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.


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


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


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.



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


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


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;
Stop telling and show me.