Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why Christianity Scares Me

Disclaimer: this post is probably of no interest to anyone but me.  Feel free to stop reading now and go listen to this song to put a smile on your face and get a wee bit of Christmas cheer.

Earlier today, my mom and I went to Wight's nursery to see the trees and the decorations and eat a cookie.  Then we popped in the Christian bookstore next door because she wanted to get a few stocking stuffers for the cousins.  I wandered, remembering how much I used to love this store, how I couldn't escape without buying a book or a journal or some sheet music.

But now... but now...

There are things that scare me about Christianity in this time, in this place.  Like how Laura Bush and Sarah Palin's books are sold alongside Biblical commentaries.  Like how living the American dream is synonymous with living the Christian life.  Like a lot of other things.

I was looking at board games because my roommate has quite a fondness for them, and ran across this one.  Faith & Redemption.  Now I know I have this nasty habit of over-analyzing the theology of anything in front of me to a point that's probably unhealthy.  But this game utterly terrified me.  The goal of this game - as I gathered from a detailed perusing of the back of the box - is to journey from the Garden of Eden to the Judgment Day while gathering followers.  The more followers gathered, the more prayers and miracles granted to that player; and "in the end, the player with the fewest amount of sin conquers Satan and wins the game."

Is this concerning to anyone else?

Anna, calm the hell down, it's a board game; let's relax.

I know, I know, I know, but hear me out.  If these are the messages that are being portrayed to young kids in Christian homes or Sunday School, this is what's going to form their theological understanding for their future lives.  The more people you convert, the more likely it is that God will answer your prayers?  And if you sin as little as possible, you win?

It scares me because evangelism looks like the opposite of reconciliation.

Concerned rant over.

PS: Em, don't worry.  I didn't get you this game for your Christmas present.  I was tempted, though.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What if?

There’s something in that sigh:
Did you hear it?
A longing, but not a longing; a
Simple happy sadness; a thought
Of remembrance; a whisper of
What if?
What if?
What if?
A knowing that this is better, all
Has been well; a longing for touch
Satiated now, to be awaked with
Each sigh of what if.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Perform

We took to the streets and set out a hat
And pretended that we had some talent.
Clouds made by our breath overshadowed our lack;
Quarters clink when they meet with each other.
My dry skin was cracking, your fingers went numb
So we fled with our (hefty) reward.
One day is enough to stand out on a corner
And pretend to be something you’re not.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wave goodbye, November

Things I've learned today, this week, this quarter:
  • First impressions mean little to nothing.
  • Prayer is terrifying.
  • My hands will always be cold.
  • Friendship takes time (and time is spelled s-a-c-r-i-f-i-c-e).
  • Surprises aren't all bad.
  • It's very easy to exist without caffeine.
  • Google is the most helpful.
  • Music.  Yes.
  • Optimism feeds contentment.
  • Fifty thousand isn't that many.
  • Anyone can be a morning person with enough sleep.
  • I love Harry Potter more than most things.
  • Being patient sucks.
  • Throwing Bible verses at problems is never a solution.
  • I'm never by myself.
  • Adding a little bit of cinnamon to hot chocolate makes it the best thing ever.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This is not a real poem

Empty apartment.  No school for three days because of snow.  No school for four more days because of Thanksgiving.  Good music.  Make haikus.  Build poem.

It grew increasingly harder to rhyme as the tiles dwindled.  Enjoy.

Science promises a logical tangle
Following no whispers for light;
He, feeling wicked (desperate), opens
Fire for the radical right.
My alternate dilemma honestly clear,
They embraced happy fortune fast;
God, who glorious, shot down
Peace in the ugly ass.
I ran behind the dripping
Slimy tiger heart; also lots
Consume your point, baby girl,
Blocks sweet travel home (so not).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A bit more

Sometimes I steal things directly from my life without citing.  Is that plagiarism?
Later, when Mark was at the library and Piper was practicing in the apartment (with no irate Garrett this time), I was eating some toast. I stood in the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against the frame, watching Piper’s hands move over the strings, moving his bow faster than seemed possible. When he’d finished one of his pieces, I asked, “Why do you like playing at church?”

“Why not?” he asked back, looking up at me, bowing a few random notes, sounding like the first phrase of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

“Well, I mean, it’s nothing like the pieces you play for orchestra.”

“Oh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, I mean, worship songs aren’t symphonies; hymns aren’t concertos. But, I don’t know, I think it’s a nice break from all of this crazy hard, crazy amazing music. It’s nice to play just for the sake of playing. It’s nice to play to serve others. And it’s nice to play in order to worship. That’s a new experience that I’ve never had and it’s turning out to be really cool. I like the people I play with and…” He was thinking at this point, stretching his arms out in front of him, holding his violin up propped between his shoulder and his chin. “My entire life seems to be music. And it’s nice to have a part of it that’s not graded.”

“Does your worship team know you’re gay?”

He played a small run. “Uh, yeah. I told them a couple weeks after I started playing with them. But I don’t think it ever really comes as a surprise when I come out to people. I try to just be who I am all the time. I’m not trying to hide from anyone.”

“Has that caused any issues?”

“My being who I am?”

“Your being gay and in a position of leadership in the church?”

“I wouldn’t say I’m in a position of leadership exactly. I’m more on par with the ushers and greeters than the pastors, but no, it’s not caused any issues. Mostly because I don’t try and stir up trouble.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I could be totally wrong here, Matt, but by your questions it sounds as though you want me to tell you about how the entire church body sat down and had a big discussion about homosexuality and the church with me standing in some spotlight, and then at the end of it all, everybody voted and it was decided that I would be allowed to serve on worship staff. Nothing happened like that. There was an announcement one Sunday that they were looking for some more musicians; I went to an informational meeting; I went to an audition; I met with the music pastor, and I was in. There wasn’t some great screening process. There’s been no church split: people have not left because I play on Sundays.”

I felt like he was snubbing me a little bit. “I just thought that maybe,” I said, trying to backpedal but be defensive at the same time (yeah, try and work that one out), “some people on your staff might have an issue with it.”

“With ‘it’? Oh Matt… I don’t go around my church, sticking an interrogation lamp in people’s faces and screaming, ‘I’m gay! Do you think homosexuality is a sin?!’ I don’t want to cause dissention.”

“But how can you-”

“Matt, stop. Think about this. What is it you’re searching for? What answers do you want? You’ve got these huge questions that a lot of Christians have very concrete and stubborn answers to. This is what they believe and they’re not straying from it, thank you very much. But you can’t just go around asking people questions, waiting to see if they’re on your team or not. Is that really what’s most important to you? Is it more important for you to be right or for you to be loving? Think on that.” He nodded emphatically, and started playing again.

Well, of course it’s more important to be loving, Kevin. I know the right answer to that question, at least. But isn’t it ok to want to be right also?

I need you. I don’t know how to love people who want to change me, who will tell me that I’m wrong and that ‘don’t worry, Jesus can help you.’ I don’t want help. I don’t need help. I just need you to love me the way I am. Stop trying to fix me. I’m not broken.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ok?

And when you've nothing left to give, give a little more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

For you:

I want someone to hug you so hard you can’t breathe.

I want someone to be there all those days when you’re feeling just the slightest bit lonely, and melancholy taps you on the shoulder, someone who’ll send a few words that suddenly affirm your worth and remind you that you are amazing.

I want someone to understand you.

I want someone to remind you that it’s ok to be messy and not everything has an answer, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

I want someone to hold your hand while you fall asleep.

I want someone to laugh at all of your jokes and to be able to give you space.

I want someone to tell you you’re beautiful every day.

I want someone to remind you to slow down and to see people and clouds and smiles instead of just politics.

