Tribute to a forgotten friend

Recently, I texted my friend Angela about what the Bible says concerning giving money to the homeless. I was conflicted about scripture, and unsure of whether it actually helps to give money to the homeless, given that some individuals can use charitable contributions in a way that never helps them move forward.

Though Angela and I vowed to talk about it in person, I’ve kind of already answered my own question. I believe in giving to the needy. I believe in giving regardless of whether need is a lifestyle, a season, a personal choice, or the result of a tidal force, like systemic racism. Like how I am commanded to give grace in exchange for sin, Christ teaches me to give regardless of people’s righteousness, because their unrighteousness is as my own. None of us deserve Jesus. And neglecting to give just denies the need to care, or to actively be in search of a solution so that justice can come forth. I don’t want to be that kind of a person.

A couple of years ago, I met a friend on study abroad in Chile who changed how I consider this entire problem. I volunteered with her chatting with homeless patrons of a soup kitchen, as they ate their evening meal. She has such deep love for the homeless. Her passion and the desire to serve with her challenged me to use my language skills to make that a possible, and has continually thereafter.

We had a falling out before she left, and there is hurt on either side that remains to this day. I remember Christ’s teachings; I want to reconcile. I don’t think she wants that, which is really hard. I care about all the people I have been friends with. Once I care for somebody, they remain in my heart and memory always. So for the time being, I’m in a rather tricky place.

But I remember her love for the homeless. I remember how much she was ready to sacrifice in order to serve, and how much I learned coming with her. I remember how God was able to bless us and the people we served through those moments of hit and miss communication, and I remember his presence over us.

All that my heart desires is that in my life, forgiveness would be spread out like a banquet. That like Christ, people could find the kind of counsel and support they hunger and thirst after in my actions and words. I am not Jesus, but he helps me be like him, piece by piece. So I have an idea.

I know that her love of the homeless didn’t just come out of the sky for no reason. She loves the needy like Jesus. I personally have trouble giving to people in situations of homelessness. The need overwhelms me. However, since I can’t support her either for now or for however long, I will serve the homeless. I love Jesus. I know this desire comes from him. If I can’t be her friend, then I will be a friend to the people she loves. These are her people. Maybe they can be my people too, and I can live to serve them as I would anyone else. It makes a lot more sense that way.

Instead of being sad over the end of a friendship, I’m going to live in way that celebrates the passions of the people I care about, regardless of if they are still with me. I honor them and I honor Christ when I serve the people they love on this earth. This is a much more organic and kind solution to friend loss than anything else. I struggle to not care for people after they or I have been hurt, so this just takes the love I have for them and donates it in the form of a living solution. If I love Jesus, and I care for her, then surely I can care for others in remembrance of Christ, and other people I have loved.

Let the Lord teach me my own need.

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Articulating the dark

I’m at this weird spot where God is showing me how he works by absolutely suspending my ability to articulate it. I’m watching him weave through a bunch of different people’s lives, and when it comes to my life, we are just at the beginning of exploring wounds I didn’t even know I had. This is gonna be great. (lol)

It’s like staring at the bottom 98% of an iceberg you really thought was only gonna be an icicle, but it’s here now, and you have to deal with it. Have fun stumbling through that dank and dark cave. You better get used to feeling your way around in there, because so help you, you wont be able to see.

Which honestly is awesome. That’s exactly what I needed to follow a season of gathering confidence to use words in a way that directly makes sense to me. My sense of bravery and the ability to cope was just cut off from me. Ironically, there went my courage.

So it’s weird metaphor soup and verbal surgery, trying to explain the work of the Holy Spirit. But I can see it. I can try to explain it. Still, my words won’t get at that sense of permanence that you get when the spirit really moves. It can’t demonstrate what you see when you are watching chains fall off. I am not God. My words will not do.

To be honest, this is a season that comes after a brief but seemingly lengthy season of people legitimately appreciating my gifts. So I now know that what the Holy Spirit is legit, but whatever I’m supposed to do with them is still a running joke that operates smoothly due to my blindness and God’s omnipotence alone. I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. The things I say and do; I swear it feels like doing the hokey pokey blindfolded. I don’t think I could embarrass myself at this point, because I’m not even sure what standard I’m supposed to be meeting. I can definitely be afraid, and most of the time, I definitely am. Lord only knows why. Cue the underside of the iceberg.

I am curious as to how God wants to unravel the icey block of my cowardice. Feeling the weight of failed opportunities to grow closer. My sense of security is going to have to die. Good thing I can only make sense of other’s understanding and how they are being woven into God’s story, right? Now I know that when the good stuff comes, I can’t make it up. I have no idea what logically follows after this. One day, maybe it’ll make sense strung together, but I doubt I will be the one to make sense of my own words. I guess I’m going to have to get used to speaking things I don’t even understand as truth, and go with the flow of whatever the hell they mean. For the record, that feels really uncomfortable.

