Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I'm really into the concept of art today.

I have been redecorating my room over the past week and have spent all hours of the day puzzling, conceiving, plotting, and planning what every little detail is going to look like. It has been such a cool exercise of my creative mind muscles.

So it just has me thinking about art. What's the point of it? What does it do? I have come to the conclusion that attempting to discover and unwind God's heart is the highest artisitic endeavor we as humans can engage in (or at least the highest endeavor this human can engage in!). This attempt to discern and unearth God's heart for us--his people-- is creativity in its utmost form. I think it's ultimately what all other imagination, conception, insight, and ingenuity point to.  What is a beautiful painting, book, or piece of music but something that unveils an unseen reality that is waiting to be uncovered?

Reminds me of something Paul said in Acts:

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' (Acts 17:26-27)

I was taking advantage of God not being far from me this morning and this flowed out of my pen and onto a piece of paper. I guess it's sort of what uncovering God's heart looks like for me:

to the Artist Himself:

Plunging into the depths of life's substance, I can't grasp, but in a way understand, that you are beautiful:
though a rational realization, unattainable by mental faculties;
a truth be explored without eyes, but with the groping, yet sure, fingers of an awakened soul.
What a glorious store of blessing and experience you offer the desperate heart.
It is here, caught up in this highest form of slow, unveiling artistry, that you meet me.
and, though formerly impossible, I see; knowing nothing, but having everything, in perfect happiness with you.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why Harry Potter Means Something to Me: An Essay

Ah, the end! I thought I would share my thoughts about Harry Potter on this last day that I will ever dress up like a house elf and ride a broomstick around a parking lot, awaiting a midnight release of a book or movie.

I am writing this both hyperbolically and seriously. Mostly I am, in classic form, drawing serious nostalgia from a movie premiere (and fully aware of it) but also expressing my love and thanks for a story that has shaped a huge part of me. What are we made of, really, except the great stories that we hear and swallow? They define us. They shape us. They ignite desire in us. They call us to something greater than the humdrum existence the world tries to impose on us.

I received my first Harry Potter book on May 26,1997. It was my 11th birthday and, quite frankly, I was extremely disappointed when I opened the package to find a book. Who wants a book for their 11th birthday? I didn't. The woman (a friend of my parents') told me that this book, about a boy-wizard named Harry Potter, was the new craze in England and that she thought I would enjoy it. (suuuuurrrreee thought my 11-year-old self).

Despite my disappointment I set to reading the next day. I remember being quite surprised to find I had made it through the first 250 pages or so in about two hours without even having gotten up to stretch. I remember the room I was in. The color of the carpet. The way the sunlight hit the walls. The way my mind buzzed and filled with organized creativity and curiosity for the first time.

I feel like few people have the pleasure of pinpointing the exact moment that their mind began creating. I'm not talking about the constant stream of aliens, monsters, and manatees (yeah, my imagination was fierce) that haunted my rooms every night, nor am I talking about games me and my brother would make up or even our attempts to imagine ourselves into stories or new worlds (though all those early attempts are beautifully cemented in my memory). On that May afternoon in 1997, my mind starting actively pursuing imagination, inspiration, desire, etc.

As I flipped the pages, I faintly remember the warm shock I felt as I established the colors and textures of all the characters' robes, the moss (that I carefully placed) on the ancient stones of Hogwarts, the layout of the settings in which Harry came into and discovered himself. I was dreamer, architect, and grand designer of the Wizarding World that day. Perhaps it was simply the similarity in our ages that I shared with Harry & Co.(maybe eleven is the year we all realize who we are), but I think that was the day I discovered myself as well. Really, this might be the moment that all my longing for a real-life extraordinary existence began. And it was, for lack of a better word, magical.

From that day on, I was constantly imagining, dreaming, desiring, writing and establishing world after world bursting with places/circumstances I wanted to be (and reading HP to spur me on in my quest, of course). Places in which, quite frankly, I wasn't a socially awkward middle schooler without many friends, a weird high schooler that never quite fit in, an even stanger college student that REALLY didn't fit in, or an early 20-something realizing she didn't have to fit in : ) I couldn't stop creating. Still can't. Hopefully never will.

Tonight at midnight, millions of Potter-clad people around the world will flock to movie theatres to watch good triumph over evil in the final battle. We will act stupidly, we will have fun, we will all be part of something bigger than ourselves. I now know that this points to something buried deep within all of us. Events like this uncover the fact that we all long for this epic, good vs.evil business to be REAL, tangible, solid...why else would we care about a book/movie series that has characters called things like Winky, Lupin, Tonks, Mundungus, and Voldemort? Bahaha. It touches something significant in all of us, just as it touched something in me 13 years ago that I couldn't quite put my finger on and couldn't quite get rid of. What is any good story but a smaller version of the Real story of good truly triumphing over evil and love winning the day forever? Now: let's see Molly Weasley do the damn thing.