I want someone to scratch your back.

I want someone to play with your hair when you’re feeling stressed, to make you tea when you’re feeling sick, to make you laugh when you’re feeling gloomy, and to make you think when you’re feeling bored.

I want someone to wake you up from a nap with a kiss on the cheek.

I want someone that makes you feel that it’s ok to be you.

Because it’s ok to be you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What does spring feel like again?

I'm struggling to write spring for the boys as it rapidly turns wintry here.  I mean, I wore gloves today.  It's cold.

There are two things that make me absurdly happy about this passage.  See if you can guess what they are.
I glanced around the room, not wanting to meet Piper’s concern-filled eyes. An old man was sitting in an easy chair beside the window, wearing a hat. He looked like he had several lucky grandchildren who got told exciting stories and pushed high on the rope swing in the front yard. He was reading a newspaper, half his face obscured by a front page bearing “Girl Eats Apple in Apple Store.” It must have been a slow news day. I was making up a life for this man (his name is Arnold and his wife is named Esther and they have a cat and a piano) when Piper touched my hand.

I almost jumped out of my skin. I have a problem: I don’t like being touched. Admitting it is the first step. I just wasn’t expecting that and it freaked me out a little bit. Piper recoiled at once when I reacted like a spooked horse. His eyes were big. He didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t his fault; I wouldn’t have known what to do with me either. I’m all over the map lately. I’m an absolute nightmare to be around. See what you’ve done to me, you bastard?

“Matt, I-” He paused to swallow. “How are you dealing with all of this?”

“Can we go? Can we just go, please?” My voice was really quiet. Kevin, you know that when you’re in a small space (a restaurant, the school lounge, what have you) and someone beside you is having a juicy conversation, and the harder you try not to listen the more you hear. I didn’t want to be that person, the ‘yes, finally something interesting to eavesdrop on’ for these caffeinated and recycling obsessed people. I needed out of there, and I needed it right then.

“Yeah, yeah, let’s go.” He bussed our mugs as I booked it for the door, needing to taste that cold mist and not be surrounded on every side by… ah, that’s better. Piper joined me on the grey sidewalk, saying, “C’mon,” nodding his head to the side. I followed him down a block, across a street, and then there was this stretch of water in front of us. That was unexpected.

“I’m sorry, I just…”

“Baby, there’s no need to apologize,” Piper instantly reassured me. “I essentially dragged you from the apartment merely an hour ago. Restlessness seems to be our theme. I completely understand.”

“Thanks.”

“Jesus, this last month has been shit for you, huh?”

“To put it lightly.”

“So, how are you dealing with all this stuff?”

“I ran away to come live with my brother.”

“Matt…”

“Pipe, I can’t talk about this anymore or I will run and jump in that kind of dirty looking canal and never come back. And then you’ll have to deal with a very angry roommate. Tell me something happy.”

“Sometimes I pretend that your brother is Ron Weasley.”

I let this sink in for a few seconds before dissolving into a small fit of smiling. “Would that make you Harry Potter?”

“No. Girl please, that kid is obnoxious. I’m just Ron’s hot roommate. But I think it would be cool to live with him, so… yeah. Don’t tell him.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“You said you wanted something happy, and what’s happier than a British ginger?”

“Not much,” I conceded.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I really love these people

Dear Snoozy,

Happy Monday!  I dare you to love it.

This weekend, this weekend... I was telling Allyson last night, I cannot get over the goodness of God.  How am I so blessed to be surrounded by these beautiful souls every day of my life?  Old friends, new friends, in the middle type friends: I don't have the words.  I won't ever have the words.  I'm so sorry that I can't tell you how much I love you, how much you really mean.  Know that you're the world to me.

Dr. Spina said this last Wednesday: "Is it more important to be right or to be loving?"  I've been sitting with this for days as God continually says, "Hey Anna," and nudges me.  Through reading an article about Mars Hill for nonfiction, through Richard mentioning Fred Phelps in his sermon, through talks with Holly, through the pastor panel.

My mind aches sometimes from the sheer weight of all I am learning.  It's funny how everything fits together.

I miss this: sitting on a couch, surrounded by seven people, listening to about four conversations all happening at the same time.

Maybe I'll never be able to set wisdom down in words that just make people sit back and sigh and say, "I have always thought this.  Thank you for the solidarity."  There is something so beautiful about the union that brings: in the midst of all our differences, we still have the same fears, the same hopes, the same longings, the same needs.  The difference is important; not to be dismissed for the sake of the whole.

I can't... I just have too many thoughts on not enough sleep.

But I really love you: you need to know that.

--

This is my favorite sentence from today: There’s a certain stinging betrayal in those words, as though there’s this little part of me still clinging so desperately to the possibility that maybe all of this was just some horrible nightmare, that the last month hasn’t happened, that the last seven months haven’t happened, that I’ve just been sleeping and will wake up at any moment to climb out of bed, don that uniform for the first time in three months, and go to the first day of school and nothing will have changed and we’ll all still be in third grade with Tucker in tears.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A small taste

Hi dear,

Today is a beautiful day.  Here's why:  I woke up five minutes before my alarm.  I continued to doze for the next hour.  My roommate tried to bring me tea in bed (because she wanted to surprise me with the best present ever*).  I went to the bakery, where Holly, Paul, Liza, Valerie, Laura, Em and her mom all got to be together at one time or another.  I wrote.  I bonded with George.  I went to Crawford.  I made banana bread.  It's pouring down rain, but our apartment is cozy and it's a Saturday afternoon.  I love this day.  I am so grateful.

I was telling Jill the other day how I am in wonder by all the goodness in my life.  There's no drama or discomfort.  I don't have anything to complain about: that is beautiful.  And a little scary.  Who knows what's around the next corner?

But for right now... I say thank you.

And now, just a peak:
I made a move to get a paper towel, but he thrust his body in front of me, barring the way. “Why so quiet, Matt?” He reached forward and tugged lightly on one of my curls. I swallowed hard, forcing down the bile that was rising in my throat. “Nothing to say?”

“I have to go to class,” I said, trying to push past him, my hands silently dripping onto the floor, onto our shoes.

“We’ve five minutes yet.” His eyes were all over my face. “You just want to corrupt him, don’t you? Drag him down with you to have some beautiful company in your slow descent. You’d love that. To take this shining light and bend him for your sick, perverted tastes.”

“Get out of my way.”

“You can’t, you know. Know why?”

I breathed deeply, nausea turning my stomach.

“Because you’ll never be right. And there will always be people who will hate you just for being who you are. Always.”

He gave my shoulder a little pat and turned his back on me. I watched his retreating form, terror gripping the edges of my being. When I wasn’t in class, you came looking, finding me curled in a ball in the corner of that bathroom, shuttering like a leaf desperately clinging to its branch in the midst of a gale. Thank you for holding me then. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you why you needed to until now.

All this to say: Piper and I, we have some serious solidarity. Hatred is discouragingly powerful. And the only way to kill it is with love. You taught me that. But even loving people doesn’t guarantee that they’ll stop hating you, they’ll stop marginalizing you, they’ll stop trying to fix you. Life taught me that. I might not believe in your God, sweetheart, but I believe in your love.

I suddenly ache for not being in the same town as you anymore. I really miss you, if these words have not construed that enough yet.

*I LOVE HER!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mid-Quarter

coasting on exhaustion
paper chains count down the days 'til Christmas
watching for snow
surprised by sun
yes, tired.
wondering how new routines, still not cemented, are soon over
coffee lines grow
word counts
time management (?)
unmotivated
procrastinatory (that's not a word)
impatient
optimistic
cold
old
wow, can we please slow down?

