Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Little Encouragement Goodness and a few Proverbs too.

"Child, trust is unique. Do not waste it. Emotion is not consistent or faithful; fact and knowledge will not satisfy your soul. But hope and trust go beyond your head and your heart.
"When you find something trustworthy, something good, true, excellent, praiseworthy, just, pure, and consistently so, cling to it. In Christ, cling to whatever shows you God's character. Mistrust pervasively characterizes humanity, but not your own life."

"Peace, Child. You don't know what's coming. You don't even know what's happening right now. Be patient. Give it back to me. Holding onto it yourself isn't even faith. Just let me take over."

"Being honest is more than not lying. It demands that we confront all those sin-tainted aspects of our lives and at least acknowledge that we fail. We fail as friends. We don't care, we don't sacrifice, we aren't sincere, we aren't truthful. Let's not pretend like we are.
"But when I admit that I'm a failure, what pride do I have left to keep me from forgiving your flaws? We can see things as they are, take the world as it is, and in this honest light, make the most of our time on earth."

"Honesty requires understanding. We must know the meaning, consequences, and implications of our words. A fool drinks whiskey straight who doesn't know the possible effects of strong alcohol. He who judges hastily or speaks rashly or commands hypocritically is likewise a fool or an evil man."

"People should be told when they're doing something right."

"Honesty is not easy. It's the damn hardest thing you'll ever commit to live by. This is the ethic of warriors and desperate men in a world of children and beasts. The honest man is the enemy of all liars--himself included."

"We are shallow in our praise and hasty in our criticism."

"How can you 'love wisdom' and reject the goodness of humility? Humility is the most distinguishing virtue--because no one has it. The one thing that makes a man a true leader is humility. Anyone can give orders. Almost anyone can make decisions. Most people can organize and oversee. Few can admit when they're wrong, accept criticism, and listen to others with an open mind."

"In every relationship, in every pursuit, in every conversation, in every comment and word and deed, let me only edify, encourage, embolden, challenge, and build up those around me. May I never waste words that weigh others down, may I check myself against His Word to reveal and correct any error or selfishness in me. Let me never judge by my own standard but by God's and by that, all equally. May there be no deceit in me, may my words and actions proclaim His Truth before all else so that His Glory will be my witness."


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little Bits of Information That Probably Shouldn't Interest Too Many People

First of all, I've been on a Josh Garrels kick for about three weeks. That means that he's been about 90% of all music I've been listening to. A-mazing.

Also, I bought books recently. It was impulsive and wonderful and I feel smidge guilty about it. I got A Cry Like A Bell by Madeleine L'Engle from the library for $1. WIN. Then I went to Borders with three 30% Off coupons in my hand and I took full advantage of each one. I got The Eternal Husband by Dostoyevsky, The Idea of Justice and Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, and Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry. I feel very, very materialistic, but it's SOOO good. I can't resist.

(Actually I made a fool of myself at the bookstore. I took a pile of books in my hands--like 9 or so--and I plopped down with my back up against a table leg and I started reading. I was mumbling to myself, sometimes increasing in volume and even blurting out my reaction to something the author said, and pretty much acting crazy. I hope not too many people were scared of me.)

And that is the lunacy that I end up in when left to my own devices.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This Is My Life, This Is My Family.

Today has been full of random activites. I slept over at Hoags's house last night which was fabulous. She and I went to pick up a book from Borders, but they didn't have it so we went to Barnes and Noble. Now, we didn't just pick up a book. That's impossible. We spent a total of maybe two and a half hours in the book stores. It was marvelous.

This morning I drove home in a tizzy because I had left my wallet (with driver's license and debit card) at home the day before. I left Downer's Grove with probably 3/16 of a tank of gas. Thank heaven I made it home.

After I got home I rushed to the mall to meet Mom and Grandma in order to find a coat for Gma to buy me for Christmas. (Unfortunately, surprises are non-existent in the world of practical Christmas presents.) I liked the first one I tried on, but Mom said, "Try on some more!" So I did for about a half hour, then ended up buying the first one anyway.

Then I came home and made banana-chocolate chip bread.

At one point while Lara and I were watching Dirty Jobs while my bread baked I asked the brilliant and wise 13-year-old a question I've been pondering for the past few days. "Lara, is it just me, or is our family really nuts??"

Honestly, I have been wondering. For example, my dad is wonderful and extremely eccentric. Sometimes it's hard to hold a conversation with him because he has so many things going through his mind at one time that he can't focus on what's at hand. I think I'm a lot like him, actually. And he's not the only one, but my other family members read this blog. :)

But Lara's answer was, as I said, wise and brilliant. "Yes, our family is nuts." "Oh good, it's not just me," I said. "But," she said, "you're one of those nuts family members."

Yes, I know it. I'm very aware of it. My eccentricities are rather glaring. For example, I write compulsively and I talk to myself a LOT. I think if someone observed my life 24/7, they'd probably think I was schitzophrenic. Also, I am obsessive about books and knowledge and learning. I found a book in B&N yesterday that was the "Human Anatomy Coloring Book." I would have bought it if I hadn't forgotten my wallet at home. I thought how much I'd love to study A&P on the plane ride to London in two weeks.

And these are only the eccentricities that I'm actually willing to write about for all the world (at least, all of those on the world who read this blog) to know. There are more, trust me.

But Lara said something else that was brilliant and wise. "I wish everybody wouldn't try so hard to be on their best behavior so we could all realize that everybody's family is nuts." And she's so right. My family is definitely nuts, but I bet yours is too--no matter how perfect they seem.

Caroline and I went for a walk at Izaak Walton this afternoon. It was full of silliness and deep conversation and made me remember how much I love being home. We talked about eccentricities and she said that her eccentricities make her need grace from others and my eccentricities make me need to give grace to others. An accurate distinction, I think. (We also talked about her poor logic as she came to the conclusion that anything white is a toilet. Then I gave in and we gloried in the little white toilets falling from the sky. Yes, I'm serious. Yes, we were kidding.)

Anyway, there's a lot of crazy in my genes. I'd like to blame my family for my own eccentricites because they bring it out in me, for sure.

*Note: I just took a break from writing to go eat dinner with the family. Oh, heavens.

It takes a lot of grace to love them. I'm sure they give me a lot of grace, too (like when I forget my wallet at home). But as I told Caroline, the fact that our great God loves all of us in our absurdities is only a greater testament to His mercy and compassion. Who deserves such love? Who deserves such sacrifice? Not one, me least of all. And that's the beauty of it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmassy Music

I used to be such a fan of the day after Thanksgiving because it meant two very important things: lots of leftovers, and we can finally turn on the Christmas music. I have a good collection, too. A lot of stuff from the good ole' 1990s. Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and lots of sentimental stuff like that. Now I have Sufjan Stevens to help my holidays feel more indie, plus some Sarah McLachlan for the sappy mainstream element that no collection should be without.

And the other great thing about after-Thanksgiving, pre-December 25 days is that we sing Christmas carols in church (and chapel for the lucky 59% of us TU students who actually take advantage of that blessing we have three days a week.) But I'm a little bit skeptical of happy, "comfort and joy" Christmas songs lately. For one thing, how can we talk about peace and happiness so casually, as if snowflakes falling actually represent some calmness and quiet in the chaotic world we live in?

I've had to grapple with "Silent Night" lately. (Oh, jeez. I'm such a dork. No one talks about "grappling" with "Silent Night.") Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. I can't reconcile "all is calm" with the BBC headlines that pop up on my screen with "Charges Over Iran Prison Deaths" and something about World Cup-brand condoms in South Africa where there are 5.1 million people invected with HIV. (No, it's not funny.)

And I also have trouble with the idea that people all over the United States of materialism listen to these same songs with no concept of what Christ actually did for them. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21) "Calm and bright" makes me think of what Gandalf says to Pippin in The Return of the King. "It's the deep breath before the plunge." On that evening of starshine and angelic visitations, the heavenly realms rejoiced on our behalf, but in the realization that from that moment forth, Christ was in the territory of the enemy.

But this is also compelling. I realize that I must let the world know this, that this is our mandate: to show the world that peace and joy are not "harmony and happiness" but true communion with the one Creator who loves and finds pleasure in us.

Even so, what distinguishes a Christian Christmas? Is it merely the feeling and sensibility which we acknowledge when singing praises like "O, Come let us adore him!" Will mere reflection, though perhaps more genuine than the sentiments of a non-believer, redeem the season and songs that our culture has polluted? When you hear "Joy to the World," how will you recall the glory of what God has done?

My favorite Christmas carol has always been "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." O Come, o come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come for thee, o Israel. Imagine--the Son of God came in the form of human flesh. Does the Incarnation fill you with wonder? Do you marvel at the miracle and paradox of God becoming like the traitorous creatures over which he rules from his throne in heaven? Will you sing from your soul as the carols ring out on Christmas Eve?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I'm living in the future for a moment. Indulge me:

31 minutes until my last final of the semester begins.
25 hours until I leave TU to pick up Caroline and head home for Christmas.
10 days until Urbana.
19 days until Libby and I leave for Oxford.

My excitement cannot be conveyed through text.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

He Will Mess With You

"If God really did become man, die, and rise from the dead in order that we may participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), then there is no way that the power of the resurrection is finding its fulfillment in my life because I get a few more twinges in my belly during worship, or I learn what propitiatory atonement means."

