Monday, March 14, 2011

the present tense.

Our first book! I love that we're gaining all these things in common through our CIRCLES experience. All right, so I'm definitely a fan of Here and Now. It's all so simple, so straightforward. Just like many people have said, the idea of living in the present (although it's one we've all been exposed to) catches me off guard sometimes. 

I feel like there are two ways our culture goes on this. The first is to dwell completely in the past or become burdened by the future. In this way, we reject the present completely and drain it of any significance. The second is to live for present pleasure. Many take living in the present to mean living only for the sake of each moment, becoming entangled with the temporary pleasures of a self-focused lifestyle. This attitude abuses and degrades the present moment.

We're being called to a new attitude: focused on the present, with an eternal Kingdom in mind and in heart. The beauty of it jars me. 

Just wanted to put a few parts that stood out to me here. Most of it had to do with how we treat our relationships, an area I often break and damage because of my sinful heart.

"As we recognize God's presence in our own hearts, we can also recognize that presence in the hearts of others, because the God who has chosen us as a dwelling-place gives us the eyes to see the God who dwells in others. When we see only demons within ourselves, we can see only demons in others, but when we see God within ourselves, we can see God also in others."

My interactions and judgments of others directly reflect my interactions and feelings on God and myself. This helps me understand why I judge others: that it is not because of the person, but because of my own heart.

"We all have these moments if we are attentive to the movements of God's Spirit within us. They are like glimpses of heaven, glimpses of beauty and peace."

He goes on to talk about the importance of claiming these for God's kingdom. To be intentional about the claiming proves essential; otherwise, we'll belittle these moments by blaming them on our own sort of romantic thinking. That is not enough. Heaven is happening now. I just hope God will open my heart to be a part of it.

"The question that truly counts is not whether we imitate Mother Teresa, but whether we are open to the many little sufferings of those we share our life with."

Ah, I love this one. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty for not just picking up and moving to another country to be a missionary. But I need to have faith and trust that God will put that desire in my heart if that's where He wants me. While I'm here, wherever "here" is, to be like Christ means to be attentive to the people around me, to take notice of the subtleties of suffering in each of my relationships. Our sorrows all look different. The little sufferings are important too. Each of them are opportunities for us to show the love and grace of Christ to one another.

"I cannot take your pain away, I cannot offer you a solution for your problem, but I can promise you that I won't leave you alone and will hold on to you as long and as well as I can."

I think this speaks for itself. And I hope I remember this next time I'm presented with someone else's pain.

"All human relationships, be they between parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends, or between members of a community, are meant to be signs of God's love for humanity as a whole and each person in particular."

This is radical. This is everything.

I love you guys. Thanks for doing all this alongside me.

Monday, March 7, 2011

last night.

Some nights, headlights
are not soft, white pearls
strewn behind you,
nor the wet asphalt
long, black mirrors
stretched before you;

on these nights, you realize
that life is a waste—
and consider calling it off

Sunday, March 6, 2011

long story by stephen dobyns.

We talked a little about Cain and Abel tonight, so I wanted to share this poem with you guys. I love it. So much. It's by Stephen Dobyns and the title of my blog might be a little bit of a rip off of the title of his poem. Oops. Here it goes.

Long Story

There must have been a moment after the expulsion
from the Garden where the animals were considering
what to do next and just who was in charge.
The bear flexed his muscles, the tiger flashed
his claws, and even the porcupine thought himself
fit to rule and showed off the knife points
of his quills. No one noticed the hairless creatures,
with neither sharp teeth, nor talons, they were too puny.
It was then Cain turned and slew his own brother
and Abel's white body lay sprawled in the black dirt
as if it had already lain cast down forever.
What followed was an instant of prophetic thought
as the trees resettled themselves, the grass
dug itself deeper into the ground and all
grew impressed by the hugeness of Cain's desire.
He must really want to be boss, said the cat.
This was the moment when the animals surrendered
the power of speech as they crept home to the bosoms
of their families, the prickly ones, the smelly ones,
the ones they hoped would never do them harm.
Who could envy Cain his hunger? Better to be circumspect
and silent. Better not to want the world too much.
Left alone with the body of his brother, Cain began
to assemble the words about what Abel had done
and what he had been forced to do in return.
It was a long story. It took his entire life
to tell it. And even then it wasn't finished.
How great language had to become to encompass
its deft evasions and sly contradictions,
its preenings and self-satisfied gloatings.
Each generation makes a contribution, hoping
to have got it right at last. The sun rises
and sets. The leaves flutter like a million
frightened hands. Confidently, we step forward
and tack a few meager phrases onto the end.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

brace yourself; this got a little long.