--

"I've discovered that SPU students smoke a lot more weed than I thought."  Thanks for that little gem in the middle of class, Tom.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good

There's a blister on my thumb, from where I burned it on a cookie sheet yesterday before church.  I fed some of those cookies to Nate later that evening when he came over for tea.  We talked about (everything, but at some point) church and how the two of us and Richard prayed over a woman having a seizure, and the awesome power of God.  Which we also talked about at Wendy's with Nate's friends, who I want to make my friends.

I wasted a lot of time last night, after the cookies and tea and talking, getting way too excited about Harry Potter.  Story of my life.

Also, I might be writing a novel... shh, don't tell.

My roommate is really awesome.  She's so good at loving me.  And she makes me laugh everyday.  Sometimes to the point that I cry.  And that's my favorite.  You should probably be friends with her.

Bon Iver is good for writing.  So is Franz Ferdinand.  But not together.
I'm gonna write you a letter.
I'm gonna write you a book.
I want to see your reaction.
I want to see how it looks.
I love you!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Brackets,

We've been having this love affair for months now, and while I don't want it to end, we both know it has to.

You started as a quirk, and you've become a crutch.  Emphasis turned obnoxious.  And it took the blunt words of Dr. Amorose to nail this home: Oh, and could you please learn to use hyphens and to distinguish between parentheses and brackets?  These little problems get really annoying.  Thanks, Tom.  No, don't worry about that cracking; it's just my heart.

I know this is hard, but I sincerely hope we can still be friends.  You really are important in my life, but I think we need to see other people.  Nano is coming up, and I can't be devoting all of my time to you.  Semicolons, quotation marks, and the occasional parentheses are begging for some attention and they have the grammatically correct upper hand.

Please know that I'll always love you.

Yours,
Anna

Monday, October 25, 2010

mums & sons

I don't have the words to express what I just experienced.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm sorry. I love you.

This morning, I sat in church with the harsh reality that people are going to hate you.  No matter what you do, how you live, where you are, someone is going to hate you.

Holly and I were searching for parking in the very crowed residential streets surrounding Bethany this morning.  We got chewed out by a woman walking her dog who we almost hit with the car [completely without our knowing].  Hol quickly apologized, and the woman countered with "'I'm sorry' isn't good enough.  Use your eyes!  Why don't you ask that church of yours to build you a friggin' parking lot.  Two of my friends have been hit by you fucking Christians."  Shaken, we found a parking spot and walked the three blocks in the rain to church.  "I'm sorry that just happened," I said to Holly.

And I am sorry.  It is such a weight on my heart that something accidental could cause such a negative reaction.  This woman already seems to have some serious anger against the church, and we only manage to exacerbate that.  I am broken over the fact that a near miss on a rainy Sunday further tainted this woman's view of our church and Christians as a whole.  But I don't know what to do to change this.

I don't like the fact that no matter what I do, someone is going to hate me.  I don't like that loving people does not guarantee love in return.  I don't like that just being nice to people won't fix the world.

But I know it doesn't matter what I do and don't like.

This is the verse that automatically popped into my head [I know, I know, Anna's making everything a teaching moment, la la la... sorry] after sitting down at church and writing those first two sentences.  Romans 12:18:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
It's significant that this verse doesn't read "Live peaceably with all."  The beginning clauses are important.  This is not a guarantee of peaceful living.  It's hey love, live at peace with everyone you come into contact with as much as you possibly can.  Let your side of the relationship bring peace, bring hope, and take what you receive with grace.  And then I rewrote the Bible.  Awesome.

My tea's gone cold.

This is something I struggle with because I want everybody to love each other.  "Guys, stop fighting" is kind of my catchphrase.  But this is not a realistic worldview.  I have to accept the fact that there's going to be hatred no matter how I'm living.  In the face of this reality, I will live faithfully, love faithfully [or at least try].

My life will not be measured by how many people loved or hated me.  We will stop failing when we stop trying to succeed and start trying to establish Kingdom [thanks, Andrew Marin].

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Essay of Place

Leaves

We stand in the middle. At a counter tugging strips of blue tape from their roll to stick in loops on the back of signs that no one reads, watching Alec carry orange traffic cones almost as tall as he is, hugging my arms around myself [it’s too warm with the pea coat on, just too cold off], sneaking into the sanctuary on an errand, savoring the warmer air before stepping back out into my place.

Alec is back inside, with a sleepy sideways smirk and mussed black hair. “Think I’m going to get some coffee,” he says as he always does. The hour of nine is too early for him. I shake my head with a smile when he asks if I want anything. Off he goes, leaving, hands shoved deep in pockets.

Luke passes through, on his way from the stage to the sound booth and back again. Bob does the same, and Karianne. I wave at them each, every time. I can be counted on for that if nothing else. I’ll get a smile in return, but they don’t stay, these goal oriented folk.

A red sign peels itself off the wall, dropping with a dull thud onto the carpet. Sigh. I push myself off the counter I was reclining against, walking forward to stoop. The laminated cardstock is harsh, unbending. Leveling the sign against the wall, I lightly pound with my fist the four corners, commanding the blue rounds to hold fast.

Stray leaves decorate the carpet like modern art, coming in from the chill, from the threat of the air-tainting leaf blowers and reflective vested bearers.

I slump again against the counter top jutting out from the wall; it’s holding stacks of tracts, habitually straightened; it’s holding me up. Alec, returned, is beside me, nursing a cup of drip from 7-11: his liquid humanity. Smiles and nods in exchange for words.

He leaves the two too tall doors propped open, welcoming the wind that carries more vestiges of autumn. We shiver together, waiting for the crowds, he with his coffee, me with a stack of bulletins.

When you think about it, our job is completely worthless. Really. I’m sure the brilliant students, faculty, staff who make it to chapel on Tuesday mornings could pick up their own bulletins and make it into the sanctuary all by their lonesome. We are extravagant accessories, invented to create a welcoming environment, to hand out folded quarter sheets, to say “Good morning” like we came up with the phrase. We smile to each other, knowing that we are useless as we watch the chapel team within the sanctuary form a circle in prayer.

Both heads turned to the left, still leaning against the counter, we wait for bodies to stroll across the street, through the construction cones Alec placed so lovingly in the midst of the road, crafting a safe zone for any possible pedestrian. And here they come, in ones, in twos, in hoards.

These crowds rush to get inside the two tall doors, an escape from fighting off a biting wind. In they come with thank yous and returned good mornings. And as quickly as they arrive, they’re leaving through a second pair of double doors, to padded pews and stained glass shadows.

But we, we stay. We do not arrive. We do not leave. We stand, pillared stabilities, tunneling the students, staff and strangers. We do our job well. Maybe not well enough, though; if we did better maybe they would stay, maybe this no man’s land between the secular and the sacred would be inhabited, maybe our wood between the worlds would deserve to be dwelt in.

Some do linger. Mostly friends, pausing for a hug and simple sentiments:

“How are you?”

“So good! And you?”

“Good. Tired. You know.”

We do know. That’s why you’ll find us stapled to that jutting counter from 9:05 until 9:21, paid two quarters over minimum wage to stand at the ready.

Others linger, hesitant, desperately gripping cell phones or watching for any sign of movement outside (is that a familiar face?), any possibility that they will not have to trudge down the aisle, slide into the straight backed pew, feel the weight of all that is holy, alone. Standing, suspended, inevitably ephemeral; knowing this is not your destination. It’s a passing place, a middle ground, a space for pause but not for staying.

Lobbies were invented for leaving.

Why not step directly from outside into the welcome embrace of the sanctuary? Why this open expanse of carpet and high ceilings and sleep student workers?

A place to catch your breath, I guess. A moment to pause before heading into the service, or to prepare before stepping back out into the cold, to be rained on by leaves.