I've been thinking about seminary again, why I think I'm going to do it, where I'll go...what do I want from seminary? what do I want from seminary?

I hate that question. I hate it because I keep asking it of myself. I hate it because I feel like I should ask it. I hate it because it's definitely the wrong question.

Does there come a point when you've learned enough? (Maybe for a time. Maybe I need to soak it in for a while.) Learning about theories of being and of God seems so pointless lately. Objectively studying apologetics does more to remove me from being a participant in the story of grace than to make it truly real to me. I look at it from the outside, see how this concept coheres with this logical argument, examine what the implications of this-and-such are on the ontological argument... and it seems so distant. When did I last realize that "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" (TTWNGCBC) is really that than which NOTHING GREATER can be conceived!!? Can my brain even understand that? Certainly not from the outside.

Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, "We do not merely want to see beauty, though, God knows, that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words--to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it." We are made to be participants, not observers; revelers, not merely audience members. You are the bride, not the guests. And this truth should flip your world upside down, people.

And ironically, these days my life only seems to make sense when I remove myself from the picture of it. I must get lost in the glory of His gospel and let myself wander aimlessly, exploring and enjoying the beauty of it all, the beauty of the cross, the beauty of Him.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Soft footfalls across a grassy plain
One, two, one, two drive me insane
But you remind me with a humble, loving laugh,
"To this you are called, you wanderer. This is your path."

Tonight I will leave you, tonight one more time
It may not be the last, but one can never know
I can't help but regret the hopes I leave behind
Still I walk my road, without looking back I go

But until the morning takes me I will watch you sleep, my friend
You will rise and I will cry to my God to keep you in His hand.

Monday, December 7, 2009

If I survive until Friday, these wonderful things will happen soon after that:

1. Silent Night
2. Home for Christmas!
3. Urbana Conference '09 (with Grant, Bryan, and Paul!)
4. J-term in Oxford (with Caleb and Libby!!)
5. Get to see Kari, Steve, and Hannah while in the UK!

But until Friday, taking one day at a time. Yes, one very busy day at a time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lighthouse Commissioning Service

In all of those old-school psychological thrillers (or maybe I'm thinking of ACME cartoons...) there's a scene when the hero is standing under a chandelier or an anvil or a bucket of boiling hot tar that is hanging by a frayed rope that will break at any moment. Well, hanging over my head right now is a sharp, 2-ton, crushing three-papers-and-a-physics-test-all-in-the-same-freaking-week. However, I feel compelled to write a quick little scribble of text in reflection on the Lighthouse commissioning service.

First of all, it was beautiful and thrilling how many people came out to encourage our Lighthouse (short-term missions) teams tonight. It's a rough week for most people (like me) but if there's one thing missionaries need (besides funding :) ) it's prayer and encouragement. The theater where the service was held was packed out, all there of their own volition and all with a passion and a heart for the importance of missions. Beautiful.

The music took on a new, tangible meaning for me, too. The "generation rising to take its place" was real, composed of my peers and friends. They cried for God to "fill my heart and make me clean, open up my eyes to things unseen. Show me how to love like you love me." They will need it. My friends will need to be filled up, to be satisfied by Christ's love when everything else is unfamiliar and maybe even frightening, and to move past their concern for themselves to see what God is showing them through images of disease, poverty, godlessness, and unrest. I hope we mean all the words we sing in chapel on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but I know that those men and women who will represent Taylor University most certainly meant those words together tonight.

Finally, Scott Moeschberger showed me what I want my future in missions to look like. He spoke from Micah 6:8, a verse most people around here know quite well: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." But people the world over cry out for justice. Hamas and the IRA demand "justice." How is the Christian's justice different from the world's justice? It is motivated and dictated by the Love of Christ, the loyal, faithful, undying and self-sacrificing grace and mercy of our own dear God. And not only that, but when we give of ourselves we must do so with only Him in mind, demonstrating that we are nothing but servants of the great Judge, the one whose Truth will reign forever over the righteous and the wicked.

We speak of the "passion" of Christ on the cross. What is passion? Passion is love lived out, freely given from sacrifice and the depth of our souls. Passion is action motivated by faithfulness to the Holy Father who calls us and demands our very lives. Maybe it's easy (though I doubt it) to have passion for one month on a Lighthouse trip. But what else will you commit to your God?

This morning in church, Jason Dorsey (*sigh* my favorite) said that, yes, when you become a Christian, God will indeed require you to give up drinking or your sexual promiscuity or your gambling. But I'm sorry, that's only the easy part. GOD DEMANDS YOUR LIFE. Don't take this Christianity lightly. It goes beyond tithing or resisting temptation. When you sing, "Show me how to love like you have loved me," you had better expect Him to do that--because He will and it will hurt. It will be painful. If you turn your life over to God, He will turn your life upside down. HE WILL MESS WITH YOU.

Mercy, justice, humility, love, and passion are the road to which you commit yourself. Don't fool yourself when you try not to fear where God will take you. Don't diminish the call He has placed on your life. It will try you as the cross tried our Lord.

But know that His love and truth will be your comfort in the darkest of times. He will never lead you where He won't accompany you. He will not require of you what He did not do for us Himself. And wherever you go, even if you don't have an auditorium full of brothers and sisters to comfort you, live in the confidence that He will bless you richly for responding to His call. He will know you and you will know Him. You will be His witness and He will be your God.

Please pray for Sarah Albinson, Julie Coddington, Julie Hogan, Kayla Cange, and others who will be traveling to foreign countries in January to serve on Lighthouse teams.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


George MacDonald is wonderful. So much wisdom that I could never express in words better than his own. So please enjoy and learn from him in the spirit of humility, because if you come at him with a rock-hard heart, his words will only break you.

"No speech at my command will fit the forms in my mind." (I resonate with this.)

"You know nothing about whereness. The only way to come to know where you are is to begin to make yourself at doing something...anything. And the sooner you begin the better! for until you are at home, you will find it as difficult to get out as it is to get in."

"'What is at the heart of my brain? What is behind my think? Am I there at all? -- Who, what am I?' I could no more answer the question now than when the raven put it to me in --at--'where in?--' 'where at?--' I said, and gave myself up as knowing anything of myself or the universe."

"'You have been making a fool of me,' I said.
'Excuse me, no one can do that but yourself.'
'And I decline to do it.'
'You are mistaken.'
'In declining to acknowledge yourself one already. You make yourself such by refusing what is true, and for that you will sorely punish yourself.'"

"Life is no series of chances with a few providences sprinkled between to keep up a justly failing belief, but one providence of God; and the man shall not live long before life itself shall remind him, it may be in agony of soul, of that which he has forgotten. When he prays for comfort, the answer may come in terror and the turning aside of the Father's countenance; for love itself will, for love's sake, turn the countenance away from that which is not lovely; and he will have to read, written upon the dark wall of his imprisoned conscience, the words, awful and glorious, Our God is a Consuming Fire."

"Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in the view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds."

"As it was love that first created humanity, so even human love in proportion to its divinity, will go on creating the beautiful for its own outpouring. There is nothing eternal but that which loves, and love is ever climbing towards the consummation when such shall be the universe, imperishable, divine."

Friday, November 27, 2009

City Love

Quote of the day: "I can't wait until Christmas when I have a man so we can walk around Chicago together and it will be so romantic." - Caroline

The whole family went downtown today for a “Welcome Christmas!” jaunt. It was delightful. I love the city. (Actually, I love pretty much anywhere, but I am indeed particularly fond of Chicago.) As soon as we got out of the car, Caroline and the girlies and I began composing a list of “Things I Love About the City.”

It was a beautiful day to be in the city. Blue skies, crisp, cold air and not too much wind. I like to look up and see a little patch of the atmosphere framed by imposing buildings of steel and stone and glass. #1. Tall buildings: reminders that the world is bigger than Taylor University.

We walked to Daley Plaza where the Christkindle Market was set up, filling the air with the intermingling smells of cinnamon-roasted nuts, bratwurst, and spiced wine. No really, it was glorious. And very crowded. #2. Black people, Hispanic people, Asian people, and people of all kinds of ethnicities mixed together. I love how you can walk through Chicago and hear ten different languages spoken within the span of ten minutes. #2½. Different languages and different cultures, mingling without blurring, interacting without opposing.

We inevitably entered the world of Black Friday craziness. MACY’S. Scary. Red and silver glittery balls, pestering saleswomen forcing samples of perfume on you, SALE! 30% OFF signs on absolutely everything (making me think that maybe nothing’s really on sale and they just put up those signs to make you think you’re getting a deal. Hm.) But we skipped most of that and headed straight to the lower level where the Frangos are. #3. Frangos. Now, this is a uniquely Chicagoan thing, dating back probably fifty years. Frangos are the most wonderful minty chocolates you’ve ever had. As I told Caroline, nothing brings out my girliness like chocolate. I defy many female stereotypes: I hate chick flicks, I’m mostly rational and very UNemotional in most situations, and I don’t find much pleasure in shopping. But chocolate—man, it’s in my genes. I. Love. Chocolate. And Frangos beat all. Don’t ever ask me about Frangos or you’ll see a totally different, obsessive side of me—and it might scare you.

