Tuesday, November 11, 2008
When my mind is whirring as I hope to sleep, I think, "I must not have used it enough." Lying beneath my duvet...I thought about young couples. For a moment, I envied them. Then I remembered the lesson from meditation today. Then I remembered that to be wistful for what will never be is to spurn what is. I thought about young couples, and was happy for them. I feel a strong appreciation for the gifts of God tonight and an affectionate love for his Presence. I remember in my early days at Healing Rain, as I agonized over a potential admission, Larry told me that statistically we make decisions on 40% of the data, that typically 40% is the best we can hope for. I will continue searching for truth, but I won't wait for 100% before I let myself love Him...
...I walked to the small man-made pond between our neighborhood and the next. There was a pile of rocks I could sit on rather comfortably and from which I had an excellent view. Summer wildflowers have triumphantly overtaken the perimeter of the pond. On a slight incline, to my right is a cluster of trees, the flowers climbing over rocks and crowding their trunks. The surface of the water dazzled in response to the soft light of the lowering sun that seemed to be setting beneath a silvery veil. Behind me, a pair of black and orange insects acted like lovers on one of the bright yellow flowers. I began to wonder if, were I to choose another home, I'd ever find such a place to sit--I wondered if places could be thought of as important as people--I wondered if...I realized all my wondering was doing a disservice to the very thing that had set me at it; that is, what a wonder this place was in this moment. What was important was that right then, I was present in it's presence. Any other wondering only carried me away from what I had. Wondering over "what ifs" and "not yets" may have their value, but they are out of place when usurping the "here & now."
And here in my bed, now at nearly midnight; I think I am ready to sleep.
In Kentucky there is an insect with a long, narrow, dusty brown body. When in resting pose he looks similar to a grasshopper. When startled into motion, he spreads wings of bold black and yellow and flutters off; lovely as any butterfly. Because he will return to a sedentary, drab form does not discount his hidden glory. And though he can flash brilliantly and fly away does not mean a part of him isn't ugly.
...When I hit the snooze on my alarm this morning it was with the idea that I would go back to sleep and create a pleasant dream so that I could start the day right. Apparently I'd felt the dreams I woke from, which I can no longer remember, were somewhat disturbing. A thunderstorm was brewing and it broke before I got to my car. The rain felt like a gift and I didn't mind the way it railed against my windshield. The earth and atmosphere and I sang with delight at this long awaited refreshment.
...Everything is not falling apart, but it is certainly changing...
I went to the Berea Friend's Meeting with M., K., and J...We were warmly greeted at the door before walking through another, entering a room with a wood floor, open windows, and green chairs set in a circle. A few people were already seated quietly and K. led the way to the outer circle. People gradually filed in, wordlessly taking their seats, the noises of bodies encountering chairs and the insects outside singing were the only sounds. A woman named Maureen momentarily broke the silence, inviting Friends to lift joys or concerns to the light. Between the deep pockets of voicelessness, a voice would raise up a thanks or petition or observation.
I thought of many things, most petty. There were some paltry attempts at plans, glimmering hope of uncovering a future destiny, many unfounded visions of life in Chicago. With these would always come the reminder that the day in which I am living is "today," thus only when present in today--with those who are also present--am I really living. It requires a self-awareness that shifts outside the self and is present in its surroundings...I tried to focus on God and "the light" but could only bring the focus as far as creation--my point of reference--particularly thinking of living things and people.
"Thank you for putting your children on this earth," I thought, "and thank you for letting me be one of them."
Much of my thinking at this point became centered on the theme of reality as something that far exceeds me and yet from which I am not excluded. Accompanying these thoughts was a recurring image; a shift from me standing timidly outside a door debating with myself over whether or not I should knock, to me as inside the house, opening the door widely, inviting the outsider in...And I saw an image like a painting, but alive, me among others floating in water. We were each distinctly ourselves but without any sense of separation. I could imagine myself turning and talking to any of the others without and sense of insecurity or pride...
...Other thoughts from Friend's Meeting on being natural--feeling natural is "not good" (violence, cruelty, lack of awareness, etc.) in spite of opinions to the contrary ("act natural," "be yourself")...perhaps these opinions stem from a belief in a kind of "super-nature." That is, that there is some naturalness that rises from below, or descends from above, or otherwise encounters from beyond and supersedes that naturalness that we typically encounter...
My first evening housesitting at Larry and Martha's--Though summer is supposedly ended the weather remains soft and warm. As evening progresses a gentle breeze picks up and the temperature creeps down. The breeze coaxes a deep round sound of varying pitches from the large metal chimes hanging in the far right corner of the porch. The melody of the chimes is accompanied by the crisp rustle of two grass plants with striped stalks and leaves and cream tufts at the top. They are full and tall, almost touching the eaves, and swaying in a slow erratic dance with their invisible partners. Beside me sits the Madison County Library's copy of the Brothers Karamazov and a poorly made vodka martini with a single olive floating in it's center. Surrounding the porch are mild hills, houses, barns, and fields of cows and browning grass. The sky is pale blue with only a few clouds hanging in clusters on the horizon.
I have a sense of wonder and of peace and of being set apart. The moment I stepped onto the porch and settled into this low broad wooden rocking chair, my worries about not having a working phone and concerns as to how I would spend the evening were transported, or perhaps I was...in any case, they and I have parted ways.
...A few minutes ago I stood on the back deck and looked up. At first only a few stars were visible; within moments, however, millions of barely perceptible points of light teased my sense of sight and I could see how ancients saw them performing stories.
