It’s silly, I think, the things we are capable of forgetting.

For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dutifully tried to get in the habit of making my bed. Having a made bed looks civilized. I find I function better in mildly civilized environments, where at least some manner of order prevails. The effort of establishing this small ritual ensues. Repeatedly.

Because what I keep forgetting is that I entirely loathe sleeping in a made bed. For one thing, the blankets feel either heavy and tight (and I need room to feel relaxed), or else they feel thin and flat. No comfy nest of coziness. For another thing, I tend to get chilly at night. I lay still, and my bodily systems shut down; with that goes my ability to generate heat. I was at a pretty young age when I grasped the principles of insulation. The point is to keep air from moving, and the more air you keep the better. By creating pockets of air that don’t move, you capture all the energy (in the form of heat) and keep it from drifting off. Hence the waffle-weave of long underwear, the crimped fibers of wool, and the fluffy nature of down. If you smooth out all of your blankets nice and flat and civilized, you miss out on so many opportunities for retaining heat. If, on the other hand, you make sure each blanket is wrinkled in a different pattern from each other–why, you dramatically cut down on how many blankets you need to stay warm! (Right now I’m using 4 blankets. If I “make the bed,” I’m cold and don’t sleep well. If I leave a messy bed, I sleep well.)

This is about as close to the bare necessities as one can get–How To Stay Warm At Night And Sleep–and still I occasionally forget, and feel as though I ought to reform my slovenly ways. Other people around me are living with neat beds. Their neat beds are proper and dignified. Mine does not meet the standard of well-kept. Yet conforming to expectations decreases my quality of life–it makes me less happy, and actually function at a lower level. And still, I am prone to forgetting. A small thing, yes; but the fact that it is such a basic thing is also precisely what makes it so concerning.

If I can forget about things as simple as how I sleep best (despite others’ expectations), what else am I capable of becoming confused about? Is there any limit at all? Likely not. I think of how often the writers of the New Testament said “reminding you again” and “remind each other” and other things of like manner. Forgetting what matters is apparently part of the human condition, and so we’ll never be quite free of it here. Sometimes it seems like it devolves into a constant game of hide and go seek. Is this–any of this–really important, or having I been imbibing the importance of others again?

I’m not surprised when I find out what is important to me. I’m frustrated that I’ve forgotten again, for all I’ve really done is rediscovered what I already knew. Like a brute animal being trained, it is only by repeatedly smashing my head against the same thing, over and over, that I gradually begin to understand How Important a thing is. Part of the curse must be in never actually learning, and part of perfection must be in not forgetting what was once known. In complete honesty, it makes me angry. I want to learn new things, not be continually reminded with how poorly I learned the first time. And why am I so susceptible to becoming confused by the things around me? I’m angry about that, too.

One might be tempted to say that it takes someone with a very strong vision for themselves to maintain their single-mindedness in a world full of pressures and temptations. I am, however, going to suggest the complete opposite. I think it is the idea that one can “make” oneself that gets us so confused. If we forget that we are created, then it becomes our responsibility to shape ourselves. And that’s when we stumble over all the things that seem like perhaps they are right, even if for us they are so wrong. If we are created, then the task is to observe what is and to be faithful to it. If we’re making ourselves, it rapidly becomes confusing. A lot of what we see other people doing appears to be good, and we dabble on a little of this and a little of that, and combine it all with a lot of over thinking of “what life is supposed to be like.” But a duck is not concerned with living the life of a pelican, and a wolf never tries to be a house cat. They know what they’ve been created to be, and they’re not very concerned with what anyone else thinks of that or what anyone else is doing, even.

This weekend, I have been struggling with the idea of backing out of the TA position that was offered to me for next semester. On paper, it seems like a good thing. It would look good on my resume. I like teaching. The school is struggling to find TA’s (they need 3 for that class, and so far I’m the only one). Everyone says the students would really benefit from me being a TA. I’d get paid, at least a little. It would be very dutiful of me. Very responsible. Very just-so and neat and orderly. I feel as though I Ought to.

But I think the answer is No. Because, in reality, I don’t like the topic and have very little respect for the teacher, and it’s on a Friday afternoon which is otherwise class-less. Of all the things that I could do on a whole wide day off, would being a TA really benefit me the most? No. Definitively. I’d be signing up for making myself miserable because I Ought to, and in doing so, NOT doing any one of the hundred million other things that would be better for me. In the name of guilt. In the name of it being a reasonable, responsible, society-sanctioned, over-achiever approved activity. Because some people do that, and it seems like it’s a good thing, so maybe I should try, too.

You may have laughed off my unmade bed. We all have our eccentricities. You may have shrugged off the TA position. Different strokes for different folks; not the right thing for you at this time, and that’s fine. But you should see the look of horror when I tentatively float the idea that after I graduate, I don’t want to work full time. That, my friends, is real heresy. I might say fantasy, which would be true in that I don’t think most people think it’s possible, but it’s more than that. There is such an undercurrent of disgust, of insult, of condemnation. This is what people do: they go to college, and then they work full time. You can work more than 40 hours, if you like, but not less. You filthy heathen.

I like my field. I am convinced that God uses me through my work. It’s good work. I don’t have a problem with “work” per se, and I’m not condemning anyone’s work schedule. It’s just that I also know I’m an introvert, and that spending that much time with other people continually leaves me so drained I want to cry. I know that I don’t do well with rigid structure, and I like things to move and flex, not grind on unceasingly around the week, the month, the entire calendar. And I know that there are a lot of other good things I can do with my time.

