Saturday, January 28, 2012

In His grace we're sinking

It seems that quite unlike wine or cheese or ironic music, I am not getting better with age. I've been noticing that things that never used to bother me now drive me nuts. I'm a lot more intolerant, I think, and more easily irritated. I'm less loyal, more rash and, immature? It doesn't seem to add up that an individual who was set on the road to sanctification early-on is still getting worse as one gets older. Except when I consider that pride unchecked always balloons out of control.

My mom says that this is the typical sin of the college student. The world revolves around them. For the first time in their lives, they are part of an independent world that is all there own, with responsibilities and obligations outside of the family structure. Freed, so to speak, from the rules and standards that held them back while under typical family governance, college students become incredibly self-absorbed in a setting where they have all the control and everything is actually mostly about them. (College: it does wonders for the ego.)

I say this all in the third person like I'm not talking about myself. :P

When I sit in meetings, wincing at immature assessments and poor conflict resolution, I wonder at how these "mature saints" could be so childish. I spot character flaws in others and reflect on the trouble that'll cause all their lives. I am lacking in compassion for others' mistakes. And I am welled up with defensiveness and justifications for my own. A well-timed conversation this weekend related to this very topic reminded me of the video below. (Lilly, you're my muse.)


This is what I see in myself more and more. (Ironically, when I first watched this video, perhaps over two years ago, I thought to myself how important it was that I guard my heart against defensiveness. Whoops.)

One thing I get really defensive about is my time. My availability is next to zero, with almost every minute of almost every day allocated to a specific purpose. If it's not class, it's work. If it's not homework, it's youth group. If it's not family time, it's church stuff. When am I going to train for the half-marathon? Not totally sure! I feel a sick sense of pride in how occupied I am, like being busy is only for awesome people. Therefore, when people make demands on my time, I can feel myself flush at the neck and my heart rate quicken. I feel uptight and resentful that they don't seem to understand that I am busy. Even as I feel shame at guarding my time so jealously, I also struggle to fight the feelings of irritation that I am being misunderstood -- I am irritated in my assumptions that people think I'm lazy (well, I am, ya know) and I exaggerate my commitments. 

I'm so sick, guys. I'm a terrible person. I really need Jesus. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful if I actually was the person that people thought I was.

I know this battle with pride is a long one, a tricky one. I know it requires vigilance, faithfulness, ruthlessness. I worry that my pride will engulf me, sinking me like an iron-clad cruise-liner, and even in this is the irony that my pride thinks it's too big for God's grace. Because if there is any escape from a thing as extensive and cancerous as my pride, it is in Him.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I'm thinking about what it means to be available. Open to being used by God, and willing to do His bidding. About what that looks like on a macro scale, and what that means for every morning of sluggish rising and morning commutes and quiet lunches with book in hand. 

I know some pretty charismatic people. Interestingly, most of them are in ministry. (Though I'm not saying correlation equals causation! :P) They also write blogs, and I read them.

And occasionally re-blog them.

Like right now.

Here is a cool story I heard a while ago. There was this guy who was a Christian and really loved Jesus. One day he felt God was saying to do a head stand in isle 9 of a local super market. The guy thought he has gone crazy and felt he just heard God wrong. But again God told him to do that. So he ended up going to that isle and doing a headstand. A little while later a lady passed by and when she saw him standing on his head she broke down in tears. After talking to her for a little bit he found out that a few minutes before she was jokingly saying that if God exists he should have a guy do a headstand in isle 9.

Does God work that way?

I don't know. Why not? 

(You can follow some of the work God is doing through YWAM at San Francisco's North Beach at Markus Hauesser's Twitter feed.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Slip-sliding away

My eyes opened on their own at 8am this morning to the perfect vantage point to see Lilly's numerous book titles and the swiftly falling snow out the window. In that comfy bed, on three quality hours of sleep, I willed the snow to fall faster and thicker, hoping against hope to be snowed in instead of en route to work in an hour. Unfortunately, responsibility dragged me out of bed, and excessive hemming and hawing stuck me in the thick of it, driving through the messy roads of South County. 

