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cracking.the.spell. [Jan. 4th, 2009|02:41 am]
Anna
[music |the weepies. "and the world spins madly on."]

somehow i've managed to stir up a cocktail of certain books and films and world news reports and internet info-searches that is brewing up a storm of dark eyebrow-clenching anger in me right now.

right now, the new year is raining fire and blood on Gaza. God, if that doesn't make the sweet Sudoku game on my new phone seem a little inconsequential. even while watching the Bourne trilogy on january 1, all i could think was: this is not so far from nonfiction. our government trains people to kill and then kills them, or at least kills a significant part of their humanness. our government sells weapons of mass destruction to countries, assassinates their leaders, inadvertently helps trigger rebel groups against the inhumane way people are being treated as a result of these interventions, and massacres hordes of precious human beings under the dehumanizing labels: 'soldier'. 'terrorist'. 'civilian'. all considered as 'collateral damage' for 'the cause'. our government arms both sides of a war and sits back on its obese behind and collects the profits. our government has acted like a vicious vampire, sucking the life-blood and hopes of the nations so we can get stronger and more comfortable and 'free'. normally i would balance this kind of venomous criticism with some nice sentiment about how we've also done a lot of good for other countries, you know, gave them clothes after tsunamis and tried to get food to them during genocides and famines, and tried to pump Popeye's miracle spinach into their economies by providing a yellow brick road from the burgeoning shelves of American mega-super-greatland-stuff-marts to the friendly factory near them! where they can work! 12 hours a day! for a whole DOLLAR!

okay, maybe i'd say it a little nicer than that, on a sane, kind day. the books i've been reading say it much, much nicer. but they also cut the crap, and crack the spell that binds so much of the U.S.A. with the incantation 'God bless America! God bless the troops! they're fighting for our freedom! let's win this war on terror! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition! don't worry, we've got the Just War theory!' Just.War.has nothing to do with Jesus. [does it mention him? or any of his teachings? have you read it lately?] and Jesus wants nothing to do with it. he said LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. since when does that include killing them? since Christianity got drunk on the cup of power Constantine handed it, that's when. oh, i've known vaguely about the atrocities committed in the letter of the name of Christendom but in the spirit of mad grabs for power over society, and vaguely abhorred them, but haven't really known what to do with that. i still don't know what to do with that.

because these incidents are not just history; they are current events. when presidents and war chiefs tell us they are saying their prayers that good will triumph over evil - who is good? who is evil? who the hell are they even praying to? Wendell Berry wrote [quoted in Jesus for President] "These prayers are usually understood to be Christian prayers. But Christian prayers are made to or in the name of Jesus, who loved, prayed for, and forgave his enemies and who instructed his followers to do likewise. A Christian supplicant, therefore, who has resolved to kill those whom he is enjoined to love, to bless, to do good to, to pray for, and to forgive as he hopes to be forgiven is not conceivably in a situation in which he can be at peace with himself." are we able to be at peace with ourselves while 36 cents out of every tax dollar we pay goes to grease up the military machine and muscle up the war squads and tighten our government's grip on the necks of our enemies and allies alike? if i sound paranoid and full of rage here - it's because i am.

i feel like we're Prince Rilian in the Silver Chair, captive in the service of the evil witch, with many vertical miles of dirt and roots and rocks between him and the lovely, true, Aslan-serving, air-and-love-and-miracle-filled land of Narnia. she swirls her green gases into his brain every day so that he can't remember who he is or where he comes from, and remembers only her and her underground kingdom of darkness, but the illusion wears off every night and he knows the truth, knows who he is and whose name bears all light and truth and goodness and Love-power, which is no power at all, but overcomes everything anyway. he knows, in the dead of night, but she chains him to the chair ['for his own good'] so that he is unable to act on his knowledge and return to Narnia, to the real, beloved community where his life is meant to be lived.

i have no idea where[s] in the world the rest my life is meant to be lived, but right now i'm squarely placed in the Midwest United States, and with this new burden of knowledge, of Jesus and his example and teachings of nonviolent resistance to injustice [graced by Shane Claiborne, Anne Lamott, Walter Wink, and Father George Zabelka] i know i need to take some steps, baby steps maybe, to not stand up for this bloodthirsty empire of the U.S.A. any longer. i'm rethinking portions of my high hopes for Obama because i think he's probably still under that spell of the delusion that "this country is still the last best hope on earth" [his own words from the David Letterman show, quoted in Jesus for President]. it's scary to think about laying down a lot of parts of my way of life that seem to fuel the greedy imperialism of this country, but also there's a secret, subversive relief to the dream of living more simply, being less weighed down by the scramble for stuff to make you seem like you stand up tall and cool and successful in this society. but mostly, i don't want to stand up for it because i think Love lays down.

i mean, just look in the book, for Christ's sake.
besides all those times Love actually lays down
[in manger. in boat. on cross. in tomb.]
still Love lays down pride
even when sitting
[in temple. on hillside. on donkey-back. at supper table.]
even when kneeling
[to wash dirty feet. to pray in garden. to be flogged by barbed whips.]
even when standing
[turning water to wine. calling the disciples from shore. traveling and healing. clearing temple of money-changers. being betrayed by kiss. carrying cross. walking on Emmaus road, alive!]
Love lays down.