From The Reason for God:
"Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitations that comes from being in committed relationships, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of things."
...The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, has been calling me and I made the mistake of finally giving in and watching it. I say mistake because, though it was very well done, and the Alan Arkin as Singer absolutely captivated me; I now feel utterly lonely and undone. The characters of this story move inside you. I begin to remember the stories that are told in the book, as well as the me that I was when reading and I feel them. And I ache for Singer who was always listening but never heard...
...The quote I wrote from earlier today haunts me and I don't know how to respond. I find myself now longing for tomorrow's contra dance, longing for looking into eyes and holding hands and interacting with people I care about. I must not lost track of today, however, and the gift of temporary aloneness that I often crave as well.
"I am waiting for God to tell me that I'm doing all right."
I thought of this phrase while reading the final chapter of The Reason for God. It arose as a response from a character in one of the untold stories I carry around with me, the story of the wandering servant. She is answering the question, "Why do you live this way?"
...[I have] continued to think of what I could have said [in response to the question of why I would want to go to Divinity School] and to wonder at and develop the reasoning that lies behind my decisions and desires.
"I guess you can say I am one of those people that believes in God, not only as existing but being existence; I believe in God as the core of all that is. I believe in him, but I don't really feel that I know him. Because of that I often feel that I don't really understand people, including myself. I want to help people and to enjoy life, but I'm not sure of what is truly helpful and I continue to be walled by peculiar fears and petty greed. I believe also in Jesus as redeemer and so am able to carry on without being overwhelmed by guilt and disappointment despite constantly missing the mark or failing to even take a shot. And because of love, which has an unshakeable hold, I am not satisfied with saying, 'Well, I'm forgiven by God through Jesus Christ, nothing more needs to be done. I don't need to do anything.' The issue is not whether anything needs to be done, it's that this love not only holds me outside but compels me from within. It does not drag, but guides and beckons and I want to join the dance that draws us together and into joy--where we give and take and no one is left wanting. I've a suspicion this leading Love may be a part of what some call the Holy Spirit or Counselor, who continues with us to remind us that though absent in the flesh, our Lord and our God is with us.
So, this is why I am interested in getting a masters in theology; to learn to know and honor God--who is the reason for and heart of life--and to understand and love the earth--which is the actualization of life as well as my cradle and my tomb."
It is 8 p.m. I am unpacked, organized and settled in my home. This place feels like home and that feels good.
Tonight I've the sense that I am reawakened to life; not because the past week was uneventful, not because I didn't feel I was engaging in the days. The week was rich. My time and L. & M.'s was revealing and rewarding. At Healing Rain I felt more like an active player in the game than usual. One thing I am having continually confirmed is that, much as I covet time alone and away, I really like to be around people. Another thing I became aware of, and I didn't realize this until I got home; I have been carrying around the secret belief that L. And M.'s life is better than mine. I don't believe that anymore...I like my life. I could certainly do more and better, but each day along the way to maturity and excellence is good all on it's own.
Friday, November 7, 2008
August already. This year has dashed by. I believe that yesterday was my Healing Rain anniversary. Lately I’ve been so caught up in my quandary over Palestine, I’ve spent little to no time in reflection—I’ve certainly continued to neglect prayer and meditation, despite the fact that now is the time I need it most….
…Pop believes that God has certain things in store for certain people. He believes that I’m a special person for whom a special path is planned. I am struggling so much in my faith. After talking with Pop and hearing myself say how much I enjoyed my work…I began to think maybe Adam was right about Palestine. Maybe it was just a crazy whim I was embarking on to feel meaningful and to have an adventure.
…Yesterday, at work, I had a good day but it had somehow lost its luster. I wonder if part of what makes places appealing to me is the knowledge that I’ll soon be leaving them…
Oh negative thinking, what a trap you are!...
Pleasing my parents is very important to me. Hm. I do make decisions based on this. There is good reason for this in that, they have given me so much, I want to honor them and to add to their happiness. At times, when this feels restrictive, I feel like rebelling against it. Ironically, what I am rebelling against is only my interpretation, my assumption of what it is that they would want me to do. I never ask, “What do you want me to do?” and yet I continually strive to work towards it or, at times, to rebel against it. More than likely what they want me to do, is to find what I want, and to do it. I wonder if God works in a similar way…
Yesterday played out beautifully…
M. and I went to Wal-mart to buy ingredients for “chocolate gravy” which J and I made back at the house. R from Jackson House came over and we ate biscuits and chocolate gravy, listened to J & R tell stories, surfed craigslist and the white pages online and played pick-up sticks. I am so grateful for the fellowship…
The past several days have been magnificent. Fall, though distant, has already begun to woo us with mild days and cool, clear evenings…
…I’m feeling fairly certain that I won’t be leaving here until spring. E. sent me a message on facebook saying she too is considering a spring journey to the Middle East. Grad school has also been on my mind a lot lately and I am excited at the prospect of studying theology in Chicago.
Life, like love, is something that can be stepped toward; not just fallen into.
This morning I almost skipped out on a date with H & C…a hike up the pinnacles to watch the sun rise. Lately, I’ve not been feeling well, whether because of physical or mental illness, I don’t know…When my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I didn’t get up. When H. called me a few minutes later, I didn’t get up. At her second call I roused myself and answered, agreeing that…I would meet them at the top.
I thought I might die, or at least pass out, as I struggled up the hill. The headache, cramping and cold chills that led me to decide to cancel dinner plans the day before returned. Every bench I passed called out to me, especially after I realized I’d gone the wrong way and begun heading toward the west peak.
