Saturday, September 12, 2009


"Are you into philosophy?"
"No... actually, I'm a Christian."

Epic. Fail.

(true story, too. conversation I had with a classmate this week.)

But that's the mentality a lot of people have, isn't it? Many of the fathers of philosophy were not Christians; they neither tested their ideas through the lens of Scripture, nor did they present their ideas from a Christian view. So obviously they've gotta be full of crap and we should STAAAY AWAAAY!

I looked up the word in the online Webster Dictionary. A few highlights?
  • All learning
  • Pursuit of wisdom
  • A search for a general understanding of values and reality
  • Ethics
We're in Proverbs in the Bible Reading Plan this month and it's made me especially aware of just how much God sincerely wants us to pursue learning, wisdom, and understanding. Over. And over. And over again- Solomon implores the reader to seek these things like great treasures. When did we become so deceived as to think that it would be sufficient to have truth spoon-fed to us with no effort on our parts?

One of the joys (as I was discussing with a friend several weeks ago) of being a Christian philosopher is that you don't have to be afraid to study the great works in the field. These men, God fearing or not, were looking for truth in life. For wisdom. And you do have to wade through some things you won't agree with (since when has that ever NOT been true of MOST texts?), but if it's truth, it will always be true, no matter how it's arrived at. So you're reading along, considering, learning, gaining new facets on ideas you'd held before and all of a sudden the Father of wisdom jumps off the page at you and yells, "SURPRISE!" And you're like, "God, what were You doing in a book written by someone who didn't believe in You?"

And that's just it. That's what I go hunting for. In addition to the simple pleasure of learning, you find these nuggets of truth about God's character in some of the most unlikely places... and they're often the most beautiful.

I've done the spoon-feeding thing. Just sit back, coast, you catch on pretty quickly where the Christianese catch phrases are supposed to go in your conversations so you can use them without even having a good concept of their meaning.... All you've learned is how to cheat the system, which is worse than learning nothing at all. But
God's a big guy; He can hold His own in an argument. Try Him, question the things you once thoughtlessly agreed to believe - I do so on a regular basis and He never disappoints. You never know where a little brain power will take you....

"Honey from the comb is sweet to your taste; know that wisdom is thus for your soul." Pr. 24

Sunday, August 30, 2009

sour notes

When someone teaches you to sing, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. Sit up straight. Allow air to fill your diaphragm. Support the sound. Drop your jaw. Don't spread the sides of your mouth when you sing "meee." But like all training, when it's not explained properly, attempts to follow good advice can still produce bad results.

Like that whole diaphragm thing. What do they MEAN by that anyway? If you've never had it explained, it means nothing to you. "Sing louder!" they say. Simple enough, if you want us to lose our voices over the next hour or two. Even the concept of matching your sound with the rest of the group can be problematic.

For example. (I'm gonna try and bring you to my point, I swear) When I sing along with Wicked, if I match their vocal quality, which of course has been painted over with the personality of the character the singers are playing, I necessarily put strain on my voice because that's not the way I sound when I sing naturally. It's also nearly impossible not to sing loudly when you're singing songs from Wicked, and I'm not loud when I sing naturally. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith are FABULOUS singers. I want to be a fabulous singer. Why can't I sing like them? Well, actually, I CAN, but not for very long. My voice gives out. Somewhere in the process of matching style and volume, the music moves from the comfortable places in my mouth and throat to very uncomfortable places.

So am I a bad singer? No, I'm not. Could I ever play the part of Elphaba? It might be that I never could. Not because I can't sing but because that character needs to be sung by someone with a voice that sounds different from mine.

Here's my point. There are a lot of things I wish I could do. Singing like Idina Menzel would be one of them, to be honest. But I also wish I was more confident. I wish I had more defined goals in life. I wish I was smarter. I wish I was quicker to process ideas and conversations. I wish I learned job skills faster. I wish I didn't get so distracted and lazy. I wish I was more motivated. I wish I didn't think about what I wish all the time. I see these things in people I like, people I look up to, people I think are worthy of imitation. And I look at myself and feel like a hopeless wreck that no one will ever want to hire, date, or get beyond the protective walls around my heart... because I fail so miserably at all of these things. They'll see me... and go and find someone else who's got those things in line already.

But I can sing. I have a very nice voice. It goes into uncontrollable spasms when I try to sing solo in any sort of formal setting, and it's not very loud, but it's actually very pretty in its own way. When I try to sing more like Imogen than Idina, I do all right.

I have a mental block when it comes to accepting myself the way I am. As I said not too long ago, "approving" myself. I see all my failures and I feel like I have to make up for them... but all I end up doing is making up a solution that seems to me barely more substantial than plastic wrap - you can see right through it. And the longer I try to keep it up, the hoarser I become. So rather than crack, I claim I've sung enough for one night... and retreat to heal. I push people away, reminding myself I obviously don't have this lesson down yet, so I must hold them at bay again until I've got it.

I see the sort of girl who's caught the eye of the sort of guy I'm looking for... and I'm nothing like her. Can't be like her even when I try. I see the sort of secretary that the bosses like to see in their office... and I'm nothing like her. Can't be like her even when I try. It'd be a brittle shell, a make-up job done by a five year old. But maybe I'm not supposed to be like her. There's no reason not to try to mature and grow into some of those things the right way, but I am what I am now, and I can't do anything about that with short notice... and shelling and making-up only puts off the real work, delaying any real results.

I need to learn to be okay with Jessica, August 30, 2009. Lots of people love her just the way she is; love her voice just the way it is. I'm not good at everything and I can't play every roll or get every guy or do well at every job... but I am good at things in my own way, and I forget that people love me the way I am anyway. And besides that, even when I'm rejected and fired and forgotten, even when all those people judge me with good reason... God picked me when He knew what I'd be like today, 10 years ago, 30 years from now. He thought I was worth saving. I'd do well not to argue with Him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

point of view

The closer you look at something, the bigger it gets - moving in on a fine print book to read it, holding a mess of wires up to your nose to untangle them, dust on the counter.

So don't look at yourself too closely. You start to appear exponentially bigger than you are.

God really IS that big though - just a quick glance at Him and He'll fill your vision, even if He seems far away... or you think you've pushed Him far away. Remember, even if He could be moved, your arm span is inconsequential compared to His size.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

When you love you know you've got to thank the Lord

There's a kind of love you can have for a person where they just... simply... make you happy. (It works for friend love as well as romantic love, by the way.) The kind of love where, when you get the chance to laugh with them over something completely inconsequential, it makes your day for like three days. Where you just *click* and you occasionally find yourself quietly dreading the day where it might be that they're no longer in your life. Where you feel like you're home wherever you are as long as they're with you.

Love like that isn't easy to come by, but I've been lucky enough to find it in a few people in my life... and the joy I experience when I get to interact with those people cannot by matched by much.

So especially when it's a co-ed relationship, I'm plagued by repeated warnings of, "Don't let your feelings become an idol!!" to the point that I fear to relish any relationships. How ridiculous! I've been given this rare, spectacular gift and I run away from it. So the last time I had one of these moments, I told myself just to enjoy it.

You know what happened? Far from being idolatrously consumed with the relationship that I so delight in, my attention was riveted back to the God who allowed it. The degree of joy, pleasure, satisfaction, what-have-you that I was feeling, rather than being self-contained and inward-focused, took my hand in a silly dance and sang, "This is the kind of love God has for you!" And as another shock, this thought brought not shame over my failings in that Relationship, but another wave of happiness. "It's true!" I'd forgotten what it looked like, so He gave me a reflection of His love that has skin on... and I remembered.

And then, what's left to do but rejoice?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I will sing.

It was a new building to me. I'd never before visited this location and timidly opened the doors to step inside.

The group of individuals in a recessed and walled area of the foyer that I took (at first glance) to be a group of quiet musicians turned out only to be a number of students working in what has to be the most unusual computer lab I've ever seen. But I wasn't looking for a computer... or a musician, for that matter.

Across from the recess was a pair of doors that lead into what I (rightly) took to be a small auditorium that somehow reminded me of the school where my family attended church for many years. I couldn't tell at first if I had the right room, however - the material written on the board at the front of the room was related but not necessarily what I wanted, so I backed out to wander for a few more minutes before giving it another shot.

A young, attractive woman was on the stage with a white board containing the name "Mrs. Ginny Hall" and some very basic music theory, a podium, and 20-something chairs arranged in two rows of semi-circles. Upon closer inspection, I could make out the text "Chorus" at the top of the board. So this wasn't Music Appreciation.

I had the right room.

I'm just not used to having an attractive Chorus teacher. They're usually old and pudgy....

As her students straggled into the auditorium, Ginny welcomed us warmly and invited us to sit on the stage with her. I think I will always have a twinge of pride whenever I step onto a stage. You have to take the secret side door and go up the steps - the door that's always closed and the steps that are forbidden territory for anyone who can only consider himself "a member of the audience." But not I. I have been given permission. I can walk up the stairs and take my place on the stage with no fears that anyone will call me out.