ha, i already didn't do a very good job of it, in using such violent defaming words against the people who've made those horrible decisions in the U.S. government and the historic church. i've never bought into the childhood taunt that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." bullshit. words hurt. like hell. but they can also heal, and so i will keep trying that, in light of whatever i learn. i wonder: how cold is it in Gaza tonight? how much fear is in the air in Israel? how many cries are bouncing off of the Wailing Wall? how many tears are the angels of Palestine catching in their bottles while we go on sleeping and eating and playing Uno?

cracking the spell, tonight, means cracking open my own heart and adding a little trickle of my tears to their torrent. for all of the above and more. because Christ is suffering. again. in the land of Palestine. tonight. laying down with the bleeding bodies, laying down before the hardened hands pulling the triggers, laying down with the fatherless children, the prodigal sons and the prayerful Christians and Muslims and Jews and with the atheists, too. that's reality tonight.

in other news, i think everyone should see Slumdog Millionaire [in theaters]. and The Kite Runner [out on DVD now]. in their fiction, they hit smack dab in the middle of some of the truth about India's slums and Afghanistan's war effects, respectively.  this opinion from an armchair existence, of course.  may the residents of Bombay and Kabul reprimand me if i am misrepresenting their reality in my impulsive judgement.

ha! i just found a couple pieces of advice from a long-time foreign resident in the Middle East about how to react with trust in God in this situation:

1. When you watch TV don’t get upset or fearful about the future, but turn those emotions into prayer. Literally. Stop for just 30 seconds and pray for both Israelis and Palestinians. Spend a bit more time praying for the ones you wouldn’t most likely be praying for.
2. Ask God what your part in this is. We’ve all heard that “we might be God’s solution to some problem.” It might be true. Don’t take yourself too lightly. You might hold some key to ...

[...cracking the spell. Walter Wink calls it the 'myth of redemptive violence']

let's pray so. let's pray. pray peace. pray that we will lay down. that we will love. love Love.
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next to each other. [Sep. 6th, 2008|11:13 pm]
Anna
[mood |trying to self-reconcile]
[music |paul simon 'peace like a river']


i have two very different postcards on my desk together. both came from the same country, having the same square shape, and same windmill watermark behind the area where you're supposed to write your message to your beloved.  both represent significant parts of this past month of my life. but look with me:

one is a peaceful blue and green scene, with a deep glass-topped river winding between fringes of verdant reeds and grass fields.  a miniature father and son sit in a tiny canoe upstream drinking in the daylight, and three model windmills gently jut into the slightly-cloud-strewn pure-blue sky-dome.  greetings from holland, it says.  this postcard represents the place where, almost four weeks ago, i spent a week at a conference center in the countryside, hanging out with youth from all over the world, singing songs with them and doing jumping jacks with them and talking with them and running around fields and through forests with them and eating meals with them and learning about how our cross-cultural lifestyles have shaped us and how our Creator-Lover-Counselor can use both our struggles and our strengths to shape the rest of our lives and to shape the world around us in beautiful ways...and finally saying goodbye to them.  all those memories dredged up by a little postcard...

so here, let's look at the next one. a frenetic display of red and yellow and brown, with a straight and shallow canal bordered by soot-stained brick walls. street lamps line the cement lip of the walls and reflect their bright gold bulbs in the blackish-brackish water. glimpses of a sickly green sheen tremble from the leaves of trees planted between lanterns. originally-white cars parked along the edge of the street take on the red tint that comes from every window of the solid fort-like garrison of tall storefronts facing the canal. an arching bridge straight ahead is hung with fire-orange lights, reflecting in the water to show two parallel lines of jagged-dagger flames. red.red.red. just oozes out of every pore and clings to everything.  greetings from amsterdam redlight district, it says.  this postcard represents the week that i spent post-conference with a small group of my peers and friends, exploring the city as well as probing our own hearts and experiences of leadership and failure and grace and such, and sharing meals and drinks and trains and trams and museum passes and canal cruises and hippie-market-adventures and history and spiritual mysteries and showers and bunkbeds and clothes and thoughts and farts and songs and dreams, and chilling in the church and apartment and favorite cafe of an awe-inspiring woman who has worked her whole life in the hurt-filled, heart-endangering, yet hope-overflowing business of loving prostitutes and helping them to be safe and avoid exploitation and eventually to heal and envision new directions and to make those come alive...and walking under star-studded skies through those very pain-filled streets of sexual brokenness, and standing still in a circle on a corner just speaking up open-eyed to our Healer-Hope-Peace out of compassion for the people around us searching for satisfaction in such desperate and destructive ways, as well as sadness for the darkness and lack of true love to be found in our own hearts, as well as hope for the efforts going on even now to stop human trafficking and to serve and shelter and befriend those who frequent that area...and hoping to 'find our own amsterdams', and sleeping together one last night, and missing flights for a purpose, and finally...again...saying goodbye. 

