advent: day one

“I always say Advent is my favorite season of the church year, and then Lent comes around…”

“Yeah, I think they’re good seasons for melancholy people.”

“Mmm. Yes.”

* * *
The world as it is now is broken and messy and lost, y’all. Creation laments. The martyrs ask “How long?” Even now in the country where I live, there are people who have no knowledge of God who know things are wrong and are meant to be different. They’re crying out for justice. And they’re crying out for mercy.

And more than that, much of my heart is still broken and messy and lost. There are too many shrines to dark deities set up in a house that should be wholly dedicated to the true God. My voice gets added to the chorus crying out for things to be fixed–for me to be fixed.

The waiting doesn’t only feel like ages; it has been ages. Immanuel has come and ransomed us, but we’re still looking down the road waiting to see Him come walking back to tell us that the place He’s preparing is finally ready.

Even still, we get called to straighten up and raise up our heads, because our redemption is drawing near–not just in some distant future, but it keeps getting nearer and nearer. “The word itself is very near you,” writes Paul–“it is in your heart and in your mouth.” And the Word repairs us from the inside out. And one day He’ll show us what He did. In the meantime, we keep looking up at Him. And we wait, and we rejoice.

fields

I am a city girl by temperament,
So I have no idea what it’s like
To get in a tractor and plow a field
For several hours on end.
I don’t know what it’s like
To drive those same fields and
Gather in all of your soybeans or corn
Or wheat or whatever.

Maybe it’s good thinking time,
Out in the air that’s mostly fresh
Except for the exhaust fumes from your
Large machinery, staring but not really
Looking at all your crops.

Maybe it’s the same way I feel while
Driving through the middle of nowhere,
That hollowed-out place where your brain
Has no room for thoughts because it’s so busy
Trying to keep you from crashing into a tree.

Or maybe it’s the way I feel now,
The waiting, the work, and the unsettled feeling
That there’s still more to do tomorrow.

Chain of Sorrow (a lyric in need of a tune)

I am my mother’s daughter
In all the ways that matter
Not the eyes and the mouth
But all the history
In the demons that have fought her
And the angels in her laughter
In the rains that headed south
Through all her misery
Well, they are mine and locked away inside my chest of hope
Tied together with a coil of exhausted rope
In the morning I will open all my drawers to find the keys
To break this chain of sorrow from me

She’s been beaten like a boxer
By the folks who said they loved her
Not by will or intent
But by passivity
In the ruins of her father
And the settling of her mother
All her joy has been spent
By her infinity
It’s a prodigal and potent way to slowly learn to breathe
While you’re drowning in a life that will not let you grieve
In the evening I will lie awake in wooliness and wonder
What could break that chain of sorrow from her

And pride is a difficult habit to break
But in the end it’ll only just take
All the life right out of life
All the hope right out of sorrow
And happiness is a hard memory to make
When your love is nothing but hypothesis and dream

I am a shattered mirror
I am an iron hammer
I crack with the weight
Of what I cannot fix
And caught in all the furor
Of my self-righteous manner
My city’s open gate
Turned into broken bricks
And a city on a hill can be full of lonely ghosts
So I turn my bleeding ears to listen for the Lord of hosts
In the darkest depths of night will I find someone to trust
Who could break this chain of sorrow from us

Poured out

“I really do have love to give! I just don’t know where to put it!” –Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, played by William H. Macy, Magnolia

I used to think that I was
An empty jar
With my face turned upward
To wait for the sweetest wine
To fill me up and quench my thirst

But now I know
That I have been filled up
With water and carried to the desert
To give life to thirsty travelers
On their way to another country

And they will pour me out
Into cups and troughs

But they will keep dipping me
Into the coolest wells
They will wrap me up
So I will not break

And little did I know
That these were wandering princes
And high-born ladies
That this poor clay jar
Has the privilege to love


(This is a response to and a ruminating upon this article. I recommend it highly.)

oh! holy crap it’s been a month and a half

- Hi, blog readers. Sorry. Again.

- Things I have been up to: Reading (but that’s a given by now, I hope), writing some stuff here and there that is not yet fit for public consumption, thinking about writing stuff but not actually doing it because my brain hurts (more on that later), watching the news (which, in the past few weeks, has been both a terrible and a great idea–more on that later, too), planning a party, watching way too many YouTube videos, and, well, recovering from pneumonia.

- Yeah, pneumonia…I was wicked sick for a couple of weeks (!) and was dealing with things like 104* fevers and not being able to take deep breaths and coughing up green things. Oh, and weird medicinal side effects, too.