Let me set the scene we’ve got going here: I’m sitting at my desk in my pajamas, running off of three hours of sleep, listening to my “sad, sunny afternoons” playlist (PS I’m a 13-year-old emo girl), typing in a room lit only by candlelight, because I have a migraine and absolutely everything hurts. Normally, in this moment, I would give up and go to sleep. Which seems like an appropriate response.

But I feel like I have so much to say. There’s nothing specific that I’ve outlined or anything, but I can feel it all moving and stirring in my head and if I don’t get something out, it’ll be bad news for me.

I purchased a plane ticket to New Orleans today. That’s responsible spending of my first paycheck in my mind. I am so excited to see the friends I left out there, go back to my old job, spend time in the city I fell in love with so quickly. Part of me loves making these impulsive, semi-irresponsible decisions. I should be saving my money for the rent I’ll have to pay come August. Riding the streetcar, conversations beneath Spanish moss, hearing that strange, wonderful accent again, walking through the quarter—the choice was pretty easy.

That’s a fun, good thing. There are other things going on though. Lately I’ve noticed this apathetic, indifferent attitude I’ve developed toward my own future. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but found myself saying things like, “I don’t care where I end up.” I had stopped having any real opinion on it. During the prayer time at church, I realized this was totally a defense mechanism.

See, my relationship with my dad is pretty emotionally distant. I don’t feel like he cares about me or thinks of me as worthy of his time, attention, or affection. This is something I’ve recognized for years. I see patterns of behavior that I have and I know that I can accredit them to my resistance to healing from our relationship. The messages from my dad are ongoing and right now the hardest thing to discuss with him is my future.

I always felt like I was disappointing him in a big way when I rejected USC’s offer of admission as a high school senior. I followed what I wanted and went to Tulane instead. When I started talking about transferring to Westmont for this spring semester, my dad was unimpressed; he assumed it was for the guy I was interested in/started dating/just broke up with. My dad considered it a poor choice, believing the school was below my academic abilities. Knowing he thinks I’d pick up and change my entire life for some sort of crush really hurts me. I feel like he thinks of me as a dumb little girl, not a young woman who is deeply self-aware and very in touch with what I believe is God-given discontent.

Since Westmont didn’t work out, I’m back in the college decision period once again. My favorite place. Just kidding, guys, I hate it.

When my dad asks about my plans for school, I’m super defensive. All I want is to get the conversation over with because I assume that if I stay in it long enough, I’ll receive a discouraging, doubting, or sarcastic comment from him. He’ll think it’s funny, but I’ll leave feeling deeply wounded. I’m much more sensitive than I let on.

So, as we often do, I have projected my situation with my earthly father onto my heavenly father. Oops. I didn’t realize it, but I’ve been totally withdrawn from God on this issue. I trick myself into thinking I’m being open with Him: drop a quick prayer every night—something along the lines of “And please let Your will be done when it comes to school next year. Amen.” It’s just become something I tack on to the end of more sincere, vulnerable prayers. It’s not something I’ve felt the freedom to be transparent about at all.

This brings us back to Sunday night. For the first time, I became overwhelmed by one jarring, plain fact: God cares about my future.

He’s not waiting with His arms crossed for me to open up so He can shake His head and say, “Nope! You got it wrong again. You messed that up. You’re choosing this for the wrong reasons.” Those are the messages I hear from others, but they’re not true of my loving, affectionate Lord. He wants to support me. He wants to hear my fears, my doubts, my anxieties: how I’m worried that I won’t get into a school near home, or that I’m just making choices based on friendships I have, that I’m not living up to my “potential,” that I’m disguising my own petty feelings as “God’s will.”

I’m frightened. I feel like a little girl, nervous about going down a slide—something that silly and small. Because if I’m realistic about Kingdom living, a decision on where I go to college is silly and small. There is no singular, correct option. I just get to continue making choices and hoping in God’s name that He’ll show me enough mercy to guide me into His will.

I feel like God came down and brushed my hair away from my face, showed me who I was looking at and, in this, set me free from lies I couldn’t even recognize before. He set me free and will continue setting me free.

I have a lot of healing to do. Right now, I feel like I’m coming before God with my hands cupped, cradling all these little plans and options and thoughts and emotions. I feel a little bit bashful about it—a little bit shy. It’s hard to show yourself to a lover sometimes.