here's what still captures my mind-heart-imagination about that second postcard, about those streets where we prayerfully walked:

next to each other. across the canal, our lovely friend pointed. the building on the left was decked out in neon red lights, a huge overhanging marquee flashing its attractions of the night. the most notorious sex club in amsterdam's red light district, she said. but look - the building on the right - a humble, narrow brick apartment, with soft lights glowing through the windows. who lives there? we wonder. people who love Christ, she says. a community-family of people who are committed to living in the midst of that neighborhood where so much mind-blowing inner brokenness wanders around and dances in windows and stumbles drunkenly and clutches briefcases and sweats and steals and smiles and laughs and kisses and pays and collects money and curls up in a corner...yet there are people who are equally broken, who are simply grateful for the infinite grace that is given to them every day, every hour...people who are compelled, because of how deeply they have been loved, to love others who are broken...to live among them, to pray for them, to offer refuge and rest for them, and...i really don't even know what else they do, but they love the one who Is Love, and they do what Love leads them to do.

~~~

a few wisdom-wrinkled men have written statements to this effect, that true love, or being true friends, means not that we gaze at each other, but we look together in the same direction.  we walk next to each other.  it helps me, too, within my own life, to look at two very diverse experiences side by side, to acknowledge that they happened directly next to each other in one larger chunk of time along my personal journey, and to consider how they might complement each other to teach me some more holistic lessons that could not be revealed through just one or the other alone, and to come to some (always-in-process) conclusions about how to move forward in light of these insights.  right now... i have no insights about these images that are worth saying yet.  i just have the plain, raw, physical-eye-sights that i have described, and more that i couldn't put into words, and i have the mushy-avocado-mulch of my memories of conversations and ideas that grew and stewed between those of us who witnessed these things together - side by side - next to each other.

