First Sunday of Advent.

He hadn’t meant to fall asleep–
The watchman had stood steady through the night
Waiting for the morning, waiting for the morning,
And for the king’s coming at the trumpet sound.
The night was cold, and his enemies many, so
He set his heels into the rock to stand his ground.

But who, of course, watches the watchman?

And the clouds came and veiled the moon,
Still waiting for her lover’s return,
And the watchman squinted for the stars,
And the night grew longer, the hours ticking by–
And he still stood like a remembering stone.

But the next thing he knew, he snapped awake
To the cries: “The king is here!”
And he looked down from the walls to see the surrounding
City burning, light and heat incarnate,
And he felt a hand on his shoulder, and a voice:
“My boy, why couldn’t you stay awake for me one hour?”

And he covered his eyes in shame.

And the king replied, “Don’t you know
That I neither slumber nor sleep?
Rise: I defeated your enemies in the night.”

And it was only then that the watchman saw
His master’s hands covered in scars.

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the annual t13 thanksgiving post

Hopefully obvious: Thirteen things you’re thankful for.

1. Decreasing gas prices. 😀

2. Getting to come home.

3. An iPod-compatible car stereo.

4. Literacy and an ever-growing library.

5. The fact that my family, while we’re not super-rich, is still in the wealthiest 1% of people in the world. We have a roof, cars, clean water, plenty of food, and freedom from persecution and war…and so much of the world doesn’t. That is a crazy thing to consider.

6. “Bones beneath my skin…friends who care for me.”

7. A good long-term memory, without which I would not have gotten past the tenth grade. 😉

8. The preachers (see below post).

9. You, my readers, and thanks for stopping by.

10. That UT will likely kick A&M’s butt today. 😀

11. My car–almost 18 years old, 68,000 miles, great gas mileage, and runs (almost) like it’s brand new.

12. My family–that we’re all safe, we’re all more or less okay, and none of us hate each other. 😉

13. And thanks for and to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are working my salvation and have been since eternity past. Hallelujah, and amen.

Ode to the preachers.

Tell me the story again–
I know you’ve told me before,
Hundreds of times,
But I was given a mind like a child
And like a child I recognize a good tale
When I hear it, and so tell it to me again
So I can live in it body, mind, and soul

Let me sit down at your feet,
Master bard, prophet, priest, and poet alike,
The keeper of the keys of our history.

Tell me of our ancestors
Who rose up and followed a midnight voice
To go find the light
Who stayed in darkness and did dark deeds
Who called upon the name of the Lord
Who built a tower to bring Him down
Tell me again of the great rebellion
Tell me again of the remnant that remained

Tell me of the heroes who paved the way
For the greater Hero who was to come
Tell me of His kindness toward the unkind
Tell me of the bloody battle that tore Him to pieces
And of the victory He won on the third day

And tell me of the fathers and the mothers
Who handed on the flame of love through
Persecution and nakedness and famine and sword

And tell me your story, O preacher–
Tell me of your sin forgiven, soul redeemed,
Mind renewed, body marked for resurrection.
Tell your story to tell the greater One
Over and over and over again

So that we children at your feet
May find the courage and skill to tell ours.

mix tape monday

This week’s theme is places…

1. Coldplay – Cemeteries of London (Viva La Vida)
2. Phantom Planet – California (The Guest)
3. Arcade Fire – Haiti (Funeral)
4. Ben Folds – Adelaide (Supersunnyspeedgraphic)
5. Andrew Osenga – Canada (Letters to the Editor, Vol. 2)
6. Sufjan Stevens – Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother! (Illinoise)
7. Lynrd Skynrd – Sweet Home Alabama
8. Counting Crows – Omaha (Films About Ghosts)
9. Simon & Garfunkel – The Only Living Boy in New York (Garden State)
10. The Weepies – Antarctica (Paste Sampler #42)
11. Rich Mullins – Here In America (A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band)
12. Passengers – Miss Sarajevo (Original Soundtracks)
13. Lucy Wainwright Roche – Chicago (Paste Sampler #46)
14. Caedmon’s Call – Mother India (
Share the Well)
15. Michael W. Smith – Hibernia (Freedom) (“Hibernia” is Latin for Ireland, in case you didn’t know.)
16. Nickel Creek – When In Rome (Why Should the Fire Die?)
17. Iron & Wine – Sodom, South Georgia (Our Endless Numbered Days)
18. Christian Kane – LA Song (Live Fast, Die Never)

um.

*I really, really love this. For those of you that don’t know, I have a minor obsession with trees, and I’ve been meaning to get and start wearing more necklaces, so…that’s pretty much perfect. That whole site has some cute stuff, if you’re into the small animal motif thing. I’m also a fan of this shirt.