Society says it’s okay to say, “I’d love to spend more time with my grandmother, but I can’t; I have to work.” It’s okay to say, “I wish I could be there to help my friends who are having babies, but I can’t; I have to work.” It’s fine to say, “You know, it might be fun to get and train a therapy dog and go visit nursing homes and hospitals. But I can’t; because I have to work.” But it is Not Okay to say, “I can’t work that much; I have to go help my grandmother, and be there for my friends and go cheer up the sad and lonely people of the world.” I would say it’s regarded as being silly, but it seems to be to be met with more heat than mockery.

I’m not going to go into a lecture about priorities and making sacrifices for what’s important; I’m not going to explain to you why you should be like me. I’m just saying, working 40 hours a week for a paycheck from someone else can look like a good and responsible and proper thing to do. As does making the bed every morning. And maybe for some people it is; and that’s their business. But no where does it say, “Thou Shalt make your bed every morning,” or “Thou Shalt work 40 hours+ every week to earn your paycheck from someone else.” It is, in this society, utterly shocking. That doesn’t make it wrong, and in fact, does not mean it isn’t what I truly ought to do.

And am I telling you that? Or telling myself? Not working for someone else full time is perfectly in keeping with who I am, and the idea doesn’t disturb me. But being so out of step with the world around me apparently does, because I’ve been investing a lot of energy into trying to convince myself that the 40 hour work week wouldn’t really be so bad; that I’d get used to it; that it’s just the way the world is; that I Ought To; that thousand and thousands of people do it; that maybe if it was a better work situation; that if I just found the right job; that maybe I’ll change; that I should Be Responsible; and any other thing I can do to drown out the persistent voice inside of me saying, “No. No! NO.”

I’m fighting my very own self to not let everyone in on the dirty little secret that I don’t want to live that life. It’s so shocking and so scandalous to people, and it seems so irresponsible. But I was a PTA before, and people live off that income. PT’s get paid twice as much. How hard is it to make that leap? Live like the PTA I was–I was never in this for the money, anyhow–and actually live a life? Oh, but your student loans, your student loans! I know. 3 years and a lifetime of debt. But once you make your peace with the idea that you’ll be paying them back for the rest of your natural life or until someone decides to forgive whatever is left (whichever comes first), you realize that it actually has very little bearing on how you live your life. They are student loans, after all; the terms are much less stringent (quite flexible, actually), perhaps in part because you can’t foreclose on my education and suck it all back out of my ear. There’s nothing to reclaim, so why not just accept a steady stream of interest repayments for about, say, forever?

But you’re Supposed To. You’re supposed to want more; you’re supposed to want to “better yourself;” you’re supposed to want to get things done; you’re supposed to accept the lifestyle of the daily grind. Only ridiculously rich people are allowed to have to luxury of setting their own priorities; the rest of us are Supposed To put our time in. Who do you think you are, to dare to not put in the hours everyone else is? If it was your job to visit people in nursing homes, then okay. If you just want to go do it “just because,” without getting paid for it, instead of working hard like the rest of us, then no. And if you don’t want to work for the man because you have too much else you want to learn, too much else you want to create, too much else you want to enjoy? Suck it up, buttercup. Being an adult is all about doing what you don’t want to do.

Society accepts learning if you are paying for it and getting a piece of paper; society doesn’t accept learning if it looks too much like having fun. Society accepts volunteering, if you do it through sanctioned organizations with proper sign-up times; society resents it if it looks like helping family and friends. You can pursue your dreams, as long as they look like working really hard and not even having any time left to pick your toenails; but you can’t pursue your dreams if it looks like having a perfectly normal hard-scrabble (medium-scrabble?) life where you wonder how long you can keep your car running and wish it wasn’t so expensive to get your teeth cleaned at the dentist but at least you aren’t spending your entire life counting down till Friday.

Some of us make our beds. Some of us don’t. I think that perhaps all of us, deep down inside, know who we are. We just don’t always remember. Other things press in. The immediate seems to make the most sense. Things that seem important, reasonable, responsible, prudent, sensible, acceptable, or even just attainable–tumble down in a continual avalanche. It’s a struggle to keep climbing out from under it all, shaking it off, and saying, “I’m sorry; I didn’t have time to do the homework; I had to be outside.” It’s the truth, but it’s so much more unexpected than saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be outside, but I had homework.” I don’t expect people to accept it, so I don’t tell them, hiding that statement inside of me. It’s not a question of who you decide you will be; it’s a question of remembering who you already are. It’s paying attention to, and admitting, and remembering all the things that kill you day by day, and all the things that pour little golden drops of light into your life and make you breath deeper and sleep sounder.

You know who you are. Do you remember? What are you going to do about it?


Friend, your post made me think enough I decided to write my own post in response. I think there’s a dignity limit to how long comments can get. You asked some questions and you said some things, and my mind has gone off on all sorts of tangents, and as one of my favorite quotes has said (I don’t know who the person was who said it, anymore), “the ability to touch-type is a dangerous thing.” Verily.

I started trying to figure out how succinct I could make my response, but it seems like a slight to not actually address the questions asked. Being a backwards person, I tackle the last question first! :)

I know people who say your best friends should all be Christians, but I ask them: What happens when things don’t quite work out that way? To a point, yes, you can choose your friends, but most Christians I know are too busy to have time to invest in a friendship with me, and I take what I can get. If “what I can get” is nonChristians is that a crime? Are they somehow lesser friends?

Well, honestly, I think the people who complain and/or admonish that your real friends should be Christians have only themselves to blame. In my experience, these are the same people who seem to run on an endless supply of pious platitudes, and platitudes do not friendship beget, pious or otherwise. If you say, “gosh, I’m worried about. . .” and the response is, “remember, the Good Lord said not be anxious or be worried, so seek Him and lay it all at the cross!” Well, there is little suitable rejoinder. “. . .” doesn’t make for a very deep friendship. It’s quite natural to rather be with people who say, instead, “yeah, isn’t that frustrating when those situations come up? I know we make a bigger deal out of them than we should, but it’s hard to feel so helpless.” At least it’s an honest interaction, and there’s a conversation to be had.