I finally made it, the day not fully broken, golden blades piercing and scattering clusters of clouds and casting a glow through the mist that hung about the peaks and filled the valleys. It was good to be with H and C. I felt more like a person that I do much of the time…
A was driving off in her sliver van as I walked back in the house. I turned and saw Sheila’s head, ears perked up, in the backseat. A wave of loss and uncertainty swept over me. Standing in my living room I became aware I was holding something wrapped around my hand, looked down and saw that it was Sheila’s leash.
I called A immediately,
“We’re not far,” she said, “we’ll turn around.”
I went out toe meet the van,
“Sorry,” I said, handing her the leash.
“Have a nice drive.”
“You too—well, you’re not driving—have a nice day.”
“You too.” I patted the side of the van.
In the house again and they drive away. This will be strange.
Last night [in meditation] I chose the phrase, “help my unbelief,” which is as much as prayer as a focus, but does tend to offer direction to my thoughts…I fell asleep and at some point, in the night or morning, became tangled in a dream…
The short of it is that I was being expected to present a homily at mass, or some type of service that was “high church.” I felt utterly unprepared and inappropriate for the task which was fast approaching. At some point I would, from outside myself, remember, “I went to sleep on Friday, it’s only Saturday. I have time to get out of this or at least to be more ready.”
This would bring some relief, but the moment it did the scene would shift—sometimes with the same plot and characters, sometimes different—and the cycle would invariably repeat itself. Whatever may change there was always the theme that something important (important because it was spiritual and sacred) needed doing or was being done and the person responsible was defiling the act by either being unequipped or behaving immorally.
Just before Amblyn woke me (amazed that I was still lying unconscious in bed at ten to eleven) I was at a table, surrounded by church elders, trying to get around what was being asked of me. Someone said something, whether I or another, to which the woman in charge responded, “One thing we will not debate here is whether or not we believe in Jesus…”
I was very full of the dream as I drove Amblyn to the airport and had to exert some effort to distance myself from the discomfiting but beguiling recollection of it…when I got home…I walked for an hour, listening to my iPod. The last song I heard, one I haven’t the name for, was Alison Krauss singing about Jesus and hard living. It had a line that plead, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
…I walked the college trails after work Sunday and chose to meditate outside at a secluded picnic table. I was feeling a little unstable and for a while, with every exhale, I would think “lean,” reflecting on Pastor Andy’s sermon.
Today, I hiked the pinnacles, making an effort toe “practice presence,” and focus on the beauty around me rather than making plans for the future. I took the phrase “Here I am,” for my anchor as I set on the eastern peak and surveyed the lower hills and valleys. Near the entrance were some maple trees that looked ablaze, their leaves a mix of red and orange. Several trees have begun to change color already and August has not yet ended.
I let myself walk slowly and felt the energy of the forest. The physical discomfort I’d experienced initially dissipated as I stopped thinking of the hike as exercise. I stopped at a clearing overcome by wildflowers that were almost as tall as I, with blossoms of purple and yellow. I stopped at a vantage point where I could see the waves of flowers with their multi-color crests, as well as the round, layered hilltops in the distance and was amazed at the beauty one can miss when focused only on reaching the top. Though, if I’d stopped there and not continued toward my destination, I’d not have appreciated it for what it was; a chapter, not the story.
…I was sad when I realized that Monday was a holiday; giving me three days off of work and no one to spend them with, and nothing in particular that needs doing. Then I remembered that the present is a thing to be appreciated and life, and the lives of those around me are marvelous gifts to be appreciated and what I will be is up to me.
Self Esteem class is actually quite helpful…Two of the great revelations that may seem obvious to others and that can be expressed in simple syllables are, “I am who I want to be,” (which can have multiple shades of meaning when considering the function of the word “want”) and perhaps most significant, “my relationships with others are not based on their thoughts about me.” How many times I’ve seen the antithesis of this statement guide my reactions to and interactions with others—worrying so much what they thought of me and giving very little consideration to understanding who they actually were.
So much of my life has been lived in response to the belief that I must live in accordance with expectations; that my thoughts, feelings and behaviors must always be in line; and that if anything went wrong I was responsible…A renewed self-awareness enables me to choose a path of recovery. However, just as with any addictive behavior to which one conforms, there is no immediate cure, only the upward spiral…
“I was asleep,” Sufjan Stevens is singing, “and he woke me up again…Hallelujah.”
Monday, October 20, 2008
...I feel tired and out of touch with things that used to center, inspire, and direct me. Namely, reading the bible, praying and singing songs of worship. Where has my devotion gone?
...I bought a ticket today to fly to FL. next week for N's wedding and a quick family isit. I'll have only the weekend but I'm excited...
The past two mornings I've slept late and woke feeling poorly, physically and mentally. Sleeping late tends to get me off to a bad start. While washing my face I glanced in the mirror and reminded myself, "I am living right now." It's intriguing how phrases like this can cause subtle shifts to amend my perspective. I'm still not feeling very well on any front, but will vigilantly keep my thoughts in line...
...I prayed this morning, on my knees; just for a few moments and wordless. My "inner man" is crying for nourishment and I reluctantly toss her crumbs.