~~~

and now what?  i'm back at school, living next to over a thousand other human beings who have had very different experiences and very little knowledge of what i've seen, for the most part. and that's okay. that's part of the mystery and adventure, discovering the vast variety of personalities and perspectives and stories that pass us on the sidewalks and sit next to us in class and brush up against us in the dining hall and sleep in the rooms down the hall and work in the offices, behind the desks and counters and mops and vacuums and mailboxes...there is more.  there is a drama going on behind every pair of eyes.  i want to speak more questions than answers. i want to seek to understand more than trying to be understood.  to love more than to be loved.  all that stuff St. Francis said.  i do want to know people deeply, to be able to face them and give and receive grace and peace in abundance...but also i suppose i must be able to accept that sometimes in order to move forward together, we have to simply live in peace together, looking in the same direction instead of trying to dig into each other's spaces of alone-ness.  [is this true? i don't know. but it sounds good. maybe i just say it to assuage my fear of letting people get to know me deeply? my fear of not loving well that is so often triggered by not speaking well, not communicating well...maybe i do say it out of some of that deep-seated fear. but maybe it's true, too...] because i do think that we must protect each other's essential solitude, the cocoons and incubators we must enter into with only our invisible God as company, so that we may emerge new people, with fresh courage and joy and humility.  and then we must encounter and engage with people so that we use these gifts to bless others and allow them to bless and challenge us and be agents of change in our spirits, too.  balance, balance, balance...we must help each other in this endeavor, so that we may be known for the way we love each other as we live...next to each other.

~~~in process!~~~and in peace~~~

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amsterdam amazement. [Sep. 6th, 2008|11:09 pm]
Anna
[music |not gonna write you a love song (stuck in my head)]

'we're not in Indiana anymore, Toto...but it kind of looks like it!' [cornfields, cows, flat land, blond people]

bicycles. beers. bruises.

addictions. fears. and other confessions.

kids. third culture kids. musical collaboration. honest conversation. total craziness. love. kids.

roller coasters. strolls with my name-twin. speaking in spanish. sharing pastries and political debates.

liberating language usage. freeing theology.

a capella improvising. candle lighting. hand laying. foot washing. praying. communion partaking.

goodbyes. good cries. time flies. heaven lies ahead.

city slickers. picture clickers. eco-friendly walkers. international pancake gawkers.

dutch church. be bold. scarlet cord.

missionary celebrity relaxing. avocado squashing. love feasting. bookshelf browsing.

group debriefing. grief outpouring.

'thank you for sharing your tears'. still have unspoken fears. but that's okay.

Nouwen memorial. awe.

irreverent movie. old people. swedish braid. bolomde. bolomde again. cheers.

art. affirmation. markets. mystification.

mosaic cafe. bob dylan. monk label. innovative meal. meeting of passionate social anthropologists.

red lights in windows. tight grips on arms. stars and moon in night sky.

swimming stomach. hope-floating heart.

love stories. loss stories. last-minute revelatory glories.

trams. trains. goodbyes in rains. reunions on planes.

adventures in honesty. alone-togetherness. amazing human artwork.

see you later, lovers
 

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empty-pocket ways to a full heart [Jul. 31st, 2008|01:07 am]
Anna
[mood |mmmgonna.miss.this.]
[music |alison krauss sweet voice wraps around me like sweetpea tendrils in moonlight]

starry nights seen from way up high, above the fake lights

long lake-side bike rides

lovely ladies to hug on muggy days

little kiddies to lug around in bye-bye-buggies

free cheese curds

new song words

adventurous exploration

surprising transformation

comforting and challenging conversation

plenty of drama, emotion, and healthy confrontation

some overwhelming fears and tears

old people's stories, faded glories

sweet emails, walking trails

climbing towers, smelling flowers

silence...

 

...i'm gonna miss this summer. i'm already missing her...and him...and hiM...and hEr...and heR...

singing-clapping-swaying "Savior, you can move the mountains, you are mighty to save, mighty to save"...even me.

so...i lift my eyes to the hills that have to be climbed, and to the intangible but infinitely real face of the one who helps me, who never tires of being close to me, who always renews my hope that the next breath is worth taking and that i am worth taking it...

and gently breathe in a peace-full heart

and generously believe...you are a priceless work of art

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plate tectonics [May. 30th, 2008|04:13 pm]
Anna
[music |jon foreman.springCD.YourLoveIsStrong]

seeping cracks in the shifting slabs of my seasons and days let little strong smoky memories escape and wisp up and re-scent my mind,

like the construction-site smell of petrol/cement/vinegar as i walked past the new apartment buildings in this small-college-town neighborhood took me back to a little balwadi on the outskirts of Vellore where i spent a week stripping paint, getting covered in mostly blue and a little raspberry-colored dust, washing it off with generous dips in gasoline as if it were soap, energizing with soggy foil-wrapped cucumber-vinegar-sometimes-tomato-or-cheese sandwiches eaten in hundred-degree shade, tipping a cloudy ten-liter-jug of filtered warm water to stream-gush into each other's parched mouths, singing and laughing in Hindi and Korean and Tibetan and Malayalam and Hungarian and English and Spanish and Tamil, whitewashing that tiny room meant for tiny learners, slicking layers of thick glossy white paint over everything, and trying to make animals, alphabet and number illustrations appear recognizable and passably aesthetically pleasing with the limited artistic skills among us.  yay visitors! dipping the kiddies' hands in blue-yellow-red-purple-orange-green-pink, and lifting them one by one to press on the wall in the shape of hello.  handing them sweets, showering them with hugs and hoping their bony frames would be nourished by something more after we left, in the way of both food and affection. knowing the newly-color-coated school would help provide some early education, but still wondering about their all-around quality of lives, opportunities, what about their mothers, sisters, brothers...