Five sopranos, five altos, and 3 guys were present for tonight's first meeting and we're expecting a few more to appear next week. I was a soprano for about five minutes before one of the altos complained of not having a sufficiently deep range and I was bumped. Maybe next week will bring new altos and I'll get to move again....

It's a skilled group of students - folks who want to go on to major in voice and music and theater and the like. People who are there because they WANT to be there. People who have been singing in choirs for years. People who have my same need to sing with a group - to fill the space with complex combinations of notes that fit together like puzzle pieces and create sounds that dance in the air, the heart, the mind, in ways that cannot be achieved with one voice alone.

It's going to be a great semester. You're invited to the Christmas concert, of course.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I have my approval

It seems to me that we're all aware, to some degree or another, that it's not good to go through life expecting and feeding off of the approval of others.

Granted, if you REALLY never cared what anyone else thought, growth and maturity would be difficult. If no one ever told me, for example, that my stick figures didn't look much like the people they were fashioned for, I might go on drawing them as I always had.

But at the same time, there is a certain value in simply doing things we love to do, and doing them well, and being pleased with the end result... the last of which is impossible if we only value our works for the judgments others give them. Why should I withhold satisfaction with my work just because I didn't get any applause?

What if I went to the gym, enrolled in a spinning class, worked my butt off, and left positively dripping from the exertion? If a seasoned biker had seen me, they might have had all sorts of pointers and directions and advice to right the things I hadn't done perfectly. And if a friend had seen me, she might have praised me for enrolling at all. But what if I simply went, got a good workout, and was proud of myself for trying something new, regardless of what anyone else thought about it?

What if I designed a website that served more as a place for me to store my online stuff than an entertaining, interactive website, and in the end was not good for a whole lot except that I'd been positively thrilled to play around with HTML and actually get a working product as a result? It might not be worth much to anyone but me, but I can give it my approval - it was something I did because I enjoyed doing it and it made my mind engage, and I am proud of the way it looks.

And in the end, my approval doesn't really matter either. It too is a means to an end of being content with myself in ways that are more directly developed by placing more value on God's view of things. In this case, I think that means that He created me with certain abilities, certain talents, and a mind that enjoys engaging in one thing over another... and so I should do them. I used to think that He made us to love doing one thing or another solely so that we could bring those talents to the table of the community of believers, making a well-rounded picture... but when I consider what (little) I've learned about His character, I think He values our OWN delight in doing things that we love, too. Do you ever sing when you're alone and enjoy it because you have musical talent? Do you ever act your heart out in front of the mirror, just because it makes you happy to wax theatrical? And when we acknowledge the fact that we have those talents at all, OR the ability to enjoy them, AND even sometimes the ability to share them, all because they are gracious gifts of God, that's when we come full circle and see the intent God had for placing passions in our hearts.


Maybe. ^_^

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lion King

"You have forgotten me."
"No! How could I?"
"You have forgotten who you are, and so, forgotten me. You are more than what you have become."

I don't know about you, but I haven't seen this movie in a long time, and when I think about it, the first thing that comes to mind is "SEX" written in a bunch of flying flowers.

So as I've been spending hours and hours trying to get music onto my iPod this afternoon (don't ask. suffice it to say that I have an incredible amount of patience and really ornery machinery.), I wanted some movies going on in the background and since I had not yet watched the VHS copy of Lion King that Joy gave me a while back, I thought it would be a good time. It really hit me afresh how much parallelism there is between that movie and the Christian redemption story. And then the aforementioned scene where Simba is speaking, praying, whatever, to his "heavenly father," really stood out.

No, I don't forget God. How could I? His fingerprints are everywhere, constantly reminding me of His magnitude and (for lack of a better, non-Christianese word) glory. I think about Him a lot. I pray frequently throughout the day. He (and related subjects) enter my thoughts regularly. But I don't always act like I am who He says I am. I don't always treat others in ways that reflect the way I know He feels about them. Remembering Him involves acknowledging the truths He's declared about who I am and applying the truths I know about who He is to how I view my world.

Deep stuff for a Disney flick. But I thought it was a good refresher.

Monday, July 20, 2009

recycled questions - new subject same story

I don't read minds. Few people do, you know. Yet all too many people will get their feelings hurt or worse because their expectations of how they should be treated or reacted to were not met.

"You didn't apologize when I accused you. You didn't send me a thank you note. Well, obviously I didn't mean that - how stupid are you? Here, let me flog you for your imperfections."

Who are you kidding? What satisfaction is there in an apology that is required? In appreciation that is expected? And of course you're going to be disappointed if you expect everyone to understand you all the time.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged. Vengeance is Mine."

Because see, then I get *my* feelings hurt because I don't feel like *I* was treated with any respect. That my mistakes, real or perceived, innocent or grievous, ought to be forgivable. I judge the other's judgment. I want to say, "You're setting yourself up for disappointment! Save yourself the agony and loosen up. No one is going to live up to those expectations." But then where is MY forgiveness?

My only question is: are we dealing with "seeing clearly to remove the speck," or is it "pearls before swine"? In other words, is it worth saying anything at all when you're pretty sure the person isn't a believer? Why would a non-believer care? But if you're not positive... or if they could be won by having wisdom spoken.... And in either case, at what point, if ever, are you supposed to defend yourself? Or do you just let the person judge you, let them think what they want, hate you because you gave them no reason to think that the lies they believed about you weren't true for the sake of keeping peace/saving face?

Why do I find this such a difficult lesson to learn?

Friday, July 10, 2009

fear n stuff

So I was thinking about that incident with the door slamming ghost at work....

It is very challenging to frighten a person who holds little value to anything you can take from them.

If there is nothing that you hold dear, then you have nothing to lose. There is no anger, because you don't hold your reputation or rights in high value. There is no disappointment either, because you're not hoping for something so hard that you would be put out not to receive it.

Which sounds fabulous, except that you then have no fear. Without any fear at all, it is all too easy to forget to need God. And what for, right? If you don't hold great value to your job, your relationships, your home, your health, your life... if He took them all away, what have you lost? Nothing that you cared about. You didn't need Him when you had them, but since you've lost nothing, you don't need Him now.

"Of course we need God. We need Him for breath!" Indeed. But if you'd just as soon not have a next breath as to have it, that's not saying a whole lot. "Of course we need God. We need Him for love!" True enough. But we've already established that there's nothing that you love or to which you hold great value. And even those things that you do love, you hold them in such a way that you could release them at any moment because things like that always end up disappearing on you. "Of course we need God. We need Him for hope!" Hope for a future beyond this life, certainly. But what is that, other than a hope that this life will end in short order? "No! A hope for this life!" Well, I don't have an answer for that one, but I personally don't know this hope that you speak of.

So now you're thinking, "If she doesn't turn this post around soon, somebody had better cart her off to the psych ward." Okay, okay. I'll do what I can.

I've been spending my days in a place where I carve my heart out myself. Any longings are met with, "Now, stop that. Clear your mind, dwell not on such things, and rest in the peace of God." Which is great, except for the void it builds. Feeding longing with feigned peace leaves one with a chasm that threatens always to cave in on itself. Actually, I'd go so far as to suggest that peace has to be cultivated; you can't decide to be at peace. Peace can't be forced. Not really.

But when you face the decision to tell yourself to pull up your bootstraps and cinch in your emotional belt another three notches so that you can no longer breathe but at least once you pass out you can't feel the hurt either... you could decide instead to remember that, whether you have hope for anything or not, whether you have passion for anything or not, whether you fear anything or not, no matter your circumstances, God is still beautiful. His goodness operates independent of your worldview, thankyouverymuch. And instead of pretending to be at peace with your pain and going for a permanent dip in denial of all the good and bad that makes you who you are, you can think about Him. Not around or under or from behind glass walls, but really looking Him in the face and remembering His personality, His character, the things that shocked you and made you smile when you first learned them.

What was so surprising to me as I was exploring this idea was that it actually really worked. o_O I wasn't left with that old nagging feeling that I'm just finding a way to distract myself... it was more like I'd actually found the right answer. It was satisfying in a way I haven't felt in a long time.

I still don't know what to pray about. I mean, other than the obvious, "I feel like something's wrong. Fix me!" But I'll keep the conversation going....

Monday, June 29, 2009

more thoughts on MJ

Do you ever go on YouTube looking for something... and get completely sucked in? Yyyyyyeah. Happened to me this evening. I think I did actually start out looking for something about Michael Jackson... but it turned in to a multiple-hour long venture.

I remember hearing about the trial. I remember what the accusations were. I remember thinking he was a little weird. But like I said a few days ago, I wasn't a "fan." I didn't listen to his music and I'd never looked up any interviews or anything like that. I didn't even read the news... literally all I had was word of mouth.