Speaking something that somehow blesses someone but having no idea what did it (other than just God at the maximum level of vagueness) is really uncomfortable. Do I smile and nod or just keep listening? Like, cool? If I could understand what I’m doing then I could see what I’m doing and I could make up my own gospel, but that is no longer a reality. It feels like that tunnel in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. All images, some scary stuff, some weirdly graphic insect pictures, and an indecipherable stream of consciousness. Ironically, I think that part of the story was meant to symbolize what it’s meant to grow up.

I know that my weakness is probably a clever scheme by which God will (hopefully) be glorified, but in the meantime, I’m just a tad bit confused. Stay tuned to stumble with me, and figure out where exactly that sense of clarity comes from.

 

Inspecting educational privilege and academic competition

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/education/edlife/first-generation-students-unite.html?smid=fb-share

Reading this article earlier tonight really made me think about how I’ve been blessed to grow up where I have, and come from my background.

I’ve written about it various times, but Lawrence, Kansas is probably one of the most “unexpectedly cool” places on earth (to quote a guest pastor who recently preached at my church). With a hip and hustling art, music, and food scene, it almost makes you forget you’re living in Kansas. We’ve got educational resources you can really sink your teeth into, with Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Kansas, and an excellent public library. Growing up in a cocoon of students from various countries who were my classmates as their parents went to school at KU, I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted the real world. On campus, I interact with many international students, so I’ve never felt all that isolated from the outside world, as many Kansans might. We’ve got a lot of different perspectives here, and politics is only the cherry on top of what makes Lawrence exceptionally weird.

With my family closely tied to the KU, it was always a given that I would go to college. I played clarinet until the end of high school, and my parents helped me pay for lessons on both clarinet and occasionally bari sax (Jazz Band). Competing in regional and district solo and ensemble festivals, singing in choir, and being in Girl Scouts all sharpened my academic skills and were decent ways I spent my time. I was depressed for years and years, but looking at my GPA, I did alright. So many of my teachers were good and were good people. It makes you wonder whether you’ll be like them someday. For years and years, I was protected from a lot of opportunities to fail not just because of this town, but as part of a middle class family.

And yet, many of my classmates still act as if there is so much more to prove than having the benefit of going to college. Recently, the amount of striving in academia has been a subject of conversation between me and a good friend. There are a lot students who are also in KU’s Honors Program that are a lot more competitive than I am. I’ve had a lot of diverse experiences that have significantly impacted my world view before and during college, but it feels like all people expect is for people to compete for a crown of “Who is the Smartest” while they are in undergrad or various other striving circles in life, and I don’t believe in doing that. I don’t always test very well, and truth be told, I may not be as cut and dry intelligent as many of my Honors Program peers. I can craft a discussion between groups of people that will have the effect of being meaningful, which given a choice would be an instant no-brainer over doing a paper. Am I lazy if I would prefer to have a really rich discussion of something intricate or beautiful or upsetting rather than all the competition? It just seems like name-recognition shouldn’t be the factor we are trying to go for when we try to relate to other people. It’s vanity, and it doesn’t leave much for other people to benefit from.

On a baseline level, I will always prefer conversations over writing in order to solve problems, which unless provoked by a life-giving conversation can often feel like a dead art. Whether or not that makes me less intelligent in the eyes of a system that already rewards based primarily on race and class is irrelevant. What bothers me on an even more basic level is the idea that doing a bunch of work for the sake of proving yourself is shrouded in a positive light rather than seen as striving. Are the people who disengage from the competition lazy? Do we know better, or less?

These attitudes affect theology and the study of scripture also. The only difference between theology and philosophy is that with theology, we supposedly have to relate what we claim to God. That doesn’t always happen. I would bet you that people have passed through Seminary with the expectation that their studies are validating their identity before God. I would be willing to bet a fingernail on it.

What does it say if the only people able to consume God are highly educated? Do we really want to invest in more layers of educational stratification, and become Pharisees in that we relate the truth in the gospel to vain constructs of striving? I don’t think there is such a leap between how we view what we are learning as self-righteousness and how we try to justify our faith (our faith justifies us). Among many mostly men who have been highly educated leaders in the Church, using your mind for Christ can go both ways, just look at pre/post-conversion Paul. If a trait like knowledge can be either good and bad, then it is one of the characteristics of the world that can also pass away. True food and nourishment comes from the body and person of Jesus Christ, who puts no stipulation on anyone’s amount of learning.