But lesser friends? Maybe. That might sound like heresy (aren’t we all created in the image of God?); but when you can find a truly deep friend who shares your faith, that’s something beyond. That’s one who can say, “it is hard to feel helpless; but we can pray. I always wonder about that, because it says Elijah had a nature just like ours, but it seems to me sometimes like my prayers are pretty ineffectual, and I wonder what God meant us to understand from that.” It’s far beyond a pious platitude, and yet is a kind of fellowship that a non-Christian simply can’t offer.

Is it wrong to have non-Christian friends? No, of course not. “What you can get” is what God gives you, and if what God gives is friendship with anyone, that’s a blessed thing. But when I think of friendship, real friendship, I think of David and Jonathan. And there are two striking things to me about their friendship; one is that nearly every time you read about them, Jonathan is encouraging David in the Lord. The other is that it was just David and Jonathan. Only. The greatest king of Israel, a mighty man of valor, handsome and well liked and a superb leader – and he has ONE friend, one REAL friend. Isn’t that food for thought?

I think part of us knows that deep friendship is very valuable, and so we desire it greatly. But yet one of the reasons why it is so valuable is because it is so rare. Pea gravel might be useful, but gold is treasured. Why is it so rare, if we all desire it?

Sometimes I wonder how much we all desire it. I see the ones who have many friends, and my gosh do they ever declare friends quickly. A few weeks and they’re inseparable, BFFs, soul mates. And they don’t waste any time on chit-chat and small talk, nosiree. Yet the thing they call friendship is a thing those of us looking for something to fill a large set of shoes wouldn’t be satisfied with. And the ones who are looking for that deeper thing? Those are often some of the ones hiding behind small talk.

Isn’t that terribly frustrating and confounding? If you want a real friendship, let’s talk about real things! But talking about real things requires trust, and trust needs time to grow. We’re finite creatures afraid of running out of time, so we want to pick the un-ripe fruit and force open the hesitant bud. But sometimes people need to learn first that their friendship can survive the terrors of an argument over which is better, pizza or wings, before there can be enough trust risk arguing over serious things. Some of my deepest friendships were only built over years of small talk–and that’s another thing: building friendships. One of my pet peeves is the phrase “making friends.” I loathe that phrase. I don’t make someone my friend. It’s a long term project, and if you quit early, you haven’t got anything. We don’t get the whole house without a foundation, but if you quit after the foundation, you certainly haven’t got a house. There’s no magical “transformation” into a friend.

There’s a thread running through your whole post that I laugh to see, because in it I see myself. One time someone was commenting to me that it seemed like I’d finally loosened up and was finally starting to be more myself. I made a comment along the lines of “yes; I just take a while to warm up,” to which she responded, “I thought I was going to have to set you on fire!” It made me realize just how vulnerable I’d felt over previous year–so, so vulnerable and fragile. And in feeling so incredibly breakable, any kind of interaction with another person required incredible amounts of trust, and I had no reason to trust. I was incredibly grateful for her persistence in wanting to break open that shell, even though I made it so difficult for her. She was a great support and encouragement to me, and I don’t think I would be where I am now, if not for her.

But we’re still not friends.

Because she got me to open up to her, but she never reciprocated. She gave me care, she didn’t give me friendship. And I understand that now, because I’ve watched myself learn how to give care, too. In my line of work, someone is already coming in feeling vulnerable, and you have to get them to trust you or you won’t be able to help them. And I learned how to wield small talk, and learn how to wield tiny pieces of my own vulnerability, and I learned how to get people to really trust me and be so grateful, but I wasn’t building friendships. I was giving care.

And giving care is not a bad thing, but it’s not friendship. Giving care can feel like a one-sided friendship, sometimes, but it isn’t really friendship. It is caring deeply about other people, while trying to hold the upper hand in some way — being the “strong one”; keeping oneself safe; subconsciously assuming the other person’s struggles are more important than your own (an upper hand, because your “struggles” are “smaller” or not in the open on the table); staying in control (of your emotions, your risks, your image you have of yourself in your own head toward yourself); or any other number of things. So friendship requires not only trust, but also humility — in essence, two of the hardest tasks of humanity.

The thing is, it takes a lot of effort to expose yourself when you are feeling vulnerable, and there’s not really any such thing as safe vulnerability. It’s a paradox of grand proportions, similar to the admonishments to “take care of yourself.” Well, golly. Caregiving requires tremendous energy, and if I had tremendous energy, I wouldn’t be needing care, now, would I? There’s a reason we often need people to take care of us; pulling oneself up by ones own bootstraps is notoriously unsuccessful.

So what do we do? We like being an enigma, because there’s some safety in that. But we long for someone who is persistent enough (as we would be!) to figure us out. To want to understand us, because we are valuable enough for that kind of investment. That’s really the only thing Mr. Rochester had going for him, you know. He was pretty much a straight up jerk, but Jane was an enigma, and he cared enough for her to be curious enough to ask her probing questions that made her terribly uncomfortable. Jane was a hard egg to crack, yes; but deep down, don’t we all want to be understood?

Depth scares people, I think. But I’ve found it can also attract them. Ask people about themselves and as they grow to trust you they’ll talk for hours. Ask about their struggles and their thoughts and fears.

Indeed. And you do, you enigma-cracker; and you get class-fulls of people to trust you. But who do you tell, caregiver, who do you tell your struggles and thoughts and fears to? Who listens to you for hours, who do you trust to listen to you for hours? I would guess that you’re still waiting for someone to ask. I think sitting down next to someone and telling them your struggles and fears, uninvited, takes a whole other kind of courage.