I cannot even count how many times I lost control of my car today. And it was really scary! I wanted to cry the whole way home, but I also wanted to be able to see the road. I wanted to warm my fingers up, but I also wanted to keep my hands on the wheel. I couldn't feel my feet, but I kept one foot gently on the accelerator, afraid to stop and get stuck in the drifts. The perpetual smell of burning rubber as I skidded along was giving me a headache, but there was no stopping, there was only struggling through. 

At one point my car was stuck with its wheels spinning in the snow of a busy intersection, and it bucked crazily like it had a direction of its own when I tried to pull the wheel in a left-hand turn. Just as the light began to turn, I lurched forward in shock and relief that I hadn't hit anyone, only to hold my breath as my car veered left and right trying to forge a path through the slippery highway. I thought to myself how glad I was my tires had blown in August. Because as traumatizing as it was at the time, now it meant that I had fresh, not-bald tires to help me wade through the chaos of an unplowed I-95.

My heart stopped beating wheezily when I finally pulled onto my unplowed street, where the snow was a lot less abundant and a lot more attractive. Officially out from behind the wheel, I felt heady from an adrenaline rush, realizing how afraid I had been. I always talk about how I'd be fine with dying any day now, but today I was terrified by the real potential of losing control of my car and hitting someone around me. While I'm prepared to meet my Maker, I forgot how scary it was to really face the prospect.

I sound melodramatic, but I don't have near-death experiences very often. (Only every time I get in my car! Heh. Just kidding! Mostly.)

I take the fact that I am still alive as a reminder. And, I'm not sure how theologically sound this thinking is, but I wonder if my presence on earth is an indicator that my purpose is yet unfulfilled. Which on the one hand is depressing: I have not lived so fully for Christ that I have done all that He would require me to do. I have been lazy, disobedient, and misguided. And that's convicting. On the other hand, though, I am encouraged: I must be useful for some small facet of God's plan if I'm still here! He hasn't chopped me yet! And that's heartening, that He will not let me flounder in my flaws, but will rescue me from the treacherous, snowy roads of Rhode Island because He has something yet for me to do. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quiet Time

In the quiet times of the morning commute: the asthmatic hum of my Altima's engine, the whooshing of the cars driving by in the passing lane, the crackly bass of the carelessly chosen playlist, the hour with my first thoughts in the morning, unblemished by the days' events that have yet to unfold. 

In the quiet times of the slowly settling sleep: the muffled intonation of Adventures in Odyssey, the regular breathing of my dreaming sisters, the unattributed creaking in the rafters and bedframe and trees, the waning time of my last thoughts of the day, laying to rest in order all the events of the day.

And for the times in between? 

While I am not altogether fond of Gertrude Stein in general, there is a sliver of attributed wisdom when she says, "It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing." Quiet time is grossly underrated.

The times in between can get awfully crowded. Which is not altogether bad; I've been the recipient of many moments bursting full and I wouldn't trade them for a week by the Lighthouse shut up with my thoughts. Still, I am not particularly skilled at keeping track of my thoughts in the midst of the busyness. Like mischievous monkeys my thinking capacities run off and hide, or irritate me with clanging cymbals in my ears. I was never a huge fan of monkeys. Or very good at keeping tabs on my thoughts. 

But as he thinks so he is . . .

What does it mean to take every thought captive? What is concentration? How do I "think upon these things"? I am not yet skilled enough to focus my heart in the ebb and flow of the tasks of the day. And so I am so thankful for quiet time. These heaven-sent opportunities to dwell on truth, to refresh my mind, to strengthen my soul for these times in between. Rest is so sweet.

You're the scent of an unfound bloom—a simple tune, I only write variations to soothe the mood. A drink that will knock me down to the floor, a key that will unlock the door where I hear a voice sing familiar themes, then beckons me weave notes in between . . . This is my call, I belong to You! This is my call to sing the melodies of You! This is my call, I can do nothing else.