- It’s very interesting, though, because my being forced to slow down and not do a whole lot except read the news and watch YouTube and movies means, well, God finally got hold of my attention and pointed out all the ways that I’d become really self-centered and self-righteous and, as a result, I became really awful at loving Him and other people well. This is not a particularly fun revelation to receive, but it was very, very good at the same time, because with it came the recognition that I am also really terrible at receiving grace, both in forgiveness and in the help that God gives us in fighting our self-centeredness and self-righteousness. And then, the understanding that it’s okay to receive grace–more than that, God really, really wants me to, because in doing so I am receiving Him, which is why He’s been after me from eternity past in the first place. Which is all to say, I want to please God, not just because I love Him, but because He has loved me to the uttermost and wants to help me to please Him.

- ^ That was utterly rambly and repetitive. Did I mention the part about my brain hurting? My body is not exactly efficient at oxygen absorption and usage (freaking lungs not working properly…), so I mostly just have the ramble lately. But you get what I mean, right? I hope so.

- Okay, so the news: If nothing else, the past few weeks have gotten us talking about mental health, power (and the abuse thereof), race and privilege, and persecution of the Middle Eastern church. We still have so far to go, so much to talk about, so much reconciliation and forgiveness and trust to be had. We cannot love one another if we don’t at least try to understand each other, and even if we come out disagreeing, we can at least hear each other’s stories and experiences and try to know one another as people, not ideas. As my brother–my Christian brother, my fellow adopted one of the Father’s children, which makes him my kindred in ways that are deeper than race and gender and even denominational lines–as my brother put it in an interview on NPR, all of this “is a human issue.” We have to care for and shepherd one another through all these things.

- Whew, that was a lot.

- And if nothing else, the last few weeks have taught me that we are frail. We are weak. And it is in our weakness that God proves His strength; it is when we are in crisis that, somehow, by grace, we learn how badly and how deeply we need Him. And it is in our desperation that we realize how much He meets that need–not just with His blessing, but with Himself, and that is what we need most. My church, or at least pockets in my church (who knows, it may be more than I know about) have been talking about revival, and asking God for it to happen, and recognizing it when it does happen. Very frequently, revival is birthed of crisis, sometimes pain, but always in a people who cry out to God for help. May it happen in our day, and in our hearts. (And by the way, I would commend to you Tim Keller’s speaking on revival: here, here, and here, and probably some other places too, if you Google “Tim Keller revival,” which sounds like the name of a terrible band.)

things I am thinking about, but not enough to write whole posts about them

- My church is having its 10th anniversary in September. We’re throwing a party. I’m more or less in charge of planning it and I have a lot of help, for which I am extremely grateful. Anyway, it’s going to be fun.

- I think I have a mild sinus infection or really serious allergies. Either way, the right side of my face hurts.

- I’ve been in the doldrums the past few weeks in regards to pretty much every area of my life and I have no idea how to get out except just to wait it out and keep going and hope my emotions and motivation catch up with the truth.

- YouTube channels I subscribe to and recommend highly if you’re into learning about stuff: Crash Course (10ish-minute-long videos on stuff you learned about in high school and probably forgot, run by John and Hank Green [yes, the John Green who wrote The Fault in Our Stars]), Sorted Food (British guys show you recipes, plus occasional silliness), SciShow (short videos about science), and How to Adult (two folks teach you about things like how to do your taxes or laundry or interview for a job–not that I really need to learn this, since I am a legit adult and all, but if you know a person about to go to or graduate from college, or who really, really needs to get their life together, send them here).

- I need to get back into writing, using the Getting Things Done system, finishing books (I’m one or two chapters in to about 9 things right now…), and not spending most of my time watching YouTube videos.

- I know this is not the greatest post ever, but part of getting back into writing is just sitting down and putting some words on a screen, even if they’re not particularly interesting. So thanks for putting up with this, all.

Further Up and Further In

(I need someone to write the music for this)

And all of us are miracles of modern art and science
We rescued what our fathers made and killed it for our children
And in a growing universe what god could come and find us
No home except the thoughts we made and all we build within them

The winds of change blew down our shelters of straw
The ocean floor is littered with our lost innocence and awe

But in the end, my lonely friends
The world will die and rise again
And we will be like forest trees
Who clap their hands for joy

And all of us were orphans in the streets of ancient cities
The exiles of a kingdom that was meant to last forever
We try to find a home by being strong or being witty
Or beautiful, or standing up against the culture’s weather

The kings of earth went passing by our ragged weary eyes
The poor and wretched wait to watch the city’s soon demise

And in the end, my lovely friends
What once was lost will live again
The sun will rise before our eyes
And raise its hands for joy