Thursday, June 24, 2010

In light of upcoming festivities--

I had a short conversation today with one of my co-workers who is here from Colombia just to work with the YMCA. Some kind of partnership program. She was telling me about how excited she will be when she gets home and she can eat her mom's food, etc. She said how weird it is that once you are away from your country, you miss it and love it so much more. I commented to her about how when I leave the US I don't feel that way because of the reputation of the US across the world, the wealth we have, and the corruption and brokenness here.

My friend opened up my eyes. She started saying that of course there are tough things going on in Colombia, too, but she is still proud to be Colombian and proud of her country. Drug-trafficking, corrupt politicians who are murderers and thieves, all the turmoil that is going on doesn't take away the fact that there are really great people and great places of beauty in Colombia.

I am generally pretty cynical towards America, but this really made me think. I can still be patriotic without supporting everything that people in my country do. Sometimes I am so black and white in my thinking that I forget things like this. I think that also if I had traveled a lot more growing up and had met a lot more people and seen a lot more places that I would have been able to see that I can love this country and be proud of some things about this country. There are traditions that I resonate with and other I do not, and that is okay, but I should probably embrace the good things about my country and not be such a stick in the mud.

Maybe my perspective is being opened and shaped into something new. I am definitely okay with that. Maybe my opinions of other things will start to change...hmm, maybe I still think that Miss America pageants are celebrating moderate narcissism and surface level beauty...maybe I need to look more into it. Thanks to my co-worker for helping me get in a good mindset for the upcoming patriotic holiday. Thanks to those who have served our country in wars (especially those who had been drafted into war) even though I may not always support war itself. Thank you to those who founded our nation, even though sometimes that foundation is misinterpreted into modern religious, ethnic, and other types of discrimination. Thank you to all who work to make this country better even when it is so easy to get bogged down by all the disagreements, division, and all the other messed up stuff that goes on here.

I am learning to be a patriot. After all, this is my home.

Interesting article and comments at the bottom.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ah, Beauty!

Today's the day- the post about beauty. I didn't know when this day would come, but it has sneaked up on me and arrived with haste!

Beauty, ah, sweet Beauty. What is it? Is it a perfect green lawn? Or is it Mozart? Is it da Vinci or Rembrandt? Is it old or new? Is it Hatebreed or Dennison Whitmer? Is it straight white teeth and tan skin? Is it golden pie crusts or the smell of apples and cinnamon? Is it lipstick or fashion or long hair or short hair? Is it the Fibonacci sequence or the golden rectangle? Is it color schemes or shapes or vibrato on the sweetest violin?

Let me explain to you that not one of these things is beauty. Beauty is lying in the tension. Beauty is feeling uncomfortable and knowing that something good will come of it. Beauty is realizing that suffering and pain bring about character and faith. Beauty lies within our creator and his creation, but beauty itself is God himself. He is perfect and we will never be, but when we strive to be like him, we find beauty there. Beauty is tough and sometimes bloody and broken. Beauty is found in darkness, when the light shines through. Beauty is in the everyday mundane moments. Beauty is both sadness and happiness. Beauty is both frustration and resolution. Beauty is risking and vulnerability and seeking the unknown. Beauty is wonder and humility and realizing just how small we are.

Beauty is not a false perception of reality, but beauty is realizing that reality is both the positive and the negative.

So much of what we perceive to be beautiful is based upon a subjective view of beauty-- you either like broccoli or you don't. You like classical music or you don't. You like art or you don't. The thing about subjective views is that they can change. I used to like listening to Mozart a lot, and now I don't. I used to hate avant-guarde composers and their music, but now that I understand it better I don't.

Beauty is constant, whether we recognize it as such or not. Beauty lies in everything that happens and everything that surrounds us, and often the way we perceive things is subjective so we fail to see that things are actually beautiful when they are.

What can we know about someone by looking at them or observing some of their behaviors? Do you know anyone who seemed ugly until you got to know them? Or people that seemed perfectly beautiful, but then they showed their weakness and it seemed ugly to you? People who portray themselves a certain way when they are actually different from that image can actually be saturating themselves in what seems to be ugliness and are actually failing to revel in the beauty of their lives. I know people like that, and speaking of "those people," I am one of them, especially when beauty comes to me in discomfort. I don't want to view the beauty in my life subjectively because I know my perception can be faulty. I continue to pray for humility and an open heart in those moments because I know that God is always growing me and teaching me through those times of discomfort. He is good and never fails at anything. That is an extreme statement, but it's so true. Knowing God's character helps me not to give up when times are so rough.

That, my dear friends, is beauty. Beauty lies in that place of deep understanding and trust in One who is perfect and good.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Walrus and the Carpenter
by Lewis Carroll

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."

"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"

"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Melody in Four-Four Time

Stars Climb Up The Vine-
Meg Baird

Sometimes the thing that speaks best to me is a song or two.

I sit in a room alone, or my car while driving for a long time, turn on an epic chorus in a Mumford and Sons song or a lilting strings section in a Keely Smith ballade or a steady heavenly beat in a Psalter's song or a floating melody in a Trespasser's William song and then let the moment speak for itself.

I am a big fan of words, but sometimes words get in the way of melodies and harmonies and rhythms and true expression. Sometimes I can only express my state of being by asking someone to listen to a certain song with me.