After we spent about a half hour smelling the chocolate and FINALLY bought some and ate a few [dozen] of them, we headed upstairs to see the famous State Street windows. State Street is one of the famous north-south streets in Chicago, lined with great restaurants, pricey department stores, and exquisite theaters. Personally, I think the best part of State Street is the entertainment that lives on the sidewalk. #4. Street performers are amazing. The best time to see street performers is in the summer, around the end of June when Taste starts up. On every corner of Michigan Avenue you’ll hear the sickest beats. Maybe I like it because it reminds me of Africa (where I dream of going) because the high school-aged black boys sit in the city sun with shirts off, glistening with sweat as they bang on over-turned buckets with vigor, enthusiasm, and great rhythm. (Okay, I have a thing for drummers. I can’t help it.) They make me very happy.

But on the street corners, along with the sound of saxophone and drum beats you’ll hear “Please, ma’am. Can you buy me a sandwich?” “Can you spare a dollar?” “Spare change, sir?” Cardboard signs read, “Lost my job. Lost my home. Lost my hope.” “Help the homeless this Christmas.” It wrenches at my heart. “Things I Hate About the City.” #1. Wishing I could help and not being able. Yes, I can give my tithe or my donation to the Salvation Army, and I do. But when you hear intermingling shouts of “look at that cute coat!” and “spare a dollar, sir?” it’s overwhelming.

I used to go downtown every week during the summer and hang out for a few hours in Millennium Park with a frappuccino and a copy of Chesterton or McCullough. As I walked from Van Buren to the Starbucks on Michigan, I passed so many people who asked this randomly tender-hearted then-19-year-old for a few dollars. I never carried cash in the city (and it’s probably unwise to hand out money anyway), but I always wished desperately that I were a man so I could take them to lunch and hear their stories. There was actually one time I when I delightedly gave away a leftover ¾ of a pizza to a homeless man as I ran to catch my train, but the pleasure I had in sharing that was quickly crushed at the sight of two more homeless people on the next corner. What could I give them?

God, make me ever mindful of your children who are struggling, hanging on for dear life and for a sense of personal dignity as consumers wander about with bags and bags of new things on every arm. Let me do everything out of love for you and concern for your people. Humble me with your blessings and give me a heart that breaks for those hurting around me. And thank you for the city—its glory and its grime and the paradox of blessing and calling.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For Caroline

Hiding--not anymore.
I won't stay if you don't play your part.
It's more than just me, it's more than you.
Falling in love needs two.

I'm gone--until you realize
I'm gone--if you can see it
I'm gone--but don't you fear.
I've left you in stronger hands.

If you look, you'll see me waiting
Hoping you'll take a second glance.
Because that light in your eyes?
I can see it from a mile off.

We talk lightly of love.
Some even call it a game.
I hope you win every time
But what if that means I lose?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Back to the Beginning

Now that I'm finally back home for Thanksgiving break, I'm automatically picturing myself elsewhere. (The curse of Homewood, a.k.a. "The Bermuda Triangle.") Actually, I'm looking more thoroughly at seminaries. SCARY. I can't believe I'm really applying to grad schools (or starting to do so). In six months I'll be graduated. Goodbye Taylor U.

I feel as weirded out by the concept of my future as I did back three years ago when I was applying to undergrad schools. Some things have hardly changed: I have no idea who I'll ask to be my pastoral reference, the idea of rejection is as intimidating as ever, and I don't know when I'll have time to visit all these schools.

And some things have changed beautifully--I know myself. I've come more fully into an understanding of God's direction in my life. I know how I'm gifted. I know my weaknesses and yet I have confidence that I only feigned back in high school.

Every year, my faith becomes more and more my own. Every time I'm forced to look back in simple self-reflection, God shows me His faithfulness. I often think, "You've taught me everything. Now all I have left is to serve you." And each time, He laughs and says, "Child, you hardly know what I still want to reveal to you. You who think you have Me all figured out, just wait and see."

So I'm faced with uncertainty, and confidence. CONFIDENCE. I think I've come into a better understanding of that than ever. Confidence doesn't come in knowing yourself, but in knowing your Father and how He is working in your life.

It's a funny thing--with God, we perpetually have new beginnings. It's a new paradox for my mind to play with, horrible and wonderful at the same time: wonderful because the horror of our sin is perpetually wiped away, leaving a clean slate and a new beginning; horrible because the wonder of our Savior will always be incomprehensible, beyond our understanding, and beckoning us to seek Him out.

I will soon be beginning a new chapter in my life. Unknown, unexplored, unimaginable. Intimidating, frightening, unreal. Potential yet unrealized. Promises waiting to be revealed. Hope of something new, building on what He's already given.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wheelbarrows and Schedules

On the Myers-Briggs Personality test, there are a couple questions that I particularly like. For example, "You prefer to read a book than go to a party." Actually, I would prefer to read a book at a party. "You know how to put your time to good use." Yeah, I know damn well, I just don't do it. "You are consistent in your habits." Actually, yes, I'm very consistent--in my inconsistency.

It's that habits one. I can't figure myself out about it, actually. I like to be busy (active, rather), but I can't stand to have the same schedule every single day. I like variety, but I like consistency. I like consistent variety. No, varied consistency.

Anyway, I do find myself in a rut sometimes. I'm like a wheelbarrow that finds the straightest distance between two points and goes with it for a while, then discovers that, whether it wants to deviate from the path or not, there's a six-inch-deep furrow that entraps the silly wheelbarrow in monotony.

Not that my life is monotonous. (The people keep it interesting.) But there are two things that have become my six-inch-deep rut this semester. First, lots and lots of people have commented that the Union is my new home. It's not really a problem, I guess. I just like being in the Union. It has people, and windows, and WiFi, and coffee. Everything I need, in that order. And yet, I don't like being "that girl" who's always at the Union. Granted, it's not so bad when you're not an anonymous creeper; I know about half of the people who come in and out of the Union every day and usually have conversations with most of them. But it's like, "Oh. Elena's here. AGAIN." I don't like to be bothersome.

Other potential problem: this is kindof a good problem to have, actually, but I am very consistent in going to the prayer chapel every morning. I wake up at 6:30 every single morning and I go to the prayer chapel before breakfast. But when do your habits become mere habits? Not that I don't enjoy going. I love it. It's the highlight of my day. I just don't want it to be something that I do just because that's what I do. I want it to maintain that beautiful and special uniqueness, despite the comfortable consistency it has developed. I want it to be like a marriage that doesn't grow stale by "forever," but holds that spark and freshness, like the first night of the honeymoon, except better.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Days I Love the Most: when...

...I frequently and unexpectedly bump into people I love in random places.
...bands release long-awaited new albums (ahem, Whitley).
...professors give extensions before you even ask.
...the sun makes the orange leaves glow like flames against the coolest blue sky. friends come to me for comfort and advice.
...I have a lot of things to journal about.
...I get to play soccer on a gorgeous green field.
...I sense God challenging me and equipping me at the same time.
...I am actually productive from 10pm to midnight. most beloved sisters send me amusing messages.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Break and the Week Preceding It (or, I'll Never Marry a Philosopher)

Philosophy students are nuts. Full out, straight up, completely melodramatic and irrational. (Ironic?) We had "The Big" metaphysics test on Tuesday and it was a frenzy of philosophy majors in and out of the union carrying their caffeine pills in one hand, book in the other, and a box of Kleenex balanced on their heads. No one showered or slept or ate for days and the only time we tore our eyes from the page was to cry in each others' arms.

Fortunately, I tried my very best to avoid the panic that consumed most of those dear friends of mine. I was The Rock. No one ever died from a metaphysics test, I told myself. (And no one did from this one, either.) And through all the confusion about ontology, realism, presentism and other concepts of time, I did come to a very solid conclusion about the metaphysics of my life and future: I will and never could marry a philosophy major. When so many people who think in more-or-less the same way start talking about the nature of existence, everything just gets absurd. So that conclusion simplifies my life significantly. Good.

The weekend was Fall Break and a well needed break it was...though it didn't quite serve its purpose like I hoped. I had planned to read Dostoyevski, sleep, read "The Weight of Glory," sleep, and chill out with the chicas (and sleep). There ended up being more running around than I anticipated, but it was good nonetheless.

The best part of the weekend (besides a massage and napping in a heap with Libby, Rachel, and Kelsey) was watching a cross-country meet in downtown Grand Rapids. It was cold and wet and miserable outside and honestly, cross country is pretty darn boring to watch...until you get to the finish line. There, everything comes together in a thrilling climax of collapsing, convulsions, vomit, and utter exhaustion. I watched as guys ran their very hardest to finish five miles in under 25 minutes and as soon as they crossed the finish line, began to fall over, puke their guts out, and stumble into each others' arms.

It was a poignant image of Paul's words in Philippians 3:12-14, Hebrews 12:1 and elsewhere. The race of the Christian life is not a steady jog where we cross the finish line and catch our breath in a few seconds. The runners who came in towards the end of the race weren't half as exhausted, indicating that they hadn't run quite their hardest. No, we have to be like the ones who gave every last bit of energy and ended so gloriously. I want to collapse into heaven, knowing that I did everything for God's glory. Yes, I want to puke my guts out to the glory of God.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Burning

The most satisfying thing I've done in the past week was when I destroyed my journal from last spring. (The title of this is misleading--it's only a notebook, and I didn't actually burn it, but still.)