So tonight I watched interviews. I saw his statement. I watched the special that somebody did on his life at one point. I heard what he had to say about passion and love and music and dance and making a positive impact on the world. He's known for spending time with kids... but do you know how much time he spent in hospitals simply helping and encouraging sick children? In a world where adults are obnoxious and overwhelming and accusatory of the famous, I'd want to spend my time with people who aren't as high maintenance, too! So not that it matters... but I believe him. I think he was tragically misunderstood. Maybe what he did was foolish sometimes, but that doesn't imply anything about his intentions. That sort of thing happens to me... all too often. I'm constantly doing and saying stuff that I only realize afterward how awful it sounds or comes across.

But he loved music. I mean, granted, this is assuming I believe what he said... maybe I'm a sucker, but I do, so we're gonna roll with it. Some people just come across as full of bs... I dunno, he seemed too honest to me for it all to be an act. The way he talked about how he loved to dance and how he wasn't even nervous but just excited to do shows that made people happy and how it gave him such joy to see people imitating him because it showed that he gave them joy too. It makes me sad, knowing how many people who choose to assume the worst about him. In the end, regardless of his intentions, they miss out on the message he was at least verbalizing - that whatever your passion is, it's a great thing to be shared and enjoyed wholeheartedly. Especially if it's music, since it translates universally.

Here's my point: he was a musical artist. He knew what he loved and he did it. Yeah, he got paid a buttload of money for it... but who's to say that's not solely because he lacked the fear to TRY that most of us have?

Do you know what you love? Are you doing it? Are you reaping the benefits of seeing other people take joy in the talents that you have?

I'm kinda feeling inspired. needz 2 git off compootr.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I think the name is misleading. To say someone needs to practice self-control in a situation with a disgruntled individual would easily be interpreted as, "Act like you're not mad." Or "Act like you're not constantly thinking about sweets." Or "Act like you really care about that person."

What does that accomplish but a reinforced facade?

Okay, sure, when it comes to treating other people with respect, sometimes a facade is what will serve them best. But the same Person who told us that "self-control" was a "fruit of the Spirit" was constantly emphasizing that it is our motivations that matter in what we do, and not so much the actions that we take.

This idea just came to me this evening as I was driving. I don't practice road rage - honking my horn, cutting people off, flipping the finger. But I do feel it inside sometimes. I think it's good not to act on those feelings... it's a good start... but it's not a satisfying finish, y'know?

So what to do? It's so much more complicated than "Don't act this way." It's not enough to act self-controlled... I don't think that's the point. You have to be prepared to love. You have to actually not idolize food. You have to already be anxious to forgive the people who treat you thoughtlessly while on the road.

"You may ask, 'How did this tradition get started?' I'll tell you! ......I don't know. But it's a tradition! And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

I really enjoy Fiddler on the Roof. And contrary to what my dear friend Willy will protest, the movie is just almost exactly the same as the show, so I like both the play and the film. But it's startling to think about how much of that theme of tradition runs just as strongly through Christianity as it does through Judaism. Why do you say it's wrong to play pool? Card games? Have wine at dinner? Wear shorts? Wear jeans to church? There is nothing wrong with any of those things in and of themselves. Granted, there are always exceptions, like for the sake of the weaker brother, jeans are not appropriate in some churches. And why? Because they are wrapped up in tradition. "Church" is not the people of God but a formal event.

I bring that up to emphasize the fact that, in this sense, Christianity is not easy. You can't hop on for the ride and check your brain at the door. You have to be engaged. You have to think. Your mind has to be involved in order to say "God loves that person" instead of sitting pissed off in your car because they kept you from making it through the light.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

coffee and quiet

Like most people, I think, I go through phases of consistency with my quiet time. Three weeks on, then less consistent, then a week of lack, then back again. The last few months it's been directly related to my work schedule - when I have a full hour break in the morning, I go get coffee and have devotions. If I don't have that time, it doesn't happen.

That seemed sad to me, so I set the alarm back a bit after I got back from Next so I'd have time to get out the door and walk over to the Starbucks next to The Spa for some time before going in to work.

Yesterday I got a grande caffe mocha and took it outside. It had rained not too long before, so the tables outside were too wet to sit upon and I didn't want to go down to the river because it would be that much farther that I'd have to walk back = time lost. So I sat on the sizeable cement guardrail of the bridge that crosses the Reedy on Main Street.

I wasn't there long. I just had my Bible, my two bags, and my coffee. Just drinking and reading. Suddenly I'm aware that there's an individual nearby, and he appears to be addressing me. Fortunately I wasn't startled... that could have been deadly! He was a kindly gentleman working with the local waste management. And he wanted to commend me for what I was doing - that you don't see many people my age reading their Bibles. He said he's a Jehovah's Witness and that he's brought his kids up reading the Bible too. Then he bid me well and went back to work.

Now, I just like nature. I'd rather read outside than inside. I wasn't like, "Ooo, look at me, holier than thou, reading the Holy Word of God." Or at least I wasn't trying to be. I certainly wasn't trying to attract any attention. But this guy, driving down the street in a dump truck, saw me and recognized what I was doing and took the time to encourage me.

Here's my point: People see you. People are watching when you least expect it. What are you telling them?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ask and Receive

Went to care group tonight. I wasn't really looking forward to it because I'd had such a weird experience at Next, and I knew all we'd be talking about was the conference. It turned out to be much more enjoyable than I expected and I actually felt confirmation that my experience was actually good... just different.

Three girls in the group shared essentially identical stories about personal encounters they'd had with God at the conference - each having dealt long and hard with serious physical ailments of one type or another. They felt distinctly that He was calling them to pray for healing, and all three responded in like manner with defiance. And at first you think, good grief woman, it's just prayer. But it's a prayer they've prayed over and over for a long time, with differing degrees of faith or doubt that He will have the grace to free their bodies from the malady, always to be sent away with good things... none of them being the healing they'd asked for. This is not a simple request but an issue of "I don't want to put forth the kind of faith in You to grant my request that it will take just to ask, only to be disappointed again." His response? "This is a pride issue, this resistance to obedience. I may never heal you, but I've asked you to pray. I want you to trust that my desire is to bless you."

This is something I've struggled with as well. Not physically - God has blessed me with really a rather remarkable body. No allergies, diabetes, asthma, etc. Nothing was malformed from birth. No serious damage since birth. All five senses are in working order. My facial features are at least tolerable. My voice isn't unpleasant to listen to. I'm not unusually short or tall, skinny or fat. No chronic pain. No skin disorders or even unusually bad acne. No cancer. I'm very regular. Basically, to my knowledge, everything works the way it's supposed to. I'm finding more and more that that's really rare. If it weren't for that, I'd feel awfully unimpressive for all my normalness. Even my brain is significantly more functional than that of many people in the world. But we all find something to complain about, I guess. Yet we don't want to pray about it:

God's given me so much already. I don't really need this.
I've asked for this before, and He said no.
He knows everything; He knows I want this. Why bring it up?
I've quieted my heart to this; praying for it will only stir discontent in my heart.

This morning, I read Mark 11: 24: "Therefore, I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for - believe that you have received them, and you will have them." So you read that and you think back to Sunday school where they tell you, "Now, you can't read this and think that just because you pray for a red Camaro that God will give it to you," write it off and keep reading.

But something I've had going in the back of my mind... nothing like a word from the Lord, "YOU MUST PRAY FOR THIS NOW, JESSICA," but just musings, half assuming that it's just cuz it's stuff I want and I just selfishly want to ask for it...: it's still communion with God. It's still taking the time to spend time and improve the relationship through conversation. Coming to Him to have your needs and desires met. It's become increasingly difficult as I've gotten older to admit to God or myself that I have desires... in fact, I spend my days trying to forget about them for various reasons. But it's an act of faith. It forces you to exercise trust and gives you the opportunity to see Him work in a personal way.

It was already on my heart. Then three testimonies. Quiet time. Oh, and you know the name of the company I started working for on Wednesday? Take a look at the title of the post and you'll see it. Maybe this IS my word from the Lord. It's just... I have a hard time praying sincerely for stuff I know I don't NEED. (which... really, is everything ever, since I'm already saved) I don't want to put my heart in a potentially dangerous place. And quite frankly, I'm not a big fan of hope when it comes to stuff like this.

Who knows, maybe what I need is to be in a place where I'm waiting for an answer so that God can tell me "No" and I'll actually HEAR it. Then at least I'll have that answer and can move on.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What do you want to do?

I don't know.

My brain feels like it's composed of frightened butterflies. A million things, a million thoughts, none of them stopping long enough to land. I write... and reread... and literally cannot decide whether what I've written is coherent or not. Those two long posts I wrote yesterday? Might be complete bs and I wouldn't know it. Please tell me, will you?