Harry Potter for life, baby! Thanks for the serious fun and adventure.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Doubting Thomas

John 20:24-29:

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This is where God is meeting me today. He says engagement with doubt (rooted in Scripture) is part of the sanctifying process and to bring it on (in so many words)...and that's a good thing, because I have a lot of doubt. Always. So many times recently I have found myself praying "please let this Life be real. God, please be real" It's a strange thing to pray, but I am really plagued with confusion about how this life is supposed to look and whether anything matters at all. I'm not really in the mood to draw conclusions that make it look like I have dealt with this fully and now have it it together (I'm most likely flattering myself there because I doubt anyone has ever thought for even a second that I have it together). However, I am pretty confident when Christ says "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" in this passage, he was talking directly to me today. And he promises he's not finished (Philippians 1:6). And that he's coming to show me his scars. Very soon.

Really thankful someone else has felt the same way and wrote a song about it:

What will be left when I've drawn my last breath,
Besides the folks I've met and the folks who know me,
Will I discover a soul saving love,
Or just the dirt above and below me,

I'm a doubting thomas,
I took a promise,
But I do not feel safe,
Oh me of little faith,

Sometimes I pray for a slap in the face,
Then I beg to be spared 'cause I'm a coward,
If there's a master of death I'll bet he's holding his breath,
As I show the blind and tell the deaf about his power,
I'm a doubting thomas,
I can't keep my promises,
'Cause i don't know what's safe,
oh me of little faith

Can I be used to help others find truth,
When I'm scared I'll find proof that its a lie,
Can I be lead down a trail dropping bread crumbs,
That prove I'm not ready to die,

Please give me time to decipher the signs,
Please forgive me for time that I've wasted,

I'm a doubting thomas,
I'll take your promise,
Though I know nothin's safe,
Oh me of little faith

-Nickel Creek, Doubting Thomas

Friday, March 11, 2011

Serious Business

This was too long to tweet, so I slapped it in here.

In my opinion (and my opinion counts for a lot, since I have read almost every CS Lewis book, essay, speech, etc. in existence.) this is one of the most beautiful, hopeful, insightful passages from any of Lewis' works.

Take this in, as it a truth freely offered:

"I do not think that the life of Heaven bears any analogy to play or dance in respect of frivolity. I do think that while we are in this ‘valley of tears,’ cursed with labour, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous.

For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order–with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order?

How can you find any image of this in the ‘serious’ activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heart-broken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis?

No, Malcolm. It is only in our ‘hours-off,’ only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were place here to live.
But in this world everything is upside down. That which , if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”

C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcom

I am so overwhelmed and humbled by the weight of the cross recently. How this end that Lewis speaks of (and I believe he speaks true) is made possible by the Stength and Determination of Christ's death and, subsequently, His grave-defying resurrection. What could such a compelling Love ever ask of me that I shouldn't freely give? His commitment defies all earthly notions. He's after our Joy. It can seem cruel sometimes to our finite minds when He tells us to give everything up for His Glory, but his delight in our sacrifice and the mutual delight between Creator and created that results from it is so heavy, beautiful, and REAL, that I can't deny all existence is wrapped up in what happened on Calvary. Oh God, thank you for Jesus, the One who beckons me come and die--with the only end being to breathe me into Life.

Monday, February 28, 2011


punctured lungs inexplicably heave deep sighs.
with his sharp knife sadness' slits crush
but enable earth shattering groans.
perhaps the groans are just weight put to words.
sadness' poem is simple, gutteral, beautiful, inescapable,
Until it is lost in numbness or victory.
I fear I will be lost to numbness if left to my own devices.
Victory seems so far away.
Who can cling to it?
oh, punctured lungs. you heave deep sighs...

Friday, January 28, 2011

This is how I think

Yesterday I wrote this on a paper towel at work. It's weird, but it's how I think and I am posting it as an interesting example of what my mind looks like.

I am sitting at a window on the second story looking out over the street below and it's dusty not the kind of dusty that you can mop off but the kind of dusty where you know it has become part of the glass muddling the whole view but also making it more realistic because isn't everything a little bit permanently dusty and I am leaning in in in in in and trying to make out the shapes that I know are clear on the other side but they just aren't coming into focus so maybe I need new glasses or something or maybe just some new perspective because I was told this would be clearer and it's just not. I strain my eyes leaning in in in in and without realizing it was coming I bump my head on the glass so hard because I was trying to make sense of the blurriness and I pull away feeling cold tears down my cheeks because I am so frustrated and I start to laugh too which is always what I do when I cry over something that isn't even that sad and also the knot on my head now smarts and I just cry and laugh because it works right here and sit back in my chair and want to forget the window because who likes a damn dusty window anyway but I know that window is the key to everything and the source of everything and so I lean in in in in as the tears stream and I start over knowing that I am never going to see through the dustiness but that the shapes on the other side are clear...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Necessary Specificity.

Disclaimer: These are the first words I have read—let alone written—in about a week thanks to the classic cough/cold/flu that only a cold, snowy January could bring. So, if this entry is lacking, or if it tastes of Nyquil and boredom, blame my intellectual muscles recently gone to seed, not me.