Which is to say, yes; we’re all waiting and lonely. Waiting, I think, not only to know as we are known, but also to really know how well we are known. So I suppose I’ve gone backwards and sideways in all sorts of ways, just to agree with you where you started to begin with.

But if were to put earthly friendship in a word, I would say: safety. Not that damages would never come, but that they would be survived. Not that every need would be met, but that burdens could be shared without guilt or anxiety or ridicule. And not that small-talk would never happen, but that behind it would be a quiet confidence that even small-talk can bear fruit in it’s own time. Not that what we have to give would never be under-valued, but in a recognition also of what it is the other is offering, and being willing to receive it. Sometimes we need to feel the safest of all in order to receive.

And there my thoughts end, because it’s late o’clock at night and my brain is mush; but having survived the week, it was nice to be able to reward myself with a chance to write. Since you only asked what I thought and didn’t put on any fine print qualifiers, such as, “note: must be coherent thoughts” or “note: must be 1,500 words or less” or “note: I meant thoughts you had about yourself, not arm-chair psychoanalysis of me”, I think I’m still safe to post this even with mushy brain. Besides, I’m at a point where if I don’t write late at night and with impaired cognition, I might never get a chance to write at all; and I think I’m apologizing in good part because I feel guilty about not proof-reading my writing before posting, and also I think I left my car windows open; darn.

Good night!

Truth and Daring

Every once in a while, I wonder why I named this blog Cloudy Day Writing; invariably, I find myself curled in a chair by a window letting in the cloudy light, and I remember again and again.

Introspection can be a dangerous thing, dangerous like a fire, life-giving and risky. Of late I seem to find the results of my introspection that I haven’t been crazy enough; there are some things that just don’t work if you do them by halves, like jumping off the high dive. Millions of thoughts and ideas and desires and longings tumble through me, creating a strong undertow. . .and so I sit on a rock on the shore and dabble my toes in it.

Some people, I’ve come to realize, want normal. I used to think I wanted normal, in part because I had my own definition of what normal was and in part because of what I saw of wild. Wild and crazy and out of control do not appeal to me, because in unhinging themselves from everything, they seem to loose the value of so much. But safe and secure has a different fear: giving lip service to things you never have to go out on a limb to value.

I think of the Greatest Generation. . .it’s the idea of who these people were and are, I think, more than who they really were or are. In our minds they are heroes; not in the modern sense martyrdom or piety, but in the old-fashioned sense of doing mighty works, of slaying dragons. When we pause to consider the hardships they had to go through, one part of us recoils. How wonderful and terrible that they carried through, and better they than us. The other part aches and longs, because we desire to be found not lacking, and the only way to be found as such is to be tested and tried. Ideally, if we could find the best of both worlds, we would find someway to be heroes without having to actually enter the crucible – to the result that even our children’s movies make commentary about how everyone being special means that no one is.

What is most interesting to me is not that we’re afraid. . .it’s that we don’t even know what we’re afraid of. Safety is its own drug, and like most drugs it’s also an illusion. The thing is that it’s not cured with an addiction to danger, either, and that’s the mystery. That piercing beam of light shoots narrowly down the middle: neither safety nor danger will save you; neither nomadic wandering nor cloistered monastery will save you. Your desire to make life valuable by throwing things away will not be successful; nor will hording treasured possessions give you life.

One of the most strikingly beautiful passages I recall is “For God has placed eternity in the hearts of men.” Hear it groaning? Feel it pulling? What so many of us stumble into is looking for a palatable way to have our souls reforged. I see some older people who seem to have entered some form of peace; I think they look back over their life and they decide that they’re about as forged as they’re going to get in this life and they’re okay with that. The young ones starting out, or the older ones who aren’t happy with their forging? There’s a desperation there, a desperation to find something that will shape them from who they see themselves into the heroes they’ve heard stories about. Like Frog and Toad setting out to be brave, they turn their face with determination toward the world.

But being forged, being in the crucible. . .it’s more about being made than about making oneself. It involves becoming malleable, of allowing oneself to be changed, to stop fighting. Surrender does not sound heroic; fighting does. The odd thing is, when we seek out the lives of those we think we admire, there’s far more laying down than fury. It’s daring precisely because it isn’t safe, putting aside defenses and becoming vulnerable, and we wonder how anyone survives it.

I suppose it’s odd, starting out a thought by saying I’ve been too timid and get to the end and say give up on trying to be in control, but I think that’s where the two thoughts come together: we’re afraid of failure. We imagine that being brave means going out and conquering failure, but I begin to suspect it just means slogging through failure – and that’s where the shaping of character comes. I begin to suspect that the difference between a fool and a wise person isn’t who avoids more failure, but who takes more from the failure.

Failure? Success? And we are back to the discussion of what “normal” is. Normal is partly a myth, of course; but like all bell curves, the idea is that the majority of people can agree on what the majority of people count as success. This is where I find that I don’t want to be normal. Academically, I have finally drifted down into the bell curve, I think. We don’t have strict academic rankings posted for all to see, but I typically am within any posted bell curves. I thought it would be interesting to see what it was like to be normal, but I find that — even if I am now in the company of those who can challenge me academically — I’m not normal, and I don’t want to be normal. Their ideas of dreams and their idea of success don’t run with mine. I can’t say, “yeah, me too” when they talk about what they want after graduating. And yet when people ask me what comes after graduating, I daren’t answer, even to myself.

That in itself is a telling response, don’t you think?


Lutheran Church

- Pastor actually knew everyone in the church (greeted people personally) and welcomed you without implication (that you would or should be there ever after). Followed up with email WHEN WARRANTED (e.g. no “form letter” just because you showed up, but when I shared difficulties I was having, he followed up on them through the following weeks).
- Bible study wasn’t scripted (no “answer these questions” forms), and the pastor demonstrated quite a bit of respect for what was said. He did try to gently guide back people who were trying to bring something into the text that just wasn’t there, but especially seemed to have a lot of respect for the older/more mature members.
- Holy reverence would be a word I wold feel comfortable using to describe this setting.

