Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My little piece of heresy

1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. John 3:16 is a beloved little verse that speaks of why Jesus came, connects our eternal fate to God's never-ending love. The following verse says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." Because He loves us. He loves the people He created even though we've sinned and rebelled and rejected Him. Because of a little thing called grace, we've been saved.

I wonder sometimes, if God's going to save everyone.

There is much about God I don't understand. The trinity, sanctification, the infinite and omnipresence of a Being that has consistently revealed Himself in and above all things is a forever reminder that I don't know everything. Or anything remotely close to everything. That is to say, I have no idea how He'd do it. How He'd save everyone. I know about God's justice and righteousness and holiness just as well as I know His love and mercy. The people who have rejected His free gift, who have rejected Him, have chosen their own death.

But . . .

The Bible is, on a micro-level, a story about a people who were chosen by God and continually rejected Him. In Ezra 10, Jehiel is recounting the sins of Israel and he says, "But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel." Lamentations was written in a time when Jerusalem had been destroyed because God's people rebelled against him, yet after painting a grim picture of the consequences, Lamentations 3:21-22 says "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail." In Romans 11, when Paul is talking about the remnant of Israel in the end times, in verse 32 he says, "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."

Is that not the hope of the Gospel, that all the lost will be saved? Is that not the story of Israel, with every rejection comes a hope for redemption? Is that not the nature of God, to rescue every one of the foolish and ignorant for His own glory?

I'm not saying the Bible says everyone's going to be saved from hell. It doesn't say that. It says the opposite. But, the Bible tells me a lot about God. And, I'm not certain that it's wrong to hope. To hope that in His mercy and wisdom God finds some way to soften and save every single soul that rejected Him again and again, that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [Philippians 2:10-11] It's not wrong to hope for everyone's salvation, is it?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I waste paper and ink on self-gratification frequently

As a perceiver, finishing things is somewhat painful for me. I lack the attention span. So when I do finish things, it's exciting. I have finished my journal!

This one I breezed through especially quickly, that's six months of my meaningless memories and musings. Here's a somewhat random excerpt as an example of the drivel I write: [8 - 12 - 09] Ah, I love singing! I'm sitting at the kitchen island listening to Feist and Yael Naim and Adele (so far) while those rad brownie cookies bake (care cell tonite), waiting for Laurie to come and pick up Mozart -- I love this dog ridiculously. Thanks to him I've been getting up early. I love the morning . . . but I also love staying up late, maybe I should just be nocturnal.

I'm not kidding when I say my life is really exciting. And apparently full of superficial loves.

But I have a new problem now, one that I go through each time I finish a journal. I have to pick one to use next, and it's like choosing a favorite child. And there is so much to consider! How wide are the lines, will it fit in my purse, is it too thick to fill in a year, is it too thin to last three months, will I like writing in it, will the paper make my pen smear, is it durable? I just can't decide on my own.


This is one of those nice leather lined journals I got on sale at Barnes & Nobel. I've been used to writing in a hardcover journal, so I'm not sure if a softcover journal will irritate me or not, but I suppose I'll adapt. The lines on the pages are just the right size.

When I saw Kate last summer I was inspired by the daybook she kept and wanted to try it, which of course, Moleskine is perfect for. My glitch is, I like journalling the traditional way and am nervous I won't like micro-journalling as much, and I'll never stick to the practice. Also, for all the reputation, Moleskine pages are always falling out on me.

This is the smallest journal, and also leather-bound, a gift from the same person who gave me the red alligator skin journal I just finished. I think the smallness would make it easier to carry everywhere, but I'm worried it'll be uncomfortable to write in because of the size and tight binding.

This is just a regular spiral bound notebook, an impulse purchase that has left me confused with how to use it. The pages tear out and one side of each page is graph paper, and it has all these pockets and things, but it's also really thick.

Help me out, guys. I'm too indecisive for this major decision.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"I knew nothing of romance, but it was love at second sight."

