28 October, 2007

all the glory that the Lord has made and the complications you could do without

Hast thou not seen how thy desires have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

These lines from the hymn this morning struck my heart. I sang with a sideways, wry smile, for they were so clearly revealing, so directly pointing to my deceitful self. Willingly or unwillingly, I haven't seen how my desires have been granted in what God has ordained. As we left, I thought, "Actually, self, I've been praying for this for a year. God answered. Not in the way I wanted Him to. But He did." A hard thing to believe: an even harder thing to realize.

A weekend of highs (laughter) and lows (feeling very, very alone). The lows aren't worth dwelling on, but the highs are: running in the downpour, chasing Alex who took off with my umbrella. Talking with Elizabeth for an hour at the Union, pretending to be studious. Church; Tyler's hard -hitting but much-needed sermon (What do I actually worship? "We make sacrifices for the things we are devoted to."). Getting all of the classes I wanted. Playing guitar on my floor in the dark. Rediscovering great songs.

A new favorite website: Found. Makes me want to leave random slips of paper around campus. Or, even better, to find such little gems myself.

This is a good game. Mr. Capone gets the promised points for the correct identification of Carson McCullers, author of one of my favorite novels The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Who is this famous couple?

23 October, 2007

light gives heat

I forget about the rest of my life when I play frisbee. I'm not thinking about homework or exams or relationships or all of the variegated problems of the day; I am totally zeroed in on where I need to be and who I need to cover and whether or not I appear totally incompetent. (I was glad I went last night; everyone is so kind.) Now I know why so many of you are so religiously fanatic about it: it's a much-needed escape.

We have to invent new phrases to describe beauty--like that magnificent sunset the other day--for fear of sounding like a collection of Hallmark card clich├ęs. That irks me, but I understand why.

The things that made me happy today:
  • Catherine calling me an "edit-trix" (think: dominatrix + Anna Wintour) today.
  • Finding a crisp one dollar bill in the copy of On the Road that I bought a few weeks ago. I feel like Dean Moriarty left it there just for me; it's something he would have done.
  • The middle-aged couple sitting near me outside Lenoir, sharing a bowl of pasta and smiling at each other while they chewed.
  • Grace's drawing of the scene from the last book in The Wizard of Oz trilogy (yeah, you didn't know there were three books, did you?) with Billina the chicken defeating the Nome King. "Don't you know eggs are poison!?" It's taped on my wall.
  • Watching the orange leaves spinning to the ground from the window in Lenoir.
  • Alex Shearer
  • Zoning out during the 19th-century British Novel class; writing instead about Poet Lad and childhood memories (the day we sent our dog away) and stupid phrasing.
  • Chance meetings of friends on campus (today it was Brittany and Sam and Rose and Erin)
  • It wants to rain.
I just love this photograph. Whoever knows the identity of this author wins 250 points.

18 October, 2007

i'm a terrible lover

Home. I don't realize how much I miss it until I'm here.

Kelsey and I watched a flock of geese arrange themselves into a V last night while the sun was setting over Davidson. At first they looked like a cloud of black wings, messy and scattered. And then one would drop back and one would push to the tip of the V, and then another would swing to the back of the flock, continuing this smooth choreography until they had fit themselves into that familiar aerodynamic structure. I don't know why it made me so happy to see that; it just did. (Perhaps it's remembering that even the birds have patterns. Even the birds know there is a right and wrong way to do things.)

John (as in the writer of 1 John, which I've been studying since the beginning of the semester) is so aggressive and black-and-white. I am almost weary of his unflagging adherence to absolute truth. (Silly. I know.) But 1 John is all about being this or that; you can be nothing in between. He does not believe in middle ground. You either know God or you don't. You either love your fellow man or you don't. You are either perfect and sinless or a condemned sinner. You are either in darkness or you are in light. You cannot exist in shadows; you cannot dwell in partial lighting. I am struggling with this now; life doesn't look that easy to me. Is there something I am missing from 1 John? Or am I just reluctant to take it as it is?

My family is exquisite; I love them tremendously and cannot thank God enough. I will be happily occupied here until Sunday. Until then...

11 October, 2007

this too shall be made right

People keep telling me things I need to hear. Though occasionally jarring, it's always beneficial in the end. It is very healthy to have people like this in one's life: those who will get up in your business and look you in the eye and say, "What are you doing? What masks are you hiding behind?" I have had an abundance of these penetrating, earnest conversations these past two months that I almost don't know what to do with them; it's still so fresh to me. These sorts of meetings (collisions of spirits, really) have happened to me almost every day this week, through various methods through various people. And it is good. And I have needed it.