We stand in the middle. In the middle of what looks like our entire lives, if life ends after age forty-five; one foot cemented in childhood with crayons, pretending, and nap time; the other firmly planted in the real world [but what makes it more real than this life today?] with nine to five, suburban homes, and paying taxes. We straddle the middle, in this made up span of young adulthood, these [wasted] college years.

A place to catch your breath. A moment to pause before heading into the world outside of handouts from the Bank of Mom and Dad.

So, welcome. Come inside, take a breath, take your time. No rush.

The speaker is behind the podium, those too tall doors long closed, all late comers packed away in pews. Alec is upstairs, gazing down from the balcony on the gathered mass, taking the count [142]. I realize my humming echoes.

A literal wall stands between us and the chosen few who sacrifice time and sleep to be here on Tuesday mornings. Maybe they’re only one hundred and fifty, sometimes thirty more and sometimes twenty less, but the sanctuary shakes with their worship. Or maybe that’s just Chris’s bass turned up too loud, coursing through my rib cage to cause tremors in my lungs.

“I get paid to go to chapel;” a common brag to any friend. But there is something so wrong about this sentiment. I steal from God for these two hours per week. Sneaking behind the scenes, snatching harmonies and sermons notes, allowed an isolated service where my voice in worship drowns out Alec’s, not ashamed to sing here where no one hears.

The benediction comes too soon, and out they rush like floods, eager to get to class on time. They come as a trickle, one by one, but leave as though a damn broke, all through those two tall doors. Into the real world.

That walk between pairs of double doors will take me three years. From the warmth of the intimately familiar comfort of past into the chilling unknown of whatever lies on the other side of that black mortar board. A place for passing through, but we all know we can’t stay here forever.

Alec, broom in hand, sweeps the leaves over the threshold after those who left. Leftover bulletins, red signs since pried off the walls, blue tape acting as a bracelet, pea coated, ready to head back to the office. I stand in the middle of the doorway, looking out at the grey, looking back to receive a sideways smile in exchange for a “see you next week.” And I know I’ll stand in the middle every Tuesday morning for as many weeks as I can, stealing peace, stretching time, savoring sleepy mornings until I leave for the last time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Block

My mind is going so slowly.

Signs are peeling themselves off walls, and doors are too tall.  Counters are holding up Shakespeare pairs, and narrativity claims that morality must play some part in psychological disorder, when the demonic is real but what paradigm do you think is most true?

There's only one thing I want to write, and it's not one of these four papers.  It starts with a "Dear Kevin," and ends with a "Love, Matt."

I'm sitting in a house filled with tea and cidar, soup and waffles, lovely friends.  But even this, it makes me think what if?

I am restless: that's the word.  I never want to go to bed, I never want to sleep in.  I never want to go to class, to work.  I never want to read, to write papers, to discuss.  I never want to stay in one place.  This isn't like me.

I don't know for what I'm longing.

I'm scared to fill this space with something that's wrong.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Plans

After a frantic search through my bag minutes ago, I came to the world ending conclusion "No!  I don't have my planner!"

But really, Anna, is that important?  No.  You know what's due today, you know at what times to go to class.  You'll survive not crossing off "Go to communion" for another seven hours.  Deep breath.  The world will not stop spinning.

I've found myself being an insufferably cynic for the past few days.  Do you ever get like that?  I just second guess whatever people are telling me, especially about God, so sure that they're cracked and I'm right [spelled that 'write' the first time...].  That's such a dangerous mindset to adopt, though.  We're working on it.

This song has been stuck in my head for a long time, and I've not gotten tired of it yet.  Maybe my favorite part is when Tom mocks Alex's hand gestures in the beginning.

Happy Friday, dear.  Don't forget to smile.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Strangely Silent

I'm baffled by my inability to have anything to say.  I mean, usually I have things to blather on about, an odd poem or two, a character sketch, a reflection, a question, something.

Nope.

Nothing.

Maybe because my muse is in China.  Maybe because everything is different this year [I'm growing, you're growing].  Maybe because I get up earlier and seem to be leaving my emotions behind.  Maybe too much decaf tea has diluted any creative thought.

Did you hear the thunder last night?  That was wild.

I finally came up with an idea for nano [and by finally, I mean I've chosen one].  Right now, it's called "I'm Gonna Write You a Letter" a la Guster.  I need to outline.  I also need to sit my ass down and write something to submit for Lingua.  And an essay of place.  And three other papers.  Cue a long sigh.

I have spent a lot of hours in the past few days watching Charlie McDonnell and Alex Day on youtube.  If you need a distraction, just search "Alex reads Twilight."

Fun fact: my roommate drew me a picture of Harry Potter yesterday.

Do you know the difference between narrative, narrative discourse, time of narrative discourse, narrative time, narratology, narrativity, and narrative genre?  I do.

And the sermon on Sunday is one of the best I've ever heard.  You can listen to it here.

If you're in Seattle, go see In the Heights at the 5th Ave.  It's amazing.

I can't think of any other random things to tell you about, so I'll probably go back to reading chapter six in the Cambridge Introduction to Narrative [yes, it is as exciting as it sounds].

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Claimed

Your love's not safe with me, Lord, so take it back;
And everything You gave me, I'll burn to ash
As a sacrifice to a different light.

Lord, I choose to cause you pain
But You pull me close to say that

I am Yours.  I am claimed.
And You still love me the same.
No more scars.  No more shame.
No mark except Your name.
From "the Kingdom and the Gospel."

I've been listening to the same two songs on repeat for the past two days.

I don't think you realize how painful it still is.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday

Trying to sleep in floods of blank verse
While memories peel themselves off walls,
Seeking the point [the purpose] of anything
While mountains blind and bind themselves
With chains of sunlight’s rays.
Skin rebels, betrays, with shuddering;
Hating.
Stop telling and show me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Allyson

"Can you tell me about Iona?"

Thank you for asking that question, dear friend.  Thank you for drinking tea with me on the couch, for listening to stories, for being excited about green stones, for knowing that our God is good.  I love this.

I love last night and talking with Nate and Em about last year and right now and why things happen.

I love hearing about your plans, your ideal post-college life.  Don't let anyone tell you it won't work out, because they don't know you, they don't know your heart.  You'll save the world by being a waitress.  I know you will.  Your joy is contagious.

"God is just funny.  He's just so funny."

Preach.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What I Actually Read This Summer

My plan vs. what I actually read:
  1. The Echo Within by Robert Benson
  2. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  3. Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin
  4. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  5. Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
  6. Sanctified: An Anthology of Poetry by LGBT Christians edited by Justin Cannon
  7. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  9. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  10. A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeleine L'Engle
  11. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  12. To Become a Queen by Ali Morgan
  13. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  14. God Hates Fags: The Rhetorics of Religious Violence by Michael Cobb
  15. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  16. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  17. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
  18. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw
  19. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  20. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Highly recommend: 2, 3, 8, 9, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

At the Canal

Strapped on dog masks
Snatching the Body of Christ.
Someday [soon?] I'll be as
Starving for You as they.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You are Light.

All of my friends who work on campus are really cool and involved in leadership, and therefore very busy with eating in Gwinn/engaging the culture and changing the world/not hanging out with me at lunch time.  So I went on up to Martin Square with my water bottle and yogurt and read Ephesians.

Paul's cool.  I'm a fan.

Take a look:
"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."  Ephesians 5:6-10
I always thought the verse was "for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are in light."  But it's not that at all.  For at one time you were darkness.

You were darkness.

