Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shane Claiborne and Thoughts

He visited campus yesterday and spoke last night.

Nothing new, really. I've heard most of it before and I've read his book. But oh, was it good. I needed/wanted to hear all of that so badly.

Lately I've been frustrated beyond words (literally, sometimes) about being so self-consumed. College campuses only facilitate that self-centeredness. I don't have to worry about anyone except myself, for the most part. This is about MY classes, MY grades, MY resume, MY friends, MY life. I'm so done with that.

I realized it especially because even my prayers seem self-focused, thanking God for what He's done in MY life, considering MY flaws and moral failures and how to improve MYself. And really, that's not horrible; at least I'm talking to Him and giving Him credit. But I've always wanted to learn contemplative prayer, being able to focus purely on God and not in relation to anything else. But a friend pointed out to me that our minds just can't work that way. And I guess that's part of being finite.

But still, I want to get outside of myself. Yeah, people say that crap all the time, I'm sure. But really, I want to pursue Jesus with single-mindedness. Singly focused on Him.

If you didn't know, I've been in a long and drawn-out process of applying for an internship in Washington, DC this summer. It looked super promising and I thought it was the best opportunity ever. I would be able to explore how media fits into public policy, maybe learn more about non-profits, etc. etc. etc. Well, they've been frustrating and haven't even gotten back to me since the final interview over a week ago (I can stand rejection, but heaven and earth, don't forget about me.) Anyway, I don't even care anymore. I don't want to work for them. Even if they showed up and apologized and wanted me desperately for the summer, I probably wouldn't take it. Instead, I'm going to work at a youth camp in Colorado. Hm, let's look at this: prestigous non-profit, exciting field, competitive pay, DC, independence, and portfolio pieces vs. small youth camp, cabins, pay?, angsty teen campers, being totally tied down to one location for two and half months... Easy decision!! (Of course, there are lots of plusses to Colorado that I didn't put in that list. For example, Colorado. But still, you get the idea.)

Anyway, for once, I'm stoked about life after May 23. Yeah, there are still a lot of uncertainties (heck, I don't even have the Timberline job yet) but God didn't create us to be omniscient. So in the midst of everything, I am left with one option:

#4 Embrace the fact that you are finite.

Monday, April 20, 2009

"The pursuit of what is true..."

Recently I embarked on a vendetta against the word “pursue” in the context of romance. I really hate it. It’s such an inappropriate word to describe true (i.e. real) love. Webster says, “pursue: 1) to follow with enmity 2) to follow usu. determinedly in order to overtake, capture, kill, or defeat… 4) to seek to follow, obtain, attain to or accomplish.” It’s very similar to “persuade” which is “1) to induce by argument, entreaty; to win over by an appeal to one’s reason and feelings; bring to belief, certainty or conviction; argue into an opinion or procedure...” etc etc.

“Pursuit” or “persuasion” should not be necessary because it presumes two things. First, I’m no animal and you’re no hunter. I won’t be a trophy; I won’t be conquered; not something passively surrendered. I, for one, will not be prevailed upon. (You could read gender roles into this whole vendetta, but I don't think that's necessary.) I will not be “convinced” of someone’s goodness or of the rightness of a certain relationship. It should be obvious. If I give myself up, I guarantee that my surrender will be active. I will initiate my own self-sacrifice. I will go willingly because it will be something that I deem worthy of my very LIFE.

I think what bugs me about part 1 of the problem comes out of a stereotype that culture perpetuates through chick flicks and all that nonsense that bugs me so much. The stereotype is that “women don’t know what they want.” In all the stories, men try to figure out what women want but are unsuccessful because not even women supposedly know what they want. So then the man just ends up sweeping this girl off her feet because she has no idea of what she’s really searching for.

This denies the first rule of philosophy: know thyself. Not only should we know our weaknesses, our strengths, our purpose, our passions, our origins, our values and our worth, but we should know what we want. It should come out of our whole “practical ontology,” as Jason Dorsey said in church yesterday. And though this may sound arrogant or presumptuous, I do believe that I know what I want. I want goodness.

That leads into the second presumption, which is that I need to be convinced of someone’s virtue. No, goodness does not hide itself. Like a city on a hill, goodness cannot be disguised or obscured and therefore does not need to be drawn out or revealed. I’ve consciously decided that I don’t seek friends or romance or some sort of secondary fulfillment. I seek goodness and goodness is apparent, clear, and straightforward.

Not to say that I’m lacking any of the former, however. Maybe my standard sounds too high, but I do know some who meet it. No, those people come more naturally and more wholly when it is part of the greater pursuit. The men and women whom I call my friends are people I’ve met along the way, even stumbled across inadvertently. Yet the common purpose that we share, the passion for something beyond ourselves is the ultimate objective, not one another. Pursue goodness.

I’ve struggled to find a good replacement word though. Whatever it is, it must be something that expresses mutuality as well as the context of the action as part of another bigger pursuit. I think the only word that is appropriate is “sacrifice.” There’s a sense of meeting in the middle, of each giving something—giving of oneself, giving of your own desires or self-interest in order to serve others. That is what love is, not a chase or a hunt or an unveiling. It’s consistency, willingness, action, and daily dying to the self.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Planned Parenthood Racist?

Yeah, that's an inflammatory statement if I ever made one. But still worth considering...

Check out this article from Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO and make up your own mind.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


And when words are not enough? What then? What comes when our words are neither sufficient nor necessary, when they litter the world and have no meaning?

God is silent too, sometimes. He knows that what we try to say is not what needs to be said. Our answer cannot be fitted so that it may be expressed in syllables, vowels, and consonants. Sometimes we can only acknowledge that silence is the best we can muster.