That being said, today I feel compelled, in fact I feel pulled (that moment your soul might die if you don’t spit it out), to write about specifics. Specifics, you say? That seems odd. Considering we live in an age that celebrates generalities and scorns “the agenda” like the bubonic plague, how dare I try and give commentary on the frightening necessity of specifics?

Hmm. Honestly, I must talk about them because I myself am frightened of them. I don’t think I have ever realized how scared I am of specifics until pretty recently. This fear is a reality that has been manifesting itself in my thoughts, actions, and mindsets for the last half a year or so, but it has manifested itself quietly and subtly, like any good ailment of the soul worth mentioning.

What do I mean by specifics? And why are they scary? For me, specifics are generalities come alive. This “organic-ness” makes them potent. Only in the specific can there be real life, but there we also must open ourselves up to the fact that there will also be (as with all organic things) death. Let me explain (maybe).

 Let’s start with an “easy specific” like a favorite movie or book. We subconsciously require certain qualities in such forms of entertainment that eventually become evident when we are faced with our own brand of perfection. Since this is my “game” I will use my favorite book, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. This book has it all for me: delightful, humorous prose; challenging themes; deep, relevant characters (because we are all Scrooge, people); and, most importantly, the call for social change with the presentation of irrefutable and uncomfortable truths. I never really knew exactly what I was looking for in a favorite book, just that when I read this one, I had found it.

However, favorite books can change and should change. Otherwise we would all still be singing the praises of the intellectually stimulating: “Pat the Bunny.”  A more concrete human example would be falling in love. This is a more costly specific. The moment that one realizes that it’s not about a list of qualities or a relationship status, but about a person. Oh man, it is a…formidable…thing when the concept of love becomes person-specific. It’s a wonderful and wounding place to be when one is faced with all the attributes one never even knew one needed in another and is invited to watch those qualities play out in a living, breathing soul. Talk about an unrefined (as in sugar) reality. When we meet this person, if we ever get to, I would imagine most of us never really knew what we were seeking before the meeting, but (as I said earlier) when we had read it, we knew we had found it. An inanimate concept—a mate—becomes an animate reality. I think (judging by the hundreds of sexual conquests I witnessed among people just in my 4 years of college) it’s obvious to all that we squirm away from allowing ourselves to be engulfed by such a specific.

Life purposes are probably the most avoided, especially for young adults today (this is coming from the queen of the non-specific life plan life).  So many of us (or maybe it’s just me) flit from job to job, passion to passion, continent to continent, longing (yes, because that is in us all whether we like it or not) to bring something beautiful and weighty to the world. And I have always been quite safe in this flitting mentality. What have I REALLY committed to in my life? I love skating around causes, people groups, and ideas without ever placing my whole heart into something, because placing your heart into something costs a lot. What if, down the road, my life’s work comes to nothing? If I take the plunge and finally focus on a potential end, mightn’t I be forced to see it die before it comes to fruition? Even in my life of non-committal desire, I have felt the pain of defeated dreams. Why do you think I love WB Yeats’ poetry so much? He knew the bitter taste I speak of. In fact, it is a rare person indeed who has not passed a day lamenting a particular dream that has died. It is an even more unlikely person that, on this day, has not muttered thousands of times “never again…never again will I believe in a dream…no end is worth this pain” God knows that I have. More days than I care to admit, honestly. When we get specific in our prayers and actions, we open ourselves up to unimaginable setbacks. But, and this truth has just recently hit me: what’s the alternative? I would argue that if organic objectives with real cost behind them can (and many times do) end in a painful death, our only alternative is to choose inanimate generalities and ultimately surrender our chance to fully Live. It’s a scary thought, and I think I could be a little bit correct.

So, inevitably, all this points to Jesus. Oh man I have been hit so hard with His specific nature in the last week, and although I believe the influence of Nyquil has helped the bruising, it has hurt like hell because my life (as I am currently living it) hurts Him. Passive voice aside: I have subconsciously been skirting around how precise my life for Him has become, for fear that I am going to get locked into something I can’t get out of.  What if I really bind myself inexorably to Jesus and Jesus alone? Not to the latest cause. Not to a person or people group. Not to the freedom He gives or the desire He fulfills or the longings He satisfies. Just Him. Jesus. Specifically. Undeniably. For His sake, not mine.

 It is a costly destiny. And all of me will be required to die.

We fear specifics. I have feared them the most. Generalities cost very little. But when we fight for something or someone watered down or weak, vague or undefined, what value does it really have? We love generalities as humans, because failure is difficult to prove when we are focused on large, imprecise and indistinguishable ends and inexorable allegiance is almost impossible to prove when we commit our hearts to more than one Person. We delight in the shadows. We have to come out and own up to the Person behind our Organic Lives or forfeit them.

Operating in His vast grace, I must own up to the specificity I am called to as Christ’s follower. Who is with me?