– Terrible exegesis. I wish I could say something more constructive than this, but it just often seemed if the thoughts presented were only very tangentially related to the Scripture at hand, and often times seemed to miss the point of the passage entirely.
- Pew warmers. Almost entirely elderly people, and for the most part everyone showed up at that last minute and left in a hurry. There was little to no opportunity to gather with people outside of the service.
- Party-liner’s. These people weren’t “Christians” they were “Lutherans”. It was unsettling at times.

Notable moments:
- The pastor asking an infant child if it renounced all the ways of the Devil. Derrrr. . . I struggle with all views of infant baptism, but I really didn’t get the point of pretending to ask a writhing infant if it would declare a renunciation of all the ways of the evil one.
- Speaking during Bible study about something I thought was going on in the text and having an elderly member of the church whirl around with pointed finger and declare, “Now THAT is some excellent Lutheran theology!” There were quite a few very intelligent, well-studied/educated gentlemen there, who I miss, but I never was making a Lutheran point and I never was prepared to be congratulated on it.
- When the pastor realized I wasn’t showing up (and hadn’t mentioned going home, etc) he sent a very nice follow up email, just letting me know that I was missed and that he hoped nothing more disastrous had come upon me (it had been a very disastrous Summer; he had right to be worried). I explained I was troubled by some of the persistent Lutheran beliefs, and he simply offered that if I wanted to, he’d be glad to meet with me and discuss them. I never took him up on it, but I find I regret it.

Baptist church:

- much better exegesis, e.g. recognizing the centrality of Christ throughout the entire Bible.
- much more diverse congregation, and many more opportunities to gather besides Sunday service.

- FEAR. GUILT. SHAME. FEAR. GUILT. If nothing else, you should repent of not feeling ashamed enough. All interactions with people should be based out of FEAR they might not get to heaven.
- Canned gatherings. When you meet, you need a church approved agenda. Your homegroup leaders will be reporting back to leadership.
- Face. Let’s keep it all looking good. Including with neat little shows of “humility”. Everyone should be involved in everything. Heaven help us if the sinners don’t see us being joyful enough. I began to feel that God got a lot of lip service but began to doubt how hallowed He was.
- Pride and false humility. It is at times subtle, but pervades everything. The church is run like a business, with leaders being personally invested in the success riding on them and their name. It needs to be ever expanding. References to authority are not to “Luther” but rather to “the pulpit.”
- An emphasis on the “gospel” that leaves the “church” in the cold. I met so many people who said they’d been going to that church for over 5 years and still didn’t know most people; meantime, we are “church planting” on the other side of the world.
- Money. It requires frequent mentioning from the pulpit. Everyone should be giving sacrificially, and more sacrificially. It is part of the constitution. If you become a member, you have to agree to give regularly, reliably and sacrificially.

Notable Moments:
- I went the Lutheran church for about 2 months. The pastor, I am confident will still remember me. I have attended the Baptist church for over 6 months. I’ve never actually met the ring-leader. Although I suspect he has heard several reports on me.
- The conversation in which the homegroup leader asked me what I thought about church going, now that I was. I answered honestly that I thought there was a problem with any arrangement which didn’t allow for members of the body to be ministering to one another, and that it was boring and meaningless to just show up, shut up, and sit down. He said that I was right, but that in order to support the mission, the church had to get bigger–and still must get bigger yet!–and logistically, there was just no way to have meaningful interactions with such a large group. He then tried to convince me I just needed to get more involved with scripted activities and “serving”.
- The financial meeting in which the ring-leader said that the churches main responsibility was first the church and then to the unsaved, and the preceded to cut funding to anyone who wasn’t on board enough with saving sinners.
- Watching a women attempt to share a concern for THREE WEEKS in a row, but being sidelined every week because there “wasn’t enough time”–there needing to be time for the pastor to read the announcements of “ministry” happenings, and lecture us all ad nauseam of the subject of his choosing. (Her son had a concussion from which he was not recovering well from.)
- The hands and feet of homegroup: people were there when I needed prayers, there when I needed to talk, there to feed me meals and send me home with leftovers, there to help me with car problems, there to invite me over at times when I should be with family that was too far away. How I needed that – and how sad when I realized it wasn’t ever getting any deeper than that, and that I felt more comfortable discussing spiritual matters with friends who had no professed religion than I did with homegroup, who’s thoughts were not their own.

Methodist Church:

Only went once, so only some off the cuff observations:
– Like the Lutheran Church, it is a very peaceful sit-through. This was a smaller gathering, and the church was older (it was a good deal scenic), but like the Lutheran Church, it was full of grey heads and not much else. This perplexes me. I would think if you didn’t really care, you would want to show up some place pleasant that doesn’t make your head hurt, but of which the Lutheran and Methodist Churches were and the Baptist Church decidedly was not (plus, the Baptist service is at least a full twice as long).
- Because it was such a small gathering, literally anyone and EVERYone who wanted to add prayers to the congregation could and did. The pastor would repeat them aloud so that everyone could hear the request or praise, and then say, “Lord in your mercy–” and the congregation “hear our prayers.” I really liked that part of it. It was a good way to share prayer with a large gathering. (And much better than listening to someone go on long-windedly and still managing to tie in guilt and fear and shame and pride.)
-Exegesis was still pretty mediocre, but that was one sermon, so it’s hard to know. At least he got to his point quickly.
-Apparently (e.g. everyone else knows this but only now do I), most “high” churches are “in communion” which they use to mean, among other things, that everyone uses the same “lectionary” or system of readings from the bible. The more “higher” you are, the more special circumstance you need to deviate from the pre-chosen text; in the Episcopal Church, you need the Bishop’s approval. In the Methodist church, you can choose to follow it or not, but usually do. I can’t help but wonder if this part of the reason why so far every “high” sermon I’ve heard has been very superficial and flat – following a script of readings can be limiting.

