Monday, June 29, 2009

The feds said, "Lock her in lead, she's red," but I love her.

I'm okay with keeping my favorite music to myself. I live under the paranoid assumption that I am the only person who likes my music, but I also flatter myself with the pretentious assumption that my music taste makes me an individual, considering how varied and manic it is. This, of course, is silly. 

I've recently come in to some awesome music, and you should know about it. 

During Nationals I was sort of dead to the outside world, which was unfortunate for me because Amazon was selling the most recent House of Heroes CD for only $2. For one day only. And naturally I missed that day. (I had missed a similar deal of awesome for the Seabird album the week before. Tragedy abounds.) Luckily, I have the best friends in the world! This is exemplified in this instance through Hannah who anticipated that I would miss it and bought it for me

This CD is win. I generally love House of Heroes, but I was unprepared for the extent of awesome dripping from every single track. Fantastic creative brilliant lyrics and melodies, never mind that instrumentally and vocally this record is solid. We're talking sick guitar riffs. Every single song is well-planned, thoughtful, and poignant. The war theme of the record is also really interesting. And the music is ridiculously catchy. This is jump-off-things-and-make-a-mess music. It walks the line of entertainment and art wonderfully, which is high praise for Christian rock music.

You can download the single "In the Valley of the Dying Sun" free off Amazon here. Do it. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I can compare anything in life to a corn maze

I am a massive hypocrite. [We all are.] Most of the time I hardly notice my hypocrisy. [That's the way it goes.] Sometimes we don't know the truth, because frankly we don't know everything. [Oh, how it pains me to say . . .]  Sometimes we're sincere, but wrong. [And we never know the difference.]

This preludes the thought that's been germinating in my mind ever since Mary Claire mentioned it in a conversation last week. We don't know ourselves, not completely, we cannot know ourselves. We lack the perspective. Like being lost in a corn maze [I may or may not be speaking from memorable personal experience] we can tell where we're not, and where we want to be, but we're usually too entranced by what is directly around us to gain the perspective required to get out of the maze. [Sarah and Hannah and I rock corn mazes. We all should try one some time.] I don't know why things have to be that way, why it happens that we are so embroiled in the now and ourselves that we're blinded to seeing our true nature . . . I just know that's the way things are.

Actually, I lied. That is the thought that has been the prelude to this other thought. [You know, forget organization. I'm just talking. Deal with it.] [I'm speaking to my inner editor, of course.] [Who is now freaking out that I'm clarifying a parenthetical with another parenthetical which is in brackets, not parenthesis. Ten bucks this paragraph doesn't make it into the final draft.] [There. Now it will.]

I used to get really uptight about things that didn't matter. I used to be really critical of people. I used to speak at an incredibly loud and annoying decibel level. I used to seek attention desperately. I used to cry really easily. I used to be a packrat. I used to be afraid of talking about the things that were most important to me. I used to hate debate. I used to be scared of everything. I used to be a wicked procrastinator. I used have trouble making eye contact. I used to lie a lot. I used to be obsessed with fairness to a fault. I used to I used to I used to.

Some of those things were never true. Maybe I only think now that I used to hate debate, when in reality I always liked it. Further, some of those things are still true. Maybe I only think I like debate, when in reality I still hate it as much as I always did. Do you see what I mean? I feel like I am so mutable, and yet immutable at the same time. It's very frustrating. Who am I to measure who I used to be? That is hypocrisy to the extreme. Who I "used to be" is measured by who I am now. Since I cannot know the latter I cannot know the former. It is not arrogance to assume otherwise? Every time I say "I used to" I am lying to myself, no matter how sincerely I believe it.

I should like very much to know who I used to be and who I am and who I am going to be. [I feel as though I'm having my adolescence identity crisis about five years too late. Or maybe it's exactly on time. Or maybe I'm not having one at all.] I want the wisdom that comes from perspective, I want the understanding that comes from experience, I want the humility that comes from knowing how little I know. And I want to find a way to exercise empathy without using the phrase "I used to."

Monday, June 22, 2009

I annoy myself excessively

When I was fourteen, I was leafing through a magazine at the library and I saw an ad for hair dye. The girl in the ad had purple hair, and I thought it looked rad. I went home, got my mom's permission, bought the dye, and colored my hair purple. Naturally, I did it all wrong and it came out dark pink, which quickly faded to red, with further faded to light brown, and it took a couple haircuts before I could do anything beyond slick my hair back in a ponytail due to hair damage. I am never dying my hair ever again. I don't care if I go gray at twenty, hair dye is probably the root of all evil. Of course, I embrace Kool Aid dye and bleached ends with open arms. Just not during tournament season.

Yeah, good story.