Actually, I've been thinking a lot about this one. You have to realize that this journal was my LIFE last semester. I filled every single page of it, front and back. A lot of it was very incriminating, a lot of very temporal, self-indulgent thoughts about what I want from my future, my plans, my ambitions, my expectations. Most significant is that not too much of it was relevant past the end of last semester. There was a lot of sentimentality, a lot of hyper-emotionalism, a lot of reading into things.

Really, I wanted to destroy it last semester. The final page read, "But I must rid myself of all of these writings. What do I do with it all? Burn it? Destroy it. Bury it. I don't think I want it to resurface ever. OVER. Let it be so. [I'm so dramatic!] ...Then again, I won't destroy it all. Maybe I'll look back someday and laugh...or learn." So I kept it. I frequently read through my journals (that's the point, right? to read what you've written?) and I often laugh and learn from my own foolishness. But I continued to hold on to this journal mostly because I thought God was still teaching me things through it.

Here's the satisfying part: On Tuesday, I had a relapse. I was inclining towards all the foolishness I used to write in that blasted orange journal. I was praying, "God, I thought I was over this? I thought I learned this lesson? I thought you brought me past that immaturity?" And it was humbling. I realized that He will never finish teaching me some things and my will must constantly align itself with His own.

But in a moment of despair, I was praying and writing and thinking and He gave me the most overwhelming sense of trust in Him. And not only trust in Him, but confidence in myself and the woman He is making me to be. "True victory over self is the victory of God in the man, not of the man alone." And I did something I never really believed I would do--I went through my neon orange journal with that Thoreau quote over the front, and I started ripping out pages. I ripped out the old self that is slowly disappearing into Himself. I left intact the pages where I actually relied upon my God, the prayers where my focus was on Him and His glory.

It's a transformation and a breakdown that I see in my own life. Realize, though--it's none of my doing. I've learned that transformation comes not from seeking something new but by seeking Him more and more. MacDonald said something in Lilith that speaks to this in a round-about way: "You know nothing about whereness. The only way to come to know where you are is to begin to make yourself at home." You'll never be home until you realize that your Home isn't on the earth, is nowhere to be found...until you start looking right where you are, where He is working in you.

It's brilliant.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Let all creatures be silent before You; do You alone speak to me."

*Quote from Thomas a Kempis

Here's some word vomit for you:

There comes a point when the problem with praying is not that at the outset it is a struggle to begin, to focus, to have a certain mindset; but that once you finally receive the gift of His presence, you can't seem to want to STOP. When the truest pleasure comes from spending time alone with Him and everything else seems bland and mediocre in comparison, God has become more your crutch than ever.

There have been moments when I struggle to find some kind of motivation to even rouse myself from praying to eat or do what are normally enjoyable activities. Perhaps at this point, other people are confused or think you must be depressed (which may be the case at some times). But I find that in those moments God has shown me the greatest joy of eternity. "Amen" is your least favorite word. Bent knees and folded hands are hardly the beginning of it.

It's even ironic--we often come to God hoping He will fill up the discontentment of our earthly lives. Instead, when we find Him we only realize that the peace that comes in knowing Him only makes the earthly discontentment all the greater.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The LOVE Chapter

I have a confession to make. See, I've been working my way through Corinthians these days. This morning I made my way to the prayer chapel at a still-dark 7am. After I prayed with Sarah and read a couple Psalms, I opened up to page 959 in my little green leather-bound ESV pocket Bible: the Love chapter, I Corinthians 13.

Okay, here's the confession part: I was tempted to skip over it. YES. Really. I very nearly skipped the whole chapter. I thought, "I've ready this SO many times, I memorized it when I was probably eight years old, and it's so generic and clichéd that I'm positive I won't get anything out of it." (Wow. I'm arrogant. What a bitch! *pardon my language*)

Fortunately, I stopped myself before that went any further. Love is one of the defining qualities of Christianity. If this passage is too overly read to make any difference for anyone, what can the rest of scripture possibly offer me?

So, at the risk of blasphemy, I rewrote this scripture so it would apply particularly to my life. This is what I came up with:

If I compete in Ethics Bowl and have all the right answers but have no Love, I am like a noisy alarm clock.
If the girls on my wing come to me for advice and I provide great insight but do so with pride and with no Love in my heart, I am nothing.
If I'm diligent and disciplined and all my professors adore me,
if I admit when I'm wrong and accept the consequence,
if I do all these things, but have no compassion or understanding, merely doing the deeds without doing them for other people or even for God, I have no Love in my heart and it counts for NOTHING.
With Love, God makes me patient, giving others the benefit of the doubt, sacrificing my own interests, respecting the needs of others first. The Love God gives me does not celebrate my deceitful victories but even when it is bad for me, embraces what is right in His sight. This God-gift of Love can endure all hardships, trusts in God's people, longs for the revelation of truth in and through God's people, and will suffer anything the world throws its way.
Love continues and persists and endures. It lives past rough times. All these things you do in Jesus' name will become history and meet their end. After all, it is only human effort (though God works in it.) But when God's perfection works through us to show and give and do this LOVE that He calls us to, it will last forever in His books of Life.
We were like infants, babbling nonsense that means nothing; but God makes us real men and women and transforms our babble into words, and words of Love. Our understanding of God is so imperfect...but He will fix that through His Love, and we will know Him so well that we can't even dream of it now.
See? These all are good - Faith, Hope, Love. But one will out-do the others in glorifying the Father. Maybe you wouldn't guess - it's Love.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letter to Ethics Bowl Teammates

What I Hate About Ethics Bowl
By: an Enthusiast

It’s that time of year again. There’s a chill outside, trees are turning orange, the smell of wood smoke permeates the air at night, and an invigorating sense of excitement accompanies these two words: “Ethics Bowl.”

So call me a geek for loving this, but Ethics Bowl is one of the best parts of the fall semester. Devoted preparation, eager debate participants, and that feeling of pride and utter superiority that no one quite vocalizes but everybody feels: “I am an ethical human being.”

Just kidding—I hope we’re not that vain. In fact, the one thing I hate about ethics bowl is that I’m afraid it gives us a less-than-complete perspective of what it means to be “ethical.” The content of our cases might indicate that “ethics” only involves end-of-life issues, discrimination, human rights, etc. Please—don’t be so fooled.

How do you talk about people when they’re not around? Does pride or your concern for what others think of you alter your behavior? How does respect (or lack thereof) for others affect your speech and actions? You may never make the decisions about whether to kick homeless Kenyans out of the national parks, but you will without a doubt face the day-to-day ethical responsibilities we have as Christians.

I want to challenge you, fellow ethics bowlers. I want to challenge you as those who will one day be held to a higher standard: the issues of an ethics competition are nothing compared to the issues of an ethical life. Ethics are not simple standards, they are how we must live. To quote Dallas Willard, we are faced with “the desperate human problem of knowing how to live, and…the law revealed by Jehovah, Israel’s covenant-making God, [is] the only real solution to this problem.” Love one another. The first shall indeed be last. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

And I wholeheartedly believe that by engaging in this competition, you set yourselves up to potentially become Pharisees of the worst kind. “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19) Ethics bowl is not for the faint of heart; the ethical life to which Christ calls us is even less so.

This year, my prayer for you all, my teammates, is that the ethics you debate so well and so eloquently will pale in comparison to the ethical life you live.

“To what end, O Lord? To what purpose? For what reason? None, but Your Glory.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

I don't like taxes, I hate abortion, but THIS IS NOT ME.

Dangit. I hate this.

George MacDonald, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Elena the Modernist

I've always considered myself a modernist. It's the reason-loving mind in me, the part that loves apologetical proofs and rational conclusions. C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and other great theologians of the 20th century have fed that passion with simple (but memorable) logical concepts like "liar, lunatic, or Lord" and such.

Interestingly, my favorite atheistic philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, was rather opposed to the concepts of the modernists. Though most would agree that he was quite consistently rational in his conclusion that a world without God/meaning is pure misery, Sartre insisted that Reason is not the characteristic that sets mankind apart. Instead, he insisted that the Will is the primary quality of human beings (not that he affirmed any human nature).

This aspect of existentialism (Sartre's philosophy) was not unique to atheists. Soren Kierkegaard (of whom I've written before) believed that it is the Will that motivates faith. In fact, according to Kierkegaard faith is directly contrary to reason (as in the case of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac). It is only the Will, the actual choice to live and act for God rather than for the praise of men, that distinguishes the Christian from all others.

Fascinating as this all is, it didn't come to life in my mind until I was reading Lilith and a few of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons.
Troubled soul, thou art not bound to feel, but thou art bound to arise. God loves thee whether thou feelest or not. Thou canst not love when thou wilt, but though art bound to fight the hatred in thee to the last...Will thou his will...Heed not thy feelings: do thy work. As God lives by his own will, and we live in him, so has he given to us power to will in ourselves. How much better should we fare if, finding that we are standing with our heads bowed away from the good, finding that we have too feeble inclination to seek the source of our life, we should yet will upwards toward God, rousing that essence of life in us, which he has given us from his own heart, to call again upon him who is our Life, who can fill the emptiest heart, rouse the deadest conscience, quicken the dullest feeling, and strengthen the feeblest will! (The Eloi)
Not to say (as Kierkegaard did) that there is no place for reason, or even for feeling, in the life of the Christian. Indeed, does not God call us to love Him with all our heart (feeling), mind (thinking), and strength (will)? But when reason or feeling fail, what can motivate us to do the good that God requires of us?