Episcopal Church:

Again, only went once, so just some brief thoughts.

-Life is a play, and everyone played their part. Granted, it was an Easter service, but the pomp, ritual and ceremony was so grand to the point it was hard to take it serious. At least for me. It was like a caricature, making you want to giggle; or, if you took it seriously, creepy. Very tall Bishop with his very tall hat, and even taller and more majestic shepherds crook which is obviously beyond the symbolic and into “likely has hidden powers.” Lots of singing in Latin, and even though it was a modern concrete structure, they’d done the architecture right to get that echo-y church sound.
-It was neat that they were explicit in their programs that kids were free to wander. There was no expectation that the kids should get shipped away, nor that little kids were expected to be statues for the entire time.
- The Choir Master clearly loved his job, and loved leading us in a round – truly, a round with over lapping parts – of joy and thanksgiving. In Latin.
- When communion was handed out, everyone gathered at the front loosely, and the people handing out the elements circulated around. I liked this arrangement better than the Lutheran “come up and kneel while I hand it to you” and even more than the Baptist “let’s all sit twiddling our thumbs while we pass everything through the whole seated congregation.” Granted, we would have been twiddling our thumbs while the people passed out the elements to the gathered people, but, hey, if you were bored, you could sing the Latin refrain.
- The sermon was lame. Truly. If this is what passes for leading the flock, you can understand why it seems like anyone and everyone should be allowed to teach and lead. Nothin’ to it. Say a few words. Try to look holy. Remember to look up a lot.

Some over all thoughts:

- Passion does not equal truth. I think the people at the Baptist church were more passionate (maybe that’s what brought people there, not the long service times and the moral to be fearful and ashamed?). I got the feeling that a lot of people liked the feeling of always being busy with church things, that by their activity and emotion they were “doing something” about it and were more real and true and RIGHT. It is said, though, not that we will be known by our emotion or activity, but by our fruit. To which I am sure at the Baptist church I would be pointed to head-count and church-plants as evidence of said fruit, but it no where says, “by your head-count they will know I am among you.” Far from it.

- The Episcopal church was one of the places my landlady had me take her while she was unable to drive. Sometimes she and I talk about spiritual or religious things. One of our differences is that community is VERY important to me, but she feels the opposite. She doesn’t need a community. She says she just needs a place to come in holy reverence. We’re both introverts, and to a certain extent, I understand what she means. We don’t need people, people, people. But the difference is, I don’t need to go to a structure with a figure up in the front to feel like I’m satisfying being in the presence of God. (I am hesitant to write how she feels, since our conversations are often all over the place and not delving too deeply in a certain area.) When I am coming to a church, it’s not because I need or want the administration of a religion; it’s because I want to find other people who are seeking and worshiping God, and to have fellowship with them. It doesn’t mean I want to be doing it every day of the week, morning and evening, because I am and introvert, and I am wearied by people, people, people. All of these endless “ministry” gatherings just make me want to cry. I’m interested in the people and God, not doing “churchy” things and listening to endless strings of speakers and spiritual small talk of how we can notice God more by making craft boards we write things down on. And I’m not really interested in pomp and circumstance, although if you made me choose, I’d pick the solemnity of the Lutheran and Methodist settings over the self-righteous and false-humility I see in the Baptist setting.

- I feel like I have a better understanding of how people get pulled into cults and some of the reasons why people find religion and churches to be creepy. People say all of these nice things and do all of these nice things, and maybe you don’t have anyone else in your life who is doing nice things or saying nice things to you. At the end of it all, though, most people seem ungenuine, and you start feeling more and more like you’re someone’s project. But you want to make it work, and who else do you have? I don’t feel like that is my position, but I feel like it so easily could have been me, had my situation be just a little different.

- I am not done looking/visiting/going to churches, but I feel like I have been reminded that in many ways, this is an academic/experiential activity. I’m not likely to find what I’m really looking for in established churches, any more than one is likely to find a good hearty meal in a pastry shop. I may find other individual Christians I can grow with, but not any institution, and I would do well to remember that.

– “home church” or “non-denominational” is in no way a sign that things are better. Every “non-denominational” I’ve looked into so far is hardly related to the original word “Christian.” Someone who was well intention added me to a “home church” group on Facebook, which has been hair-raising. I’ve been watching things go past in the spirit of academic awareness, but if all I knew about home gatherings was what I saw there, I would run far, far away and never come back. I expect to be removing myself from that group shortly.

- There has been a massive logical fallacy committed on a huge scale that since “church” in the NT usually refers to a “local gathering”, you need to pick a church and stick with it. I think the point was that you are in fellowship with the people who were around you, since the only way to discuss a more global church was by these long letters called epistles or by hazardous and unreliable travel plans. Considering that sectarianism was explicitly condemned, using the call for “local gathering” to justify why you need to consistently gather at one of the 20+ power-struggling denominational gatherings is beyond absurd. It’s also an absurd fallacy to assume that since we are told not to forsake gathering together, there must be something magical about sitting silently in pews saying nothing together for hours on end. Besides the end of the verse (and the previous verse and THE WHOLE DARN BOOK) that implies there is more about it than just existing in the same physical space, there is also the reminder that “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also.” The point is not where the gathering is, who is “in charge of” the gathering, or how perfunctorily the gathering is attended. The point is not forsaking one another. And to my understanding, sitting coldly in a pew listening to one man talk counts as forsaking one another.

