25 July 2008

Taking a break...

I think I'll be taking a bit of a break from this space for the time being. There are probably a few things that I could say, but nothing pressing. I'll just process for a little while and chime back in at some point. Peace.

20 July 2008

The Inner Voice of Love

A friend of mine recently gave me this book by Henri Nouwen as a thank-you gift for some work that I did for his wedding. It's a collection of journal entries from the hardest, darkest time of Nouwen's life, December 1987 to June 1988. It's meant to be read slowly, savored and meditated upon. I've only read a handful of entries so far, each is a couple paragraphs to a couple pages long, and it's been rich and fulfilling and challenging reading. It puts succinct words to the core issues I'm dealing with this season--my relationship with God, with other people, with myself and my identity. It's a mixture of comfort and calling to action, even if that action is mostly just resting in God's love.

I am a restless person, so that can be a hard step of faith for me. Stepping out of my pride and fear, out of my right-ness, out of all the other things I look to to fill me up and make my life work. Taking God at His word, knowing what that even is. Something about the compromises of being human and fallen and having to love imperfectly. There is still and ever and always a perfect love, and I hope I'm re-learning to hear (and heed) His voice.

Our pastor at church started preaching on forgiveness and reconciliation last week, and he will be continuing that topic in his sermon this week. So today I'm re-listening to a Tim Keller sermon on the same theme that a good friend of mine gave to me when we were working through some issues last year. I've listened to it a handful of times since then, and it continues to be encouraging. I need it spoken into my life; I need to preach it to myself, the Gospel truth.

We'll be singing one of my favorite hymns at church tonight, "Abide With Me," a re-setting with a gorgeous new melody, so I'll close with these words by Henry Lyte:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

12 July 2008


I'm a little ambivalent about Stuff. I can certainly enjoy bright, shiny new things, but even with Stuff that I know I would be able to use (certain kitchen devices come to mind...or a bed, for that matter), if I don't already own it, I just get by without. A lot of my clothes are hand-me-downs, things that I've had for years, and I don't like to throw things out if they're still at least functional. I own virtually no furniture, so I have to depend on whatever else my house mates may have for the common spaces. So it's not that I don't believe in Stuff, I just try to avoid accumulating that much of it. The trend started in college, when every year I'd find myself taking more Stuff back home that I just didn't need. I moved to Nashville with just what could fit into my station wagon, plus a roof carrier thingee. Most of that space was my instruments, then kitchen things, then some clothes. I've gotten a bit more Stuff over the last year and a half, but even now I can still move everything I have in 3 loads of my car, no truck necessary.

It helps that I don't really enjoy shopping. Even buying groceries can take me an inordinate amount of time. And I don't tend to impulse buy. Potential purchases will sit in my amazon cart, saved for later, for months, or just on a list of things to pick up when the need arises.

Well, the time finally came to pick up a few of those things, so I geared myself up for a trip to Target right after work yesterday. I actually wasn't dreading it too much. Yes, this is all pretty mundane, but here is the list of Stuff I purchased. With annotations. In no particular order.
  • Drying Rack - one of those collapsible, multi-level thingees...growing up we had a clothesline, and using a clothes dryer is one of my big fat compromises...so I'm still using the dryer for my smaller things, but hanging up the larger pieces...
  • Clothespins - see above
  • Wastebasket - one of those cheap little plastic things...since I moved a month and a half ago, I've been hanging a plastic grocery bag on the doorknob...now I can put that plastic grocery bag in an appropriately sized plastic shell...
  • Black Curtain - I'm a light sleeper, and my eyes are particularly sensitive to light...the existing window covering--one of those bamboo slatted things--wasn't exactly made for blocking light, so I finally got the curtain to hopefully help me sleep a bit better...
  • Curtain Rod - see above
  • Safety Pins - in case I needed to pin up the excess curtain...and really, they're second only to duct tape in terms of potential utility...
  • House Slippers - I got a pair from a Target up in Massachusetts (I think) just before I moved down here in October 2006...the left slipper is still doing fine, but the right slipper has been on its last legs for a few months now, gradually falling apart in chunks, bit by bit...so I finally got another pair...
  • 9V Batteries - these things are never on sale, of course, which is understandable...our smoke detector has been beeping every morning for a couple weeks now...we pulled the battery last week, but it's probably a better idea to replace it and turn the alarm back on...which is what I did this morning...
  • Greeting Cards - I prefer using blank greeting cards for whatever occasion, so I'm usually on the lookout for nice ones if I see any...these can add up, though...grrr...
  • Plain White Unscented Candles - I have one non-functioning candle...these are its replacements...
  • Tablecloths - two of them, cotton, 5'x7', mismatched but on clearance for $3.24 a piece...I'm hosting a dinner gathering on Tuesday...I'll probably put two 4' tables together, one square, one round (because that's what we have in the house)...and it was cheaper to get the two cotton ones rather than one vinyl tablecloth that would have been long enough on its own...plus, cotton, mmm...
  • Junk Food - sigh, yes, I treated myself...I mean, some of you might be able to assemble that whole shopping cart in a matter of minutes...I was there for over two and a half hours...no, really...I don't even know how that happened...at least it was still light out when I left, thankfully...
Anyway, I could easily have spent much more money on a bunch more Stuff last night. Most of it would have even been useful, probably. There must be millions of dollars of Stuff in every big box retailer in the country. Like I said, I'm a little ambivalent about Stuff, that's all.