*Been having some thoughts about how easy it is to obsess about the insignificant in our culture–how we’re so fragmented that we’re becoming more and more specialized and less broadly knowledgeable that we can tend to miss the big picture. The more information we produce and make publicly available, the harder it is to piece together anything significant. It takes someone with a specific sort of wiring to be able to weave it all together in a way that makes coherent sense of it all.

*Also considering how interesting it is that our culture loves the individual yet craves community…kind of a vestige of the image of God in us, how we were meant to reflect the one God in three Persons, diversity in unity. Of course, the world being the world, it tarnishes that image in all sorts of ways, but that’s also why it’s that much more important for us as the Church to model true community and true diversity, to celebrate and accept the good differences among us while weeding out what fractures and divides us wrongly. And that takes a lot of patience and discernment, which, let’s face it, also isn’t really encouraged in our culture.

six years.

Six years. 2,190 days.

November 19, 2002, I was a senior in high school, and I posted this at studentteacher.blogspot.com:

So this is my first post on this thing. This is about the fifth time I’ve tried making one of these because my computer at home is stupid, so I’m going to start blogging from the computer in study hall at school… Well, I’m your semi-run-of-the-mill high school student, and I want to be an English or performing arts teacher when I get out of college (hence the web address).

Six years since that day, and what’s happened?

We’ve gone to war. We’ve reelected a president and elected a new one. Bombs have gone off in London and Spain, crowds have gathered for the G8, athletes converged for three Olympic Games and two World Cups, the UK got a new prime minister and France a new president, the UN got a new secretary-general. TV shows have come and gone. We are now in a state of recession, waiting to see what the future brings.

A niece and a nephew were born. People got married. People had babies. They quit blogging. They started tweeting. They got on Facebook. They moved and started new jobs.

I went to Hawaii and Scotland and came home in one piece. I graduated high school and college. I started grad school. I worked (and work) for Target. I’m 23 now. I found two new churches and fell in love with the people at both. I’ve been through seven roommates. I made new friends, lost touch with old ones.

And in six years, my heart has been pieced back together by a gracious God. I am not only reborn, I get remade every single day.

Blogging’s been fun. I’ve met, both online and face to face, some good people as a result of it. I think it’s improved my writing somewhat. And if anything, it’s required me to think through some issues I probably wouldn’t otherwise. And don’t worry, I don’t plan on quitting any time soon. I hope to hit at least 20 years here, even if some crazy new technology shows up. But blogging, if it ever gets in the way of me knowing God, will be left by the wayside if He so calls me.

Six years. In 2014, where will we all be? Who knows. I don’t. But He does. And that, my friends, is all part of the adventure. I plan to map it along the way.

currently…

Reading: The Search by John Bartelle, a book about Google (it’s for class, but it’s actually really interesting); The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, which is probably the only book I know of on the theology of cooking (seriously…and it’s really good).

Listening: A little bit of everything, actually, whilst putting together a mix of my top 50 favorite songs from this year. Stay tuned, if you’re interested in getting a copy.

Knitting: This, in a deep turquoise wool. It’s pretty. I may post pictures.

Pondering: American perfectionism, whatever it is that has me breaking out in hives across my shoulders (yikes), what to get/make people for Christmas, a project due in three weeks (yikes!), the symbols of the Christian metanarrative (so far: blood, water, fire, trees, cities, marriage…anything else?), how I should be drinking more water, and how I might make some pumpkin chocolate chip cake tomorrow…

currents in my stream of consciousness

*I feel as though I should be back in counseling. (Yes, I was going for a while in high school and then randomly stopped.) I don’t know why, but lately I’ve had this nagging feeling that there’s still some things left in me that need to be hashed out and looked at. The problem is, I’m not sure where to look for a good one, especially in a city like Austin, so prayer would be appreciated.

*Then again, a mentor would also be good. An older woman–like, old enough to be my mom, or almost–who has a lot of wisdom under her belt. Not a replacement mom, more like a mom supplement, or something. The Bible tells us that younger women ought to learn from older women, so I’ll take what I can get of that.

*Completely unrelated: Quantum of Solace was a good action movie, not so much a character development movie. Kind of want the next chapter on that one. But yeah, lots of explosions and fistfights and international intrigue, and, well, Daniel Craig is pretty easy on the eyes. So if you’re into that kind of thing, go for it. (Also, Matthieu Amalric is in it, who was also in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which I recommend. I have the feeling he’ll start showing up in more movies, actually.)

*For some reason I’ve been on this classical music kick lately, where I want to get some Bach and Beethoven and Palestrina and just crank it up. I have very, very little formal music education, though, so I’m starting in bits. I know some of the choral stuff, having sung it in high school and choir (I can still rock Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus”), but not really the symphonies and operas and such. I feel like I need to get on that.