You know how every once in a while there's a song that gets you REALLY EXCITED? Yeah, all caps. A song that you listen to over and over because it's so catchy and skillful and wonderful? A song that's too good to be true, but it is true, and you can hardly believe it? And then you find out this song is part of an album and you worry that the rest of the album won't be as awesome because logically there's just not enough awesome to go around but then you listen to the album and you're completely bewitched and it's all you listen to for the next two months? That doesn't happen to me often. Nooo. But it did happen with Fun.

Actually, this feels like a superfluous post, because a few of you have already absorbed the win that is Fun. But I kind of just need to vent. I got Aim and Ignite a few weeks ago, and I downloaded their acoustic Daytrotter session today [three songs you can get for free here] and my fandom has grown so much since I first heard "At Least I'm Not As Sad." [Which you can get for free if you sign up for their e-list on their Myspace.]

Vocally, they're astounding. Andrew and Jack and Nate's harmony is pretty skillful, and just sounds nice. But the tonal quality of their voices is what I really like; it's just so wonderful to listen to! I don't know, I can't explain it, I like Nate's voice. Like the rest of their music, it's unique. And they sing well. On "Benson Hedges" especially, it's a hard song to sing, all their songs are, but they pull it off with skill. The vocals carry each and every song, and considering the loud and powerful sound of the instruments, they have to really belt it vocally. The result is so full -- I like it, I like it lots. [And hey, they actually enunciate when they sing! Yessss! WIN!]

Instrumentally, they remind me of Panic at the Disco on Pretty Odd, with accordion and all sorts of brass: trumpet, saxophone, tuba, trombone. They use percussion artfully, and the piano and violin that features on most of the songs if fantastic. Even "The Gambler" which is comparatively stripped down with just vocals, piano, and some violin and cello, it still feels completely rounded. There's no hint of guitar anywhere on the record, except on "All the Pretty Girls" and a distorted sound that might be electric guitar on "Walking the Dog." There's a lot of contrast in the songs, fast and full in some places, but slow and acoustic in others, the result being a song that builds along with the lyrics. Their sound is just really different, I can hardly compare it to anything, it's just unique. And that's partly why I love it so much.

Lyrically, they're not as spectacular or poetic as Sleeping At Last. But judging on a curve, Fun holds their own. The lyrics aren't choppy or forced, they flow nicely, and they're thoughtful. The token love songs are sweet, not sappy, and the token breakup songs are hilarious, not overly venomous. Mostly, I like that the lyrics are happy. Even when they're sad, they're happy. The theme of record feels like it's saying, "Even though your life is not what you thought it would, and even though you've been disappointed time and time again, you're alive, so go live." Or, maybe that's my overly idealistic interpretation. I was irked because "Take Your Time" drops a swear, but I got Hannah to cut it out for me with her Garageband skills. At any rate, the lyrics are quotable and just as catchy as the music.

I don't think I've ever written so much about a band before. But for a debut album, Aim and Ignite is absolutely fantastic. They're all extremely skilled musicians, and every single track is off the hook. I'm a fan. You should be a fan, too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are we alone?

I shivered passively in physics class, listening to my classmates' distant questions of black holes and time travel, staring at "Figure 7.3" and the crude illustration of our solar system it provided. My brain flounced around an idea more fascinating than centripetal force: how big was the universe really, when compared to the 3x5 image in my textbook? From the back seat on the car ride home, I watched the dull stars in the dusty night sky, attempting to conceptualize just how far away those clear flicks of light burned. I could not imagine it. It was impossible. The universe was too big, and I was too small.

I did not feel insignificant, however. Perhaps I should have? After all, when compared to the orbits of the planets or the explosion of the stars, my everyday actions mean little to the universe as a whole. If I had never attained "being" some other human would fill the role I was supposed to have played, but the solar system occupies an indispensable function. The universe existed before the faculty of time, whereas I have existed for a mere eighteen years; it feels like a nanosecond in comparison. But no, in the face of these under-developed thoughts, I did not feel insignificant.