I am always a bit hesitant to post these sorts of things, as since they can be deeply touchy and personal subjects, an off-the-cuff handling of them can lead to a lot of misunderstandings. Still, I need a place to think about and consider these things, and right now. . .I’ve yet to find local people I can do that with.

losing, lost and looking

“Not all who wander are lost. . .”

I was rather surprised when this quote went viral, showing up on everything from t-shirts to decorative couch pillows to almost anything else you could think of. It’s been interesting reflecting on it; at first they included the line, “all that is gold does not glitter”, but they lost that in a hurry. I guess people liked the defiance in “not all who wander are lost” but were much less interested in “the old that is strong does not wither” or “deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

Like most of Tolkien’s writing, the original poem was full of much weariness, much longing, and the real complexity of “bittersweet” that has now been so overused on extravagant chocolate desserts that the word has begun to lose the depths of real heartache mingled with true joy. By snipping out that one little line, they’ve lost so much; what remains is a superficial arrogance. What was a mourning has been turned into an anthem.

Becoming one that wanders, while not being lost, is not really a goal. The point isn’t that you want to be a loner, distancing yourself from others, thinking yourself above, different, better than. It’s really a lament. Not being lost, yet still having to wander.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

It’s not the goal, and it’s not pleasant. It’s something to be endured until the fullness, and in the meantime, it’s lonely. And it might be pleasant to not be wandering alone, but “all that is gold does not glitter.” People aren’t really attracted to just being lonely and pining for things being restored. They want to get comfortable–and by comfortable, I don’t necessarily mean no hardship. I just mean a certain level of predictability, certain levels of challenge, certain levels of control and choice.

When you come along beside someone, metaphorically, and say, “Come, let us walk this journey together!” and they respond by saying, “Journey? My butt is planted right here; if you need help figuring out how to sit down, I’ll teach you,” well, there can be little doubt there is not much in the way of fellowship. I think it is the rejection of fellowship that hurts worse than the traveling in different directions.

I realize this is all rather vague, and I don’t mean to be obtuse. It’s just that I am wary to pinning it all down on one circumstance, when I see echos of it through all of life. When we’re kids and no one wants to play hide-and-go-seek with us, it’s not that we had a dire need to play hide-and-go-seek.The desire was the togetherness. Debates that turn into debates are unfulfilling, because unless there actually is a desire to come together, in fondness if not in agreement, there is no accomplishment. Being right in a context devoid of relationship is pointless.

To wander is to admit there is no place to sit down and be settled, at least for now. To say that you are not lost, however, is to say that you know that it is meaningful to keep searching and waiting and looking and knocking and asking and longing. It is not at all about spurning others; but not everyone wants to wander. It doesn’t glitter. And to endure the wandering, there must be deep roots. The greatest joy is not in wandering, but only in knowing that one day, we will be reforged.


I never knew, before my Chemistry classes, that when the snow turns immediately to fog the reaction is referred to as “subliming.” Solid to vapor, forgoing the liquid state. But it seems so poetically perfect, and I relish it. I’ve always enjoyed the snow so determined to leave that ascends instead of descending; loved the dramatic clouds rising to shroud the black of the bark against the white of the snow. Now when I see it, I also think, “sublime,” and smile.

Priceless or worthless. . .?

It seems nearly every year, the price for keeping dibs on this domain goes up. And every year, I wonder if it is worth spending money on a notebook I so rarely use.

He Causes the Rain to Come

There is something very refreshing about being out in the elements. Not staying out there, mind–but tasting of all those things we’re presumed to want to keep ourselves safe from–out in the night, out in the rain, out in the snow, out in the wind and the cold.

If you find yourself smiling and nodding as you read, it should be no surprise to find that the opposite is also true: it is very sapping and draining to live in too sterile and fake an environment.

I hate the carpet in my bedroom–loathe it. It feels like rough plastic under my feet. I would tear it up in an instant if it were my house; I’d try to talk my landowner into tearing it up, if I thought there was anything under it than chipboard. Instead, I skitter from the bed to the bathroom with my subconscious muttering, “ick, ick, ick” the whole way. I walk the dog barefoot, sometimes, on the asphalt loop–that’s rough, and sometimes pointy, and always rubs tar off on my feet. It still feels more interesting and honest.

The hard things and the raw things and the honest things. . .and the sad thing is, it seems those are the things society most expects and encourages us to run from and hide from and cover up.

I feel out of place and alien in my condo-upper-bedroom. My feet, used to being dew-drenched in the dirt of the garden, rebel against the “sturdy” carpet. But my soul does, too, in a way. I tell myself that I’m going to be here a while, and I should get settled in. Make things homey, bloom where I’m planted, all that jazz. But the truth is, I don’t want to make this place home. It’s a good box to park in while I go to school, but the place is sterile, and it’s hard to get any real life in it.

I feel like an ingrate. A roof, a bed, a kitchen beyond any right. Trees. Crickets. Stars out the window, sometimes, even. But mostly I wander around and wonder what possesses people to be willing to settle for this–complicit, almost. A place of shelter for a transient time of life, while you grasp for something better, yes. A place where you just stay put? With the plastic, rope-like carpet and the dearth of windows, and the back-filled sand that you can’t really grow anything in?

For six weeks, I wanted to labor hard on something, but there was nothing to labor on. Someone comes and does the lawn work. Someone even comes and cleans the house. You can’t really take care of something you don’t own but this, too, is supposed to be okay–more than okay. When I came back home, I worked until every muscle in my body was sore. The delayed onset meant it woke me up in the middle of the night, and I was surprised by the rush of gratitude. Being protected from hard labor is another mark of civilization, I guess, but it’s a kind of death, like not ever being able to feel the rain running down your head. Cloistered. Almost claustrophobic.