Today was Easter Sunday. You're supposed to dress up for Easter Sunday. Someone said that once, and I couldn't shake the idea this morning. I ended up making a mess of my closet, trying on so many different outfits, all the while thinking, "What a horrible waste. I want to go to CCR, get my coffee, and have quiet time. It's Easter. I want to take time to remember why it's a holiday. And here I am worrying about what I'm wearing." In the end, I finally decided on something that may or may not have actually gone together, but was black and dark purple... not exactly Easter-y. I got to CCR and it was closed for the holiday, so I had to backtrack and get my drink at Starbucks. By the time I sat down, I had only half an hour... and to my horror, never could find wonder at the miracle of a God who died to save me.

Wait, what?

It was as though I was a small person standing at a magnificent fortress of stone. I didn't have to tear the whole thing down... I just had to find a gap. A hole big enough to crawl through. Even a peep hole would have held me over... just enough to look inside. But all my clawing did was to scrape off a few little bits of moss that had begun to grow on the surface of the wall.

I've been amazed by God's grace before, but I don't know that I've ever once really tried to conjure it up - consciously and without the aid of music or a sermon, decide to look and be awed. Or if I have, never sincerely enough to get discouraged by my inability. Until today. Today I walked into church feeling like a woman coming home to her husband on their anniversary, unable even to fake an appreciation for the significance of the day.

I ran away to Paris Mountain afterwards. It didn't surprise me that I was unable to do any thinking, but I convinced myself that it would be "good for my soul" to get outside. Or at least for my heart muscle. The prayers that I offered all felt like unfinished sentences, interrupted by more unfinished sentences, interrupted by silence and the heavy breathing that accompanies the exertion required to climb a mountain.

After the walk, I didn't even bother with the unsettledness that had been plaguing me all day. My afternoon was filled with grocery shopping, laundry, putting new sheets on the bed, looking for job opportunities, a few games of Spider Solitaire while watching Good Will Hunting, hence the blog title, and being mildly irritated that I can keep neither my internet nor my mouse connected. I didn't even want to watch a movie, but it seemed like it might distract me enough to get something done. Not that there's anything I want to do, but I feel less guilty when I can tell myself I'm getting something done. Then I pulled up a "New Weblog Entry" and started typing.

It's occurred to me, as I've been composing this text, that it's okay.

It's not the end of my relationship with God just because my brain is dysfunctional. He's forgiven me in the past for not even bothering to TRY to appreciate for myself this celebration... I'm actually improving, in that sense. Maybe. But I think His love superseded my nonchalance: when I walked in the door, I don't think He looked at my blank expression, turned around in a huff, and angrily put away the beautiful dinner He'd prepared in honor of the day. In the midst of my scattered brain and tears and shame, I'm pretty sure we still ate together. I kind of picked at my food and was generally a mess of distraction, but we ate together.

He is risen. And to this day, He is yet living... AND active. He is good.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

One day at a time.

Last Sunday, Matt (church pastor) surprised me twice. I'm in the new members class (>_<) and we talked about theology last week. He said we are all theologians. That we're all supposed to be searching the Scriptures and learning about God's character. Learning more from Scripture itself than we do from music, from theological books, from Sunday morning teaching... God's Word is our most important source for learning about Him.

Now, did I know that already? Sure. I went to Bible college, for crying out loud. Of course I knew that I'm supposed to be a practicing theologian. But... I guess it makes me feel like a rebel. Questioning everything, looking at things from a different or unintended (but not invalid) view than was preached, trying to make more sense of things than I'm getting by sitting in the pew. Won't I get in trouble for that? For not just accepting what I hear and ignoring the stuff that doesn't jive? No... actually, I won't. At least not with anyone who really matters.

Then I went into church and he closed the sermon by saying that we're going to start reading through the Bible together as a church, using a standardized Bible reading plan. We're starting in the middle of April, rather than January 1. Well, okay, the OCD in me is slightly bothered by that, but I'll get over it. Then he says, out loud, from the pulpit, that if you miss a day, two days, a week, don't sweat it. Do not feel like you have to read two, three, eight times as much the next day. Just start with the next day. Sure, if you have time and want to, please, go ahead and read what you missed. But if not, it'll still be there next year; the canon is pretty much fixed by this point.

Again, I know that. If you miss a day and give up because you get overwhelmed by guilt and a feeling of trying to catch up, you've really missed out on an opportunity to accept forgiveness for your mistake and grow in perseverance by just pressing on. But... did he just say that out loud? Like, in front of the whole congregation? Just... let it slide?? How helpful. How freeing! I know it's true, and I've been learning to do it, but it still always feels like I'm cheating to give myself that freedom just to pass it over and enjoy the gift of a new chance (no strings attached) the next day.

We all wanna be legalists. Let's be radical and forgive ourselves.

impossible without the journey

If a fat person tells you a certain diet works, you might possibly be disinclined to believe him. But if you've known this person for the years that he's been on this diet and seen his battle with depression and compulsive eating disorders... seen the weight that he did indeed lose, only to gain some of it back because he did not practice the self-control necessary to follow the diet perfectly... you might take his word a little differently.

The truth is still true, even if it's not immediately evidenced in the person telling it.

I'll tell you in a second that water is good for you. That you need it. That drinking more water will make you feel better, sleep better, eat better, the whole deal. Good stuff. But I don't feel great, sleep all that well, or eat as sensibly as I should. Does that mean that water's not good for you? Of course not. It just means that I'm not taking full advantage of its benefits; I myself am not drinking enough water.

Think about this, too: you won't suddenly get healthy by drinking 8 cups of water today. In fact, it might keep you UP (and running to the bathroom) rather than helping you sleep. And you won't lose much weight if you follow that guy's diet for only a day or even a week. Getting a massage might feel really good right now, but the benefits are more pronounced and last longer when you're faithfully going once or twice a month. In fact, a good massage might not feel all that great, if it's been a long time since you've relaxed.

Here's my point: It's good to be a Christian. Proverbs 9:10 - when you know God, everything else makes more sense. (my paraphrase... but is that not what it's saying?) Follow His commands because all of them were set up so that life would be better for following them, either by avoiding problems altogether or by having the wisdom to deal with the problems that come with a sinful world. If you spend time reading Scripture and studying the character of God and communing with Him, if you cultivate relationships* with people who remind you of God (in their words and/or character) and draw your attention back to Him, if you have the humility to persevere and keep "fighting the good fight" when you're not seeing any results, you WILL see results. You might not see them today. Prayer is not an instant cure-all. Not everyone gets 180 degree turnaround salvation stories and miraculous healings from illness or sin. Many times the end result would be impossible without the journey. But there will be an end. And if I know anything at all, I know that it will be an end worth fighting for.

Following Christ actively is like drinking water. You can live for a long time without it, filling yourself instead with soda and coffee and beer, but you won't be healthy. You'll feel crappy. And if I find out that you're abstaining from the most necessary thing in life, I'd be guilty of neglect and essential hatred not to tell you about the alternative. You might not even know what you're missing, but you'd see it real quick if you tried it. And maybe it'll get old after a while. Maybe you won't feel like drinking any water one day, and then the next, for the next few weeks, months, years. But hey, water's cheap, and God's forgiveness is offered at no cost to us. You just have to drink. A little at a time. By all means, don't proclaim that you're going to drink a gallon on the first day and give up because you never poured the first glass. You know the truth, and it will still be true tomorrow. Just pick it up again and keep going.

I will tell you these things. I will continue to be convinced of them until I'm blue in the face and you've long since stopped listening. Because I know it's true. I've seen it. Am I full of joy? Am I seeing an abundance of fruit in my life? Am I holier than thou? No. No, I'm not any of those things. But keep in mind, I am weak, half-hearted, and self-absorbed, too. I'm a compulsive eater of the HFCS laden junk food that the world offers to souls hungry for the Bread of Life. I myself am not doing all I need to do in order to take full advantage of the benefits of fighting to walk as a Christian. Still, I've seen it work; I've experienced it firsthand, and I know it to be true. I am better off, even on my bad days, for the God-centered relationships that I have, for the dependence I've cultivated on prayer, for the days I go to church when I really don't want to. So by sharing what I know, I'm reminding myself of what I'm prone to forget, too.

Should I wait until I've got it all down before I tell you what I know to be true? By no means. It might be difficult for you to hear me out, but there are no perfect counselors. The people who know best what they're talking about might well be the ones who are still fighting to make it real in their own lives. They're IN it. What they've learned is fresh. "I've been there. Let me tell you what works for me. Now, I don't always remember to do this myself, but it always works when I do...."

* This is easily done in a good church where you have lots of peers that you can build relationships with. However, let me be quick to argue that I don't think a formal meeting place and time are needed in order not to "forsake meeting together with believers." The problem is only when you forego that input altogether - if you don't have fellow believers driving you to Christ, you're in for a rough journey.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Don't go! I NEED you!"

[AKA: bunny trail soapbox]

Aw, so romantic. To have the man or woman of your dreams confess that they don't just like you, want you, or love you, they NEED you. You are their sunshine, their only sunshine!