Today I went to Boston with my family. After hitting up the aquarium and blissfully perusing the Quincy Market food court (I just had to casually through that out there - never have I seen so much good food in one place in my life, except maybe on the Food Network - so good! I had dhaba chicken from the Indian place and chicken teriyaki from the Japanese place, and some clam chowder samples, and hazelnut gelato. Twas wonderful!), I head for Urban Outfitters, much to my father's chagrin. We have only one Urban Outfitters in Rhode Island, otherwise I might be broke from repeatedly raiding that store. While there today the thought crossed my mind that, "I'd like a pair of those funky tights - oh wait, I could never pull those off." I was all wrong, of course. What I meant was I'd be laughed out of youth group for trying to dress like Lindsay. She has dibs on being the scene kid.

I think I have issues with not fitting into a stereotype. I am most comfortable when I am labeled. (You cannot begin to understand the relief I felt when I was dubbed "INFP.") I fell in love with FEE when I walked through their doors and discovered "libertarian" was the technical term for the motley political views I'd picked up as a tween. Ever since I was six years old I've loved telling people I'm "homeschooled." I am a "Rhode Islander" to the core. Labels dominate me . . . except in my style. As in, what social subculture are you? Nerd prep goth scene hipster jock vintage metalhead geek retro punk emo. The jury's come in, I'm not any of those. Shocker.

As silly as social subcultures are, truthfully I kind of want to be a hipster. Cos I like it. But the truth is, I don't really like wearing glasses like meekakitty does. They look awesome on her, but fake glasses would drive me even more insane than my real ones do. Sometimes I like wearing dresses and looking neat. Sometimes I like not caring what I'm wearing. Chelsea and I discussed a phenomenon we experienced: when I got yellow Chucks, I got accepted into a social sub-culture, and it was very strange. Are my yellow Chucks hipster? Do yellow Chucks say something about who I am? They say I like the color yellow. And that I like Converse tennis shoes. I was annoyed that wearing Chucks meant I got labeled. I was a poser for wearing something belonging to a subculture and yet not being part of that subculture. This was wrong, this was very wrong. Either I had to stop pretending to be part of subculture X, or I had to wholly devote myself to subculture X so as not to be a poser with my yellow Chucks. That's just silly. 

Can't I just like what I like?

And other people, they like country music and bedazzled Razr phones and skinny jeans. I don't like those things, but they do, and that's chill. And yet we label. You wear Converses, you're cool. You listen to The Shins, you're cool. You use Macintosh operating systems, you're cool. Or maybe we just like it when people like what we like. Is that so bad? "Subculture" is solidarity. There are no posers where people unite over common interests, whether that be thick black eyeliner or Harry Potter books. When I was in Urban Outfitters part of me was like, "I don't belong here, I wear tee shirts and jeans, not plaid blouses and berets." And the other part of me was like, "Quit labeling yourself, fool. You like what you like, forget subculture consistency." 

Dying my hair purple doesn't make me hardcore. Shopping at Urban Outfitters doesn't make me a poser. I just like what I like. Yup.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"You and I are too happy."

I want to just pat you all on the head and beam ridiculously with pride at your acquaintance. I'm brimming with affection towards you and your face and the world. 

And also, I spent the past three hours singing along with my favorite worship music (with some Relient K and Switchfoot mixed in) blasting as rain pelted our car.

Who even needs an artificial high?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stalker is a word of insecurity.

We are all equally insecure. Even the people who aren't insecure, are. Even people who think that they aren't insecure, are. And the people who think they're ridiculously insecure, are only just as insecure as everyone else.


Security in human perception is worthless. 


The only security we need we already have in Christ.


Love with abandon. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The plural of "fish" is not "fishes"

I just walked in the door from a trip to both the library and the bookstore. Oh, why have I of all human beings been so blessed?! And it's raining today. And I went to the grocery store. Oh, why oh, why is today so awesome? 

Ahem. I'm just, really jovial today. It's awesome! 

At Borders I was speed walking through the door when I just happened to catch, out of the very corner of my eye, the big words AMY TAN on the clearance rack outside. And so I bought a $6 hardcover copy of Saving Fish from Drowning, and the inside jacket says this: 
"It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flip and twirl. 'Don't be scared,' I tell those fishes. 'I am saving you from drowning.' Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes."
Even more interesting is the Albert Camus quotation on the title page, "The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding." And from what reviews I've read, the book was a flop. But it's a silly story, while at the same time a political commentary, and it was quite a steal. So yay for Amy Tan!

While I was at Borders, there was a buy-two-get-one-free sale on Moleskine! I'm such a sucker for sales. (And suffice to say, I'm kind of broke now.) I rashly stocked up on cashier books, yeah, I finally bought a lined one. We'll see if I like it better than the unlined. I also bought a book of Spanish poems (which is neat, because as an English speaker I can't appreciate the inference of a poem in Spanish, but the poem translated to English has irregular meter and rhyme, so it adds so much depth to the poem to have the side-by-side translation), and a side-by-side translation of some famous Spanish short stories. Yes, I'm branching out into world literature, wewt!