*I think I’ve decided on a church. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve decided on a church. Just need to get plugged in and start serving and getting to know folks…it’s a bit of a drive, but at least the drive is pretty, so I’ll take that. 🙂 And the preaching’s solid, and so’s the music, and the people are really nice, and they love Jesus and the Word and the church, so I’m glad.

*I wonder what President Bush is going to do once he gets a new job? I hope he goes his dad’s route and becomes kind of a low-key elder statesman–maybe not work with Bill Clinton, but at least do some good work under the radar. Regardless of what you think of some of his decisions, he has contributed to the ongoing work in Africa (although probably not as much as Bono would like, but oh well) and I hope he ends up doing more of that in years to come.

*Movies I really want to see: Australia (Baz Luhrmann, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman!), Rachel Getting Married (Anne Hathaway is apparently getting some Oscar buzz for this), The Reader, Seven Pounds (I have no idea what this is really about, but it looks awesome, Up (not out until next year, but come on, it’s Pixar), Slumdog Millionaire (intriguing), Defiance (Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber in the same movie?! My head might explode with the greatness), Watchmen, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Woo, that’s a lot of movies. But they all look pretty great.

*Mmm, so what are you all reading or listening to or watching these days? Anything interesting?

a couple of random thoughts on a Friday night

1. I am beginning to realize that doing good work is part of re-ordering creation, and thus a combatant against the effects of the fall. Washing dishes, putting together a poem, vacuuming my apartment, doing homework, making good coffee–that’s all part of having right dominion over creation. I forget that the mundane is part of the work of redemption that the Spirit gives us as common grace. Christians, then, ought to do it humbly and with joy, even in the parts when it’s not fun.

2. I’ve had some ideas floating around for poems, but can’t get them to materialize. I think it may be partially due to the fact that I’ve been reading books on human-computer interaction and information retrieval (dead serious), and have been trying to finish books that I’ve been reading off and on since last month…and working, and trying to finish a report, and…yep. Poems will come when the semester’s over, I think. :p

3. I meant to tell you, last Saturday I trekked up to Waco to go see Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Waterdeep, and Alli Rogers at Common Grounds (my favorite coffee place in the whole wide world), and it was lovely. They all broke out some of their newer stuff, and I highly recommend Sandra’s new album Red Balloon. Gorgeous.

4. Random thing to ponder: If America isn’t the greatest nation on earth, then who is, and why?

5. Finally, if y’all could be praying, a couple of Kaleoians got laid off recently and they need jobs…thanks.

on bowing down to the american idol

I’ve been reading some stuff on diet and exercise fads in America for a paper, and that, combined with David Brooks’s On Paradise Drive (the follow-up to Bobos In Paradise) has gotten me thinking about this odd perfectionist strain that Americans have always had from day one. Ever since the Puritans landed and started Massachusetts as “a city on a hill”, we’ve had this idea that we’re meant to be a utopia, the ideal nation. Throw in the belief in the millennial kingdom coming during our lifetime, the Protestant work ethic, and Wesleyan perfectionism, and then the Second Great Awakening, and you have a country that is striving to perfect itself. When we say that America’s the best and greatest nation in the world, that’s not just empty rhetoric; we really believe that we are closer to the ideal because of our good standards.

This, of course, carries over to the personal sector, too—we’re told from childhood that we are to be the best we can be at whatever it is we do, and that we can. So we work out and eat right (or try to, anyway), work hard for good grades, do as many extracurricular activities as possible, get good jobs, upgrade our houses and cars and appliances and gadgets, all the while trying to hit this standard we’ve set for ourselves. We want the good life, and we know we have to work for it. Physically, morally, mentally, socially, and even spiritually, we’re going to work hard to earn what we feel we deserve. Essentially, we are a nation of social Pelagians; we are all fundamentally good people who have the potential to become perfect people.

Now, this is a problem if you believe the gospel and are attempting to preach it in this kind of culture. The gospel does say that we can become better people, but that’s not ultimately the point—knowing God is. It’s not about the stuff He gives you (whether material or not); it’s about Him. And He alone can bring change and set the world right, including you and your own wicked heart that goes off in pursuit of the great American idol of success and prosperity. He is enough. This is a hard saying, and not one that’s going to make you a lot of friends. No wonder so many Christians have quit speaking it in our culture.

I don’t believe in America. She will crumble and fall like all the other empires of the world. I don’t believe in politicians’ promises to either conserve or change the culture. They are all broken people, just like me, and can only do so much. I don’t believe in culture wars. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but the rulers and authorities in this present darkness.

I do, however, believe in the transformative power of the gospel, that the Spirit can (and does) renew us, not only as individuals, but as a community and as a culture as well. We are to be concerned for the good of the city of man, that the City of God may redeem it one day. May it come, and come quickly. Until then, there’s work to be done.