It is a choice to love God in the hard times, in the darkness, in the confusion, in the moments of uncertainty. Reason tells you it's absurd. Feelings aren't up to the task. But God promises to conform our Will to His own and in Him we live and move and have our being. "Existence was mine in virtue of a Will that dwelt in mine." (Lilith)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Recent Aches and Pains

You know what kills me? what really eats up my heart? what gnaws at my compassion and tortures my soul?

That in the United States, women destroy their unseen babies to maintain a false image of independence that people like to call “sexual freedom.” That in India, women are fighting to get union protection for those in prostitution so they will have benefits and recognition as a legitimate profession.

That right-wing Christians feel the need to condemn Obama’s “socialism” and in the same sentence predict a “great American awakening.” That whenever conservatives oppose the current administration, liberals throw down the racism card. That people think a government-run universal healthcare system or welfare system or anything-system will solve the problem of American rejection of personal responsibility and the need for true community in our world.

That Christ came and answered all these problems two thousand years ago but people just don’t see it.

Psalm 85:9

Saturday, September 12, 2009


If I suffer, let me suffer.
If I mourn, let me mourn.
If I fail, let me fail.
I want to know my limits.

Death is a comfort.
Endings and emptyings
Nothing but relief.
I know that I live on a timeline.

Know me for my sins.
Weaken and break me.
Call me out for my faults.
Remind me that I'm so small.

Not glaring but glowing,
My finitude in an infinite world.
Strength is less than enough;
Faith abounds to compensate.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Re: Paradox

In the tiny bit of a sermon that Randy gave in chapel today (in between talking about bow ties and new landscaping on campus), he hit on something wonderful and excellent and profound.

He said that, while we never really talk about it this way, belief in Christ and devotion to Him is hard work. It is not something that comes easily and it is not always enjoyable. We prefer to talk about the times when faith is emotional, sensational, and comforting--but those aren't the average days. Anything worthwhile in this world--with the exception of Christ's astoundingly free gift of salvation but not excluding His work of sanctification that immediately begins to follow--it all takes work. without sight or touch or sensation...the days of struggle and distraction and overcoming through Christ's strength alone...those are the days of Hebrews 11 and the men and women who conquered challenges through confidence in a truth that didn't feel real. (At least, it didn't feel as real as the obstacles that stood in their way.) That's the kind of faith that conquers, comforting or not.

We know it. We have faith in it. We believe it. And even when it doesn't feel good, we live it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Paradox of Faith, Truth, and Reality (well, for ME anyway)

"But if I found a man that could believe in what he saw not, felt not, and yet knew, from him I should take substance, and receive firmness and form relate to touch and view, then should I clothe me in the likeness true of that idea where his soul did cleave!" - George MacDonald

Reality is a funny thing. It morphs and changes constantly according to time, perspective, circumstance. Human beings are subject to hormones, emotions, uncertainty, extent of knowledge, time, senses, and so on. The thing that most wholly characterizes the world in which we live is limits. At the same time, God looks at it from His timelessness and omniscience and it remains the same, unchanging, reliably permanent.

This is a paradox: what I feel and sense seems more real to me, yet I do not trust it at all; and while I struggle to experience and enjoy what I know in my head and even in my heart, I never doubt it. Even when I feel strongly for God, when I'm overwhelmed with emotion and sensation of love for Him, I doubt my feelings and attribute them to the worship music or my blessed (or desperate) circumstances or blah blah blah. I live day in and day out with full assurance of my love for God--a love that lacks romantic sparks or flames, though it's hotter than a blazing furnace. What I sense feels the most real but the least true. What I know feels the farthest away but I have full confidence in it.

I am the woman MacDonald describes, but there is no comfort in it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New [School] Year Resolutions - Part 2

2. Write, write, write.

Up until the beginning of August, I had been keeping a journal pretty consistently for about six months. It didn't have anything profound (except where I quoted Lewis or Willard, haha). It was a meagre collection of my own silly thoughts expressed in black ink on a book of blank paper created especially for those semi-introverted, self-examining people like me. I abandoned the thing because I have felt a bit conflicted about whether or not keeping a book of my own silly thoughts is too self-centered, whether it's worth my time and effort.

The most amusing and vain reason for keeping a journal/blog is that all the great authors did it (journal, not blog.) They wrote letters, kept journals (Hemmingway made Moleskine famous, after all) and had manuscripts of random scribblings. If ever I become a famous writer, I don't want to be left out of the Journaling Club of Dead Authors (JoCDA for those of you who don't know.)

Another easy answer to my questioning was simply that one becomes a better writer the more one does it. That's as good a reason as any, especially if I want to be a female Dallas Willard someday.

Finally, the brilliant Dr. Kevin Diller unknowingly answered my unspoken question a few days ago when we had our first Metaphysics class together. He said, 1) when you write, you think more clearly and 2) writing allows you to have sustained thought. So I definitely picked up the connection there between writing and thinking. I do a lot of thinking, it would make sense that I'd do a lot of writing.

Most importantly, when I write things down it allows me to look back a few days later and evaluate myself more objectively. I have a vastly different opinion than monsieur Michel Foucault who said, "What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing – with a rather shaky hand – a labyrinth into which I can venture, into which I can move my discourse... in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again. I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write." No. My writing spurs my morality, forcing me to ask questions like, "Should I have been thinking this? How has my perspective changed? What was influencing my opinion about this at the time? What does God have to say about this?" All good questions, all facilitated by writing and re-reading.

So my second new school year resolution is to journal consistently and about anything in my head or heart. Whether God or Satan put it there, I can learn from it--especially when I write it down.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Things are going great for me right now. Really, I'm very satisfied with my life. And I've had enough of it.

Happy times are all well and good, but I don't think I'll ever be happy being happy. I'm happiest when I'm miserable. (I'm not kidding.) In the moments when I feel the most desperate, the most disgusting, and the least those moments I love my great God most. I realize in those times that my worthlessness has no effect on His greatness and the grime of my sin only shows that His love is stronger than anything I can imagine.

My sappy spirituality on the good days is nothing compared to my brokenhearted longing for more of His perfection. There's nothing like being silent and helpless before the Father, crying out for Him to fill you because you're empty. I love laughing and I love being satisfied with how my life is going, but "how my life is going" seems to be the opposite of how much I depend on Christ.

I suppose that only shows how much of a disgusting wretch I am. Geez. I'm just one of those people whose faith is a crutch for the hard times, huh? Oh, God, I hope not. But I'd rather be someone who needs a crutch every single day of the week. I want the passion and determination to seek with all my heart, in the hard times and the good ones. That's the challenge. God, let me never be complacent.

--edited September 5--

I realized the obvious yesterday: I can make my blessed life more difficult and I'm also supposed to do so. I think that's why Jesus taught us the disciplines, particularly those of deprivation. In addition to taming the spirit and the desires of the flesh, by giving up those things that comfort or distract or satisfy, I am left empty--and He is more than willing to fill me up.

For example, I'm a fidgeter. When nothing much is going on, I need to be doing something with my hands. Often that lands me on the computer doing something worthless...but last night I tried something different. I pulled out my prayer journal and I copied Romans 8. (I know, I know, get off it already. But I LOVE that chapter!) It was a great way to go through each verse and really meditate over it. It was also cool because I was copying the ESV version and I previously memorized the NIV version so I was able to compare the two as I wrote (I prefer the NIV, fyi.) So that's my new plan--when fidgety, copy passages into my notebook. I want to go through the rest of Romans, then Philippians, and who knows--I'm such an antsy person that maybe I'll be ranked up there with the scribes of the Medieval ages and have the whole New Testament done by May.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I think I've explored some different ways of looking at what "faithfulness" means (see post about Kierkegaard from June). This little scribble looks at fides in a couple of other ways.

First: K talked about giving a hope or love or passion back to God with the expectation that we will receive it back. His perspective pertains to the faith required of finite Man to interact with an all-powerful God, having more than just a generic confidence in the Provider. I've experienced this in a small way this year; I don't suppose K would have included it as something wonderful and marvelous in Fear and Trembling, but it has been a fulfilling experience for me.

I gave up something close to my heart, like my child or my great lover or my security blanket...I gave up my PLAN. Plans are good things, of course. K wouldn't have approved of my incident as an act of faith if my sacrifice wasn't a good thing in the first place. Plans are good things because they demonstrate our desire to act, a focus on life beyond the present moment, and a conscientiousness of my purpose and usefulness on this earth. I've learned a lot about plans in the past few years -- 4-year plans, summer plans, travel plans, house plans, work plans, etc. The major thing I've grappled with is how plans change, whether we like it or not (and usually, we -- okay, I -- don't.) But when a plan is swapped out for something I don't understand, when I give up my presumptions and commit myself to taking big risks, embracing my finitude and the sometimes uncomfortable nature that God gave me as a human being...when I personally commit myself to a morality that relinquishes expectations and requirements that I've copied down from "The World's Book of Success Stories"... When I did this, I became something totally different and unexpected: I became a philosophy major.

