us change beyond recognition from the people we once were. Especially me. The personal affect of the loss began to weigh down on me: Ed was one of the few people from home who really knew me. He knew about those terrible things that I have been through, and cherished what I have become. My gateway to much of what made up my past life was gone.

I returned to my parents house, and not the house I grew up in, with the desire to think of anything else besides the week I had just experienced, so I decided to clean my closet that held all of my old things, much to my mother's delight. I decided to sort my depression away, and toss my grief aside with old photographs and term papers from my high school years. The spring cleaning of my soul yielded many moments of necessary reflection, especially over how skinny I actually was after finding those pictures from high school. I found that I was able to look through the box I had of Parker's things--the very existence of which disgusted me, but yet could not make myself dispose of. Though Ed's death plunged me into a despair that I did not emerge from for another 4 months, it did help release the heavy armor of pain and self-rejection that I had been bearing for the years following my break-up with him, my manipulative high school boyfriend (manipulative's being generous). I think I threw that box away.

My favorite finds were some things that I had stored from the summer after my freshman year of college--a summer of romance with both a man and a country, neither of which ever fully panned out. I had met and started dating the man whom I would be paired with for almost the entire remaining duration of college, and had traveled to Russia, with which I wish I had fallen harder for, between the two of them. I went to Russia after loosing a bet to God that there would not be a suitable place in the world where I could go to on a short-term summer mission trip. When the school-sponsored trips began to be advertised, I knew I didn't really want to go anywhere, but felt severely un-Evangelical for feeling thus, and said, "Fine, God: if there is a trip to...um...Russia, I'll go", thinking, of course, no one on earth would plan a trip to Russia. And the rest is history...

Russia captured a large portion of my heart that it still holds, and I was pleased to have much of my community back at home supporting me in my ventures there. The school wrote letters out to people who I listed as important to me, asking that they write me a letter of encouragement. Ed was one of those people, and his letter, though self-proclaimed terrible at grammatical structure, gave me hope and peace when I wondered what I was doing there. Though four years later I still wonder, I believe Ed's expression through writing his letter helps shed light a bit: I went to love. I always go forth to love.

I found and read the letter written to me four years ago by this wonderful friend. Only when I reconnect with the life we shared together by reading its words, when the sensation of our intimacy of friendship and mentorship is rekindled, can I say at the time of his death, "God, You are Good." When I am reminded of why God gives us one another, the loss becomes a little more understandable and the pain a little more tolerable. With this letter, the life of Ed in God will always remain--God has graced me with the essence of who this man is on a 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of paper that I will carry with me always. My journey would not have been the same if it weren't for my brother Ed, and I pray that he remembers me, and all of those precious people his compassion and Christ-like (yet imperfect) heart has touched.

The parting words in Ed's letter to me were: "Finish strong and seize the endless opportunities afforded you daily." I will, my brother, I will. In Christ's name, and for Christ's Kingdom, I will. I love you, my friend.

16 February 2010

Anybody know of any good websites that have daily Lenten prayers/Scripture readings? I'm thinking of adding something to my life for the next 44 days, rather than taking away.