...Yesterday, while accompanying A on her shopping trip in Old Town and Tater Knob we met three remarkable people:
a candy man
...With each of them I was awed by the specificity of their life choices. They were true tradespeople, steady residents, and wonderful artists. The weaver--who also made corn-husk dolls and fairy homes--was a thick bodied woman with soft fair skin that gathered in wrinkles and rolls. She had pale, sparkling eyes and a long gray braid that hung down her back like a rope. She called us over to observe her work as she wove recovered scottish thread into dish rags, "saving the world one China-made-sponge replacement at a time." When she heard I worked in recovery she told me that back in the 70's she used to be a "trip sitter" and would watch over people high on acid. She said she used to live in a single room with 20 people. Only two survived to be middle aged, herself and a man who lost his mind and locked himself away. She continued to explore the world, found herself in Berea, married a weaver and for the last thirty years has "been in the process of living happily ever after."
The other two I remember less about. What stood out to me about the chocolatier is that he runs his shop alone, talking about his candy makes him smile, and he still likes to eat it; "a little at a time but continuously." The potter loved attention. She talks loud and continuously. She demonstrated "throwing" a bowl for us. Centering is the most important step, she said. It is the first thing to do and the hardest to learn. If you are not able to center your clay, you are at an absolute loss.
...We went to Berea Coffee & Tea after L got back, both working on class prep. L ordered a vanilla milkshake and I got chocolate. The barista with a penchant for oldies was working and when "Earth Angel" came over the speakers I texted the lyrics to H; remembering a time many years ago when I sang it into a broom handle 'mic' while we were cleaning the garage and made her laugh...
Watched Gandhi last night, the title role played by Ben Kingsley. Very moving. As I yearned to be part of his journey, I learned something about myself. I've a tendency toward envy, gravitating towards that which is outside my realm of control and even outside my character.
When I see a beautiful place, I want to be there. When I hear beautiful music, I want to play it. When I witness a "great soul" I want to be it.
I daresay Gandhi would prefer being a source of inspiration to being a source of envy. He recognized the needs of his time, his culture, his community--he did not seek them out, but he did willingly meet them, and face them head on.
It's easier to look at another's life and land and thin, "I could help there," than it is to look at my own and ask, "What needs to be done?"
At the Louisville airport now awaiting my flight. Today is Pop's b-day and free slurpee day at 7-11. I am always afraid of misusing my airport time--something about it feels so sacred.
For now I will eat a muffin, drink a Starbucks coffee, read the Alchemist, and celebrate the divine.
I'm at the Nee house now and happy to be so. A marble print kitten is rubbing against my leg. Rain drops are dripping from the eves of the side porch. A dog is barking. There are ten animals here now and poor Mom bears the brunt of their care...I can hear Aa, A and S in the throws of a nerf gun battle. Aa revamped the bright colored, soft dart projectors to shoot faster and harder, and he painted their frames a rough gray. Last night he gave one to Pop for his birthday...Later we all--everyone of us--dressed as cows, taping black spots to whatever white clothes we could find to cover us, and got free food from Chik-Fil-A in honor of national cow day...
It feels so right to be here, I hate the thought of leaving so soon...I find myself so much more lively here--albeit less physically active. I make up songs and dances and joke and laugh and drive into discussing my view of things, in addition to listening to that of others. Mom and I had a discussion this morning that led to our concern over the distressing state of our society. I didn't get to mention it, but I thought again of Gandhi. From my position, it seems like the societal issues he worked against had sharper lines and more clear cut solutions. I suppose it always appears that way when looking at others and away from ourselves. I long for the "simple way," for an environment in which I can be connected to the earth and to others without all of these objects that come between. I continue to have the sneaking suspicion, much as I resist it, that I need to show up for my own culture; however that need may materialize.
...Once again I am waiting in an airport terminal...I have spent the weekend scheming how I might make myself useful and create a life in FL.
The wedding was beautiful, very festive and creatively decorated. So many people I loved there, it felt like a reunion...
Hearing on side of a phone convo.
"What would you think if I dated ____ ? I mean if I really liked him?"
" ------ "
"Why? Because he's fat?"
At the Washington airport now and it is super crowded. I bought cinnamon sticks and a coffee not because I was hungry but because I felt I needed to do something.
...I've been meaning to reread Isaiah for quite some time and I finally began today. I read the first chapter and it seems very clear. God's primary concern seems to be that the people straighten up and begin to care for the marginalized and helpless. James admonition in his NT letter sounds like and echo of the twice mentioned point Isaiah makes, righteousness does not come from following rules and making sacrifices but in defending the fatherless and caring for the widows. The rules I see more as boundary lines to help us keep from harming others. The sacrifices are ways of apologizing for when we've crossed those boundaries and saying "thank you" for the opportunity we are given to live, and to try again.
"One key element of living as a Christian is learning to live with the life, and by the rules, of God's future world, even as we are continuing to live in the present one." -Simply Christian, N.T. Wright
...I discovered another Palestine aid mission online yesterday. They are Mennonite/Quaker founded, advocates of active nonviolence with the motto "getting in the way." It's a profound one-liner alluding both to getting in the way of niolence and getting in the Way, as early followers called it, of Jesus...
I hit a bright yellow butterfly while driving home from work this evening--not an uncommon experience this time of year--it's wing stuck to my windshield wiper, the rest of it's body pelted by the momentum of the moving vehicle. I was so ashamed and sad watching it struggle that I had to pull over and remove it, alive but fatally injured. I don't know how much longer I can bear to drive a car, the destructive elements are so numerous.
I'm also feeling that it's time for me to commit wholly to not eating meat...
I've experienced strong feelings of love, wonder, searching and a kind of restless peace today. I determined not to spend time thinking about or planning my future today, though my stubborn mind has wandered there...
I've the feeling that God is waiting and I want to enter into his Kingdom--still part of me resists; as though I could come up with something better, as though I could work things out on my own.
Note to self: Stop eating sugar! It leads to feeling fat, tired, unhappy. Not worth it.