The short explanation of why this is a leap of faith for me is that I never saw myself as the graduate school type...and now I hear from everyone that I'm headed towards a PhD. WHAT? Where do I get money for that? Am I even smart enough for that? Could I really go places as a philosophy professor? They don't make money--how do I support myself?

Those are the remaining questions. Now to part II: my Faithful God.

I heard a really great song this summer by a group out of Knoxville, TN called United Pursuit Band. They write wonderful worship songs, one of which goes like this: "You provide the fire, I'll provide the sacrifice. You provide the spirit, I will open up inside. Fill me up, God." And that's what I feel like, and that's what He did. Except that, like Elijah, I had to provide the sacrifice before He ever threw down even a tiny spark or ember from heaven. And I had to rip open my chest and hold my delicate, vulnerable heart in my hands as an offering before I could see the Spirit that He would send to me. It goes both ways, faith does. In my short-sightedness, I must give; and as I do, He gives back. And for every little sacrifice that I blindly relinquished, He faithfully gave more abundantly than I could have dreamed.

Now He keeps on giving. It's usually not what I expect from Him, but as I said about this summer, it's usually better than what I plan for myself. I don't think K could have possibly gotten the whole concept of faith right (that God gives back a specific thing that we give up to Him first) because Paul said something a bit to the contrary in Romans 8: "Now, hope that is seen is not hope. Who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently." The blind do not know what good things lie in store for them, nor can they begin to imagine it. The limits about which I only complain prove to be the ways God shows his power--because He is faithful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New [School] Year Resolutions - Part 1

1. Find a good, not-too-distracting place to study.

It's taken me this long, right? But really, this might seem easy, seeing as I live at a university--a place created for studying. Yeah, right. There is NO place on this small campus where I can study without distraction. Let me explain my options:

1) Dorm Room. Can't do it there because there are 23 other girls whom I love with all my heart and who seem far more interesting than my physics homework any moment of the day. Plus, they say things like, "Elena, I can't believe you're graduating in May!" Sigh. Don't remind me.

2) Student Union. Okay, I'm introduced as a "connections" person. That is to say, I know a solid percentage of the student body. There are always dozens of people to catch up with and SOMEHOW, they all hang out in the Union.

3) Outside. Well, on the days where it's nice enough to hang out on the grass, it's also warm enough to put you to sleep as you "read" laying out on a blanket.

4) The Library. Oh yes, this one makes me laugh. I mean, of all the places on campus, this one is specifically set aside as a quiet place for people to sequester themselves away to get work done. Yeah, except for the bibliophiles like me who can't be in a bookstore for fewer than 45 minutes.
(One incident: I went to Borders a few days before school to pick up a book for Caroline. I knew exactly the book I was supposed to get, I found it within 5 minutes, and I should have been out of there pronto especially since the grandparents were coming over for dinner that night. Hahaha. I managed to hang around for about an hour. I didn't even purchase anything besides what I came for, though I was sorely tempted.)
Just the knowledge that there are hundreds of books by Lewis, MacDonald, Dickens, Kreeft, Sartre, Dostoyevsky, etc. etc. sitting only a few feet away from me is the biggest distraction of all. There are so many times when I've gone into the library with only the books I need for my homework, spent some 2+ hours in there, and finally left with 20 books in my hands, none of which have to do with my classes. But looking at those books, smelling them, flipping through and discovering that the author was influenced by some other guy whose books are right over on the next shelf and demanding my attention as well... It's addictive. My consolation is that if I go to graduate school and become a prof myself, every so often I'll be able to take a paid year to accumulate and flip through/browse/become engrossed in books of all sorts and call it research. Or better yet-- a sabbatical. Oh, the perks of academia.

Anyway, I've ruled out the orthodox options. Unless I find a white padded cell (a suggestion for myself that I posed to my mom back in 3rd grade), I suppose I'll have to cope with/enjoy the distractions.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I'm back.

Whirlwind summer: wonderful, excellent, encouraging, invigorating. A change of major (media communications to philosophy) is also bright and sunny in my life right now. Everything is peachy - mostly.

I'm excited about classes (Metaphysics and Principles of Ethics, mostly). I'm excited to see the girls on the wing - my second family. I'm excited for my final year at TU and the good times that will come with it. But certain prospects are intimidating. I'm nervous about seeing some people again after awkward interactions not-so-long ago. I'm anxious about the work load that awaits me with the stimulating and challenging classes I'm taking.

Now's the time to put all the things I learned over the summer into action: trust in a faithful Father, commitment to the wellbeing of the brothers and sisters around me, and willingness to put my very raw and sinful self into their hands and prayers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Been A Heck of A Long Time...

But the story of my train/bus/car travels over the summer is as follows:

Back in April/May some friends were pretty aware of my *ahem* then-traumatic experience with figuring out summer plans. I remember telling some close friends that I had run out of options and if anything good came from this summer, it was all God's doing and none of mine. Well, seeing how everything has turned out, it would be shallow of me to not tell what came about. And so I shall.

After my Spring Break trip to Nicaragua, I got it into my head that I wanted to do some kind of ministry over the summer rather than just make money or just add to my resume. As it was going, I was getting more stoked about working with a camp for the summer. I checked out a couple jobs that didn't work out for one reason or another. Mostly the issue was either dates or money. As the all-knowing almost-20-year old, I knew full well that I need something that pays. I wanted to serve, but it had to be convenient. Then it looked like everything would work out with the camp in CO. Well, you know the end of that story. I talked with my parents about it and my dad (being the prudent man he is) kept telling me to apply to some local places just so I'd have something nailed down. You know, a backup. Security blanket.

But something--whether it was God or my own discontent--was telling me that there are better options than spending the summer around a bunch of angsty, gossipy, melancholy kids (as at my old lifeguarding job) where I only feel overwhelmed and burdened and the only motivation is the money. But what else do I have? The only option that seemed open was somethign Sarah Edmondson recommended back in March. It was a camp in Tennessee that wouldn't even pay me. When she had told me about it, I (arrogantly) brushed the idea aside, quite certain that I could find something that fit my own plans and needs more fully. But for all my rationalizing, God seemed to say, "Okay, if you think you know what you want from this summer, you have to trust that I'll provide." So I called up the camp director. Not only did we have a great interview, but we got to talking about politics...yeah, he majored in government and economics. It was a match made in heaven. He pretty much offered me the job on the spot. (And it did indeed turn out beautifully.)

And so I made plans to go to Sevierville, Tennessee for the month of July to work at Camp Arrowwood. It's a small program with about 30 total staff members, 12 of whom are high schoolers who would be under my authority. (How that all turned out is a story in itself.) Unknown, unusual, unfamiliar...and I knew completely that something really good would come from it.

Oh, and the money bit. Well, had I taken the job in CO, I probably would have come out with about a third of what I usually make over a summer, but I thought back in April, "I'll take the hit. It's ministry after all." Mmhmm. That was before I took the unpaid job. So even up to the very last day at TU, I didn't know where the cash would come from. But as I was driving home with my mom after commencement, she very randomly suggested that I contact Uncle Ray and Aunt Dorothy, my grandparents' age-old friends who live on a farm in Louisiana. Apparently they hire a couple college kids to work every summer. Actually, Mom was totally joking when she suggested it and didn't even think I'd be interested. Somehow though, when I called about it Ray and Dorothy were absolutely stoked to have me. Heck, they hardly had enough work to keep me busy (they usually hire boys because it's mostly manual labor), but they were willing to find tasks in order to make it worth my while. Honestly, I don't know more generous and godly people. So I got to move to Wisner, LA for a couple weeks in June. (That's the way to experience the South--become part of the community. It's a beautiful and unique thing, let me tell you.) And for all the worry I went through back in the Spring, because of Ray and Dorothy's generosity, in only a couple weeks I made just as much money as I might have if Colorado had worked out.

So I learned and experienced so much more than I ever planned. I lived in Louisiana and Tennessee, visited five new states, met a slew of great and godly people, and came to a new knowledge of trust in God's provision. The question floated in my head, "What if...what if I have to be willing to take big risks and embrace my finiteness and have no expectations or requirements of the people in my life? And what if I throw away my security-blanket conceptions and plans to live out my calling in a real way, trusting that my ultimate satisfaction as a human being and a Christian is not realized in mere personal comfort??" (This was so compelling that I'm actually changing my major to philosophy. That's another story once again.)

I can't believe the last seven months have gone by so quickly. Two weeks in Louisiana and five weeks in Tennessee were absolutely amazing. I've experienced so much, met so many wonderful people, and I've seen God in so much of it. A quick summary of the highlights:

There's no way to experience someplace new than by just throwing yourself into their culture and community. Wisner, LA was the perfect place to do that, too. I learned about farm life. No, really. Irrigating, checking cotton plants for bugs, bringing lunch and dinner to the guys in the field, praying for's simple, but satisfying. The community in Wisner reminded me of a big family. When there are fewer than 2000 people in your town and most of them also go to your church, you don't really get to choose your friends; they're kind of forced upon you. And you do everything with them and get over your differences and grow closer in your struggles. There's always someone to help when you're in trouble, always someone willing to lend a hand or share a meal or run an errand for you. Very different from the suburbs, unfortunately.