Oh, but dear friends, what I got from the library is almost better! On the account of being, you know, free. I grabbed The Turn of the Screw and Slaughterhouse Five because they were on my reading list . . . so they're principally for the drive to South Carolina. But hey, I love Henry James! I also grabbed two twoddle books, one about a hippy kid who has to go to school when his hippy grandmother is in the hospital, and one period book about some girl in Oxford who's addicted to opiates and has a mysterious secret. Don't judge me. Books are books, whether they're trashy young adult fiction or critically acclaimed classics. 

Adding all of this to the books I'm already in the middle of reading, um, I have a lot of reading to do! I like reading.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Anticipation leaking out

Next week will be the fourth national tournament I've attended. Considering that 1) PHC year I didn't know what was going on, 2) UMHB year I was puking my guts out, and 3) BMS year was so awesome, I have no idea what to expect for this coming Nationals. Which is exciting! And scary. Because, you know, as the control freak that I am, I hate not knowing what's coming. And because I enjoyed myself so much last year, I'm worried that this Nationals will just be awful when compared to last year.

My first year of Nationals, my mom brought all four of us to PHC. It was hardcore. It's hard for one woman to keep track of four kids all by herself in a strange environment. But then, the other two years, it was easy. It was just her and me. And I'm not going to lie, the independence was nice. But this year, history repeats itself, which all four of us kids shipping down in our minivan, and I'm a little nervous. My mom is amazing, and we're all a little older now, but the long drive and keeping track of all of us is still going to add hardships to the stress of a national tournament in an unfamiliar location, and I'm worried it's going to be a train wreck. And I'm selfishly lamenting the fact that I won't have the freedom I've had in previous years. I'm not looking forward to keeping tabs on my events all over a humid college campus. I don't like humid college campuses in general.

Plus, who are we kidding, the facility last year was off the hook. Not only is Mrs. Hudson the most epic person ever, but they brought in boy scouts who were amazing. The whole tournament was in one big, empty, air-conditioned building, and it was wonderful. There was even a Starbucks stand! That gave free samples! I'm not going to pretend like Birmingham was an amazing city, but there was civilization. (Compared to the fields of Virginia and Texas.) Chain restaurants and malls and even Whole Foods were all in the area. (And crossing a five lane highway is an awesome memory!) Plus, even though I wasn't expecting it to be, the after-party at the Vulcan Museum was truly a lot of fun. Luke and I can kind of sort of salsa, Andrew was a little successful in teaching me to dance, and yes folks, Tim can do the box step! 

Last year, I understood debate. I knew the resolution backwards and forwards. I had a brief on every person I had a flow of. (Except Jason Hughey. But facing him was still fun, and redemptive from the train wreck that was the VA open octafinal round. But I digress. So what else is new.) Whereas this year, even though I think I'm a better speaker than I was last year, I'm still hopelessly a northerner. I don't really understand the resolution. I haven't been able to devote as much time to prep as I'd like. And while I don't think it's presumptuous to think I deserve to be going to Nationals, I also know lots of people who also deserve to be going to Nationals . . . that aren't. And it's too much pressure, to think about how well I'll compete compared to how well they would have competed. I had awesome rounds last year, but I'm afraid my debates won't be as awesome this year.

Last year, I met a bajillion new people. (Cos, you know, that's what happens when you walk next to Katie through the halls. No joke.) Chilling with the Rileys and getting to know the awesome that is Daniel. Hiding from the Nazis photoshoots in stairwells. Private showings of people's speeches. Talking Apple tech with Elliot. Jon's awesome nicknames and playing PIG at the Drury Inn. Watching people run around in the epic downpour. Hair styling parties with Bekah, Becka, and Eden. Talking with Sharon while we waited for our mothers, and laughing over the Nathan Brown incident. Chelsea stalking Zach. Reconnecting with friends from opens and debate camp. And probably the single most memorable thing for me from last year, the epic conversations I had with Andrew, Mr. Fiore, Lennae, Michael, Kristen, and Rebecca. We do it all the time now, but for me it was the first time I shared my questions with other people and successfully had deep, meaningful conversations.

And I'll stop now before this turns into even more of a ridiculous nostalgia fest!

I know I'm not going to Nationals to have fun. I'm going to compete. I know that. But in addition to competing to the best of my ability, I hope I have fun, too. I want to get to know people, and I want to learn things, and I want to make memories. Competition is only so valuable. I just hope my expectations for this coming national tournament aren't not too high.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Get back to the root of it all

One of the most humiliating experiences of my life was giving my persuasive in finals at the Virginia open in 2008. I was judged by not one, not two, but three Patrick Henry-attending NCFCA alumni. My speech was barely memorized. And I had no voice. When I tried to talk, my voice shifted between registers more often than the voice of a boy going through puberty, and I could not project at all. I left the room feeling about two feet tall and completely miserable. I sat next to my car in the parking lot for a little while feeling sorry for myself, and I wandered around the campus solo for the rest of the day. I had quite an entertaining pity party! Why? Because I can't stand looking pathetic and foolish. Because I'm prideful.