Another great moment is when, although pretty rare, I can write a song that expresses me. This is harder for me than identifying someone else's lyrics and melodies as ones that express exactly what I wish to express.

Right now, though (if you desire to share it with me), I am listening to the song listed at the beginning of this post and the music speaks precisely to who I am at this very moment. You can find the song on Daytrotter:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's My Life, I'll Live How I Want

The word “sin” has terrible connotations to much of my generation, I think. I know it even does for me. I grew up avoiding those who used any kind of “Christianese” language because it left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t want to talk to anyone that would just tell me how I was living my life poorly and how the “perfect” religion that Christianity is can make my life perfect. I saw right through that. I knew that “Christians” were divorcing their spouses, abusing their children, cursing, getting drunk, and having sex just as much as anyone else I knew. Why would I want to be a part of a group of people that claimed perfection, yet lived by looser morals than I did? No thanks. Preach hell to me all you want. I ain’t doin’ it.

Then, I experienced God (insert Hallelujah Chorus, Anathallo's Hoodwink, or Sigur Ros's Hoppipolla). God is much different than all the denominations of Christianity portray him to be and all the seemingly “fake perfect people” whom I perceived to be dwelling in the church. God is beautiful (that’s an understatement). People are pretty ugly, although I can’t say some of us humans don’t try to be beautiful like God. Others of us, though, need to put ourselves and our perceptions (of ourselves and other people) aside. Probably all of us need to do this to some extent or another. Actually, I know all of us do. I can’t think of one immaculate person that is exempt from that.

The Bible, whether you want to read it or not, says that all people are sinners (again that harsh word).

Really think about it though. We protect ourselves, often at the expense of other people and their feelings. We will do whatever it takes to be the “best” or to have the “best”—lying, cheating, stealing. I can see this in my daily interactions with people. I know you can, too, no matter if you hang with Christians all the time or not. Kids are so raw, and they are especially experts at helping us see how humans can be so screwed up when we fail to let ourselves see it in our own lives. We see how broken families affect kids and usually lead them down broken paths as well (not saying that all kids are future sugar mamas and pimp daddies, but think about people’s perception of marriage now since divorce has become so common—see post below about marriage for more thoughts on that one…).

Whether you are a Christian or not, you are going to have to answer to God and his moral standards.

That’s a tough one. You may not agree with it or think it’s true, but if it is, think about how much that plays into people’s daily lives… every single moment.

We may think that “the way I do things is how my personal world can be at its best,” but what about the way we affect other people? Sometimes choosing to live our lives the way we see fit is the worst thing for those around us, especially if those around us are seeking to show us they care about us. That misunderstanding can often be the biggest slap in the face. I have seen it in my immediate family, even. One person has a strong opinion attached to emotions and all of a sudden they are enemies with their family member who takes the opposite view.

Even worse, God is affected by these things that we do. The picture of Jesus Christ being crucified is often a bloody and violent one, but I do think it is that way to remind us of how much God is hurt by the things we do to his world and in his world. Think about how terrible and how hurt you felt when you were in the biggest fight you have ever gotten in with your closest friend. God hurts so much more than that. We can’t even understand it, which is crazy to me.

I wish I could just shout this on the rooftop (with choreographed dance of course, like in West Side Story) for the whole country to hear: BUCK UP. I don’t mean this in the “American Way,” like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or “be a man.” I mean it in a way that a lot of people have forgotten about or are afraid to acknowledge—own up to your failure. Failure is another way of saying sin has corrupted our lives once again. We all fail. Every day. We fail so hard sometimes. We can’t always be putting ourselves in the right, and we must acknowledge the fact that other people might have a better perspective on situations than we do. Sometimes people want to share their perspective with you so that they can help you or show you they care. Why would anyone spit back in the face of someone who is attempting to show care to them? (Well, I can tell you the answer to that question, but it’s that nasty word again.)

Tolerance is blind and relative. I actually wish the word didn't exist. I think it implies passiveness when there is so much to be done in this world. Grace is much, much different than tolerance. Grace is firm for all people, even people who are wrong and failures (aka EVERYONE). The authors of the Bible write about God hating sin, and we are actually supposed to hate sin, too. That’s awesome because I do hate sin. It messes up so many beautiful things in my life, not to mention what worse things it does in other people’s lives. Lots of times people think that hating sin means helping their neighbor see how sinful they are, but really I think it speaks more directly to our own lives. A faith in Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is equally about our personal hearts and the way we live our lives behind closed doors. Sure, we are also called to “rebuke” one another. Let’s not eliminate that, but instead let’s coat it with vulnerability and genuine care and grace for those to whom we are speaking. Let’s put ourselves aside!

I am extremely selfish, but that’s what makes me a great person to let other people know they are being selfish, too. I can share my experience and my continual struggle with them. God has used my sin to help someone. How cool. I love knowing that I can help people. Sin is funny because it is a hugely alienating thing, but God is so good at taking things that are twisted and horrible and making them good. He helps us use sin as a means for building community and understanding the character of God more easily. If we own up to our failure and begin to move in the direction of reconciliation (with God, with one another, with ourselves, and with the earth), we give God a big door into changing our lives and our little personal worlds, not to mention THE WHOLE WORLD. (breaks into “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” haha)

But really, God cares so much! What great news!

(PS- I really love that at the end of all my posts, I realize there is no other thing/being to serve beside the Lord. He is so good, guys, seeeeeriously.)