Those are powerful words.  With the addition of a little preposition, we turn into a victim.  I see someone stumbling around woods on a cloudy night with no flashlight.  I see a group of college students playing Fugitive on Whidbey Island, the warm hand in my hand the only contact with humanity, blind to whatever terrors lie in the darkness.

But we weren't in the darkness.  We were the darkness.

Maybe the first thing that comes to mind is the smoke monster from LOST, but the following images are much more terrifying.  Someone shrouded in darkness, bringing shadow and sorrow with them wherever they tread.  Negativity, discouragement, hatred, suppression, exploitation, all in this cloud of darkness.  Yes, we were this person.  I was this person.  I still have my moments.
But now you are light in the Lord.
You are light.  You are light

You know when you're sitting around a bonfire, and the sun has set, and the sky is that deep, deep blue, and you're sitting just close enough to the fire that your back is a little too cold and your front is a little too hot?  Everyone around you, talking, laughing, eating s'mores, is staring nowhere but into the flames.  When ensconced in darkness, we seek out any light.  And the smallest possible light is not drowned by the darkness.

The smallest spark is enough to light our path.

And you are light.

You are my light.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bucket List

Yesterday evening, or this morning, or sometime recently I was thinking about things I want to do in my life.  A while ago, my mom asked me if I had a 'bucket list,' and I just laughed and said no.  I mean, what would even be on that list?  Let's see:
Ride a camel.
Live in Scotland.
Get published.
Own a massive boat.
Sky dive.
Go to Antarctica.
Be on a talk show...
These are things that I think about occasionally, that would just be so awesome to do.  But isn't a bucket list supposed to be full of things you want to do before you die?  So while chillin' with the penguins, up to my ears in cold would be great, I would not count my life as incomplete were I to die without fulfilling these fantasies.

But if we're thinking about things to do before death, what's really important?  What do I need to do with my life in order to have lived well?
Learn.
Love.
Bring more hope than pain.
And these things, I don't need to travel or have a lot of money [or literary brilliance] to do them.  I can do them right now, where I am in my life.  I can do them every day until, as my grandfather says, I 'graduate.'  And that's kind of cool.

I know they look abstract, but with abstractions in my heart, fueling my life, out comes concrete fruit.  Little things: smiles, listening, encouragement.  That's what I sit with, that is always my goal.  Little things every day.

But I think I'll still be sad if I never get published.

Much love.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Just Thinking

Do piano strings break?
Do wings grow back
                  that have been torn
                                                     off?
Does action mean words?
Does love mean agreeing
                  with every little point?
Does piety equal pride?
Does tolerance put you on
                  the fast track down?
Does thinking about God
                 mean prayer?
Does difference mean you
                 don’t deserve to live?

Monday, September 13, 2010

please

I weave a silence onto my lips.
I weave a silence into my mind.
I weave a silence within my heart.
I close my ears to distractions.
I close my eyes to attractions.
I close my heart to temptations.
-David Adam
I was just reading back over parts of Confessions.  I realized it is the coinciding of everything I care about: words, people, theology, the gay community, and hugs.  Those are the passions I wrote down in my journal earlier today.

It's something worth pursuing.

That, at least, is encouraging.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here and There

Judging by the mountain of used tissues in the garbage can beside my bed, someone has come down with a cold.  I'm very good at getting sick during the summer.

A quick note on swallowing:  if we're in the same room and I can hear you swallowing, one of three things needs to change. 
A)  the current volume in the room [it is way too quiet if I can hear you swallowing!]
B)  the distance between our bodies [I should probably not have my ear pressed against your throat if I don't want to hear you swallowing], OR
C)  you need to learn to swallow less loudly [seriously, it's disgusting].

What I've done with this lazy sick day, besides a lot of sneezing and playing an absurd amount of Jewels on my phone [I just got a really high score!], is some youtube-ing.  That's right, I took three hours and watched both Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and A Very Potter Musical.  It was the best choice I've ever made in my life.  Sometimes, I wish my life was Harry Potter.  Admit it: you do too.

In other news, my friends are really cool.  Three are in China, one is in New York, one just got home from Guatemala, one is in Australia.  I like them [am jealous] a lot.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Would it?

What if you were never born?  Would the world be any different?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Today, today we, today we are

Sometimes, I think I just need to write things down in these little black and white words. Fall is here, hear the yell. Back to school, ring the bell. FALSE. It is not fall; unless very much mistaken, my calendar still reads august. But the rain did pour today, as I sat in the basement eating apple slices with only my back teeth.

Sometimes, I can be singularly impressed by a sentence, ignoring entire tomes to sit and stare at eighteen words. Oh so impressive.

When I was in seventh grade I had a dream that I went to the Oscars with the entire cast of Lord of the Rings. Just a fun fact about me.

Today is sleepy: time for melancholy music and watching the rain and trying to build a novel out of one impressive sentence.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

think think think

too much fun has been had, i think.
daddy jeans and towheaded kids.
coffee by the sound and secret girlfriends.
shaky hands and nerding out.
my heart beats too fast often,
but sometimes too slow.

like time.

it breaks my heart to say goodbye to you.
be safe.
have fun.
you will make friends, i promise.
its impossible not to love you.
i love you so so much.

hey anna, did you see the ginger kid?
where?
over there, rolling in the grass!
the one the other kids are kicking?
yeah...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thoughts?

What Matters More
Derek Webb

You say always treat people like you'd like to be.
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality;
You love when people put words in your mouth
About what you believe,
Make you sound like a freak.

'Cause if you really believed
What you say you believe
You wouldn't be so damned reckless
With the words you speak:
You wouldn't silently consent
When the liars speak,
Denying all the dying of the remedy.

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

If I can see what's in your heart
By what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight
Is all it's about;
It looks like being hated
For all the wrong things;
Like chasing the wind
While the pendulum swings.

'Cause we can talk and debate
Till we're blue in the face
About the language and tradition
That He's coming to save,
And meanwhile we sit
Just like we don't have give a shit
About fifty thousand people
Who are dying today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Now that's encouragement

Goodness.  Both the exclamation and the noun.

Yesterday, at Neilsen's:
I love this place.  It's the happiest place in the world.  There is light, coffee, pastries, happy little old people, strangers walking by outside just begging to be written about.  Oh, and a small beam of sunshine named Holly.

Thank you for this moment to not have expectations.  To sit and sip and read.  To escape from the sun, but still feel the summer.  To know that I am known.  Because there is great value in that.
Today, Jill and I walked down the ninety degree streets of Seattle, talking of religion and truth.  That is my most favorite.  I have learned to love answering questions with, "I don't know."  And I've learned that there is no shame in that answer.

Search.

My pastor asked me out to coffee to talk of Iona and Celtic Christianity.  I am more than excited.  I am also indescribably encouraged that someone so wise [and so cool] thinks the Celts had it right.  I was getting a little worried that my grafting onto their version of Christianity wasn't the best of plans.

But really, I think they are great.  I'm not sure about the assurance of angels, but I have to hold so tightly to the belief that everyone seeking the sacred truth of God [no matter under what name] to to be wholly respected and accepted.  This is so difficult to implement in reality, but if this is a part of our foundation, it's a good place to start. 

I have to accept that we are not doomed, that there is choice everyday, to encourage or destroy.  But the tension this brings up in regards to the redemptive work of Jesus is troubling: isn't that something not to be questioned?  Anything that undermines or weakens the power of Christ's death and resurrection...  but perhaps there isn't a lessening, but a necessary new emphasis on the resurrected Christ, and his continued work and presence in us - this is how we see new creation every day and how God is still at work in our world.  And I do love that; I feel as though the crucifixion is often too heavily emphasized to the detriment of the power of the resurrection.  Without the latter, the former means nothing.