And the more I see of this world, the more I observe my family and friends and random strangers, the more I examine my own heart, it seems to me that pride is more basic and fundamental a part of sin than we realize a lot of times. A conclusion I came to after a conversation with Josiah at Regionals 2008 is that pride is really at the root of most sin. Maybe sin is pride at its most basic level. Consider murder, (thanks Katie) why do people commit murder? Cain kills Abel, the first murder. Why did Cain do it? Because God liked Abel's offering better, because Cain got hacked off that God found favor with his brother and not with him. Cain kills Abel out of pride, because Cain felt inferior to his brother, because he was focused on himself and his gift, and not his Creator. Even Adam and Eve, the first sin ever, was bred out of self-interest. 

And we've been hopelessly self-focused ever since. 

But that's the beauty of it, right? What is more amazing to a people whose essential flaw is self-absorption? Sacrifice. And what did Jesus do? Sacrifice, His life and His purity and His place in heaven. And what is love? Sacrifice, of our wants and insecurities and self. How contrary to the pride that fills out landscape - and how amazing. No matter how deep that pride runs, and believe me it runs deep, that is precisely the thing we beat down a little more each day, by the grace of the only One who never knew pride, but who came to set us free from it. That each day we die a little more to self, and live a little more in freedom. Pride and love at constant odds, but love will win. How amazing! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I wish my youth minister didn't have a soul patch.

My youth minster Michael is da bomb. 

You see, my youth group has been through some stuff. When I was in junior high, our first youth pastor moved to serve in a different capacity in the church, as pastor of equipping ministries. (He is so good at it, it's crazy. He's walking, breathing, diet Coke drinking proof of how God intends us to use our gifts, it blows my mind.) When he changed ministries, we got another youth pastor, a young dude with plenty of cred. But, people are fallen, we make mistakes. That youth pastor resigned after a year, and while it was a painful process for the entire church, I think it was a good thing. But it left the youth group feeling considerably jaded. And because his resignation was effective immediately, we were without a youth pastor. We were led by the youth leader team for about a year while the church looked for a replacement. And then Michael came. 

And of course we were skeptical. Yeah, everyone really liked him, but he was from Texas. Compared to Rhode Island, that's like a foreign country. The cost of living is insane in Rhode Island, and he has a wife and two kids. Youth ministry doesn't pay well! He had left a really great youth ministry in Florida because of a painful church split. Rhode Island is a generally unhappy place to live, I'm not gonna lie, who wants to leave sunny Florida to come here? We couldn't be sure it was going to work - we were a tough case, we had burnt the youth leaders out, could this guy really make a difference? Would he stick it out? (That's what I personally was afraid of, that he would leave.) And this is where we go, "Oh, durrr, God is amazing."

I feel like I almost can't really articulate how God's been working through Michael in our youth ministry, because the transition was so subtle. It's only when you zoom out and compare the cohesive Ignite with the disjoined youth group of three years ago that the difference is stark. Before, we didn't talk to each other in youth group. Now we're all friends. Before we hated going to youth group. Now you can't keep us away. We're too big for the youth room. Before, our youth room was ugly, despite best efforts to tidy and beautify the place. Now we have black ceilings and a stage. Before we were "youth group." Now we are "Ignite." (I don't really care for the name, or the accompanying logo, but we have a name. Talk about nationalism.) Before church was a Sunday thing. Now church is a life thing. We have been socially and spiritually renewed. We own the youth ministry, not just the youth leaders. We are the body. And that's how it's supposed to be. Now we are a group, we have unity, we have collective passions, and my friends, it's a wonderful wonderful thing. 

God used Michael to do all of this. He brought solid, Bible based curriculum. He brought organization and structure. He brought encouragement and a kick in the butt. He nurtured community and passion. And the highest praise I can give to Michael and the God who makes Michael who he is . . . what Michael says, Michael lives, by the grace of God. He is a man of patience, humility, and a love for Scripture. Youth ministry is so hard. I think Michael's job is one of the hardest ever. But he's survived us, and I know it's only because he loves God. And that is a powerful witness. My youth group and I have been so blessed because of Michael, he is da bomb. So many people prayed for so long that God would do a work in our youth ministry . . . and He did. I have to praise Him for that. 

Also, I must note, the Ignite playlist is funky fresh. NewWorldSun and Family Force 5 dance parties after Real Life pwn. Jus sayin'.