why not.  why not shift things around and re-orient my life toward the goal of serving in such concrete ways. why not get my hands dirty in the nearest needy neighborhood. why not renovate my own dusty-blue-and-greasy-rasberry-grime-encrusted heart. why not share names and meals and trust. why not have a vision. whynot. a splotchy rainbow handprint painting saying peace.love.justice. tattooed on my heart, my hands, my feet, lasered in my eyeballs and imprinted on my eardrums and pulling the strings of the folds of my vocal chords. 

let the lava squeeze up between the cracks and not just the smoke, let it become a red-hot part of the now-me and my current day-to-day-collisions instead of just the melted-magma-sitting-below-the-surface as experiences-i-once-had.  not just to sniff a whiff of the memories and let them fade away again but to let that passion permeate every dirty dreary dormant crevice in which i've tried to stuff my thoughts of future dreams and goals the moment they seem too scary or impossible.  let them be re-defined, not to make them seem less scary or impossible, but to bring them under the light of the truth that the One who created all of this, who created me, can do anything, and that these are things he longs to see done in the world, no matter how scary or impossible they seem, and that he prepares and provides for those he calls, for those who answer and follow. and searches like mad when we go astray.  search me and find me.  open my eyes, be my vision.

whynot.why not pledge allegiance to love.justice.peace.

diverge, converge, transform my boundaries into Yours.

be my core, my crust, my atmosphere. 

"invade my heart, invade this broken town...

Your kingdom come, Your will be done [here]...

Your Love Is..."

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my my my [May. 26th, 2008|03:46 pm]
Anna
[music |the radio-ready hits of lonestar, taylor swift, and rascal flatts]

en este mundo, todo cambia, es la verdad. 

there must be a dam somewhere behind my eyes that's delaying the tears from flooding out of the resevoir for all these wretched goodbyes.  oh, the pressure's building, though. last night it pushed me to write an impulsive email to a boy.  the night before, it made me fall asleep on a friend's couch, hours earlier than normal.  and tonight it's giving me a headache.  at least the email and the extra sleep turned out to be good investments of time. and maybe this headache will pound some sense back into my brain.

i've got the irrational traveling itch. 

“When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don’t even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends upon them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in different situations.

At the same time, since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, and you feel happy to be alive.”  ~Paulo Coelho, from The Pilgrimage

at the moment my summer playlist includes a mix of some jon foreman.regina spektor.james taylor.india arie.derek webb.patty griffin.aradhna.boa.bacilos.sara groves.mana. and more.  these make me feel like i'm traveling a little, feeling 'happy to be alive'.  like a garden of sounds, springing from the streets of NY and CA to the stages of korea to the airwaves of central america to the ashrams of india to the country roads of carolina...all beautiful.

yes, i listen to country sometimes, and sometimes i get hooked on the pretty-packaged pop-country songs on the radio.  i do belong to this land in some ways, shapes, and forms.  it falls under the category in my head of 'folk music' or in other words, the semi-indigenous music of the midwest corn and cow country.  so i like it.  especially when i'm driving my jeep or brushing my teeth.

i need to do my geology homework.  indiana's got a pretty impressive landscape, despite its reputation as a flat wasteland.  caves and quarries and mines and dunes and moraines and fault lines and glaciations and floodplains and bedrock hills and all kinds of goodies.
my, my, my.

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saving up questions for never (no more) [Apr. 30th, 2008|11:03 pm]
Anna
[music |psalms and sermons]

 a sweet smooth little Chris Rice song goes: 
"i'm saving up questions for heaven"  

and i'm starting to wonder whether i really am subconsciously saving all my unspoken, unthought-of questions for some unknown time, for all intents and purposes a non-existent time, just saving my brain the trouble of thinking them up now, since they would probably be incoherent and irrelevant and take too long to answer and bother the hell out of people.  and other people always think up such incredible meaningful insightful questions, i could never think up such splendid questions, so why try.

the lies i tell myself. 

this particular little lie is paralyzing. numbing. immobilizing. inhibiting. just as effectively as my emotions were once, long-ago, paralyzed by the death-grip of depression.  i can feel myself blanking out as soon as a professor or speaker asks "are there any questions?"  even in a class like Explorations in Social Work, which i lovelovelove and want to learn all i can and pour my life into that work, into loving and serving people.  even in that, my absolute favorite class, where i should be fully engaged and inquisitive and squeezing the marrow out of all there is to know about the topics...somehow i panic, i flatline, i wipe the slate of my mind peculiarly and practically rudely clean, just at the moment i should be looking at the picture of what i've been absorbing and searching for the little gaps that need to be filled in to make the picture more complete. 

do i think i've got it all down, that i've picked up all i need to pick up, that i know everything i need to know already?  do i hesitate and come to a halt in my question-formulating process because somewhere in me has absorbed too much of the falsehood that questions signify weakness and ignorance, or of the lie that i am too weak and ignorant to think and speak meaningfully?  do i think i'm exempt from the need to dig deeper, to muster up the courage and be vulnerable with a concern, a doubt, a lack in understanding, a personal curiosity on something close to my heart or incomprehensible to it?  do i not want to be faced with the reality of the answers that might actually move me to change my life around, mess it up a little-- or a lot?  i want so badly to know how to ask these kinds of questions, questions that matter and break down barriers and move the mind and heart to see things differently.  and not just to know how but to let my lip muscles and vocal chords and breath stream be moved to actually ask them and be surprised and amazed at the answers, and moved by them into obedient, compassionate action.  John 14 tells how Jesus said, "whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me...if anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching...the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what the Father has commanded me."  somewhere in me or around me there must be a dark voice that wants to obliterate my questions and obscure the Way, by convincing me either that i already know it and don't need to ask questions, or that i can never know it and no amount or quality of questions will get me closer.  both twisted lies.  thank you Jesus for opening my eyes a little, but now i'm in more danger than ever of falling asleep on the job of following your footsteps...oh i need your protection more than ever, your promise of "peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."