Yeah, it sounds good... but did it ever nag at you?

That whole, "The only thing we need is God!" problem. Also, what about when I start failing to meet that need?

And take God, for example. He loves me, right? But if anyone ever did NOT need me, it would be God. He loves me. He wants me. He pursues me. But He doesn't need me. And in human circles, this idea of being wanted (not "needed") carries with it a feeling that since I'm not kept around due to the fact that I can meet a need... indeed, I can never fully meet anyone's needs... but because I'm liked for who I am, there's less chance of getting abandoned. I'm not going to epic fail and disappoint and crush the other person if I don't measure up. I kinda like it. It's not as romantic, or exciting, or fuzzy, but I kinda like it.

Sometimes it seems like Christianity makes a big deal of deromanticizing life... tearing down the dreams and crushing the flowers and biting the bullets "for the sake of the glory of God and a more Godly future"... but maybe all the things that we view as romantical have sin at the root anyway.

So... needs? We like feeling needed. We like it even though we know it's wrong. You can make an idol (care more about it than you do about loving God) out of being needed. You can make an idol out of serving - again, because it makes you feel needed. Or out of the fuzzy feeling you get when you know you've served "selflessly." Except it wasn't selfless because you were doing it for the feelings you get out of it.

But wait... isn't that what we were told to do? When you tell someone you're depressed and they tell you to go serve in the church, get your mind off of yourself by thinking about someone else's problems, invest in someone else's life and you will reap the rewards of joy... isn't that just asking for it?? Translation: act lovingly and you will learn to actually love. Choose to act lovingly for a while and you will learn to act out of love more naturally and easily. Choose to love as a means to learning how to love better, more selflessly. "Just do it; the feelings and desire to keep doing it will come later." Isn't that how habits are formed?

Indeed. But is that a good habit to form? Really? The reason we make idols out of serving is because... an idol is what it always was. We went into it thinking, "I'll cheer up" or "I'll meet new people" or "I'll satisfy this craving to feel like I'm doing something that's worth something to someone." It's all about ME and what I need. You're "serving," yes, but yourself, most of all.

Is this just me? Am I rambling to a crowd that figured this breakdown of logic ten years ago? This whole, "You are supposed to serve because God told you so, and you're depressed, so go help somebody for your own benefit" concept that has a total disconnect for me because serving out of love for God and serving for my own gain are incompatible... has no one else ever struggled with this? I mean, okay, sure, it might get you into the serving crowd and get you to where you can actually serve because you enjoy doing it... but do you enjoy doing it for the right reasons? Did you just dig yourself a self-serving hole? It's the same problem I have with having an accountability partner - if my reason for choosing not to sin is merely because I don't want to have to tell someone about it later, I might eventually beat the sin in question... but aren't I cultivating fear of man in the meantime?

And at the end of the day, I think back on all the serving that I did and it seems discolored. I might have gotten a lot out of it, and "I couldn't do it without God's strength," but did I really do it for Him?

This should probably have been more than one post, but I have one more thing that kinda ties in: I think I've always thought of the greatest commandment as two separate entities. You love God and you love your neighbor. And I get that you can't love your neighbor without first having a love for God, and I get that if you love God it is only logical that you would love your neighbor, because that's what He does. "Taking care of what He loves, because I love Him." And yeah, the strength to do anything, including and especially love other sinners, can only come from God. Got it. *check* But that logical part... it is what doesn't come naturally. The love for others that comes not as a separate effort apart from loving God but simply because I DO love God. Getting that concept to get from my head to my heart and out my fingers is a long time in coming, at least for me.

tl;dr (BIG time): Maybe it's too much to assume that we're all going to make a smooth transition from "I will choose to serve because it makes me feel good/I want to meet people/I need to feel needed" to "I actually like serving now. So now I will do it as a natural reaction to the fact that I love God!"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The world, saturated with wet,
glows with dull darkness
in high contrast to the bright greys and golds
of the clouds that hide
the setting sun.

The river crashes loud and drunken
down its familiar path,
swollen sick with gamboge runoff.

The unfallen rain hangs suspended
and invisible in the cool, fresh air,
and the winding pathways are deserted
for fear that it will again materialize
and realize its weight.

But it doesn't.

Instead, one girl stands small
on a precarious bridge across the swirling waters,
singing some Jason Mraz song
and taking in with open arms
this rare appreciation of lonefulness.

[I'm glad I took a walk today.]

Sunday, March 15, 2009

not in scripture, maybe....

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart.
And love your neighbor as yourself."

And if you hate yourself... well then, love yourself as you love your neighbor.

Because your God, your family, and your friends love you. And think about it - if you love them, a way to show it is to take care of what they love.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do you hear what I hear?

Have you ever tried to think about how you listen to music? I mean, not when you're trying to analyze something about it or pay attention to a beautiful bridge that a friend wanted to share with you, but just when you're in the car, jammin. What is it that you hear when you're not listening for anything?

Is it like Ratatoille? When you hear a song, do you get dancing colors in your head? Does it read to you like nondescript physical motion? Or do you see in your mind's eye each musician playing each instrument?

I was in late high school or possibly college before I started to have what I would consider to be an appreciation for the complexity of music. I couldn't distinguish instruments audibly... or maybe I could have, but the idea had never occurred to me. And I sang Alto in high school, but it irritated me because the notes were all wrong. Why couldn't I sing the song the way it was supposed to sound, like the Sopranos? It wasn't till I was in choir in college that the harmonies started to make sense to my ear and I began to be able to pick out the lines even without music. The opposing yet complimentary layers of recorded songs I'd known since I knew how to sing at all suddenly popped out at me for the first time.

And then of course, I had friends like Joseph and Patrick and Ashley and Zach and Rubbo and so on and so on who would blast music in the car on the way to Steak 'n Shake at 1AM and go, "Listen! Listen, do you hear that? Oh my gosh, it's beautiful!" And I'd be like, "Yeah!" thinking to myself, hurry up, what is it that they're hearing?? And like the harmonies, I started to hear other things too. The incomprehensibly fast drum beat. The height to which the singer soared but with such ease that you could miss it.

Still, I usually only heard it when I was consciously listening for it. I've always assumed I just had a lazy ear. I just hear music as a unit. That's why alto didn't make sense, why I never heard individual instruments, etc.

I put on Dark Passion Play on my way back from Columbia Sunday evening and found myself picking apart the music. All through the first song, I just tried to hear what was what. Trumpets, violins, electric guitar, full drums, piano, and more. And when you start to listen to one part, this whole new song pops out at you from a song you'd listened to dozens of times already. The song within the song that was written just for that one instrument. By the end of the song, I was composing this post in my head and had gone on to the question of how I hear music. By the way, it's really hard to pay attention to how you do something naturally.

How do I hear music? It's like a blob. No, it's not visible. It's like a sense of movement. No, that's not it either. I hear the music as a single unit and the singer as another unit, even if there are multiple parts making up the vocals. I only hear it split if another singer is "vocalizing" something entirely different or singing a subordinate or duet line. The music, that blob of meshed notes, it reads to me as emotion. More than that, as an experience. It doesn't move but it's a driving force. It doesn't speak but it tells a story. And I don't mean like, "You can hear how the composer is imitating the sound of falling rain." A story composed entirely of feelings. Of life.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This is a test.

James 1:2&3
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

When I read passages like this, I think of persecution. Roman guards bursting into thatch-roofed homes and dragging off members of the underground churches. Being flogged, stoned, crucified for believing that Christ is the Messiah. That image that's less applicable and more "so far removed from me that it's on the other side of the world and 19 centuries ago." And maybe that is the image that James had in his mind, but I doubt he was referring only to that sort of trial.

Various trials. "I got a ticket on the way home." "I lost my job." "The man of my dreams found the woman of his... and it's not me." "My car won't start." "My sister isn't saved."

The testing of your faith. Your faith that God is still good, still sovereign, knows what He's doing, is doing exactly what's best for you.

Produces endurance. There's nothing you can endure for long that you could not endure for longer or better if you've endured it in the past and learned from it. A man who runs ten miles every day will do better in a marathon than a man who has never run a mile. If you've struggled to understand that "All things work together for the good of those who love Him," endured that frustration, and seen it prove itself true, you have that experience, that endurance, to recall when next a seemingly evil circumstance comes.

Consider it great joy. You have to love wisdom. You have to say, "I hate what has happened... but I love it because this pain is a gift, equipping me for other experiences and future conversations. God cares enough about me to teach me in ways that He knows will communicate to my weak mind." I want wisdom, so if I bear in mind that the unpleasant experiences God brings my way are going to give me that wisdom, are for my good, are for His glory, then they are deserving of a joyful reception.

It's just like exercise. A person who wants to look better and feel better and have more strength and balance will gladly endure the pain to get there. But like any good trainer will tell you,

"You have to want it."