Aaaahh. Mountains. Oh, God, but mountains make the Creator so much more real in day-to-day life. And by mountains, I don't just mean rock and cloud and tree and stream. Mountains have become a metaphor to me--they mean the great men and women with whom God joins us together in order to teach us more about Himself. Jonathan, Claire, David, Will, Seth...those are the mountains of Tennessee that I miss the most. I stand on their shoulders, I share in their joys and struggles, I join them in prayer. And like when you summit a peak, you see everything so differently, so clearly.
Camp was so much greater than I could have anticipated. (Actually, I rather thought it would turn out that way. Everyone asked me the first week or so if the ranch and life at camp was what I was expecting...but I never had specific expectations because I knew God would give me something that was simply good.) The people I met and grew close to were beyond anything I could have hoped for.

So that's the long and short of it (more long than short.) But I knew that God would work something out--and the only thing I can do is share what He's given me because I know in perfect certainty that it was none of my doing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Philosophical Musings on Bird Adoption

I'm a mom. After a burst of storm this afternoon, the sun came out again to reveal a bundle of twigs that the wind deposited on the backyard lawn. My mother investigated to find a robin nest and three chicks scattered in the grass. One poor bird was dead, probably from the fall. But the other two were quite alive. Mom and I gently placed them back in the nest without touching them in the hopes that the mother would return. She did for a moment, but then left for good. We had only one choice: to embrace our inner robin redbreast and find worms for these energetic, half-bald babies.

So over the last five hours, I've actually grown rather attached to the two chicks. At first we had them in a cardboard box on the back deck. Mom found the first worms and fed them to the scrawny little things, but then Mom had to leave. That's when I learned lesson #1 from the birds: there's nothing like having someone depend on you to motivate you past your fears.

Now, you have to understand something--I'm not afraid of much of anything. I throw caution to the wind (far too frequently). I pick up bugs, I squash spiders, I eat almost anything generally considered edible (no, not cockroaches, thanks) and not too much freaks me out. Snakes, mice, frogs, etc. are not much to call home about. Actually, I'm pretty fond of the little critters. But WORMS. No. I don't do little squishable things that squirm. Crawl, slither, squeak, and hop don't bother me. Squirm does. I can deal with worms on a hook, but I'd rather not. Nothing grosses me out like worms and larvae. Eww. Ew! Ew! Ew! No. Yuck.

But do you know what I did when my little chicks (later named Willy and Nilly) stretched their tiny, delicate necks and opened their oversized beaks as soon as they saw me?? I dug into the garden and collected a handful of red, squirming, repulsive earthworms. Then I handfed my babies. Because they needed me.

As the adoptive mommy, I started to analyze my new role in their lives. (Okay, we all know I think too much. Don't do the eyes-closed, slap-the-palm-on-the-forehead thing to me. Just get over it.) If I'm the new mommy, do they miss their old mommy? Do they feel abandoned? Betrayed? And what about the grown-up robin who suddenly finds a lot of free time on her...talons(?)? Does she feel guilt? I came to the conclusion--oh, come on! As if I actually had to think this through. Hell no! Birds don't feel. That's a human thing. With our rationality, we are also cursed with the consequences of our mistakes and cowardice. (I know these things. I'm a too-often mistake-making coward myself.) Your mistakes make me feel betrayed. Those feelings of betrayal and abandonment make me not trust you. And maybe you feel guilty because of your actions. Those are all uniquely human feelings. Obviously birds feel some things...hunger, the need to reproduce, sleepiness, etc. But there's not much beyond that for the animal kingdom. Pain is reserved for the humans.

Then as I was watching my birds flop around and climb all over each other in their sleep and every so often let out a "Squeak! Chirp!" and desperately strain their necks to reach out for a bit of worm or fruit from me, I had a new appreciation for the biblical imagery about birds in the Psalms and elsewhere. For example, Psalm 57 says, "in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge..." Caroline was teasing me that I should consider sitting on the chicks while they sleep. I said that I'd thought of that already...yeah, not really. But I did try putting my fist gently on top of them, to see if they reacted to the pressure and warmth of my hand. I guess there's nothing as comforting as the warmth and weight of someone bigger and stronger and softer who cares enough to embrace you. (Mmm. Embrace. One of my favorite words.)

I also considered one of my favorite verses of all time. In Matthew 23, just after the Triumphal Entry, Jesus looked over the city of Jerusalem. He cried, he wept. He looked at that old city of His fathers, the place of promise where every Jew under heaven held his hopes. He said, "Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You who stoned the prophets and kill the ones I sent to you. How I've longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing." This verse has always meant a lot to me. The tenderness and true love for Israel is so moving. This is unrequited love. We're not talking about soft, fluffy, yellow farm chicks here. They're scrawny and don't quite have enough feathers to cover their head, much less fly off on their own. The people of Israel, like Willy and Nilly, are demanding and restless yet more dependent and vulnerable than they realize. They know of their hunger and their discomfort, but they know nothing of gratitude and indebtedness and surrender. They don't even deserve His love and they hardly even acknowledge it. Hm.

Newest favorite songs of the summer: "Such Great Heights" - Iron and Wine; "Fair" - Remy Zero; "On Your Front Porch" - The Format; "Blackout" - Muse; "My Love Goes Free" - Jon Foreman

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Lots has happened in the last 8 days.

For one thing, I left my teenage years behind. ('Bout time, actually. I haven't felt 19 for quite some time now.) Festivities included an elegant night downtown at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion on State Street. Hot dresses go well with Ahi Tuna Sashimi and Filet Mignon. Then good times with Steve on the old catamaran. Not much wind, but it was good enough to be out on the water in the sunshine for a couple hours. Great birthday, for sure. (Oh yeah, then I lost my wallet and keys. But we won't think about that part.)

Also, summer plans are finally settled in their entirety. They will go as follows:

Train ride on Monday to Wisner, Louisiana for two weeks to work on Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Ray's farm. Bring on the hard labor and sweet tea, baby. I am leaving the computer behind, so blogging (if it happens) will be sporadic. That also means that e-mail and facebook are out so snail mail and cell phone are the way to go.

June 30 take the Greyhound from LA to Sevierville, Tennessee to work at Camp Arrowwood for five weeks as CIT Director and adventure ropes course instructor. I'll be chilling with Sarah Edmondson's old friends from last year. Good times all around.

Greyhound back to Chicago for a couple weeks (maybe hit up some Lollapalooza if I'm lucky? Yeah, right. "Lucky" would have to mean finding $200 on the side of the road. Ah, well. Someday I'll go.) Hopefully more sailing while I'm home... then off to a week in Mich with the fam--swim, sail, Cherry Republic. "Life, Liberty, Beaches, and Pie."

Mmm. And Lara got me a sweet and absurdly bright yellow bag for my b-day that fits ALL the books I need for the summer!! (Seven plus a notebook, to be precise.) It's perfect for traveling.

Oh, and I'm going to write a book. Two, actually. A novel and a Dallas Willard-style philosophy/theology stint. Based on previous experiences, I'm anticipating that it will take some 10 years to get much of anywhere on it. Maybe by then I'll actually be a good writer... A kid can dream, right??

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I usually use that old saying in reference to long-distance friendships. John Hasnas (and Frederick Bastiat) remind us that it applies to politics, too.

From WSJ 5/29/09:


While announcing Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to the Supreme Court, President Barack Obama praised her as a judge who combined a mastery of the law with "a common touch, a sense of compassion, and an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live." This is in keeping with his earlier statement that he wanted to appoint a justice who possessed the "quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles." Without casting aspersions on Judge Sotomayor, we may ask whether these are really the characteristics we want in a judge.

Clearly, a good judge must have "an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live." Judicial decision-making involves the application of abstract rules to concrete facts; it is impossible to render a proper judicial decision without understanding its practical effect on both the litigants and the wider community.

But what about compassion and empathy? Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy for those stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering; empathy is the ability to share in another's emotions, thoughts and feelings. Hence, a compassionate judge would tend to base his or her decisions on sympathy for the unfortunate; an empathetic judge on how the people directly affected by the decision would think and feel. What could be wrong with that? Frederic Bastiat answered that question in his famous 1850 essay, "What is Seen and What is Not Seen."

There the economist and member of the French parliament pointed out that law "produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneousl with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them." Bastiat further noted that "[t]here is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen." This observation is just as true for judges as it is for economists. As important as compassion and empathy are, one can have these feelings only for people that exist and that one knows about -- that is, for those who are "seen."

Friday, May 29, 2009


There is a time and place for government intervention in the actions of the people. But I'm more convinced than ever that the true role of government in economics is much smaller (and the importance of private business is much greater) than anyone in DC would have us believe based on their policies.

An excerpt from The Economist

The American economy is dynamic because Americans like it that way, even now. A Pew poll released on May 21st found that 76% of Americans agree that the country’s strength is “mostly based on the success of American business” and 90% admire people who “get rich by working hard”...

Yet Mr Obama—and, even more, his Democratic allies in Congress—could do lasting damage to this marvellous machine. That is not because the president is a socialist, as his detractors on talk radio claim. No true leftist would be as allergic as he has been to nationalising tottering banks, nor as coldly calculating in letting Chrysler, and probably General Motors, end up in bankruptcy court.

Moreover, even the most stalwart defenders of the free market, including this newspaper, admit it has shortcomings that only the government can address. The financial system requires close oversight, or crises will destabilise it. In recent years, such oversight has often been absent or fragmented...And the current crisis calls for aggressive and temporary fiscal and monetary intervention that is not justified in ordinary times.