After all, I am human. That makes all the difference. As long as another human exists in this reality, I will never be irrelevant. There is something in the fiber of our being that connects us, and in this connection we find our significance. While the universe is full of matter and anti-matter, the human spirit is privy to something far more mysterious: the intangible reality of reason, emotion, ideas, and souls. An individual completely alone has no reason to love, no reason to serve, no reason to live. A person alone is insignificant.

Fortunately, these immaterial hints of love and logic we share lend us our significance. The fact that this idea is difficult to articulate does not mean it is merely a poetic notion. Donald Williams, a NASA astronaut, explains that "For those who have seen the Earth from space, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us." That which every human has in common is what guarantees that we will never be completely alone.

It does not matter that language and textual communication limit my ability to relay precisely what I mean. It does not matter that I can never completely know the mind of another. It does not matter that people and communities and nations are separated by conflict and misunderstanding and selfish ambition. It does not matter that all these factors divide me from my fellow man. We are all build from the same intangible stuff, molded into diverse individuals through the same ingredients. Philosophically, anthropologically, psychologically, and spiritually, I am not alone. It is a fact of existence, it is the definition of being human.

[This is my first attempt at answering the Tufts' application essay prompt "Are we alone?" I was hoping to work in that TS Eliot line "What life have you if you have not life together? There is no life that is not in community" but the Donald Williams quotation was more pertinent. My approach to the prompt is cliché, but it was the only thing I brainstormed that I could write honestly. Critiques plz.]

Monday, December 14, 2009

The important stuff is not in the beginning of this post.

My pastor's going through a fascinating series about who Jesus really is, and he's been making a lot of comparisons to the Muslim and post-modern perceptions of Jesus because our church just adopted a specific missions approach to a specific place in the 10/40 window, and he wants to help the congregation span intellectual and cultural differences in their circles of influence in order to share the gospel. He's come across a lot of interesting resources while writing these sermons, and after the service two weeks ago, he told me to Google the name "Roland Muller." For some reason I remembered to do so, and what I found was very exciting to me.

Um, et cetera.

I'm being raised in a conservative Christian household. And while my parents would never, ever dare to suggest that Christians don't drink alcohol, support the labor movement, or vote for Obama, they have been purposeful in comparing the teachings of the Bible to the culture we live in, training their children in the way they should go. And while my parents are socially opinionated people, they always differentiate what they believe because the Bible says so from what they believe because it just makes sense to them.

But along with this training came a horrendous course I took in eighth grade that cost me a huge chunk of my sanity: Understanding the Times by David Noebel. It was a worldview course that compared Biblical Christianity with Marxism, secular humanism, and cosmic humanism. I think the curriculum's been expanded now to include Islam and post modernism? It outlined the way Christians approach economics, politics, sociology, ethics, whatever as compared to these other worldviews. It was interesting, and useful.

Um, et cetera.

I really need to stop detailing my ENTIRE thought process and superfluous background detail. Yes. Anyway. All this is leading up my what I found so exciting about Roland Muller, and his book Honor & Shame, and where my thoughts about how we can share the truth better and how we can know God more deeply.

So, Roland Muller thinks there's no such thing as a true Biblical worldview. And I think I agree with him.

I know a lot of Christians who think homosexuality isn't a sin. And while that hurts my heart, the Bible tells me that's how the world works. We're blind to the truth sometimes, all of us are. My friend may be blind to the truth regarding homosexuality, and I may be blind to the nuances of the justice of God. [My heretical musings are another post for another time.] I think some of this blindness comes from worldviews, assumptions that are cultural or intellectual givens. And how can we assign the term "Biblical worldview" to a set of "beliefs" that are anything but objective? There can't be a Biblical worldview. There can only be what the Bible teaches. Our worldviews can distract us sometimes from knowing who Jesus really is.

Kevin DeYoung talks about some of the different views we have of Jesus:
There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms. There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money. There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves. There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals. There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls. There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks very German. There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains. There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.” There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

I'm getting hung up now on one of the questions I wrote down that day during Nationals 2008. "Why do different people have different views of God?" If God is God, one Being, who has given us His word, who lives in our hearts, then why do I see God so differently than you do? I try to picture God in my mind like I try to picture all the characters from the books I read. And yet I picture God differently from day to day, and I like to think that's because I'm getting to know Him more and more, but I also wonder, are my extra-biblical beliefs clouding my view of God?