even just earlier tonight, Chris Lahr spoke to a small group of us students to kick off Social Justice Week, and he spoke with authority and tenderness and a twinkle in his eye and a gritty Philly-laced edge to his voice, and he's been to India, and grew up in Indiana and gave his life to Jesus at a church camp about 20 minutes from here, and went to Eastern University and started the Y.A.C.H.T. Club basically by just hanging out with homeless people and being crazy-faithful to follow whatever God wanted, and then went to Asbury Seminary, and then joined thesimpleway and works for Mission Year, an organization that takes teams of young people to live and serve and create community in an urban area of need.  SO many things in that history that i would have loved to ask him about.  take that back.  so many things that i would love to know about.  but was too busy telling myself repeatedly and impatiently to think of something awesome to ask, or some way to introduce myself and thank him and talk a little about what i want to do with my life (therein probably lies the problem--i was focused on how to talk about myself, or how i was such a failure at asking questions), and never came up with anything that mattered or even made sense.  in this sad phenomenon of fallen human nature, i'm a prime example:

being consumed with self cuts off community.  and being cut off from community eats away at the self.

so what will it take for me to step outside of my no-questions-asked box?  well, maybe sleeping in a cardboard box for a few nights will be a catalyzing start, though that by itself can do nothing; it is the community we cultivate while we live there together that can transform us.  maybe realizing that stepping into a situation of wrestling with an issue is not a contradiction to the peace which i prize so dearly; rather, it is a requirement for true peace! reconciliation of any kind requires honest questions and honest answers about what has gone wrong, what has caused the brokenness and who am i/are we and who are you/y'all and who does God want us to be together.  restoring our relationships and ourselves to wholeness means engaging with the queries and queernesses in us and between us and around us; shaking hands with them, not stamping them out.

how am i going to overcome my non-participation in and fear of Q and A time?  i don't know.  Holy Spirit, come.  touch your flaming coal to my mouth.  here i am.  i sing along with an old Rebecca St. James song:

"i've sinned, come on my knees, for i'm not worthy of your love, how could you die for me?  such grace can only come from God,

oh Lord you search and you know me, you see me inside out, Lord you alone can forgive me, erase my fear and my doubt,

Father you pick me up, i feel like a child in your arms, i don't deserve this love but i hear your voice, Lord Jesus,

'go and sin no more', you say 'I will not condemn you, I'll forgive and I'll forget it all, go and sin no more, my child let me remind you it is I who'll lead and guide you as you go...'"

but before i go...

i do believe there is beauty and blessing in being able to just sit and appreciate what people are saying and gather wisdom from the questions and answers others give around me, and it would be wrong to carry around bricks of guilt for every time i stay quiet in a group just enjoying their presence and their thoughts, but it has definitely been laid on me lately that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...a time to be silent and a time to speak", and i need to learn to live in that balance, and be boldly vulnerable by being willing to ask questions, to spend them wisely instead of save them up, tear them up, or squander them.

so here's a question to ponder: where do i see Jesus in his distressing disguises, and how do i respond right now?  [Mother Teresa used to say that 'in the poor, we find Jesus in his most distressing disguises'.  and that you have to 'find your own Calcutta' in which you can meet people's needs, in the way that only you are uniquely able to do.]  it's Social Justice Week at Taylor, and i'm hoping to find some answers...by seeking and asking questions.

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recordar las que son rotas (son todas) [Apr. 27th, 2008|07:11 pm]
Anna
[mood |head bowed heavy but hopeful]
[music |gretel 'unreturnable dirt'--sweet mercy folk music]

marvelous mission statement and message from a semi-nearby megachurch minister:

rooted in the Word

renewed through worship

and reaching into the world

and the speaker's theme in chapel was REMEMBERING.  i was skeptical when he first got up to the podium because he looked so clean-cut and comfortably-living and slicked-back, but from the first word he spoke, he was convictingly real about his struggles, his experience of trauma after the Oklahoma City bombing and helping pray with the families of the victims in the very church that was turned into a temporary morgue for them...and he drove home the absolute necessity of remembering the painful, hard things of our lives.  because God is close to the brokenhearted, and his own heart broke and wept for his friend Lazarus and for all of his people, and his own body was brutally broken, so acknowledging and walking with him through our pain makes us become more like him.  and because remembering our pain gives us courage, to be able to look back on how far and how faithfully God has led us since that time, and to be able to connect with those who may be going through similar hurts and tragedies.  because remembering our hurts and hardships can help someone else heal from theirs, and that kind of restoration through relationships is honoring the way God made us to love each other.

in some ways i am encouraged and positively reinforced by this message, because basically my whole resolution this semester was to commit to going to counseling and remembering the struggles of my younger years, examining what I was thinking and what God was thinking about my relationships, my eating habits, my self-worth sources, my perfectionism, and other intertwined issues, and examining where i'm at now with those things (not done yet--He's still working on me, still breaking, healing, and restoring in so many ways) and how i can use these parts of my history, my story, to encourage/challenge the youth i will (God willing) be working with later this summer.  so...that's been hard, but so good.  but i know i've still got a long way to go to really dig into these things so that i can see and share how God's glory is shown in my life through them, through the hard things.