(Forgive my repetition; I know I've included some of these before, but they are more than worth sharing once again.)

“If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of our modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the Word of God were spoken in our world, it could not be heard, for there is too much noise. Therefore, create silence.” – Kierkegaard

“Have you noticed this about him…that he has done so much and said so very little? …The man has not spoken for hours; and yet he has been speaking all the time…He wants to express himself, not with his tongue, but with his arms and lets—with my body I thee worship, as it says in the marriage service. I begin to understand…why the mutes at a funeral were mute. I see why the mummers were mum. They meant something.” - Manalive, G.K. Chesterton

“My Lord Jesus, I find it difficult to talk to You. What can I say? I who have turned away from You so often in indifference. I have been a stranger to prayer and undeserving of Your friendship and Your love.” – Thomas รก Becket

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ...Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” – Romans 8:31-34

“But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above." – John 19:10-11

“I say, therefore, that there is no creature (toad, scorpion, or serpent) so noxious as the gods. Let them answer my charge if they can. It may well be that, instead of answering, they’ll strike me mad or leprous or turn me into beast, bird, or tree. But will not all the world then know (and the gods will know it knows) that this is because they have no answer?” - Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis

“But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?" But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” – Matthew 27:12-14

“There was silence in the dark assembly long enough for me to have read my book out again. At last the judge spoke. “Are you answered?” he said. “Yes,” said I.”
The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered… I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?” - Till We Have Faces

“And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask Him any more questions.” – Matthew 22:46

“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, "Peace, child; you don't understand.” - A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

“I ended my first book with the words no answer. I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words.” - Till We Have Faces

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” – Isaiah 53:7

Monday, April 6, 2009

This is what I think

Thank you Wordle.net for telling
me a bit about myself.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

So much goodness.

Sometimes, nothing beats those hour-long guts-spilling conversations with Mom.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lewis speaks what my heart feels. Yes.

Most recent favorite book: A Grief Observed. This book has contributed to an out-of-self experience I've had over the last two days. Overwhelming...and ultimately very powerful.

Without going into the grimy and incriminating details, I've experienced something very much like the death of a dear friend. I picked up A Grief Observed accidentally almost, because another book I have references it in several places. I only happened to have it with me when I was struck with grief over the loss of my friend.

I was shocked at how closely it described my own experience. The emotion, the physical pain, the anxiety, the anger, the fear... I felt it intensely. More than anything, I had to come to terms with how I would respond to this loss. What do you do when you lose someone you love? How do you respond? Do you "get over it," rationalize your emotions and move on with your life? Can you ever return to the happiness that you once had, whether with your friend or before the two of you ever met? How can you return to that kind of happiness after knowing how much a truly special person impacts your life? It's naive to think that anyone can do that.

Did you ever know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past, even of the things we never shared. I was wrong to say the stump was recovering from the amputation. I was deceived because it has so many ways to hurt me that I discover them only one by one.

I wrote something before all of this that became more real to me after it actually happened. "Whether you are near to me for the rest of my life or this is the last time I say goodbye, I thank God for you." Before my period of grieving, I though I meant these words; but I only meant them half-heartedly. I knew that I could thank God for how my friend impacted me while were together, but part of me would eternally resent that we were ever separated. But no. Now I know fully--I can and will thank God for the continued influence and impact of my friend's life.

I wrote the other night that bereavement is not the truncation of married love, but one of its phases... What we want is to live our marriage well and faithfully through that phase, too. If it hurts (and it certainly will) we accept the pains as a necessary part of this phase....We were one flesh. Now that it has been cut in two, we don't want to pretend that it is whole and complete. We will still be married, still in love. therefore we shall still ache. But we are not at all--if we understand ourselves--seeking the aches for their own sake. The less of them the better, so long as the marriage is preserved. And the more joy there can be in the marriage between dead and living, the better.

But I don't just want to remember my image of my friend. No, there was so much more that I can't capture in simple and happy memories or in a collection of photographs.

Images, whether on paper or in the mind, are not important for themselves. Merely links. Take a parallel from an infinitely higher sphere. Tomorrow morning a priest will give me a little round, thin, cold, tasteless wafer. Is it a disadvantage--is it not in some ways an advantage--that it can't pretend the least resemblance to that with which it unites me?

I need Christ, not something that resembles Him. I want H., not something that is like her. A really good photograph might become in the end a snare, a horror, and an obstacle.

And finally, I learned so much about God in this brief and miraculous time of grief.

When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of "no answer." It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, "Peace, child; you don't understand."

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask--half our great theological and metaphysical problems--are like that....

"They say these things are sent to try us..." But of course one must take "sent to try us" the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't... Sometimes, Lord, one is tempted to say that if you wanted us to behave like the lilies of the field you might have given us an organization more like theirs. But that, I suppose, is just your grand experiment. Or no; not an experiment, for you have no need to find things out. Rather, your grand enterprise. To make an organism which is also a spirit; to make that terrible oxymoron, a "spiritual animal." To take a poor primate, a beast with nerve-endings all over it, a creature with a stomach that wants to be filled, a breeding animal that wants its mate, and say, "Now get on with it. Become a god."

Cultural Differences

I spent last week observing how business is conducted in Latin countries (Nicaragua, specifically). It was a great learning experience. Though the basic principles of business remain the same, the approach and perception of everything is so different in their culture than in ours. We had to adapt our mindset as we tried to apply certain ideas in order to help the small business owners develop their ventures.

And of course, the same applies to international politics, as Mark Silverberg says today in American Thinker. ENJOY.