Tonight we'll be celebrating and sending off a friend of ours who's returning to New Zealand after working in Nashville and being a part of our community here for over a year. I have very much appreciated his friendship and his good-natured kindness, and he will be missed. I'm not crying, it's just raining. On my face.

In the meantime, I've been steadily crossing things off my to do list today:
  • Assemble drying rack--check
  • Clean off patio furniture--check
  • Blog--check

08 July 2008

There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I

I got some more experience with the Davidson County criminal justice system this evening after work.

I hardly know how to start processing it all, but I was at least struck by that first thought.

01 July 2008

Midway Point

We are halfway on our way to the year 4016. Here's a mid-year report.

I have lived at 4 different addresses so far this half-calendar year. That is unusual for me, but it's all made sense and felt like I was in the right place at each point, I think. And in my current place, sharing a house with a friend of mine, I finally feel comfortable in the space as a whole--able to be at rest and enjoy leisure and also be productive--not feeling like I need to retreat back to my room by default.

Looking back, I actually remember that in the weeks before the naissance of this blog (namely, January 2008) there was a good bit of unfamiliar life experience stuff going on for me, largely external to me but within my immediate circle of friends. I'll leave it ambiguous like that, but it was an eye-opening time that I was able to share with several of my friends who were also involved.

Otherwise, the half-year has seen some increased responsibilities at church, both deepening and estranged friendships, and the challenges of engaging in community across cultural boundaries in a semi-committed way . That's kinda vague (and uppity) to say it that way, but I do have concrete things in mind.

This current season is also marked by the fact of where I am not: Vermont. The Green Mountain State. More cows than people and refreshingly pungent cow-ish odors in the summertime. Middlebury, VT, is where I've been for 8 of the last 10 summers, both as a student and staff member for a French language immersion program at the college there. Some of my friends are there now starting another session this week, and I have a small nibblet of nostalgia to think that I could be there now as well. But I knew even before I returned last summer that it would be my last time there, and that was even more clear to me at the end of the session. I definitely burnt myself out last year, but my experiences as a whole were fantastic, with some great friendships, good hard work and challenges and learning both in and out of the classroom, and opportunities to reconnect with my home communities there, where I would feel welcome and at home after months and months away. Vous me manquez toutes et tous.

Nashville is where I'm supposed to be. Unless I decide to up and run away from all my troubles, in which case, you will find me in either Seattle or San Francisco, stirring up fresh trouble, of course.

But in the meantime, for the next few months, I will continue to receive fresh vegetables every week (at least one reason to stick it out here). Yum.

There's been a lot of music. And weddings. And music at weddings.

July will slow down. Please.

Lastly, here's a prayer I've been coming back to a good bit these last few months, from a book called The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
     where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
     hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
     that the way down is the way up,
     that to be low is to be high,
     that the broken heart is the healed heart,
     that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
     that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
     that to have nothing is to possess all,
     that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
     that to give is to receive,
     that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime, stars can be seen from deepest wells,
     and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
     thy life in my death,
     thy joy in my sorrow,
     thy grace in my sin,
     thy riches in my poverty,
     thy glory in my valley.