It's hard though; you still have to question a lot of things: When someone walks up to you and says, "Why is there evil in the world?" what is your answer going to be?

To be hope-filling in the world, life-giving; not hopeless and life-draining.  This is what I subscribe to.  People of hope, harvesters of light.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Parking Lot Prayers

I should not drink coffee.  Honestly and truly, I think it's unhealthy.  My hands shake, my brain sort of feels like it's floating above my head, everything is the smallest bit more unstable, my heartbeat makes itself painfully known, and anxiety is heightened one hundred fold.

After sitting outside Cafe Fiore with Jill and Paul, sipping an iced latte, watching an Australian and his dog, talking too much about housing for next year, we set off in the little green camry to drop Paul off at Pacific Place.  This is five-thirty: hello, rush hour in Seattle.

Too many cars.  Pedestrians crowd the zebra stripes, making turns impossible.  That light is yellow, this street is one way.  Inching forward, while Mumford & Sons seem to be screaming about raining down.  Drop off Paul.  Jill really has to pee.  Where does this road go?  Oh my gosh, bicyclers - please don't let me accidentally run you over.  We're going to be so much later than we told Mom.

Heartbeat is deafening.

Walgreens parking lot: Jill dashes off.  Turn off the stereo.  Turn off the car.  Pry shaking fingers from around the steering wheel to lie limply in my lap, palms upturned to the roof.

Father...

I explain my freak out, how it's silly and I know it's so.  I apologize.  I say thank you.  I breathe deep.

And we're all going to be ok.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dear Pastor Phelps

Hold your sign and scream at me
And I’ll scream right back, honey.
Picketing soldier’s funerals doesn’t
Make what you believe the truth.
You’re so sure about your ‘elect’ness
But I’m sure about my God’s love.
I wish I could sit down with you over
A cuppa and talk and talk and talk.
Where are you from? Who is your
Family? Who do you love? What
Is significant in your life? Can you
Tell me your life story? Please?
Because standing on either side of
This street, with respective signage
And screams won’t change either of
Our minds. Can I listen to you? Will
You talk instead of preach? Will you
Listen, in turn, to what I have to say?
Next time I’m in Kansas, I’ll look you
Up and find out.

Rules are made for

Show, don’t tell.
I take things terribly personally, but you’ll never know. I’ve taken after my trusty stuffed animal friend with my propensity for burying.
Write what you know.
I joke about being afraid of rejection, but it’s based wholly in a true and crippling fear. What did I do wrong? Why are you leaving?
Avoid clich├ęs.
I fall in love at the drop of a hat.
Don’t underestimate your reader.
I think I hide this better than I actually do.
Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.
I play the piano to drown you out.
Don’t split your infinitives.
I want to boldly speak my mind, but I can’t [won’t].

Monday, August 9, 2010

Smith's?

J: what time are we leaving tomorrow morning?
A: like 8:20.
J: and it takes half an hour to get there?
A: about thirty five minutes.  But I always leave extra time in case the bridge goes up.
J: does it ever go up?
A: only when I'm late, and then it always does.
J: kind of like that one law.  Who was it?
A: Milton's law?
J: No, that's not it.
A: Newton.  No, wait that's a real one.
J: Smith's...
A: Murphy's Law!
We're in college.

Lead me to the truth

“Anna, do you have quiet time?”
I skipped around this question, skirting the tickling guilt of a blatant “NO” staring at me bluntly.
“What does it mean to live as a Christian? And are you living that way yourself? Wow, that was a lot more profounder than I thought it would be. And then I said profounder and ruined the moment.”
I don’t get it – we could talk forever [and I mean that, probably for years on end] about these topics and ideas of church and worship and Christianity and prayer and ‘quiet time’ and community and what do you actually believe? Can you articulate it?

It’s fascinating to me to talk with people [ok, let’s be real, listen to people] and get down to the core of what they believe. Where are your views coming from? What ‘truth’ is ingrained in your theology?
“And are we sinful because we sin or because it’s in our nature?”
“It’s in our nature.” No hesitation.
“Interesting. Continue.”
Where are you getting truth from?

The Bible.
From pastor’s lips.
Books on spiritual formation.
Moments on top of mountains.
Song lyrics.
Conversation.
Blog posts.
Dreams.
Photographs.
Strangers.
Are you going to tell me that my truth is wrong?

This summer has been good to me, especially these last days. The time spent with Jill, with Val, with Nate, all the conversations, all the music obsessing, all the thoughts.  It's just been good.  Shakespeare and coffee dates and Aslan in the car and letters and hugs and love. 

God's restorative power has been displayed in so many ways [who knew I could heal?  who knew family could be so close?  who knew we could be friends again?  who knew we had so much in common?  who knew the security in speech?].  I am unworthily learning how to speak with my God, what prayer means, why it is important.

New ideas [too many of them?] circle in my mind, mixed with literature, harmonies.  How can an evening spent hiking on an island in Scotland, buffeted by the wind, watching the sunset on the longest day of the year hold just as much meaning as an evening spent making dinner and watching RENT with a dear friend?  Significance is where you place it.

Be floored by a moment today.  Let it take your breath and leave you reeling with its importance.  If it's a stranger holding open a door, a moment where all you can hear is the birds in the tree outside your window, someone who is genuinely glad to see you, or God's audible voice screaming at you to just shut up and listen!

I don't know if it's the caffeine talking, the high from the double bass and banjo, or something akin to joy... but time is stretching boundlessly before me.  And I'm so thankful for the chance to see where I'll end up.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Smell of Smoke

I wash my feet in the too small sink:
Grime of Garden's gold [grey] granules
Slips in spirals down the drain.
Kristina makes everything into a musical reference.  Like Alex, the Fire Nymph: THE MUSICAL!
High school pals: I'm glad we're still close.
Let's hang out more.

Love,
Anna

Friday, August 6, 2010

A day for

Today is a day
For summer clouds
For listening to Mumford & Sons
For nerding out
For dark chocolate covered edamame
For sleeping in
For buying composition books
For house cleaning
For sending text messages, emails, letters
For cat cuddles
For questioning your disappointment
For list making
For sun breaks and leftovers
For thoughts.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You

Sit back and breathe, drinking up your words so fast I’m worried I’ll choke. You [have a gift, are richly blessed with talent, understand, see beauty, seep out truth, amaze me, are so essentially yourself]. Thank you.

I don’t think I have deep thoughts like that, so thank you for voicing that which I know is true but am not able to speak or write or even think.

I feel unworthy to sit in the presence of your words.

You’re so fucking brilliant. I need you in my life.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Awake, my soul

You’ve got to know that God is friggin’ sweet:
When you spend days just wishing for amends,
Or sleepless nights of wanting to retreat
Into a world where answers are the ends.
And God says, boom, ‘Just try to ignore me:
You must know that I love you, my sweet child.
And just because I might not choose to speak
Does not mean you’re alone out in the wild.’
I laugh. Oh God, you know me top to tip;
With ever perfect timing, you can make
Me, reverent, silent, draw a breath and sit
In awe of all you do for just my sake.
I’m thanking you, the only way I know:
With words [and rhymes and rhythm just for show].

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Friend Crush

Slides click by
Silently, it seems.
This is a sanctuary filled,
Bulging at the seams.
Wrapped in a fleece and baggy grey jeans, soft spoken,
A sweet still stutter, too.
“Matt; nice to meet you.”
Stolen breath, a hand pressed to a heart.
Watching the back angle of your part –
Jaw works with worshipful words,
Smiles quickly and freely when Papa D.
Speaks of cities [which God loves more than trees].

Saturday, July 31, 2010

This is fact, not fiction.

Today, I finished a novel, gave up on another book, watched my favorite movie with my mom, and listened to too much Mumford & Sons.

