Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Existential Quandry (My Blog, Not Me)

So today, as I checked google reader (something I do at least once or twice a day), I saw this post pop up from a blog I didn't recognize. I stared at it for awhile and decided to follow the link. Then I was reminded: I subscribed to it on a whim about two or three weeks ago. To which I said, "Seriously, dude? You haven't updated in at least two weeks? I forgot you existed, and now I'm not even interested in you any more!" After unsubscribing about as quickly as I had subscribed, I was suddenly convicted. I hadn't posted in almost two weeks. How could I judge random-blog-dude when I wasn't doing much better?

Of course, I immediately logged onto blogger in order to fix the situation, but I quickly was reminded why I had gone two weeks without blogging. Before this summer, I could say my blog posts fit into four main categories: my life, missions and God, Joss Whedon, and other sundry passions. Since I redirected my Whedon passions to the new Whedon blog, I have written:

--2 posts about Mumford and Sons
--3 posts about missions
--3 posts about my life

See a pattern? Well, how about this? When I thought of what I wanted to write today, two topics came to mind. Yep. One was a Mumford and Sons song. The other was missions. So, upon noting this pattern, I said to myself, "Self, if you're not careful, this is going to turn into the weirdest Mumford and Sons+Missions themed blog ever!" But then I asked, "What do I want this blog to be about?" Should I come up with a theme? Should I try to create some kind of unity between my posts?

And this is where I am right now. In what Weird Al would call "an existential quandry of loathing and self doubt." Except without the loathing. Or the self doubt. Maybe blog doubt? Anyway, I think that I've decided to keep on posting on the same kind of topics. But I'm also going to try to branch out. Focus on a few of my other passions, like excellent non-Whedon TV shows, or teaching, or music by artists other than Mumford and Sons. And I'm going to try to not get stuck on a single topic for too many posts in a row. Instead of coming up with a single theme for this blog, I'm going to embrace an all-around pastiche theme.

And, yes. I can admit it. 75% of that decision is because pastiche is an awesome word.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Love (And not just the mushy kind)

"There will come a time you'll see with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and with flowers in your hair."

I love Mumford and Sons. I've mentioned that before? I know. But today I was listening to them again and I felt like every song fit uniquely into the narrative of my life. And I especially liked what each had to say about love.

I love the chorus of "Winter Winds" which says, "My head told my heart, 'Let love grow,' but my heart told my head, 'This time no.'" Because, sure, we've all heard the story of the heart going against the head and diving into love. But what about the other story of the person who rationally knew that she should love someone and could trust them but whose heart was too scared and too scarred to give it a chance? The ones whose "shame that sent [them] off from the God that [they] once loved" sent them "into the arms" of human lovers? Or the "little lion man" whose heart was on the line and got broken because of someone else's decisions?

And yet there's hope. Past shame, past hurt, past betrayal--these are not reasons to run away from love forever. Definitely not on a theistic level because then we would never be whole. The awesome line of "Awake my soul," cries, "Awake my soul! For you were meant to meet your maker." Even better, one of my all time favorite parts of a Mumford and Sons songs promises:

Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see
The beauty of love as it was made to be.

And I think that if we find perfect love in God, we can accept imperfect love from people. We can forgive them when they hurt us, we don't have to be ashamed to let them see us and know our past, and we can trust them without putting the pressure on them to make us "believe in love again."

And I know that most of this fits well into a romantic concept of love, but it totally works for other relationships too. I think that romantic relationships just magnify issues we have in all of our love-based relationships, anyway. So it's nice to dream about finding this kind of peace and love in a boyfriend and husband. But even if that never happens, it's even nicer to see it actually, currently happening with friends and family.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How Hegel and Beethoven Rocked My World Tonight . . .

Tonight, I taught my first Greek class. All by myself. Like, I have five students and they meet with me every other week just to sit around and learn Greek. Greek! I love languages a lot, and I love each foreign language I know in a special way, but Greek . . . Greek has a special place in my heart. I spent so many years with it through my Biblical Language major. I grew more fond of it as Hebrew reduced me to tears. Oh yeah. And it allows me to access the Bible in a deeper and more intimate way!

After class, I got into my car, filled with all kinds of happy, nerdy feelings. I wanted to listen to something, but not the awesome rock stations from Waterloo or Cedar Rapids . . . not my folksy collection on my IPOD . . . suddenly I knew what I did want to listen to. I wanted to listen to IPR (Iowa Public Radio).

I turned on the radio, and the third movement of Beethoven's 6th symphony came on. Light, happy. And full of French horns. Just as a symphony should be. It was the perfect companion to my thoughts. I drove down 380 thinking about how good the beginning of this semester was feeling. I love taking history, I love my seminar. I don't remember the last time I truly loved all the classes I was taking. And, on top of that, teaching literature has been going wonderfully. Thus far, it's been a good fall.

Then, the fifth movement of the symphony started. My thoughts drifted in the direction of the music. Not that I was really listening to it. I was absorbing it, letting it seep in through my skin and conduct my emotions. And I loved driving in that moment. Just me, Beethoven, French horns, and the freeway.

When it ended, I almost had tears in my eyes. I'm glad I didn't; crying and driving is a combination which--though highly therapeutic--scares me. Especially after my two-accidents-in-a-week month in January. As I savored the beauty of the final chord, though, I thought about how I loved to listen to classical radio. And I thought about how I used to listen to nothing but MPR when I was in high school. When I was in college, of course, I started exploring other music. I listened to the Beetles and Andrew Peterson my freshman year, Simon and Garfunkel my sophomore, Stone Sour and Lit my junior, and Rihanna and Guns N Roses my senior.