The most curious thing of all to me is how it seems so many don’t even notice. It’s like hearing music and commenting on its haunting beauty, only to discover no one else hears it. Why would they follow what they could not hear? You poor, numb creatures. It is so very similar to one of my classmates extolling the virtues and wonders of frozen pizza–and I truly, truly pitied her. I made her come and eat real pizza, made in the kitchen I don’t deserve to occupy, and afterward she thanked me for ruining frozen pizza for her and I told her she was quite welcome and it was a real pleasure.

Somewhere along the line, people heard that it was bad for you to stand out in the rain. And to work hard until you were sore all over. That sweat was nasty, and so was dirt, and that carpets were good, and on the whole of it, it all makes me feel very, very sad. You sorry lost chickens, if someone offered you the garden of Eden, you wouldn’t know its worth. And I’m going to leave you in your blindness and deafness, because I am not going to spend the rest of my life in a frozen-pizza-cardboard-box of an existence. For the temporary, yes, but you know I’m plotting to leave you as soon as I can. And I won’t look back, my dears, I will not be looking back.


This is a biased, bigoted assumption, but I think the last person using this public microwave was a guy. There is rice dumped all over the inside of it. Curiously, it’s all over the table I wanted to sit at, too. I take the glass platter out of the microwave and sweep the rest of the rice onto it and empty it into the trash. When I put the platter back, I used my cleaning napkin to pick up the piece of chicken sitting by the microwave, too. Then I wipe the table of it’s rice, too, while my food heats. Why not? I’m on a roll.

There is a game I play with myself sometimes. If I were to have to survive off of the sustenance of vending machines, what would I eat? Trail mix. That popcorn is probably okay. Pretzels are safe, but pretty void of nutrition; that jerky claims to have protein but looks anything but safe. At least there is still water. Actually, there is water, and orange juice and grapefruit juice and V8 juice and milk–2% and whole. This is the sign of a first world, isn’t it? Clean water and milk from every handy machine. I don’t think it gets bought here much, though.

There is a guy over there, demonstrating his own survival skills. The machine won’t take his money. He folds his bill, smooths it, flips it around. Nothing. Won’t take it. He isn’t thwarted. He finds another machine that will accept it, and buys a pack of gum. The machine spits him back quarter after quarter. He won’t put weight on his left foot; something hurts him. I wonder what. Now he’s using his quarters to buy hot coffee syrup and water.

I have some survival skills, too. Like where the cleanest bathrooms are at. Never use the ground floors; top floor or basement. No one wants to deal with all those stairs. I left my knapsack unattended today, while I did three flights of stairs. Because I trust people. My knapsack is like, more than 30 pounds. No one wants to be bothered with that kind of work. Not here.

He speaks slowly, almost slurring his words. About how he has to play Candy Crush every day. But he started over. “Because. . .there was a level. . .that I got stuck on. . .soo. . .it was, like. . .boring. . .and stuff. . .so I started over.” I wish I could believe he was drugged or something. Developmentally disabled. He doesn’t look it. And this is not unusual behavior.

Everyone is bent. Huddled over devices. Little ones, tiny screens. Or bent over desks too low, or slumped in chairs. I scan. . .no eye contact, from anyone. What are we afraid of?

There’s this walk I keep seeing, a shuffle-slump-swagger. The head is still up, but the neck is forward, the shoulders are collapsed. The feet are careless, but the steps are guarded. Always the same expression on the face–”yeah, I could probably take you”–but the smirk doesn’t make it all the way across the face. One side always falters, exposing the doubt.

I see the scissor cuts in her jeans. To make them look worn. I guess maybe it takes too long get there naturally. Maybe she gets bored of them before then. She has studs all over her boots. And all over her knit cap. I’ve never seen a knit cap with studs before. I wonder if it’s meant to be ironic, or if there’s something I’m missing.

When we stop at the light, there is such a stream of cars. All the people hurry-scury-ing about, going their places, doing their things. I wonder if all the people are happy?

Marana tha

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. . .

The sky is a steely, depressing grey and I remember why I named this blog what I did. So often the cover of clouds make me stare out the window and grasp to find the words to explain what is–almost as though, without sunlight or happenings to distract, all that really remains are the thoughts inside of me.

There is an aching and a pining that goes along with listening to the wind. I don’t know if it is from a desire to know where the wind is coming from and going to, or from a longing to have the wind blowing always, or maybe even just wishing it was more tangible and holdable than it is.

I feel like the wind is blowing now, and like all creation I turn into the wind, trying to smell what the wind carries on it. There is movement, but what does it mean? I can’t make it happen sooner, or more slowly; I cannot control it. I cannot pretend it doesn’t exist, but I cannot pretend to fully comprehend it either.

Don’t you know that curious joy? When a storm is blowing in, and you are standing out in that pulling, pushing, pulsing wind–and you can’t stop grinning like an idiot, even though you don’t know why? It’s exciting–and kind of scary–and silly–and wonderful–and fleeting–and imprinted inside of you–and has nothing to do with anything and is the most important thing that’s happened all week.

Sometimes I feel swept along, gasping and out of control. Sometimes I feel impatient, waiting for the next gust. Sometimes, like today, I feel like I can hear the howling in the trees. It is coming, I can hear it. But where is it coming from? Where is it going to? How much of what I hear is my own echo, leaving my mouth and then bouncing back to me like new words? Or is it the fore-runners of the wind, telling me were to stand so my wings will be filled?

There is a long and a hungering for more, and that’s good and true and right and will never be satiated in this life. The tension between those two things drives me crazy sometimes. I want resolution. I want to work toward resolution. What can I do to make this happen? But the wind comes and goes without any clear beginning or end, with a direction that seems always to shift.

Am I ready for the storm? No. Goodness, no. I never will be, but I want it to come, anyway. Come, Lord Jesus.