Sunday for Celebration

2/15/2015

Sunday for Celebration

Nelly Furtado told me “All good things come to an end” through the melted dribble of a grape popsicle,

And Ms. Natasha told me to un-write it long before I knew what it meant to be written,

Like the waves of Clocks and Coldplay making shadows on my skin as I was a mermaid at the Outdoor aquatic center,

And the 1000 miles I will still dance to,

At least my Pomeranian dances with me.

I miss being less written than Avril sometimes,

Girl, she never had it together, not even for five minutes.

The soundtrack of my life, like black ink from a free rolling pen,

And like the wheels behind road trips that are yet to be taken.

I miss the summer heat when it’s this frigid, and yet;

Running around like the flower-child soul inside me was never a question mark

So much as a reality.

Hey, give me some peace, I can slow down,

BUT SERIOUSLY

When is the LAST TIME YOU’VE BUST YOUR GUT LAUGHING?

My sister in the bathtub and me on the toilet,

It’s not majestic, but we’d laugh ‘til we cried, mkay:

All I have to do is say something backwards about a certain relative’s lizard lips and

The broken boundaries weren’t pennies on the lolz.

Keep your tidy back stories and I’ll keep myself in pieces,

And if it takes broken sidewalk-chalk cinders to keep my sanity, then I guess the world will have more art.

Fashion in the way I know it came birthed out of the faceless void of reverse culture shock,

So yeah, grief has yet to win

For as long as it did then.

If it’s fear you’re looking for, maybe I’ll trade you for another popsicle,

For the love of God, be a saint and get me a cherry one this time around.

I CAN’T WAIT for spring to come!

It feels like rain already, I can almost smell it!

Outside, outside, outside and more than 20 degrees outside;

I may just break dance myself across campus,

In search of more popsicles.

Don’t y’all ever get tired of being so freaking cranky?

Monday morning blues all the time with y’alls attitude.

I swear, I can’t get a lick of daylight here with all the mopey whiney Valentines shmuck muck-fest.

I didn’t even want it to be better, but I certainly collapsed into my pillow;

That was a good night’s rest.

SERIOUSLY though, I want to simmer into the pavement and become like gum melting in the heat,

I’ll try to remember the sunscreen so I don’t dry up like a prune and/or my Uncle Shane.

At least my Dad wears a hat to cover his bald spot;

If he lost any more weight he’d either be anorexic or diabetic,

Well, he is diabetic I guess.

Let me sass you like me and Lauren did when we were rolling back from high school in the ugliest eyesore van that ever had an entire TV console ripped right out the middle,

That thing even had barf-colored racing stripes.

Remember that time when I thought I was gay and we used it in a high school Pride parade?

What about the all those times I hauled around that Bari sax, clarinet case strapped around my chest, backpack stuffed to the brim with books you couldn’t pay me to read again, hobbling out the door for the sake of the music inside,

Worse than lifting weights, but less two gallons of milk;

So be it.

I wonder if my Dad would still pay me that $1000 to beat him at a timed mile, the money he tried to use to convince me to be less fat,

Silly idiot, that was medication money,

But I’ll still take it, now that you’re 64.

I don’t think most people understand trash talking unless they were born into my family,

How else could you detect the glimmer of good intentions and the spikes of passive aggression?

Nah man, that crap’s gotta be learned.

Ella has crossed into a territory of dog glares that are infinitely nameless these days,

I can’t tell if she’s bored, over it, or just wants my food.

Teddy is way over-the-top affectionate lately

Like Phil Dunfey made into a dog

Or what a gray Swiffer would look like if you never changed the cartridge,

Licking you all over the face.

For the love of frick PLEASE drop my mittens Ella,

I realize they are basically socks for hands,

And that socks are basically lawn ornaments.

Huh. I never realized that when Vanessa Carlton sings talks about making her way Downtown

Not everybody has Downtowns to make their way across,

Which is why we should all grow up in Lawrence, Kansas.

Hey

Can you remind me tomorrow morning to nag my mom to go to the post office?

Do people even do that anymore?

Whatever!

Is it a poem, or a tangent, or a something I can’t send, or a smattering of words on a playlist,

Girl, I don’t know.

Maybe it’s like those paper roses that people make for Mother’s Day,

But also like that napkin I lit on fire when it came down in ashes,

Or like having apple cider when it’s already cold outside,

Or turning of the music and sitting in the grace and saying nothing.

Those things; knitted throughout and inside,

Sunday for celebration.

Isn’t it weird that technology has finally become of intense educational value?

Seriously, since when do 7 people all respond to something on facebook at the same time? We are constantly there, aren’t we? Wow. This is great. I’m not sure how formal education will ever catch up again. Let’s find out!