...Working half a day always seems like such a good idea until I am driving home at noon and am struck with a sudden sense of sadness. "I would not have felt this if I'd stayed at work and made myself useful," I think. Structure. Amazing how much we need it and how much we resist it...
...As soon as I arrived home I began eating and knew I had to get a hold of myself. I wrote down how much time I had between that moment and leaving for Batman (A agreed to go see it with me-hurrah!). I then proceeded to list the things I hoped to accomplish in that time and approx. how long they would take. The time was spent with activities to spare--resuming self-imposed guitar lessons will have to be saved for another day--without ordering my thoughts and prioritizing my tasks, I'd probably have moodily sat playing word games on the computer and wonder where the hours went when it was time to go.
Anxiously awaiting my Project Hope phone interview. Should be any minute now.
(insert picture of jumping stick figure) I believe it went well.
(several pages of writing about a day at work, followed by:)
When I was backing out that night I felt happy and sweetly content, but with a nagging, whispering sadness that asked, "how can you leave this?" I am reminded of the boy in the Alchemist. On the path toward his Personal Legend he'd been brought to an oasis in the desert. He found love there and was respected by the communities. He was tempted to remain there, making the excuse that the love he'd found he was surely equal to the treasure of his Personal Legend. But in the end he carried on, leaving what was good and discovering something great.
As I'm writing this I remember too "Big Fish" when the hero stumbles into "Paradise" but realizes it's too soon for him to stay, despite the peoples wishes, and he continues on his journey.
I'm reminded too that those are stories and this is my life. I wonder if this is a recurring them for authors because it reflects truth or because it's something written by humans and humans are insatiable always wondering that life would be like if we'd taken another path.
There was lightening flashing when we left the folk center after tonight's contra. Now, I am serenaded by the sound of a torrential downpour and Iron & Wine as I lay across my bed. This weekend has felt like one of revelations. I'm not sure they are ready yet for words. They creep up with clarity only when it suits them. This seems to happen especially when I am reading my current books of choice: Simply Christian and The Story of My Experiment With Truth....
A few quick notes...
-I keep leaving work feeling torn in two. Thinking of leaving I begin to notice more, work harder, perform better...It is an incredibly unique environment; one that could never be recreated, one that I am so grateful to be a part of. Leaving HR will hurt like leaving home. My inability to be open and frank about my current plans adds weight.
-I keep having dreams with my family. they are always either trying to get my attention or we are trying to make the most of what we know is a short time together.
-Lately I've allowed myself to be so preoccupied with my own dilemma that I've not been listening well to others.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I've been surprised to see how much I wrote in the month of June. Believe it or not the following is a highly abbreviated version.
...I would like to begin focusing on things for which I've already some propensity. My first thought towards what such things may be were these words: 'children' & 'writing.'"
...I think my not staying here too much longer may be merging from imagination to reality. It's a hard thing for me to think about. I've become more attached than I realized.
...Sheila and I took a long walk when I got home. We encountered a young man. Sitting with his back to us, he faced a tree that grew tall, with a thick gnarled trunk and massive limbs outstretched. He was in a camp chair, smoking a pipe of sweet smelling tobacco. When we passed he looked up and smiled, bright blue eyes, "hello."
I assumed he was an artist but didn't ask.
"Just a regular coffee and a water? That's all you want?"
"Are you okay? Do you need--"
"I'm fine, I'm fine, thank you. I'm just between shifts at work."
Do I convey the image of someone who is not okay? It must show because a couple of the staff members here at Mt. Vernon's Denny's have been eyeing me with a look of curious pity. I did go to jail today to talk, for the first time, through glass with a phone to my ear. There was nothing of the drama, the anxiety or excitement a first generally carries. There was quietness and sad resignation...seeing her vacant eyes, hearing her defeat...she is lost...
Is everything okay? Yes, I'm just feeling life happening, to me and around me. I'm just realizing that in this game of life, I'm a player too. I've just spent so much time in the bleachers, I'm not sure of my position...
...This morning I slept until I woke; no alarms, no surprises. It felt so good that the first thought I consciously had was, "Thank you God for sleep."
...I made a last minute decision to go to Lexington and see 'The Fall.' It was wonderful. I'm very glad I went. It animated my mind. Afterward I walked to Joseph-Beth Booksellers, perusing the selection and making lists of what I want to read. I am beginning to feel a sense of direction. The books were like arrows...I thought a lot and should find a way to express those thoughts. But not tonight, not tonight.
On the days when I am able to be home in the late morning, drinking French pressed coffee, I am transported to the days of life in Winter Park. As a nanny my day often did not begin till the afternoon when Ellie was ready to be picked up from school. I would sit on the petite floral print couch with shimmery fabric that J got from the thrift store, my journal and my bible on the rickety brown coffee table that her mom had given us. Often I would wake myself early so that I could first walk in the park, read, and pray. It seems like I prayed a lot in those days...
...Even at the volunteer house I would go to my room early, or hike up the hill so that I could pray or read or write or meditate--and to write in a way that organizes and expands my thoughts and to read in a way the nourishes and challenges. I need to reincorporate this in my life...
Last night, yesterday in general, was so special to me. Nearly the entire day was spent in action and reflection. There was no room for loneliness in my time alone. My thought and reading, the movie, the titles that caught my eye at the bookstore, even M's thesis, all reminded me of something I'd known before.