Saturday, February 28, 2009

in shambles

Highway 58 runs roughly parallel to the Virginia/North Carolina state line, 10-12 miles into VA. You're on this highway for something like two hours when you take the trip from my parents' house to the farm. It's just a little two lane highway; and you were stuck trucking along at a pokey 55mph or slower the entire way until just a few years ago when they granted us 60mph for a fair stretch. Along the banks of the road, it's miles and miles of forest, farmland, cotton and corn crops, mom & pop shops, the occasional cluster of gas stations and fast food restaurants, and not a few decrepit houses.

I took this picture near the end of last semester with my manual camera; not as a project but just for myself. I find most old, run down things utterly fascinating. Unfortunately, this one has a NO TRESPASSING sign, so what is you see is as close as I could get. It was foggy and getting dark on one of my trips back to Greenville and I didn't want to spend a lot of time looking for old buildings without warning signs in front.

Do you ever think about buildings like this one? Somebody bought or possibly chopped the wood that composed it. It was created with intent for a purpose, and I guarantee you that it didn't look this way when it was first completed. This one looks like it's just a very large storage shed; I REALLY love the ones that were once homes. I'll never forget the day Z and went walking in the woods near CIU and went inside a tiny house that had long been abandoned. The wooden floor was bowed in with huge gaping holes between the planks, the air inside was musty and damp and stank of mildew, the windows were smashed, doors dangling from the hinges, and the whole thing stood precariously tilted - not nearly at a 90 degree angle with the ground. Yet there were signs of life strewn about inside - books, furniture in various stages of disrepair, pages, clothes, trash. Someone lived there once... now it would fail to protect even a stray cat from the elements.

What sort of life did those people live? In what decade? Where did they go in such a hurry that they left so many belongings behind? What did the house look like when they left? How much of this damage was caused by looters, how much by natural causes?

The house didn't look that way when it was made. It was clean. It stood upright. It smelled of freshly cut wood. Someone prepared meals, read books, slept, and got dressed and ready for the day from inside that home. The sun rose and fell over that tin roof that pinged whenever it rained. The windows were once whole and clean and looked out into a menagerie of secluded forest. Maybe it was never perfect, maybe it was never even made to last... but those who made it didn't make it in the hopes that it would end up looking like this.

There are a lot of things in life that are like that, y'know? You can build a beautiful house, or dream, or relationship, or physique, or spiritual life, but if you do nothing to preserve it and keep it up, it will eventually weather and decay. Everything takes work to maintain, and the less you do to maintain in the day to day, the more you will have to do later to return something to its former state of beauty... and so much the worse if you don't keep out those who come to steal, kill, and destroy.

Then again, it was always my dream, as I drove by all those leaky roofs and shattered windows, to own one of those houses one day. To get the chance not to rebuild it but to take the good that had once been and make it good again.

[I think there is potential for many good, specific implications of this post, but I'll leave it open-ended for you to make them yourself. (that's code for "I don't have a particular one in mind," lol) happy weekend. ^_^ ]

Some things just don't change.

Without actually counting heads, I'd guess that 2/3 to 3/4 of the group are folks that were still at the Spa when I left. Which is nice - familiarity is a plus, and everybody there was so excited to see me. It felt like coming home. A home where most of the children love each other dearly, but the parents are exasperating.

Reiner and Leah are the only massage therapists that I know. Then you have Chet... and another guy I think, but I haven't met him yet. And they said another guy is supposed to be coming on the team right around the same time I am. Dude. That's a HIGH guy-to-girl ratio, especially in this field. We only ever had Reiner the whole five months I was there before!

Everything seemed just as haphazard as before, just as busy, the same snide, negative remarks about the Spa, the same aches and pains and complaints. The same drama. *shrugs* I was going to keep my eyes open for things to be better, but I wasn't really expecting anything. The new hydro tub that they supposedly purchased last spring was never installed. Neither was the new massage table. I did see a new knee bolster, that was exciting. And they have Tiger Balm in every room for us to use, free of charge.

I missed a call while I was at the gym this morning, taking advantage of the fact that they told me I didn't have to come in till noon. It was the Spa, asking if I could come in early today. How kind of them, to try to give me a chance to make more money. *sigh* Jessica is making a concentrated effort to be positive.

Leah pulled me aside and said, "Nothing has changed. Don't listen to them; you haven't missed a thing." But I've changed. And maybe a different attitude can bring change. I'll keep trying. And I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


It's been good for me. I'd not been spending my money wisely and it left me with no wiggle room when I no longer had a check coming in. I'm hoping that a month is long enough to get me to be more frugal even when the money is available.

It's gotten me to chill a little bit, too. I mean, I've been spending SO much time job hunting online and driving to places to apply, but I've still had plenty of time to sit and watch a movie at night and scan in my photography finals (and edit them!) and work on my cross stitch and do some independent study things and keep house and take three four-day weekends in a row, LOL. I might even have enjoyed some of these things a little!

But I got to thinking as I was climbing Paris Mountain yesterday (good GOSH my butt HURTS!) that I don't know where my heart has been. I mean, I haven't worried. I haven't... worried? I don't care. I'm really scared that God gave me unemployment as a chance to rely on Him, to see a crumbling world around me and trust His goodness in the sight of an unpredictable, terrifying circumstance... and that what I did instead was look Him in the eye with that bland, empty, defiant look (mom knows the one) and ask, "Is that all You got?"

Not okay. Not at all. But see... if I had the chance to do it over... I don't know what I could have done differently.
That could be because I'm trusting God, or it could be because I'm so numb that

Monday, February 23, 2009

When I say A, what I mean is B.

Girls are stupid. Boys, I offer my profound apologies. I've taken this entry to explain the inner workings of this stupid girl's words. I think some of my answers may not be typical, but at least you'll know ME better, right? ^_^ And it's long, so I've included the questions here at the top (with links to my answers) for your previewing pleasure: Does this look okay? I don't care. That's okay. Here, let me pet you. Did you read my latest blog entry? I'm okay. I'm sad. I'm depressed. I just don't feel very well. Will you do me a favor?

A. Does this look okay?
B. This outfit might not be very flattering, but I need a second opinion. Will you please save me from the humiliation of buying/wearing something awful by telling me IT LOOKS AWFUL?
note: I never did get into asking "Does this make me look fat?" I was always too afraid of people thinking I was obsessed about my weight. Also, there's no nice way to answer it in the negative, which wouldn't be very nice of ME. I don't want to hear that I look fat, so I won't ask a question that forces a person to answer me that way. "It looks awful!!" will suffice.

A. I don't care. (what movie we watch or where we eat or etc.)
B. I don't care. I have no preference. I would like you to make a suggestion and I will say "Let's go!" unless I just really think it would be unwise to watch it or I really hate that kind of food. Wait. I don't hate ANY kind of food. -_-

A. That's okay. (in regard to a question about my opinion of a suggestion)
B. I may or may not have had something else in mind specifically, but what you've suggested is fine. (I promise, I won't judge you for not reading my mind. That's just silly.) I may follow this answer with a suggestion of my own. If you don't like my suggestion, or just really would prefer yours, "That's okay." Cross my heart, I will not hold it against you. Again, if I really didn't like the suggestion, I would have said so to begin with... but there are few things that I feel that strongly about.

A. That's okay. (in regard to a perceived offense)
B. When accompanied by a pleasant though puzzled look, it means I'm simply surprised you thought what you did was offensive. An emotionless response means I noticed but was hoping we could let it slide without drawing attention to it. (like, "accidental boob graze!") That may or may not have bothered me in the moment, but it will pass. With a hearty laugh, it means "I'm glad you see the humor in that too!" With a "hhh" and a *shakes head*, it means "I knew that unneeded apology was coming. :) You're silly."

A. That's okay. ... Actually, can we talk about that?
B. If it's ever NOT okay when I say it is, you can rest assured that I'll either get over it later (because even in the moment, I realize it's not a big deal) or that I'll ask about it later when I've formulated my not-okayness into a question that I hope will become a conversation where my concerns are expressed and my misunderstandings adressed. It is my sincere intent, even if I don't always hold to it, not to bring up past offense once it's been okayed. When I do, it's in the context of that "talk about it later" period. This might come across as me trying to gang up on you for something you DID to me at some point, but what I'm really trying to do is figure out what YOU were really getting at, what prompted your words... I'm trying to say that I don't understand you and I want your help in that regard. I believe you didn't mean what I heard... so tell me what you meant.

A. Here, let me pet you. *pet pet pet*
B. I'm giggling because your foul up was funny, but I'm sympathizing because I do that all the time too. Don't be embarrassed. I'll touch you in a non-threatening way to reconnect and reaffirm you and also lighten the mood and change the subject. Also, yes, I'm being silly. But you know you think I'm cute. :3

A. Did you/Will you read my latest blog entry?
B. I'd like feedback! I want to know if it's poorly written or if my logic doesn't hold up or if I make it sound like I am in rebellion. I want to know if you have a different approach that I didn't seem to consider. Am I crazy??? Is that completely disjointed, irrelevent, and otherwise hard to read? Did I just write a load of bs?
B. Also, sometimes I mean that something about it was written regarding you or a conversation we recently had... or are currently having.

