November 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
sometimes it’s good to turn around from the rigidity of schedules. sometimes it’s good to break from routine.
sometimes it’s necessary.
this weekend was weighty with sorrow and the heaviness of fellow-feeling the burdens of beloved suffering friends. yesterday the week began and I already felt defeated. so tonight, i dropped my pen and shut my notebook and ran outside, my messy mangled hair streaming behind me as i tried to chase the sunset. it’s pink glowing beams were peeking through my kitchen window as i’ve been trying to write the past few hours, not allowing myself to sit and watch the beauty sinking behind the trees. finally, i threw momentary discipline out the window and had to run after it. I didn’t catch any amazing photos, because by the time I grabbed my coat and turned off my kitchen lights (saving energy!) and got to a clearing where the trees open to clear sky, the pink turned red streaks were just sinking from the sky, giving way to night. still, i laughed at the thought of my hammering feet as i ran down the sidewalk and my cup of tea growing cold at my kitchen table. i only missed about 9 minutes of writing time, but I had gained so much: a fresh complexion from the evening chill on my cheeks, laughter at the spectacle I must have just made of myself to the cars and runners passing by me, but peace and refreshing in my mind and heart.
as i chased the sunset, the verse from this famous hymn was running through my mind:
summer and winter and springtime and harvest/
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,/
Join with all nature in manifold witness/
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
and when I walked back home, smiling at the sound of crunching golden leaves under my feet, I thought:
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
Daily He wins the battle for us, and both during and afterward… we get to sing with all nature in manifold witness!
so friends, every so often, permit yourself to draw blank the schedule, break from the stacks of papers, look away from the tapping cursor on your computer screen. swing wide the door and run towards the Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of the Harvest. allow breaks from rigid routine that allow for your wondering heart to be filled with His goodness. chase the radiant red sunsets, tread the carpets of golden leaves, refresh lungs with the brisk November winds. His gifts are soul-reviving and heart-sustaining.
love, and sing, and wonder.
October 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
You should date an illiterate girl.
Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in a film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.
Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into it every time the air gets stale or the evenings too long. Talk about nothing of significance. Do little thinking. Let the months pass unnoticed. Ask her to move in. Let her decorate. Get into fights about inconsequential things like how the fucking shower curtain needs to be closed so that it doesn’t fucking collect mold. Let a year pass unnoticed. Begin to notice.
Figure that you should probably get married because you will have wasted a lot of time otherwise. Take her to dinner on the forty-fifth floor at a restaurant far beyond your means. Make sure there is a beautiful view of the city. Sheepishly ask a waiter to bring her a glass of champagne with a modest ring in it. When she notices, propose to her with all of the enthusiasm and sincerity you can muster. Do not be overly concerned if you feel your heart leap through a pane of sheet glass. For that matter, do not be overly concerned if you cannot feel it at all. If there is applause, let it stagnate. If she cries, smile as if you’ve never been happier. If she doesn’t, smile all the same.
Let the years pass unnoticed. Get a career, not a job. Buy a house. Have two striking children. Try to raise them well. Fail frequently. Lapse into a bored indifference. Lapse into an indifferent sadness. Have a mid-life crisis. Grow old. Wonder at your lack of achievement. Feel sometimes contented, but mostly vacant and ethereal. Feel, during walks, as if you might never return or as if you might blow away on the wind. Contract a terminal illness. Die, but only after you observe that the girl who didn’t read never made your heart oscillate with any significant passion, that no one will write the story of your lives, and that she will die, too, with only a mild and tempered regret that nothing ever came of her capacity to love.
Do those things, god damnit, because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgatory is better than a life in hell. Do it, because a girl who reads possesses a vocabulary that can describe that amorphous discontent of a life unfulfilled—a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accessible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, goddamnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.
Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows, and rightly demands, that the ebb comes along with the flow of disappointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses—the hesitation of breath—endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a period and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.
Date a girl who doesn’t read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.
Don’t date a girl who reads because girls who read are storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so goddamned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am. You will not accept the life of which I spoke at the beginning of this piece. You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being told. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you. Or, perhaps, stay and save my life.
(posting this here because I read this last night and always want to stay inspired.)
October 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As each weekend comes to a close, I begin to prepare for the week ahead. Swept floors, washed dishes, packed lunch, organized book bag. In smaller ways, I also prepare my mind and heart for the academic rigor ahead and all the challenges a new week will bring. Listing gratefulness in my thankful journal, reflecting on the past week and praying through a few Psalms before bed. I also prepare myself in some small ways… Being a lover of words, one of my weekly preparations are to find an inspiring few words and scribble them into my day planner. Throughout the week, then, I have some truths, some beauty, and some goodness that I can glance over and be motivated, inspired or encouraged by. It helps that the words are sitting there, on the shelf alongside all my daily tasks; the papers to write, the books to read. Last week was inspired by some Wendell Berry words: “We live the given life, not the planned” — an attempt to keep my forced and rigid schedule free enough to live in daily acceptance of what I have been given: each day as a gift, each hour precious. Ever living in and following the theme of gratitude, this week is inspired by Charles Spurgeon:
”Before you go out into the world, wash your face in the clear crystal of praise.
Bury each yesterday in the fine linen and spices of thankfulness.”
At this point in the semester, the amount, length and difficulty of each assignment seems to grow ever longer- and yet the hours in the day seem to grow ever shorter. Recalling to mind God’s goodness, counting gifts and cultivating thankfulness – this is the only task I have found that revitalizes my heart and soul so that my brain and body may continue to do what is required of me. Thankfulness is paradoxical: the task of bending my mind towards seeing and acknowledging God’s goodness is that; a task. It is difficult to stop in the middle of a fully-loaded schedule and churn circumstances into gratitude. Yet in counting graces I see there is even more beauty and goodness in life, through Christ. We have so much to gain in Him alone, and He continues to pour His many acts of goodness upon us! Let us look for the ten thousand joys that lie before us, going out into the world with crystal faces, wrapped in the fine linen and spices of thankfulness.
Love and sing and wonder, friends.
snapshots of gratitude, lately:
September 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
April 16, 2013 § Leave a Comment
…for the initial steps of a brand new journey with someone who is God-fearing, trustworthy, encouraging, leading,
Someone who works to understand me in all my complexities and faults,
Someone who is patient & kind, funny and smart, who always seeks to celebrate even the little things in life,
We both continue to agree that God is abundantly good to us, that we don’t deserve these outpouring of blessings, but we will praise Him and thank Him continually.
Thankful for strong coffee this morning, a filling breakfast, encouraging prayers and challenges before 10am, a project soon to be completed, a 9-day countdown, new mercies.
March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m thankful for a blanket of clouds that keep the wind from blowing full force and that helps keep the temperatures from feeling like Antarctica…
I’m thankful for music with thought-provoking lyrics that challenge and encourage my heart…
I’m thankful for a kind friend’s surprise in the library with tea to soothe my sore throat and a presence to keep me company while we work…
I’m thankful for honest conversations and feet on the ground…
I’m thankful for the upcoming celebration of the greatest moment of history: Easter Sunday, the reason I’m alive, the reason we’re saved and free…
I’m thankful for the Gospel, for the Resurrection, for life in Christ.
He is good!