Once when I was with D. he asked me what I felt my mission was, my ministry. I responded that I had never felt called to bringing people from outside the church in. Rather, my heart was more inclined to those who were in, but broken still, and to see connections and seek to unify the disparate factions. I want to help bring peace; to individuals and organizations and perhaps, Lord willing, to nations. I want to help us to see each other and to understand. Where or how to being, I don't know.
...We had to climb down a slope to reach the water which was deep and warm. Looking up you could see the reflection of the water faintly dancing on the dusty slate hillside. We were surrounded by hills that are now packed with vegetation, a deep summer green. Two men were fishing and Sheila got her snout stuck on a hook. She shook free before I could swim to her...
"...I am reminded of your sincere faith...for this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you from the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord..."
Reading this passage brings many thoughts and questions to mind:
1) what is meant by 'sincere faith.' Timothy's is a faith that one might call inherited--his grandmother and mother--reinforced through Paul's influence...Then too, I wonder, what was the faith of his grandmother and mother; not Christianity, surely, but in the power of God perhaps; in that calling and purpose which, Paul asserts, were given [in Christ Jesus] before the ages; which were manifested in the appearance of Jesus. What was, always was, though it was not seen till Jesus...in this Timothy has had an abiding, sincere, faith.
2) Paul, for all his stoicism and logic, is a mystic. It seems so obvious, but honestly it's not been to me. Perhaps especially now that the closest thing to spiritual leader in my life is L. who tends to look on mysticism--at least of the Christian variety--with something that closely resembles derision. Paul, the mastermind of Christian doctrine, believed that by the laying on of his (Paul's) hands, Timothy was the recipient of a gift from God. He refers again to a 'deposit' both in relation to himself and to Timothy. What is it that's been placed in them, this thing that warrants a reminder to Timothy that the spirit given him is not one of fear, but of power, love and self-control.
3) There is a translation of this verse that is written, 'power, love and sound mind." I remember because it was very specifically this verse that helped give me encouragement and resolve against the creeping feeling that my mind was shattered. At this point in my life though, 'self control," seems the more pertinent translation...
Something about mysticism I'd meant to mention, probably the reason it stuck out to me. Earlier in the day I'd been listening to a podcast of Bob Edwards Weekend. Mr. Edwards was interviewing Elie Wiesel (whose work I've never read, though I've been meaning to for some time). EW is Jewish and a mystic. He talked about how it is forbidden to even study mysticism before one was at least 30 and firmly established in his faith. I was reminded of this today when L showed me his new book, Spiritual Radical, a biography of Abraham Heschel...he went on to say how AH exhorts that one must be firmly established in their faith before exploring mysticism or they will lose it all together. I was so excited by the synchronicity of this information with what I'd learned the day before I nearly jumped out of my seat...
Today was very sweet and gentle. I woke at 7:30 a.m., a little dry-mouthed from the wine John brought over for us to drink while he, Lindsey and I played "shoots and ladders." I let myself go back to sleep and didn't wake till B. called me at 10...I stayed home; read, wrote A. a letter, got a call from K. and had a wonderful chat about mysticism and faith and so forth in which we resolved the mysteries of the universe, as usual...I love his random calls...I've begun reading "Real Christianity" and am continuing with "Ramayana." There is so much that I want to be reading right now. There is always so much to learn.
I just reread the entry I wrote 3-27-08. In it I mention imagining writing stories and playing guitar. There was definitely a hint of constructive optimism in these imaginings; there was the idea that I would actually invest the time and energy into accomplishing these things. Reading that this moment was kind of funny...
I'm on the front patio now, a glass of water sits half full before me; sweating, refracting the suns light, casting prisms across this page...I'm listening to Christopher O'Riley's piano adaptations of Radiohead songs, because they are lovely and because I have no Eric Satie...
...I imagined H. playing the piece on our antiquated upright at home. I'd be sitting on the couch, listening, probably with a book so as to not make her too self-conscious. She would have the subtle excitement and focus that always came with a new set of sheet music. I would experience a deep sense of love and of loneliness, of rich fulfillment and restless melancholy. When I felt this way at home, I experienced it as longing for something far away...When I experience similar sensations now, I tend to associate them with homesickness...
...Last night, at the top of the pinnacles in the midst of a lightning storm, awareness of my own mortality walked close beside me. But more often my own death is of little concern to me while I am living. When reading Psalm 91, "a thousand will fall at your right hand, ten thousand at your left" (or something like that), it occurred to me that this assurance brings little comfort when the trouble is not a fear of falling, but grief in not being able to catch those that collapse around you. There is too, possibly, the fear that at the end of the day you will be standing there, all alone, and would it not have been better to have fallen with them? In Christianity we are called continually to "stand firm." Perhaps this is a precaution against that addiction like craving to lie down and let what will be, be.
...A large group of ducklings, startled by the sound of a passing car, just ran across the water, their mother close behind. I like to watch her watch them, a quiet steady honk emits as she surveys her clan. There is a very small duckling with a high, fast, anxious chirp, no doubt looking for his family--oh! he just found them and ran into their midst--thank goodness.
Yesterday was an odd one with many ups and downs, little waves in life's ocean, but they tossed me...
...I've brought my bible out here with me, but I find I don't feel I know how to read it or think about it these days. The feeling is similar to that I've had regarding prayer. This is another arena in which I think some space between L. and I may be good. He is a wealth of knowledge and I love to hear his thoughts, but I am afraid I listen often without challenge and allow them to overlay my own. God help me, I am so impressionable...
God, how can I doubt your attentive mercy when you are continually working things together for our good? And why is it that I am forever looking to prove the theory that those I love will stop loving me? Why is it so much easier to believe rejection than acceptance?