in other ways i am challenged and convicted by this message, because of how i can too often come across as someone who 'has it all together'.  one of my friends likes to tell me that he thinks of me as a step above the pope and a step below God in terms of how spiritually 'good' i am.  i know he's joking, but i also know this may be an impression i give off sometimes.  and this is blatantly untrue.  i fall apart at the seams almost daily, and i dig myself in some pretty deep holes over the long-term, too.  but i can too easily make it appear to be true.  and that doesn't benefit anyone, really, except people who want to ignore reality and believe that everyone's okay all the time, or who want to compare themselves and say hey, she seems perfect, i'll never be like that, so i won't even try, and they ignore the beautiful gifts and unique identity they have been given.  [i have been all of those people.]  of course i'm sure there are plenty of people who see right through me, whether they're close to me or not.  i'm not under the delusion that all or most or even many people see me this way.  but this seems to be a theme of my college years so far, that true community and true joy are only found and deepened through some kind of brokenness and suffering.  which requires transparency.  authenticity.  nakedness.  

Shane Claiborne puts his finger on it in this way:  "community can be built around a common self-righteousness or around a common brokenness.  both are magnetic.  people are drawn toward folks who have it all together, or who look like they do.  people are also drawn toward folks who know they don't have it all together and are not willing to fake it."

i'm so grateful for this Christ-centered community where we are encouraged to remember our brokenness, to let ourselves be broken before God and each other, and to draw together as folks who don't have it all together, and to reach out to people for whom recognizing their brokenness is not an option.  it's sad that we seem to have made it an option, but it's exciting and interesting that the pastor of a megachurch would say that it's not an option for people in ministry--he says he will not choose to hire anyone on the church ministry staff who has not been broken or will not acknowledge their brokenness.  everyone has been broken in some way, but not everyone is willing to genuinely remember it and remember to give that brokenness to God, to be used for his glory, to show people his character of perfect peace, healing, and love for every person everywhere.

"we gather together to ask the Lord's blessing..."  i sang with the Sounds last night for a roomful of people who've seen a lot of brokenness in their lives...and i experienced it later, too, when i went for my Scripture-reading timeslot and stayed to listen to others pray and read their portions in this 48-hour effort to read the whole Bible out loud in the newly dedicated Memorial Prayer Chapel, in which i pray we would be formed even more to be people who REMEMBER, who are ROOTED and RENEWED and REACHING OUT

and restored. revived. reconciled. people of peace. of shalom, of wholeness. people who re-member. 

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body.mind.soul. [Apr. 13th, 2008|01:59 am]
Anna
[mood |like a bursting waterballoon]
[music |susan ashton:stimulating countryfolksy sound like heartybarley soup for the soul]

 clay on the wheel, jar in the kiln, 

cotton on the loom, sari in the sewing room,

rosewood under the carving knife, walnut under the sandpaper,

worn leaking bucket in the well, new sprouting rice in the flooded field, 

still pool between the generous, swollen waterfall and the thirsty, turbulent stream

sometimes the stream

sometimes the rock sunk to the bottom

sometimes the turtle sticking its head in the sand on the banks

sometimes the paint-splotched balloon escaping on the wind

sometimes the malabar whistle-thrush warbling overhead

sometimes the skater-bugs gliding on the surface of the pool

sometimes the scum on the boulders sticking out of the stagnant pool

remember when: the swimmer immersed in the invigorating pool

mmm the pool.  be still my soul.  be strong my body.  be sound my mind.

i'm all over the place, in all kinds of stages of shaping and weaving and mending and cutting and dipping and filling and pouring and rooting and growing and colour-altering and patching and sinking and hiding and gathering-up and puffing-out and bubble-popping and balancing and diving and mucking-about and mossing-over and floating and flying and lighting-in (oh did you mean enlightening? did i?)

but mostly i just long for sleep. for deep, body-mind-soul-quenching rest. i keep succumbing to the urge to shut out the world by either curling up on my couch in the middle of writing a paper, which is irresponsible, or by sitting aimlessly absorbed in my computer screen all day, which is antisocial.  both reactions probably stem from the fact that i am not fully resting in God's infinitely capable and caring hands...oh yeah, sure, he's got the whole world in his hands, but ME? but i need to be, need to realize that the work he offers me may not be easy but it will fit perfectly and he will be beside me walking through it all...i need a forceful reminder of romans 12:1-2, which says in the Message paraphrase:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

or in a more familiar translation: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

susan ashton's song 'Body and Soul' gently rustles the stupor-steeped reeds of my scattered, relative reality right now:

once i was lost, hurting inside, dangling over the edge, but the history of pain barely remains.  once i was blind, but could it be that the excess of light was shading the weary past with the shadow it cast.  and as sin gives way to atoning blood, and a debt is paid with the riches of love, there's a hope that i see, there's a freedom in me, there's a comfort in death and in life, knowing that i belong to the savior who's making me whole, body and soul.  now i can feel a sense of resolve, choosing a new point of view, going against the grain, breaking the chain.  and the shackles fall on the road to peace, and i lose them all as i find my release, coz there's a hope that i see, there's a freedom in me, there's a comfort in death and in life, knowing that i belong to the savior who's making me whole, body and soul.  and hope eternal springs in me, and freedom seems to willingly carry me through a world of fears i've stored inside of me; Lord, abide in me...body and soul...