Yesterday, I went on an adventure with Clarissa and Chester, learned some things about Alaska, ate fro-yo, and watched a movie about zombies.

Yesterday's yesterday, I forgot to set my alarm, organized some storage cabinets, Coldstoned with Jill and Val, shared sandwiches and apple slices with Becky Jo, met a stranger, and was forced to reconsider the importance of prayer.

The day before that, I learned almost all of 2nd SUB is introverted, drank fair trade coffee and texted my cousin about it, which made me miss him more, and paid three dollars to see an awful movie with my best friend.

Even earlier, I finished searching church websites for important updates, learned that a dear friend is shy, and hung out with Prince Caspian.

Days and days ago, there were a lot of goodbye hugs.

I really miss you.  A lot of you.  Jon and Mike and Em and Lara and Victor and Andrew and Joseph and Jess and Bri and Sarah and Cody.  And a lot of others, who I can't say just now.

Tomorrow, I'll go to church and see some Shakespeare.

The day after that... who knows?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Forster's Wisdom

"There is only a certain amount of kindness in the world... There is a certain amount of kindness, just as there is a certain amount of light.  We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows.  Choose a place where you won't do very much harm and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine."  - A Room with a View

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Familia

A haiku from Sunday, after saying good night to one of my favorite second cousins once removed.
Luke knows eloquence,
"Dear poker: go fuck yourself."
I close with, "Love, Luke."
My family is the best.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

1 John 4:8

Slumped in the dark, talking to God
[Talking to myself]. I just ask
Questions –
Broad, open ended wonderings.
Unanswerable. Or unanswered?
Coming to terms with how
Broken
This year left me – that ten days of
Sea breezes didn’t heal everything.
Turning the psychoanalysis inward,
Realizing it comes down to
This:

“It felt like this empty word that you just
Threw around with no meaning behind it.”

The whole point of my life crumpled,
Flung to the side, an utter failure.
Fuck.
Words written in January caused a crippling
Doubt; walls went up instead of bridges.
Don’t you understand:
I’ve no idea where I should go,
What I should do.

Will you answer me already?
Will you take this self-destructive
Blame?
Will you help me to forgive, to heal,
To know worth?

God [whom I can’t call father] –
If you are not love then nothing
Matters anymore.
"It makes a difference, doesn't it, whether we fence ourselves in, or whether we are fenced out by the barriers of others."  -E.M. Forster

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Playing [with] God

A work in progress.  The last four lines can stay.
My God sits there, across the board
Face serene, behind black pawns
I sit here, behind white knights,
Arms stay crossed, [and thoughts] withdrawn.
We both know the move is mine,
But I refuse to flinch or blink
“Let God be the one to crack
‘Cause I can’t win,” I crossly think.
God sits there, just watching me squirm
Waiting for my attack.
But I have left this bench before:
Unchained, I’ve turned my back,
But give it a lifetime, give it a breath
And back sneaks that black and white itch.
Knowing there has to be one simple way
To get un-cornered and make the switch.
We’ve played this game for some odd years,
Attacks both sneaky and sly,
Watching each other as much as the board
[We find and follow the eyes].
I slump on the bench, frustrated with God
Knowing I’ve one move to make.
And God [looking smug] is just watching me sink,
To counter my move with “checkmate.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teach Me Some Melodious Sonnet

These little pieces of encouragement
Thrown out without a thought by sowing birds
“Have you no idea?” says she, while bent:
She’s gleaning hope from simple clicks and words.
What means this now? That words have worth? No fear:
The shaking of a confidence will last.
But with these seeds, a brighter thought comes clear:
Voicing the silenced’s worth a break in fast.
I cannot promise you I’ll be succinct,
Clear, sane, driven or sober. Only this:
I’ll pen to build up love, and that [I think]
Is worth these breaths when my voice won’t exist.
You sneak up with that sideways smile and see
Me, ink stained, tired, silent, on my knees.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Small World

My heart is split in a lot of ways right now:

Seattle
Arizona
California
Oregon
Idaho
Colorado
Illinois
Alaska
Guatemala
Indonesia
France
Austria
Sierra Leone

Can you all please come home?

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Starbs, while reading Andrew Marin

"Christians talk too much because we really don't know what to say and how to say it.  It's time to pay more attention to living out what we believe instead of always trying to say it."   -Andrew Marin
Here's what I'm thinking: the love of God.  This is what has been given to us and this is what we are called to give to the world.  What did Billy Graham say?  "It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love."  I'm not sure it could be put more succinctly than that.  Our call to make sure the world knows about the love of God means that we have to be constantly aware of what this love is, where God is moving, and what approaching others with an attitude of love looks like.  While God's love is unchanging, my understanding of it is small, shifting as I learn more about His nature and our world and people and relationships.

I just got so freaking excited about love around the middle of freshman year that I think I stopped searching.  I had found something that made so much sense, I said, "Yes!  This is it!  Sweet.  I figured it out," and I sat back with my composition book full of verses, all ready to hug everyone I saw.

But my definition of love has been changing ever since then: this is not something from which to flee, but for which to be grateful.  It means that God is still moving.

It all comes down to this [wait until tomorrow when things have changed]: respect, unquestioned respect for everyone (including that homeless man whose eyes follow you on the sidewalk, those high school girls sitting two tables away who can talk of nothing but boys, those homophobic legalists who just happen to be related to you, oh and your best friends); an earnest desire to listen to and understand the stories of those people with whom your path will cross: to listen without judgement, to listen without formulating your counter argument, to listen without the agenda of wanting to change whatever the other believes, to listen and come alongside and live life together, seeking truth together; to be willing to change, whether this means our plans, our beliefs, our words, our opinions, our goals; a commitment to the fluidity of what it means to live in the Spirit: while He does not change, our understanding will; and to live what we claim as truth [the world reads Christians, not the Bible].

This is love to me.  Too broad a definition?  Well then, what's yours?

This is what makes sense right now.  I still don't know how to talk to God.  I still don't know how to talk to people.  But I'm trying to learn.  While my fingers shake from caffeine in my veins and Bon Iver softly croons, I honestly can't tell if I'm panicking or excited.  I'm just trying to learn, trying to not be afraid of change and movement, trying to find my voice so I can say, "Yes, He loves you and there is nothing you can do to increase or decrease that love."

That's all I've got.
“But Matt, don’t you understand? God is bigger than this issue, and therefore, so is our faith. We can’t pin God down and ask for specifics, refusing to move forward until He spells out what is sin and what is righteousness. Your being gay is just one part of you. By letting that be the only thing that matters between you and God, then you’re never going to get anywhere. Think of this: what if I defined myself as an asthmatic and only that? I’d argue with God over why He had created me so imperfectly and ask for healing. But I’d be cropping myself, not offering all of me to God. God loves me, all of me, and my worship is not less worthy because sometimes it’s a bit breathless. My asthma does not define me before God.”

“I find it a little bit disturbing that you’re comparing your disease with the essence of who I am.”

“Is being gay the essence of who you are?”

My mind said ‘yes’ immediately, but I sat there and thought about it, mouth open like an imbecile, for a few moments.

He said softly, “I don’t think it is. I see you: you’re introverted, thoughtful, brilliant. You hate books and hate seeing people hurting. You don’t like confrontation but are willing to have hard conversations. You are seeking after truth and wanting to respect people. Your mind works in ways mine never could and all of this would still be true even if you weren’t gay.”

“I think I’m missing your point.”

“Does God love me any less because I have asthma? Because I’m sometimes off key when I try to harmonize? Because I lost my temper and yelled at Claire last night? Because I’m willing to wrestle with Him over thoughts and doctrines that don’t make sense?”