I am so cowardly that I did not have the nerve to go get my oil changed! Ridiculous...So, to challenge myself, instead of going home, I have gone to some place new, The Black Feather, a little cafe on broadway.
A man who I presume to be a regular--toothless, with a long denim shirt, shorts and a fishing cap--keeps talking to me. He initially drew attention to himself by sighing and proclaiming, "the New York Slime--not fit for print," and folding up the New York Times paper (which I'd just delightedly observed they carried here) he asked, "so, you a college student?"
The atmosphere is nice here, very comfortable.
"It is important to see, and to say, that those who follow Jesus are committed, as he taught us to pray, to God's will being done, 'on earth as it is in heaven.' And that means that God's passion for justice must become ours too. When Christians use their belief in Jesus as a way of escaping from that demand and challenge, they are abandoning a central element in their faith." -Simply Christian, N.T. Wright
"...When they are young, everyone knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to deram, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to conving them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend." -The Alchemist
As I sit here, contemplating, with the hot sun penetrating my skin and the soft wind relieving it, I keep having images of yesterday in the kitchen with A. IT occured to me for the first time as I went from pitting cherries and listening to my iPod, to chopping vegetables and chatting with her, how like a sister she has become...I can casually mention to her things I would previously have hidden in shame. I trust her and I love her and I am so grateful that she is my friend.
The clouds are monumental and the sky is blue. K. called again to ask for my e-mail address so he could send me his thesis. Staying connected with him has been a surprising and welcome comfort.
...I have within me a hope that speaks the "greater yes" for which I am abundantly grateful.
"When each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises." -The Alchemist
"Do you know why Jewish people wear those caps?" J. asked me at last night's contra.
"They are a reminder that there is always something above you," he said.
I am feeling so tired and down-hearted this afternoon; it's difficult to stay awake. I feel bad about my moodiness and the way it invariably effects those around me. It's difficult to find the balance between owning and being honest about one's feelings and maintaining control over thoughts and actions. I seem to vacillate between conceit and despair. But, as I write that, I can see how one can lead to the other. Conceit indicates a sense of mastery, over oneself and above others. Despair would naturally follow as one realizes how far we fall short and the feeling that if we can't do it, who can.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
In the interest of catching this space up to speed I had it in mind that I’d take fragments from journal entries leading from the point of departure (the already established date in May) to the present (a fine Wednesday evening, October 15. Practically the next day, give or take a few months…) Flipping to the entry most closely correlating with the beginning date I was please to find that I’d written in my personal journal on May 14. Abbreviating this entry presents little challenge as it consists of a single sentence in the middle of a page;
“Why am I still here?”
“…He and I stayed up till morning talking while D. dozed next to me on the futon, eventually climbing to the loft. I wish I could recount everything A. and I talked about that night. It was exciting. There aren’t many conversations I would call exciting. We covered addiction/recovery, speaking the truth, personal development, purpose/calling, his desire to channel the fantastic stories that seem to be falling on him from above—oh the dreams that stirred—thoughts about community, collaboration & faith. I realized eventually that there would be no natural end to this flow and suggested we follow D’s lead and sleep awhile. A’s tiny frame somehow fit curled in the window seat. I made my bed of the futon, still folded as a couch…The next morning D. and I walked to the shore of Lake Michigan…On the trail that encircled it we encountered a jogging Superman and Ronald McDonald on a bike. We wound up walking all the way downtown to see the absurd, magnificent Bean. It was afternoon by then—we took the train back so we’d have time to be with Az. as she anxiously awaited her wedding. I love city trains.
Pop said Mom doesn’t want me to go to Palestine because I’ll marry a Palestinian and join the cause. He suggests an Irishman instead, as long as I don’t get swept up in the IRA. I told him not to worry, A. thinks I’ll never marry; after all, I’m Amy Nee.
Driving to the lake I felt excited. The sun was high and warm. The sky was blue with islands of clouds. The trees were luminously green. I loved the light that spilled onto the curving road, laced by trees shadows. I love the mix CD Laura had made reminding her of our time together. I loved that I was about to be immersed in water. Sometimes I’m afraid that I might be having too much fun…
It’s odd how one’s sense can acclimate. I didn’t notice the extra-terrestrial, unbroken hum of the cicadas until Monica pointed it out to me. There are so many sounds out here; a cacophony or a symphony depending on how your ear is turned…
What does it mean to be a Christian, and have I the will to live it? Yes. Faith is a gift – but, the songs must be sung or they will be forgotten.
When I thought I might not make it through today, I remembered Jesus’ words to his disciples: “You feed them.” They’d just returned from a journey on which they’d not even been allowed an extra cloak as they approached villages of strangers with a radical new Way. Now, they’d followed Jesus with the hope of rest and were instead faced with thousands of hungry men and women.
“Where will we find bread for all these?”
“You feed them.”
How small are the challenges I face in light of others tests and trials! And how shamefully evident that it takes rough patches to remind me that I need more than me…
…In class today I had the women write their visions for the future and realized I have no such thing.
J., who’d come to meet me at the car was standing at my side. In the living room, with no lights on, M. sat in the recliner, playing guitar and singing “Sound of Silence.” We nodded an acknowledgment…
J. introduced me to one of the women. She had a tiny from and steely, shoulder length hair. The other, I had already met.
While M. and L. showered, J. and I tried to learn the hymns MA had given me to practice for the Indiana-Kentucky Synod. My fumbling attempt at finding the melody on the piano left us laughing more than singing.