For example, Alex's talk tonight at IV was reassuring and challenging and appropriately aggressive. I am thankful that he isn't afraid to tell us where we need to repent, as so many Christian leaders seem to be loath to do these days. He said many true things, but the one that stuck in my mind like a briar was this one: "Busyness is a breeding ground for loneliness." So often we think the opposite, that busyness is the antidote to loneliness; that if we only have enough things to do, we won't feel the oppressive isolation, we'll somehow forget the lack of meaningful relationships in our short lives. I believe this lie. I am still learning to let it go. But I am heartened to see the gradual progress I have made in this area. Slowly, slowly, I release it; slowly, slowly I turn...

"KEEP ON loving each other as brothers and sisters." (Hebrews 13:1)

Taking a stroll around Gimghoul with my lover a few days ago...
Me: What are you going to do after this?
Catherine: I don't know. Run around. Start a fire in the forest. Incite revolt.

Tonight one of the women in IV encouraged us ladies, due to the excessive drought that our state is suffering from, to stop shaving to conserve water. I am totally down with that.

(I am re-learning how to be alone.)

Two song lyrics that have been absolutely killing me lately: Such brilliance!

1. "Oh, I don't know suffering; not even outside my front door / And I join the oppressors of those I choose to ignore / And I'm trading for comfort for human life / And that's not just murder, it's suicide / This too shall be made right."-- Derek Webb, "This Too Shall Be Made Right"

2. "And the string section's screaming like horses in a barn burning up..." -- Josh Ritter, "Rumors"

I cannot contain my excitement about going home for fall break... I even dreamed about it last night...

04 October, 2007

the popularity of charity

All of the sudden, it’s cool to be interested in stopping genocide and saving lives in Africa and feeding the poor and adopting orphans. This is a very good thing to be “cool.” How refreshing to have a positive cultural trend. I am simultaneously thrilled and perplexed about this philanthropic rage, though. The trend itself is not what I’m questioning; it’s the motives behind it.

I read a really striking (and personally convicting) book review in my beloved NYT Book Review this week that made me start thinking about this. Paul Theroux, reviewing a new biography of Henry Morton Stanley, wrote about the types of people who go to Africa. This is what he had to say: “A common denominator in this assortment of foreign visitors—high-minded pests and exploiters alike—is their wish to transform themselves while claiming they want to change Africa.”

Is this true of us? Why do we really want to “save” Africa? Is it really because we need saving ourselves?

Theroux also quotes Thoreau, who said, “Now, if anything ail a man so that he does not perform his functions… if he has committed some heinous sin and partially repents, what does he do? He sets about reforming the world.”

So here’s my question to the Church. Are we compelled to jump on this charitable bandwagon out of guilt or sincere love? Do I really want to love Africa or do I just want to make my life seem more meaningful? To elevate myself above my ignorant countrymen who do nothing?

Motives aside, I doubt we can ever be truly altruistic. From what little I know of human nature (being very young and arrogant), I believe no one does anything without thinking of themselves first. I act because I am going to get something out of it. Are Christians freed from this? I don’t know. They don’t seem to be. I don’t seem to be. Paul seems to subtly admit this disposition when he says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Somehow I’ve always read this verse as saying: You are going to think about yourself, so do that, but don’t forget to think of others and their interests.

Is it possible to look to the interests of others while abandoning our own? Can the two ever be divorced? Or are we all just guilty, insecure people masquerading as humanitarians?

01 October, 2007

actually

I didn’t do any homework this weekend, but I DID…
… get my blog satirized
... have a song written about me
… get featured on the famed Madras & Mustard
… have lunch with my sister
… go to the future Mrs. Skolrood’s bridal shower
… eat at the Mediterranean Deli with some of my favorite people ever
… wander through The Bookshop with friends and treat myself to four new titles
… go to Vintage21 and love it
… lie in the grass
… acquire a sinus infection
… have dinner with Quentin, Dominic, and Paul to celebrate Paul’s 21st
… read To the Lighthouse and Reading Like a Writer
… go to Compline
… finish the journal I’ve been keeping since June 16, 2007

So I didn't feel entirely worthless.