“No.”

“Right. And God doesn’t love you any less because you’re gay.”

“But-“

“No! You can’t contest that, Matt! God would not love you more if you were straight. Ok?”

I sat with this for a minute, then breathed, “Ok.”

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Summer Reading

It's fantastic how much what I'm reading at the moment can affect my writing style.  Right now, I'm almost finished with When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris [bless him].  Here's just a sample of how my interior monologue sounds:
Hello, passive aggression. How I’ve missed you in my life. With your lack of capitalization and uniformity of punctuation, I know you mean business. Upon seeing you for the first time, I suck in my breath through my teeth, a wave of guilt encompassing my being. Uh oh, I’m in trouble now. But wait: full stop, let’s rewind. I haven’t done anything wrong. Defensive Anna is getting prepped. I have to calm her down, shove her out of her track lane and sit down and look at this.
Besides Sedaris, my summer reading list includes:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
And whatever else wanders by [if anyone has suggestions, I'm always open].

I'm also listening to the Chronicles of Narnia on tape during my commute to and from SPU three times a week.  I started this morning, and [oh my word] you can't even imagine how happy and excited it made me.  I know these tapes so well, listening to them whenever I was sick or bored as a child.  Such fantastic memories.  Such wonderful stories.

I had been at work for a grand total of twelve minutes this morning, and already done a run to Weter and given someone directions to the library.  It's good to be home, especially now that summer weather is making its entrance stage left.

My skin is peeling off in strips.

Can I just say really quickly that Valerie is one of the most beautiful people I've ever met?  I am truly blessed.

I love you [yes, you].  So much.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

On Truth

Sometimes, during sermons, I accidentally get really distracted by my notes.  Pastor Phil talked on freedom this morning [oh, how appropriate] and John 8:31-38.  Slavery to sin, the truth will set you free, and so on.  I got distracted, and think I distracted Nate beside me as well with mad scribblings.
Truth leads to life.  Sweet, awesome, yes, this is right.  But an issue [so much tension] arises when we believe that truth leads to life but we narrow down truth to this one tiny thing we believe.  Because of this, anyone who doesn't hold to this one tiny thing is falling into death.  And we're like, 'oh no!  must fix their life! here is the truth!' causing their [understandable] reaction of 'hey man, calm down.  I've got some truth.'  But their truth seems wrong because it's not our truth: cue massive screaming matches.  But, but, but it's the Truth; and this tiny part that we have a weak grasp of understanding on is a tiny little part.  And Jimmy over there, at whom you're screaming, has grasped a little tiny part of the truth, too.  Just because it's a different part of the truth does not make it less true.  Because God is truth, and therefore we can't fit truth inside our heads.  We have to let go of the idea that our truth is the only truth, and start respecting everyone who is seeking after truth.  Ok?  Ok.
I love it when I'm distracted by myself.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On Knowing

I don't know where I'm going.  I don't know if I'm staying.
I don't know who I'm calling.  I don't know what I'm praying.
You don't know if you know me.  I don't know if I know you.
But we're both searching for what sounds most true.

Why are we separated?  Why are there walls?
Why are there airports and taboos and falls?
Why is this dark line dividing our lives?
Why are we isolated while we survive?

Negative nastiness hardens my heart.
Screaming and panting and tearing apart.
Stuck in this small town, more like a hole.
Questing for wholeness [a possible goal?]

Thursday, July 1, 2010

From the Journal

My life is a listening.
His is a speaking.
My salvation is to hear and respond.
-Thomas Merton
On the ferry from Oban to Mull (June 16th)
Castles, lighthouses, rocks broken down to sand, narrow roads and tipping boats to a soundtrack of voiced accents.  Fog shrouds surround.  This place has weight with its aged mystery.  It could almost be home, be a jet from Anacortes to Shaw with all these grocery bags, but for the castle perched on the hill over there.  But any place [every place] could almost be home.  Even home is only almost there.  When everything is unknown, there are too many sights to be taken in all at once.  Camera shutter going click, clack, snap - capture these moments in your mind as well.

Sometimes I can't be a writer.  Sometimes I can't be anything.  I'm just a little girl, sitting on a street corner, waiting to be called home, offering smiles, weak beyond description.
On the North Shore beach (June 17th)
This place is beauty, whether crowned in sunlight or hidden by layers of fog, listening to the sea crash, coating each page with grains of sand.

The sea, Lord, in greens and blues
Speaks of your power that daily renews.
When I'm empty of self, a void without stance,
Your breath rushes in, with a crash on the sands.
In moments of peace, when the tide book reads full
Give us wisdom to know we won't always be whole.
And when mist rushes in to hide you from view
And we're blind to the gift of your greens and blues,
Help us remember and listen and know
That you do remain, just as tides always flow.

When you're sitting in sand, a stick works just as well as a pen.  Inked words, all of a sudden, feel a little bit useless and a little bit too permanent.  Because you will move us, and we have to be ready to change, shift, listen, and move as the waves and winds push and pull.  We not are not called to a stagnation, to let the flies alight.  Yes, a call to stillness, but stillness that leads to action.

Let me be moved: drag me in the tides of your will.  First one way, then the opposite.  Here I am.

Creator created courage combines with calculated careful caution as a quiet clumsy girl clambers [climbing] 'cross crags and cracks.  Standing, stretched and smiling, sun-kissed skin, a soaking of senses, a satiated soul, saturated in Spirit, simply savoring seconds of centeredness.
Post Dun I (June 18th)
I love this place and exploring and the sunlight on the rocks and the wind blowing so hard you feel as if you're flying while running up the last meters to the summit.  I want to be weathered [marked] by this place.
After the white strand of the monks with Sarah (June 20th)
Stranded monks in white
Rocks spell out
Jay
Oh
Why
Feet numbed by shallows
Dimly dusking pinking sky
Follow friended footsteps
Learning to love
Another place
As much as
Home.
In the common room, after the ceilidh (June 22nd)
The peace here is tangible, the way of life just lovely, the people incredibly beautiful (like Katrina and Beccy, Felicity and Aaron, Matt and Claudia).  I just want to stay here and soak up the essence of this place.  It is healing in nature; a reminder of how we are to live, how we're supposed to treat nature and people.

I feel the essence of this place, in its stillness, in its silence.  It feels ancient and wild and untouched even though so many have trod across its shores throughout the centuries.  In this place, where castles are commonsense, history is everywhere you look.

I will come back here.  It's in my blood.

This place is like therapy, she said.  Out of the city, you're away from the things that distract you.  You're forced to face up to things and actually think about them.  What's important to you is made obvious.  My heart resonates with this.  All of the fluff and unimportance is stripped away and you're left staring at your life straight on.  There's no hiding from your problems.

And that's what I needed.  Me, with my tendency to bury what I'm feeling under layer after layer of silence and organizing and absence, under, 'no really, I'm fine,' under promise and sacrifice, under selfishness and bitterness.

Here is your life: your one, wild, and precious life.  What are you going to do with it?  That's what the island asks.
On the bunk, all packed  (June 25th)
I feel as though I've written nothing, reflected not at all.  But I know I have.  Talking aloud about what has been affirmed in me though, tonight on top of Dun I... I know I've been taught things here.  It's just going to take a moment to take it all in and to reflect.  And by a moment, I mean weeks.  I'm a slow proessor.  But this place has been good to me.

Everything has been so beautiful that I don't want to forget a second.  All of these images swimming in my head - I don't know what to make of them.

He will provde.  With second drafts and streams of prose.  With understanding of person and worth as being.  With peace to sustain and love to share.  Thank you.
I'm not sure what stories to tell.  Does anyone have a prompting?  A question?  A curiousity?