And that is all for the month of May. This may be a bigger project than I’d anticipated.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sometimes I don’t know how to ask the questions. Then I turn my mind to wondering why and am further distracted from what it was I wondered in the first place. Often I am not even aware of what I’m thinking at all. This seems terribly wasteful. I waste a lot of minutes too; lurking facebook, waiting for my opponent to move in scrabble, looking in the cupboard when I’m not at all hungry, reading without paying attention to the words, acting without paying attention to the acts…these minutes melt into hours and days and isn’t it a wonder how much life is lost like leftover food dumped down the disposal.
One thing I have been reading and paying attention to though is C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra. In the chapter I recently completed, this entity, like our devil, that had overtaken the antagonist, Weston, was arguing against a seemingly arbitrary command of Maleldil (God) in order to convince the green Lady (a kind of Venetian version of Eve) to break it. Ransom, the hero, was there to protect the lady from our world, the earth’s, first error by defending Maleldil’s command. He spoke of the pure love made manifest in obeying even when the good is not evident:
“I think he made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that? You do them indeed because they are his will, but not only because they are his will. Where can you taste the joy of obeying unless he bids you do something for which his bidding is the only reason?”
I remember Simone Wiel saying something to this effect in her book Waiting for God (which I’ve never finished reading and cannot, for the life of me, find), and Bonhoeffer too in one of the first excerpts found in his collection of prison letters and papers. To obey is the highest good as it supersedes our own idea of good and falls into an act of pure trust and love. I used to adhere to this way of thinking. I recall being a particularly passionate advocate of it. When I lived in an apartment in
My thinking has turned somewhat in the past couple years. Turned away from what some term “blind faith” toward a more critical view of the bible and of Christian traditions and social mores. Have I grown “older” as the green lady says of herself in moments of enlightenment, or am I being broken by the “wisdom” of the world? Part of the difficulty in discerning how to be obedient comes in the extraordinary number of commands the bible and the church deliver to us. Then there is the process of distinguishing the commands contrived and heaped on by man and those that are actually of God. I tend towards the belief that we must examine the context and intention behind biblical mandates. Yet, in doing so, in asking “did He really mean that” I fear the awful resemblance of that question to the one the serpent asked Eve in the garden, “Did God actually say…”
I believe Jesus gives what is called the greatest of the commandments, and I recklessly paraphrase, “the law is summed up in this; love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Then again, Jesus does say other things in commanding ways and there is too that follow up question, “how do we love?” As a personal response to this question my colleague, Larry, calls himself a “Matthew 25 Christian,” referring to that passage where those who meet with Christ are told with approbation;
“I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was sick and you cared for me,
I was naked and you clothe me,
I was imprisoned and you came to me…”
though they did not know it was him, they did it to “the least of these.”
Still though, this seems to fall into the category of obeying what already seems good. Perhaps part of the complication of being obedient to love is when you have to say “no.” When you have to point out to a person that they have the ability to meet their own needs so you are not going to do it for them. Is obedience being willing to look less than amiable to perform the truly loving act? I am not entirely satisfied with this conclusion.
I do believe Jesus is the ultimate example. Through him and with the law and the prophets we can come to a better understanding of the nature of God (if we use these resources and accounts wisely); who he is and what he’s about and to align our lives to his principles if we so desire. Three things I am aware of as recurring themes: life, light (this I take to be synonymous with truth) and love—and these three are as one, though they are distinct, not on is whole without the other.
I am perplexed.
Friday, May 2, 2008
I don’t know how to describe this. The glorious sensation of living. I can only call it gratitude and even for that I am grateful. As the wind that blows so beautifully today, so the spirit moves and though I can’t see it, the effects are evident and oh so lovely.
I haven’t written much lately. Right now I’m listening to Jacob Fentress on myspace music. I’ve a good half hour before I leave to pick up my sister. There’s no excuse for sitting idle and with a heart so full how cruelly negligent I would be to selfishly keep it to myself.
Part of the reason I’ve refrained from writing, besides my overwhelming unwillingness to be disciplined in approaching things not urgent, is that I got tired of hearing about myself. (Then too, I wasn’t sure who I’d be writing of if I wrote about myself.) For a woman who claims to care for the world and its welfare I am amazingly uninvolved and ignorant. At twenty-five years old I am just now becoming comfortable with asking questions out loud. Without questions how can anyone even understand what is outside or even be sure of what is inside. Even now it’s a battle to overcome the fearful reluctance to reveal my lack of knowledge and the thoughts that flounder through my mind are so often unspoken. And how foolish! For the more I protect myself the nearer I am to death.
“Wake up, oh sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.”
This verse, found somewhere in Ephesians, has long been a favorite of mine and one of which I so often need reminding. So many days I walk through, asleep, ignorant of the life that soars and sings around me.
I woke this morning at 6:15 a.m. to a resident of Healing Rain asking me if the alarm was off and if it was okay for her to go outside and smoke. I’d been sleeping on the couch of the community house. My first overnight at work. I fell asleep for another half hour or so then woke again without an alarm and feeling well rested. Outside on the porch a couple of women were talking over coffee. I went out to join them and they met me with laughter, “you’re so funny Amy, you must be happy all the time, A. said even when she woke you up you were smiling.”
I am always happy? That was enough to make me laugh. Though, looking at my life, there is no reason I should not be. What a strange aspect of our nature that instead of rejoicing in the good we look to the problems and lead ourselves to a state where our usefulness wanes and our spirit is diminished. In the moment I look toward my best self; in the midst of all my faltering unbelief I continue to believe, to move forward, to say with thanks, “I am living, I am strong, I am free—thanks be to God!”