I started thinking about the other things that had changed during college. The way I dressed, the fact that I went from viewing TV as a (sometimes immoral) waste of time to obsessing over certain shows and making complex arguments for their artistic worth, the fact that I "perfected" my social graces (so awkward in high school, slightly less awkward in college).

Then, I started thinking about the ways I've become slightly less like my college self and more like my high school self the past few years. Yes, I do love Seether, Mumford and Sons, and Emmy the Great. But I've started listening to my "Brahms" and "Schubert" pandora stations almost as much as I listen to my "P!nk" station. (I clean to P!nk and Kelly Clarkson. Don't judge. I like them.) Yes, I still defend my love of Buffy with a fiery passion (to those who listen). But I've taken a step back from my fanatic watching of TV shows. I've grown slightly critical of some shows I watch, and stopped watching one because I decided that the extent to which it morally offended overshadowed any brilliant social commentary.

At that moment, I remembered Hegel. Remember him from introductory philosophy? There's the thesis, the antithesis (the thing that opposes the thesis), and then the synthesis (the thing that develops from the thesis and antithesis interacting). Like how we had hard-core capitalism in the early 19th century, communism in the early 20th, and now mild forms of socialism in many countries (which try to balance the benefits of capitalism and the benefits of socialist thought--see--synthesizing?) Anyway, I realized I was in a synthesis mode. College had been the antithesis to my high school. After college, I realized things that I valued from both, and things I disliked about both, and now I'm a mixture of the two.

The next thought blew my mind a little. I realized that my synthesis was not a stable, permanent condition. I realized . . . I could be in the thesis/antithesis of another moment! I could be heading toward a new synthesis! I could be getting more and more and more mature, more like who I want to be, more like who God wants me to be!

And then I laughed at myself and wished my honors classmates were there to laugh with (at) me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

¡Viva la Productividad!

Today I . . .

--graded reading responses for just over two hours. I spent lots of time writing long, helpful comments that I desperately hope my students actually read and consider.

--wrote a 2 page paper and posted it on the class discussion board.

--watched an episode of Modern Family. ("Someone to Watch over Lily." I love that episode. It kinda makes me want to tear up a little bit when Jay is so sweet to Manny.)

--read a chapter of Sons and Lovers.

--read all of Heart of Darkness. (Well, except for the first 15 or so pages I had heard on librivox which is the BEST WEBSITE EVER!! Or, at least, among the pretty awesome sites for book lovers.)

--made the most delicious roast beef wrap EVER! (This time there's no exaggeration. I don't think I've ever had a roast beef wrap quite as awesome as this one.)

--watched an episode of Gilmore Girls.

--filled in my calender for much of the semester.

--gathered and took out the trash.

--read a chapter of A Chance to Die, had my devotions, and worked on my Scripture memory.

Why am I not exhausted, y'all?!? It's one in the morning and I've gotta get sleep! I guess I'm just so excited about my productivity. And might be running on some excess adrenaline. I should learn to pace myself, but I just wish I could be this productive every week day. It's a natural high :-)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Inspiration from Amy Carmichael

I'm currently reading Elisabeth Elliot's biography of Amy Carmichael, A Chance to Die. I had started reading it my senior year in college, but when grad school aps and the horrors of Hebrew class took over, the book got set aside. And then it got destroyed by the tornado. I replaced it sometime afterwards, but I'm just getting around to restarting it now. And the timing is perfect.

As those who regularly read this blog know, I've been thinking mission-y thoughts especially lots this past year. Some of those thoughts have changed, developed, and become more complicated since the last time I posted, but in doing so, they've laid my heart bare before God and made me deal with some of the struggles I've been trying to hide in the crevices. And, through Amy Carmichael's life, my own prayers, and the time I spend in the word, God gently has been helping me surrender those struggles to him.

Here are a few things that have encouraged me in the last few days . . .

1. I had heard this interchange before, but always paid attention to the Latimer's famous last words. This time, though, my heart was encouraged by Ridley's. He's speaking of literal flames, but it's true of whatever God calls us to endure, even to the point of martyrdom and death:

"Be of good cheer, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to endure it."
(Latimer's later response, for those who haven't heard it, was, "Be of good comfort, brother Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.")

2. I cried during the entire chapter when Amy is called to leave England and everyone she loves and go overseas. It was so comforting and encouraging to see her struggle so hard to make the decision to go--to realize that even one of the world's more famous missionaries had trouble leaving everything behind. It also inspired me, made me want to love Jesus so much that everything else the world had to offer paled in comparison. It made me realize that only when we value Jesus more than everything else in the world can we really know the joy in sacrificing earthly pleasures for his kingdom.

3. Tonight I read a section about Amy's first few months in Japan. She had a friend who was one of the few people she had to connect with there, and at a conference, the friend (called Twin), was seated with another woman leaving Amy alone. When Amy struggled with her feelings of loneliness and jealousy, she realized, "Half-unconsciously, perhaps, I had been saying, "Thou and Twin are enough for me"--one so soon clings to the gift instead of only to the Giver."
Reading it now was perfectly timed. Just Saturday, I sat down and had a very long conversation with God about my tendency to say very similar things.

I'm so glad that God has given us saints to go before us, to encourage us, and to spur us onward toward Jesus and his kingdom.