A. I'm okay.
B. ... there is no "right answer" for this one. Sorry. I do try to be consistent with my body language though; for example, if I feel pretty lousy but I know I shouldn't complain, it looks and sounds that way every time that that's my answer. So THAT response looks and sounds nothing like a casual "It was a good day. Nothing to report." I try not to say I'm okay if I really don't feel okay at all; or else I make it PAINFULLY obvious that I'm lying... you asked and I didn't want to give you the silent treatment but I want you to forget you asked.

A. I'm sad.
B. I'm feeling really, really, really bad emotionally. Something feels very wrong with Jessica's world.

A. I'm depressed.
B. Clinically. Do you have any drugs?

A. I just don't feel very well.
B. I don't get sick very often. I'll leave the rest to you to figure out. x_x
B. I confess, this can also be my excuse for not wanting to go out in public. In this case, I'd more often use "I'm tired." Maybe I'm feeling anti-social. Maybe the thought of hanging out with you makes me feel unwell. Maybe I was feeling fine until a second ago when you suggested we go something with a bunch of noisy people - now I can barely keep my eyes open. Regardless, you can trust that I'm going home to take some personal time. Whatever other half-truths I might slip into, I WILL NOT use this sort of line as an excuse to go do something with someone else. igh.

A. Will you do me a favor?
B. This is something I legitimately cannot do, at least not without a great deal of difficulty, by myself. Or else it is so obviously easier for you to do that it would be arrogant not to ask. If I need the remote, I stand up and walk towards it, telling you that I need it with just enough time for you to pick it up and hand it to me, to save us the embarrassment of me reaching over you. I would ask for help if you're standing right there and you can reach some item that I'd need to go fetch a stool for. Or if I'm busy doing something at the moment and since you're not busy, would you help? Good gosh man, I cannot stand it when people ask for favors for no reason other than that they're too lazy to get up and do it themselves. Especially when it's a girl with her man. *blood boils*

I guess... it's important to me that my friends not feel like I'm crouching, ready to pounce with something I had been hiding away for hours or months. There's no way of looking at that as being supportive of trust between two people. Maybe my body language and facial expressions aren't always as revealing as I take them for... and this would be unfortunate, because finding the right words at the right moment is a weak point of mine. There really isn't much that "gets to me" though.

So... did you read this blog? Do you know me well enough to go, "Jessica, seriously? You do not come across this way at ALL." Cuz if that's so, I'd rather hear it than be confused later.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Not better. Or wrong. Just different.

[disclaimer: work in progress. I just hope this is an encouragement to someone... otherwise I'd have kept it private.]

How come there aren't any other kinds of songs? I mean, you have worship songs. And you have a few family/friendship songs. And you have love songs. Lots and LOTS of love songs.

Why doesn't anyone write songs about other things they love? Like reading. Or eating a perfect steak. Or making art. Or teaching. Or helping people get better from illnesses. Or fixing the final glitch in a new invention. Or buying sheuss. (okay, okay, ONE song about sheuss. but it's not serious!) Or drugs. (wait. there probably are a few of those too. n/m)

Think about it. If you're in love, do any of your other interests (spiritual excluded) even come close? Do you feel as passionately about your artistic outlet as you do for your family? If you've been heartbroken, can any other pain compare?

You can't "hobby" yourself out of love. You can numb yourself so hard that you get by tolerably well, but nothing seems right. Hobbies are wonderful things. I believe it's essential to find and pursue activities that you passionately enjoy just in the doing, whether that be a certain job or a certain study or just a walk in the park. But I think the reason you don't hear any serious songs about anything other than relationships might be because we don't care about anything quite so much as we do about our interactions with others. No doubt, inserting that in our make-up was an intentional act by God, as a means to draw our attention back to Him.

And I? I find that I've unwittingly developed a mentality that since I cannot foster a romantic love and find my regular friendships lacking, my next step is simply to develop a passion for something else. But just as friendships could never replace an eros love, and all human relationships disappoint when compared to loving God, so does love of activities fall far short of the satisfaction of love for another. I've been searching for an interest that will surpass my passion for the unattainable, and it's simply impossible. Apples and oranges, my friend. It's as discouraging as expecting a paper airplane to fly as well as a 747. There's every reason to pursue activities that make us happy (within reason) but you'll never match the pleasure that comes from reconciliation after a miscommunication with a friend... by drawing a pretty picture.

I'm in a rut as far as knowing what my next step should be regarding my pursuit of God, even though I know that it's only that relationship that surpasses interests and passions and romance. But it's surprisingly freeing to have made this realization tonight - that the stuff at the bottom of the chain will never be better than the stuff in the middle, as the stuff in the middle would never surpass the One at the top. So I can stop being frustrated that my best efforts don't suffice. I can stop expecting too much of them - expecting them to replace something else - and pursue them as entirely other from the first, simply for their own good.

And... I guess ask God to show me how He's pursuing me, because I'm having trouble finding new ways of pursuing Him.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Describe how you've felt blessed to be single at some point this year."

That's how my care group leader opened our meeting last night.

Now, for one, let me just say I'm always a little unsure of how to react when, at a singles' group function, we ACTUALLY talk about being single. I can't say as it has ever happened before this one... and now it seems like it happens a LOT. That said.

He wanted to go around the room and have everyone tell a story from the past year of how they'd felt blessed by their single state. I'm sure if he'd had two more hours, he would have inquired of each one of us individually. It struck me as a little overoptimistic to assume that everyone there would have a response, especially since, even over the course of maybe 30 minutes of hearing others' testimonies, I would still have had nothing to say, even if he'd called me out.

Yeah, intellectually I get it. You've got more time on your hands. You're free to go out with friends or stay out late. You can serve more freely in the church. You can eat ice cream cake and popcorn for dinner if you're so inclined. But those are just things that I tell myself to try to make myself feel better. I don't see them as blessings. I know that singleness is a gift, but I'd never call it that and REALLY mean it. I've never felt blessed by it.

On the other hand, at least I can say I don't feel cursed by it. I have no notion of a mean God withholding good things for no good reason. Duh, He's God. And that's my answer to the question Matt closed the meeting with yesterday. He said to share our answers to this question with someone by tomorrow. I have, but I'll share it here as well. The question was - "What can you do to remind yourself of God's goodness in the midst of your single state?" Or something along those lines. My second answer doubles as the best answer I'd have for the first: If it were possible, I WOULD be dating someone. You know, "possible" in the sense of "I like you, you like me, wanna go out? ktnx call me!" But I'm not supposed to be in a relationship right now, therefore I am grateful that God has not even allowed for that temptation. I guess it's circular reasoning - I know I'm not supposed to be because I'm not, and if I were, it would be the right thing, so really, either for the good of the joy or the good of the learning process, I can't go wrong. So basically it amounts to a gratefulness for His omnipotence through space and time. And, y'know, that He cares to bother with that sort of thing.

Personally, I liked singles' group better when we didn't talk about it. I go through my day NOT thinking about it and then go to hear God's Word preached and instead I'm asked to dwell on the very thing I've been trying to avoid. Eh, that's not as true as it used to be. I don't have to try nearly so hard not to think about it as I once did. But still. Like the assumption that alll 20-something of us have actually found blessing in the gift of singleness, I question the wisdom of taking an entire evening to discuss... THAT. For my own sanity, I had to walk out of chapel one time because of that, and that, when I was older than many of the singles there. I simply couldn't handle it. Call it ignorance or immaturity or idolatry and you'd be right, but you'd also have to agree that it did nothing to encourage my soul, either. Doubtless, any number of people were really encouraged by last night's conversation. I... didn't cry. That's gotta count for SOMEthing.

Yeah, can I hear myself. I'm a whiny child who STILL hasn't learned how to fight this battle. I feel like I'm in a group of people who all GET it, who don't need to be babied, who can engage in this sort of conversation without bursting into tears over crushing memories and crushed dreams, who know how to be sad about this without letting it destroy them. I feel like I'm in the wrong class, like I should have been held back a year or something.

I know that marriage isn't that big a deal. That there's nothing wrong with being single, both sides have pros and cons. I know that you never find satisfaction in another person. I know there is no happily ever after. Relationships aren't the answer. So... how 'bout let's talk about something else, eh?

Friday, February 20, 2009

the driving force

I have a theory.

I could be wrong. If so, I apologize. It's not personal. I still love you. But I'm curious about the difference between men, women, and defining terms regarding driving.

Joseph says he's a very good driver, for example. Possibly one of the best he knows. He's proud to be a good driver. And I love Joseph dearly, but he's pretty scary out on the road. He's good AT driving, but I'd never say to another woman, "Yes, he's a good driver." Although come to think of it, I might tell another guy that he's a good driver. Hmm.