But the Democrats’ present zeal for government activism often goes well beyond addressing market failures. The president and Congress seem to believe that they can surgically intervene in the economy but overlook the unintended consequences.

Fiscal and monetary policy are more powerful than an atomic bomb. Milton Friedman said that they should only be used to balance the natural growth of the economy, that there is no place for monetary activism in a stable economy. I wouldn't even go so far as to say that this is a "crisis" in the way that most Americans imagine it. Economists are the last ones to freak out in a recession because they have a long-term, "big picture," wholistic perspective of what's going on. (That's just one of the reasons economics is such an attractive subject to me. Everyone's just chill and levelheaded. It's beautifully unemotional.)

We talk about "what should be done" but fail to consider that things often sort themselves out with less intervention than we suppose when we're in the middle of it. Economics always seek equilibrium and rarely need government assistance to do so. Whether we're implementing a National Sales Tax or creating a Systemic Risk Council, if we think in terms of "There's no room for more delays!" as José Manuel Barroso said, we will run into more trouble than we can see from our shortsighted perspective.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fear and Trembling

Kierkegaard is pretty great. Just throwin' that out there.

I've been all into Fear and Trembling these days and it's surprisingly consistent with my own experience. One thing that's particularly striking is how Kierkegaard writes that faith is not something we can easily communicate. We cannot express it in mere words. I've definitely faced this in the last few months. Words fail. Expression is impossible. Any noise I might let loose falls short of conveying the truth and conviction of what I know in my head and my heart. I've been driven into spells of silence. Not going mute, but succumbing to the feeling? passion? thoughts? (even now words are insufficient for me to say what I mean) that are overwhelming. I can hardly describe them to myself, much less another human being.

Kierkegaard also describes faith as something beyond mere resignation of what we cannot sustain on our own. Abraham did not merely sacrifice Isaac with no expectation that God would do something great through it all. He didn't just "let go" or "give up." The difference is that he expected--he had faith--that God would follow through with His promises even though the obvious means were gone. Perhaps true faith was even the very specific expectation that, though God was taking Isaac away, He would surely give him back somehow.

The question comes, though, regarding specificity and subjectivity. When we seek God in faith, can we come to Him with great expectations that very specific desires of our heart will be fulfilled (though, perhaps in His time)? Or do we give Him a ton of slack, acknowledging that He will in some way fulfill our happiness, whether in this life or the next.

The former option requires a lot of wisdom. In fact, it seems irrational to others (perhaps why we fail to communicate it well.) These are things we desire that couldn't easily be explained away. What we ask for--expect, even--are almost miracles. And yet, we can't go wishing things completely subjectively, arbitrarily even, and say that God will bring it about because we "have faith." Perhaps we go on with this "faith" through the rest of our lives, living in perfect "confidence" that God will give us our hopes and desires. But then we die and discover that, though good things have come and more good awaits, in this specific instance we have been deluding ourselves. We lived in illusion and to God's disgrace, we dubbed it "faith."

The latter option seems to be entirely irrelevant in its vagueness. If we hope in generalities, thinking "whatever comes, God will work it out," it will no doubt become true. But there is no test in that, no determination, nothing to try a person and test their trust and dependence on the Father. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice, it doesn't matter what road you take if you don't know where you want to go. We almost make our God too little by giving Him little expectations. Ask for big things and see what He gives you.

So I suppose it comes down to discernment. We can't be arbitrary, but neither can we be limited. Pure reason falls short, but mere feeling or intuition is absurd. Faith is the grey area where we seek Him, give all for Him, and acknowledge that when it all works out, it's because He acted on our behalf. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express... He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I'm so proud to come from a family of biblioholics. We are quite literally addicted to the written word. I think of the one Bilbo said, "I'd just like to hold it..." Yeah, that's my family and books.

For example, my sister got a book called "The Life of the Mind" for my dad for Father's Day. I picked it up and started reading the back and a certain giddiness overcame me. There's a very pure pleasure in simply holding a book that is obviously a vessel of wisdom and knowledge. And it's not just me, either. Same aforementioned sister received a philosophy book after graduation from one of her profs and she showed it to Dad. He said, "Can I see it for a minute?" Sally replied, "No, I'll never get it back!!" So Dad asked, "Well...can I at least hold it?"

Ria and I were sitting on the screen porch (I was engrossed in Fear and Trembling) and she interrupted to ask, "Do you have a huge list of books to read this summer?" To which I excitedly and enthusiastically rattled off my (growing) list of Readables for the next three months. She smiled at me and said, "I thought so."

I love my family.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Updated Reading List

adding (upon recommendation by Christian Leman)

11. Lilith
12. Orthodoxy

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Summer Reading Ideas

I won't say "Summer Reading Plans" because, well, it might not happen. But these are on my list for now:

1. Degenerate Moderns by E. Michael Jones
2. The End of Racism by Dinesh D'Souza
3. Roughing It by Mark Twain
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
5. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6. God in Search of Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel
7. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
8. Democracy in America (to finish) by Tocqueville
9. The Everlasting Man (to finish) by G.K. Chesterton
10. The Divine Conspiracy (to finish) by Dallas Willard

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Peter and the Sea (and Random Vacation Memories)

Well, well. It's a wonder that this blog is even titled "Seaweed and Seashore" yet I've never mentioned my favorite Kreeft book, The Sea Within: Waves and the Meaning of All Things.

What can I say but that this is the most peaceful book I've ever read. Once again, this man gives words to my soul's schizophrenic thoughts. He puts things in a layman's terms while describing things in such detail--sometimes even erotic detail--that it brings me further and deeper into the God-realm of things.
"Why does the image of God feel such passion for the cold salt water? Why do immortal spirits created only a little lower than the angels fall so desperately in love with a trillion tons of H2O laced with NaCl? Most books about the sea are full of external data. They tell you what causes storms, for instance. But they don't tell you what causes our fascination with storms: they don't tell you about the storm within. They tell you how the wind raises waves. But they don't tell you how the waves without raise waves of wonder within."
(Confession: the first time I've really swam in the ocean was over spring break when I was in Nicaragua. Lake Mich and other freshwater paradises have been my home for the last 19 years. I never realized the real sea was so salty!)
"We know where we find what we want: at the sea. But we don't know what we want there. We know what we long for -- the sea -- but we don't know what it is that we long for when we long for the sea. Perhaps we never will. Perhaps the infinite sea can never fit into finite mental or physical cups. Perhaps all that can be clear is this: that all there is can never be clear."
Best vacation ever: last summer when I spent hours -- straight up HOURS -- lying on a floating raft in the middle of a bay in Lake Mich. I slept on the dock at night and when the sun got warm, I swam out 200 yards to the little wooden raft with the sketchy ladder and probably Zebra mussels underneath and I slept in the sun, getting super hot and way tan (by August I usually have such a solid base tan that I don't even care about sunscreen anymore.) It was the most perfect week I can remember. And when I wasn't sleeping under the sun in the middle of the lake, I'd either read David McCullough in the hammock or the chicas and I would bike into town for ice cream or to read Howl's Moving Castle at the marina.
"The mind as well as the body can drown in the sea. If you have the habit of staring into it like a lover into the eyes of the beloved, its eye can hold you like Medusa. The spirit of the sea is far stronger than the human spirit, and captures it easily, especially in storms, the most exciting of all the sea’s charms and also the most destructive...
Why do we find the most destructive things the most captivating and enrapturing things?...
But she gives the poet, and the poet is in all of us, a strange, deep pleasure that is a kind of pleasant terror; not just a contentment and satisfaction but a wonder and fear that we find more delightful than the contentment that calms fear. For the fear is not a fear for our personal safety but simply a fear at her size and majesty...
We feel this wonderful fear most when we are alone. The sea looks tame when seen from a crowded beach full of blankets and umbrellas and chairs; but the same sea looks very different at night when the beach is deserted and you are alone. The water seems to leap up and bow down. It rises and falls like a drunken sailor. It is unpredictable. Little waves seem big at night when you are alone. And this is when we love the sea in a peculiar way, when we fear it most.

Why do we love what we fear?"
When we were swimming in the Pacific over spring break I experienced the beach like never before. Waves twice as tall as me (or were they? Constantly moving, I could hardly even tell.) And I was so overwhelmed. It was exhausting just to keep breathing and no shit. I kept thinking, "It's sure as hell good that Mom isn't here -- she'd never let me swim in these conditions!!" (Love you, Mom!) But being overpowered like that?? Oh, was it good. Like apologizing or being humiliated or failing. Utter incomptetence. It could have killed me at any second.

I've mentioned this before, but one of the most excellent moments of my life was when I was on the beach at night (mostly by myself except for Dad who was praying at a picnic table nearby) and it was storming. Baby, was it ever. That wind picked up the most wonderful waves and I could hardly hear myself in the roar of it all. And I shouted at the very top of my lungs (though you probably couldn't hear me anyway) "WHAT THEN CAN WE SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS?" I wonder how loud God's voice is...
"All waves speak, but they speak in tongues, and we can’t interpret their speech. That’s probably because it’s too simple, like God’s. Maybe all they’re saying is I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU until the end of time. Like God."