Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"There's no place like home for the holidays"

It's that time again: time to go home. In 19 or 20 hours I'll be gathered back into my family's arms, where the sun sets over the ocean and dawn breaks over the mountains. I'll be back in the house that I know and don't know, back to the dog that is mine and not mine, the room that is full of my things, but only of things that I don't use these days. It's time to return to the familiar and find it changed, time to re-place myself and find my old self replaced by whoever I've become in the intervening months. Homecoming is a rediscovery every time. What will I find tomorrow?

When I walk through the door into my room, I'll be back where I was at the end of August. Time-warp: what identity-warp comes along with that?

I guess I'll find out soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Word of the Day

Zwitterion: the dipolar structure in an amino acid resulting from the acid-base reactions between the basic amine group and the acidic carboxylic acid group, which is a salt-like substance. From German zwitter, "a hybrid."

[Yay chemistry!]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands"

Last Wednesday and Thursday were tough, especially because I had to admit I had been ignoring a problem for a while. But I "let go and let God," and He demonstrated His goodness again and again. He gave me peace, and He let me be part of His work, and when Sunday night came, this song filled me:
There is an endless song
echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling:

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love!
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the king
and it makes my heart want to sing.
I want this song to always "echo in my soul." The joy of the Lord is my strength. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Let that be sewn into the quilt of my thoughts. Let me wrap myself in it for warmth and comfort and cover. God, You are good, all the time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wind and Waiting

When I come to the blogger page, there is such a temptation for me these days to just look at the list of updated blogs I follow, and go read all the new posts, go benefit from all those people's thought and effort, and then not write anything myself. Why is it I don't want to write?

It's because I don't want to answer questions. I'm not in the mood for statements. I'm uncertain. Walking alone, I close my eyes to feel the wind better, because it is strong enough to lift me. I lean into the press of the wind. Will it sweep me away? Will it carry me far from here, into the distant blue? If I gave myself to the wind, it would set me down in a stranger's story. Facing someone else's problems, I would spend my confusion on puzzling out the facts, the history.

As it is, I am embedded in my own story still, and I need to be puzzling out the present and the future. Where do I go from here? More to the point, where exactly am I now? I keep wanting to step around the issue. My eyes slide over it, my feet sidle past it, but it keeps reappearing in my path. The wind won't pick me up and lift me over it. The wind won't even blow it out of the way for me.

When Elijah was discouraged and lost, despairing and demanding death, God set him on the mountainside. Then
a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
I am feeling the great wind rush across me. I am feeling the trembling of the earthquake, rattling my bones. I am feeling the fire burn in my mind. But after the fire, a gentle whisper. (A still, small voice, to use Dallas Willard's terminology.) I am waiting for the gentle whisper.

Pause. Breathe. Listen.

When the still, small voice spoke gently to Elijah, it asked him a question. And if God asks me, "What you doing here?" what can I answer? Elijah answers from the depths of his despair, without sugar-coating.

What am I doing here? I have tried to seek Your will. I want to believe I have been zealous for the Lord--not working miracles like Elijah, but speaking what I know of the truth, giving what I can. I believe Your word: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come." So why do the words of Sara Groves' song echo in me?
Feels like I have been waking up
only to fight with the same old stuff
Change is slow and it fills me with such doubt
Come on, new man, where've you been?
Can you wriggle from this self I'm in,
leave it like a skin on the ground?
That's all I can say. I don't really understand where I am, what I'm doing here.

But after Elijah says,
He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
God speaks to him again. God gives him direct instructions about where to go, who to speak with. God tells him the plan that's going to unfold, and God tells him that his own dismal assessment of the situation is, thankfully, wrong. Elijah is not actually the only one left; in fact, God says,
Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him. (1 Kings 19)
So I am waiting, if I can only be still enough, to find out the plan. Where do I go from here? Thank God Almighty, I don't have to decide that by my own wisdom.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I'm back here again, wondering again how I wandered in a circle. Is my life really this patterned? Could I cram it into a regular expression and predict my emotional state next month, next fall, next stage of life? I don't want to loop between a finite number of states in neat patterns, tracing and retracing predetermined paths. I want to move forward, grow deeper, stretch skyward, become more than I am now. I don't want to live like a finite automaton, I want to live like a child of God.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Walk with me quiet, walk with me slow"

Incoherent negotiations, a hug goodnight, and I'm out the door, down the stairs, pulling on my jacket. Night soaked up the day's warmth while I was inside, and, still thirsty, it sucks heat from me. The campus is deserted at this hour on a Monday, and the unexpected chill of the air matches the unexpected unease that seeps into me. Here I am alone, walking in the dark. The streetlights cast my shadow on the ground before me, a slight figure fringed by the shades of my hair fluttering in the cool.

Under the lamps, boys in baseball caps and backpacks wait for the bus. My road leads away, half a mile between the trees. I shiver, and wish you were with me. Irrational, but I feel abandoned. What's the use of a warm hand on my back when we're inside in the light? Now that the cold has wrapped around me, I need a warm arm, a solid presence. But you are back there in the building, so I walk home alone. I feel so small in this vast night.

But I get back safe, and later you apologize for not looking out for me, and I know that in the bright morning, the fear I felt walking tonight will seem as distant, as inconceivable, as the darkness that permeates the world now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Libera et cetera

I haven't written anything post-able lately, but here's what I've been reading:
  • Reinhold Niebuhr, The Self and the Dramas of History
  • Calvin Miller, Into the Depths of God and The Singer
  • Dallas Willard, Hearing from God (I've been reading this since before school started. Fail.)
  • Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer (So good! but so hormone-saturated.)
  • T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems (one or two poems on a good week)
  • August/Sept. issue of First Things
  • 2 Samuel, Exodus, the gospel of John, Daniel (still trying to read through the whole Bible before the end of the year...)
  • tutorials for GIMP, Python and Django (for the c.s. project that has been eating my life)
  • recipes for pumpkin (because I still haven't done anything with half of the pumpkin I roasted a week and a half ago) and white bread
  • Chemistry: the molecular science (textbook that doubles as my weight-lifting)
  • Carnie's Syntax
  • essays on trust and expertise (for a class entitled "global issues")

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quote of the Day

I'm not going to invest the time to comment on this because I need to sleep, but here is a fierce paragraph out of David P. Goldman's essay "Hast Thou Considered My Servant Faust?", which uses Faust to shed light on Job:
Complacency is the characteristically modern sin. The human condition has not changed, nor can it, so long as men must die. But modern man is more susceptible to the illusion that he can mold his own identity and make his own destiny. Modern man can persuade himself that he is alone in the universe, improvising his ethics and identity as he goes along. He can fancy himself master of the universe through science. He can even imagine that brain science eventually will resolve the existential questions that have troubled his kind for millennia. Underneath this complacency lurks an antipathy to life, articulated wittily by Goethe's devil.
This accusation of complacency is especially striking in light of some essays I've been reading lately that forecast such great things from technology. Scientific advancement as the panacea! Don't get me wrong, science and technology are great. But they are also very distracting and good for letting people avoid the deep questions.