This is what I know: the Gospel has spread all of the earth. It's relevant to every culture known to man. Somehow, these words from thousands of years ago, in a era and a culture I don't understand, the experiences of a people and their God have changed my life. I can't imagine the variety of cultures and worldviews of those people who wrote down God's inspired word, and yet the truth is relevant to me, now and today. Because they didn't write their worldviews. They wrote the truth. That is the draw of being a Christ follower: not prescribing to a specific "Biblical" or "Christian" worldview, but believing in the truth regardless of culture or tradition or reason.

I'm still thinking about what all this actually means, of course. I haven't even read Honor & Shame yet. I'm not entirely sure how our fractured worldviews work with the truth of the Bible. And I haven't the faintest idea what specifically is "wrong" about a "Biblical worldview" beyond the principle of the matter. But I love the idea understanding how to relate cross-culturally on truth, to pursue unity and not get bogged down in differences that don't matter. I just want to know Jesus better.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"If I wanna think, I'll think in my head"

I'm making a bubble chart in my mind, trying to trace this thought back to its origin, to pin it down to a logical progression and track its development, but, this task is pointless. It's been pestering me for too long, it's layers of sediment hardened into inseparable rock, it's the knot of necklaces in my jewelry box that I just can't unravel.

If it were the truth, I'd define myself as "reticent" but it doesn't describe me literally nor figuratively. I share too much sometimes. Stupid things, silly things, things that don't matter. You have probably been held captive by one of my rants -- and, I'm sorry, by the way. My poor sisters, especially, hear every little thought that enters my head: the evils of Vitamin Water, the new CD I bought, the small frustrations of the day. I talk. A lot. About pointless things.

But when the moment comes where I have the opportunity to talk about something that's actually meaningful, my stomach seizes and my throat swells shut. For the longest time I couldn't talk about what God had been doing in my heart, because it was just too personal and too important to me. [Parenthetically, this is why I took apologetics. Apologetics is the most important individual event you can ever compete in. Do it. Please.] It takes me hours to draft heart-felt emails, and the rigmarole I have to go through to verbalize what I care about is often not worth it. It's just easier to keep the important things to myself. Give a testimony at the Christmas party tonight? Cue the nausea.

The weird thing is, I do want to talk about these things. I'm already in the habit of saying everything that's on my mind, why shouldn't I also share everything that's on my heart? Maybe that's selfish. I don't know. But I hate that I'm such a contradiction. I hate that I confuse myself.

I've kept a journal faithfully since I was thirteen, and inconsistently since I was ten, and I have a big Tupperware storage bin of these notebooks under my bed. I journal nearly everything. Every event, every conversation, every worry, every blessing. Sometimes. Other times I exist in a trance-like state where I absorb everything and it gets misplaced in the spare closets of my brain, or even more likely, my hand isn't up to the rigorous exercise of putting my mind and it's days worth of experience on paper. But is it weird, that even in my journal I edit my thoughts and feelings, polishing them a bit and giving them a positive or negative spin, tinting how I really feel so I won't be embarrassed by myself when I look back on them later? Even in my journal, something, something is stopping me from sharing anything too personal.

I wonder, if it's so hard for me to say the "important things" maybe it's because I'm not as "deep" a person as I supposed. Maybe it's a struggle to bring the important feelings to light because I haven't got any important feelings to share. While I previously regarded the shallow girl as only part of my true self, maybe it's the heart-felt girl who is the impostor. I don't know. It confuses me, so I don't like to think about it. I'm getting better at subduing the analytical part of my brain, I'm getting better at not letting my introverted feeling bother me.

It might help, if words meant what I needed them to mean. It might help if I knew how to master language to say what I mean. It might help if I could die to self and stop caring . . . so I could actually start caring.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Excerpts of today.

Welcome back

Winter once again
And put on your warm fuzzy sweater
Cos you'll feel much better when
The snowflakes fall
Gently to the ground

[The Tip of the Iceberg]

O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.

Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.
[Daniel 9]

"She was a smarter, English version of me!" // "Would you like to dog my graphic design skills as well?" // "I don't shut up, I grow up!" // "If there's anything I've learned recently it's that knowing isn't doing."

Love has earth to which she clings
With hills and circling arms about--
Wall within wall to shut fear out.
But Thought has need of no such things,
For Thought has a pair of dauntless wings.
[Bond & Free]

Friday, December 4, 2009

Morbid train of thought

I had finally moved on to kneeling position, and my arms were aching from the extra effort of jamming the Russian ammo in the barrel of my gun. I wanted shooting to be over for tonight. My foot started tingling, and the memory flashed to my mind for no good reason. "Yes, good idea, stretch. Take your time. Don't let your foot fall asleep." Two years ago Corey had said this to me while he coached. He only came a few times, but he worked with me intensively one-on-one and his kind, constructive feedback was infinitely useful. But Corey's dead now.

I don't even know if that's how his name was spelled. I only ever talked to him, even saw him maybe three or four times. I was really confused when my shooting coach called maybe six months later to tell me that Corey's funeral was soon, and that he had killed himself. I don't know why I still think about this so much.

I often think about how nice it would be to just, stop living. To not have to deal with the stresses and shortcomings anymore, and to just be home with Jesus. That part of suicide I totally get. The feeling where you're tired in the depths of your soul and you just want a time out. The treadmill of life is cycling on, and it seems easier to pull the trip cord than attempt to stop your stumbling. The feeling when you're sick to your stomach by everything you see, and you can't bring yourself to smile because it would mean lying. I don't claim to understand what it's like emotionally to want to kill yourself, but nearly everyone knows what it's like to feel that kind of hopelessness. I kind of get that. It's the actual dying part I don't understand.

It's really hard to kill a human being. Even when it's easy it's hard. And, I guess, I wouldn't really know, but doesn't it seem to you that those victims on House get way too many second chances at life after a diagnosis turns out wrong? And doesn't it seem to you that the villains in the movies are always finding one last rasping breathe to tear down the hero? [And doesn't it seem so wrong to you that I experience so much of the world through fiction?] Life doesn't leave easily. Jumping off a bridge, taking pills, pulling the trigger, slitting wrists, breathing in carbon monoxide, hanging from the ceiling . . . there's so much that could go "wrong" and there have been so many people who've been "unsuccessful" in their attempts. There's no such thing as a clean way to go, it's always a struggle to do the deed, because God alone is the giver and taker of life.

It almost seems like more of a struggle to die than to keep living.

But apparently for some people, that's not enough motivation to prevent suicide. I wish I could understand, I wish I could empathize, but I don't want to ever go to a place that would grant me that kind of understanding. The human heart is a really dark, really scary place. I forget that occasionally. Part of me wants to grit my teeth and examine every bloody piece of it, if only to understand. And the other part of me puts sheets over every mirror so I won't ever have to see the sin nature that once held me. I don't want to look at my need for so long that I forget the beautiful face of the God who saved me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Selene [A drabble of 200 words]

The darkness was insubstantial, thin and watery, the kind of darkness you could easily imagine away even with your eyes open. The moon was bright, and it hurt her eyes to look directly at it, but even as the crick in her neck persisted, she didn't want to stop.

She tried to imagine the moon as a perfectly circular hole in the sky, a portal from the twilit world to some metaphysical outside, but she couldn't. It was clearly a hunk of rock in the sky. Clearly it was nothing special. Just a moon.

And she found herself wondering what it would taste like.

Cheese, it would definitely taste like cheese, mild and savory and spongy. Or maybe it would be like a truffle, with the powdery dusting of sugar on the outside, and a smooth, solid inside. It would be cold. It might give her brain freeze.

She didn't want to eat the moon.

If she ate the moon, the tides would be disrupted and the earth's gravitational pull could be affected and kids would get scared when they went to bed because some nights the nightlight just isn't bright enough. Goodnight Moon would be culturally irrelevant.

Yes, clearly, a travesty.