it's too easy here, sometimes, where my commitment and love for the Lord is communally shared and so not necessarily challenged each day by my classmates, and not contradicted by what i'm taught each hour in the classroom...too easy to lose sight of the adventurous, sweep-us-off-our-feet journey this quest after veritas is supposed to be.  (currently reading: Finding God Beyond Harvard by Kelly Monroe Kullberg) but it's exciting to know that there are those in the most hard-core halls of academia who have found hope and love profound, and faithfully been following the call of Christ who is light and truth, lux et veritas, in the midst of all kinds of study-pursuits (www.veritas.org).  of course it has always been happening, people testifying to the existence and personal experience of the God who is Love, of Jesus Christ (on whose name and truth most of the major universities of this country were founded!) and living out their faith in whatever their profession or walk of life they are meant to be in.  but it's encouraging that more of these people are coming out of the woodwork (or, more typical of a university landscape, the brickwork) and joining together in communities to share life, love, joy, hopes, doubts, fears, and all kinds of questions, and to open up those conversations to anyone with questions about life and how God relates to it all and who God is anyway.  or whether there is one.  that takes a lot of faith to believe, too.  but it's exciting to hear of so many distinguished scholars, scientists, and other thinkers standing up and speaking out in love to let people know how our Christian faith really does integrate with reason, with intellectual integrity as well as inspired creativity.  and it's a wake-up call to me as an undergrad music and TESOL student as i've become increasingly slow and slacking, that i really should re-dedicate myself to doing my work with excellence--not perfection, that's dangerous and impossible, but simply nod my head yes to doing my best instead of flirting with the borderlines of failure and broken trust.  *head shakes/eyes roll* at how easy it is to lose sight of the most basic life preservation principles.  *spine shivers/delicious face scrunch* at how brilliantly the mind of Jesus speaks to everything we need to be healthy, fully alive human beings in every way possible.  in that confidence i can, with a rejuvenated and intellectually challenged mind, repeat the words that were sung at my baptism as my body went under the waters to show that my soul would be anchored in my savior Lord:

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

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revive.shalom [Apr. 12th, 2008|04:05 pm]
Anna
[mood |it's gonna be alright]
[music |soothing sara groves]

i heard a definition for one of my favorite words last weekend that literally made me cry.

shalom = having everything you need to be everything you are.

even more powerful at that particular moment because i was at a retreat, in the process of realizing that there's this word, this idea, this passion that is rooted right in my middle, that resonates in my gut and my heart every time i read a book or scripture verse or hear a song lyric that contains it, that confronts me every time i look at the front cover of my current journal, that i've often been made to feel that i'm crazy for valuing this thing so much...and that word, that concept, that way of life, is

peace

doesn't everyone have a concept, maybe a single word, maybe a broader idea, that just gets to you, that you think "man, if the world had more _________, it would be a better place!  so many problems would be solved!"  for some people it's wisdom, or compassion, or hope, or maturity, or truth, or...so many things the world truly is in need of, but not every person can have every possible passion drilling into the core of their being.  except of course He did.  but i certainly see it as a gift that He knitted into the inner chambers of each one of us, that we are meant to pursue and wrestle with and bless the world with a specific aspect of His character and His hopes for humanity.

twists me up in knots sometimes, how much i long for the people around me and around the world, to know a true and lasting peace, wholeness, and reconciliation in their relationships with God, with other people, and within their own warring selves.

do you ever have a time when you think you're realizing what life's trying to teach you?  maybe even tell a friend or two, "hey, this is what i've been learning lately!" feeling all warm and fuzzy that, wow, finally, i'm receiving some of the signals clearly, and what a blessing for both of us to be able to hear and share what we're learning about life!  and then, sometime in the next day or so, something hits you in the gut like an elephant's trunk (that happened to me in Thailand once) and you are confronted with the reality of how shockingly little you actually understand of that exact concept.  down-on-your-knees-disgusted with the fact that you could even presume to let it be slipped and slid across your lips, when you so obviously have NOT learned even an inkling of how to live the way you said you were learning to live.  because that's the point.  LIVING it, not head-learning it.  i guess the smart thing would be to realize, back on that day when i start thinking that i'm learning something, that those are just the very first hints, signals, exactly, that the real work of the real-life lesson is about to start.  back when i first begin to think i've got it figured out, i need to knock THAT thought out of my head and look instead at how i have NOT been living that way--and listen hard for the rest of the lesson!  day in and day out until...well, i'm not exactly sure how you could know that God's done teaching you except...oh yeah! heh, you know, that day you die or something?  yeah.  that'll be great.  no kidding, actually.  that will be LIVING!

so, for me this time, it was about how we ourselves need to be filled with true peace, be steeped in the Lord's unrelenting love, before we can love others fully or be channels of his peace.  and it is absolutely freeing to realize that peace IS so integral to who i am and what my personal mission is in the world...but it is also dangerous sometimes, when i would gladly spend all my time affirming peace where i see it outside of myself, and encouraging others to love themselves...and too easily forget to be healed and filled by it myself.  oh silly, it's not an 'it', Love is a person....and Christ is our peace...my peace.  if i don't live like i am loved, why should anyone else believe it when i try to tell them that they are loved?  if i don't have a deep river of peace quenching the rocky, gritty, mucky ruts of my soul, how can anyone else receive it when i try to pass it on, to channel it into someone else's streambed? 

so when i tell you i'm learning something...please understand, i probably have only scratched the surface of all i am supposed to learn about it and experience it!  and i need to not let myself get away with that so much...not let it stop at me admitting that i have realized that that would be a good thing to learn.  i need to bow my head and heart and submit myself to the fiery process of actually living it.  

clay on the wheel, jar in the kiln, 
cotton on the loom, rosewood under the carving knife, 
bucket in the well, rice in the flooded field, 
still pool between the generous, swollen waterfall and the thirsty, turbulent stream

peace be the journey: paz, shaanti, shalom, amani, irini, salaam.mshvidoba.amaithi...

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