So here's my idea. I think that girls in general (please don't throw any fruit at me. generalizations are okay, I swear) would define "good" driving as "safe" driving. But when a guy says he's a "good driver" what he means is that he's a "skilled driver," which often includes what moms all over the country would consider "reckless" driving. He means that he's capable of operating the vehicle... even to its fullest potential. Of 130mph. So when crossing definitions between species, the problem arises that not all good driving is terribly skilled, but neither is all skilled driving good.

Has anyone else run into this problem...?

(And guys, on behalf of all the girls who are neither good nor skilled, I offer my profound apologies. )

thinking is a good idea.

Wall E
Minority Report
Bruce Almighty
Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Matrix

I'm lazy. I don't always think things through to their end result or logical end. For example, if I were so consistent as to make it a habit, it would be natural to see awful situations in light of God's goodness. But I'm not and I don't. Not always. That is, perhaps, one of the things I like best about movies that DO incorporate this principle, like the movies I listed above.

Don't take for granted that things are what people say they are. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. You don't REALLY want everything you ever wished for. Don't make decisions/allowances (they may or may not seem extreme at the time) without taking into account where you'll end up.

I like it when movies present the viewer with extremes that are the consequences of every day choices, little slip-ups, decisions to take the path of least resistance.

Of course, with our new president and articles like this and this, I've been thinking more about the political ramifications. The government has only as much power as we've given it, but will use every bit of power that it has. Who's to stop it when we realize that it's been given enough power - due to the fine print and the obscure meanings and convincing us that convenience is more important than the life of another - to force us to do things we never meant? Worse yet, what if people never realize it? It's like a ship full of morbidly obese people who haven't stood in years but instead accept as reality the sugar-coated talk about food, pleasure, and commercials placed in front of their eyes. They might wake up enough to stop listening to the "do what feels good" shite to turn off the screen, but their muscles have long atrophied beyond being able to DO anything about where they are and where they're being lead.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

There's just something beautiful about it.

A day that's too cool for shorts but warm enough to turn off the heat and sit inside with the door open.

The sun's path has been deterred by leaves and branches, the railing on the patio, and finally by the half open blinds inside and for a second you find yourself wondering if it's the leaves dancing... or the rays themselves. Tiny spots of yellow-white light dance on the glossy leaves outside, some green, some still brown.

And with all the white noise turned off inside, you can actually hear the sounds floating in through the screen door. The wind whipping through the trees playfully like a lover with his beloved's hair. There also comes the occasional wind chime, melodic in its unpredictability; gentle, clear, and strong without being overbearing. And oh, the birds! The tweets and chirps of their songs as they dash by, they complete the call.

There's something irresistible about it. Once you hear it, really hear it, you cannot help but obey the command to be still, to listen, to relax. A call to peace.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Everyone's a little bit racist.

No, really. It's a song. But be careful - it's from Avenue Q. I take no responsibility for your sensibilities being offended if you read or listen to it.

Racism oftentimes falls into that same category that I talked about in my last post. Shawndra and Sarah have never met, never once spoken words to each other. But Shawndra thinks that because Sarah has a different colored skin than she, Sarah has already judged her for her color without getting to know her. She’s already judged Sarah for judging her, based on Sarah’s race.

… right. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for racists who complain about racism.

If I were to say I’m not romantically attracted to Asian men, I would sound racist. But if I say I don’t like fat men, it’s read as a personal preference and you think nothing of it. So my personal preference is Caucasian. Is that really as wrong as I’ve been conditioned to believe?

And when I’m out in public, I shy away from folks of ANY race who dress like they’re in a gang. I make judgments on their lifestyles based on what they wear. (Just like most people would make a judgment on my lifestyle if I wore skimpy clothes all the time, or really dark make-up with all-black attire.) I'm pretty sure that's kind of an unavoidable part of being human - one of those primal instincts sorts of things. Unfortunately, most of the guys who have the appearance of being in a gang are African American. Am I being racist or trying to stay away from a potentially dangerous situation?

You can’t do anything about your racial background, but how you dress, how you carry yourself, how you treat other people, and your decision to judge people for judging you (whether you have any reason to believe they have or not) are all choices you have to make.

I went to a salon a week ago to get a haircut. Two good looking, well dressed, white men had come to the office and sold me a package deal for a price I couldn’t refuse (back when I had a job) and this was my first visit to the place. It’s very… ethnic. The building was once a large home and is still decorated like one – large African-style wooden sculptures, stylized drawings on the walls of African women dancing, race-generic metal sculptures of jazz players on the table. I was the only white person in the place. And I judged them because I thought they were judging me. What was I doing there? I didn’t fit in. That’s not my culture. I don’t think I could dance like that if I tried. But they were kind enough to treat me like one of their own, blond hair and all. They even talked about bringing me on the team as a massage therapist (haven’t heard back… definitely need to follow up on that).

And maybe my experience here was more one of “I shy away from you because we’re just too different” in the same way that it’s easy to treat the poor or the old or the crippled or the profoundly home-schooled. It’s natural to gravitate toward those who have things in common with us. If there were a person of a different skin color from mine who seemed like a decent person and was in my drawing class and we struck up a conversation because I recognized the music she was listening to as one of my favorite artists, we’ve got all the ingredients for a potential friendship, regardless of race. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the decorations in the salon, but I didn’t LIKE them. I wasn’t much for the music they played either. These preferences were something I had a hard time appreciating because it seems indicative of racial pride. “I’m proud of my heritage – see how I’ve decorated my work space?” I can’t relate to that because I don’t have any sort of racial pride whatsoever. I’m just your average white mutt. My decorations in my home are race-neutral. In fact, I think I have more pictures of cats than of people on my walls. -_-

I’m rambling. But you know how I roll – I had bouncy thoughts and I was finally ready to ramble. (rumble?) I’m composing this in a Word doc and it’s over a page long, single spaced. I’m so sorry! But in closing... everyone's a little bit racist. And I think we'd all do well to quit trying to figure out how we're being judged, take the time to appreciate the differences (and there ARE differences. you start spouting some nonsense about how blacks and whites and men and women are all the same... you've gotta be crazy), and just Be a little.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

around and around we go

So Jack and Jill are friends. Jill has gone over to Jack's house for a party and Jack comes in a little later with Jane. Now, Jane and Jill have never met before, but both speak English, both are fully capable of introducing themselves, and they shake hands without outside prompting and meet. Jack gets a little flustered and apologizes profusely, "I'm so sorry! I forgot you guys didn't know each other or else I would have introduced you." Jill and Jane stammer "no problems" and cast their eyes down in embarrassment.

Why was Jack embarrassed? There was a long unspoken rule of courtesy that was broken and he was afraid that one or both of his friends were offended or mad at him for it. Why were the girls embarrassed? Because Jack's reaction betrayed the fact that he didn't trust them to be able to handle introductions themselves... he accused them of being mad at him when they'd been perfectly fine and hadn't thought of the faux pas at all. They had thought of it now, though, of course, and so follow snide remarks about guys being throughtless to lighten the mood.

Or how about this - how many times a day do you hear this conversation? "Thank you so much!" "Oh, it was nothing." "No, you were really great!" "Oh all right, well thanks."

What's that all about? I mean really. Words have been stripped bare of all their meaning. Phrases, no, entire conversations tossed around without any real purpose or value. We're afraid to take a compliment for fear of seeming proud for something worth being proud of. And by the end of the conversation, this plastic humility with which we've cloaked ourselves is practically transparent to the underlying fear of man and striving for approval. But both parties are so busy with the dressing process that neither notice that it's a waste of time. It's a dance that we feel obligated to take part in, but in the end, everyone's sweating nervously and no one's had any fun.

Or what about the homosexuals? The pro-choicers, the drug addicts, the eating disordered? They get all in a tizzy for being told they're wrong because they think they're being judged as people. The problem is, so much of the time, they ARE, even by those who swear up and down that it's out of love for the man, hatred for the sin. Do we really differentiate as much as we say we do? I want to be confused by the accusation that I did not speak out of love; not scramble to find a viable excuse for my words because the gut motivation for my words is less than flattering to myself AND to them as human beings.

We talked about the love of God at Bible study on Tuesday. How God loves Himself more than He loves us... and that it would be inherently Wrong to do otherwise. I had a conversation with Dan today and he took it further - that the most loving thing that a perfect being can do is to create beings whose sole purpose is to bask in His perfection.

I wish I could just will away all the fear. No more heartless apologies for mishaps that don't warrant them; apologies that are offered not really because of the insensitivity but because you worry that someone thought you insensitive. No more meaningless compliments and receipts thereof. No more self-righteous judgments that spawn fear and expectation of more truth spread by candy coated mock piety. Just glorying in the beauty of God, His creation, and the ways we bear His image. I'm just as prone to it as anyone... it's just that I'm starting to notice it for what it is... enough to be irritated by it when I catch it in myself and others; not early enough to stop it.